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January 2012 comics sales estimates online

Monday, February 6, 2012

by John Jackson Miller


In comics, the month of January has often stolen the life from whatever good things were going on in the trade, saleswise, so it is usually good enough when we can say that the first month of the year didn't foul the nest. This January, however, seems to have been a good one for the Direct Market, though we must look past the comparatives with last January to see it. Click to see the comics order estimates for January 2012.

Last January had 23% fewer new items on the market as publishers adjusted to Diamond's shift to Tuesday shipping — and just as I advised against putting too much stock into the market's relative decline that month, I caution against taking the year-to-year change figures below too seriously, either. But when we look back earlier, we see that this month's Top 300 comics combined not only sold more copies than the grouping last January, but also more copies than January 2010 and January 2009 as well. That 2009 month was memorable for the publication of the top-selling comic book of the 21st Century so far, the Barack Obama commemorative issue of Amazing Spider-Man, but the market still this January still ordered 15,000 more comic books than it did that month.

The case can be made that the 2012 sales picture is healthier in some respects, as the unit sales are more evenly distributed, thanks to the DC relaunch; as I mentioned at the time, the Obama issue was about all the market had going for it that winter, early in the comics recession. The 300th-place title this month had orders of 2,606 copies, which would have placed it at 266th in January 2009. (See the complete list of 300th place titles.)

Led by Justice League #5, DC titles took the top ten slots this month, and my hunch would be that this is the first time that has happened in the history of comics. Even in the 1960s, there were other contenders — Dell and Archie, among others — keeping DC from a complete lock on the top tier month-in and month-out. For total chart-topping domination, however, the most remarkable case probably remains March 2005, in which Marvel had 23 out of the top 24 regularly-priced comics. (Click to see the complete list of 1st place titles.)

Regardless of its comparative positioning on the comics charts, however, it's noteworthy that Marvel's combined comics and trade paperback dollar orders in the Top 300s actually increased slightly versus December, whereas the market as a whole sold $1.5 million less in comics and trades in the Top 300s. So it's not always about chart placement. This month, a single product like the Fear Itself hardcover is the top-line equivalent of more than 40,000 comics units.

The aggregate totals:

TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES
January 2012: 5.78 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: +31%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -14%
Versus 10 years ago this month: -1%
Versus 15 years ago this month: -35%

ALL COMICS UNIT SALES
January 2012 versus one year ago this month: +33.56%

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TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES
January 2012: $19.82 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +29%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -5%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +18%
Versus 15 years ago this month: -9%

ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES
January 2012 versus one year ago this month: +32.05%

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TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
January 2012: $5.97 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +30%
Versus 5 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: -9%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: -46%

ALL TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
January 2012 versus one year ago this month: +18.38%

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TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
January 2012: $25.8 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +29%
Versus 5 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: -6%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +9%

ALL COMICS AND TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
January 2012 versus one year ago this month: +27.47%

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OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)
January 2012: approximately $32.54 million (subject to revision)
Versus 1 year ago this month: +30%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -3%


Trade paperbacks and graphic novels saw a year-over-year boost thanks in part to the Batman: Through The Looking Glass hardcover. It does appear that the frontlist had a better month than the backlist, as the Top 300 trades were up 30% year-over-year, while the entire list was only up 18%. A hardcover selling a lot of copies would contribute to that effect. The January 2002 figure was so much higher than 2012 in part because of Alternative's 9-11 Emergency Relief title, which sold over 12,000 copies in preorder.
The average comic book in the Top 300 cost $3.51; the average comic book retailers ordered cost $3.43. The median price for comics offered crept up to $3.50, a figure not seen in several months — but $2.99 is the most common price offered.

As noted here earlier, February will be unusual in that it has five shipping Wednesdays, something that only happens ever 28 years. In the longer term, the question will continue to be whether publishers can continue to prime the pump following the DC relaunch. The Before Watchmen promotion will surely help — it will be interesting to see how the figures compare to what we know of sales from the series the first time around.

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6 comments:

Mike February 6, 2012 at 5:40 PM  

Hi,

I love your site and use it weekly for all my sales estimates news. I use to use the numbers at ICv2.com as well but stopped when I realized both your sites had the exact same numbers.

However after noticing some sites using their January numbers, I see they have totally different estimates than you this month. I compared your sites the past few moths and they have been the same. This is the first month with a difference.

Has their been a new way of estimating that is causing the difference or has their been perhaps a mistake in the math of one of your sites?

Thanks

Mike

Mike,  February 6, 2012 at 5:42 PM  

I wish I could go back and edit that last comment. Just posting to say I know the difference between there and their. Usually :)

Mike

John Jackson Miller February 6, 2012 at 6:24 PM  

Thanks for the heads-up -- I am rechecking my own figuring now.

John Jackson Miller February 6, 2012 at 6:51 PM  

My initial recheck holds up -- I saw the ICV2 figures a few minutes ago and it was 5% higher than what I found, but when I refreshed I saw that they had gone back behind the filewall. Maybe they're still editing.

There has usually been no daylight between the estimates since Diamond changed to reporting final sales back in 2003 -- although there are a number of ways things can go wrong, on the reporting end or on the analysis end. Once Diamond used different order index numbers to key the comics and trades lists; and if, for example, you were keying from actual DC sales figures that accounted for the returnable portion, you'd also get higher numbers (which would be correct for those DC titles but would make everything else too high).

I am always getting additional information so this site is never "done" -- but there is only a little room for the order index number to change this month before the aggregate totals do not square up with the change percentages that Diamond reported overall. As it is, I get the Top 300 Trades up 30%, while ALL Trades, Diamond says, went up 18% -- so the Index Number can't go up much without really growing the gap there.

Mike February 6, 2012 at 11:17 PM  

Thanks very much for the reply.

I've been collecting statement of ownership notices for a bunch of years. I only have about 40 of them but the finding them is half the fun. So when I found your site about 2 years ago I guess by now it was a godsend. You do great work and I enjoy reading your articles.

Mike

John Jackson Miller February 6, 2012 at 11:37 PM  

Actually, Mike -- I'm about to release a big update with those. If you have time, make a list of which titles/years you have them for, drop me a line at jjm [at] comichron.com and I can let you know which I need. I have more than 2,800 but believe it or not, that's not all of them.

I also heard from ICV2 -- they are fixing the problem. Thank you for the heads-up!

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