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Comics sales little changed overall in first half of 2010

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

by John Jackson Miller    Bookmark and Share

Comics shop orders were essentially unchanged overall in June versus the same month last year, producing a similar result for the first half of 2010, according to analysis by The Comics Chronicles of data released by Diamond Comic Distributors. Marvel's New Avengers relaunch led the market, just as the "adjectiveless" Avengers reboot did in May. Click to see the estimates of June 2010 comics orders.

Retailers ordered slightly fewer dollars worth of comic books and substantially more dollars worth of trade paperbacks this June versus last June, reversing a trend seen most of this year. The trade paperback list likewise saw heavier volumes distributed further down the chart, with the 100th place trade paperback selling more than 1,250 copies versus 1,000 copies last June, a month that had one less shipping week.

Higher volumes in the midlist and lower-list titles are also noticeable in the comics list. The volume of the 300th place title was the second-highest it's been in a decade, at 4,528 copies. Only December 2008 saw higher sales at the bottom of the list; the full record of 300th-place comics sales can be seen here.

And one of the main reasons is another first: Only 15 publishers had titles in the Top 300, the lowest number in the Diamond Exclusive Era. Add up the Top Seven publishers with the most comics in the Top 300 — Marvel, DC, IDW, Image, Dynamite, Dark Horse, and Boom, in that order — and you've got 277 spots on the list. (The top 10 publishers took 291!)

The result is that many familiar publisher names wound up peaking below 300th place — and Diamond again reported sales for a number of these publishers in a supplementary report: 40 titles, ranging all the way down to 460th place. These can be found at the bottom of the Comichron listing, (although, as usual, our Top 300 market shares take in only the Top 300).

These addditional titles added almost exactly 100,000 copies to the Top 300 comics, bringing total unit sales close to 6.22 million copies. As that 460th place title, the "nude" edition of Cavewoman Prehistoric Pinups #7, had orders of 926 copies — so totaling all the comics Diamond sold at least 1,000 copies of  probably yields somewhere around 6.5 million copies. The "next 150" after the Top 300 is thus maybe 5% to 6% of the new-issue market by units.


The aggregate figures:

TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES
June 2010: 6.11 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: -7%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -14%
Versus 10 years ago this month: -1%
Second quarter 2010: 17.84 million copies, -6% vs. 2009
YEAR TO DATE: 35.49 million copies, -2% vs. 2009, -5% vs. 2005, unchanged vs. 2000

TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES
June 2010: $21.8 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -4%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +5%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +23%
Second quarter 2010: $62.67 million, -2% vs. 2009

YEAR TO DATE: $122.02 million, +1% vs. 2009, +16% vs. 2005, +30% vs. 2000

TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
June 2010: $7.32 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +21%
Versus 5 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: +21%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: +25%
Second quarter 2010: $18.86 million, -9% vs. 2009

YEAR TO DATE: $35.57 million, -9% vs. 2009

TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 100 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
June 2010: $29.11 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +1%
Versus 5 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: +7%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +23%
Second quarter 2010: $81.45 million, -4% vs. 2009

YEAR TO DATE: $157.52 million, -1% vs. 2009

OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)
June 2010: $37.96 million (figure revised)
Versus 1 year ago this month: +3%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +16%
Second quarter 2010: $104.98 million, -9%

YEAR TO DATE: $202.25 million, -2% vs. 2009, +20% vs. 2005

The average comic book in Diamond’s Top 300 cost $3.47 The average Top 300 comic book that retailers ordered from Diamond cost $3.56. The median comic book price in Diamond’s Top 300 was $3.50, and the most common cover price on Diamond’s list dropped back to $2.99 after three months at $3.99.

The overall figures for June are subject to change as supplementary data comes in, but the upshot for the first half of 2010 is that comics unit sales are still keeping right around the same 35-40 million copy range they've been in for much of the last 10 years. Unit sales for the first six months are, in fact, identical to those in 2000 — a positive result when one considers that most of the trade paperback business we have now didn't exist then. (The market did grow: it just grew a new sector.) Trade paperbacks, meanwhile, are still struggling versus 2009, although, again, June turned back in the right direction.

It continues to be the expectation of this observer that trade paperbacks are more sensitive to external financial conditions than periodicals, where comics shops are concerned. Ordering non-returnably, comics shops are in a different position from other bookstores; as general economic conditions improve, we would expect to see comics retailers replenishing their graphic novel inventories.

Stay tuned for the June Flashbacks report, appearing here soon.

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