The big two comic book publishers are showing a surprising reversal of fortune as the year draws to a close.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, seven of the top ten most-ordered comic books in North America in 2017 (through the end of November) were published by DC Entertainment, with Marvel Comics filling just the three remaining slots. That's quite a difference from 2014, when Marvel dominated all but one slot on the Top 10, and not one DC title made the list.
One of this year's Marvel titles, Marvel Legacy #1, did top the list overall, but its order numbers were bulked up by a special discount offered for larger orders. Another Marvel book, Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #1, benefited from being part of a special subscription box.
After the lukewarm reception to The New 52 initiative from 2011 through early 2015, DC began a turnaround over the past few years that culminated in the successful Rebirth reboot across the entire line. Marvel, meanwhile, has seen the rest of its own Legacy relaunch fail to reach the same level of success, in part due to squabbles with retailers over variant cover orders and alleged reader dissatisfaction with the publisher's push for more diversity among its characters.
Before we get to the entire Top 10 (which is tabulated by ComicChron), there are a few other points to make as a result of the findings:
- As is always the case, the numbers reflect copies ordered by retailers, not copies actually purchased by consumers -- those figures are not released by Diamond Comics Distributors. So there could be a lot of unsold copies of any of these titles, just gathering dust on comic book store shelves.
- The sales numbers of comic books and the success of comics-related movies don't seem to go hand-in-hand. Although DC had a huge box office hit with Wonder Woman last June ($412 million in North America), Justice League has been far less successful, failing to earn even $230 million at the North American box office. On the other hand, Marvel has scored with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Thor: Ragnarok, with all of them raking in well over $300 million apiece in North America. Yet Marvel Comics has actually canceled its Guardians book, and none of the properties that loomed large on movie screens from either publisher made the comic book Top 10, except for one Spider-Man title.
- Overall, comic book sales are down by at least 10 percent; THR points out that every title on the 2015 list sold more than 250,000 copies, while just the top two hit that benchmark this year.
A few final notes: DC's crossover of Watchmen and its other superhero characters has been a hit, with that storyline's first issue, Doomsday Clock #1, charting at Number Three, and four crossover titles that featured the prologue story "The Button" -- Batman #21 and #22 and The Flash #21 and #22 -- all making the Top 10 as well. The debut of the Dark Nights: Metal crossover story, in which the Caped Crusader discovers a darker multiverse existing beneath the DC multiverse, also got off to a strong start.
Here is the Top 10 through November (December sales will not be released until next month):
1. Marvel Legacy # 1 (303,574) (Marvel Entertainment) September
2. Dark Nights: Metal # 1 (271,108) (DC Entertainment) August
3. Doomsday Clock # 1 (238,643) (DC Entertainment) November
4. Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man # 1 (231,566) (Marvel Entertainment) June
5.Batman # 21 (219,472) (DC Entertainment) April
6. Batman # 22 (186,914) (DC Entertainment) May
7. The Flash # 21 (174,803) (DC Entertainment) April
8. The Flash # 22 (163,767) (DC Entertainment) May
9. Dark Nights: Metal # 2 (162,823) (DC Entertainment) September
10. Secret Empire # 0 (162,718) (Marvel Entertainment) April
What do you make of all this? Are you still reading comics regularly, and which books are you reading? Are you more partial to DC or Marvel these days?