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Just Straight Sales: An Analysis of Marvel vs. DC in February 2012

A different look at February sales, revealing some startling truths!


When discussing market share and sales in the comic book industry, the conversation always winds down to one thing: Marvel vs. DC. Over the last six months, the discussion has moved to what role the New 52 has played in the perpetual sales battle between the two largest publishers.   That discussion is fueled by the monthly release of Diamond's estimated sales figures, which are calculated by the superior blog Comichron after Diamond announces their monthly sales.   Victors are declared and judgments are made about both companies based on these estimated figures, which of course may or may not be completely accurate.

Take a look at last month's sales, for instance. DC fans crowed over the fact that the company took the top ten spots on the sales chart while Marvel fans (and DC detractors) pointed out that Marvel won the overall market share in dollars and units. The conversation then devolved to the relative success and failure of the New 52 and how long it would take DC's relaunching gimmick to falter with the rise of the totally non-gimmicky Marvel event "Avengers vs. X-Men". But I digress.

The thing that I find most interesting about the whole debate is what is and isn't true.  I've heard claims that Marvel's superiority comes from better comics, a higher price point, a larger market share and a larger amount of books released.

For those not in the know, I'm an analyst by trade and spend my days looking over sales figures and charting out trends, comparisons and projected figures. For shits and giggles, I decided to spend a few minutes taking a look at Marvel and DC's estimated sales figures and make a few notes.

The Method

The first step is to standardize the units sold to give the best picture of both company's sales strengths. In February, Marvel had 81 titles in the top 300 titles while DC had 85. However, both titles had a number of books that are irrelevant to the discussion at hand as they are either books featuring characters owned by entity other than the publishing company (i.e creator-owned or licensed books) or children's titles that are allegedly sold outside of local comic book stores.

For the topic of MARVEL vs. DC, I removed every creator-owned title (eliminating all Vertigo and Icon titles), all-ages books (Tiny Titans and Super Heroes) and licensed books (such as Uncharted or Anita Blake). The remaining books are relevant as they are the books that are owned and controlled entirely by the parent company and are sold mainly in comic book stores. Both the Ultimate Universe titles and mature titles PunisherMAX  and Hellblazer were included in the discussion.

The Findings

Using the aforementioned parameters and information from Diamond and Comichron, here is what we learned.   

DC

Titles Sold: 63    
Titles Double-Shipped: 0   
Average Price: $3.10  
Total Units Sold: 2,197,568  
Total Dollars Sold: $6,889,550.32
Average Units/Title: 34,882
Average Dollars/Title: $109,357  

Marvel

Titles Sold: 76    
Titles Double-Shipped: 14  
Average Price: $3.49 
Total Units Sold: 2,415,887
Total Dollars Sold: $8,720,836.13
Average Units/Title: 31,787
Average Dollars/Title: $114,747
 
So there we have it, DC sells more units per title BUT Marvel's books are more profitable, in part because of their more liberal use of the $3.99 price point.  Also, Marvel "double-shipped" a total of fourteen comics that month, most of which were among their best-selling titles.

The Scenarios

Now there is still one little inconsistency between Marvel and DC, namely the 14 titles double shipped and the 12.5% difference in average price between Marvel and DC.   While this doesn't affect the reality of the market, it does go a long way to see which company is in a better position should the market force the price point to lower or comics to come out less frequently.
 
In the below scenario, I removed any comic that had already been shipped once in February.  For the sake of fairness, I kept the highest-selling issue of that title in the spreadsheet.  In addition, I standardized the price points so that Marvel matched DC in price. 

DC
    
Titles Sold: 63    
Titles Double-Shipped: 0   
Average Price: $3.10  
Total Units Sold: 2,197,568  
Total Dollars Sold: $6,889,550.32
Average Units/Title: 34,882
Average Dollars/Title: $109,357 

Marvel

Titles Sold: 62    
Titles Double-Shipped: 0   
Average Price: $3.10  
Total Units Sold: 1,878,223 
Total Dollars Sold: $5,822,491
Average Units/Title: 30,294
Average Dollars/Title: $93,911

As you can see, taking away Marvel's double-shipping and higher use of the $3.99 price point has some pretty drastic consequences. We suddenly see Marvel lose almost $3,000,000 in sales, see their average dollars/title drop to under $100,000 AND see their units dip significantly below that of DC by over 319,345 units.   By peeling back the layers and running a simple sales scenario, we can see that Marvel's been heavily relying on shipping multiple issues at a higher price point to compete with DC.  Should Marvel let up on either the price point or the double-shipping, it certainly seems likely that Marvel's market share would evaporate. 

What We Learned

The nice thing about the comics market is how much it can change on a month to month basis.  While DC is still benefitting from a swell in sales from the New 52, Marvel is biding its time for their big event, AvX, to provide their own boost.  For the time being, DC does appear to have the stronger sales, forcing Marvel to use aggressive sales tactics in order to stay competitive.  How this will change in April and May (with the release of AvX and Watchmen Begins) is yet to be seen.

Written or Contributed by: Christian Hoffer
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About the Author - Christian Hoffer


Christian Hoffer is the exasperated Abbott to the Outhouse's Costello. When he's not yelling at the Newsroom for upsetting readers or complaining to his wife about why the Internet is stupid, he sits in his dingy business office trying to find new ways to make the site earn money. Hoffer is also the only person in history stupid enough to moderate two comic book forums at once.

 


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