Saw this Bleeding Cool article talking about a few recent Image Comics books (East of West, Saga, and The Walking Dead) that had sold out and was pretty blown away by the numbers. I’ve always been someone who keeps an eye on the market and what books are selling (you can see previous posts about it here, here and here). Feel it’s an crucial aspect of the industry to monitor and understand if you have any interest in releasing your books one day.

Before we get any further, my numbers are from ICv2 and I’m aware how they’re not a full accounting of what a book actually sold. They only take into account the initial orders through the direct market. But they’re the best numbers we have available, so that’s what we’re going with. See a more in-depth explanation and disclaimer here.

Also want to mention I’m a big fan of each of the books mentioned below. Even though I’m surprised at how well they’re selling, that doesn’t mean I don’t feel they deserve it either. Couldn’t be more thrilled for the creators or what it means to creator-owned books and the industry to be seeing this kind of success. So let’s dive in and look at some numbers.

The first book mentioned in that Bleeding Cool article was East of West, written by Jonathan Hickman, drawn by Nick Dragotta, colored by Frank Martin, and lettered by Russ Wooton. East of West #1 sold 49,518 copies. Add in 2nd printings and reorders, and  it’s at 64,000+. That’d be a pretty strong launch from one of the big two, but for a creator-owned book that’s just incredible. And as you’ll see in the figures below, sales barely dropped over the following issues.

How that compares to Hickman’s other recent Image #1s
Red Wing#1                                16,464     July 11
Manhattan Projects #1               17,955     Mar 12
Secret #1                                    17,829     Apr 12

Other recent creator-owned launches:
Nonplayer #1                    15,000      Apr 11
Super Dinosuar #1            12,473      Apr 11
Fatale #1                           20,515     Jan 12
Thief of Thieves #1           17,877      Feb 12
Supercrooks #1                59,000      Mar 12 (including heavy reorders)
Saga #1                            50,000+    Mar 12
Secret Service #1              39,505      Apr 12
Hit-Girl #1                         60,409      Jun 12
Jupiter’s Legacy #1        105,437      Apr 13
Ten Grand #1                    57,216      Apr 13
Satellite Sam #1                32,452      Jul 13

East of West
#1   49,518      Apr 13      #35 Book of Month
#2   41,838      Apr 13      #46 Book of Month
#3   39,441      Jun 13      #54 Book of Month
#4   43,228      Jul 13       #42 Book of Month
$5   41,000      Aug 13
*sales figures for August aren’t out yet, but Hickman confirmed that number in article.

East of West #4 is ahead of books on the July sales chart like:
#43 Superman #22                                    42,961
#44 Wolverine and the X-Men #33             42,269
#49 Savage Wolverine #7 (Madureira)        40,946
#50 Hawkeye #12                                      40,837
#64 Daredevil #28                                      35,364
#74 Ultimate Spider-Man                            33,271

The second book mentioned in the article was Saga. Written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples and lettered by Fonografiks. It’s one of the most talked about new comic debuts in the last decade. And deservedly so. It’s Image’s number two comic behind The Walking Dead. Every single issue is going back to print multiple times. And the only other trades—in the entire industry—that has sold this many copies, month-on-month, is again, The Walking Dead. It’s staggering to see how many copies of issues and trades this book is selling. According to the recent Time Magazine article on Saga, volume #1 of the trade has sold 120,000+ copies.

Saga
#1      37,641     Mar 12    #40 Book of Month
*Hickman mentioned in a podcast that Saga #1 had sold 50,000+
#2     36,885     Apr 12     #48 Book of Month
#3     38,895     May 12     #57 Book of Month
#4     41,143     Jun 12     #47 Book of Month
#5     40,556     Jul 12      #44 Book of Month
#6     40,584     Aug 12    #46 Book of Month
#7     46,971     Nov 12     #51 Book of Month
#8     42,324     Dec 12     #51 Book of Month
#9     45,629     Jan 13     #38 Book of Month
#10   48,388     Feb 13     #36 Book of Month
#11   50,023     Mar 13     #33 Book of Month
#12   53,339     Apr 13     #27 Book of Month
#13   62,000     Aug 13     ???
*again August figure comes from article

Image Firsts Reprint
#1   $1.00     10,536      Dec 12
#1   $1.00       8,091      May 13

Trades
Volume One $9.99
Oct 12      15,055    #2 Trade of Month
Nov 12        3,459
Dec 12        4,749     #4 Trade of Month
Jan 13        8,546     #2 Trade of Month
Feb 13        4,553     #5 Trade of Month
Mar 13        4,515
Apr 13        4,585     #4 Trade of Month
May 13        7,552     #2 Trade of Month
Jun 13        3,036
Jul 13         5,959      #4 Trade of Month

Volume Two $14.99
Jun 13     18.022     #2 Trade of Month
Jul 13        7,329     #3 Trade of Month

And the last comic mentioned in the article, was The Walking Dead. Written by Robert Kirkman, drawn by Charlie Adlard, toned by Cliff Rathburn, and lettered by Rus Wooton. When The Walking Dead tv show launched on AMC in October 2010, issue #78 sold 28,000 copies that month. By the time season two of the show came around in October 2011, issue #89 sold 31,351. Solid growth, but not really the boost you’d expect from the tv show—though the trades did see a massive boost.

The first really big jump we saw in monthly Walking Dead sales was in the build up to issue #100:

#97         53,733    May 12
#98        49,974     May 12
#99        55,710     Jun 12
#100   383,612     July 12    #1 Book of Month
#100     32,000     July (Chromium cover at $9.99 a piece)
#100    10,000      July 12 (Digital)

The interesting thing is how well the book held on to all those new readers from #100:

#101     51,732     Aug 12
#102     53,337     Sep 12
#103     74,378     Oct 12 (Season 3 on AMC)
#104     57,456     Nov 12
#105     57,781     Dec 12
#106     70,526     Jan 13
#107     63,575     Feb 13
#108     67,423     Mar 13
#109     90,362     Apr 13     #8 Book of Month
#110     76,455     May 13     #13 Book of Month
#111     74,857     Jun 13     #13 Book of Month
#112     72,975     Jul 13     #12 Book of Month
#113     76,000    Aug 13    ???
*August figures from same article

So since issue #96, The Walking Dead is basically selling double what it did before. Find it fascinating that it took not one, but three seasons of a television show for the book to get to that point and become a near top-10 selling book.

Oh, and don’t forget the trades, which are selling colossal amounts. Volume 17 from November 2012 sold 26,088 in the direct market the first week of release. Volume 18 from June 2013 sold 29,175 in the direct market it’s first week of release. That’s not counting reorders, or sales through book market outlets like Amazon. Just to give you a number for comparison, the #1 selling trade of the month typically sells 4–5,000 copies. So a new Walking Dead trade sells 5 or 6 times that. Plus, each of the previous volume are selling a ton every month. The Walking Dead volumes show up 14 times in the July 2013 sales chart. At the Image Comics Expo in June, Eric Stephenson said that Image Comics was the second largest supplier of trades and graphic novels to the book market in 2012 (behind DC, ahead of Marvel). 7 of the 10. 14 of the top 20. And 22 of the top 50. That is just amazzzzzzzzing. And obviously a huge part of that is The Walking Dead.

I’m curious if at this point, The Walking Dead trades aren’t already the most successful comic trades of all time (collectively, as the 18 current volumes). Sure Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns are easily the best-selling individually but it’s tough for one volume to stack up against the cumulative sales of a series. Maybe Sin City, or Hellboy—both also had a movie tie-in to help move volumes—are in possible competition. I can’t think of what else there could be, as no other trades have been as omnipresent as The Walking Dead has in the monthly sales chart over the last 5–6 years.

As I was looking over sales numbers for those three Image books, a few other things caught my eye. The book that’s most consistently been at the top of the sales charts for the last two years is Snyder and Capullo’s Batman. It’s averaging 130,000–150,000 per issue and never been lower than the #4 Book of Month. I added up all the numbers (because I’m a nerd) and they’ve sold at least 3.5 million copies since the New 52 started.

While all those books are massively successful, there are a few mainstream books that are criminally overlooked. Locke and Key: Omega is averaging 10k an issue. Fury Max averaged 13k over its 13 issues. The new 100 Bullets: Brother Lono opened at 17k, fell to 12k for #2 and will probably end below 10k by the end of the series. And last of all, I was stunned to see that the most recent issue of Bryan Hitch’s America’s Got Powers sold just 9,844 copies. I thought it was a mistake and that was just a 2nd printing or reorders, but that was the actual order. It’s not my favorite work of Bryan’s, but he’s still at the top of his game and one of the best in the business. Criminal to see it—along with the other amazing books I mentioned—overlooked like this.

America’s Got Powers
#1    19,439     Apr 12       #97 Book of Month
#2    16,273     May 12     #149 Book of Month
#3    13,393     Aug 12      #174 Book of Month
#4    11,291     Dec 12       #169 Book of Month
#5    10,660    Feb 13       #180 Book of Month
#6     9,844      Jul 13       #219 Book of Month

 

Got four Happy Samurai pages with really heavy backgrounds, so I’m working on them all simultaneously. First I’ll do underdrawings for all the panels (what you see here), then I’ll composite all those together in Photoshop (add characters, , extra details, etc.). Finally, I’ll print them out and lightbox them for the finished page.

 

Was just struck with realization of how intertwined an artist’s personality and the work they create are. Come up with two or three words that describe an artist (writer, musician, etc.) and tell me they don’t also describe the type of art they make.

Joe Kubert – powerful, tough, no-nonsense
Paul Pope – intellectual, dynamic, rock-star
Erik Larsen – loud, unfiltered, fun-loving
Sean Murphy – cerebral, defiant, biting sense of humor
Greg Capullo – intense, badass, dynamic
Todd McFarlane – bold, calculating, rebel
Matt Fraction – cerebral, humorous

Same thing applies to guys like David Mack, Alex Maleev, Mike Mignola, Ashley Wood, Jamie Hewlett, James Jean. The list goes on and on.

It’s pretty hard to describe your own personality, but if I had to take a shot, I’d say meticulous, passionate and over-complicated. Which are really just different ways of saying OCD : )

 

My former Kubert School student, Giovanni Valletta, and my former Kubert School classmate, Jeremy Mohler are Kickstarting a new comic called Bleedback. Did this print as one of the rewards for backing the project. Go check out their Kickstarter campaign here. Decided to share a bit of a step-by-step process for making the piece.

Initial thumbnail ideas. Knew I wanted to play with a lot of effects and mirrored images, so the thumbnails for this were just a vague starting point.

Went straight to photoshop and just started playing around and exploring different ideas, directions and effects. This was really a night of just experimentation—which is not something you normally get to do. Most of the time you have a definitive idea of what you want to do and you just try and execute that. This was more of a case of wanting to try something different.

More photoshop experimentation. Tried every effect I could think of in the piece, just to see what would happen. Knew I wouldn’t use them all in the final, but doesn’t hurt to take them for a test drive.

First night of photoshop exploration I ended up with 31 different variations and directions. Tried all kinds of layer blending and color palettes in case it sparked a new idea.

Under-drawing of Birdie. Drawn in pencil, then scanned in photoshop where I tweaked elements and redrew his wings from scratch.

Print out the under-drawing and lightbox them to get tight, clean, finished pencils. French curve for all the wing lines.

Hi-rez paper texture found on the internet.

Inverted and adjusted color of the paper, plus added some subtle half-tone overlays to it. This is going to be the foundation of the piece, so I want some variation in color, value and texture to it. This texture will actually be the very top layer in the whole piece, set to screen mode. The very bottom layer of the piece will be black. That way the paper texture effects all the elements without changing the colors too much.

Wondered what some light trail and grid effects might look like, so I  grabbed a random image off the internet.

Cropped and mirrored light trail image.

More mirroring and experimentation. Also start playing with layer blending in photoshop.

I cut strips out of a paper texture I’d made for another piece—which I also used as the background to this website.

Overlaid those strips horizontally, vertically and diagonally to create a grid. Then adjusted color.

Combined the grid with the light trails for a weird, abstracted pattern. I blended this into final piece using layer blending (hard light at like 50%).

Basic photoshop coloring techniques for Birdie—along with a lot of patience (or OCD) to draw all the hexagon highlights on his wings by hand. All the effects are just different blending modes at different opacities. The final piece blurs the line between digital and analog—making the viewer wonder what was done by hand and what was done on the computer. And that’s my favorite kind of work to make.

 

Moved into a new place in October with a huge space above the two-car garage that was perfect for a studio. The photos with the blue walls are the way the previous owners had the space setup. I’ve had a couple nice studio spaces in the past, but I’ve never gone all out setting them up, painting them, buying furniture, etc. Thought this was the perfect space to do it. Spent about $500 on a couple new book cases, shelves and paint and a month of work to pull it all together.

 

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The Typography II class I’m taking this spring is wrapping up, so I thought I’d share a couple of the projects I did for it. This is a brochure I made for the local outdoor/military surplus store I posted about a few weeks ago. The folds of the brochure were designed to reflect their logo and brand identity.

 

Taiyo Matsumoto’s new series, Sunny, comes out from Viz later this month. Don’t know much about the story, but it’s Matsumoto and these promo images look amazing. That’s all I need to know.

 

For the final typography entry of the semester, thought I’d post something a little different. These images are part of a series by Chinese designer, More Tong. Love the handling of texture and distress to add variations throughout the design. Gorgeous, elegant and powerful typography—even without being able to read the text.

 

Always loved the geometric work of London based designer, Simon Page. A few samples from his Futurism and International Year of Chemistry poster series. The repeated shapes, patterns and typography create a rhythm that helps unify the design across each series.

 


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