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Comic sales figures - with graphs!

8th March 2010 (16:31)

I don't think it's any big secret that sales of the 'Buffy' comic have been falling, pretty much steadily, since issue 1. Some people claim that that's perfectly normal, to be expected, and nothing to worry about; others claim that it's pushing Dark Horse into panic mode, coming up with desperate publicity stunts in an attempt to get themselves noticed again...

While I can't read the minds of the publishers, I can look at the actual sales data, draw some pretty graphs, and find out what's actually been happening to the sales figures in terms of cold, hard numbers instead of guesswork and speculation. :-)

All data comes from the ICv2 website.

Sales of the Buffy and Angel comics

The graph shows sales of Dark Horse's Buffy the Vampire Slayer and IDW's Angel comics, to the same scale. I've included the two non-sequential 'Buffy' comics, Tales of the Vampires: The Thrill and Willow: Goddesses and Monsters, because they are in direct continuity with Season 8 and were published in gaps between the regular comics. I haven't included IDW's series like Spike: After The Fall or Angel: Only Human because they're spin-offs published simultaneously with their main series.

The graph confirms that the comic sales have, indeed, been dropping steadily. For the 'Buffy' comic there was a big fall-off in the first few months, then a slow but steady decline each month thereafter. The big dip and recovery visible in the graph was for the The Thrill one-shot. However, what the graph also shows is that IDW's 'Angel' series has followed an almost identical pattern: a steep drop after the opening issue followed by a slower but steadier decline thereafter. Their curve isn't quite as steep as the Dark Horse one, however; perhaps suggesting that 'Angel' readers are a little bit more loyal - or conversely, the 'Buffy' comic initially attracted far more non-comics readers who tried a few issues, didn't enjoy it, and dropped away without ever even bothering with IDW's comic.

How do these figures compare to the overall market? This graph shows the same data as above, but I've also plotted the sales figures for DC's Batman comic over the same period of time:

comic sales - Buffy v Angel v Batman

Now, the Batman comic was first published in May 1940, is currently up to issue number 695, and is still regularly in the top ten bestsellers each month. The ICv2 website even uses it as an index to judge sales of all other comics against. What the graph shows, then, is that for the last two years at least, the decline in 'Buffy' and 'Angel' sales has been matched at pretty much the exact same rate by 'Batman' sales. The difference is that DC seem to have mastered the secret of re-booting the series every year or so, and adding on an extra 40,000 or so readers who are then gradually lost again over the course of the year.

Looking at the 'Buffy' numbers in more detail, here's how the sales figures break down over the course of each arc:

Buffy ratings

As we see, the initial drop-off continued through the first two arcs. However, by issue 9 and the two Joss-written stand-alones that followed it, the sales figures were pretty much stable. There was even a slight up-tick in sales at the start of each of the next two arcs, presumably as new readers picked up the comic to see what was happening. However, the 'Fray' arc was less good at retaining readers than the Japan story, and then 'Predators and Prey' started shedding them in large numbers. To be fair, this was also the time that all other comics in the market started seeing sales drop, but this was also the arc that drew most fan criticism. 'Retreat' seems to have slowed the decline, even if it couldn't stop it; and the curve seems to be levelling out again with the most recent issues. We don't yet have the sales figures from 'Twilight', though, which will be interesting...

Finally, here is a comparable graph for IDW's comic:

Angel ratings

Curiously, while the overall curve of Season 8 sales has been a steep initial drop which then bottoms out, the 'Angel' sales are almost the opposite. There was an initial dip after the first two issues, true, but then sales were pretty much stable for the first eight or nine issues of After The Fall. However, while the 'Buffy' comic's sales were stabilising at that point, the 'Angel' comic sales instead began a much steeper decline. This continued right through to the end of After The Fall and beyond into the much-criticised Aftermath arc. It was not until Brian Lynch teamed up with Juliet Landau to write the Drusilla two-parter that their sales recovered a little. While IDW's sale figures are still trending downwards, they do seem to have finally stemmed the steepness of that fall. How the revelation of Angel's role in Season 8, and the associated controversy, will affect their figures is still to be seen.


Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 9th March 2010 01:26 (UTC)

Here are the figures:

The Long Way Home

First month's sales: 8,762
First year's sales: 25,690
Total sales: 33,692
On sale for 28 months

No Future For You

First month's sales: 9,493
First year's sales: 18,698
Total sales: 20,073
On sale for 21 months

Wolves At The Gate

First month's sales: 9,253
First year's sales: 15,656
Total sales: 16,235
On sale for 15 months

Time Of Your Life

First month's sales: 8,581
First year's sales: n/a
Total sales: 12,793
On sale for 9 months

Predators and Prey

First month's sales: 7,225
First year's sales: n/a
Total sales: 9,392
On sale for 5 months

So, still a decline, but they're selling pretty well anyway. (The TPB is usually the best-selling book in the month it first comes out - and each TPB is still selling a few hundred copies a month even two years after first publication.)

Posted by: harsens_rob (harsens_rob)
Posted at: 9th March 2010 05:20 (UTC)

I'd be interested, if your so inclined, to see a graph with DH's general sales numbers for any other ongoing titles (perhaps the best selling vs. lowest selling over the last year) to see how Buffy S8 stacks up. I'd be interested in how Angel stacks up on IDW's side.... are these *really* suffering, or are they generally doing well when stacked up against other titles in the DH and IDW stables?

BTW, thank you for sharing the fascinating tidbits like this. I wouldn't ever find the time or probably would have thought to dive into the numbers in this way. I am disappointed that the comics format hasn't caught on with more fans of the shows, since it is an *official* continuation. In the current economic climate, though, I guess I can also understand it - even subscribing to them through TFAW, I'm still nearly $6 every months for 22 pages and a lot of ads... and that's if I don't also collect a spin off title like I did with Spike: After the Fall.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 9th March 2010 17:27 (UTC)

That may be an option for later. It's a lot of work to do this. ;-) But I will say that the 'Buffy' comic is always, without fail, the best-selling non-Marvel or DC title and frequently the only such in the top 50 sellers each month.

Posted by: harsens_rob (harsens_rob)
Posted at: 10th March 2010 04:49 (UTC)

That makes me feel much better that even if actual buyer numbers have decreased, the comic won't face imminent cancellation. Even if I don't like all of the things our characters have done, I still have immense interest in the Buffyverse and will continue buying for as long as DH/Joss wants to continue to publish.

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 10th March 2010 16:05 (UTC)

Note that Diamond's sales figures for TPB's represent only a small fraction of total sales. Unlike with the monthly issues, Diamond doesn't have exclusive distribution rights to the TPB's. These numbers represent only copies delivered to comic shops via Diamond. They exclude sales through regular bookstores (Borders, B&N, etc.) and online sales at places like Amazon. So the actual numbers are much, much higher than the ones Diamond lists.

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