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How DC printed Villains month

Brian Hibbs

The Sep sales charts are out, and we can make some very interesting observations:

(Under the jump, though)

Normally, we have no idea how many comics are printed. Like none at all.  That’s because all that the Diamond sales charts report is what is ordered by retailers, but that could be every copy printed, or it could be 1/10th of what is printed. No way to know.

BUT, for Villain’s Month, DC sold out 100% of the 3-d covers, and, in fact, ALLOCATED each and every one, so there were NO reorders.  Therefore, it is logical to say that the number that appears on the chart is the number printed (with the sole caveat that this doesn’t include Diamond UK)

So, how much faith did DC have in their own promotion?

Well, the previous “normal” issue of BATMAN (#23), ICv2 reports 128,230 copies ordered for the four “Batman” issues of VM?  ICv2 reports:

Joker: 107,680

Riddler: 107,413

Bane: 95,298

Penguin: 89,850


So, therefore, DC expected to sell no more than 85% of Batman on JOKER, and 70% on Penguin…. despite giving it the same series code (the mechanism that triggers Point-Of-Sale system to pull subscription preorders) — and that’s WITH the 3d covers!


JUSTICE LEAGUE #23: 104k (I’m going to round from here on, look to those links in previous paragraph for “real” numbers)

Darkseid: 78k

Secret Society: 44k

Lobo: 36k

Dial E: 26k


Those last two are insane, as the 2D VERSION HAS HIGHER ORDERS FILLED — 39k on Lobo, and 34k on Dial E. DIAL H #15 (the August issue) was 11k.



Doomsday: 68k



Cyborg Superman: 50k

Zod: 50k

Lex Luthor: 50k

Metallo: 43k


Note that those are in chart order — while it is by within hundreds of copies, Diamond is reporting more sales of Cyborg Superman than Lex frickin Luthor. Bizarre!


BATMAN AND (Nightwing) #23: 56k

Two Face: 50k

Ras al Ghul: 50k

Court of Owls: 50k

Killer Croc: 48k



Black Adam: 50k

Deadshot: 32k (Suicide Squad #23 was 22k)

Killer Frost: 32k

Shadow Thief: 32k


DETECTIVE #23: 62k

Poison Ivy: 50k

Harley Quinn: 49k

Scarecrow: 49k

Man-Bat: 47k



Sinestro: 49k

Relic: 37k

Mongul: 36k

Black Hand: 36k


SUPERMAN #23: 42k

Parasite: 44k

Brainiac: 37k

Bizarro: 36k

HEL: 36k


AQUAMAN #23: 44k

Black Manta: 37k

Ocean Master: 36k


EARTH 2 #15: 41k

Desaad: 32k

Solomon Grundy: 32k


FLASH #23: 39k

Grodd: 32k

Rogues: 31k

Reverse Flash: 31k



Ventriloquist: 32k

Mr. Freeze: 31k

Clayface: 31k

Joker’s Daughter: 30k



TEEN TITANS #23:  32k

Trigon: 32k

Deathstroke: 31k



Cheetah: 32k

First Born: 27k


GREEN ARROW #23: 25k

Count Vertigo: 27k


JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #23: 64k  (“Trinty” crossover, #21 was just 25k)

Creeper: 27k

Eclipso: 27k


SWAMP THING #23: 23k

Arcane: 26k


So, do you see? WHY were these books being pounced on by the speculators?  Because, in most cases, DC PRINTED FEWER COPIES than the baseline orders that THEY established. And, where they DID go up (mostly at the bottom of the chart), it was generally within just 10%.

Some of these are truly crazy — WW FIRST BORN, for example, may as well be a normal, regular issue of WW, from a plot POV, and it’s about 20% UNDER the parent book.  Same with REVERSE FLASH.  And RELIC and HEL might as well be the first chapters of family-wide crossovers… and they’re printed well below the parents.

So that’s why these books disappeared so fast — DC absolutely printed far too few of them; even if they were normal covers!



20 Responses to “ How DC printed Villains month ”

  1. Plus, like, why does DC have more faith in SUPERMAN villains than it does BATMAN villains?

    That’s contrary to the market, y’know?


  2. But these are the numbers for the 3D covers, correct? What about the 2D covers? Don’t the numbers for the 3D versions PLUS the 2D versions exceed the numbers for the title?

    I think what you are really looking at is DC estimated that only 80% of people would want to pay the extra 1$ for the special cover and the remaining 20% would be satisfied with the regular 2D cover.

  3. I’m curious — did Comix Experience fully sell out of all its 3D covers? I’m really interested in understanding the difference between what you could’ve sold, versus what you actually sold. Did allocations leave cash on the table, or did the perceived scarcity artificially drive up demand in DC’s favor?

  4. @Jonboy:

    Recall that there WERE NO 2-d covers until 3 weeks before the first one shipped — the 2d covers were created as a RESPONSE to the 100% sellout of all 52 of the 3d versions.

    If DC *did* do/think what you’re suggesting, then they were BLATANTLY manipulating the market, and I am not willing to ascribe that motive when things can be much better explained by incompetence.


    Give it a week or two for the next Tilting to come out, sil vous plait!


  5. When I ordered the 3-D books, I took my normal orders for the titles and added 5% because I thought there would have been a slight demand. With the exception of 3 of my pull customers, all of my other pull customers wanted the 3-D cover. Because of DC’s allocation, I did not receive enough of Justice League, JLA, Green Lantern and Batman the Dark Knight to fulfill my pull customers orders. I had to spend extra time each Tuesday deciding who would receive the 3-D covers of these books. This meant that customers who faithfully purchased these titles each month could not be guaranteed the 3-D cover. Thankfully their anger was at DC and not me.

    After seeing the numbers of copies printed of each title, this shows me that DC did not have faith in their own product. Why DC would deliberately sabotage their chance to have the biggest sale month in a long time is beyond me.

    The 2-D covers were a nice consolation, but when you add the 2-D covers to the 3-D covers that I sold for a title, they did not equal my normal sales on the heavily allocated titles.

  6. I kinda wish DC would fumble more bizarre publicity campaigns. I’ve been morbidly entertained by Hibbs’ coverage of this story.

    It would make a pretty funny comic, actually.

  7. I thought those numbers seemed oddly low. I guess there’s not much chance anyone will, but I’d love to see someone from DC address that, since the numbers don’t seem to match the “very aggressive with our sales forecasts” statement. Lower than regular sales doesn’t seem like an aggressive forecast. And some of those specific numbers are just bizarre. Did someone get cold feet at the idea of getting stuck with extras and insist on guaranteed sell-outs? Did their printer have problems with the technology and some large fraction of the print-run wasn’t usable and there wasn’t time to get more (that might make sense, as there was a “production shortage” that caused them to even further allocate a few books in the last week)?

  8. I think Bob H touches on the real reason behind these lower numbers — there was a shortage of materials used to make the lenticular covers. It’s possible DC (or the printer) underestimated how much of the plastic used in the covers would be needed, or how much would be waste in their production. Or maybe they we’re able to get as much of the material as originally promised for some reason. But given that these numbers make no sense from what DC would want from the project, I don’t think they signify lack of faith so much as lack of means, for whatever reason.

    (Small variations, such as those between Lex Luthor and Cyborg Superman, might also be explained by this. It’s possible that they had the same print run ordered, and there was less waste in the Cyborg Superman covers, so they had more to sell.)

  9. So based on the additional allocation numbers Brian posted:

    The original allocated numbers would have been:
    Bane: 102k
    Doomsday: 81k
    Parasite: 48k

  10. Perhaps 52 (or whatever) titles were too many to put a 3d cover on? I don’t know. It all doesn’t add up. I’d even go as far as to speculate that it was a soft manipulation of the market mixed with hard incompetence.

    I think it was something along the lines of “Look guys, this might not work in time, and I’m thinking we should low ball the 3d printing to make sure we ship 100%. We’ll print additional comics in 2d as plan B. Y’know, those things we normally sell? Yeah, those.”

    D.C. basically is guilty wanting credit for ambition, and then not committing.

    Hey, total reboot! (nah, but kinda, but not really, but it is totally different right? kinda different? yeah? okay cool.)

    Hey, Zero month! Everything explained! (but nah, let’s just keep it loose, but you get it now right? no? kinda? it’s worse? whatever)

    Hey 3d covers! Everyone gets one! (but not everybody, but like 90%, but like 80%, but like 60-70% because that’s how much we were gunna do anyway, are there stories inside? kinda, they’re origins, or back stories, or continuations or something like that)

    Hey, Forever Evil! You guys love the Justice Leagues right? That’s why there are 5 iterations! Well if you like Justice Leagues, you’ll love them all dead! Yep and it’s forever. We are really putting the “Forever” in Forever Evil (but Batman’s back, baby! so they weren’t really dead, but you knew that already, guess you’re smarter than Lex Luthor, ay buddy?)

  11. I think it’s hilarious that they did villain books for Black Manta and Ocean Master.

  12. […] Retailing | Retailer, and CBR columnist, Brian Hibbs digs into sales numbers of DC Comics’ Villains Month issues, and deduces that, in most cases, the publisher printed fewer copies than the baseline orders for the regular series. [The Savage Critics] […]

  13. I have been disliking DC and their habit of gimmicks. Nice work on seeing how many issues they printed though. I feel the New 52 is getting old quick.

  14. DC reps made a number of statements indicating they flat-out ran out of plastic from which to make the covers. It wasn’t a case of deliberately shorting retailers, it was a case of there being a hard physical limit on the possible number of covers and orders exceeding it.

  15. @Dave Robinson:

    So in the debate between incompetence and manipulation, we can land soundly on incompetence then?

    Corporations make lots of statements.

  16. @Brendan: You made me laugh two posts in a row.

  17. @Corey :) Well that’s good then.

  18. […] Retailer Brian Hibbs, who has been stridently and thoroughly critical these past few months of DC’s treatment of retailers with their Villains Month promotion, shares some thoughts inspired by the latest sales numbers. (Savage Critics) […]

  19. A few things occurred to me after reading this article and the previous comments.

    1. DiDio really needs to get over his obsession with the number 52. It seems like every event has a few duds because they needed at least 52 ideas and they could only think of, like, 43 that people actually wanted to do.

    “Crap! We need another character. How about, um, Ocean Master? Somebody still likes him, right? And, uh… Count Vertigo! I think Suicide Squad fans like him. Or was that Slipknot? I haven’t slept in three days.”

    Edit: It looks like there are about seventy titles on that list. I think my point still stands. That’s a lot of crap to be throwing at the wall to see what sticks. How about… I dunno… twenty really good comics with enough 3-D covers for everybody instead of way more comics than any responsible person should ever buy in one month? Unless that Count Vertigo comic was amazing, I’m sure there will be a bunch of those going for fifty cents apiece at some point in the future.

    2. It is both frustrating and depressing to see how “successful” DC titles often sell at levels that probably would have gotten them canceled ten years ago. Way to go, Dan!

    3. Abhay is absolutely right. Dan DiDio and Bob Harras should be fired and driven out of comics.

  20. […] Brian Hibbs takes a brave stab at interpreting the figures that result, and he makes some potentially good observations, but at […]

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