Disclaimer first: the Diamond estimated sales figures are estimates, based fancy guessing and also orders of Batman. They are not what Marvel uses in their secret cancellation calculations. They do not include digital figures, newsstands, international markets, and only kind of maybe tell us how many books Diamond shipped— i.e. how many retailers thought they could sell, not how many they actually sold.
Comic book sales go down, so the test of the Marvel Now #1s will be not just how high their first issue hits, but how well and how quickly they find an audience afterward. So, here’s Black Widow through March:
Rank Title # Est. Sales %Δ 20 Black Widow (2014) 1 53,879 — 63 Black Widow (2014) 2 31,260 -41.98% 70 Black Widow (2014) 3 28,127 -11.13% 78 Black Widow (2014) 4 27,378 -2.66%
The -2.66% drop is close to “standard attrition”— after four issues it seems like Black Widow is pretty close to finding a steady level. The title is seeing significant if not overwhelming reorders, too, indicating that for all Marvel’s numbering tricks retailers underestimated the initial demand for Black Widow. (Retailers have to guess how many copies of a new series they’re going to sell before a customer gets to see it.) Here’s what the chart looks like with the reorders added:
Rank Title # Est. Sales %Δ 20 Black Widow (2014) 1 56,553 — 63 Black Widow (2014) 2 33,603 -40.58% 70 Black Widow (2014) 3 30,187 -10.1% 78 Black Widow (2014) 4 27,378 -9.31%
The difference from issue #3 to #4 is, of course, a lot bigger, but you can see the # of reorders have been pretty consistent from issue #1 to #2 to #3. Jason Enright, who analyzes these charts for The Beat, notes the positive reviews and strong reorders. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a slight uptick in orders for March or April.” I wouldn’t be surprised, either. Marvel press talks about “rising sales” on this book, and I think that’s what you see in the reorders. Eventually the reorders and the initial orders are probably going to meet up.
There’s also a movie, with $162 million domestic and counting, that features Black Widow in a large, tangible way. Black Widow #1 was also printed with Superior Spider-man #30, so readers have lots of reasons to jump into Black Widow this month.
I want to go back to the movie, though. The popularity of the MCU hasn’t turned Iron Man or Captain America into month-to-month sales dynamos. Some people say this means the death of the industry, some people say it just means Rick Remender is some kind of evil. I tend to think, though, that it speaks to the impenetrability of comic shop culture.
To make a dent in the Diamond sales charts, retailers have to see you coming. To buy monthly comics, you have to track down a special store, and then be brave enough to walk into it. And to matter most, you have to keep coming back, you have to tell retailers what books you want before they happen. The extra interest from the films we can expect reflected in the Diamond sales is from dedicated comic readers: people who already bought Batman but never thought Captain America was cool until they saw the big screen explosions. They likely to be aren’t brand new readers, fished in. There’s very little room for that kind of fishing.
But that’s not to say that these films don’t have an effect. Here’s where I can draw up the sales for Natasha’s last ongoing, launched around the time Iron Man 2 swept the theaters.
Rank Title # Est. Sales %Δ 55 Black Widow (2010) 1 32,807 — 63 Black Widow (2010) 2 23,384 -28.7% 103 Black Widow (2010) 3 19,892 -14.9% 111 Black Widow (2010) 4 18,665 -5.8%
The 2014 Black Widow is selling way more than the 2010 edition, and I think there are a couple reasons for that, but one of them is probably the Avengers. I know a lot of fans who cite Name of the Rose, the story these issues turned into, as their favorite Natasha story, but not a lot who bought it when the book was coming out.
I figure a sizable audience came to Natasha’s comics after seeing the Avengers, like Marvel would want, but they came to Natasha in trade, buying collected editions in bookstores, off of Amazon, digitally— places much more accessible to a new or casual fan than a comic shop. (I’m sure a lot of people came to her comics through illegal downloading, too, but that’s another fish kettle.) Name of the Rose recently hit #1 on Kindle, years after the issues came out in singles, but not long before Captain America: The Winter Soldier came out in theaters.
With another Avengers film on the horizon, I think there’s a specific incentive to publish new Black Widow stories— not just for the month to month market but for the readers standing outside of it. When Avengers: Age of Ultron releases next year, there should be two trades worth of new Natasha stories that came out since Captain America: The Winter Soldier. And if I’m really lucky, those trades will make an easy jump-on point for a series that’s still running.