Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What Makes A Top Ten Book?

Here are the top ten comic books for July, according to Diamond Comic Distributors:

175,459 Secret Invasion #4

151,955 Uncanny X-Men #500

110,724 Astonishing X-Men #25

108,751 New Avengers #43

103,213 Batman #678

96,252 Mighty Avengers #16

89,062 Wolverine #67

83,784 Thor #10

82,953 Justice League o/America #23

82,031 Buffy the Vampire Slayer #16

My question? What makes a Top 10 comic book?

Or screw that, what makes a 100,000+ selling comic book???

Secret Invasion: Sure it's an event -- but it also has had national publicity. You could say ditto for Batman, because of the movie.

Astonishing X-Men & BTVS: The Whedon connection.

Big brands: JLA, Batman, X-Men, Avengers, Wolverine.

Most impressive: Thor.

See, a book like Thor had to fight to get in the Top Ten. You might say that X-Men & JLA are "naturals" -- big brands who you'd might expect to be on the sales charts.

But as cool as Thor is, that' s a book that traditionally -- with the possible exception of the Simonson years -- was not a "top tier" book.

That book had to be "built" into a top book.

Can any property be "built" and prepared in such a manner?

Is it that there are no mediocre-selling properties -- just mediocre presentation?

Also: is the answer just more spin-offs?

Would DC increase its slice of the pie by just adding another Batman title? A pseudo-movie spinoff, perhaps? Call it Dark Knight? (forgive me if they already have one & I didn't realize it)

Like Invincible Iron Man, it would have stylistic elements from the movie, tying the film into it in a way (though not really, continuity-wise).

Watchmen spinoff? Is that even possible?


  1. SThough not listed as a Top 10, I think Green Lantern is a book that can be argued has been "built" into a best seller.

    Good writing, good art, stories that pack a punch, that sort of thing.

    I also think that it's consistency is part of that. The same creative team on the same book month in and month out does a lot to influence what I purchase.

  2. Isn't Astonishing X-Men #25 the first Warren Ellis issue? I'm sure there's some Whedon slosh over, but this is as attributable to a new high profile team (and a strong brand both in general and on this book specifically) as anything.

  3. Regarding Batman ... looking at May's sales, Detective Comics and Superman/Batman only have half the sales of Batman, while Batman & the Outsiders only has a third.

    At least for the direct market, I'd wager that the draw for Batman is "Grant Morrison" and "Batman RIP" more than the movie.

  4. Name brand makes a top ten book. If Thor were a new character and new mythology instead of being established but revamped it would be no where near top ten. you are right about Thor not being an automatic top ten, but I still say if it were a brand new character it wouldn't be there.

    beyond that I think a top writer and artist help. not that that has helped the Legion of Super Heroes, but in general that's what you want.

    and also you need popular appeal. I am not sure how to define that, but you need more than a core group to like the book. For example, there are lots of Legion of Super Heroes core fans that have been reading Legion since before Shooter could legally drink, but the books appeal isn't that wide spread(I don't Johns will make a difference when he takes over). Look at Buffy. Sure there are core buffy people reading the book, but I think the show has a large mainstream following which is showing up in the comic sales.

    final note: if Buffy hadn't been a prior television show, the comic would not be in the top ten.

  5. I'm really curious about what DC does for marketing...They seem to just not care about tapping into new markets. I mean, there is Vertigo but when was the last time they really pushed people to read this line? DC, imho, can never beat Marvel in the current market. I suspect a lot of people buy just X-men, or just Batman for that matter. They need to try and reach people who could care less about another Crisis but would read Seven Soldiers, Promethea, and of course Sandman.

    How can you be part of Time Warner but have so little advertisement? Couldn't they give a free comic with every subscription to AOL? Or have spotlights on Cartoon Network (I think they might have done a little of that with Alex Ross iirc). Throw a free related comic onto a sci-fi/fantasy DVD as a bonus?

    Just throwing ideas out there - mind you I have little understanding of marketing...

  6. Anonymous2:04 PM

    Also, keep in mind that these are sales to stores, not to readers. We don't know what the attrition will be on these books once they hit the stores.

    When I worked in book publishing, the biggest joke was the NYT Bestseller's list, because it judged sales on what the stores bought. Stores could then return the unsold stock back to the publishers...which would then be sold to discounters like Costco or Sam's Club. Anyway, it didn't always have any real correlation to actual sales.

    Honestly, I don't know how comic stores work. Generally, magazine distributors will give purchasing credit to stores for unsold stock. Does Diamond do that?

  7. Can't believe Thor's made it that high. It's gotta be 'cause of JMS' name, 'cause I haven't been able to read the book since #4 when nothing happened over those 4 issues, and from what I've heard of the last 6 nothing has STILL happened. Or maybe it's the sheer fact it's a book about nothing that makes it so popular. Hey, worked for Seinfeld!

  8. Watchmen spinoff? Is that even possible?


    Should it be? As the kids say, Oh hell naw.

  9. Thor? Really? I read a couple of issues and was bored to tears.

  10. I only want a Watchman spinoff if it gets me Little Rorschach and his dog, Blot.

  11. Isn't the Whedon factor on Astonishing a moot point now that Warren Ellis is on the book?

  12. It's worth noting that neither 'Batman' nor 'Wolverine' are normally top 10 books. Having Morrison and Millar on these issues may help, but it seems a blatant case of an "event" boosting sales with "Batman RIP" (see increases since the story started) and "Old Man Logan" (ditto). Makes the sustained success of JMS on 'Thor' even more impressive.

    Hell, I bought the "Old Man Logan" issues and I rarely buy Wolverine's books (well, I bought W:O for the Cap & Bucky arc).

  13. FYI - Astonishing X-Men #25 is the first Ellis and Bianchi issue. Whedon is no longer on the book.

  14. Val said - Watchmen spinoff? Is that even possible?

    dreaming in stereo said - Yes.

    Should it be? As the kids say, Oh hell naw.

    Agreed. It would be the very definition of a money grab, although that's what big corporations are about. They can probably get away with some smart merchandising though.

    It would be self-defeating in the long run to spin off a story - part of the mystique of Watchmen is that the story has never been revisited since publication.

  15. I think both companies need to rediscover Jim Shooter's editorial policy - every book deserves a chance to succeed. At one time a book like the X-Men would have been lumped into the same second rate category as Thor. It would be interesting to see what makes the top ten if DC and Marvel stopped trying to slice the X-Men and Batman pies into smaller and smaller slices.

  16. It amazes me to no end that Olivier Coipel was savagely panned on "Legion of the Damned" and Legion Lost, but then "graduated" to first Avengers and now a top-ten slot on Thor.

    Sorry, that doesn't amaze me, that's just narrow-vision fans who couldn't see something innovative in front of their faces combined with a certain degree of polish coming along with more experience.

    What amazes me is that given Copiel's current high profile, DC hasn't scheduled a collection of the most in-demand Legion story from the past 15 years. Not that I mind getting some classic Levitz TPBs at last, but strike while the iron is hot, folks!

  17. On topic: Kick Ass has been built up because it features great talent with an easy-to-understand story. Green Lantern is the same way. I suspect Secret Invasion, interconnected as it is, can be read separately from any other title in the series.

    Off topic: Watchmen (or at least the Charlton heroes) is one of the 52 worlds of DC. (Oooh... there's a good title for an anthology... "Worlds of DC"!) Watchmen babies... yeah... fine... What I want to see is Watchmen/Authority. Sell it with an image of a giant Dr. Manhattan, floating in the bleed, pondering the Authority ship.