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October 2010 Flashbacks: X-Factor #1, Infinite Crisis #1, and more

Sunday, November 28, 2010

by John Jackson Miller

Following the report on comics orders for October 2010, here's a look back at what was going on in previous years...

October 2009's top seller was DC's Blackest Night #4, with first-month orders of 136,100 copies copies. By the end of the year, it would have orders of more than 140,200 copies, making it the eighth-best-selling comic book of 2009.  Blackest Night helped DC take the top six slots on the chart for what was likely the first time since 1968. But it was a down month overall. There was a particularly steep drop of 30% in dollar orders for the Top 100 Trade Paperbacks; DC had Watchmen and a heavily ordered Joker hardcover in  October 2008. Comparatives were tough on the comics side, too, with issues of Secret Invasion and Final Crisis topping the charts in the previous year. Check out the detailed analysis of the month's sales here — and sales chart here. 


October 2005's top-seller was huge: DC's Infinite Crisis #1 moved nearly a quarter million copies in its first month. Reorder months that also charted would put its total higher than 270,000 copies, making it the 10th best-selling comic book of the 2000s. (See the whole list here.) The month was up 4% in overall dollars over the same month in 2004. Check out the sales chart for October 2005 here.

October 2000's top-seller in preorders was Marvel's Uncanny X-Men #387, with Diamond preorders of 113,700 copies; it didn't make the Top 300 list for the decade. But, again, while reorders weren't reported at the time, the release with the most momentum was certainly Ultimate Spider-Man. Issue #2's preorders were 47,000 copies, putting it in 18th place, but reorders certainly would have placed it higher, had they been reported. The title didn't really begin to move in initial orders until December. Otherwise, it was a pretty blah month, with no major launches. Check out the sales chart here.

  October 1995 finally brings us to the end of Capital City Distribution's unit sales reports, which had begun more than a decade earlier. While it had ceased to distribute Marvel comics after July 1995 due to Heroes World's exclusive and DC comics after September 1995 due to Diamond's exclusive, Capital City polled its retailers in July, August, September, and October on what they'd sold. In October, it found X-Men Vol. 2, #47 at the top of the list; the title very likely outsold the top-seller at Diamond, Spawn #37. Check out Diamond's sales charts for October 1995.

Capital sold 50,150 copies of Spawn #37, a large drop from when Capital was a full-line distributor: Image had been announced as a Diamond exclusive by this point, and retailers were already placing orders with Diamond for Image's December-shipping titles in October. Dark Horse went exclusive with Diamond as of November-shipping titles. In its November retail publication, Capital City replaced its unit sales table with a dollar sales table that included all of its products, not just comics.

All Diamond charts from 1995 and early 1996 have been added to the website; read more about it here.

October 1990's top seller at Diamond and Capital City was Todd McFarlane's Spider-Man #5. Marvel sold 587,500 copies of the issue through all channels, including 507,400 copies in the Direct Market (including 143,400 through Capital).

October 1985's top seller at Capital City was Marvel's X-Factor #1, with orders of 77,800 copies through Capital; overall sales were likely north of 400,000 copies. Secret Wars II crossovers were also continuing to appear in many Marvel titles; Uncanny X-Men #232 was one, ranking as the second-place title. Crisis on Infinite Earths, nearing its conclusion, saw its 11th issue place fourth. The big buzz of the month, though, was that John Byrne — the force behind X-Factor #1 — would be taking over Superman in 1986; the reboot ultimately made a huge difference to Superman's sales.

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The Lost Year: Exclusivity War months from 1995-1996 now online

Saturday, November 27, 2010

by John Jackson Miller
In place of this week's Flashback Friday, a much more expansive look back on the past. With the help of T.M. Haley, I'm pleased to announce the expansion of monthly sales rankings into a tumultuous stretch of history: 1995 and 1996, the period of the Exclusivity Wars in the comic-book Direct Market.

I've written in more detail about the period before. When Marvel took its direct market comics distribution to its own distributor, Heroes World, in July 1995, it was no longer possible to look at a single distributor's rankings to see a real top-seller list. This posed a problem for anyone tracking on the outside, because Heroes World did not publish unit sales charts the way that Diamond Comic Distributors and its top competitor, Capital City Distribution did. This remains a problem — while I have nearly enough data to create unified charts, I feel it's important to get some of the materials I do have online now.

So what we have now is a bifurcated track for individual months: pages before September 1996 come in two flavors, Diamond and Capital. All rankings for Diamond have been added back to January 1995, so we now have complete coverage of the period when retailers had to have both a Diamond and a Heroes World account to carry Marvel and DC. I also have online the Capital City rankings for January 1995, so you can see the difference. For Capital, I have the actual number of copies that Capital sold, from files rescued from the distributor after it ceased operations; for Diamond, I just have an estimate of what the order index number may amount to. I expect to refine those estimates and unify the charts at a later date.

As you can see, the Capital list is much longer than the Diamond list; Capital published close to a Top 600 list at the time. For that reason — and also because its market share was smaller — I expect that the other nine Capital monthly tables from 1995 will take longer to get online, whereas I expect to have February through August 1995 online for Diamond relatively soon. There are no Capital unit sales records from after October 1995; thereafter, it only reported dollar sales for the few publishers it could still carry.

On that score, it is worthwhile to note that, because of the fact that not everything was available from all publishers, you shouldn't judge much from the individual distributors' lists. The Diamond lists have no Marvel books at all, obviously — but they also over- and under-represent at times the performances of some publishers. Diamond captured all the sales of DC, for example, in months where a retailer could still order its competitors' titles from other distributors. A quick thumbnail sketch of what was available from whom in what ship months:

July 1995
• Marvel only available from Heroes World, beginning this month.
• DC only available from Diamond and Capital City, beginning this month.

September 1995
DC only available from Diamond, beginning this month.

November 1995
Dark Horse only available from Diamond, beginning this month.
Broadway only available from Diamond, beginning this month.
Coppervale only available from Capital, beginning this month.

December 1995
Image only available from Diamond, beginning this month.
Acclaim only available from Diamond, beginning this month.
Gemstone only available from Diamond, beginning this month.
Wizard only available from Diamond, beginning this month.
Kitchen Sink only available from Capital, beginning this month.

January 1996
Crusade only available from Diamond, beginning this month.
London Night only available from Diamond, beginning this month.
Viz only available from Capital, beginning this month.

March 1996
Sirius only available from Diamond, beginning this month.
Chaos only available from Diamond, beginning this month.

May 1996
Viz backlist returns to Diamond.

June 1996
Archie only available from Diamond, beginning this month.

July 26, 1996
• Diamond buys Capital. Viz and other publishers return to Diamond.

April 1997
Marvel returns to Diamond. Heroes World folds.

That's all the major moves that I can find records for, but there were almost certainly more; the announcements came like drumbeats. I recall joking at my San Diego panel in 1996 that "I hadn't seen so many college kids signing contracts since the NBA draft." Perhaps an inadvisable comment, given the publisher and distributor speakers present — but it certainly was a frenzy, and as you can see, the tempo of events quickly went against Capital, following the San Diego 1995 announcements that Image, Dark Horse, and Acclaim were going exclusive with Diamond.

Capital wrapped up Kitchen Sink, Viz, and James Owen's Coppervale, but there weren't many players left; Fantagraphics, much courted, held out. Other publishers simply signed agreements saying they'd continue selling to a particular distributor; Diamond touted a few of those "supply agreements" in its magazine. (Capital also got a comics-market exclusive with TSR, the game company, but that firm was having troubles of its own; Wizards of the Coast bought it on April 10, 1997.) I'd actually forgotten Archie picked a side, but it was all but over by then.

As to the performance of the comics industry in the period, there is not much good to say. Diamond owner Steve Geppi said in the summer of 1995 he believed there were 6,400 comics shops; that was down from 11,000 at the beginning of 1994, and it would drop closer to 4,500 by the end of 1996. Credit, easy to get in the boom days of multiple distributors, tightened considerably, as both Diamond and Capital spent 1995 shrinking their extensive warehouse and trucking networks. (Heroes World, meanwhile, was fighting to get up to speed as a national distributor for Marvel — which it never really succeeded at, hence the return to Diamond.)


On the product side, the audience for super-hero comics continued to shrink as 1995 went on — with bright spots in the dead quarters of 1995 and 1996 coming from two then-novel events: "Age of Apocalypse" in early 1995 and "DC Versus Marvel/Marvel Versus DC" and Amalgam in the winter of 1995-96. But the latter suggests just how complicated keeping track of sales in this era is: retailers could only order DC Versus Marvel #1 and #4 and half the Amalgam books from Diamond. The other half required a Heroes World account. And because DC solicited the Amalgam week separately in order to preserve the surprise, its sales from the last week of February 1996 are counted with March. Whew!

So, again — it's a complicated time to write about, and there's more work to be done to get a complete picture. Don't assume because the 1996 grid shows a bunch of Spawn issues at #1 that it was the top-seller for the year; I suspect Uncanny X-Men still outsold it. But this is a big step forward in developing the archives, bringing it to a full 15 years of monthly reports. And more to come...

UPDATE: The remaining Diamond months from 1995 have been added, so the entire year is now online here.

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Flashback Friday: Back in time with Rip Hunter

Saturday, November 20, 2010

by John Jackson Miller and Joyce Greenholdt


Within a year or so of Jack Kirby's Challengers of the Unknown getting their own title in 1958, DC Comics introduced several new teams of non-super-powered adventurers: Cave Carson, Rip Hunter, and the Sea Devils. The latter two got their own titles in the early '60s, though neither of them matched the Challengers' success.

Rip Hunter, Time Master was published bimonthly from 1961 to 1965, running a total of 29 issues. The series was a relatively consistent seller (click to see the circulation reports), but never managed to achieve the same levels of sales success as its predecessor.

Still, in a comic-book universe, a man with a time machine is simply too useful to abandon, and Rip Hunter has since appeared in a multitude of DC titles, including Challengers of the Unknown, Action Comics, and Crisis on Infinite Earths, as well as many other post-Crisis stories hinging on time travel. Rip even starred in his own eight-issue mini-series, Time Masters, in 1990 and is currently searching the timestream for Bruce Wayne in the six-issue Time Masters: Vanishing Point mini-series.



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X-Men #1, One Piece, and world records

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

by John Jackson Miller, with special thanks to T.M. Haley    Bookmark and Share

Guinness World Records 2011One of the events you may have missed from Comic-Con International in 2010 was that the Guinness Book of World Records added Marvel Comics to its latest edition for publishing the best-selling comic book of all time: X-Men Vol. 2, #1, with its five variant covers in 1991. A ceremony was held at the event, with writer Chris Claremont in attendance. (Marvel has a video interview with the Guinness editor here.)

The ranking of X-Men Vol. 2, #1 has been mentioned by me many times, here on the site and in my previous work for Comics Buyer's Guide. The 8.1 million copy figure could even have come to their attention from one of my past reports, for all I know; I drew it from Marvel's internal 1991 records, myself. Here are the breakdowns for how the issue sold:
 
ISSUE Direct Market Newsstand TOTAL
1A 1,512,000 43,000 1,555,000
1B 1,739,500 43,000 1,782,500
1C 1,437,000 43,000 1,480,000
1D 1,371,900 43,000 1,414,900
1E 1,954,100 0 1,954,100
TOTAL #1 8,014,500 172,000 8,186,500

Within the direct market sales, Capital City Distribution's sales of each edition ranged from 424,800 copies, for the Beast cover, to 332,800 copies for the Magneto cover: its overall sales were 1,874,100 copies, or 23.3% of all direct market sales. (There were a dozen different distributors selling to comics shops then). Note that there were no newsstand sales of the fifth cover. The newsstand draws of the issue in general are far lower than the normal newsstand/direct market breakdowns seen in 1991; it's apparent that the newsstand didn't read the same demand for the new title that comics retailers did. The overall newsstand draws are about 60% above what Uncanny X-Men's were at the time; I'm guessing that title was used as an ordering guide.

All five versions of the issue (whose four covers combined to make the single image represented in the fifth, double gatefold cover edition) released in consecutive weeks of August 1991. There were also no subscription sales reported, as it was a brand new title. There is no American rival to X-Men #1 for this title; there are comic books in the 3-4 million copy range (like X-Force #1, only two months old when the "adjectiveless" X-Men title launched), but I know of nothing with numbers like these. (The reprinted issue has been collected here.)


Guinness would seem to be defining a comic book as a periodical magazine, as opposed to any other delivery system which contains comics content. That's certainly in line with how the term has always been used in this country: Watchmen #1 is a comic book. Watchmen is a collected edition — and it is also a graphic novel. One is on sale for a month. The other is on sale forever. This is a key distinction, when it comes to making sure we're making apples-to-apples comparisons — and it is important when considering comparisons with international top-sellers such as One Piece and Asterix editions.

Frequent mention is made in the trade press of the sales records of the Japanese manga series One Piece, which are spectacular indeed: Anime News Network reports that Eiichiro Oda's latest edition, One Piece Vol. 60, sold more than 2 million copies in its first week of sales this month out of a record first printing of 3.4 million copies. All the volumes of the series have sales of more than 200 million copies combined.

Those sales, however, are for the tankouban, the Japanese equivalent of the American collected edition or graphic novel. Like most American comics that are eventually collected, One Piece appears first in a magazine — although a magazine much different in size from American comic books. One Piece is published serialized in the anthology magazine Shonen Jump, one of several "phone-book magazines" (other examples include Nakayoski, Margaret, and Asuka) collecting chapters of various ongoing works. Bulky and cheaply printed, these magazines tend to be viewed as more disposable, making tankouban more desirable. The Weekly Shonen Jump does sell in the millions of copies, but seems to have peaked in the mid-1990s, with the peak sales for a single issue being 6.53 million copies in 1995.

I would tend to regard the "phone books" as a distinct delivery system from the traditional American comic-book-held-together-by-staples; they are, in many senses, books on their own. There have been American anthology monthlies — indeed, comics began as anthologies — but most topped out at 80 pages, and few have been seen in recent decades. But it is proper to say that Shonen Jump provides a somewhat closer comparison to X-Men Vol. 2, #1 than One Piece does — and there, X-Men #1 holds the edge.

On the other hand, any given One Piece tankouban is more appropriately compared to sales of Watchmen and similar collected editions. According to Brian Hibbs, Watchmen sold 424,814 copies of its softcover collection in 2009 through just those stores that report to Nielsen's Bookscan; while its all-time sales are higher still, it's probably safe to assume that with One Piece's first printings so monumental, there are individual tankouban in those 60 volumes that have outsold it over time.

I think the takeaway is that One Piece, as a tankouban, stands a good chance to be the international record-holder when it comes to bound-edition bookshelf comics (without undertaking an exhaustive survey of all European and Japanese comics, I can't go farther than that), while X-Men Vol. 2, #1 very likely holds the worldwide title when it comes to periodical newsrack comics with staples.

An interesting question is how comparisons can be made series-wide. If individual tankouban can't be compared to individual comic books, how does One Piece as a 200-million-copy selling series stack up against other series historically? Or its sales of 14.7 million copies, series-wide, in 2009?


It's difficult to say. You could certainly make the case that the weekly Shonen Jump over its lifespan has sold more copies; of course, since One Piece is in many issues of Shonen Jump, you'd wonder if it should be counted twice. There are also extremely long-running British weeklies whose sales over time would be considerable; there are other European titles you'd want to look at, too. But just comparing with series with a single star, we know that Superman sold in the 15-20 million range annually in the 1950s, and had sales in just the 1960-1986 years of more than 110 million copies. All told, from 1939 to present, the title is almost certainly north of 200 million copies, if not 300 million — not counting all reprints of that material. And that's where it gets  pretty easy to get off into the weeds, trying to decide what should be counted. Foreign editions? Many Disney comics which began in the high-circulation 1940s and 1950s would be in the running. Heck, if we enlarge the comics definition, Mad was definitely having 25-30 million copy years for a while there in the heyday.

An interesting, endlessly debatable topic for discussion — and the nice part is that is it reminds us of the potential reach of comics as a medium. To a degree, anyway: a huge portion of those X-Men comics were purchased not by readers, but speculators: one I'm aware of bought 5,000 copies, not realizing it would be the least scarce comic book of all time. I have 25 copies in my own collection, and I only bought one — I have no idea where the others came from!

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Flashback Friday: Metal Men from the Silver Age

Friday, November 12, 2010

by John Jackson Miller and Joyce Greenholdt

This week's Title Spotlight is shining on DC Comics' Metal Men series from the '60s. The Metal Men were created for a last-minute filler feature in Showcase #37-40 in 1962, and the characters proved popular enough for DC to give them their own bimonthly series the following year. Click to see the circulation reports for the title!

For the first few years, the average circulation on Metal Men climbed steadily, peaking in 1966. The fact that DC released circulation figures for Metal Men starting in 1964 is notable by itself; the company printed many of its circulation statements without any sales figures from 1963-65.

After 1966, sales declined sharply until the series went on hiatus at the end of 1969. The title resurfaced for three reprint issues (Metal Men #42-44) in 1973. The series returned one more time in 1976 with new stories and art by Walt Simonson, lasting until early 1979. No circulation statements were published for these periods.

Since then, the Metal Men starred in a four-issue mini-series in 1993 and have made guest appearances in several other DC titles.

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What's really going on with the over-300 crowd?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

by John Jackson Miller    Bookmark and Share

Having had some time to digest the numbers from Diamond's wave of October data — and prompted by the helpful findings of an analysis by ICV2 — I've taken another look to see what the additional data means when it comes to those comics ranking beneath 300th place.

As ICV2 notes, the new Diamond data reports that year-to-date dollar sales of comic books are off  4.82%; and our own tracking of the Top 300s each month finds dollar sales off 4.08%. And yet, as discussed earlier here, unit sales for comics at the bottom of the list are at historically high levels.
These facts may seem in conflict, but it's perfectly possible for both to be the case, for specific reasons.

First, let's dig a little more into what's suggested by Diamond's new statistics. Working backward from our "Overall" industry total for the year to date, we find overall comics sales totaling a projected $238.6 million — which would be down from $250.19 million, following Diamond's reported 4.82% drop. We know from our totals that the chunk outside the Top 300 amounts to $33.45 million, or about 14% of overall comics sales. The outside-300 chunk in 2009 to date would come to $36.38 million, or about 14.5% of overall comics sales. The rate of decrease in the chunk is higher than that for the Top 300, around 8.1%; that's enough to cause the gap we see between Top 300 and overall comics dollar sales.

So, yes, so far in 2010, the comics outside 300th place are under-performing last year in dollars. In units, the effect also appears: the bubbling-under books represent about 14% of all comics sold, with fewer units sold in the after-300 books.

At the same time, we have the phenomenon that the lower-tier comics are selling in greater numbers. The list of 300th place books appears here, but we can see the following averages right away:


Average number of copies sold by 300th place item:
2010 YTD: 3,293 copies
2009 YTD: 3,051 copies
2009 (full year): 2,931 copies
2008: 2,931 copies
2007: 2,069 copies
2006: 1,796 copies
2005: 1,427 copies
2004: 1,238 copies
2003: 1,407 copies
2002: 1,040 copies

So the books at the bottom of the list are selling more than they had been, although not a great deal more than they had in 2009 or 2008 (which happen to work out to identical totals). The differences over a several-year-period are enormous, but much less so very recently.That gentle increase in units at the bottom over the last year, thus, isn't a very big one to have to negate to go into negative territory year-to-year.  

So why might the comics near 300th place be selling more units, while those beneath the table are selling less in aggregate? As mentioned before here, the proliferation of titles from Marvel and the increasing chart presence of middle-tier players IDW, Dynamite, and Boom are one reason the bottom of the Top 300 is showing higher volumes. (To clarify my earlier post, I wasn't characterizing how the market shares or sales of those publishers have changed in the past year; rather, I was observing that these "Next Three" publishers after Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and Image are placing more entries and unit volume on the Top 300 list than we saw for most of the 2000s. After Crossgen's collapse, we often only had Devil's Due and occasionally Aspen logging more than 100,000 units in the Top 300, and that was on fewer titles.) So part of the changed trendline appears to come from this deeper bench.

As to why the comics below 300th place are not doing as well year-to-year despite these higher totals, we may look to a couple of possibilities. Much of the volume beneath 300th place is likely reordered titles; if reorders are off by a larger amount than new comics orders are off, this is where it would show up. The fact that we haven't had many mega-hits certainly has some impact in this regard.

Also, in 2009, Diamond began raising its benchmarks for carrying publications, so it is possible that, while we're seeing better per-title performance at the bottom of the Top 300 list, that list likely doesn't extend as beyond it as it once did. We may well run out of new titles slightly earlier in the table than we once did.

So, yes, looking 2010-to-2009, the "long tail" in comics, while adding sales to the total, isn't improving the picture for periodical dollars. (It is having positive effects in trade paperback dollars, meanwhile.) On the other hand, when we extend the comparisons earlier than 2008, it does still appear likely that the Top 300 today is capturing less of the overall picture than it did a few years ago. Top 300 units are down 8% from 2005, while Top 300 comics dollars are up 13%. But when the average 300th place book in 2010 is selling more than twice as many copies as the item ranked in the same position in 2005, it becomes very likely that today's "bubbling-under" chunk counts for more than it did five years earlier. Diamond only published one-year comparisons, so we can't tell how much more — but the comics beneath 300th place probably didn't account for anywhere near 14% of all comics sales then, like they do now.

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October 2010 comics data reveals much about industry

Monday, November 8, 2010

by John Jackson Miller    Bookmark and Share

A week ago, I posted an analysis of Diamond Comic Distributors' Top 300 Comics list for September — and my assertion that the number of lower-ranking comics constituted sales of increasing importance. I had also observed throughout the year that my "Overall Comics Sales" model, which integrates complete publisher sales data with Diamond's market shares to find total Direct Market orders for everything, frequently found the market performing slightly better than some of the narrower categories indicated.

Two years ago, Diamond increased the number of trade paperbacks it reported on from 100 to 300. On Friday, Diamond again added to our understanding of the comics industry by releasing, for the first time, comparative sales statistics which described how its overall comic-book unit and dollar sales and overall trade paperback unit and dollar sales compared from month to month and year to year. These figures have been incorporated into my estimates for the direct market for October 2010, now online.

The new Diamond measures provide specific percentage increases and decreases for the categories, so they're especially helpful; we now know what's going on outside the Top 300s. Perhaps more importantly, Diamond's new information gives us something that we haven't had from Diamond since 2001. Diamond used to publish what part of its sales came from comic books as compared to what came from trade paperbacks and other categories; that product breakdown data is republished here, beginning with September 1996. Diamond stopped publishing the category breakdowns around the time it switched to running final orders, in early 2003, so it became impossible to know how overall trade sales related to overall comics sales.

But we do now know the monthly year-to-year and year-to-date changes in orders for comic books, for trade paperbacks, and for the two categories together. And with some rusty algebra, that allows us to see the sizes of the comic book and trade paperback categories, relative to each other. October 2010 overall comics dollar sales are off 1.7% versus last October, but trades are up 13.04% — and comics plus trades together are up 2.77%. That means that comics sales are 69.6% of the total, versus 30.4% for trades. If the comics share were larger or smaller, it wouldn't add up. This method finds a similar year-to-date breakdown: 69.23% of comics-and-trade dollars came from comics, versus 30.77% coming from trades. Put another way, this year Diamond has grossed from comics 2.25 times what it's grossed from trade paperbacks.

This is a useful statistic to have — and it lines up interestingly with October 2002, when Diamond made 78% of its comics-and-trade money from comics, versus 22% from trades. We've gone from comics being three-and-a-half times the size of the trade market to just two-and-a-quarter times its size, in just eight years. But let's talk now about the size of those markets. Which we can, now — by applying the new ratios to the "Overall Sales" model used here at The Comics Chronicles. Using the new category breakdowns, we're able to roughly estimate that the roughly $35 million in Direct Market orders in October breaks down to about $24 million for comic books, and $11 million for trade paperbacks.

That means that the "long tail" in comics amounts to between $3-4 million this month; applying the average weighted cover price, that's close to a million more comic books falling outside the Top 300. That's higher than even I would have expected, but remember that the table includes reorders, now, and so basically all of September's and August's Top 300 chart items are still there, selling copies, out of sight on the current month's table. Historically, a rate of 8% is an often-cited figure for typical reorders; that, plus new comics not reaching the Top 300, could easily make up the unseen balance.

And this, in the Top 300 for October, is a case where the bubbling-under books made a difference: the Top 300 comics alone were off 7% and 3% respectively in units and dollars, but including all comics, those drops shrink to 5.26% and 1.7%. Year-to-date comics units improve by a percentage point over the narrower category with the extra data; year-to-date comics dollars actually get worse, by less than a point. On the trade paperbacks side, October was already a good month compared to a weaker month last year; looking at the entire long tail, as Diamond does, shows us that trades as a category are only off 4.56% year-to-date, versus the 6% that the Top 300 trades are off year-to-date.

The aggregate figures:

TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES
October 2010: 5.79 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: -7%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -6%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +3%
YEAR TO DATE: 58.16 million copies, -7% vs. 2009, -8% vs. 2005, unchanged% vs. 2000

ALL COMICS UNIT SALES (reported by Diamond)
October 2010: -5.26% (projected total: 6.8 million copies)
YEAR TO DATE: -6.05% (projected total: 67.8 million copies)

TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES
October 2010: $20.82 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -3%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -15%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +30%
YEAR TO DATE: $205.15 million, -4% vs. 2009, +13% vs. 2005, +29% vs. 2000

ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES (reported by Diamond)
October 2010: -1.7% (projected total: $24.5 million)
YEAR TO DATE: -4.82% (projected total: $238.6 million)

TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK & GRAPHIC NOVEL DOLLAR SALES
October 2010: $7.11 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +20%
Versus 5 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: +24%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: +89%
YEAR TO DATE: $62.59 million, -6% vs. 2009

ALL TRADE PAPERBACK & GN DOLLAR SALES (reported by Diamond)
October 2010: +13.04% (projected total: $10.68 million)
YEAR TO DATE: -4.56% (projected total: $106.06 million)

TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
October 2010: $27.94 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +2%
Versus 5 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: +16%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +29%
YEAR TO DATE: $267.69 million, -4% vs. 2009

ALL COMICS & TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES (reported by Diamond)
October 2010: $35.13 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +2.77%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +21%
YEAR TO DATE: $344.71 million, -4.74% vs. 2009

As we're integrating the Diamond ratios into the Overall Sales model, those numbers will be subject to change; those figures refine as more publisher data comes in during the month. That means that the projected totals for comics units, comics dollars, and trade paperback dollars are also subject to change. One thing that will change every month is the ratio coming from comics versus what's coming from trades — although I expect the figures will be similar.

You'll note that I'm not reporting Diamond's month-to-month sales, which compared October to September; that's a category which doesn't add much, ultimately, given how the calendar creates month-to-month volatility. It can still be seen at Diamond's site. I am also not reporting unit sales of trade paperbacks, which vary wildly because the cover prices vary so much. For the curious, Diamond appears to have sold 12.4 times as many comic books in October as it sold trade paperbacks; this would be consistent with the revenue breakdowns, reflecting the fact that the average trade paperback costs four to five times what the average comic book does. It also suggests that Diamond moved about half a million trade paperbacks this month, nearly half the volume of which was outside the Top 300.

As to October itself, it's another month with no title topping 100,000 copies — Uncanny X-Force #1 led the market at 95,600 copies. Marvel had 13 fewer entries in the Top 300; DC had more than 100 entries placing. The average comic book in Diamond’s Top 300 cost $3.72, a new record for the comic-book industry by more than a dime. The average Top 300 comic book that retailers ordered from Diamond cost $3.59. The median comic book price in Diamond’s Top 300 was $3.99, and the most common cover price on Diamond’s list was $3.99.

This has been a lot of data to digest, and I suspect it will be easy to transpose some numbers here and there — so I caution that there may be some corrections in this and future reports. The Flashbacks for October are coming soon — and don't miss our new Flashback Friday feature.

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Flashback Friday: Marvel travels to 2099

Friday, November 5, 2010

by John Jackson Miller and Joyce Greenholdt  Bookmark and Share

We've added several new titles to the Title Spotlights section today, and we're hoping to make some regular updates to the section in the future. This week we added circulation statements for a number of titles for Marvel Comics' 2099 imprint from the 1990s. The imprint re-imagined the origins of several popular Marvel characters in a dark future setting. The line launched with Spider-Man 2099 in November 1992, followed by Ravage 2099 (a completely new super-hero created by Stan Lee), Doom 2099, and Punisher 2099 in successive months.

All four 2099 saw impressive first-issue sales, with Spider-Man 2099 leading the pack with sales of 300,000 copies through Capital City Distribution alone. The 2099 titles remained popular enough that Marvel followed up with several more. X-Men 2099 #1 was released in late 1993 and followed a new band of mutants and rebels fighting the power of the Mega-Corps. Sales of the first issue didn't reach Spider-Man 2099's heights, but like Punisher 2099, the issue sold more than 200,000 copies just through Capital City. X-Men 2099 also went to a second printing and had a 15,000-copy Gold edition sold exclusively through Diamond Comics Distributors.

By May 1994, when Ghost Rider 2099 made its debut, the imprint was losing ground. This title's first issue sold less than 75,000 copies through Capital City, with both a regular and a collector variant available. Ghost Rider went cyberpunk in the future, with the main character's consciousness being downloaded into a robot body. The series went to 25 issues, and was the last of the 2099 titles to run more than a year before being canceled.

The comics industry collapsed in the mid-1990s, which certainly affected the 2099 imprint as a whole. All the ongoing 2099 titles were canceled in 1995 and 1996, and were briefly replaced by a single eight-issue series, 2099: World of Tomorrow, which ran through April 1997 and featured surviving characters from across the 2099 line. The 2099: Manifest Destiny one-shot concluded the line in March 1998, although various Marvel titles have revisted the world since then. Most recently, the Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions video game released in September 2010 includes the Spider-Man of 2099.

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Diamond reveals full picture for October 2010 report

by John Jackson Miller    Bookmark and Share


My report earlier this week on the September 2010 sales of comics through Diamond detailed an increasing problem: that the Top 300 comics were providing less and less of the overall picture, and actually showing the industry as worse off than my calculations of its overall size were finding. With today's release of the top sellers of October 2010, Diamond has taken the unprecedented step of releasing month-to-month and year-to-year comparatives, based on everything it sold in the category:

October 2010 total comics unit sales
October 2010 versus 1 year ago this month: -5.26%
Year to date: -6.05%

October 2010 total comics dollar sales
Versus 1 year ago this month: -1.7%
Year to date: -4.82%

October 2010 total trade paperback and graphic novel unit sales:
Versus 1 year ago this month: +29.05%
Year to date: -5.97%

October 2010 total trade paperback and graphic novel dollar sales:
Versus 1 year ago this month: +13.04%
Year to date: -4.56%

October 2010 total comic, trade paperback and graphic novel unit sales:
Versus 1 year ago this month: -2.7%
Year to date: -6.04%

October 2010 total comic, trade paperback and graphic novel dollar sales:
Versus 1 year ago this month: +2.77%
Year to date: -4.74%

This is very significant. As I had observed, the Top 300 alone was not fully reporting the market's performance — and not just for comics, but for graphic novels and trade paperbacks as well. Unit sales for the Top 300 comics year-to-date through September were down more than 7%; as we see above, all comics through October are only down 6.05%. The Top 300 trade paperbacks were off 8% in dollars through September, but all trade paperbacks were down only 4.56% in dollars through October. And the overall sales for comics and trade paperbacks — comparable, minus magazines, to the "overall" figure I've been reporting for seven years — is off 4.74%, nearly matching the 5% loss my overall calculation had been finding.

Superman: Earth OneThe presence of this additional data is very helpful, then, for detailing the big picture in the market. (It's also gratifying to see additional confirmation that our wider estimates are on target.) Diamond also supplied data comparing October 2010's sales with September 2010's sales — they are down 2.7% in units but up 2.77% in dollars — but these are probably not as useful, since monthly sales differences are subject to oddities in the shipping calendar. We should also not pay overmuch attention to piece sales of trade paperbacks — or unit sales of trades plus comics — because trade paperbacks vary greatly in cover price. This month's top-selling trade was the $19.99 Superman: Earth One hardcover, but the many of the other entries in the top ten were Walking Dead volumes, ranging from $9.99 (for the #2 seller, Walking Dead Vol. 1) to $34.99 (for the Vol. 6 hardcover). Comics are apples-to-apples, unit-wise; hardcovers, softcovers, and manga aren't.

The top-selling title this month was Marvel's Uncanny X-Force #1. Diamond's Top 300 will be out next week; this time, there's no need to speculate on how the months compared, overall!

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September 2010 flashbacks to the past

Monday, November 1, 2010

Bookmark and Shareby John Jackson Miller  

Following the report on comics orders for September 2010, here's a look back at what was going on in previous years...

September 2009's top seller was DC's Blackest Night #3, with first-month orders of 140,700 copies copies. By the end of the year, it would have orders of more than 161,400 copies, making it the fifth-best-selling comic book of 2009  Check out the detailed analysis of the month's sales here — and sales chart here.
September 2005's top-seller was DC's All-Star Batman #2, with Diamond first-month orders of more than 178,600 copies. With reorders charting in later months, the issue sold more than 185,000 copies through Diamond, making it the 43rd best-selling comic book of the 2000s. (See the whole list here.) Also a two-issue month for New Avengers and JLA, September helped close out 2005's third quarter up 5% over the same period in 2004. Check out the sales chart for September 2005 here.

September 2000's top-seller in preorders was Marvel's Uncanny X-Men #386, with Diamond preorders of 111,900 copies; it didn't make the Top 300 list for the decade. But while reorders weren't reported at the time, the release with the greatest ultimate (no pun intended) impact this month was Ultimate Spider-Man #1. While the Brian Michael Bendis issue came in 15th place on preorders of more than 54,000 copies, multiple reprints in various markets took that total several times higher.

So it was a better month, in the end, that preorders for comic books suggested: those were again down heavily, though the oversized JLA: Heaven's Ladder made a major splash on the graphic novels list. Check out the sales chart here.
 
September 1995's top seller is problematic to determine, and that would remain the case for the next eleven months. Marvel had stopped distributing its comics through all other distributors but Heroes World Distribution beginning in July 1995, and DC, which had sold through only Diamond and Capital in July and August, was down to just Diamond in September.

So the title rankings are speculative, although there was some data. Capital City polled its retailers for what they were selling overall, and found that Uncanny X-Men #326 was the top-seller; Diamond's top seller, Spawn #36, placed third on the Capital list. Capital sold 70, 275 copies of Spawn #36, but that was a drop of a full 25% from just three months earlier, when Capital was a full-line distributor. (And after October 1995, Image would be gone from Capital, too.) Uncanny X-Men's average monthly sales were 455,570 copies during this period — newsstand included.

Retailers continued to lament Marvel's switch to Heroes World. At least one store, Cliff's Books of Deland, Fla., dropped Marvel entirely rather than add an additional distributor.

September 1990's top seller at Diamond and Capital City was Todd McFarlane's Spider-Man #4. Marvel sold 693,000 copies of the issue through all channels, including 89,400 copies on the newsstand and 590,400 copies in the Direct Market (including 141,000 through Capital).

September 1985's top seller at Capital City was Marvel's Secret Wars II #7, with orders of 49,100  copies through Capital; overall sales were likely north of 300,000 copies. The month saw reports in Capital's Internal Correspondence that newsstand sales for Marvel and DC had sharply declined in the previous year. "Although these sales declines are bad news for magazine publishers," the report said, "it is probably good news for the direct market."

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