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Fun with Numbers: Top 10 Comics of February 2016

Jake Shapiro

Staff Writer

Jake works for Fantom Comics in Washington, DC. He has a Shel Silverstein drawing tattooed on his arm because he's ten years old. Follow him on Twitter at @jake_shapiro.

The past few months we’ve been tracking the most-subscribed books at Fantom Comics in Washington, DC, and today we’ll look at February–the first month since the end of Marvel’s “summer 2015” event Secret Wars, so it’s the first semi-normalized month of releases for the industry’s biggest publisher in a while.

Remember these are only subscription numbers, not total sales, so it represents our regular customers rather than casual walk-ins. It means #1 issues are under-represented, as people tend to pick up the first issue off the rack before they subscribe to it. Also remember this list is measuring by number of subscribers, not revenue. WITHOUT FURTHER ADO:

STK6964461. Saga #34 – Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples (Image)

We’re now past the halfway point of the sixth story arc for the Most Popular Comic Around, and while we’ve had a couple subscriber drop-offs, Saga is still our most-pulled comic by a looong shot. This one’s got an extra cute Ghüs cover, too!

STK6964392. Paper Girls #5 – Brian K. Vaughan & Cliff Chiang (Image)

The end of the first story arc for BKV’s brand new smash hit series–after the trade paperback arrives next month, I reckon we’ll have a whole new slew of subscribers who jump onto the single issues for #6. Probably not enough to dethrone Saga, but enough to cement Paper Girls as our second-biggest comic for the foreseeable future.

Vaughan is employing a Saga-style release structure with Paper Girls as well: put out issues consistently once a month for a whole story arc, then take a few months break to release the trade paperback, give new readers time to catch up, and give the artist time to recharge. We probably won’t get Paper Girls #6 until June; a frustrating wait for fans, but healthy for the long-term viability of the series with no hiccups or delays.

STK6963833. Ms. Marvel #4 – G. Willow Wilson & Nico Leon (Marvel)

This is the first issue with Argentine fill-in artist Nico Leon. Marvel and DC have both been using fill-ins on many of their big lady-centric books lately; Spider-Gwen and Silk on the Marvel side, and Batgirl and Black Canary on the DC side, have all had fill-in artists in their last couple issues. It’s unrealistic to expect artists to be able to put out a full 32-page comic every month for all twelve months of the year, and whereas books like Saga and Paper Girls will take a break to give the artist a breather, most superhero comics will bring in a substitute penciller so the show may go on.

Is it really for the benefit of the comic to do this? Or is it just a way to keep up sales numbers? Longtime cape-and-cowl readers are used to this constantly-rotating cast of creators on their books, but for series aimed at newer audiences, this change can be confusing. Ms. Marvel has used a host of different artists for its entire run(s), but it’s still always a bit of a jolt.

STK6964684. Bitch Planet #7 – Kelly Sue DeConnick & Valentine de Landro (Image)

So far our top 4 has been exactly the same as it was in January! After a flashback guest issue with #6, this issue sees the return of main series artist Valentine de Landro, and the beginning of Bitch Planet‘s core second story arc, “President Bitch.”

It didn’t crack our top 10, but it’s nice to see Kelly Sue DeConnick’s other series Pretty Deadly has had a huge bump in subscribers since it returned for its second story arc, thanks in part to the increased profile of Kelly Sue after the success of Bitch Planet.

STK6964845. Mirror #1 – Emma Ríos & Hwei Lim (Image)

Island would’ve likely held the No. 5 spot if it came out this month; in its absence it’s replaced by another Emma Ríos project, and our first new series on the list! Mirror is actually the next part of 8house, but since the 8house concept was a little confusing (I did my best to explain it here), Ríos and Hwei Lim decided to release Mirror as its own series. It’s my favorite new comic of the month, so whether you’ve read 8house or not, I can’t recommend Mirror highly enough.

From a retailer perspective, Mirror #1 was able to reach strong sales numbers at our store because we knew it was part of 8house, so we automatically signed up all our 8house subscribers for Mirror with the option to drop it if they wanted–for shops that are less familiar with the series and aren’t aware of its connection to 8house, it might fall through the cracks. It’ll be interesting to see the worldwide sales numbers for this one.

STK6963476. Star Wars #16 – Jason Aaron & Leinil Francis Yu (Marvel)

Hey, Star Wars didn’t double-ship in February! This is the beginning of a new arc, “REBEL JAIL,” and the first issue drawn by Leinil Francis Yu. Star Wars has slowly been losing subscribers the last couple months, likely due in part to the unrelenting twice-a-month schedule, so it’s nice that Marvel is at least giving the book time to breathe (for now) by only putting out one issue in February.

STK6941797. Darth Vader #16 – Kieron Gillen & Salvador Larroca (Marvel)

Darth Vader didn’t double-ship this month either! Although now that we think about it, this might only be because 2016 is a leap year and February is extra short. It’s at least nice that Star Wars and Darth Vader are both on the same numbering now, though.

STK6829548. Sex Criminals #14 – Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky (Image)

Four months after the last issue! Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky have each been busy with a bunch of other projects lately, but despite all the delays, they both know Sex Criminals is their true cash cow at the end of the day. This arc has featured the special polybagged “XXX” NSFW variant covers, which have actually boosted sales as some trade-waiting readers have picked up the single issues just for the dirty covers.

A rare instance of a non-superhero comic in 2016 taking advantage of variant covers to increase sales! The skeptic in me wants to hate this, but it seems to be genuinely just a fun little jaunt into putting lots of penises on comic book covers by Fraction and Zdarsky, rather than a veiled evil plan to send us back to the variant-oversaturated dark days of the 1990s.

Rounding out our “top 10,” we’ve got a four-way tie for No. 9 on our list, all Marvel books:


All-New All-Different Avengers #5 & #6 – Mark Waid & Mahmud Asrar

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #5 – Ryan North & Erica Henderson

The Mighty Thor #4 – Jason Aaron & Russell Dauterman

Well, ya can’t stop Marvel from double-shipping any of their big books this month. All-New All-Different Avengers has seen a subscriber boost from the previous Avengers. Maybe this is because people loved Secret Wars? But I’ve got a hunch it’s got to do with the new starring role of Kamala Khan, whose solo book is our biggest superhero comic.

Ever since the new female Thor arrived, her book has benefited from a similar boost: traditional readers of the series are still reading it, but there’s a huge new wave of (largely femme) readers who are jumping onto it as well, as evidenced by her 30% sales increase over the last dude-Thor series

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl has defied its illogical post-Secret Wars renumbering and maintained strong subscriber numbers just by being a solid book, and one of the most well-executed comedy superhero books around.

What do you think? Do any of these numbers surprise you? What do you expect to see next month? See you in March!