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    Buy The Numbers: ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #100

    IN THE CROSSHAIRS: ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #100 (shipping September 2006)

    Hola! And welcome back to BUY THE NUMB3RS! I’m Marc Mason, owner and Dark Prince of The Comics Waiting Room. Each month in this space, I take a look at a soon-to-arrive comic and attempt to predict how many copies it will sell. This month’s contestant: Ultimate Spidey hits the century mark!.

    That’s right, in seemingly no time at all, the Ultimate line of comics has produced its first book to reach 100 issues. Relying on Brian Bendis’ penchant for writing ahead, and artist Mark Bagley’s stunning speed and professionalism, ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN has managed to produce an average of more than twelve issues a year for the past few years. Wonderful, amazing stuff. Hats off to ‘em; the duo is about to move past Stan and Jack’s FANTASTIC FOUR run in terms of issues produced, and in today’s market, that’s no mean feat.

    The question is, however, whether or not the book is still accomplishing its mission. The Ultimate line was begun in an effort to make continuity-free takes on classic characters, and takes that might be friendlier to younger readers. Certainly, USM achieved this brilliantly when it began. Much of Bendis and Bags’ first storyline found its way into the first SPIDER-MAN film. But in a very short amount of time a lot of water has vanished beneath the bridge. Even as slow as some of Bendis’ pacing can be, a huge chunk of continuity has built up surrounding the young Spidey and his friends, not to mention the number of trade paperback volumes it would take buying in order to catch up. In short, this is a philosophical struggle: how to keep the book new-reader friendly versus servicing the same 76K readers who faithfully buy every issue that hits the shelves.

    Sales for ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #97,
    published in July 2006 and the latest one for which sales data is available: 76,712. Good, strong number. Nothing to sneeze at, and most creators would kill for that kind of number..

    Sales for ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #80, published in July 2005: 76,906. See how steady that is? That’s pretty amazing considering the volatility of the market.

    Sales for ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #62, published in July 2004: 98,963. This, however, is where it gets problematic. That’s a HUGE drop between here and July 2005. Huge. Bleeding this many readers in a year is generally cause for panic. Fortunately, the title seemed to hit the brakes and find itself between 2005-06. Still… ouch, ouch, ouch. The creative team’s wallets much have felt like they were mugged.

    Sales for NEW AVENGERS #22, written by Bendis, published in July 2006, and the latest one for which sales data is available: 124,617. Monstrous. Most creators in their lifetimes will never have a book that sells this many copies. Sacrifices to gods are usually required.

    Sales for NEW AVENGERS #7, written by Bendis and published in July 2005: 158,693. Yet… this sort of sales downswing is generally considered disastrous. Or at the very least, it causes the marketing staff to gain a whole new round of ulcers. Did the book get 34K copies worse between here and 2006? Or was it always a case of people hoping for better and realizing that it wasn’t going to come?

    Sales for POWERS #19, written by Bendis, published in July 2006, and the latest one for which sales data is available: 23,156. Perfectly respectable number for a creator-owned book, especially one aimed at the mature reader audience.

    Sales for POWERS #12, written by Bendis and published in August 2005 (there was no issue in July 2005): 30,290. The drop between here and 2006 is kinda steep. The book has been fairly consistent in quality since it began, so I’m chalking this up to retailer indifference and more people waiting on the trade paperbacks.

    You’ll notice that I left out other books that involved Bagley. There’s a reason for that: beyond throwing a few pages into ALIAS and a couple of other books in the past couple of years, ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN has been the only place to find his work. The man has been so dedicated to his craft, and this book, for so long that it’s simply wondrous. But all good things come to an end, and Bags is leaving USM with issue #110. Anyone stepping into his shoes is in for an uphill climb, no question about it. I’ve loved his work as far back as his NEW WARRIORS days, so I tip my cap to him. Mark Bagley is a special talent, and an underappreciated one to boot.

    As an anniversary issue, and a book back in the headlines with Bags’ exit, I think it will get a nice bump with this issue. Call it: 93,000, give or take a few.

    FOLLOWING UP: Column four featured my guess at WITCHBLADE #100. My guess for total orders was 35,000.

    ICV2 has released final sales numbers for July, and the total pre-orders for the book came to: 33,832. We have a WINNER! That’s right folks, I got one! My first… I’m so proud. So to the legions of chronic wankers who went the extra mile to look smart, I say “thanks… and please wash your hands before we meet.”

    Posted by Tim Leong on July 6th, 2006 filed in Story Archive |

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