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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.


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the new look for the site is the result of a lot of thought into how I can get more data — and I have much that is unpublished — online more efficiently and in a more useful manner.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.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

2016 comics shop orders beat 2015 -- barely -- after icy December

by John Jackson Miller

As projected here a ways back, comics shop orders of comic books, graphic novels, and magazines finished up for the year, just barely, after a fourth quarter that lost much of the momentum gained in a strong summer. That's according to my preliminary analysis of retailer orders just released by Diamond Comic Distributors, which found Direct Market orders at $580.9 million for last year, up just three tenths of a percent — or $1.7 million — over 2015.

That said, it's the fifth straight growth year, and the comics and graphic novel market overall is doing quite well, thanks to continued strength in the book channel and its reported 12% increase over 2015. And while there will be more analysis here in the coming days, 2016 looks a lot less disappointing when you consider that our year-by-year comparisons are with a black swan (or is that black wampa?) event, the monumental return of Star Wars to Marvel's comics line in 2015.

Starting right at the beginning of the year with a million-copy first issue, Star Wars alone accounted for about 6% of Direct Market sales in 2015, or an addition of more than $31 million just when you count comics and graphic novels that made the Top 300 lists that year. That's a tenfold increase over 2014, when Dark Horse was winding down with the license and published very little new material — a lot of dollars added to the marketplace. The Star Wars line continued to contribute in 2016, at about two-thirds 2015's super-heated pace — and other comics and graphic novels made up the difference to keep 2016 just barely ahead of the year before. But a repeat of 2015's 7% increase overall wasn't something market-watchers expected.

In fact, if you look at the growth figures following 2011's DC relaunch, you can see a pattern: the Direct Market finding its way to a slower-growth equilibrium following that major event, with a brief blip from Star Wars:
2012: +15%
2013: +6%
2014: +4%
2015: +7%
2016: +0.3%

As you can see, 2012 was huge, coming off one of the market's lower points in recent memory. Without the tens of millions of dollars added in 2015 and 2016 by Star Wars comics, we'd actually be looking at 2015 being the slowdown year, at +1% — and 2016 would have been an improvement, up 3%.

So part of the story is that, thanks in part to DC's Rebirth, the overall market was able to hang in there after a large burst of attention in 2015; the first quarter of 2016 was even able to eke out a slight gain versus the same quarter the year before, which was when the Star Wars launch began. New comics unit sales overall topped 99 million copies, just missing the nine-digit level. The letdown this year has really more been the fourth quarter, just ended: it was off 6%.

The aggregate changes:

Monday, January 9, 2017

Book channel graphic novel sales increase guarantees that 2016 was a growth year

by John Jackson Miller

The final report on comics sales to the Direct Market will surface this week, but here's a nice thing: whatever happens, the entire comics and graphic novel market will be up for 2016, yet again.

That's the nugget of news from Publisher's Weekly today as turned up by The Beat: while sales of books were up 3.3% while the adult fiction category was down 1%, "the lone bright spot in fiction was comics and graphic novels, which had a 12% increase on the year."

Since Comichron and ICV2 found the book channel in 2015 was responsible for $350 million in sales — more than 37% of the print market, excluding library sales, that increase would be more than enough to put the entire genre well ahead for 2016. The Direct Market was running slightly ahead of flat through November, meaning that pretty much regardless of December's outcome, a $42 million increase in the book channel would cover almost any eventuality.


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