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Comics A.M. | DC’s gay and lesbian heroes, ‘more brooding’ Superman

Stormwatch #1

Publishing | DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio talks about the gay and lesbian characters appearing in the company’s books come September, including Batwoman and WildStorm imports Apollo, Midnighter and Voodoo: “When we looked at trying to incorporate some of the characters that inhabited the WildStorm universe Apollo and Midnighter are two characters that have always popped out. Not because of what they represent, but they’re just strong characters in their own right and [they] were able to represent a story, a style of character that wasn’t represented in the DC Universe. There’s more of an aggressive nature with those characters that will interact interestingly with other characters and allows us to tell more and better stories.” [The Advocate]

Publishing | Todd Allen, Tom Foss and Graeme McMillan react to the list of changes to the “younger, brasher and more brooding” Superman who will inhabit the DC Universe following the September relaunch. [Indignant Online, Fortress of Soliloquy, Blog@Newsarama]

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Comics A.M. | Comic sales slide slows; Thor press kit triggers bomb scare

Fear Itself #1

Publishing | The drop in year-over-year sales in the direct market slowed in April, with periodicals slipping 1.75 percent and graphic novels just .84 percent. Overall sales were down 1.46 percent for April and 6.5 percent for the first four months of the year. Marvel topped Diamond’s comics chart with Fear Itself #1, while DC led the graphic novel category with the 15th volume of Fables. [ICv2.com]

Crime | Police evacuated the bus terminal in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan, Friday afternoon after a suspicious package was discovered across the street. The Michigan State Police bomb squad was called in, and it was determined the mysterious package was merely a briefcase-shaped media kit promoting Acura’s involvement with Marvel’s Thor. A writer for Automobile, whose offices are next to the terminal, had discarded the “S.H.I.E.L.D. Assessment Test” kit in the recycling bin, but it wasn’t picked up — apparently because it isn’t recyclable. [WXYZ, Jalopnik]

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Comics A.M. | Spider-Man musical producers ‘stepped in dog poo’

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Broadway | Michael Cohl and Jeremiah Harris, producers of the troubled Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, talk candidly about the $70-million musical — or “$65 plus plus,” as Cohl says — as it shuts down for more than three weeks for a sweeping overhaul. Will the production, plagued by delays, technical mishaps, injuries and negative reviews, hurt their reputation? “It might,” Cohl concedes. “It’s a matter of the respect of those whose opinions I care about. Most will recognize that Jere and I stepped in dog poo and are trying to clean it up and pull off a miracle. We might not.”

In related news, Christopher Tierney, the actor who was seriously injured on Dec. 20 after plummeting 30 feet during a performance, will rejoin rehearsals on Monday. [Bloomberg, The Hollywood Reporter]

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Comics A.M. | FF #1 breaks 100K; Nic Cage’s stolen Action #1 found

FF #1 -- Marko Djurdjevic variant

Publishing | On the heels of Monday’s direct-market overview for March, ICv2 has released its sales estimates for the month, placing the top-selling FF #1 at 114,472 copies — more than 37,500 ahead of the No. 2 title, Green Lantern #64. The retail news and analysis site notes that the relaunched FF #1, aided by variant covers, joins the Human Torch-killing Fantastic Four #587 as the only titles to sell more than 100,000 copies in the past six months.

While 11 of the Top 25 comics saw sales increases, if only slight, the graphic novel category looked decidedly more grim, with just the third volume of The Unwritten and Batman and Robin: Batman Reborn breaking the 4,000-copy mark. [ICv2.com]

Crime | Los Angeles police have recovered a copy of Action Comics #1 stolen from the home of actor Nicolas Cage in 2000. The 1938 comic, worth as much as $1.5 million, was discovered last month by an unidentified man who claims to have bought the contents of an abandoned San Fernando Valley storage locker. It’s now in an LAPD evidence safe while the department’s art details detectives try to track down the thieves, but Cage says he can’t wait to get the comic back. “It is divine providence that the comic was found and I am hopeful that the heirloom will be returned to my family,” he said in a statement. [Ventura County Star, Los Angeles Times]

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Comics A.M. | One Piece breaks another record, more on Diamond Digital

One Piece, Vol. 61

Publishing | The 61st volume of Eiichiro Oda’s insanely popular pirate manga One Piece sold more than 2 million copies in its first three days of release, according to the Japanese market-survey firm Oricon. It’s the fastest-selling book in the Oricon chart’s nearly three-year history, breaking the previous record set by the 60th volume of One Piece, which sold more than 2 million copies in four days. [Anime News Network]

Retailing | Heidi MacDonald talks to Dave Bowen, Diamond’s director of digital distribution, about the newly announced deal with iVerse Media that will allow retailers to sell digital comics in their stores: “The retailer will login using their Diamond retailer login and be presented with the opportunity to create store-specific, item-specific codes in whatever quantities they need. Then we’ll use some approved cryptographically secure method to generate random codes for the retailer to use. And we’ll format those in a PDF which they can then print out. Likely what will happen is, it’ll print easily on Avery 30-up laser labels. So what you have is a sheet of Avery laser labels with a bunch of different books and codes on individual labels. In that case the retailer takes that material and secures it and then when someone wants Transformers #16 they simply ring the sale and give the label or sticker or cut-out to the consumer. [...] It’s really very simple. Then the consumer that has that code, which is live, they could literally step out of the line, pull out their iphone or ipad or whatever other device and redeem the code and begin reading the material.” Meanwhile, Todd Allen dissects what he describes as “a particularly silly digital download scheme.” [The Beat, Indignant Online]

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Quote of the day | Is DC Comics a two-man operation?

Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns (via Bleeding Cool)

Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns (via Bleeding Cool)

“The 26 best-selling DC single issues were all written or co-written by either Geoff Johns or Grant Morrison.”

Techland’s Douglas Wolk makes a startling observation about Diamond’s 2010 sales charts. I mean, I knew Johns and Morrison were DC’s two bestselling authors by a long shot, and since I enjoy their work a great deal I’m pretty happy about that, but that level of dominance is really stunning to me. Moreover, Wolk goes on to note that “The best-selling DC single issue that was neither a Batman comic nor a tie-in to Blackest Night/Brightest Day was Superman #700, at position #109.” In other words, DC’s dominant writers have made the properties on which they work — predominantly Batman and Green Lantern — DC’s dominant franchises as well. Even superstar writer J. Michael Straczynski’s much-ballyhooed Superman debut failed to gain much traction relative to the Johns/Morrison juggernaut.

I think it’s safe to assume that Johns is being pulled in more and more directions by his Chief Creative Officer duties — the same position, keep in mind, that Joe Quesada recently relinquished his Editor-in-Chief gig to focus on over at Marvel. Meanwhile, Morrison is a writer whose work meets with frequent delays at the best of times, and who has a full slate of creator-owned work and various media projects (Hollywood screenplays and adaptations, the indie flick Sinatoro, My Chemical Romance videos, etc). Finally, there’s no way to tell how the Green Lantern movie will affect fan interest in the franchise. That’s a lot of eggs to have in relatively few baskets.

Quote of the day | 2010′s bestsellers and half-full glasses

“Fun fact! NINE of the TOP TEN graphic novels in 2010 were creator-owned books! Walking Dead, Kick-Ass and Scott Pilgrim among them.”

Savage Dragon cartoonist Erik Larsen, speaking the truth. Of course, the flip side of this is that NINE of the TOP TEN graphic novels in 2010 had major Hollywood properties to thank for much of their notoriety, Walking Dead, Kick-Ass, and Scott Pilgrim among them. (The tenth was a Superman book that got over with mass audiences largely on the strength of a fortuitous press comparison to Twilight.) I don’t mean to short-change the success of Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard, Mark Millar, John Romita Jr., and Bryan Lee O’Malley, but proponents of creator ownership and creators’ rights probably ought not break out the MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner just yet.


The Walking Dead, Scott Pilgrim maintain their grips on bookstores

The Walking Dead: Compendium One

The Walking Dead and Scott Pilgrim dominated graphic novel sales in bookstores in December, claiming nine of the Top 10 spots on the Nielsen BookScan chart.

Buoyed by the record-setting first season of the AMC television adaptation, zombie comic landed the top spot with The Walking Dead: Compendium One, the $60, 1,088-page collection of the first 48 issues of the Robert Kirkman-Tony Moore-Charlie Adlard series. Three volumes of The Walking Dead, including new editions of the first two collections, appeared in the Top 10, and five in the Top 15.

All six volumes of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim made the Top 10, which could be attributed to the November release of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World on DVD and Blu-ray — or a sign that the series is on its way to becoming a perennial bestseller.

Meanwhile, Superman: Earth One, the hardcover graphic novel whose blockbuster sales led J. Michael Straczynski to abandon the Superman and Wonder Woman monthly series so DC Comics could fast-track a sequel, plummeted from No. 1 on the chart to No. 15. The retail news and analysis site ICv2.com suggests the book may be a victim of availability — there may not be enough additional copies to replenish what’s been sold — rather than a decrease in interest. Indeed, Superman: Earth One is No. 5 after nine weeks on The New York Times hardcover graphic books list.

Comics A.M. | Comics fall short of the 100,000-copy mark (again)

Batman: The Return

Publishing | Following its grim snapshot of year-to-date dollar sales in the direct market, ICv2.com has released a dreary analysis of the November charts: For the third time in 2010, the top-selling title failed to crack the 100,000-copy mark. Batman: The Return, priced at $4.99, sold about 99,500 copies, compared to the 144,000 sold by November 2009′s top title, Blackest Night #5. According to the retail news and analysis site, 20 of the Top 25 titles experienced a drop last month. As ICv2 noted last week in its initial report, dollar sales of comics were down 10.2 percent when compared with November 2009, while graphic novels jumped 14.84 percent, tied to the release of the 13th volume of The Walking Dead (it sold more than 19,000 copies). [ICv2.com]

Digital publishing | Google on Monday unveiled Google eBooks, a web-based e-book platform/digital storefront that boasts “the world’s largest selection of ebooks.” Dan Vado offers brief commentary. [TechCrunch]

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Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

Wolverine #1, the top seller in September

Publishing | John Jackson Miller delves into September’s grim direct-market sales figures and discovers a (relative) bright spot: Sales of lower-tier titles — those that don’t crack Diamond’s Top 300 — appear to be increasing, to record levels. “How do we know?” Miller writes. “Believe it or not, a record for high sales was actually set in September. The 300th place comic book, Boom’s Farscape #11, sold more copies to retailers in September than in any month since November 1996: 4,702 copies. That’s a record for the period following Marvel’s return to Diamond. This bellwether tells us about the shape of the market, and how prolific the major and middle-tier publishers are; when many of their titles are being released and reordered, higher-volume titles tend to push farther into the list.”

However, the higher you go on the list, the worse things look: “The average comic book in the Top 25 is selling more poorly in 2010 than in 2003. At the very top of the chart, 2010′s average top-sellers are about 25% off what the best-sellers of 2003 were doing.” [The Comichron]

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Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

Brightest Day #7 (August's top-selling comic)

Retailing | Laura Hudson surveys a handful of retailers about what part higher cover prices may have played in August’s plummeting comics sales. “This summer has underperformed, and I think [the $3.99 price point] is a big part of it,” says Chris Rosa of Meltdown Comics in Los Angeles, “but also I think the lack of an event and the fact that the big books at both [companies] are extended denouements to events. There’s nothing really inspiring people to run out to the stores. People are tired of buying four Avengers titles at $3.99 a pop.” [Comics Alliance]

Publishing | Tom Mason looks at the return of Atlas Comics: “If you were 13 years-old in 1975 when the original books were out, you’d be 48 today. In other words, the age of the average direct market fanboy. But in order for these new books to succeed, they’d have to appeal beyond nostalgia because with most Marvel and DC comics at $4.00 a pop, you’ve got to have something special and excellent to lure some of those buyers into your own circus tent.” [Comix 411]

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Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

Brightest Day #7

Publishing | Chart-watcher John Jackson Miller wades into the grim direct-market sales figures for August, and notes that they mirror the state of the market in 2000: “Like 2010, 2000 was a year with a successful super-hero movie release — the first X-Men film. In that year, however, it had little impact on the market partially due to the cash-poor position of retailers at the time — and we might expect retailers were in the same position this year. [...]  In 2000, by contrast, the reason wasn’t the general economy, but rather the seven-year industry recession that preceded it. Another similar element: price increases. From 1999 to 2000, Marvel went from benchmarks of $1.99 and $2.50 to $2.50 and $2.99. Other titles increased as well; $2.95 first became the industry’s median price in late 1999.  The 2000 jumps are one of the more drastic previous increases by percentage — eclipsed, of course, by the current $2.99-to-$3.99 move.” [The Comichron]

Legal | India’s Delhi High Court has refused to hear a complaint by Archie Comics challenging the use of the name “Archies” by Mumbai-based Purple Creations. The court said it had no jurisdiction in the matter because Archie doesn’t have an office in India. [Deccan Herald]

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Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 1

Sales charts | Although Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World performed poorly at the box office, it continues to boost sales of the Bryan Lee O’Malley series on which it’s based. The six volumes claimed the top six spots on BookScan’s list of graphic novels sold in bookstores in August, followed at No. 7 by the latest volume of The Walking Dead, whose television adaptation debuts on Halloween on AMC. [ICv2.com]

Legal | The owners of BATS BBQ in Rock Hill, South Carolina, are digging in for a legal battle after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from DC Comics, which objects to their attempts to trademark the restaurant’s logo. [The Herald]

Publishing | Mark Millar discusses CLiNT Magazine, his new monthly venture with Titan Magazines that debuts today in the United Kingdom. [Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser]

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One Piece sells more than 20 million copies — just this year

One Piece

It’s well-established that Eiichiro Oda’s comedy-adventure One Piece is wildly popular, setting one record after nother in Japan, where the 59th volume received a 3.2 million-copy first printing. Once that figure has sunk in, here’s another one for you: One Piece has sold more than 20 million copies this year alone — four times that of Naruto, the second-highest selling manga.

That news arrives just as it’s confirmed that, beginning next week, Oda is taking a well-deserved month-long break from the series that’s been serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump virtually nonstop since August 1997.

Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

X-Men #1

X-Men #1

Publishing | Direct-market comics sales fell 12 percent in July versus the previous year, with only Marvel’s X-Men #1 breaking the 100,000-copy mark, thanks to incentive covers and heavy marketing behind a series relaunch. The sixth issue of DC Comics’ summer crossover, Brightest Day, came in at No. 2 with about 94,600 copies.

The news is better in the graphic novel category, where sales climbed 3 percent, buoyed by strong performances by all six volumes of Scott Pilgrim — the final book in the series debuted with sales of more than 21,000 — and the 12th volume of The Walking Dead. Overall sales declined 9 percent in July. [ICv2.com]

Conventions | Wizard World Chicago Comic Con kicks off Friday in Rosemont, Illinois. Guests include Brian Azzarello, Art Baltazar, J. Scott Campbell, Gary Friedrich, Michael Golden, Mike Grell, Greg Horn, Joe Madureira, Bill Sienkiewicz, Jill Thompson and Ethan Van Sciver. [Daily Herald]

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