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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, August 14, 2017

July 2017 comics order estimates online: Dark Days: The Casting moves 128k, Monstress Vol. 2 tops 10k

by John Jackson Miller

 See listings for this issue on eBay
As described here on Friday, the Direct Market slowdown accelerated into July, as North American comic shop orders could not keep up with the blistering pace set by DC's Rebirth a year before, according to our analysis based on data released by Diamond Comic Distributors. Click to see our comics sales estimates for July 2017.

Much information is in that Friday article, including a look at where the industry is relative to previous years, with an eye to the odds for a recovery in the months remaining; it is worth a look. The estimates provide some additional insights. Top 300 comics sales, led by DC's Dark Days: The Casting #1 with more than 128,000 copies shipped to North America, were off almost exactly the same percentage in units and dollars as all comics were off, suggesting that the losses were evenly distributed between the better sellers and the "long tail."

Graphic novels, while also down, performed relatively better than they had in recent months, and Image's Monstress Vol. 2 was the first graphic novel to top 10,000 in orders since winter, and only the third all year.

The rise in cover prices in June to record levels abated, with the average price for new comics dropping down to $3.87; it had been up above $4.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Dark Days top comic as July fails to match 2016's Rebirth-charged numbers; year-to-date orders fall to 2014 levels


by John Jackson Miller


See listings for Dark Days on eBay
The pace of comics and graphic novel orders by North American comics shops worsened in July, according to data released today by Diamond Comic Distributors. Shipments for comic books, graphic novels, and magazines only reached a little over $41 million. That's down more than 19% from last year's blockbuster month for DC, when the publisher launched most of its Rebirth titles — but it's also down more than 11% from this June. All three of the months mentioned had the same number of shipping weeks.

While DC still had the most-ordered comic book in July with Dark Days: The Casting #1, the absence of Rebirth-launch-sized numbers meant the publisher joined Marvel as being behind for the year in North American orders, as measured by retail dollars. Marvel, which has been behind all year long, had accounted for all of the overall Direct Market shortfall in dollar terms up until June; now, with the market down $28.5 million for the year, Marvel represents only 70% of the drop. Marvel pared back its year-over-year losses some in July; while dollar orders were still off, they were off only half what they were in June.

Retailers ordered 6.95 million comic books in July, two and a half million copies fewer than last July, when the Rebirth comics were returnable. On the other hand, the year-to-date total remains at a competitive 53.05 million copies, off just 2.52%. And, yes, that figure includes a lot of 25¢ and free overship issues from early in the year, but on the other hand there's been no Loot Crate books to factor in so far.

Publishers also crammed a lot of new material into the comics shop channel, an event documented as it was happening by retailer Joe Field, who tweeted that shipments for the week of Comic-Con International had ballooned. We find that the number of new comics released in the month was up 7% over last July, and the number of new graphic novels released was up 13%. While the number of new items isn't that unusual in historical terms, retailers saw 45 more comics and 110 more new graphic novels over the last three months than they got in the corresponding months of 2016. Dollar sales for comics and graphic novels are off 12% in that period.

That graphic novel volume did count for something, as graphic novel dollar orders, led by Monstress Vol. 2, were off only 8.33%; even with a loss, it was the strongest category in July.

Percentage change figures for graphic novel dollars and units suggest that very little deep discounting is going on at the publisher level, a method that has often made the market look more robust than it actually is. What we're seeing now, thusly, is not inflated by a bunch of hardcovers shipped nearly for free, but is close to the actual retail demand.

The overall Direct Market stands at $302.21 million, which is around where it was in 2014 at this time, before Star Wars returned to Marvel. It is also off 8.69% year to date, which  (as you'll see in the graphic much further below) puts it at the lowest position it’s been at in the month of July relative to the previous year since we got the data necessary to calculate changes in overall comics and graphic novel sales in 2003 and 2004. That said, it’s relative: July’s orders were larger than they were five years ago — a really good year! — and 65% higher than the same month in 2003. That’s not all coming from inflation. More periodical comics have been ordered through July in 2017 than in the year to date for every year of this century up to and including 2014. It's also worth remembering that comics shops buy graphic novels from more vendors than just Diamond, so their overall picture may be different.

The charts follow, after which there are some thoughts about where we find ourselves at this point in the year:

Monday, July 17, 2017

June 2017 comics estimates: Average comic offered tops $4 for first time; our 250th consecutive monthly report!

by John Jackson Miller

 See current listings for this issue on eBay
The sales estimates for comics ordered by North American comics shops in June 2017 have been computed, and we have a new most-ordered comic book of the year: out in advance of the Spider-Man: Homecoming movie, Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #1 clocked in with orders of nearly 225,000 copies. Click to see the comics sales estimates for June 2017.

The issue was a needed bright spot, in a month we first reported on Friday: after a calendar-assisted rebound in the month of May, Marvel finished the first half of 2017 off $17.8 million at full retail in the Direct Market versus its performance in the same period in 2016, accounting for 94% of the market's $19 million shortfall. Up until June, the market minus Marvel was still in positive territory for the year, but as the above figure suggests, it turned slightly negative.

Marvel's share of June's smaller month was large enough to boost its market share for all of 2017 by a third of a percentage point; look for our exclusive Year-to-Date market shares in the left column of our 2017 page, beside our aggregated Top 40 Comics for the year so far.

An important mark was crossed, for better or worse, in June: the average comic book offered in the Top 300 topped $4 for the first time, landing at $4.03 and setting a new record. Removing the Dark Knight III Master Race #9 Collector's Edition, at $12.99, subtracts only two cents from the total; the median cover price offered was $3.99.  Previously, the weighted comics average — all Top 300 comics dollars divided by units — had crossed the $4 mark several times, only to return; the weighted average in June was actually the lower of the two measures, at $4.01.

Graphic novels, led by The Wicked & The Divine Vol. 5, were off considerably, although we don't note here nearly enough that Diamond isn't the only distributor comics shops order from; while, for example, we showed $405 million in graphic novels moving through book channel distributors in our annual 2016 report, a small portion of that was sold to comics shops, augmenting what retailers bought from Diamond.

(Update: Peter Parker #1 was in the Marvel Collector Corps box for the month; we don't know how many copies that kicked in, but it's likely far fewer than Loot Crate.)  

The vitals for the month:

Friday, July 14, 2017

June 2017 sales down against giant Rebirth month from last year; Spectacular Spidey snags top spot

by John Jackson Miller

Last June was the biggest month in comics in 20+ years, thanks to Rebirth and Civil War II — and the fifth week giveth, the fifth week taketh away. Pick your explanation, but the totals were very definitely down in June 2017, according to a report issued this morning by Diamond Comic Distributors. Comichron's analysis puts comic shop orders of comic books, graphic novels, and magazines at $46.09 million in the four-week month, down considerably from last year's record $58.59 million in a month with one additional shipping week. The comparative was always going to be extremely hard to beat, which is why we warned you about it early.

The news isn't all dire, so let's hit the brighter spots first: Under the hood, if you divide sales by the number of weeks in the month, the individual weeks in June were the strongest all year to date. That $46.09 million divides to $11.52 million per shipping week, the highest total since October. The second quarter beat the first quarter this year by 7.84% — as it should in any kind of normal situation — and 2017's new comics units so far, though infused with overship and 25-cent Image copies, are up from the year-to-date last year by 2.56%.

On the other hand, that's the only category that's up for the year. Comics dollars are slightly off, and combined comics, graphic novels, and magazines stand at $261.18 million for the year, off from $280.16 million in the more editorially front-loaded 2016. We were off even more, though, by this time in June 2011, and DC's New 52 relaunch brought the market almost to even by the end of the year.

(Update: Looking more closely, just three issues last June — Civil War II #1, Batman #1, and Batman Rebirth #1 — accounted for $3.72 million, or nearly a third of the margin last June had over this June. Blockbusters still matter — or at least, the absence of them does.)

The big laggard this year continues to be graphic novels, possibly in part a reflection of a weaker fall and winter last year for new releases, since now is when those comics are being collected. There may also be a dynamic of retailers keeping their powder dry, as July has a heavy release slate coming. Flying Colors' Joe Field tweeted yesterday about the challenges involved with ordering for July.

The aggregate sales:

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Comics and graphic novel sales up 5% in 2016

According to new estimate by ICV2 and Comichron

The comics and graphic novel market grew 5% in 2016, according to a new joint estimate by Comichron’s John Jackson Miller and ICv2’s Milton Griepp. Total comics and graphic novel sales to consumers in the U.S. and Canada reached $1.085 billion in 2016, a $55 million increase over sales in 2015.


“It’s gratifying to see continued growth in the audience for graphic novels,” Griepp said. “This represents growth in the broadest part of the market, where increased variety of content is being found by new audiences for comics, including kids and women.”


“Marvel’s lucrative relaunch of the Star Wars line in 2015 set a high mark for the comics shop market to beat in 2016,” Miller said. “The fact that it pulled even, thanks in part to DC’s ‘Rebirth’ event, was remarkable—and the book channel’s strength was even more so.”


Graphic novels in the book channel were the only area of growth in 2016, as sales in comic stores, through download-to-own digital channels, and in newsstands remained flat. Sales of graphic novels through the book channel grew 16% to $405 million in 2016, after growing 23% in 2015 and 16% in 2014.


As presented above and in the accompanying infographics, the analysis by Comichron and ICv2 was divided up between periodical comics (what some call “floppies” or “pamphlets”), graphic novels, and digital download-to-own sales. All print figures are calculated based on the full retail price of books sold into the market, and do not account for discounting or markup. Digital sales do not include subscription or “all you can read” services.

This is the fourth joint market size analysis from ICv2 and Comichron; the first three were for 2013, 2014, and 2015 sales. ICV2 and Comichron also previously collaborated on revised estimates for 2011 and 2012.

Comichron is the world’s largest public repository of comic-book sales figures, featuring data from the 1930s to today about comic book and graphic novel circulation, cover prices, and market shares on its website, www.comichron.com. With data and analysis on the distant past as well as the present, Comichron serves as a trusted resource for academics studying the historical reach of the medium and for collectors seeking accurate information about how many copies of a comic book originally circulated.

ICv2 is the #1 industry source on the business of geek culture, including comics and graphic novels, hobby games, and showbiz on its Website, www.ICv2.com, and in its magazine, Internal Correspondence. For the people on the front lines of the geek culture business, staying ahead of the trends isn't something that can be left to chance-it's a basic necessity for being successful. That's why ICv2 is the #1 source of news and information for the buyers, gatekeepers, and tastemakers on the front lines. ICv2 is where trend-watching is a science.
Infographics designed by Kate Willaert.

Monday, June 19, 2017

May 2017 comics sales estimates online; combining orders again gives Batman top slot

by John Jackson Miller

 See listings for Batman #22 on eBay
I mentioned here on Friday that, as in April, orders for DC's two "Button" issues of Batman and Flash would likely be split in reporting between the $3.99 lenticular and $2.99 standard-edition covers — and that posed the prospect that one or both of those issues would again edge past the reported top-seller, Marvel's Secret Empire, once orders were combined. That proved to be the case; click to see the comics order estimates for May 2017.

The original breakdowns are preserved in that list, but we can see that shipments of both versions of Batman #22 to comics shops in North America totaled nearly 186,900 copies (Edited: we'd initially used the numbers from #21), well over Secret Empire #1's total of more than 157,500. And Flash #22 hops up to second place, with a combined total of more than 163,700 copies. Again, the division of differently-priced variants is a long-standing practice in the charts; retailers, whom these charts are for, find knowing the breakdown of differently priced covers useful to know.

That said, Comichron has launched a running top-seller list for the year to date, combining the data from individual months; this can be found on the main 2017 page. There, we do fuse the entries, as we've done for years on our Comics of the Century and other pages.

The top dollar book on Diamond's charts, Venom #150, at nearly $6, would keep that status even if the Batman dollar orders were merged; Secret Empire #1 would remain the second-place dollar book. There's evidence of overshipping on the first two issues of All New Guardians of the Galaxy, which saw splits between their dollar and unit sales rankings. Meanwhile, the $9.99 Deadpool #30 is the seventh-highest dollar earner, while being only the 58th bestselling issue.

Spider-Man Omnibus Vol. 3 at TFAW
As noted in the preliminary report, May's orders represented an improvement over the previous year, thanks in part to a fifth shipping week — but we also see that lower tiers on the chart — 200th place and below — set some better-than-expected sales levels even for five-week months. (Be sure to check out our new sales charts for these sales levels: 1st, 50th, 100th, 150th, 200th, and 300th place.)

On the graphic novel side, Marvel's Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus Vol. 3 hardcover, at $100, was the top book in dollar terms. The dollar top-ten is populated by several other big-ticket books.

There was some deep-discounting of older hardcovers evident in the charts, but not a whole lot; enough to contribute to the ten-point split in units versus dollars on Diamond's percentage change charts for the month. Diamond shipped 14% more graphic novels this May versus last, but only earned 4% more dollars.

The vital statistics for the month:


Friday, June 16, 2017

Comics orders rebound in five-week May; Secret Empire tops list, Liefeld has #1 graphic novel

by John Jackson Miller

See current auctions for Secret Empire #1 on eBay
May 2017 was a win for the comic-book direct market, if a qualified one; comics shops ordered $48.16 million worth of comic books, trade paperbacks, and magazines in the month, an increase of more than 8% over the same month in the previous year. That month, however, had only four Wednesdays, while this May had five New Comic Book Days. Last May was also one of the weakest months of the year, a "holding pattern" month in advance of Civil War II and DC's Rebirth. But it's the first up month since October 2016, so we'll take it.

Marvel's performance, about which much was written this winter, improved year-over-year — although, following a pattern we've seen in 2017, the rest of the market improved by more. The overall market was up around $3.7 million; $700,000 of the addition came from Marvel and $3 million from everyone else. That said, Marvel's last year-over-year beat was back in August 2016, so positive movement is noteworthy. The market without Marvel is up 4.2% for 2017, so a few more good months for the publisher could turn the industry's year positive overall.

The challenge is going to be that, just as much of 2016 was up against big comparative months during Star Wars' launch year at Marvel, last summer was ginormous in dollar terms. June 2016 was the biggest month in the Direct Market this century, at $58.6 million; it also had an extra Wednesday. August 2016 was almost as big. More of DC's books are at $3.99 this time around, so we'll see what difference that makes.

The aggregate changes:


DollarsUnits
May 2017 Vs. April 2017
Comics16.49%17.36%
Graphic Novels17.13%19.52%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels16.69%17.53%
Toys52.15%52.94%
May 2017 Vs. May 2016
Comics10.58%16.74%
Graphic Novels3.54%13.65%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels8.31%16.49%
Toys40.46%29.34%
Year-To-Date 2017 Vs. Year-To-Date 2016
Comics0.11%8.89%
Graphic Novels-9.23%-8.72%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels-2.92%7.35%
Toys1.14%1.10%

We don't cover toys, but Diamond provides that data and they look to have bounced back by a lot.

Marvel topped both market shares categories, and improved its position in our projected annual dollar market shares, which through May are expected to wind up at Marvel 36.6%, DC 29.2%, Image 10.2%, IDW 5%, and Dark Horse 3.5%. Here's just the month of May:

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The complete sales history of Wonder Woman according to postal records, 1960-1987

by John Jackson Miller

Wonder Woman arrives in theaters this week, seventy-five years after she got her own comic book — and Comichron commemorates that moment with the publication (all in one place for the first time anywhere!) of the complete postal record sales history for both Wonder Woman titles for which DC filed Statements of Ownership, Management, and Circulation with the United States Postal Service. Click to see the postal filings for Wonder Woman Vol. 1, which run from 1960 (when circulation figures started being required) to 1984, and for Wonder Woman Vol. 2, which got just one year in before DC stopped filing reports.

Created by William Moulton Marston in All Star Comics #8, Wonder Woman got her own series in 1942 with #1— a title that would run for more than four decades. The title's first postal circulation data appears in 1960, when the book was shipping eight issues a year; 210,000 copies of each issue sold on average. That number makes it a lower-tier superhero book at DC in 1960, but a mid-range seller for the industry overall.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Star Wars comics sales history: A 40th anniversary look back

by John Jackson Miller


It's the 40th anniversary of the release of Star Wars: A New Hope — known to those of us who saw it then as just-plain Star Wars — so here's an update of a post from a couple of years ago on what the movie meant to comics in the 1970s.

Given that much of my professional comics and fiction output has been associated with Star Wars, it's perhaps surprising that I haven't gotten around to doing a circulation spotlight on the original 1977 Marvel series — especially since I've had all the Statement of Ownership, Management, and Circulation postal forms from the title on hand for years. With Star Wars back in the news for some reason, it seems like a good time to remedy that. Click to see the detailed circulation history of the original 1977 Marvel Star Wars series, according to the company's postal reports.

When the first Star Wars movie was adapted by Marvel in 1977, early issues of the comic book were released before the movie came out. The first issue appeared in two different first printings, both newsstand editions for Curtis Circulation; one was a special rare (and now valuable) variant with a test-marketed price. Beginning with the second issue, first printings of #2-4 were also included in one of the bagged releases for Western Publishing's Whitman three-pack program. (Nick Pope's excellent site catalogs the bagged Whitman Star Wars configurations found in the wild.)

Star Wars bagged editionOnce the movie was released and retailers knew they had a blockbuster on their hands, multiple printings of the early issues were ordered, both by Curtis Circulation — and, most consequentially, by Whitman for use in special Star Wars three-packs. The result was that the early issues of the title were the first comics to exceed 1 million copies per issue in sales since Uncle Scrooge and Walt Disney's Comics & Stories in 1960. According to Jim Shooter, later Marvel's Editor-in-Chief, "Star Wars saved Marvel" in the late 1970s.

Demand was so high for the reprints of the adaptation that Whitman only ordered Star Wars three-packs from Marvel for several months, perhaps explaining why there are no Whitman variants of other Marvel titles for a period in late 1977, corresponding to early 1978 cover dates. (That fact also helps explain why the "fat-diamond" versions of Marvel's comics in 1977-78 are better referred to as Whitman or special-market editions rather than Direct Market editions. Regardless of whether comics retailers got shipped copies from those print runs — and some reportedly did — those variant printings only existed because of the arrangement with Whitman, something Shooter confirmed to Comichron here.)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

How comics sales have changed across time; new pages tracking benchmark levels added

by John Jackson Miller

For years, we've had pages on Comichron collecting not just the #1 comic books ordered each month from Diamond Comic Distributors, but also the 300th-place titles, at the far end of the charts. The latter have always been a useful indicator when it comes to evaluating how much depth there is to sales; while volumes at the very top of the list are erratic due to first issue promotions and editorial events, there's much less volatility further down the charts.

We've always had the ability to report levels at other points on the chart, of course, and so with Diamond now having just passed 20 years of being the exclusive sales agent Marvel in the Direct market, we now present our expanded collection of sortable, searchable charts for the following sales levels:


There are good reasons to look at each of the new benchmarks. At 50th place, we're generally past the larger events and bigger first issue launches, and getting into the meat-and-potatoes books, the regular stalwarts on the charts. At 100th, we're at a level that is useful historically, since in the very early days, the Top 100 lists were all you saw from the distributors. Slot 150 is, of course, dead center of the list each month (well, it's actually between 150 and 151, but never mind) — though the real middle of the list may be closer to 200th place, given the fact that Diamond's slate of comics releases regularly reaches into the 400s.

When considered together — and removing the first-place books, which hop around wildly whether there's a Loot Crate situation involved or not — we clearly see a number of trends that have been mentioned on Comichron for years:


The above graph looks at the average number of copies ordered at each level annually on the chart across the last 20 years, which is a better way to look at it than a graph that tracks orders month-by-month; that graph would be frenetic and noisy due to the fact that there's four-shipping-week and five-week month data being mixed together. The fifth week results in higher sales levels, because there are more potential bestselling titles being offered and more time for the bestselling books to rack up sales. The averages shown above aren't a perfect solution — some years had more five week months than others — but it's pretty close. (We do provide the number of shipping weeks for each month on the destination pages linked above.)


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