Friday, January 15, 2010

Batman: Rip!

Marvel recently made an eyebrow-raising proposition to comic-book retailers: In return for the ripped-off covers of a number of DC Comics titles promoted with plastic rings last November, Marvel offer comics specialty stores a rare variant-cover edition of one of their own titles.

Heidi MacDonald has a good overview of the issue, and Tom Spurgeon's response sums it all up in a great headline.

And, say what you will, but: The thought alone of retailers ripping apart piles of Blackest Night tie-in comics in their basements to apply for a Deadpool book puts this stunt right up there with the best of Bill Jemas' shenanigans—which is saying something, as none of us who were on the Internet at the time need to be reminded.

But apart from that, how many "happy returns" can Marvel expect, realistically? ICv2.com's sales estimates may hold the answer.

The DC titles that are part of Marvel's stunt are Adventure Comics #4, Booster Gold #26, Doom Patrol #4, Justice League of America #39, The Outsiders #24 and R.E.B.E.L.S. #10. Each of those tied in with DC's popular Blackest Night miniseries and was part of DC's plastic-ring promotion, which I talked about in detail last month.

While the ring promotion stopped in December, those titles' Blackest Night tie-in stories didn't, however, and since there's usually very little drop-off between consecutive issues of a series that are part of a crossover, the comparison of those books' November sales with their performance in December should give us a pretty good idea of the effect the ring promotion had.

Here we go:

11/2009: Justice League #39 --  89,376 (+46.5%)
12/2009: Justice League #40 --  68,672 (-23.2%)

11/2009: Adventure Comics #4  -- 85,145 (+91.6%)
12/2009: Adventure Comics #5  -- 59,876 (-29.7%)

11/2009: Booster Gold #26 -- 57,122 (+164.5%)
12/2009: Booster Gold #27 -- 40,256 (- 29.5%)

11/2009: Outsiders #24 -- 50,918 (+137.8%)
12/2009: Outsiders #25 -- 37,847 (- 25.7%)

11/2009: Doom Patrol #4  -- 53,748 (+168.3%)
12/2009: Doom Patrol #5  -- 35,348 (- 34.2%)

11/2009: R.E.B.E.L.S. #10 -- 51,100 (+352.9%)
12/2009: R.E.B.E.L.S. #11 -- 31,489 (- 38.4%)

So, while the continuing Blackest Night crossovers still keep those books far above of their regular sales levels, these numbers suggest that the ring promotion made up for a huge part of the increases.

In other words, it seems like DC managed to sell retailers a total of about 100,000 comic books more in November—not by publishing any sort of "big event" comic book that people are flocking to, but simply because they made a bunch of plastic rings to go along with it. Not all of those comics are going to be torn apart and shipped to Marvel, obviously, but it still looks like there are potentially a lot more copies of those books out there than anyone ever wanted to read.

Frankly, if I had a business that was in any way dependent on the North American direct-sales market, I would be thinking right now that this is some scary shit going on.

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