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TBU By the Numbers – January 2016

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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 January 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

January 2016
Total Comic Sales 6.49 million issues
Percent Annual Change -6% from 1/15
DC Total Sales 1.56 million issues
DC Market Share 24.02%
TBU Total Sales 0.89 million issues
TBU Market Share 13.69%


Like always, I want to be straightforward with you in my TBU By the Numbers articles.  This month is a very mixed bag of results for both DC and the TBU.  Some of the numbers that you’ll see in this month’s article are deceptively encouraging and others are deceptively discouraging.  For various reasons that include the delay of some big selling issues (DK3 being the most notable but Justice League as well) and the release of fewer issues from some of DC’s competitors, the vast majority of issues saw a month-to-month increase in rankings among the Top 300 issues as reported by Diamond.  However, the vast majority of those books also saw a month-to-month decrease in sales as only three TBU titles actually sold more in January than they did in December.  In fact just after some of these titles had much higher months in December (helped along by the Robin War crossover) several issues absolutely tanked in the month of January.  However, not all of this is DC’s fault necessarily.


The overall market for comics in January took a huge dip (as tends to happen every January) with almost 1.5 million fewer issues sold in January 2016 than in December 2015.  However, this January also saw a 6% decline from January 2015 which contributed to this being such a poor month.  Also, while I mentioned this earlier, the loss of the sales from the much delayed DK3 #3 has seriously hurt DC’s sales numbers as they missed out on what had been in excess of a 150k single issue sales in December.  Again, this is not something that was isolated to DC in the month of January as most of Marvel’s titles saw month-to-month declines as well.  And, even though the old proverb tells us that misery likes company, there is little consolation in arguing that DC’s numbers shouldn’t be seen as negatively because every publisher saw declines.


What January’s sales numbers do tell us may highlight some of the broader problems that DC is facing as a publisher right now and are undoubtedly the motivations for the big changes that are coming this summer, but let me run through two of them really quickly as they apply to January’s sales.  Firstly, delays are detrimental.  Now, the delay of further issues of DK3 may be aberrant in this regard because of just how selling this title has been so far.  But over the course of the last year or two, we have seen more and more issues face monthly delays and those delays have an effect on sales.  Secondly, DC’s events just aren’t sticking the way they want.  The “Robin War” crossover event boosted sales of the related titles almost across the board in ways that were pretty astounding when you looked at monthly effects.  But, a single issue and a single month after that event ended, not only did we see resulting declines but we also saw some of these titles dip dramatically lower than what had been their average before the event.


Now, don’t misunderstand any of this to say that one admittedly mediocre-to-poor month is a death knell for the publisher or that I am predicting an arc of decline that is inevitable.  DC does seem to be taking these things to heart in the changes that are coming with “Rebirth” later this year, but January’s sales figures just go to show how important it is that DC gets this event right and that they put together some sort of long-term strategy for success.  With solicitations basically carrying us pretty much all the way into the new status-quo for DC after “Rebirth”, I would would caution you not to be surprised if my “By the Numbers” summaries for the next few months have a similar tone of pessimism in the present but mixed with more and more hopeful anticipation of the future.


With all of that said, let’s move on to look at individual issue sales numbers for all of the TBU titles.


Books Doing Well

Title Rank Sales % Change (Monthly) % Change (Annual) TBU Strength Index
Batman #48 8 (-3) 100,962 -20.63% -8.41% 100.00
Batman/TMNT #2 24 (-20) 52,337 -61.10% 51.84
Batman: Europa #3 44 (-4) 49,474 -5.29% 49.00
JLA #7 30 (5) 47,835 -13.67% 47.38
Detective Comics #48 37 (13) 45,111 -1.65% -12.07% 44.68
Harley Quinn #24 38 (-16) 44,967 -34.99% -30.54% 44.54
Batman Eternal #14,15,16,17 41,42,44,48 153,898 -24.53% 38.11
Robin War #2 52 (-52) 35,062 34.73
Batman/Superman #28 54 (33) 34,507 14.94% -17.35% 34.18
Poison Ivy #1 62 31,351 31.05


In the absence of an issue of DK3 for the month of January, these numbers more closely resemble the better numbers from my earlier analyses of TBU title sales.  Batman #48 was the only DC book to break into the Top 10 for the month  and Batman/TMNT #2 was the only other book to join it in the Top 25.  And, with both of these titles, they still sold well, but not as well as the month before.  This is especially true of Batman/TMNT which saw it’s numbers decline more than half month-to-month.  Like mentioned before, you’ll also start to see a trend among some of these titles where issue sales declined but ranks increased from December to January.   Most of these titles still made it into the Top 50 issues sold in January too which is respectable if not extraordinary.  Additionally, you can note the Robin War #2 special issue that closed out that event as well as the debut issue of Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death both of which sold over 30k issues.   Lastly, Batman & Robin Eternal continued to do well in the month of January with the monthly percentage decline mostly being due to the fact that December having and extra week (and therefore and extra issue released).


Books Meeting Expectations

Title Rank Sales % Change (Monthly) % Change (Annual) TBU Strength Index
Robin: Son of Batman #8 63 (11) 31,220 -10.33% 30.92
Grayson #16 64 (6) 30,420 -14.94% -21.00% 30.13
Batgirl #47 76 (23) 26,950 -2.32% -40.24% 26.69
New Suicide Squad #16 86 (17) 24,870 -5.97% -23.01% 24.63
Teen Titans #16 88 (12) 24,201 -7.77% -21.82% 23.97
Titans Hunt #4 92(42) 23,578 12.72% 23.35
Red Hood/Arsenal #8 96 (11) 22,900 -11.20% 22.68
DC Comics Bombshells #8 103 21,904 -6.18% 21.70
Suicide Squad Most Wanted: Deadshot/Katana #1 104 21,642 21.44
Batman Beyond #8 113(11) 20,342 -7.31% 20.15


All of these books are ones I have listed this month as “meeting expectations” meaning that they sold enough issues not to yet be considered as in danger of imminent cancellation but not so well as to be outstanding or noteworthy.  There are two stories to tell about these books this month.  Firstly, again, you can see more examples of marked increases in ratings among the Top 300 issues that are matched with drops in percentage sales.  In fact, the only one of these books (apart from debut issues), that saw a monthly percentage increase, was Titans Hunt.  Additionally, some of these issues demonstrate the lack of staying power that DC events have been having lately with Robin: Son of Batman, Grayson, and Red Hood/Arsenal all seeing a  double digit dip in monthly percentage changes after “Robin War” concluded.


Still, all of this isn’t terrible news, all of these books remained over the 20k issue threshold which we usually identify as an indication of cancellation danger and most of these books still managed to be counted among the Top 100 issues for the month.  However, it is noteworthy that the debut issue of Suicide Squad Most Wanted: Deadshot/Katana only managed a little over a thousand issues over that threshold.


Books In Danger

Title Rank Sales % Change (Monthly) % Change (Annual) TBU Strength Index
Earth 2 Society #8 116 (15) 19,682 -6.54% -31.23% 19.49
Arkham Knight Genesis #6 141 (12) 16,283 6.51% 16.13
Injustice: Year Five #1,2 132, 147 31,836 19.04% 15.77
Black Canary #7 144(-18) 15,758 -27.27% 15.61
Gotham Academy #14 146(-26) 15,023 -34.53% -33.46% 14.88
Catwoman #48 151 (15) 14,408 -4.19% -35.64% 14.27
Batman ’66/Uncle #2 156 (-8) 13,940 -19.71% 13.81
Secret Six #10 157 (10) 13,888 -5.29% 13.76
Justice League 3001 #8 158 (13) 13,283 -4.98% -23.80% 13.16
We Are Robin #8 165(-72) 12,086 -57.11% 11.97
Midnighter #8 174 (17) 10,408 -7.62% 10.31


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 are limited series which are scheduled to end soon anyways (like Arkham Knight Genesis).  However, just like I’d assume based on December’s numbers, January’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 January, with Midnighter selling just over 10k issues and being the TBU’s lowest ranked issue even behind other titles that have already been cancelled.


Some titles are worthy of special note in this month’s “Books in Danger” category.  Catwoman and Gotham Academy find themselves here again for the second month in a row still seeing month-to-month declines in sales.  However, they are joined this month by Black Canary and Earth 2 Society both of which have dipped below the cancellation threshold.  Also, while it was not the worse issue in terms of sales among TBU titles this month, I have to give mention to We Are Robin which saw a very dramatic drop to just above 12k issues in January after it had seen an increase last month from the “Robin War” event.  Lastly, while digital first books are always difficult to gauge in terms of sales, the first print issues of Injustice Gods Among Us: Year Five find their place below the threshold as well.


So, that is my summary of the sales numbers in January.  February 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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