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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.

 

Friday, April 14, 2006

Dead no more: First quarter alive with comics sales

by John Jackson Miller

http://www.comichron.com/monthlycomicssales/2006/2006-03.html
No one ever really dies in comics — and now the "dead quarter," when comics sales traditionally go into hibernation, isn't dead any more, either. Retailers ordered at least a million more comic books in the first quarter of 2006 than in the first quarter of 2005, according to my analysis of the sales reports released by Diamond Comic Distributors on April 14.

We're at $89 million overall for the first three months of 2006, up 9% from the first quarter of 2005. The chart analysis for March appears here.

Marvel reached a notable threshold in March, placing 100 comics on Diamond's Top 300 list. That's a quantity we haven't seen in many years, although as the list includes reordered comics, many are appearing for the second time. The period of highest volume for Marvel offerings would have been in the early 1990s, when it often had more than 120 titles in the market.

Comics unit sales: The Top 300 comic books had retailer orders of 6.99 million copies in March 2006, 4% more than March 2005, which also had five shipping weeks. Retailers ordered 27,000 more comic books in March 2006.

For the first quarter of 2006, the Top 300 comic books had orders of 18.61 million units, 6% more than 2005?s total of 17.56 million units.

Infinite Crisis #5's sales of at least 201,800 copies led the field, representing significant growth from #4's January sales of 182,600 copies. In addition to the book's heat, Miller said, the March issue also benefited from both the generally stronger retail conditions of March relative to January and from its placement in the calendar. Infinite Crisis #4 shipped on January 18, meaning the January chart captured only two weeks of reorders; #5 shipped on March 1, meaning a whole month's reorder activity appeared on the March charts. With #6 shipping April 5, the same phenomenon should recur in April's charts.

The continuing phenomenon of ever more Marvel and DC issues in the Top 300 continues to push most new publishers off the Top 300 list. Exceptions were Tales of Alvin #1 from the Dabel Brothers, placing 282nd with 3,300 copies, and Full Cirkle #3, by the differently spelled Full Circle, which placed 286th with about 3,050 copies.

A comic book now needs to sell more than 2,600 copies to make the Top 300 chart. That's a higher threshold than we've seen in a long time. By contrast, in the "bad old days" — going back to March 2001, near the beginning of the revival — you only needed to sell 800 copies to make the chart. You'd make the high 200s with 2,600 copies.

That fact does not necessarily mean that independent titles are selling better, only that there are enough high-volume titles from the heavy hitters to soak up spaces on the chart smaller titles once took.

Comics dollar sales: The Top 300 comic books had sales worth $21.51 million in March 2006, 11% more than March 2005's total of $19.06 million.

For the first quarter of 2006, the Top 300 comics from each month have sold a combined $56.3 million, an increase of more than $6 million, or 13%, over the same period in the previous year.

Trade paperbacks : The Top 100 trade paperbacks and graphic novels reported by Diamond had orders worth $4.05 million at full retail in March 2006, a drop of 5% from the total in March 2005. Adding those to the Top 300 comics for the month yields $25.56 million, an increase of 9% over March 2005's total of $23.35 million.

For the first three months of 2006, the Top 300 comics and the Top 100 trade paperbacks from each month had orders worth $67.34 million, an increase of 11% over the same period in 2005.

Exclusive: Diamond's overall sales: Diamond publishes dollar market shares for its top 20 publishers across all comics, trade paperbacks, and magazines. Knowing the exact total orders of any publisher on that list right down to the oldest backlist item allows you to calculate Diamond's total orders across these product groups.

The March 2006 total was $34.8 million, which increases to $38.6 million, when Diamond's United Kingdom orders are added. The figure is 10% over March 2005?s U.S. total of $31.58 million. Overall, the first quarter stands at $89 million, 9% more than last year's total of $81.43 million.
The "overall" category overstates comics' actual performance to the extent that magazines that do not have comics content are included. The comics publishers' market shares would actually be slightly higher, if ancillary items were removed.

Market shares: Marvel again topped DC in Diamond's reported overall unit and dollar market shares. Marvel hit a historical mark of sorts by placing 100 titles in the Top 300; that figure includes many reordered comics making the list for a second time, but it recalls the days of the mid-1990s when Marvel last had 100 monthly titles. DC had 83 comics in the list — and Image's 40 is the highest that publisher has produced in some time.

IDW actually took fourth in both units and dollars when only the Top 300 Comics are considered, owing to its slate of 15 comic books releasing in March versus Dark Horse's 10. Dark Horse's market share is nearly double that of IDW when trade paperbacks are added, however.

Price analysis: The average comic book on Diamond's Top 300 list cost $3.15, up from $3.06 in March 2005.

The weighted average price — that is, the cost of the average comic book Diamond sold — was $3.08, way up from $2.84 last year. The average price of the comics that made the Top 25 was $3.06, also up from $2.70 in March 2005.

The comics being offered haven't gotten that much more expensive, but the comics people are buying the most have.

Methodology: Diamond keys orders for all comics it lists sales for to Batman, with one "order index point" being equal to 1% of that title's orders. Using actual Diamond final orders from titles accounting for more than 25% of Diamond's Top 300, CBG determined that one point on Diamond?s order index was likely to equal 698 comic books — with a 95% probability that the real figure was between 697 and 699.

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Friday, March 17, 2006

Industry extends sales gains in February 2006

by John Jackson Miller

http://www.comichron.com/monthlycomicssales/2006/2006-02.htmlThe lack of an issue of Infinite Crisis shipping in February proved no crisis for the comics industry, which racked up yet another month of year-over-year gains in most categories, according to an analysis of the sales reports released by Diamond Comic Distributors on March 17.

The industry continues to do well in a time of year traditionally slow for comics shops. In units, this was the best February for the Top 300 comics since 1998, and in dollars, since 1997. The sales charts for February 2006 appear here.

Comics unit sales: The Top 300 comic books had retailer orders of 6.05 million copies in February, 3% more than in the same month in 2005, which had the same number of shipping weeks. For the year to date, Top 300 comics unit sales stand at 11.62 million copies, up 7% over last year's 10.84 million copies.
With Infinite Crisis shipping on March 1, the road was open for Marvel to take the top slot on the charts, which it did with Astonishing X-Men #13, selling approximately 140,600 copies.

Publishers appearing for the first time on the charts included Creative Talent, whose When Zombies Attack #1 placed 267th with approximately 2,300 copies sold; and Markosia, whose Abiding Perdition #5 hit the charts at 288th place and 1,700 copies.

Comics dollar sales: The Top 300 comic books had sales worth $18.18 million in February, 8% more than February 2005?s total of $16.77 million.

For the first two months of 2006, the Top 300 comics from each month have sold a combined $34.79 million, an increase of a whopping 14% over the same period in the previous year.

Trade paperbacks : The Top 99 trade paperbacks and graphic novels reported by Diamond (the listing for the #71 item was somehow skipped) had orders worth $3.45 million at full retail in February. That figure is off 8% from the February 2005 total of $3.75 million.

Adding those to the Top 300 comics for the month yields $21.63 million, an increase of 5% over February 2005.

For the first two months of 2006, the Top 300 comics and the Top 100 trade paperbacks from each month had orders worth $41.78 million, up 11% over the same period in 2005.

Exclusive: Diamond's "overall" sales: Diamond publishes dollar market shares for its top 20 publishers across all comics, trade paperbacks, and magazines. Knowing the exact total orders of any publisher on that list right down to the oldest backlist item allows you to calculate Diamond's total orders across these product groups.

The February 2006 total was $28.64 million, which increases to $31.86 million, when Diamond?s United Kingdom orders are added. The figure represents an increase of 8% over February 2005. Overall, the last two months stand at $54.2 million, up 9% over 2005's total of $49.85 million.
The "overall" category overstates comics' actual performance to the extent that magazines that do not have comics content are included. The comics publishers' market shares would actually be slightly higher, if ancillary items were removed.

Market shares: Marvel led DC by nearly a 5-to-4 margin in Diamond?s reported overall unit and dollar market shares. Notable is the number of comics both publishers placed in the Top 300: 96 for Marvel and 91 for DC. That Marvel number includes reordered items, but is beginning to get into territory not seen since the mid-1990s.

In an unusual turn, Dark Horse led Image in all categories including unit sales in the Top 300, where Image's greater output of titles — 24 comics to Dark Horse's 12 in February — usually gives it an edge.

Also influencing market share for comics publishers was the declining contribution coming from the magazine portion of the market, where the Top 15 magazines dropped under 100,000 copies combined. Wizard's unit share stood at 1.06% in February, a full third less than it was two years ago. (Inquest, which was off more than 60% from last February's orders, dropped under 1,900 copies and has already been announced for a May relaunch at a cover price of $1.99.)

Price analysis: The average comic book on Diamond's Top 300 list cost $3.25 up from $3.10 in February 2005.

The weighted average price — that is, the cost of the average comic book Diamond sold — was $3.01, up from $2.86 last year.

The average price of the comics that made the Top 25 was $2.90.

Methodology: Diamond keys orders for all comics it lists sales for to Batman, with one ?order index point? being equal to 1% of that title's orders. Using actual Diamond final orders from titles accounting for more than 25% of Diamond's Top 300, I determined that one point on Diamond?s order index was likely to equal 664 comic books — with a 95% probability that the real figure was between 663 and 665.

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Friday, February 17, 2006

2006 comics sales off to roaring start

by John Jackson Miller

January often puts a chill on comics sales, but not this year. Sales of comics to retailers in January were by low double-digits in every category, according to my analysis of the sales reports released by Diamond Comic Distributors on Feb. 17.

Diamond's overall sales of comics, graphic novels, and magazines were up by 10% over last January, with dollar sales for both Diamond's Top 300 comics and Top 100 trade paperbacks up nearly 16%. Click to see the estimates for January 2006.

We used to call this the "Dead Quarter" in part because January would flat-out kill whatever sales momentum had been building in the fall. Not so this year — at least so far.

Comics unit sales: The Top 300 comic books had retailer orders of 5.57 million copies in January 2006, 11% more than January 2005, which had the same number of shipping weeks (four). The increase amounts to about 580,000 copies.

DC's Infinite Crisis #4 took the top slot, moving more than 182,500 copies in January. Marvel had two top-ten debuts, with Ultimate X-Men: Extinction #1 moving 82,700 copies and X-Men: The 198 #1 selling 68,800 copies.

Both Marvel and DC placed the same number of titles — 86 each. While fairly high for a month in which the major publishers have usually pulled back, reorders and titles solicited for earlier months account for part of those totals. For the first time in several months, there were no first-time entries from brand new publishers in the rankings; every publisher making the Top 300 has been there before.

There are no year-to-date totals, obviously — it's just January!

Comics dollar sales: The Top 300 comic books had sales worth $16.61 million in January, up 16% from January 2005, where sales were $13.88 million.

Trade paperbacks: Led by Dark Horse's Serenity, the Top 100 trade paperbacks and graphic novels reported by Diamond had orders worth $3.54 million at full retail in January. That's up nearly half a million dollars, from 2005.

Adding those to the Top 300 comics for the month yields $20.15 million, an increase of 16% over January 2005's total of $16.96 million.

Overall sales: Diamond publishes dollar market shares for its top 20 publishers across all comics, trade paperbacks, and magazines. Knowing the exact total orders of any publisher on that list right down to the oldest backlist item allows you to calculate Diamond's total orders across these product groups.

The January 2006 total was $25.56 million, which increases to $28.21 million, when Diamond's United Kingdom orders are added. The U.S. figure is 10% over the $23.2 million from January 2005.

The slower growth in this overall category relative to the other categories suggests that while the backlist remains a huge portion of sales, in January the frontlist was where it was at.

Market shares: Marvel led DC in Diamond's reported overall unit and dollar market shares. Dark Horse took third in every category but new issue sales, where it nonetheless came within 10,000 copies of catching Image, which released more than twice as many different new issues. IDW has settled in as a solid fifth in the comic-book categories, though Viz still outpaces it when the trade paperback backlist is added.

Price analysis: The average comic book on Diamond's Top 300 list cost $3.21, up from #3.12 in January 2005.

The weighted average price — that is, the cost of the average comic book Diamond sold — was $2.98, up from $2.79 last year. The average price of the comics that made the Top 25 was $2.87.

Clearly higher prices have contributed to January's success, but the 11% increase in copies sold tells us there's more to it than that.

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Friday, January 13, 2006

2005 closes out strong with big December

by John Jackson Miller

Six titles topping the 100,000 copy mark in December helped the comics market close out 2005 with a 7.3% sales increase over 2004, according to my analysis of the sales reports released by Diamond Comic Distributors on Jan. 13. Click to see the December 2005 estimates.

December's strong finish helped propel the market to a $24 million overall increase in 2005 among sales of comic books, trade paperbacks, and magazines. Overall, 2005's U.S. sales stood at $352.33 million, up 7.3% over 2004's total of $328.25 million.

That doesn’t count newsstand sales, subscription sales, or sales of trade paperbacks through bookstores. That would bring 2005 above $400 million, putting us in our best shape since 1996.
 
Comics unit sales: The Top 300 comic books had retailer orders of 6.56 million copies in December, 1% more than December 2004, which had one more shipping week. Even with one less Wednesday, the market moved more comic books. That's a pretty good sign.

In an unusual reversal, Marvel placed 90 items in the Top 300, versus 75 for DC. With a variety of one-shots and items soliciting for previous months shipping, Marvel surpassed DC in a category it usually dominates: volume of releases on the chart.

The highest new publisher debut was MR Comics, whose Revolution on the Planet of the Apes #1 placed 223rd with about 4,500 copies sold. Fenickx Productions placed 278th with Archaic #1 moving 2,300 copies. Narwain rounded out the debuts with Freefall #1 selling 1,900 copies in 294th place.

Diamond sold 76.13 million of its Top 300 comics from each of the 12 months of 2005. That's an increase of 2.3% over 2004's 74.44 million copies.

Comics dollar sales: The Top 300 comic books had sales worth $20.02 million in December, 5% more than in December 2004.

For 2005, the Top 300 comics from each month sold a combined $221.73 million, an increase of 3.9% over 2004, which saw sales of $213.237 million.

Trade paperbacks : The Top 100 trade paperbacks and graphic novels reported by Diamond had orders worth $3.82 million at full retail in December 2005, off 10% from the previous December.
Adding those to the Top 300 comics for the month yields $23.86 million, an increase of 3% over December 2004.

The Top 100 trades for each month in 2005 had first-month orders totaling $45.84 million, up $4.85 million over 2004. That?s an 11.8% increase.

For 2005, the Top 300 comics and the Top 100 trade paperbacks from each month had orders worth $267.57 million, up 5.2% over 2004?s total of $254.36 million.

Diamond's overall sales: Diamond publishes dollar market shares for its top 20 publishers across all comics, trade paperbacks, and magazines. Knowing the exact total orders of any publisher on that list right down to the oldest backlist item allows you to calculate Diamond's total orders across these product groups.?

The December 2005 total was $31.63 million, which increases to $35.04 million, when Diamond?s United Kingdom orders are added. The figure for December is 4% over that of December 2005. Again, overall, 2005's U.S. dales stood at $352.33 million, up 7.3% over 2004's total of $328.25 million.

Much of the growth in trade paperbacks exists here, in this catchall grouping; items not in Diamond's Top 300 comics and Top 100 trades each month accounted for at least $85 million of Diamond's sales in 2005. It's expected that most of that is from trade paperbacks, meaning that the $45 million in first-month sales mentioned above is the tip of a larger iceberg, below.

The "overall" category overstates comics' actual performance to the extent that magazines that do not have comics content are included. The comics publishers' market shares would actually be slightly higher, if ancillary items were removed.

However, the contribution of the magazine sector in general through Diamond appears to have been less significant in 2005 than in 2004. Of some note among magazines is the performance of Wizard, which, according to estimates based on the Diamond chart, sold an estimated 48,100 copies of its issue shipping in December. That compares with 53,700 copies for the issue that shipped in December 2004. That appears to be the first time the publication's sales through Diamond have been below 50,000 copies since its early days. Diamond's chart for December further finds Wizard's gaming title, Inquest, at an estimated 2,140 copies sold, compared with an estimated 5,100 copies for the issue that shipped in December 2004.

It's worth noting that, as with comics and trade paperbacks, not all distribution for magazines is done through Diamond — and, with newsstand, subscription, and direct-to-retailer sales, Diamond is not necessarily the largest sales channel for every magazine vendor.

Market shares: Marvel led DC in Diamond's reported overall unit and dollar market shares in December. Dark Horse came in third in both categories followed by Image.

Price analysis: The average comic book on Diamond?s Top 300 list in December 2005 cost $3.27, up a whopping 19¢ over the same month in 2004.

The weighted average price — that is, the cost of the average comic book Diamond sold — was $3.05, up from $2.90 last year.

The average price of the comics that made the Top 25 was $2.88, up from $2.71 in 2004.

The number of expensive comics with high sales certainly added to the increase in the bottom line in December. Although, again, the number of comic-book units sold was still up.
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