It’s been a good year for Marvel, from the release of the Avengers: Assemble to the launch of Marvel NOW!, times have been good for the company. As we head into the final run for the holidays, it looks like Marvel has this year in the bag with the lion’s share of sales. DC is still a force to be reckoned with, of course, but after Rob Liefeld’s departure in August, Gail Simone’s surprise departure yesterday (mostly a surprise to herself and her readers) and Karen Berger (executive editor for Vertigo) leaving in 2013, there might be something to be said for symptoms starting to show.
I’m not business-savvy enough to actually speculate about the health of DC. All I know is that for the last two months, Marvel’s sales figures have carved out a nice chunk of pie for themselves. I could go mental and throw a hundred figures at you, but let’s be realistic. A wall of numbers loses meaning, and telling you that in October Uncanny Avengers sold around 303,000 units is ultimately meaningless. Numbers have to have relationships to each other for them to have meaning, wedges in pies, for instance. Everyone likes a pie, whether it’s fruity or meaty (sometimes both, I guess? A sinner’s pie if you will). You can see said wedge in the latest Diamond Comic Distribution figures.
Of course, statistics are dangerous things to play around with, especially when you consider dollars and units aren’t the same thing, and forget that this is itself just a small slice of an even bigger pie. The bigger pie – and here I mix my metaphors violently and without thought of consequence – is actually a graph showing a slow decline in DC unit sales compared to Marvel’s reasonably steady sales over the course of the last 15 years.
And this is also just another section of the pie, because Diamond Distribution does not handle web-comic trade or independent, creator-owned comics.
What can we take from this other than ‘damn statistical analyses, you hurt my brain’?
I tend to look at it in terms of attracting new readership. A loyal readership is a steady foundation, but a foundation is only a slab of concrete in the ground unless you build on it. Take the Dark Knight Rises in comparison with the Avengers Assemble, Batman and the Avengers being poster-children for their respective companies.
For the sake of humanity, a moment for the victims of the Dark Knight Rises premiere in Denver, Colorado.
Some news outlets speculated it would damage the film’s takings when the opening weekend fell short of box office expectations, but the film took a respectable $1,013,114,000 worldwide (gross, not net), or $1billion. Avengers Assemble took $1,481,585,111 worldwide, or $1.5billion, according the rules of rounding up (figures provided by imdb, that well known infallible bastion of movie lore). Broken down into billions the gap seems small, right? Except that’s 500 million bucks difference. The average cinema ticket (across 3D and 2D) is $8.
500,000,000 divided by 8 is 62,500,000.
That’s 62.5 million people.
And that’s about the same as the entire population of the British Isles, as in, a whole country’s worth of people.
Why such a dramatic difference and what does this have to do with comic sales?
It’s pretty simple actually. Dark Knight Rises was aimed at people who were already fans of Batman. It was a love letter to the Dark Knight. Avengers Assemble was aimed at a wider audience, having appeal to whole new demographics. It boosted the profile of characters the average cinema-goer had only heard of briefly in terrible movies before (the dark days of previous Captain America movies), characters that these new fans could go then and read about and buy comics of.
If you feel DC is lagging unfairly, because maybe it has some really good stuff (like the current run of Wonderwoman, for instance), then just consider its stance on bringing in new readers and that it may not be doing itself any favours in that department.
Anyway, that’s enough maths today.
Go forth and make merry.