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Friday, October 31, 2008

In passing on a link to a comics store closure story earlier this week, I was tempted to say that we're far more likely to learn of a store closure from the Internet than a store opening — hence, we can't always tell much about the market from how many such stories are out there.

Of course, the very next time I look, there's a story about a new store opening in Maryland — an online dealer whose business grew to the point where brick-and-mortar became attractive. "Opening a storefront and expanding to other games and comics was the next logical step,” Scott Campanella tells local site Eldersburg.net. There's some store photos with the piece.

I do have some data on the number of comics shops, both now and across time — but it's fairly scattershot and unpostable in its current state. Project #17 of a series...

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2005 comics sales fully online

And now the other half of 2005 is online, starting with January. January is an odd month when it comes to the comparatives, as the Top 100 Trade Paperbacks only began being reported in February 2004. Forty-seven months online now, 98 to go.

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2005 Q3 and Q4 comics sales now online

Thursday, October 30, 2008

If you're wondering what the initial comics-shop sales were for All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, wonder no more. The second half of 2005 is now online at The Comics Chronicles, starting with July 2005.

Now less than nine years of Diamond-era sales to be posted. It actually gets a little easier going backwards, as there are fewer categories to calculate (we're already done with the ten-year comparisons).

Hang in there...

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California paper reports Claremont store closure

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A micro-level market indicator we don't see too much these days in the mainstream press: the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reports on the closure this week of Comic Bookie in Claremont, Calif. According to the report, the store has been open since Nov. 1, 1990, aptly characterized as the boom period for new shop openings. The piece suggests the store never recovered from its move to a smaller location, a 600-square-foot space in a business park.

The piece quotes owner Chris Peterson: "People say, 'With the movies, you must be doing really well.' Actually, the last few years have been among the toughest I've had." The report says the closure leaves three area stores: Comic Madness in Chino, 4 Color Fantasies in Rancho Cucamonga and Funny Business in Pomona.

It isn't the mission of The Comics Chronicles to detail every store opening and closure, but as I'm sifting reports from both the hobby and mass media, I want to pass along both good news and bad. It's also helpful to look at reports from the trenches to see what events seem ascribable to local conditions, and what things might be part of a larger trend.

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Miramichi Leader on comics sales charts

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Miramichi Leader in New Brunswick has a piece online about comics sales charts and how comics fans read them as much as film fans check out box office results. Reporter Darcey McLaughlin discusses the monthly ritual many of us take part in, and what the charts say about the medium — particularly in that genre variety tends to appear more often at the top of the trade chart than it does the top of the periodical chart.

When I was tracking comics sales for Comics Retailer magazine in the 1990s, a store in Miramichi was one of my regular reporters. I can't remember the name of the store now (it was a while back), but I always got the impression from the reports that comics had a strong presence in the local scene.

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2006 comics sales charts, title search tool now online

And we're marching ahead — by marching backwards. Now online are all the charts from 2006, beginning with January 2006 and running to December 2006.

Return with us to what was a pretty good year for comics, sales-wise — the year of both Infinite Crisis and Civil War. It also marked the start of the weekly comics series 52. One of the results was that while sales increased across all categories, unit and dollar sales for Diamond's Top 300 Comic Books over the 12-month period actually increased more than its sales for its Top-Selling Trade Paperbacks and Graphic Novels. Theretofore, growth in trades generally outpaced growth in new comics sales.

Continuing to move along with this part of the project; 2005 monthly charts will be up in the next few days.

And we now have a search tool for the site set up, so it should be easier to find individual titles. I'm not sure how well it'll find specific issue numbers — note that I keep issue numbers in a separate table column with no number sign, so Google reads the issues as comma-delimited. (Thus Civil War #1 becomes Civil War, 1.) That's less than ideal, but it's important to be able to present issue numbers in a separate column.

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Comic books and bubble markets

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Forbes has an article on bubbles in collecting hobbies — certainly recalling what I used to see in my years at Krause Publications, where with our magazines in various collecting fields we were able to follow the speculator craze from sportscards, to comics, to Magic cards, to Beanie Babies, to action figures, to Pok√©mon cards — in about that order, I would guess. That was an occasion to be glad you were diversified; interestingly, we often saw some of the same dealers migrating from one advertising list to another, following the money. David Serchuk's article gets into several of these, including some I had no idea about — like crazes in collecting fossils and meteorites. (I guess we just didn't have any magazines for them!)

Joe Koch is interviewed and lays out some examples — and the article gets into April 1993, which is the month when Superman returned from the dead and comics orders hit a modern peak — 48 million copies in a month. It wasn't apparent for a while that the market had peaked for good, as my recent Newsarama column gets into — but it was clearly seen as an important moment.

Not really many historical quibbles — though I think maybe the mention that the boom period "started in the mid-1980s" might be conflating the Black and White Glut with the later, bigger color comics boom of 1989-1993 — there was a crash in between, big enough to take down distributors. (The multiple variant covers phenomenon mentioned was definitely a little later, following Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #1 in 1989.) I also wonder if that Amazing Fantasy #15 price might be for one of the big Golden Age books, unless there's some monster sale I haven't seen.

But that's only of note to the us in the hobby; this article is a really useful piece to have out there for the general public. We used to say that speculators were like locusts — wait long enough, and they'll come back. But now, with the Internet spreading information — including what supply is really like, both on places like eBay and, in another sense, The Comics Chronicles — hopefully whatever wave comes won't be as destructive.

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Fortune: Comics "alive and kicking"

I only caught this now, but Fortune has an article on "old-fashioned [comics] publishing" and how it's helping Marvel. A lot of interesting numbers here.

A favorable piece — though there is that line that comics shops are "one of the most archaic distribution systems in existence." One might note to the author that those shops arose to replace a certain distribution system that's even older: the traditional newsstand, which is where most copies of Fortune are sold, come to think of it...

[Edit: Of course, by "copies sold" I mean to say single copies — not subscription copies. Although increasingly, subscriptions at mass-market magazines doesn't mean direct revenue, either, given all the promotional subs out there. Newsweek, which I have handy, reported 87% paid in its Statement this week, as compared with most comics, which are in the high 90s. I'd be interested in seeing the trendline for that stat.]

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Yearly Diamond overviews now online

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The new site has sped the restoration of pages to the point that now, we're back where we were, and then some. Now online are the Yearly Diamond (and Heroes World) Overviews, summing all the reports the distributors put out in each individual year. So you can start with the 1996 Comics Sales Market Summary and go straight through to the 2008 Comics Sales Market Summary.

You'll also find depictions of the #1 comic book for each individual month — but note that very few of the pages before January 2007 have been posted yet. These will be coming along in the next few months and can be found in an earlier, less detailed form still on CBGXtra. But you can see what the top-sellers were — pretty interesting, in the case of 1999, when, near the bottom of the market collapse the only thing that was really working was Uncanny X-Men — #1 ten out of 12 months! (Call it the widows-and-orphans stock of the comics industry — when there are no other big events going on, X-Men historically is #1 by default.)

Anyway, the structure is now there and the individual pages will be installed soon. Stay tuned!

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September Newsarama column online


And The Comichron Report for September 2008 is now online at Newsarama.

Return to those years of the past with DC One Million, X-Men "Inferno", — and the beginning of the first Wolverine ongoing series.

I have a few more of these comics flashback features online over there — I hope to get an index of sorts for them together, soon. Also, the reposting of old charts is really getting streamlined on the new system here, so my hope is that there'll be a lot more online here very soon.

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September 2008 Comics Sales Charts

Monday, October 20, 2008

And here are the comics sales charts for September, with my estimates. Same-day — that doesn't happen often!

Orders from the comics direct market, composed of all the comics specialty shops in North America, were up for the month across all categories — and up for the quarter and year in the widest category and in the Top 100 Trade Paperbacks. We’re still a bit behind in the narrower categories like Top 300 Comics and Dollars.

This month is notable as being the first since Diamond began reporting Final Orders in which Marvel’s Unit Share of all items shipped exceeded 50%, as originally noticed by Michael Doran. It’s at 45% in the dollar share, which is usually held as more important since a piece count can get complicated when mixing comics and trade paperbacks.

And I haven’t worked it out all the way back, but Marvel’s number of entries in the Top 300 is likely as high as it’s been since September 1996, when I began keeping track. It had 116 books in the Top 300, versus 87 for DC and 27 for Image. I think you probably have to go back to the early 1990s for as high a number of entries. Second-printing or variant covers may be part of the reason, although Diamond does lump all versions into the same entry in its Top 300 lists.

The comparatives:

TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES
September 2008: 6.78 million copies Versus 1 year ago this month: +1%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +4%
Versus 10 years ago this month: -9%
3rd Quarter 2008: 22.02 million copies, -5% vs. 3Q 2007
YEAR TO DATE: 60.38 million copies, -6% vs. 2007

TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES
September 2008: $21.96 million Versus 1 year ago this month: +2%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +15%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +21%
3rd Quarter 2008: $67.63 million, -4% vs. 3Q 2007
YEAR TO DATE: $193.36, -5% vs. 2007

TOP 100 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
September 2008: $4.59 million Versus 1 year ago this month: +2%
Versus 5 years ago this month, just the Top 50 vs. the Top 50: unchanged
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: +49%
3rd Quarter 2008: $15.11 million, +12% vs. 3Q 2007
YEAR TO DATE: $43.08 million, +4% vs. 2007

TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 100 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
September 2008: $26.53 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +2%
Versus 5 years ago this month, counting just the Top 50 TPBs: +11%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +22%
3rd Quarter 2008: $82.73 million, -1% vs. 3Q 2007
YEAR TO DATE: $236.79 million, -3% vs. 2007

OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)
September 2008: $35.11 million ($38.36 million with UK) Versus 1 year ago this month: +7%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +25%
3rd Quarter 2008: $112.89 million, +4% vs. 3Q 2007
YEAR TO DATE: $321.69 million, +1% vs. 2007

I do plan a Newsarama column for this month, so more historical comparisons coming soon.

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Bulletin: September, Third Quarter, YTD up overall for comics

Still putting together the Diamond estimates for September 2008 — but I can convey now that based on the numbers I have in, the Overall category (all comics, all trade paperbacks, and all magazines sold to retailers by Diamond) is up for the month, the third quarter, and the year to date. The estimates:

September 2008 Overall: $35.11 million
+7% over September 2007's $32.68 million
+25% over September 2003's $28.1 million

Third Quarter 2008: $112.89 million
+4% over 3Q 2007's $108.68 million

Year to date: $321.69 million
+1% over last year's $318.79 million

Note that September 2007 was one of the weaker months of last year, comparatively. And it is quite possible that the narrower categories may have performed worse than the overall category — that has been the pattern all year. We'll see when I finish the count. In the meantime, the widest measure is up. Developing...

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Marvel's unit market share sets modern record

The Diamond charts for September 2008 are out today, and while I will have them here soon, I wanted to produce a supporting document to something mentioned in Michael Doran's Newsarama piece: whether Marvel's topping of 50% in the Final Pieces Sold Unit Share category represents a first in the post-bankruptcy era.

I don't often work with the unit share figure as when you're dealing with comics and trades mixed, dollars are more relevant — but as far back as the info at my fingertips goes, this appears to check out. Marvel topped 48% several times — hitting 48.96% in March 2005 — but never 50%. The below list shows the #1 Unit Sales Share publisher for each month, back to February 2003 when Diamond converted to Final Order reporting for everything.

TOP FINAL UNIT SHARES
Feb-03 • Marvel • 32.48%
Mar-03 • Marvel • 39.05%
Apr-03 • Marvel • 38.87%
May-03 • Marvel • 41.82%
Jun-03 • Marvel • 41.46%
Jul-03 • Marvel • 40.70%
Aug-03 • Marvel • 37.84%
Sep-03 • Marvel • 40.70%
Oct-03 • Marvel • 40.94%
Nov-03 • Marvel • 41.82%
Dec-03 • Marvel • 40.11%
Jan-04 • Marvel • 48.20%
Feb-04 • Marvel • 43.86%
Mar-04 • Marvel • 37.68%
Apr-04 • Marvel • 45.49%
May-04 • Marvel • 34.92%
Jun-04 • Marvel • 40.56%
Jul-04 • Marvel • 41.01%
Aug-04 • Marvel • 43.20%
Sep-04 • Marvel • 45.67%
Oct-04 • Marvel • 42.99%
Nov-04 • Marvel • 43.13%
Dec-04 • Marvel • 44.01%
Jan-05 • Marvel • 46.81%
Feb-05 • Marvel • 45.06%
Mar-05 • Marvel • 48.96%
Apr-05 • Marvel • 35.62%
May-05 • DC • 41.03%
Jun-05 • Marvel • 41.12%
Jul-05 • Marvel • 43.45%
Aug-05 • Marvel • 41.16%
Sep-05 • Marvel • 44.17%
Oct-05 • DC • 39.12%
Nov-05 • Marvel • 42.70%
Dec-05 • Marvel • 44.84%
Jan-06 • Marvel • 42.17%
Feb-06 • Marvel • 45.30%
Mar-06 • Marvel • 42.83%
Apr-06 • Marvel • 43.93%
May-06 • DC • 41.18%
Jun-06 • Marvel • 42.61%
Jul-06 • Marvel • 44.30%
Aug-06 • Marvel • 41.04%
Sep-06 • Marvel • 45.76%
Oct-06 • Marvel • 42.70%
Nov-06 • Marvel • 44.10%
Dec-06 • Marvel • 43.35%
Jan-07 • Marvel • 44.79%
Feb-07 • Marvel • 47.38%
Mar-07 • Marvel • 46.46%
Apr-07 • Marvel • 37.62%
May-07 • Marvel • 46.60%
Jun-07 • Marvel • 48.42%
Jul-07 • Marvel • 47.69%
Aug-07 • Marvel • 45.61%
Sep-07 • Marvel • 42.82%
Oct-07 • DC • 38.98%
Nov-07 • Marvel • 42.03%
Dec-07 • Marvel • 42.75%
Jan-08 • Marvel • 48.41%
Feb-08 • Marvel • 41.97%
Mar-08 • Marvel • 43.52%
Apr-08 • Marvel • 44.16%
May-08 • Marvel • 47.56%
Jun-08 • Marvel • 48.39%
Jul-08 • Marvel • 43.55%
Aug-08 • Marvel • 48.09%
Sep-08 • Marvel • 50.92%


I have the previous Unit Shares, but not electronically — again, they're not the most useful figure. But my guess would be that Marvel did not top the 50% level in the 1998-2002 period — it having many fewer trade paperback titles than DC in that time.

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2007 sales charts reposted

And beginning with January 2007, the sales charts for 2007 have all been reposted — along with trade paperback charts and multi-year comparatives. Much more to come!

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