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Leap day propels comics to best February in years

Friday, March 9, 2012

by John Jackson Miller


As you might expect from a site with a name like The Comics Chronicles,  we pay special attention to the calendar — and thus took special note of the fact that last month was one of those one-in-28-year Februaries with five Wednesdays. This is why, last month, we cautioned that just as this January was up against an abnormal January (given Diamond Comic Distributors' shipping changes in January 2011), this February wouldn't be a simple comparison either. As our volatility primer notes, retailers order on average 11% more comics by units in five-week months than they do in four-week months.


Still, with each passing week, the case for great improvement in the comics market becomes stronger. Diamond reported combined comics and trade paperback dollar sales were up 20.11% for the month, and the 19.63% bump in periodical units is more than what we would expect to gain from a fifth week. Plus, many of the comics that missed their shipments in January 2011 made it out in February 2011, making last February artificially stronger. So this Feburary's gains look real — and combined with January, we're getting a clearer picture. Click to see the preliminary rankings from February 2012.

Working from my early estimate of between $36 and $37 million for Diamond's sales of all comics and trade paperbacks in February, we are seeing the best two-month percentage start to the year since Diamond began reporting final orders in 2003. The 23.49% year-to-date increase is likely the best since at least 2002, when Wolverine: The Origin and The Dark Knight Strikes Again were wrapping up. The increase actually appears slightly stronger than that year, although there's not enough data from 2002 to say for sure; if so, then this could be the best start of the year in percentage terms since the market peak year of 1993, after which it was mostly all downhill. (I'd have to look into it more, but I'm not sure the bumps from "Age of Apocalypse" and "Marvel Versus DC" in 1995-96 were enough to overcome the loss of shops.)

And 2012's two-month dollar total is higher that any of the years of the mid-2000s boomlet, partially due to inflation: comparing without inflation, the $69 million start to the year is the largest since probably those years of 1995 or 1996, when there were many more comics shops than there are now.

DC again took all top 10 slots in the charts, led by Justice League #6. Marvel took the dollar and unit share titles for the month; Diamond referred to the build-up to the "Avengers Versus X-Men" event in its news release.

The top-selling trade paperback or graphic novel was the Batman: Gates of Gotham collection.

Here are the aggregate change figures from Diamond:


COMPARATIVE SALES STATISTICS

DOLLARS
UNITS
FEBRUARY 2012 VS. JANUARY 2012
COMICS
10.84%
8.36%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
11.45%
11.07%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
11.03%
8.55%
FEBRUARY 2012 VS. FEBRUARY 2011
COMICS
22.26%
19.63%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
15.65%
11.24%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
20.11%
18.97%
YEAR-TO-DATE 2011 VS. YEAR-TO-DATE 2010
COMICS
26.71%
25.94%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
16.93%
9.90%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
23.49%
24.61%


And here are the market shares:


TOP COMIC BOOK PUBLISHERS
PUBLISHER
DOLLAR
SHARE
UNIT
SHARE
MARVEL COMICS
35.92%
38.61%
DC ENTERTAINMENT
29.47%
35.26%
IDW PUBLISHING
6.66%
5.62%
IMAGE COMICS
5.53%
4.88%
DARK HORSE COMICS
4.98%
4.06%
DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT
4.20%
3.82%
BOOM! STUDIOS
1.61%
1.40%
VIZ MEDIA
1.10%
0.49%
EAGLEMOSS PUBLICATIONS LTD
1.08%
0.25%
ARCHIE COMIC PUBLICATIONS
1.03%
1.11%
OTHER NON-TOP 10
8.43%
4.50%

IDW's dollar share appears to be a new record for the publisher, besting its old one by more than a full percentage point. It is partially attributable to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Vol. 1 collection, which broke the top 10.

Barring a collapse in March, this will be a year without a Dead Quarter. Enjoy. Full estimates are expected next week.

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