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Marvel Comics Subscription and Newsstand Sales Q3/Q4 2008; And a Spider-Man Mystery, Too

We finally have answers to the Spider-Man subscriptions question. On August 12, 2008, in a CBR interview Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort said “Everyone is saying the book will be cancelled any day now. I could float the book on my subscribers alone at this point.”

The question of whether the monthly cumulative sales of Amazing Spider-Man and whether it’s really greater than the combined sales of Amazing Spider-Man, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man and Sensational Spider-Man seems to come up every month or so.  And when it comes up, I tell people we don’t know, because we haven’t seen the subscription numbers and maybe Amazing Spider-Man was selling 20-30K per issue in subscriptions, as people invariably bring up that Brevoort quote.  Well, in the latest audit, we have the subscription numbers for November 2008, which translates to titles that shipped in September 2008.  In either case, that’s after Brevoort’s interview.  How many subscriber copies were moved?  27,270.  Remember, that’s 27,270 copies spread over 3 issues.  That means the number of subscribers would be averaging 9,090 per issue.  That’s a healthy number for a comic subscription in this day in age, but I don’t know if that’s enough to “float the book on.”  We’ll revisit Spidey after the subscription and newsstand numbers.

Here are the top 15 subscription titles for November (really September) 2008


1. Marvel Adventures Spider-Man 30,652
2. Amazing Spider-Man 9,090 (27,270 copies/3 issues)
3. New Avengers 8,570
4. Ultimate Spider-Man 6,919
5. Uncanny X-Men 6,739
6. Marvel Adventures The Avengers 6,345
7. Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four 6,129
8. X-Men Legacy 5,512
9. Hulk 5,493
10. Astonishing X-Men 4,876
11. Captain America 4,266
12. Fantastic Four 4,181
13. Amazing Spider-Girl 4,115
14. Thor 3,876
Iron Man: Director of SHIELD 3,769

As we’ve come to expect, the Marvel Adventures titles tend to perform very well as subscription titles.  Three of the top four titles are distinct flavors of Spider-Man.  Interestingly, Astonishing X-Men is the worst-selling X-book in this category.

Then we have newsstand (single-issue) sales, where things get crazy compared to the direct market estimates we’re used to seeing.  Not every comic is distributed to the newsstand.  Some titles aren’t frequently seen in the direct market.  There was also a “Hulk Turner Variant” title listed on separate lines as selling 23,640 copies in both the direct market and newsstand market, that I’m figuring was a misprint for the newsstand.


1. Hulk Chronicles: World War Hulk 8,098
2. Secret Invasion “Yu Variant” 6,895
3. Iron Man: Golden Avenger 5,208
4. Amazing Spider-Man 4,104 (12,313 copies / 3 issues)
5. Marvel Adventures Two-In-One 4,098
6. X-Men: Legacy 3,856
7. Marvel Two-In-One 3,741
8. Uncanny X-Men 3,597
9. Skaar: Son of Hulk Presents – Savage World Of Sakaar 3,538
10. Ultimate Spider-Man 3,272
11. Nova 2,897
12. Captain America 2,808
13. Wolverine: Origins 2,748
14. Venom: Dark Origin 2,620
15. Invincible Iron Man 2,617

Yes, your #1 book is a “Chronicles” reprint book of the World War Hulk event.  Yes, your #3 book is an Iron Man one-shot that the audit has as selling only 21,867 in the direct market.  The two “Two-In-One” titles are double-sized reprint books.  Skaar is a top 10 title.  Nova is number 11.  The newsstand continues to have a very different from the direct market.

Now, back to Spider-Man.  The sales figures for Amazing Spider-Man are all over the map.  Marvel is actually breaking out variant covers, starting with the October audit period (street date being 2 months prior to audit period.  Care to guess the emphasis on alternate covers?

Here’s the “regular cover” number line:

July: 241,030

Aug: 230,195
Sept: 221,822
Oct: 163,364
Nov: 121,354
Dec: 44,474

This that’s low?  OK, now let’s look at those months, with each alternate cover and 2nd printing broken out, compare it to the ICV2 estimates for the month, and then see how far off the two are.  Rule of thumb is that the audit is usually _roughly_ 10% higher than the estimates

(Audit Month)/(Release Month) Total Sales from Audit Individual ICV2 issues, then total % difference (Audit/ICV2)
Dec / Street Oct
  • “regular cover” 44,474
  • #573 Colbert var 12,850
  • JRJR 2nd 20,971
  • JRJR 2nd – wrap7378
  • Villain cover 44472
  • #573 Zombie var 8865

Total: 139,010

#573 82,550

#574 69,069

#575 68,913

#569 JRJR 2nd 8482

#570 2nd 7037

#571 6496

#572 2nd 4646

Total: 247,193

Nov / Sept
  • “regular cover” 121,354
  • JRJR 2nd 7972
  • #570 Monkey var 7858

Total: 137,184

#572 75,164

#571 73,682

#570 82,479

#568 6967

Total: 238,292

  • “regular cover” 163,364
  • Dyn Forces 3940
  • JRJR sketch 1478
  • #568 JRSR var 3940
  • Ross cover 48118
  • Toronto 4925
  • Villain cover 163,409

Total: 389,174

#568 93,395

#569 77,950

#567 68,130

#568  Toronto 4962

Total: 244,437

Sept/July “regular cover” 221,822 69,182



Total: 206,976

Aug/Jun “regular cover” 230,195 72,372



Total: 214,573

July/May “regular cover” 241,030 76,966



Total: 225,184


Interestingly enough, when there’s only one line item, the totals come out in the normal range.  A little closer than usual, actually.  Then the variants hit.  Now October (August) is also the return of John Romita, Jr. and the “New Ways to Die” storyline.  Interestingly enough, the Diamond estimates of the Toronto variants are higher than the audited sales.  What doesn’t seem to make sense is the “villain cover.”  It has a higher audited number than the regular cover.  It also doesn’t seem to appear anywhere on the Diamond chart.  Overall, the audited numbers are a whopping 59.2% higher than the estimates.

In November (September), the audited numbers dump down to 137K with a Monkey cover and a 2nd printing, but the Diamond estimates for three new issues and a healthy back-order on the previous month’s #568 (not no second printing) are good for 238K.  So the audit is suddenly 42.4% less than the Diamond estimate.  A very large swing in the other direction.

In December (October), three variants and two 2nd printing make the audit total 139K.  Interestingly, the three variants again total more copies than the “regular cover.  However, on the Diamond estimates side, three 2nd printings and a healthy reorder of a November book bring the estimates to 247K.  This time around, the audited numbers are 43.8% less than the Diamond estimates.

To check and see if this unusual variance was across the board, I randomly pulled numbers for a few other November titles, and this is what I found:

Iron Man: Golden Avenger 21,867

2,463 – book market variant

Total: 24,330

20,922 +16.3%
Mighty Avengers 97,023 90,799 +6.9%
X-Men: Legacy 71,807 66,434 +8.1%
Civil War: House of M 38,120 35,082 +8.7%
Dead of Night: Devil Slayer 10,835 10,212 +6.1%

Except for the Iron Man title, this is all consistent very close to the +7% variance in the audit’s first three months of Amazing Spider-Man.  Checking another book from that month with variant covers:

  • “regular cover” 25,168
  • Aja Var 1,478
  • Dodson  25,166

Total: 51,812

46,305 +12.9%

Still in general vicinity of 10%.

Now normally, the audited figure is the figure you run with.  Audited figures _should_ be more accurate than Diamond estimates, but history has shown the 10% increase rule of thumb to be fairly reliable.  The audit really shouldn’t be 50% higher than the Diamond estimates, and it definitely shouldn’t be 40% lower.  Moving the second printings between months doesn’t account for differences, based on what Diamond’s reporting. I suppose some of the issues from October audit period might have shifted to the Diamond estimates corresponding to the November audit period, but that wouldn’t explain the discrepency between the BPA and Diamond numbers in the December period. Thus, I’m forced to conclude that either BPA is having some trouble auditing Amazing Spider-Man or the the Diamond rankings (pre-estimates) are being reported a bit too high.

I asked David Gabriel, Marvel’s SVP of Sales and Circulation about audit and he declined to comment.  Did Amazing Spider-Man sales crash last Fall or is there a problem with the audit?  I can’t tell you the answer to that, but the numbers sure don’t seem to sync up.

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  1. I have done my own number crunching with all the information we have regarding Spider-Man sales from Diamond (via ICv2). Here’s a link…

  2. Who did the audit and under what conditions, It’s ,my first time reading this site and haaven’t the foggiest.

    The article gives me no clue.

  3. BPA, as sited in the article, performed the audit. They’re one of the two main auditors of circulations for publishers. Their figures are generally used to determine circulation numbers for advertising.


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