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Comics orders off 3.5% in 2010; direct market at $415 million

Thursday, January 6, 2011

by John Jackson Miller

Diamond Comic Distributors announced today that annual sales of comic books, graphic novels, and magazines to the comic book specialty market declined slightly in 2010, down 3.5% from 2009. The report for December hasn't been made public yet, but The Comics Chronicles expects that the overall total for comics, graphic novels, and magazines sold to comics shops in North America will come to between $410 and $420 million. The figure is down from the 2008 peak of $437 million, but still above $400 million, a mark broken in 2007.


Diamond President and CEO Steve Geppi said that while sales for the year were down, there have been "a lot of positive signs in the last quarter. Sales have steadily picked up and most retailers reported better than average holiday shopping sales. We believe comic books and graphic novels offer a great entertainment value for consumers, and 2011 is shaping up with some very exciting and creative storylines and titles from the industry’s top publishers.”

As I predicted, Marvel's re-relaunched Avengers #1, which released in May, was the top-selling comic book of 2010 in comics shops. The title had first-month sales of nearly 164,000 copies, and a projected after-reorders total near 175,000 copies. Given that, the issue would rank around 51st in the list of the top comics of the 21st century. All ten titles in the top 10 this year would have made that list, with Batman: Return of Bruce Wayne #1's total with reorders likely close to 120,000 copies.  The Top 10, as provided:


Rank
Title
Price
Publisher
1
Avengers #1
$3.99
Marvel
2
X-Men #1
$3.99
Marvel
3
Blackest Night #8
$3.99
DC
4
Siege #1
$3.99
Marvel
5
Blackest Night #7
$3.99
DC
6
New Avengers #1
$3.99
Marvel
7
Brightest Day #0
$3.99
DC
8
Brightest Day #1
$2.99
DC
9
Siege #2
$3.99
Marvel
10
Batman: Return of Bruce Wayne #1
$3.99
DC

Walking Dead Vol. 1 led the top trade paperback and graphic novels for the year, with projected sales of nearly 44,000 copies. The Walking Dead line, along with similarly media-promoted Scott Pilgrim, dominated the top-sellers list:


Rank
Title
Price
Publisher
1
$9.99
Image
2
Kick-AssKick Ass Premium HC
$24.99
Marvel
3
The Walking Dead Volume 11: Fear The HuntersWalking Dead Vol. 11: Fear the Hunters
$14.99
Image
4
Scott Pilgrim Volume 6: Scott Pilgrim's Finest HourScott Pilgrim Vol. 6: Finest Hour
$11.99
Oni
5
Superman: Earth OneSuperman Earth One HC
$19.99
DC
6
Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little LifeScott Pilgrim Vol. 1: Precious Little Life
$11.99
Oni
7
Walking Dead Volume 12Walking Dead Vol. 12: Life Among Them
$14.99
Image
8
The Walking Dead Volume 2: Miles Behind Us (v. 2)Walking Dead Vol. 2: Miles Behind Us
$14.99
Image
9
The Walking Dead Volume 13Walking Dead Vol. 13: Too Far Gone
$14.99
Image
10
Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 2: Scott Pilgrim Versus The World (v. 2)Scott Pilgrim Vol. 2: Versus the World
$11.99
Oni

Notably, with the exception of Superman, the traditional super-heroes are absent from the top-sellers list — but that may in part be a consequence of price point, given the number of items below $12 on the list. Most collections of mainstream comics are priced above that.

Diamond reported that Marvel led the Dollar and Unit market shares for the year, with DC second and Dark Horse third in all categories, followed by Image, IDW, and Dynamite:
 

DOLLAR SHARE
UNIT SHARE
Marvel
38.23%
43.35%
DC
30.39%
34.00%
Dark Horse
5.17%
3.88%
Image
4.53%
3.71%
IDW
4.08%
3.45%
Dynamite
2.65%
2.52%
Boom
1.95%
1.77%
Viz
1.42%
0.68%
Eaglemoss
0.82%
0.20%
Avatar
0.70%
0.50%
Other
10.07%
5.95%


Eaglemoss is a publisher of action-figure magazines, many of which are bound with exclusive action figures, explaining its presence high on the dollar-share list.

As I mentioned in The Beat's year in review, this was a rougher year for the comics market, as some of the momentum that carried us through 2009’s general recession was spent. The result is that 2010 looked much like 2000, a year in which cash-strapped retailers ordered very conservatively when it came to additional copies for the shelf. Today, publishers are using digital promotions as a way to help readers sample titles, but it of course helps growth to have actual print copies in stock to drive that reader to.

With the digital share still small (but growing), the engine of recovery in comics remains, as it has been since the late 1970s, the direct market. More than half of industry sales are in comics shops, and there is no recovery in the industry without growth in the spending power of those shops — and in the number of those shops. While the general economy’s effect on comics sales is not always easy to trace, its effect on prospective retailers’ ability to get financing for new locations is clear-cut. So external forces could have a bigger than usual impact in 2011: a rising tide would help our little fleet more than normal.

Diamond traditionally puts out a longer list of the year's best-sellers; the earliest one, from 1992, is now on the site. The full list will be added to our 2010 page when it becomes available.

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