As mentioned in my previous post, I wanted to get back to the dip in Daredevil sales we’ve been seeing, and some of my thoughts on the subject. First, let me just correct my claim from the last post that Daredevil #504 marked the first issue in a while to dip below 40,000 when sales did, in fact, go below that mark with the previous issue. My bad.
For a little background before I go into full analytical mode, here are the sales numbers for all Daredevil issues from #112 and onward. Also, keep in mind that this data reflect sales through the direct market to comic book stores in North America. It doesn’t tell you how many of these were sold to customers, though changes in sales naturally reflect the perceived changes in demand at the retail level. The numbers don’t include subscriptions directly from Marvel or foreign sales.
It’s all relative
The first point I’d like to make before getting to whether a slight dip is all that concerning to begin, is to say that while a downward trend is certainly a pretty good indication of fewer issues sold, it doesn’t necessarily tell us whether Daredevil is doing worse than any other comic. In fact, while Daredevil isn’t one of Marvel’s better-selling titles, it’s not really in the bottom of the pile either, and numbers have kept pretty steady through the economic decline which seems to have affected other titles. For the comics industry as a whole, it may be a bigger problem that it’s rare for the supposed big sellers to reach numbers even three times as high as Daredevil’s.
In January, when Daredevil #504 came, the best selling comic book was Siege #1 with 108,484 issues sold. Other “big sellers” like New Avengers #61 and Amazing Spider-Man #617 sold 78,202 and 76,730 issues respectively, landing them in fifth and sixth place on the sales chart. Looked at from a New Avengers point of view, it must be a little disappointing to not even sell twice as many issues as a lower tier title like Daredevil. We have to face it people, the comic book buying portion of the population isn’t huge, and it’s time to start spreading the gospel, and for the industry to really start building their reader base rather than milking the one they have for more cash with higher prices.
To get back to my point, Daredevil selling less doesn’t necessarily translate into the title plummeting through the rankings. For the time being, it consistently ranks among the top 50 books on the market. Daredevil #501 came in at number 37, #502 came in at number 45, #503 came in at number 49, and #504 climbed back to number 46, despite actually selling fewer issues. This naturally depends on what other comics are coming out the same month, or the same week, but normal Daredevil territory has been 45-50, or thereabouts, for years.
The switch in creative teams
I’ll be honest and say that I don’t think the switch in creative teams makes a huge difference per se. True, there are always going to be people who are fans of a particular writer or artist who will automatically drop a book immediately when their favorite creator leaves, but there are probably going to be other people out there who may have actually been waiting for a particular writer to leave. A new writer also brings new people on board. In the case of the switch from Brubaker to Diggle, the former clearly has more name recognition, at Marvel at least, so the number of fans shed will likely be greater than the number of fans gained, but the sales data for Daredevil #501, #502 and the Dark Reign – The List one-shot (not included above) clearly shows that the decline started a two-three issues into Diggle’s run, not at the very beginning. Diggle’s work has also been generally well-received, and most seem to be big fans of de la Torre on art duties as well.
In my little corner of the world, the effects of the global financial crisis have been pretty mild, but I know that they are felt more clearly in the U.S. and other parts of Europe. While Daredevil sales have managed to stay pretty steady up until this point, it’s not too far-fetched to imagine that people may have been looking for books to cut from their pull lists and decided that the Brubaker/Diggle switch made for a suitable jumping off point, while allowing for a couple of issues to decide whether the new creative team could put in enough of an effort to convince them otherwise. For people leaning towards dropping the book, a mere decent – or even high – level of quality may not have been enough. I think the combination of this and having people leave specifically because Brubaker is no longer on the book might account for some of the drop in sales.
I’m a big fan of the “Matt Murdock – practicing lawyer who is not constantly f***ed in the head” aspect of the book that was a pretty constant thing until everyone seemed to be of the opinion that Daredevil could only work as a concept if it were different shades of darker than espresso. Having said that, I’m always going to be along for the ride, and also happen to enjoy the ride I’m currently on. However, I can imagine that there might be a good number of people out there who are just thinking “Forget it, let me know when things get back to normal.” The current status quo is extreme. Many people will find this invigorating, many people will find it to be too far from the typical status quo, and will be happy to wait until we get back to business as usual, one way or another. This is only my guess, but I think a sizable portion of the drop in sales is due to people just not being comfortable with the current direction of the book in ways that are not so much due to how the current creative team is handling it as it is due to the hand they were dealt (no pun intended).
This post may seem like much ado about nothing, and the sales may be back to the usual 40,000 to 50,000 before long, but it’s always worrying to see Daredevil not doing as well as it should be, or as well as it deserves to be. Hopefully, Daredevil’s upcoming involvement in bigger things will help turn this around. Meanwhile, what would you tell Marvel and the current creative team to do differently if you had their ear?