Show of hands: Did anybody expect that Spawn would end up as one of the biggest selling comic books of 2019? While sales have quietly been on the rise for the better part of the last two years, it certainly seemed like… well, a long-shot is perhaps an understatement, but Spawn #300 is set to top Diamond Comic Distributor’s comic book sales charts for the month of September, when they are revealed sometime in the next couple of weeks, with nearly 300,000 print sales. Only Detective Comics #1000 shifted more in 2019, selling close to 600,000.
Just to put that in perspective, that’s higher than the July tally for House Of X #1 or Powers Of X #1, both around 200,000 sales of first prints, and higher even than the quarter of a million sales that Absolute Carnage #1 achieved in August – the month Spawn #300 was originally scheduled to ship. It missed that date by only a week – meaning that had Todd McFarlane and Donny Cates gone head to head – Todd would have won. It’s like 1992 all over again When Donny was seven. And if Greg Capullo and Scott Snyder thought their work on Batman: The Last Knight On Earth would be their big seller in 2019, they’d be wrong – instead it was their work separately on Spawn #300.
Looking at the Toddfather’s achievement in purely historical terms, Spawn#300 will be the first non-Big Two comic book title to occupy the number one spot without the aid of a Loot Crate promotion (you know, that probably helped drive them into bankruptcy) since January 2016.
That was for The Walking Dead #150, topping the charts in January 2016 – and that’s, of course, discounting The Walking Dead #163 in February 2017, which had orders of over 750,000 but was not included in sales charts due to its 25 cent cover price.
Sidebar: It’s an interesting Diamond ‘feature’ that sees publisher market share determined by dollar share as opposed to units sold, so it can be goosed by charging higher cover prices even when selling fewer copies. However, anyone publishing and selling comics for less than $1 in an active effort to increase readership, automatically sees titles disqualified from inclusion in the Top 500. You can blame Bill Jemas for that wrinkle.
So. Spawn #300. That makes for Image’s fourteenth trip to the number one slot since Diamond became the industry’s sole distributor in 1997 – and fifteenth if you included the Loot Crate-sponsored The Walking Dead #132 to be counted, but as Image’s own Eric Stephenson has noted himself, the quantities supplied to Loot Crate do not represent retailer orders, so shouldn’t actually impact the market data. Even though they do. Say, I wonder how C.B. Cebulski is going to secure that promised million-copy selling comic?
Even without that elusive fifteenth number one title, though, Image has had more chart-topping comics from 1997 until now than any other non-Big Two publisher – and interestingly enough, the only other publisher that even comes close over the last 22 years is the now-defunct Dreamwave, which had Pat Lee topping the single issue charts a blinding six months in a row with Transformers titles back in 2002 – all of them selling over 100,000 copies.
In comparison, IDW who currently publishes Transformers, has one such title, the Orphan Black Loot Crate issue that saw it grab over half a million copies back in February 2015, and Boom Studios with their Loot Crate title Big Trouble In Little China/Escape From New York. Their Bravest Warriors Loot Crate missed out, coming second to the half-a-million-selling Secret Wars #1. No other non-Big Two publisher – not even Dark Horse – has had a number one title from 1997 until now.
Will Spawn #301 – the issue that sets the record for the longest-running creator-owned comic book series – be Image’s next number one, or will it be Scott Snyder and Charles Soule’s first issue of their greatly anticipated Undiscovered Country?
According to Image, orders for Spawn #301 are in the 200,000 range – but there’s some stiff competition from the first issue of Jonathan Hickman and Leinil Francis Yu’s X-Men to spin-off out of the hugely successful HOXPOX out the same month – and has huge amount of tiered cover support and retailer discount incentives from Marvel Comics, the cost of which will probably mean that even if it does outdo Spawn #301, it won’t make as much money…
That said, Snyder and Soule may just have the edge in November. There is a lower tier of X-reboots that month, and after that, the only series contender is Legion Of Super-Heroes #1, which may seem slightly less exciting in the wake of the somewhat muted response to the Millennium lead-in event. Soule is coming off two successful novels, and in addition to his well-established track record at DC, Snyder is responsible for Image’s biggest non-Robert Kirkman launch in recent history with Wytches – add in the always easy on the eyes artwork of Amazing Spider-Man artist Giuseppe Camuncoli as well as the news of a seven-figure movie deal and it may well be their time at the top too…