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Spider-Man Subscription Numbers Over the Years

It seems my look at Marvel’s latest audit figures and how they apply to the nearly year-old argument of whether three issues of one Spider-Man title compare to three Spider-Man titles has been a bit… politicized… on the message boards.  Circulation numbers are being used as part of an argument about Mary Jane Watson/Parker being written out, which may be partially valid.  And then I’m seeing something that is a little bit overboard.

People are interpreting this as Marvel committing “big time fraud?”  Take a deep breath.  The audit numbers are the numbers with legal implications, not estimates based on Diamond’s sales rankings.  If the audit numbers are off, it is most likely an honest mistake.  Why?  Because the audited numbers seem abnormally low, and you don’t commit fraud to lower the amount of money you can charge for advertising.  You tell an advertiser that they got billed for a lower circulation than they actually got, they’re going to be happy.

Now with the sales estimates, this is where it gets goofy if the audits are correct.  Diamond releases the top 300 comics list (as well as top 300 graphic novels) as a list where sales rankings are indexed as a percentage of Batman sales.  The estimates are arrived at by obtaining sales data on a few titles on that list and populating it out proportionally.  You’ll usually have some variation from sales to the UK and for re-orders that are too low to crack the top 100.  However, if the Diamond estimates are 40% higher than audit, that means either every other book is selling a LOT better in the UK and in reorders (unlikely) or that Amazing Spider-Man is behind slotted higher, proportional to other titles.  And that doesn’t make much sense, either.

And no, even if that happened, I don’t think that would qualify as fraud. Who gets defrauded (i.e. loses money) if the Diamond list was off? I guess Spidey is an emotionally-charged subject.

Now since Spider-Man fans want to argue cause and effect, I want to throw two things out there: a different theory on thrice-a-month Amazing Spidey and some historical subscription numbers.

First, the theory:  You know a lot of people talk about “event fatigue?”  Having to buy too many cross-overs?  How sales have been steadily dropping on DC’s attempts to replicate the weekly sales success of 52?  Sure you do.  Now you remember how part of the reason to just have Amazing Spider-Man go three times per month was because the sales of the other titles tended to be drastically lower?  Especially the third title?  Have a peak at this article on the direct market sales for more details on that.  Maybe there are just more people who’d rather pick up one issue of Spider-Man each month, than people who want to pick up three?

Yes, “One More Day” was not a particularly good way to resolve things.  There aren’t a lot of people arguing that it was.  However, the current comics aren’t the abomination they’re being made out to be.  The frequency might be a factor here.

That said, let’s step back from the direct market and look at some historical Spider-Man subscription numbers.  I’m going to be separating things into “flavors” of Spider-Man: “regular” (616, if you prefer), Ultimate, and Marvel Adventures.  Please remember, that Ultimate Spider-Man was marketed as the kid (teen)-friendly, non-continuity/entry-level book for a few years.

Dates will be for the BPA audit month in question, street date is typically 2 months earlier.  Since we’re getting twice a year samples and subscriptions tend to be for 12 months, this should be a reasonable indicator of the ebb and flow of subscriptions.  (Hint: it’s a big win for Marvel) I’ve culled the numbers from the most recent circulation report (Nov. 2008) all the way back to November 2002, with November 1999 thrown in for a more historical perspective.

Nov. 2008
Marvel Adventures Spider-Man            30,652
Amazing Spider-Man    (“regular”) 9,090 (27,270 copies/3 issues)
Ultimate Spider-Man                                  6,919

May 2008
Marvel Adventures Spider-Man            31,497
Amazing Spider-Man    (“regular”) 11,935 (35,807 copies/3 issues)
Ultimate Spider-Man                                  7,875

November 2007
Marvel Adventures Spider-Man      28,086
Ultimate Spider-Man                            14,425
Amazing Spider-Man                            13,869
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man     2,297
Sensational Spider-Man                        -0- (didn’t ship?)
“regular” total:                                  16,166

May 2007
Marvel Adventures Spider-Man       27,395
Ultimate Spider-Man                            14,890
Amazing Spider-Man                            12,975
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man     2,305
Sensational Spider-Man                        1,381
“regular” total:                                  16,661

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the link to my article!

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