Marvel and DC are called the Big Two for a reason, but this month shows a marked difference in the changing landscape between the two.
The Increasing Gap in the Big Two
Over the past few months, I’ve been watching the number of titles that Marvel and DC have had in the Top 10 Singles list. Again this month, Marvel dominates with 7 of the 10. Even more telling is that Marvel had 41% dollar share for comic book publishers for June 2015. Compared that to June 2014, when things were more evenly spread and Marvel had 34% and DC had 30%.
There are a few reasons we’re seeing divide. Perhaps the most obvious are the Star Wars titles being released leading up to this year’s movie release. The titles are selling well with at least one, if not more, making the Top 10 single issues list. Another reason is the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, now both on the big screen and television. With every movie or show, there’s a boost in sales of a Marvel title. For example, the Marvel Universe: Ant-Man Digest, collecting various previously released Ant-Man issues, took the number 10 spot in the Top 10 Graphic Novels and Trade Paperback list in advance of the Ant-Man movie release on July 17. Paired with their X-Men franchise, similar to DC’s Justice League, Marvel has expanded its potential audience a fair bit.
What does that mean for diversity and women in comics? It means fans need to keep pushing Marvel to expand their representation of women in and off the page. They’re big enough now that they can afford to take chances and with over a third of the market we can argue it’s their responsibility to try.
June’s top single issue is Marvel’s Secret Wars #3; last month Secret Wars #1 took top billing. The story line combines various alternate universes trying to tidy up existing story lines for existing fans and making an easier entry point for new fans. Based on their back-to-back top 10 status, folks are either liking what they see or buying up the limited eight issue run because it’s only eight issues.
The horror comic, Wytches, by American Vampire creator Scott Snyder, nabs the top spot on the graphic novel list. The story focuses on a high school aged female protagonist and her family who move to a remote town to start over, but instead find something evil and ancient waiting in the woods.
Representation on covers
Each month, I climb onto my soap box and talk about how important it is to have female characters on the covers of single issue comics. Most local comic book shops display the covers prominently drawing readers in with the art. In order to help female readers feel like they have a place and belong, we need to have representation on covers.
For June, when browsing their local comic book shops, readers would have found that the top ten single issues included six issues with women on the covers. This month was still all about the group shot on covers where women appeared but the ratio of male-to-female characters was high. DC had two Justice League covers with group shots and both prominently featured Wonder Woman. I love Wonder Woman, but if she’s always the go-to, she begins to feel like the token female character.
Graphic novels as usual fair better in the sense that although only five included women, three included covers which focused on women.
Looks like we’re back to a dry spell for the top single issues list; none of this month’s titles had women on the creative team. Out of the 6 months of 2015, only two months included titles with women on the creative teams.
Graphic novels and trade paperbacks do better with three titles on the list, but yet again Fiona Staple’s work on Saga counts twice as it has two different volumes in the top 10. The remaining spot goes to G. Willow Wilson for Ms. Marvel: Volume 3.
On the New York Times’ bestsellers’ list there was lots of movement. Most intriguing was the quick appearances of what I think of as crossover titles: comics that appeal to fans who buy from their local comic book shop and casual comics reader buying through bookstores. For June, those included the usual suspects like The Walking Dead Vol. 23 and Batman: Earth One Vol. 2, but more promising Wytches Vol 1, Thor: Goddess of Thunder Vol. 1, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3, Batgirl Vol 1 with Babs Tarr on the creative team, and Lumberjanes Vol. 1 with their all female creative team. Look at all that representation.
There has always been this idea that if you like a title and want to keep it going, buy the single issues to show the publisher you support it — but many successful crossover titles haven’t made it into the top 10 single issues list. Hopefully publishers and retailers are taking note.
After a great year at the Eisner Awards for women, there’s still a lot of room to grow. While June’s Diamond sales didn’t provide any upward trends, there’s hope in the crossover titles. Until next month! And in the meantime, try out a new title and vote for representation.
Each month, Diamond Comics Distributors releases data on the top selling products from single issue comics, to graphic novels and trade paperbacks, to toys. Their sales data represents items sold through comic book shops.
I also include information from the New York Times’ weekly bestsellers’ list for graphic books. Their list comprises sales data for items sold through venues other than comic book shops, like bookstores. As it’s weekly, it won’t be an exact picture of all the days in the month, but it’s a valuable way to see what fans who aren’t buying at comic shops are reading.