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More than 139,000 comic book and graphic novel circulation figures online!
Welcome to Comichron, a resource for comic book circulation data and other information gathered by
John Jackson Miller and other pop culture archaeologists interested in comics history.


Monday, February 20, 2017

January 2017 comics sales estimates online; overships visible in charts (without affecting much)

by John Jackson Miller

Comichron's estimates are now online for comics and graphic novels shipped in January by Diamond Comic Distributors, and while a number of elements make analyzing this month trickier than usual, the month's $40.1 million performance doesn't look too far out of line with what we've come to expect from winter months in the past when no blockbusters like Star Wars #1 were around. Click to see Comichron's comics sales estimates for January 2017.

As noted here Friday, U.S. Avengers #1 topped the charts in a month that saw Marvel offer retailers a free 10% overship on its titles, essentially sending extra copies for free matched to their existing orders. This is reflected when dollar rankings are compared with what we might expect those rankings to have been by multiplying unit sales by cover price; fully 84 of Marvel's 91 entries in the Top 300 have dollar rankings that are worse than we'd expect to see had all their copies all shipped at their regular discounts.

While overshipped copies for obvious reasons have no impact on the dollar market shares, they are counted toward the unit market shares and in the Top 300 lists, and that's readily apparent from looking at the data. Marvel's unit share was six points higher than its dollar share, and the gap was wider than the gap for DC; that is simply not possible given how many DC books are cheaper unless the effective wholesale price of Marvel's comics is somehow less. Overships are one way of making that happen.

The other real tipoff is in the dollar rankings, which you can now see alongside the unit sales rankings in Comichron's charts. In the era of $2.99 DC comics, Marvel's dollar rankings have tended to be a good deal better than its dollar rankings. In January, much of that advantage was gone. You can really see the impact, however, by an experiment: if you multiply the number of copies sold of each title by cover price, you can project "expected dollar rankings." The Diamond-reported dollar rankings of 84 of Marvel's 91 titles in the Top 300 were worse than their expected dollar rankings, which, again, can only mean that either Marvel's discount was much bigger last month, or that some of the copies were free.

For an example of the effect that removes cover-price from the equation, look to $3.99 Gwenpool #10, in 127th place; it sold about the same number of copies as the $3.99 DC book just above it and the $3.99 Image book just below it. Yet Gwenpool's dollar ranking was 133rd place, while the other two books were at 108th and 112th. Those books didn't have overships diluting their dollar rankings.
For a much less complicated confirmation of how free copies can impact the charts, there's actually a unique example in Saga #41 in January. The Image comic book was produced in December with a cover printing error, and it appears from reports that most retailers received it; the book made the charts in December, and many of the error copies are now on eBay. In January, replacement copies were sent — evidently at no cost, because the dollar ranking of the issue was way up at 548th place. The fact that it appears in the rankings at all may attribute to retailers having paid regular wholesale price for a small fraction of those copies — reorders received after December issue's cutoff.

(Interestingly, the number of replacement copies Diamond shipped in January was slightly smaller than the number appearing in December's charts, even with reorders in play. One possible reason for this could be end-of-year churn in the retail base, a not uncommon time for it as a few operators always avoid going into a new tax year.)

Friday, February 17, 2017

More comics shipped in January 2017 than any January in 20 years; U.S. Avengers #1 leads pack

by John Jackson Miller

January comics and graphic novel orders got 2017 off to a slightly slower start than last year, according to Comichron's analysis of data released today by Diamond Comic Distributors. But while the $40.1 million in orders — off 3% — was the lowest one-month total since February 2014, Marvel's overship promotion offering a free 10% match to retailers' orders helped create a situation in which more comics were shipped than in any first month of the year since January 1997, 20 years ago.

Diamond shipped 7.57 million comic books to retailers in the month, up 7.21% over January 2016 and even beating out 2015's massive Star Wars #1 month. Free comics obviously don't impact dollar sales, so comics dollar sales were only up 0.36%.

That disjoint suggests that while January's performance was off at the distributor level, it could easily have been an up month at the retail level, depending on how all that extra material sold. Diamond's comparative sales statistics charts and market share charts are based on wholesale prices and not retail, which is what that $40.1 million figure is; the real dollar value of comics and graphic novels retailers had to sell was probably several million higher.

This isn't new; every month there's some level of deep discounting of graphic novels or promotional pricing of comics, and so there's always a bit more — and some months, a lot more — potential sales out there for retailers than the overall sales number suggests. The comparative stats for the month:

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Comichron's provisional Direct Market comics sales rankings and market shares for 2016

by John Jackson Miller

In the rules of golf, if a ball is lost in the woods, the player continues with a "provisional ball." If the original ball is found within a limited time, the original is the one played; if not, the player takes a penalty and continues with the provisional ball as if it were the original.

This diversion into USGA Rule 27-2 is relevant to comics because — as many have noticed — the 2016 end-of-year Top Sellers and Market Shares from Diamond Comic Distributors have been lost in the proverbial woods this year. There is a multi-step process involved every year in the publication of Diamond's year-end charts; the distributor has informed me that the process for 2016’s reports was not fully completed — and is not now expected to be, especially as we're already in mid-February. (CORRECTION: The latter characterization was mine, stemming from my misunderstanding of what I had been told. While it is correct that steps remain before publication, there was no intention on Diamond's part to convey that it would never happen. I apologize for the error.)

As such, Comichron’s provisional rankings and market shares, which we've based on the previous twelve months’ estimates, now appear on our 2016 page and will remain unless and until more definitive information becomes available. These figures have also become the basis for our updates to several other tables on the site, including the Top-Selling Comics of the 21st Century.  
Click to see our projections for the Top Thousand Comics and Graphic Novels for 2016, or read on for more detail on how we arrived at the calculations:

Monday, February 13, 2017

New Comichron FAQ section launched

As part of our ongoing renovations, we're building out our FAQ section to give permanent homes to a lot of the primers and essays once found as blog posts here. Some of the pages there are among our most popular:

The Best-Selling Comic Book of All Time
A look at X-Men Vol. 2, #1 (1991), and how it compares with international rivals.

Comics Buyer's Guide: A Look BackA 46th anniversary look back at how a newspaper started by a teenager became one of the hubs of comics fandom, running nearly 1,700 issues.

Where Did Comics Numbering Come From?
Comics are numbered unlike most other American magazines; a look at some of the historical reasons that may be involved.

There are also pieces on how to interpret our postal sales figures and monthly distributor reports. Much more to come!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

February Comics Flashbacks: Some strong winters past

Top comics shop seller:
Justice League #6 (DC)
135,400 copies first month
145,200 copies sold by year-end

February 2012 was that rarest of beasts, as it had five Wednesdays; that helped the month end up considerably over the year before. It was the start of a very strong year for the Direct Market, as the DC relaunch was still young; Justice League #6 was the top title.

Click to see the sales charts for February 2012. You can also read my original preliminary and final analysis pieces for the month.

Top comics shop seller:
Civil War #7 (Marvel)
265,900 copies first month

Civil War wrapped up with an issue that helped give the Direct Market as strong a February in 2007 as January had been, a month with an additional shipping week. It was the best February since the Diamond Exclusive Era began, and with sales up 20% in the first two months of the year, it kicked off a very strong 2007.

Click to see the sales charts for February 2007. You can also read my original analysis.

Top comics shop seller:
Dark Knight Strikes Again #3 (DC)
184,300 copies sold first month

At $7.95, Dark Knight Strikes Again remains one of the most expensive comic books ever to top the sales charts. Issue #3 brought in more dollars for retailers than the next half-dozen comic books on the charts combined.

Click to see the sales charts for February 2002.

Top comics shop seller:
Uncanny X-Men #343 (Marvel)
171,400 copies preordered first month
Around 300,700 copies sold overall

Uncanny X-Men #343 led the charts in a weak month for the Direct Market. In addition to being the dead of winter — with no "Age of Apocalypse" or "DC Versus Marvel" event as in the previous two years — changes in discount incentives at Diamond resulted in lower sales. Soon Diamond would offer products from all the industry's publishers again; on February 7, Marvel announced it would be shutting Heroes World Distribution down and returning to Diamond.

Click to see the sales charts for February 1997.

Top comics shop seller:
X-Men Vol. 2 #7 (Marvel)
535,200 copies sold to comics shops
645,400 copies sold overall

Marvel's "adjectiveless" X-Men series, launched the previous summer with the bestselling comic book to that time (or ever since!) was still going strong by this point in 1992. Internal Marvel records put the number of comics sold to the Direct Market at 535,200 copies; 150,600 of those went to Capital City.

Top comics shop seller:
Uncanny X-Men #217 (Marvel)
270,000 copies sold to comics shops
431,400 copies sold overall

Preorders for January-shipping titles were found in the January issue of Capital City's Internal Correspondence magazine, where reports were slightly out of sync with the shipping schedule. Capital ranked Uncanny X-Men #217 at #1. Capital sold 55,400 copies out of the 267,300 copies that Marvel internal records report were shipped to the Direct Market. The total was 431,400 copies sold overall once subscriptions and other markets were accounted for.

 Marvel, which had just been sold by Cadence to New World, had a 48.3% market share at the end of 1986 at Capital. DC was at 26.8%.

Top comics shop seller:
Uncanny X-Men #157 (Marvel)
Around 313,000 copies sold overall

One of the first of many Phoenix-is-back-from-the-dead tease covers, Uncanny X-Men #157 found Kitty Pryde pretending to be Jean Grey while aboard a Shi-ar ship. The comics series was riding high, selling around 313,000 copies per issue.

There were no indexed distributor sales charts before 1984, but we know from Statements of Ownership that Uncanny X-Men was by far the year's bestseller, beating out second-place Amazing Spider-Man by more than 20%.

Top comics shop seller:
Amazing Spider-Man #168 (Marvel)
Around 282,000 copies sold overall

Amazing Spider-Man did lead once you go five more years back; February's issue, #168, featured Will-o-the-Wisp and probably had close to a 45,000-copy lead on Superman. Supplementing this issue's sales were simultaneous printings for sale in three-pack bags from Whitman.

Top comics shop seller:
Superman #250 (DC)
Around 318,000 copies sold

Spider-Man was chasing Superman down in this era, but DC's flagship title still had a lead of about 30,000 copies per issue. The series by now was monthly after many years with two skip months, which impacts what months it was leading as we project backwards.

Top comics shop seller:
Superman #195 (DC)
Around 649,300 copies sold

The bestselling comics series in 1967 was Batman, boosted by the ABC TV series — but there was no Batman issue in February, so Superman took the top slot in this tale of the "Furty of the Kryptonian Killer."

Top comics shop seller:
Superman #152 (DC)
Around 740,000 copies sold

And it's Superman all the way to the end of our sales data, with the challenge of "The Robot Master" leading sales during the second month of 1962.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Diamond celebrates 35 years as distribution nexus of the comics industry

by John Jackson Miller

It's the first of February, 2017 — a red-letter date in the comics industry as Diamond Comic Distributors, the sales agent for most large comics publishers to comics shops in North America, celebrates its 35th anniversary. Watch below as founder Steve Geppi commemorates the day in a new video.

When Steve Geppi began distributing comics and related merchandise to fellow shop owners on Feb. 1, 1982, the comic book Direct Market was still fairly new. Phil Seuling began selling Marvel and DC comics non-returnably to comics shops in 1975, later incorporating with partner Jonni Levas as Sea Gate Distributors. Geppi was already in the business as a retailer at that time: he had left his job as a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service in 1974 to open his first shop, Geppi's Comic World, which operated out of the basement of a TV repair shop.

While his company formally began service as Diamond on Feb. 1, 1982, it had one warehouse and 17 customers — Geppi had already been doing work on the distribution side having taken over operations for New Media Irjax's Boston and Tampa distribution centers, according to the corporate timeline. There began, then, a long association with the comics industry. Many retailers have been customers from the beginning, and several publishers have been selling through it from the start.

Geppi recognized in a press release the contributions of his employees. "From day one, Diamond has proudly worked to deliver the best possible service to our customers,” he wrote. “Our ability to fulfill that commitment reflects the dedication of everyone who is, and ever has been, part of the Diamond team. Their accomplishments seem superhuman to me when you realize that they’ve been doing this for more than three decades. I am deeply grateful to everyone for their hard work, and I am honored to work alongside them.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

UPDATED: Confirmed -- New York Times drops graphic novel, manga bestseller lists; others pared back, eliminated

by John Jackson Miller

Since the New York Times added graphic novels to its bestseller lists several years ago, comics creators and publishers have had an additional chance for exposure; I was pleased to have made the softcover graphic novel list myself at one point. This Wednesday, however, publishing professionals who get peeks in advance began reporting that a number of cutbacks to several categories have taken place as of the Feb. 5 report — including elimination of the hardcover and softcover graphic novel lists and the manga list.

Following an early report, I communicated with a contact who receives an advance copy who noted there are further changes, including the elimination of the mass-market paperback charts and the merger of the e-book-only list with the fiction list. Other categories are reduced in size; the adult trade fiction list goes from 15 entries to 10, while the highest-profile list, the hardcovers, is cut from 20 entries to 15. It's not the first time that list has been trimmed; it went from 25 entries to 20 in 2014. Other categories have also reportedly seen changes.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Comics sales spotlight: Complete postal data for House of Mystery, 1960-1982

by John Jackson Miller
It's been a while since we've done any Title Spotlights on Comichron, listing all the postal Statement of Ownership circulation data from the 500+ titles confirmed to have run forms with numbers; in part, the plan was to wait for the redesign and for new templates to display the information. That redesign is now ongoing, so here's the first new title to be added: Click to see the full postal sales data for DC's House of Mystery.

The longest-running horror series at DC, the House of Mystery provided a showcase for strange and macabre stories beginning with the first issue in late 1951. The issue set the tone with the series with stories with names such as "Wanda Was a Werewolf," "I Fell In Love with a Witch," "Man or Monster?" and "The Curse of Seabury Manor.") Cain, the caretaker, kept the horror stories flowing straight on through the early 1980s, logging an impressive run of 321 issues. A companion House of Secrets was built next door later in the 1950s for Cain's milder-mannered brother.

Statements of Ownership appeared for many years in the title before DC (or, rather, National Periodical Publications) was required to publish sales figures beginning in 1960. The first report with numbers appeared in #107 of the series; the figure reported was 208,000 copies sold per issue.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Average comic book ordered in 2016 cost $3.85, down 11 cents

by John Jackson Miller

There's a mountain of information that comes out following the end of the year in comics — and more yet to come, as we await the 2016 final report from Diamond Comic Distributors. After last Friday's report on December comics, there's one more category we can report on: the average price retailers paid for comics appearing in the Top 300s each month. Looking at all 3,600 items and dividing by the number of copies ordered gives us a weighted average of a fraction over $3.85, down 11 cents from 2015.

Below and on our updated yearly sales data page, you can also see something we've not seen in a few years: the average comic book offered was actually more expensive than the average one retailers bought, at $3.89. This hasn't happened since 2011, when DC reduced the prices of its line from $3.99 to $2.99 the first time — and is the direct result of its doing so again in 2016.

Friday, January 13, 2017

December 2016 comics sales estimates online; all new Comichron charts are now sortable, searchable!

by John Jackson Miller morning, Diamond Comic Distributors released its detailed report on comics and graphic novels ordered by North American comics shops in December, and here at Comichron we've completed our estimates based on it. Click to see our comics sales estimates for December 2016.

I wrote yesterday about December and how its lackluster performance nonetheless brought the Direct Market year to a positive conclusion overall, up $1.7 million over last year — but allow a quick digression here on the presentation of the tables here at Comichron.

We are, as you may have seen, in the middle of a redesign, our first since 2008 — and unlike that event, forced hurriedly by the failure of a previous content management system, the new look for the site is the result of a lot of thought into how I can get more data — and I have much that is unpublished — online more efficiently and in a more useful manner.

To that end, I've made changes to my workflow, automating many file preparation steps that for 20 years on the spreadsheet side have been done by hand. On the web side, the styles for the tables — which once came in with lots of bric-a-brac courtesy of Microsoft Excel — have been standardized across the site. Only a handful of recent months have the new design, but each file is about half the size of its previous incarnation, loading faster. (You may need to hit refresh on some pages to see the new versions.)

A sample look at one of the new pages' navigation; December 2016. Click to go to it!

More importantly, the new issue-level data tables are now all sortable by column. You can resort and reverse ranks by dollar rank, title, issue number, price, publisher, and number of units sold. Every column, essentially!

And as a bonus, while it's hard to make multiple column tables too mobile-friendly without a database involved, it is now possible to show only a small number of entries at a time and page through them.

The Top 300 pages currently default to loading the entire charts, although that may change; the end-of year charts like 2015, already upgraded, display 250 entries at a time, unless you use the pull-down menu to request the full list.

There's a search box, as well; if you're looking for just titles with the name "Batman" in them, it'll limit to that.



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