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TBU By the Numbers – December 2015

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Welcome back to “TBU by the Numbers”!  I’ll be giving you my analysis of all the monthly sales numbers of all TBU ongoing comic series, weekly series, and limited series.  These numbers are for the month of December 2015 and come from Diamond Comics Distributors released numbers as relayed by Comichron.  As always, this article is intended to give you a monthly progress report overall of how well The Batman Universe of comics is doing both compared to other DC books and the comics market in general, and more than that, I also want to delve into the numbers for individual comic issues per month to get a sense of which titles are doing well, which titles are doing poorly, and which ones fall in between.  For a more in-depth discussion of the metrics I’m using to evaluate the issues from this month, see my first article on the subject. But for now, to the numbers!


DC and TBU Overall Numbers

December 2015
Total Comic Sales 7.95 million issues
Percent Annual Change +18% from 11/14
DC Total Sales 2.38 million issues
DC Market Share 29.93%
TBU Total Sales 1.58 million issues
TBU Market Share 19.88%


I have to admit right of the “bat” (get it) that these overall numbers are maybe one of the most surprising things to me about December’s sales numbers.  December saw DC’s overall sales go up around 200k issues (with an 150K bump for the TBU family of books) increasing their market share to nearly 30% for DC overall (and nearly 20% for the TBU).  This happened in a month where overall sales dropped by a quarter million issues, where Dark Knight 3 sold fewer than half of the issues the title sold in November (more to come about that) and where Marvel’s top selling Star Wars books both had top-selling annuals in addition to their regular issues.  We’ll walk through some of the reasons why this was still a banner month for DC and the TBU for a moment, but just pause for a minute and remember that December was only two months after the internet was abuzz with speculation that DC was doing so poorly it was getting ready to close its doors.


However, just like I predicted then the excitement (and corresponding sales numbers) from Marvel’s group of new issue #1’s faded and even a group of more new #1 issues in December could not replicate the results.  DC had four of the Top Ten selling single issues in December with one title in a close #11 spot as well. This basically goes to show that most internet sources that cover comic books are really only interested in sales numbers when they can lead to alarmist click bait titles and don’t really care about tracking long-term trends.  Luckily for all of us, TBU is here to be more reasonable and measured in our thoughts and predictions.  This doesn’t mean that new #1 gimmicks and other big events can’t still be effective in driving issue sales but it does mean that those numbers don’t necessarily lead to long term increased sales.


Books Doing Well:


Title Rank Sales % Change (Monthly) % Change (Annual) TBU Strength Index
Dark Knight 3 #2 2 (-1) 158,188 -65.15% 100.00
Batman/TMNT #1 4 134,526 100.00
Batman #47 5 (+8) 127,201 18.89% 12.31% 100.00
Harley’s Little Black Book #1 8 92,266 72.54
Justice League #47 11 (+7) 84,970 12.31% 17.88% 66.80
Harley Quinn #23 22 (+9) 69,168 18.55% 1.57% 54.38
JLA #6 35 (+3) 55,410 5.33% 43.56
Batman: Europa #2 40 (-23) 52,235 -35.29% 41.06
Detective Comics #47 50 (-7) 45,867 -2.94% -16.53% 36.06
Robin War #1 52 45,058 35.98
Batman Eternal #9,10,11,12,13 57, 58, 60, 61, 63 203,915 -12.6% 32.06


Just like last month, the big story here is the continued success of DK3.  However, it’s worth noting that while the book still did well, it did see a decline as was expected (less than half of what it was when issue #1 debuted in November).  But, even with that decline, DK3 #2 still sold over 150k issues and was the overall #2 book for the month.  This number probably more accurately reflects the amount of people reading the title after you take away additional sales from the plethora of variant covers that were available for the first issue.  I’d still expect a small rate of attrition from issue to issue for the remaining parts of the miniseries but it is probably a safe bet that DK3 will stay above 100k and in the Top 10 for the duration of its run.


Helping out DK3 in its domination of the TBU family of books was another debut issue, Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  While technically this title is a crossover between DC and IDW, Diamond lists it as a DC book only and we are going to treat those sales as such.  Issue #1 of Batman/TMNT sold the second highest number of issues of any DC book in December topping at out over 130k, landing it the #4 slot overall in rank.  Again, with this title one could expect a slow decline in sales as the limited series runs its course, but given that this issue was not as over-hyped as DK3 #1, I would not predict as drastic a decline when we see issue #2 in January’s numbers. Similarly, the first issue of Harley’s Little Black Book made a big contribution to the success that DC and TBU had in December with a debut total numbers of issues sold topping 92k and earning another Top 10 spot (at #8).  Finally in terms of new and special books, Robin War #1 brought in another 52k issues and just barely missed the Top 50 overall (although, I’ll discuss the impact of that event overall later on).


Several other TBU books also did really well in December. The flagship titles (Batman, Justice League, and Detective Comics) all did very well as usual as did Harley Quinn.  Batman made it’s way back into the Top 10 with over 127k issues sold.  Justice League just barely missed being another Top 10 issue for the month of December as well.  Additionally, Batman, Justice League, Harley Quinn and JLA all saw month-to-month increases from November to December.  The continuation of Batman & Robin Eternal saw numbers totaling over 200k issues over the five issues released in December.  I consider all five issues together here, but each issue on it’s own would have landed itself a place in my top books for the month in terms of sales as well.  Lastly, in the books doing well, you’ll notice another impressive number for Batman: Europa which sold over 50k issues and landed in the Top 50 comics for the month as well.


Books Meeting Expectations:


Title Rank Sales % Change (Monthly) % Change (Annual) TBU Strength Index
Grayson #15 70 (16) 35,765 12.36% -16.07% 28.12
Robin: Son of Batman #7 74 (-6) 34,815 -2.30% 27.37
Harley Quinn/Power Girl #6 82 (-7) 31,375 -8.06% 24.67
Batman/Superman #27 87 (-23) 30,021 -21.11% -32.86% 23.60
We Are Robin #7 93 (31) 28,181 46.70% 22.15
Batgirl #46 99 (-19) 27,591 -5.8% -38.77% 21.69
Suicide Squad (and New) #15 103 (-21) 26,449 -19.67% -19.45% 20.79
Teen Titans #14 100 (-4) 26,239 -1.03% -23.06% 21.38
Red Hood/Arsenal #7 107 (14) 25,789 29.87% 20.27
DC Bombshells #6,7 114, 119 23,347 -11.19% 18.35
Gotham Academy #13 120 (37) 22,947 44.64% -13.44% 18.04
Batman Beyond #7 124 (-30) 21,946 -21.00% 17.25*
Black Canary #6 126 (-22) 21,666 -2.50% 17.03*
Earth 2: Society #7 131 (-19) 21,059 -4.05% -30.44% 16.56*
Titans Hunt #3 134 (-24) 20,918 -6.89% 16.44*

*Denotes book on notice.


These books were holding steady this month with respectable but not outstanding sales numbers.  However, as a group, they did not perform as well as last month, with none of these books cracking the Top 50, most of them dropping significantly in the rankings and seeing percentage drops from the previous month.  The exceptions to these declines were Grayson, Red Hood/Arsenal, We Are Robin, and Gotham Academy all of which were a part of the “Robin War” crossover event (although the Gotham Academy issue was only a tie-in).  These books all saw increases in month-to-month sales and in their overall rankings in Diamond’s Top 300.  Again, I expected that this would happen and the event (which I, personally, thought was really good) did help all of these books succeed where they had all been on a fairly steady decline prior to this and hopefully these numbers will hold in the months following the “Robin War” as well.  However, it is worth noting that one book included in the “Robin War” main event did not see a similar boost.  That issue was Robin: Son of Batman #7.  While there may be no definitive answer, I can’t help but wonder if the lack of focus on Damian Wayne as Robin in any other book in the TBU family apart from his own book and his limited appearance in this crossover has something to do with this lack of a boost (similarly, Tim Drake is often counted as a character that gets short-changed and the Teen Titans tie-in also saw a decline).


Lastly, some of these books are marked as being on notice for teetering too close for comfort to the 20k issue threshold that we usually identify as putting a book in danger of cancellation.  These books include Batman Beyond, Black Canary, Earth 2: Society, and Titans Hunt.


Books In Danger:


Title Rank Sales % Change (Monthly) % Change (Annual) TBU Strength Index
Batman ’66/Uncle #1 148 17,363 13.65
Justice League United #16 154 (-27) 16,665 -5.96% 13.10
Batman: Arkham Knight #11 160 (-28) 15,575 -8.87% 12.24
Batman: Arkham Knight Genesis #5 153 (-28) 15,288 -18.87% 12.02
Catwoman #47 166 (-52) 15,038 -30.58% -40.22% 11.82
Secret Six #9 167 (-27) 14,663 -4.63% 11.53
Batman ’66 #30 170 (-19) 14,000 1.01% -9.14% 11.01
Justice League 3000 and 3001 #7 171 (-27) 13,979 -4.64% -25.08% 10.99
Injustice #Annual 1 177 13,372 10.51
Gotham by Midnight #12 186 (9) 11,695 8.13% -58.01% 9.19
Midnighter #7 191 (-30) 11,267 -7.54% 8.86


These are the books that I am labeling as being in danger because of their sales numbers.  In our experience watching the relative successes of monthly issues, books that slip below 20k in sales are on DC’s chopping block.  As mentioned last month, some of these books have already been cancelled as soon as they finish out the number of issues already solicited (Batman ‘ 66, Gotham by Midnight, etc.) and some of these are limited series which are scheduled to end soon anyways (like Arkham Knight).  However, just like I’d assume based on November’s numbers, December’s numbers suggest that several books need some sort of drastic change to survive much longer.  I’ve discussed Midnighter previously and how this title might have other things going for it that could potentially be a saving graces, but we see both books decline in sales again in December, with Midnighter selling just over 11k issues and being the TBU’s lowest ranked issue even behind other titles that have already been cancelled.


Noteworthy changes to this month’s “Books in Danger” section, though, are Gotham Academy and Catwoman both of which have been the source of some of my speculation in the past few months.  In addition to Gotham Academy likely having additional sales from the digital market that are not included in Diamond’s numbers, this title was able to completely remove itself from the danger category (as did Red Hood/Arsenal and We Are Robin) this month in no small part due to the Robin War event.  However, the news is not so good for fans of the ongoing Catwoman title.  In my evaluation of sales numbers from previous months, I’ve repeatedly said that this title needed some real help to avoid finding itself in this category and that help has yet to come as December’s issue of Catwoman saw a stark 30% decrease from November to December, selling just over 15k total issues.  Some of these titles spend months in my danger ratings before we actually see any action from DC on these titles, but given the dramatic decline in popularity for this title, I’d almost say that it was more in danger of cancellation than other titles.


So, that is my summary of the sales numbers in November.  December numbers should be out in a few weeks and we can see how my thoughts and expectations play out going forwards.  But, be sure to let me know what you think of my coverage of sales numbers and to discuss the success (or lack thereof) of various titles in the comics in the comments below.

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