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March 2010 comics sales jump, quarter finishes up overall

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

by John Jackson Miller    Bookmark and Share

If it takes a quarter of growth to end a recession, count this one over — at least in comics. While the market notched some positive quarters in the wide overall category last year, those gains weren't always reflected in the narrower categories, like periodical unit sales. This quarter was different. Orders placed for comic books through Diamond Comic Distributors leapt in March — 14% for Top 300 Comics Units, 20% for Top 300 Comics Dollars —resulting in a first quarter that was up in all categories except for the Top 300 Trade Paperbacks grouping. And that category's sales were pumped up by the Watchmen movie. Click to see our March 2010 estimates.

As individual months go, March 2009 didn't put up big numbers to compare against. It was, as reported here, the first month in which the top-selling comic book did not break 100,000 copies in first-month orders through Diamond — and while the market got some mileage out of the Watchmen movie, a lot of those related sales to retailers had already taken place. But apart from the Obama Spider-Man comic book — the best-selling comic book of the 2000s — there wasn't much going on in the rest of the quarter, either. The first quarter of 2010 has had, among other things, Blackest Night, Siege, and, this month, the Twilight manga. Strong quarters in comics tend to require "tentpole" projects of one kind or another, and this quarter had them.

The aggregate figures:

TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES
March 2010: 6.05 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: +14%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -10%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +4%
YEAR TO DATE: 17.06 million copies, +3% vs. 2009, -3% vs. 2005, +1% vs. 2000

TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES
March 2010: $21.29 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +20%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +12%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +39%
YEAR TO DATE: $59.35 million, +6% vs. 2009, +19% vs. 2005, +35% vs. 2000

TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
March 2010: $6.36 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -10%
Versus 5 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: -9%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: +44%
YEAR TO DATE: $16.71 million; -9% versus 2009

TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
March 2010: $27.65 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +11%
Versus 5 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: +8%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: +39%
YEAR TO DATE: $76.07 million; -2% vs. 2009

OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)
March 2010: $35 million ($38.5 million with UK)
Versus 1 year ago this month: +13%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +11%
YEAR TO DATE: $96.99 million, +6% vs. 2009, +19% vs. 2005


As with last month, the overall figure for the month's total comic book, trade paperback, and magazine orders is preliminary and subject to later revision, but it does look to be in positive territory as well.

The average comic offered in the Top 300 cost $3.55; the average comic ordered cost $3.52. The median price — the middle price of all 300 comics — was $3.50. $3.99 was the most common price of comics appearing in the Top 300 for the first time ever, as reported here yesterday.

While comics prices have been increasing, probably the easiest way to subtract inflation out is to look at the number of units sold. We know that the Top 300 comics sold more copies in both March and the first quarter, but it also appears that the comics off the chart are doing better, as well. Looking at the 300th place comics shows us that the bottom book on the chart has nearly doubled in unit sales from March 2009 to March 2010, from 1,962 copies to 3,706 copies.

The Flashbacks column will be along later. This weekend, I'll be at C2E2 in Chicago where I'll be appearing at the Dark Horse booth; check here for updated times. (And our thanks to Dark Horse, which mentioned Comichron in a profile appearing in all its April issues!)

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