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April 2011 comics sales slip slightly, but noncomic categories surge

Thursday, May 12, 2011

by John Jackson Miller

Comics orders slipped slightly in April, according to Diamond Comic Distributors, but the drop is less than those seen earlier in the year, and the year-to-date gap in dollar sales for comic books and trade paperbacks closed to 6.5%. Marvel's Fear Itself topped the charts and is likely the only title in six figures (the 125,000 range looks likely). Click to see the rankings for the Top 100 comics and graphic novels for April 2011.

The month-to-month change in the figures below looks to be very much in line with a five-week to four-week comparison: some titles around the 100th place mark in March jumped 10 to 20 slots in April, indicating that there just weren't as many releases in the pipeline. That will likely change in May, as many Marvel titles go biweekly.

Back-of-the-envelope projections find about 3.75 million comics sold in the top 100, about 100,000 fewer copies than last month. The aggregate comparatives, according to Diamond:

COMPARATIVE SALES STATISTICS
  DOLLARS UNITS
APRIL 2011 VS. MARCH 2011
COMICS -10.53% -13.80%
GRAPHIC NOVELS -7.95% -10.99%
TOTAL COMICS/GN -9.71% -13.58%
APRIL 2011 VS. APRIL 2010
COMICS -1.75% -3.73%
GRAPHIC NOVELS -0.84% -6.03%
TOTAL COMICS/GN -1.46% -3.92%
YEAR-TO-DATE 2011 VS. YEAR-TO-DATE 2010
COMICS -6.90% -6.99%
GRAPHIC NOVELS -5.67% -11.53%
TOTAL COMICS/GN -6.50% -7.38%
TOTAL MERCHANDISE +20.98%  

Fables Vol. 15: Rose RedFables Vol. 15: Rose Red was the top-selling trade paperback or graphic novel.

Diamond added an additional category in its news release: merchandise. "Year to-date-merchandise sales are up 20.98% over last year, with Apparel (+17.22%), Games (+19.57%), Toys (+44.47%) and Video (+20%) leading the way.” I have received clarification from Diamond that the "merchandise" figure is just non-comics material — while comics are merchandise, this is basically everything else that went up 20.98%. The figure does have a bearing on the health of the industry, in that it all adds to comics shops' bottom lines. Comics shops were greatly benefited in 1994 from sales of Magic the Gathering, and in 1999 from the Pokemon card game; diversification is known to have kept many shops afloat in the collapse of 1994. 

The average price of all comic books offered in the Top 100 was $3.51; the average price of all comic books ordered in that grouping was $3.55. The median and most common price of comics in the Top 100 was $2.99. The market shares appear below:

TOP COMIC BOOK PUBLISHERS
PUBLISHER DOLLAR
SHARE
UNIT
SHARE
Marvel 40.14% 37.95%
DC 27.09% 26.89%
IDW 5.17% 4.06%
Image 5.15% 4.60%
Dark Horse 4.89% 4.52%
Dynamic Forces 3.05% 1.92%
Boom 1.94% 2.61%
Eaglemoss 1.21% 0.23%
Viz 0.93% 0.33%
Archie 0.78% 2.64%
Other 9.66% 14.26%

The full charts will be released next week.

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