The Impact Of Marvel’s Free Comics On Diamond’s Statistics – Is It All About Targets?

Posted by December 12, 2016 Comment

There are lies, damn lies and statistics.

Comics that cost more bring in more money and more dollar share.

Comics that cost less bring in less money and a lower dollar share.

So a comic that costs $2.99 has to sell 150% the amount a comic that sells $3.99 to bring in the same in dollars.

So, while Batman #10 and #11 were the top selling books of November in the North American direct market at $2.99, when it came to making money they were only in eighth and eleventh place. The most revenue raising comic was Civil War II #7 and All-Star Batman #4, both at $4.99

And that also helps us spy anomalies. Marvel SVP – Publishing Tom Brevoort said that Diamond rankings doesn’t take into account free copies of comics that Marvel sends out to retailers. Well, Diamond has told me that they do, but only on the unit share side, not the dollar side – as they are free.

Because, yes, Marvel has been ramping up sending out free copies of selected titles to retailers, based on how much they already ordered. The practice was rife in around 2012 but has now returned with a vengeance. Ostensibly it’s to encourage retailers to find a ceiling of sales that they might not have reached with more conservative numbers, which may encourage them to order more in the future once they have seen exactly how much they could have sold if they had ordered enough. But do it enough and it creates serious statistical anomalies.

Let’s look in this action. I’ve run the comparative dollar and unit amounts below, courtesy of Diamond Comic Distributors.

Avengers #1 and IVX #0. Both $3.99 books. In units they are neck and neck, and tenth and eleventh place.

But in dollars earned, Avengers is in 5th place. And IVX #0? Eleventh. The difference being that Marvel shipped 50% extra copies of IVX #0 out.

So which other overships existed recently and can we find examples? Well, Mosaic #2 and Great Lakes Avengers #2 also had overships to match them to a retailer’s initial order of their first issue.

Well, Mosaic #2 at $3.99 is 93rd on the unit list but 148 on the dollar list. While All-New X-Men #15 at $3.99 is 94th on the unit list but 86th on the dollar list. Which indicates that overship copies pushed it up..

While Doctor Strange And The Sorcerors Supreme #2 at $3.99 is 99th on the unit list (a massive drop from #3 in September, the effect of an #1 and being in the Marvel Collectors Corps box) but 92nd on the dollar list. But Great Lakes Avengers #2 at $3.99 is 100th on the unit list but 147th on the dollar list.

hawkeye2016001_covNow, of course, there are other ways that the difference in placement can be explained. Sometimes Marvel offers discounts that make ordering a $3.99 Marvel book cost the same as ordering a $2.99 book. And while sometimes offers can be made to individual stores, this was not widely available for those issues in question. Indeed – discount was available to retailers on Avengers #1 who exceeded orders of All-New Avengers #10 by 150% or 200%. But it was still much higher up the dollar list than IVX #0.

Both Great Lakes Avengers #2 and Mosaic #2 would not have been on the Top 100 list if not for Marvel matching #1 orders with #2 orders for free.

And this is going to happen more and more. Here’s a non-exhaustive list from Marvel of late – and on the way. Avengers #2 match to #1, Champions #3 match to #2, Nova #1 100% overship, Slapstick #1 100% overship, Guardians of the Galaxy #15 100% overship, Gwenpool Holiday Special Merry Mix Up 100% overship main cover, Hawkeye #1 100% overship, Jessica Jones #3 match to #2, Mosaic #3 match to #2 which was already matched to #1, Invincible Iron Man #2 match to #1, Occupy Avengers #2 match to #1, Gamora #1 100% overship, Mighty Captain Marvel #0 100% overship, Star-Lord #1 100% overship.

And why should anyone care? Because this is how Marvel – or any company – can game the system. If Diamond reports the unit share first – and they do – the all any publisher needs to do to get the PR of a number 1 hit, is send out 150,000 free comics to stores – whether they have ordered them or not.

We pointed this issue out in 2015. And in 2012. And again. And again. This is not a new problem. Just Marvel seems to be taking advantage of it even more now than they did in 2012.

We need better statistics.

TOP 100 COMIC BOOKS
Based on Total Unit Sales of Products Invoiced in November 2016

QTY
RANK
DOLLAR
RANK
INDEXITEM CODEDESCRIPTIONPRICEVENDOR
18100.00SEP160227BATMAN #10$2.99DC
21196.52SEP160229BATMAN #11$2.99DC
3196.32AUG160866CIVIL WAR II #7$4.99MAR
4281.94SEP160214ALL STAR BATMAN #4$4.99DC
51080.82SEP160893INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #1$3.99MAR
6379.50SEP160946AMAZING SPIDER-MAN RENEW YOUR VOWS #1$4.99MAR
7475.30SEP160231BATMAN ANNUAL #1$4.99DC
8974.56SEP160951VENOM #1$3.99MAR
91673.09SEP160763WALKING DEAD #160 (MR)$2.99IMA
101269.63SEP160882IVX #0$4.99MAR
11567.73SEP160885AVENGERS #1$4.99MAR
122166.75SEP160268JUSTICE LEAGUE #8$2.99DC
132264.44SEP160270JUSTICE LEAGUE #9$2.99DC
14762.84SEP160389BATMAN TMNT ADVENTURES #1 [*]$3.99IDW
15662.23SEP161107STAR WARS #25$4.99MAR
162659.49SEP160242DETECTIVE COMICS #944$2.99DC
172858.46SEP160246FLASH #10$2.99DC
181858.25SEP160900UNWORTHY THOR #1$3.99MAR
193057.85SEP160244DETECTIVE COMICS #945$2.99DC
203156.50SEP160248FLASH #11$2.99DC
213355.38SEP160287SUPERMAN #10$2.99DC
223652.68SEP160288SUPERMAN #11$2.99DC
231952.15SEP160987AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #21$3.99MAR
243751.26SEP160280SUICIDE SQUAD #6$2.99DC
254050.30SEP160299WONDER WOMAN #10$2.99DC
261349.21SEP161103STAR WARS ANNUAL #2$4.99MAR
274249.17SEP160282SUICIDE SQUAD #7$2.99DC
282448.73SEP160989CLONE CONSPIRACY #2$3.99MAR
292348.60AUG160965STAR WARS HAN SOLO #5$3.99MAR
304348.55SEP160301WONDER WOMAN #11$2.99DC
314548.18SEP160297TRINITY #3$2.99DC
321547.84SEP160959GHOST RIDER #1$4.99MAR
331447.21SEP160917BLACK PANTHER WORLD OF WAKANDA #1$4.99MAR
344747.05SEP160262HARLEY QUINN #7$2.99DC
355146.39SEP160274NIGHTWING #8$2.99DC
362745.30SEP160912THANOS #1$3.99MAR
375344.76SEP160264HARLEY QUINN #8$2.99DC
382944.32SEP161058DEATH OF X #3$3.99MAR
395543.82SEP160276NIGHTWING #9$2.99DC
405643.74SEP160293TEEN TITANS #2$2.99DC
415843.43SEP160295TITANS #5$2.99DC
421743.16SEP161025AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #1$4.99MAR
433242.41SEP161017SPIDER-MAN DEADPOOL #11$3.99MAR
446541.86SEP160210ACTION COMICS #967$2.99DC
453441.63SEP161061DEATH OF X #4$3.99MAR
462041.15SEP160290SUPERMAN ANNUAL #1$4.99DC
473941.14SEP161005CHAMPIONS #2$3.99MAR
486640.47SEP160212ACTION COMICS #968$2.99DC
493540.12SEP160907CAPTAIN AMERICA STEVE ROGERS #7$3.99MAR
507238.30SEP160254GREEN LANTERNS #10$2.99DC
517637.38SEP160258HAL JORDAN AND THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS #8$2.99DC
527537.17SEP160749SAGA #40 (MR)$2.99IMA
537736.97SEP160256GREEN LANTERNS #11$2.99DC
544636.07SEP161084OLD MAN LOGAN #13$3.99MAR
558235.97SEP160260HAL JORDAN AND THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS #9$2.99DC
564835.94SEP161038BLACK PANTHER #8$3.99MAR
578335.86SEP160250GREEN ARROW #10$2.99DC
584935.59SEP161105STAR WARS POE DAMERON #8$3.99MAR
595035.21SEP161085OLD MAN LOGAN #14$3.99MAR
608734.39SEP160252GREEN ARROW #11$2.99DC
615234.31SEP160743REBORN #2 (MR)$3.99IMA
628934.17SEP160221BATMAN BEYOND #2$2.99DC
635934.13SEP160925AVENGERS #1.1$3.99MAR
644133.90SEP160201MOTHER PANIC #1 (MR) [*]$3.99DC
655733.27SEP160997INFAMOUS IRON MAN #2$3.99MAR
669032.93SEP160217AQUAMAN #10$2.99DC
675432.89FEB160136JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #10$3.99DC
686032.84AUG160883SPIDER-MAN #9$3.99MAR
696132.68SEP161086DEADPOOL BACK IN BLACK #3$3.99MAR
706232.58SEP161053DOCTOR STRANGE #14$3.99MAR
716332.48SEP161015MIGHTY THOR #13$3.99MAR
726431.95SEP161083DEADPOOL #22$3.99MAR
737131.76SEP160932OCCUPY AVENGERS #1$3.99MAR
749431.52SEP160219AQUAMAN #11$2.99DC
759530.86SEP160284SUPERGIRL #3$2.99DC
769730.75SEP160238DEATHSTROKE #6$2.99DC
776730.56SEP161068UNCANNY X-MEN #15$3.99MAR
786930.52SEP161040JESSICA JONES #2$3.99MAR
799830.39SEP160278RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #4$2.99DC
809929.60SEP160240DEATHSTROKE #7$2.99DC
817029.31SEP161075ALL NEW WOLVERINE #14$3.99MAR
824429.24SEP161069UNCANNY X-MEN ANNUAL #1$4.99MAR
8310129.12SEP160223BATGIRL #5$2.99DC
847428.66SEP160937ULTIMATES 2 #1$3.99MAR
857328.64SEP161057EXTRAORDINARY X-MEN #16$3.99MAR
867828.05SEP161043DAREDEVIL #13$3.99MAR
878027.67SEP161088DEADPOOL BACK IN BLACK #4$3.99MAR
888127.67SEP161110STAR WARS FORCE AWAKENS ADAPTATION #6$3.99MAR
8912627.46SEP162040HARBINGER RENEGADE #1 [*]$3.99VAL
9010527.41SEP160225BATGIRL AND THE BIRDS OF PREY #4$2.99DC
918427.17SEP161016UNCANNY AVENGERS #16$3.99MAR
928526.93SEP161045MOON KNIGHT #8$3.99MAR
9314826.28SEP161030MOSAIC #2$3.99MAR
948626.19SEP161064ALL NEW X-MEN #15$3.99MAR
953825.33SEP160618AD AFTER DEATH BOOK 01$5.99IMA
967924.93SEP160206DOOM PATROL #3 (MR) [*]$3.99DC
9711124.87SEP160291SUPERWOMAN #4$2.99DC
986824.51SEP161065ALL NEW X-MEN ANNUAL #1$4.99MAR
999224.28SEP161054DOCTOR STRANGE SORCERERS SUPREME #2$3.99MAR
10014724.21SEP161012GREAT LAKES AVENGERS #2$3.99MAR
(Last Updated December 21, 2016 6:19 am )