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January 2011: Bad, but a light trading day in the market

Thursday, February 3, 2011

by John Jackson Miller

The Top 100 comics and trade paperback lists for January 2011 are out, along with Diamond Comic Distributors' aggregate month-to-month and year-to-year comparisons. Sales are off considerably against January 2010 and against last month, with double-digit declines for comics dollar sales and trade paperback dollar sales.

There’s not enough data inside the lists to say a whole lot yet; just looking at the order index numbers on the Diamond chart, there would appear to be one book in the low six figures, Fantastic Four #587 with the Human Torch's demise. Jack of Fables Vol. 8: The Fulminate Blade was the top collected edition.

Jack of Fables Vol. 8: The Fulminate BladeWe can look at the comparison year, of course. Last January was very slightly up over January 2009, the Barack Obama Amazing Spider-Man month, and it had a couple of things going for it like Siege #1 and Green Lantern #50 on the comics side, and Walking Dead Vol. 11 doing 17,000 copies on the trade side. It’s not clear that we have the same big item on the trade side, and if Fantastic Four #587 was a last-week-in-month book, it’s possible it didn’t have as much sales impact as it otherwise might have had. (Update: It also appears that there were many fewer releases this January, too.)

These are the aggregate figures Diamond released:

COMPARATIVE SALES STATISTICS

DOLLARS
UNITS
JANUARY 2011 VS. DECEMBER 2010
COMICS
-27.70%
-23.75%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
-32.41%
-31.09%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
-29.35%
-24.45%
JANUARY 2011 VS. JANUARY 2010
COMICS
-21.98%
-23.23%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
-16.53%
-19.36%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
-20.24%
-22.91%
CURRENT 12-MONTHS ROLLING VS. PREVIOUS 12-MONTHS ROLLING
COMICS
-6.64%
-8.40%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
-1.81%
-2.83%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
-5.09%
-7.93%


January is the traditional beginning of the Dead Quarter, and we have seen some pretty awful drops in this period before — enough so that I have written about it several times in the past. And we know a few things now.

First of all, don't look too deeply at the January versus December drop. It's the least "fair" month-to-month comparison there is. January is always down some amount from December, even in good years — often a huge amount. Any retailers who do close usually do so at the end of the year so as to put Christmas on the books and not incur another tax year, and the weather is frequently more impactful in January. Here's the estimated change within the Top 300 comics dollar sales from December to January from 1997 to 2009-2010:

December 1996 to January 1997: -15.3%
December 1997 to January 1998: -27.7%
December 1998 to January 1999: -15.2%
December 1999 to January 2000: -18.5%
December 2000 to January 2001: -8.9%
December 2001 to January 2002: -3.6%
December 2002 to January 2003: -4.8%
December 2003 to January 2004: -19.9%
December 2004 to January 2005: -26.7%
December 2005 to January 2006: -17.0%
December 2006 to January 2007: -4.8%
December 2007 to January 2008: -7.0%
December 2008 to January 2009: -24.36%
December 2009 to January 2010: -13.96%
December 2010 to January 2011 (all comics): -27.7%

Now, the above Diamond category actually reports all comics and trades, not just the Top 300, but we can see that the drop is identical to the one from December 1997 to January 1998, and very close to the one from December 2004 to January 2005. What's interesting about that is that while 1998 was still in the period of collapse, 2005 was a very strong year. The drop is also close to the 2008-2009 difference, and 2009 ended up being flat. So the December-to-January difference isn't often  a factor in performance by the end of the year — nor, indeed, is January, period.

This is the thing about the "Dead Quarter": since publishers know there are fewer customers in the stores, they alter their slates accordingly. The result is very much like watching the stock market during the week between Christmas and New Year's. Yes, the market moves up or down, but on very light volume that is frequently not telling for the rest of the year. Our volumes in this quarter are lighter anyway, so any fluctuation in them will have less effect in the long run. As I’ve written before, “All months in comics are not created equal. A strong August erases six weeks of winter.”

The Top 10 comics for the month:


RANK
DESCRIPTION
PRICE

VENDOR
1
FANTASTIC FOUR #587
$3.99

MAR
2
BRIGHTEST DAY #17
$2.99

DC
3
BRIGHTEST DAY #18
$2.99

DC
4
SPAWN #200
$3.99

IMA
5
AVENGERS #9
$3.99

MAR
6
X-MEN #7
$3.99

MAR
7
BATMAN AND ROBIN #19
$2.99

DC
8
NEW AVENGERS #8
$3.99

MAR
9
BATMAN #706
$2.99

DC
10
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #651
$3.99

MAR
 
 The Top Graphic Novels:


RANK
DESCRIPTION
PRICE

VENDOR
1
JACK OF FABLES VOLUME 8: FULMINATE BLADE
$14.99

DC
2
THE WALKING DEAD VOLUME 1:DAYS GONE BYE
$9.99

IMA
3
THE DARK TOWER: THE GUNSLINGER HC
$24.99

MAR
4
THE GOON VOL. 10:
$16.99

DAR
5
BATMAN: JOKER'S ASYLUM VOLUME 2 TP
$14.99

DC
6
INVINCIBLE IRON MAN VOLUME 4 TP
$15.99

MAR
7
STARMAN OMNIBUS VOLUME 6 HC
$49.99

DC
8
HOUSE OF MYSTERY VOLUME 5 TP
$14.99

DC
9
MADAME XANADU VOLUME 3 TP
$17.99

DC
10
THE WALKING DEAD VOL. 2: MILES BEHIND US TP
$14.99

IMA

The market shares for January are as seen here:

TOP COMIC BOOK PUBLISHERS
PUBLISHER
DOLLAR
SHARE
UNIT
SHARE
MARVEL COMICS
39.06%
42.37%
DC COMICS
26.38%
31.80%
IMAGE COMICS
7.60%
6.45%
DARK HORSE COMICS
4.82%
3.70%
IDW PUBLISHING
4.75%
4.60%
DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT
2.82%
2.51%
BOOM! STUDIOS
2.01%
1.80%
EAGLEMOSS PUBLICATIONS
1.40%
0.31%
VIZ MEDIA
1.28%
0.58%
WIZARD ENTERTAINMENT
0.68%
0.62%
OTHER NON-TOP 10
9.19%
5.25%

The detailed data for the month is expected next week.

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