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Entertainment/Character

Supercharge Me! Hero-based Merch Sales Down 7%

By Karina Masolova, karina@plainlanguagemedia.com.

Retail sales of licensed merchandise based on the top superhero properties from Marvel and DC Comics dipped 7% to reach $4.4 million in 2017, according to TLL’s latest edition of the $100 Million Entertainment/Character list.

From the 2017 list, Marvel’s top two properties are Spider-Man ($1.4 billion in licensed retail sales) and the Avengers ($1.2) while DC Comics is represented by Batman ($1) and Superman ($0.7).

It should be noted that DC Comics hosts more brands that do not make it on to the $100 Million list such as DC Super Hero Girls, Wonder Woman, and Suicide Squad. Justice League-based sales are split between Batman and Superman where appropriate, but TLL counts film-based merchandise seperately.

Accounting for the superhero house’s other brands, TLL estimates that licensed DC Comics-based sales reached $2 billion in 2017. Last year, the company reported that fans spent $4.5 billion on DC-related consumer products in 2016—that figure includes CD, Blueray/DVD, comic book, and location-based sales not included in TLL’s calculations.

In comparison, total Marvel-based sales reached $2.7 billion in 2017. The Disney-owned studio counted those additional sales, in most part, from Guardians of the Galaxy. The 2017 sequel’s promotional marketing tie-ins reportedly generated $80 million for Marvel.

Other superhero properties from houses like Valiant Entertainment and Dark Horse Comics generated a combined total of approximately $425 million in global licensed retail sales, or 8.3% of all licensed superhero-branded merchandise.


Retail Sales of Licensed Retail Merchandise for
Top Superhero Properties, 2016–2017
Note: Numbers may not add up exactly due to rounding.
(Figures in Millions)
PropertyU.S. & CanadaWorldwideShare U.S./Canada, 2017
Retail Sales, 2017Retail Sales, 2016Change, 2016–2017Retail Sales, 2017Retail Sales, 2016Change, 2016–2017
Marvel Avengers$537$5174%$1,227$1,242-1%43.8%
Spider-Man$477$4633%$1,402$1,551-10%34.0%
Batman$472$530-11%$1,024$1,100-7%46.1%
Superman$323$359-10%$722$812-11%44.7%
Overall$1,809$1,868-3%$4,375$4,706-7%58.7%

Looking forwards, superhero-based sales are expected to continue to experience flat-to-down growth, with Marvel Avengers the only superhero brand TLL expects to see grow in 2018 licensed retail sales.

Just because it’s a cultural phenomenon does not mean it will sell. This year’s breakout property, Warner Bros.’ Black Panther, is geared to take $10 to $20 million globally in licensed retail sales in 2018. Similarly, DC Comic’s Wonder Woman is estimated to have enjoyed similar levels of sales in 2017.

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