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Fun with Numbers: Top 10 Comics of March 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 March–a relatively small month for the comics industry, but a step forward after the late winter doldrums of February.

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:

STK6993521. Saga #35 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image)

Saga dropped a few subscribers last month, but gained new ones back in March–it’s a pretty consistent book. Many of our heavy hitters didn’t have releases this month–Paper GirlsBitch Planet, The Wicked + the Divine and Island all skipped March entirely, so Saga once again sits up here at the Number 1 spot in a league of its own.

Bitch Planet (fingers crossed) and WicDiv will return in April, but Island isn’t back until May, and Paper Girls‘ second story arc won’t begin until June, so it’s difficult to get a clear monthly snapshot of what our biggest series are at any given moment. And by the time Paper Girls is back, Saga will be on its own seasonal hiatus!

There’s another book coming next month that you might want to keep your eyes on for the top of this list. A certain Ta-Nehisi Coates is writing a certain Black Panther series, with its first issue dropping on April 6. We THINK it’ll immediately become our biggest series not called Saga. Will it give our reigning longtime champion a run for its money?!

STK6994322. Ms. Marvel #5 by G. Willow Wilson and Nico Leon (Marvel)

A little bit of drop-off, but the lack of major competition in March lets Ms. Marvel jump up to the silver medal. We also wonder how readers are adjusting to Nico Leon as the new series artist! What will April look like for Kamala Khan?

Ms. Marvel has consistently been our biggest superhero comic since the G. Willow Wilson run debuted in 2014, but with the looming release of Black Panther, that title might be passed on. I don’t think that’s saying anything about Ms. Marvel, though–it just means the community we’ve built at Fantom Comics is much bigger now than it was two years ago when Kamala Khan hit the scene.

STK6993453. Mirror #2 by Emma Ríos and Hwei Lim (Image)

Mirror is our most-subscribed series with an all-female creative team, and it’s got a couple more subscribers than the first issue! This one’s a strange little ride, so we’re happy to see it continue the success of 8house before it–our readers have a greater capacity for super weird comics than we gave them credit for before this all started! This is unquestionably the book on our list with the lowest outside-of-Fantom-Comics sales numbers, and we couldn’t be more proud to be pushin’ it.

STK6985174. Star Wars #17 by Jason Aaron and Leinil Francis Yu (Marvel)

The Star Wars comics are entering the third major phase of their existence–the first was all the buzz surrounding the new Marvel series and the one-million-selling #1 issue; the second was riding the Force Awakens hype; and now the books must survive on their own strength. In the next few months we’ll get a Poe Dameron solo series, a Force Awakens comic adaptation, and a Han Solo miniseries, but after the first big Marvel Star Wars crossover “Vader Down,” now the Star Wars books are in a bit of a quiet period.

Some standard comics sales attrition has started to wear on the series as it gets further in, but I can’t imagine Star Wars will leave our top 10 list anytime soon–fans don’t have to worry about it falling to Dark Horse Star Wars levels of middling sales numbers.

STK6993725. Monstress #4 by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda (Image)

The only new series on our list this month; this has been a huge pleasant surprise! I guess even with the strong sales of Island and 8house, we underestimated our readers’ taste for super heady out-there fantasy books. The fact that Monstress has a creative team comprised entirely by women of color really connected with our readers, and now this dense Japanese-influenced adventure book has become one of our biggest new comics of the year!

We look to Star Wars as the watermark of “bestselling worldwide monthly comics,” so any of our books that surpass Star Wars are truly remarkable phenomena and a testament to our great community–our money is on Monstress accomplishing that feat in April.

STK6963326. Darth Vader #17 by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca (Marvel)

A little bit of drop-off from last month, but Darth Vader remains right behind its sister book Star Wars as one of our most consistent sales drivers. Unfortunately, after a few months of smartly only releasing one issue each month, March saw the return of the dreaded double-shipping for Darth Vader, which you’ll see again farther down this list…

STK6986907. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #6 by Ryan North, Chip Zdarsky, and Erica Henderson (Marvel)

Buzz for Marvel’s newer lady-led titles tends to focus on Spider-Gwen or Thor, but Squirrel Girl keeps surprising everyone as one of the most enjoyable books Marvel is putting out right now. It’s our most-subscribed comedy series, and the new crossover with Howard the Duck feels exactly like the sort of thing this series should be doing.

Even with the weird post-Secret Wars renumbering that gave Unbeatable Squirrel Girl “only its second #1 issue this year,” the series seems to have recovered quickly and built off its successes. I wonder if it’ll intrigue enough Squirrel Girl readers to make a few of them jump onto the main Howard the Duck series?

STK698483STK6994308 (tie) – Darth Vader #18 by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca (Marvel), and The Mighty Thor #5 by Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman (Marvel)

Darth Vader loses a couple more readers with its second issue of the month, while The Mighty Thor gains a few subscribers with one of its most fun covers of the series so far, THE MIGHTY THOR VS. ODIN! This makes two books on the list this month for both Kieron Gillen (Darth Vader #17-18) and Jason Aaron (Star Wars and The Mighty Thor). Thor is an interesting one because its audience is a mix of the newer generation of Ms. Marvel superhero fans, and the older God of Thunder generation of readers. The same applies to the final book on our list this month…

STK69631710. A-Force #3 by G. Willow Wilson, Kelly Thompson, and Jorge Molina (Marvel)

The second G. Willow Wilson book on the March list (the other being Ms. Marvel), A-Force seems to chug along consistently vying to reach our top 10 list every month, making the lady badass-centric series our most-subscribed team superhero book–even more than All-New All-Different Avengers!

Wilson will be leaving A-Force after issue #4 in April, so we’ll see where that leads the series, with relative newcomer Kelly Thompson of Jem and the Holograms fame to carry the writing weight herself.

That’s our list for March! Did it go how you were expecting? What do you think will make the list in April? Black Panther and the return of The Wicked + the Divine await…