Infinite Spider-Man 9.10: What do the sales charts say?

Posted by Mister Mets 13 March 2012

Around the Brand New Day period, there seemed to be more discussion about Amazing Spider-Man sales than any other title, largely because some fans tried to prove that Joe Quesada made a bad decision, and other fans disagreed. These arguments have quieted down after the Big Time, though there was a recent facebook exchange between Stephen Wacker and J. Michael Straczynski back in December about sales figures after his departure.

Sales figures provide a way to avoid arguing about subjective criteria such as artistic merit, as you claim that you're objectively correct. It also doesn't require any familiarity with the content of the book, which is convenient for pissed off former fans arguing about decisions made years ago.

The goal for a detractor should ultimately be to demonstrate that if something didn't happen, sales would be better. Which requires an honest discussion about the various nuances and complexities. That doesn't usually happen from the people claiming that the figures were bad. The easiest thing to do when arguing sales estimates is to try to win on a technicality, framing the numbers in the best possible way for your side. So, you wouldn't take into account things that would matter when trying to determine if the book would be doing better if it weren't for One More Day, or if the book would do better if OMD was undone. All of the sales discussions have to be considered in that context.

An important note is that the figures being argued are usually incomplete. The oft-cited ICV2 numbers are estimates, based on the Diamond Sales index, which calculates how a book is selling relative to Batman. The statement of ownership figures suggest that the estimates are reasonably accurate, but any error can skew the results from one month to the next.

The ICV2 figures are also only applicable for the direct market. It does not include reprints, digital copies or subscriptions, all of which generate income for Marvel. So it's entirely possible that sales arguments are a complete waste of time, as the people who need to be convinced that the numbers are weak, have access to the real figures.

It's further complicated by the fact that we're looking at three different eras of the Spider-Man titles. There was the Pre-One More Day period when JMS was writing Amazing Spider-Man, and other writers were handling the two satellite books. There was the Brand New Day era in which Amazing Spider-Man was published three times a month, with a rotating team of writers. And there's the Big Time era in which the book is twice-monthly, with one main writer, and Avenging Spider-Man has been launched as a satellite book.

Numbers VS Rankings

One of the major questions when dealing with sales figures is trying to determine if you should compare the estimates, or the sales rankings. The estimates suggest how many copies the book sold, which is important in trying to figure out how much money Marvel made. But just looking at the figures for Amazing Spider-Man isn't intellectually honest, when trying to figure out how a book would have sold if the series had gone in a different direction.

The sales discussions are usually about the management of the Spider-Man books, rather than Marvel or the industry as a whole. As a result, it seems misleading to focus on how the book is selling without looking at the numbers in the context of the rest of the comics industry. There was a decline in overall comic book sales, but some detractors of the current directions try to suggest that Amazing Spider-Man is an outlier, while not explaining why the book would have escaped industry trends were it not for a story they didn't like.

Things do get complicated, as there are many shades to the arguments. There is the reasonable claim that some Amazing Spider-Man fans may have left multiple titles when they left the book, although it's an incredible stretch to suggest that this is the primary reason the industry has suffered.

Rankings can be vulnerable to new factors as well. A cheap shot would be that the book hasn't always been in the top 25 for the last few months, although that's largely because of the boost DC got from the New 52 plan. As a result, there were more titles selling at levels that would previously have guaranteed a top 25 rank. That's good for comics overall, but not an indication of poor administration of Amazing Spider-Man.

Issue-by-Issue VS Month-by-Month

The other major question when arguing about sales figures is over how Marvel should interpret the numbers. Should they compare issues of Amazing Spider-Man before One More Day to issues of ASM afterward, when it came out more often? Or should they compare total sales of the three Spider-Man books each month before and after One More Day? The logic with that approach is that it's all about how much money Marvel is making. There are more nuanced positions available, including various reasons for thinking that total sales matter, but that total sales should have been higher during the BND era, due to the increased time and effort for the writers and editors. That said, it does ultimately come down to your judgement on these two approaches.

The detractors tend to use the most self-serving arguments possible, trying whatever worked better at a particular moment. While readers ordered more copies of Amazing Spider-Man when it was a monthly with an A-list writer, they're ordering significantly more copies of Amazing Spider-Man than they were of Sensational Spider-Man or Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.

If you think per issue sales of Amazing Spider-Man should be the same no matter how often the book is published, would Amazing Spider-Man be selling the same amount per issue if it were an actual weekly? If so, this would obviously represent lost revenue for the House of Ideas. Hell, shouldn't Marvel try to produce two issues of Amazing Spider-Man a week? They'd just be making more money. Or is there a cutoff point somewhere?

It shouldn't be that hard for Marvel to pull off, though. All they'd have to do is cancel a few lower selling books (X-FactorThunderboltsNew Mutants, Journey into Mystery) and move the creative teams to a twice-weekly Amazing Spider-Man. If it doesn't matter how often Spider-Man comes out, this represents a no-brainer method for Marvel to make more money.

As weeklies are supposed to sell as many copies per issues as monthlies with A-list writers, how much money is Marvel losing by not making their top monthlies (The Avengers, Wolverine and the X-Men) into weeklies? They could probably do it. And that shows the absurdity of assuming that sales will be the same, no matter how often the book is published. Just as less people will buy 2-3 issues a month of Amazing Spider-Man than one issue a month, I think significantly less people will buy an average of nine issues a month of Amazing Spider-Man than two or three issues a month.

As Dan Slott noted during the Brand New Day wea.
Comparing 3X a month ASM to 1X a month ASM is applicable? How much money of their comic-buying budget did consumers spend purchasing all 1X a month ASM in a year VERSUS how much of their comic-buying budget did they spend to following all of 3X a month ASM? It's odd that you'd consider buying 3 monthly Spider-Man books Pre-2007 to 3 monthly Spider-Man books Post-2007 "apples to oranges"... But you WOULD consider it completely applicable that someone deciding whether to purchase 12 apples a year is the same as someone deciding wether to purchase 36 apples a year.
Dan Slott explained why he was happy with the Brand New Day sales figures, although he also documented the increased difficulties on editors and the creative teams.
Starting in January '08, the two satellite books (Sensational and FNSM) were replaced by two more issues of Amazing Spider-Man. So... Same number of pages, staples, and budget as the previous ASM + 2 other Spider-Books. No biggie, right? (HA!)
It seems easy on paper, but in reality there's a lot more to do, tons of coordination, many late nights for everyone-- SUPER late nights-- ESPECIALLY for the editor, assistant editor, and the-hardest-working-letterer-in-comics, Joe C!
The schedule is a nightmare. It's one thing if an issue of FNSM, Sensational, or even 1X a month Amazing misses shipping by a week or two. Slaps on the wrist all around. But for 3X a month Amazing? It's the end of the world. People will come after you with live rounds. I'd like to say I'm kidding... but I'm not. Seriously, I've been doing this for about 18 years, and this is the hardest I've ever worked on a book in my entire life-- and I know that EVERYONE'S been putting in those same hours-- if not more! 
That in mind ('cause I feel like everyone on the editorial & creative team's earned it, on just hard work alone), I think it's fair to look at the comparison of the 3 MONTHLY Spider-Man books that Marvel has been putting out since January 2008, and the 3 MONTHLY Spider-Man books that Marvel put out previously-- going allll the way back to when Spidey first started appearing in three regular monthly titles. 

We've put out 74 issues of monthly Spider-Man comics. Out of those, 73 have placed in the Top 25. For 2+ years, out of the sum-and-total of ALL Marvel's regular monthly Spider-Titles, only 1 issue dropped out of the Top 25. That's means 98.5% did! Ranking-wise, have the 3 monthly Spider-Man books that Marvel produces EVER had that good of a streak?
The comparisons to Amazing Spider-Man before One More Day typically neglect the book's advantages at the time. The title had been involved in high-profile events for 21 consecutive issues (four issues of "The Other" crossover, followed by ten issues of Civil War, followed by the five issue "Back in Black" followed by One More Day) and often outsold the two satellite books combined. These tie-ins are really misleading as a baseline for what levels Amazing Spider-Man should be selling, as there's no reason to assume that the book would have remained at that position post-JMS if One More Day had ended differently. A preferable benchmark would be JMS's pre-"The Other" issues, when sales were declining, although that's still comparing the current book (or the BND era book) to a monthly title with one of the the most popular writers in comics. And there's a finite supply of A-list writers in the industry.

It was also significantly easier to selectively follow Spider-Man's adventures before Brand New Day. Sales data indicates that's just what the majority of readers did, a trend that became most obvious when JMS had a mostly self-contained run on the flagship title. I'm not aware of any issue of Sacasa's Sensational Spider-Man having any impact on JMS's Amazing Spider-Man. FNSM tied up a loose end in "The Other" and established that a demonic entity was interested in Spider-Man, but it wasn't referenced in Amazing. During Brand New Day, you could choose to only buy issues of ASM by a certain writer/ artist, but there's no indication that a substantive number of readers were doing that. It is something that's easier to do right now, with Amazing and Avenging, although it's still more expensive to follow Slott than it was to read JMS's material.

The discussions have simmered down. Most of these comments compared pre-One More Day figures to Brand New Day era estimates. Even the sales chart JMS posted on facebook was an year and a half out of date. A major reason for that is that sales from Amazing Spider-Man #648 and up have been pretty good. And Avenging Spider-Man was Marvel's best-selling debut since Future Foundation.

Detractors were often paranoid about the sales figures, and there were a few threads at CBR about whether Marvel was cooking the books, a question often asked whenever variant covers were usedIf you take the estimates seriously, and compare the estimated sales of books with variant covers to books without, it seems that the boost of one variant cover is less than 4,000 copies. Though it's unlikely that there's an attempt to manipulate the sales charts. If Marvel cared about the ICv2 numbers, they wouldn't offer the subscription deal with a 60% plus discount, as those numbers aren't represented in the Diamond estimates.

The sales analysis is often about trying to prove that Marvel, and especially Joe Quesada, made the wrong decision. So it's worth considering his motivations, and whether his logic holds up to scrutiny.


Moon Knight #10 Review

Posted by Spiderfan001

Enter: Madame Masque!

The Story

Enraged by Echo's death, Moon Knight's Wolverine persona fully takes over as he goes full berserker on Count Nefaria.

Marc Spector awakens in a hospital bed after having a trippy dream about Marlene and Frenchie.  Detective Hall enters the hospital hoping to question him, but before he can do so, Buck Lime gases the hospital and gets Marc out.

With Count Nefaria unable to regain his composure after being stabbed by Moon Knight, one of his assistants tasks Nefaria's daughter, Madame Masque, with hunting down Moon Knight.  Meanwhile, as Marc Spector lays in bed, his Wolverine persona pushes him to finish what he started.

Madame Masque breaks into the morgue and kills all the doctors performing an autopsy on Echo's corpse.  She is able to trace Echo's vibranium staff to Buck Lime.  Word of Madame Masque's activities quickly reaches Detective Hall, who gets filled in on who she is by Snapdragon.

Madame Masque attacks Buck and takes the Ultron head.


Sorry Echo fans, looks like she really is dead (for the time being anyway, until she gets resurrected by ninjas or something).  I didn't see that one coming, and Madame Masque's appearance also took me by surprise; did not know she was Nefaria's daughter.  Brian Michael Bendis is quick to establish Masque as a force to be reckoned with; she's cold, efficient and psychotic.  Her clashing with Moon Knight should make for an interesting confrontation: crazy vs. crazy.

It's easy to read Bendis' Avengers books and think that the writer has nothing new to offer us in terms of superheroes, but books like Moon Knight and Ultimate Spider-Man show that he still has interesting things to say about these characters.  His take on Moon Knight has been far from conventional, and I'm looking forward to seeing how he raps it up in the next two issues!

If you're wondering what this review is doing on a Spider-Man site, fear not.  Spider-Man's head is mounted on a wall in Moon Knight's dream, so technically he does appear in this issue!


Secret Avengers #23 Review

Posted by Spiderfan001

Venom joins the Secret Avengers!?  Not really...

The Story

Back in issue #22, a group of Adaptoids were able to defeat the Secret Avengers and kidnap a Pakistani woman named Yalda as well as her son.  Yalda has the ability to absorb energy and re-release it, but she doesn't know how to control her powers.  The Adaptoids bring Yalda  and her son to a man called the Father, who is in league with Lady Deathstrike.  Unbeknownst to the Adaptoids, Ant-Man hitched a ride with them before they escaped.

The rest of the Secret Avengers regroup at Lighthouse Station.  Hank Pym and Beast discuss both Pym's ability to shut down the Venom symbiote's consciousness and Beast's creation of an A.I. to ensure that the Lighthouse does not hit any space debris.  Meanwhile, Hawkeye beats himself up over the failure of the last mission and the loss of Ant-Man. At a hospital, Captain America introduces Jim Hammond (the original Human Torch) to Flash Thompson, who are both slated to become new members of the Secret Avengers.  Flash will still only be allowed to wear the symbiote for short periods of time.

The Father explains to Yalda that she is a Descendant, the next stage of human evolution.  The Father believes that humanity will eventually merge with technology to create a communal universal consciousness, something he wishes to accelerate to achieve immortality.  The Father offers to train Yalda on how to use her powers so she can help him with his plans, and says that he will make her son "god-like."  Yalda refuses to cooperate, so the Father orders the Adaptoids to kill her.  Ant-Man jumps out and intervenes, but is unable to prevent the Father from shooting and killing Yalda.  In a desperate move, Ant-Man grabs Yalda's son and jumps out the window.

At the Lighthouse, Cap introduces Flash to Hawkeye, who absolutely refuses to let Venom onto the team.  Hawkeye takes the Human Torch and launches the next mission.  The Avengers follow the trail of Pym particles Ant-Man left behind, leading them to a teleporter which takes them to the city that Father resides in, separating them in the process.  Hawkeye and Beast end up together, and are confronted by evil cyborg versions of Miss America and the Wasp.

Ant-Man is still on the run from the Adaptoids who manage to catch up with him.  Telling Yalda's son to run for it, Ant-Man makes his final stand against the Adaptoids, dying with the knowledge that his final acts were those of a hero.


While I wasn't impressed with his initial point one issue, Rick Remender's first arc of Secret Avengers has been highly enjoyable thus far.  It's fun to see Hawkeye struggling to be an effective leader, and Remender has a great handle on Beast, who gets all the best lines this issue.  Ant-Man's death took me by surprise; Remender gives him an appropriate, if tragic, send off that fans of the character should be content with.

It looks like Flash will have to do more to prove himself if he wants to be a permanent member of the team.  My one gripe with this issue is that it spoiled the ending to Circle of Four, which had yet to be completed when this issue came out.  It's interesting that many Avengers now know that Flash is Venom while Peter Parker remains in the dark.  This should make for a fun reveal when the time comes.


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