Remember back when Marvel decided it would be a good idea for Peter Parker to make a deal with the devil, well Mephisto - but he's close.
It was obvious when they announced a 3-issue per month schedule while cutting out the two other Spider-Man comics, that Marvel wanted to ditch the slow movers and replace them with a comic they hoped would do better, thereby increasing their total sales numbers.
Did it work? According to Rich Johnston from Lying in the Gutters, barely. He writes in today's column (spelling errors corrected by me):
We're well into the "Brand New Day" relaunch of Marvel's Spider-Man property. So... how are sales doing? Have Marvel fans abandoned the series as many threatened, was it all hot air, has the series found new readers?
We have only certain sales figures to go on, they are orders by retailers, not sales to customers, they don't include sales outside of North America and they are often inaccurate. However, they have the benefit of being consistently inaccurate, enabling us to draw conclusion about certain trends And with the current FOC system of ordering, the order dates are much closer to sales dates, which over time makes it a greater barometer of customer demand. So. Let's crunch numbers.
The first issue of Brand New Day, "Amazing Spider-Man" #546 had reported North American orders of 127,958. Very impressive, and the media coverage probably helped sales. As a three-times-a-month book, it was worth knowing the retailers ordered 101,213 of the second issue and 97,959 of the third. They expected a drop off. Issue 4 gets a bump of 101,112 with the new rotating creative team but two issues later, it's back down to 88,084. Which was where the book was pre-relaunch.
And so the sales slide. Month after month, sales drop. occasionally leaping for a new creative team before plunging back down. July's figures see the series in the high 60K figures, half of where the relaunch started from, a significant drop from the majority of JMS' run, and back down around the levels achieved towards the end of the John Byrne/Howard Mackie run which received such derision when the Quesada/Jemas tag team rose to prominence at Marvel.
However, because the other less-well-performing titles of "Spectacular Spider-Man" and "Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man" were canceled, to be replaced by the increased three-a-month schedule for the better selling "Amazing Spider-Man", overall sales of the three Spidey books a month are up. Just.
What has happened is that "Amazing Spider-Man" has lost 30-50,000 readers since the relaunch. However those readers now buy all three Spider-Man titles a month instead of the one or two they used to pick up.So, Amazing seems to have taken a significant hit in sales numbers. However, the numbers are increased from the sales of Spectacular and Friendly. But, as he does later point out, if someone drops Amazing they are dropping three issues - decreasing numbers more significantly than if they were dropping a regular monthly. In addition, as a retailer it is a lot more difficult to get a customer to commit to buying three issues per month than just one. And, in those cases where we pull for clients who one day decide just to stop buying comics without notice - loosing the customer that buys Amazing hits the bottom line more substantially, and often results in more books sitting in a pull bin waiting to be picked up. While the drop of one subscriber is pretty insignificant to Marvel, it can have a more substantial impact on the small comic book retailer.
How has Neptune done with Amazing sales since? Well unfortunately the POS/inventory program we've been using since it started still does not work properly, so we do not have any sales numbers for it. While I'd love to share those details I just don't have them to share. But thankfully we're planning to switch to a new program soon (Diamond's Comic Suite) that should work more accurately and hopefully keep track of inventory sales.