A look at Amazing (and Superior) Spider-Man’s Numbers

Time to start looking at Marvel's side of things, and we start with Amazing Spider-Man, because why not. First question for all of you out there: what's the Marvel equivalent of DC's trinity? It seems that with Marvel it's more time-sensitive and they don't have a clear set of characters that have always remained the most popular. Spider-Man would have to be one of those, but who would the other two be? Wolverine? Captain America? Iron Man? Deadpool? What do you think?

As it is the Marvel way, there are a lot of volumes and a re-numbering, so to get through all of this in a readable post, comments will be sparser than usual. Using comichron numbers and this time they start with volume 2 …

Amazing Spider-Man vol. 2: Byrne to Straczynski

Giving John Byrne one of your most popular characters and letting him work his magic seemed to work well enough with Superman and Fantastic Four, but Marvel seemed to do this 10 years too late. Don't get me wrong, I love Byrne but he lost me somewhere in his Next Men run.

The series launched with sales of 124,903 and by issue #12 (the New Sinister Six story with Venom as part of the six, which I remember kinda fondly) it had gone down to 62,018. It would get worse, though, after Byrne left (#18 with 53,218) and most of the issues between #21 and #29 (except the return of Norman Osborn, #25 with 60,308) would go below 50K. Not even Erik Larsen's 3-issue stint (#19-21 between 51K and 53K), which even featured Venom, seemed to make a difference. Bad times for ASM … enter Straczynski!!!

#30 signals the start of Straczynski's run with a very healthy 77,314 and that was only the beginning. For the rest of the volume run, the series would sit comfortably between 90K and 100K. Pretty much the perfect run with great covers  by J. Scott Campbell, Jason Pearson, Kaare Andrews, Frank Cho, … and readers all the way in with Straczynski's story. Of course, that was before the Gwen/Norman affair …

For the curious, the top 3 lowest selling issues were #28 (48,559), #29 (48,804) and #27 (49,190).

Amazing Spider-Man Vol.1 #500-700

Lots of info on this one, but as I mentioned above, I will try to be brief. Before you take a look at the chart, I had to cut it off at 160K for it to be readable, but there are a couple of issues that sold way over that number: #583, the Obama cover, with an insane 524,914 and #700 with 273,305.

Let's do a quick overview: so we have Straczynski all the way to #545, then it's Brand New Day starting with #546 with rotating writer / artist teams.

According to sales, the biggest milestones in this volume were:

  • One More Day: No matter what readers thought about it, the truth is that issues #544 (159,052) and #545 (129,006) are the best performers outside the issues mentioned at the top. Which makes Marvel think that they are right when they decide to shake things up for shaking things up's sake.
  • Back in Black: #539-543 sold really well, all above 100K and one more signal that people like change, even if that means going back to the black costume. I am surprised we don't see it more often.
  • Anniversary issues: Marvel have become masters of flooding the market with anniversary issues (it's brilliant to wait until after #50 to go back to re-numbering with issue #500, you have to give it to Marvel …). In the case of Spider-Man, it seems to work well, as there are a lot of casual fans out there who will tune in to check out what's going on. #500 (153,277), #600 (116,779) and #700 (273,305) with the higher price tag made Marvel some money.
  • The Civil War crossovers (#529-538) also did fairly well, with all of them scoring over 100K (except poor ol' #531, which sold 96,211)

To get a general idea: 175 of the 201 issues sold less than 100K. 111 of them sold less than 70K, but at least it managed to stay above 50K for the whole run, but starts painting the picture that Spider-Man (one of the, if not the, fictional characters that makes the most money in the world in merchandising) that apparently there's only about 60-70K out there who are willing to fork out month in and month out to read his stories. I personally think that is a good sign and that readers do not get married to a specific character, but you can see how Marvel will perceive that as an invitation to mess up with the character.

Top 3 with worst sales numbers: #680 (51,872), #652 (52,050) and #681 (52,143). Funnily enough, there are no variants for those issues.

Superior Spider-Man

Surprisingly strong run, considering that it was a big change for the main character(s). I mean, it managed to move around 80K copies per issue, while the previous ASM volume had closed at around 50-60K. Big success for Marvel and Slott!

Amazing Spider-Man Vol.3 (2014): Silk & Spider-Verse

Another ASM volume, another great selling #1 with a killer 556,457 (as it was part of one of those monthly nerdbox promotions) and a volume that managed to sell more than 90K for almost all of its tun (#18 being the only one which fell down to 88,338). The reason why it did so well? It introduced a new character that people initially got behind (Silk in #4 with 117,917) and then the very successful Spider-Verse (#9-15). In this instance, Marvel proved that they could put out a good story and that people would get behind it. In my opinion, one of the best Spider-Man stories in years and the only time I have gone back to Spider-Man full time since Grim Hunt, probably.

Amazing Spider-Man Vol.4 (2015)

Which bring us to the current volume, one issue away from, you got it, another anniversary issue. Beyond the good sales of the first couple of issues, #15 (93,582 copies with its store exclusives and cosplayer-bait covers) and #16 (start of the Dead No More storyline with 185,342 … something else happened here? Number's way too high for nothing else going on), the series seems to be stagnating in the lower 60K mark so it's probably time for Marvel to do something about it. 60K copies during the Dead No More / Clone Conspiracy crossover cannot be viewed as a success.

If you are thinking it's not that bad, take a look at the comparison of issues #1-24 of the last 4 volumes (the 2014 series ended with #18, so I can only use up to that issue):

Taking a look at the chart, it seems obvious that the current volume is the worst performing since vol.2 (and we were in the middle of the crisis at the time). Let me stress the fact that Clone Conspiracy was supposed to be the great line event for Spider-Man this year and Superior Spider-Man did a lot better than this. Are people getting tired of Dan Slott? Are Alex Ross' covers putting people off (just kidding, but I am not digging them at all)? In any case it seems that Marvel is ready to shake things up with Immonen joining Dan Slott and a new Spider-Man series in the works with Peter David and Mark Bagley.

More importantly, with a new teenage Spider-Man movie coming and with a 90% chance of it being a huge success, what are Marvel's plans for the character? I would personally be surprised if they don't pull some crazy stunt to make him young again … Seeing the current state of Marvel comics, in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if we are headed to a full reboot of the whole universe. Marvel's not doing really well at the moment and I somehow doubt Secret Empire is going to fix it.

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    I would like to see ASM vol. 1 and X-Men vol. 1 print numbers from the Silver, Bronze, Copper and early Modern Age. Maybe even compare newsstand vs direct issues printed if you can find that information. I realize that the newsstand numbers are going to be flawed because there’s no way of knowing how many unsold copies were returned/destroyed for store credit but it would still be interesting to see how many were printed.

    Volume 1 of both of those series was extremely popular into the early 90’s from what I can remember and inspired a lot of spin off titles throughout their runs. I remember hearing that at one time X-Men was the most popular comic book being printed but I can’t remember if that was in the late 70’s or early 80’s?

    Both of those vol 1 series had some popular characters and story lines as well as some great creative teams and some of the classic Marvel gimmicks of the time as well as new gimmicks like foil & hologram covers in the later issues. They were also published in a time before comic collecting was mainstream, comics became crazy valuable like they are becoming now, the internet, grading became strict, quality superhero movies/TV shows were common and most people just bought comics to read.

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    I find these buy the numbers articles fascinating . Thanks for the effort.

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    Marvels mistake was taking Clone Conspiracy and making it a separate “event” series. If they let these stories run in the main title, sales numbers would be less effected.

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    Thank you so much for all your hard work on these.

  • Christopher Hellyer
    Christopher Hellyer

    This is the kinda stuff the collector in me loves to think about when I look at my books and also what the seller in me thinks about when speculating for future profits. Great stuff, Thanks man.

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