Friday, March 17, 2006
by John Jackson Miller
The 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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