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May 2012 comics sales break more records

Monday, June 11, 2012


by John Jackson Miller

The full report of comics orders for May 2012 has been released by Diamond Comic Distributors, and as the initial report here found, the market is hitting on all cylinders. It's also breaking records, according to estimates compiled here at The Comics Chronicles. Click to see the comics sales estimates for May 2012.

As reported on Friday, led by Avengers Vs. X-Men #4, the comic book Direct Market's orders of $44.68 million in comics and graphic novels (at full retail value) is the largest sum seen in a single month since Diamond began reporting Final Order data in February 2003, and it's probably a higher figure seen in any month since 1995 in un-inflation-adjusted dollars.

Now, with the estimates out, we can see that two other Diamond Exclusive Era records have been set. Diamond's Top 300 comics had orders totaling $25.72 million, an increase of 44% over last May and the highest total since Diamond became the sole distributor in 1997. It beats the total of $25.37 million set in December 2008.

Trade paperbacks and hardcovers were exceptionally strong, too, with the DC reboot volumes topping the charts; the Top 300 accounted for $8.27 million, just missing the one-month record from November 2008. That combined with the comics figures to break the other record this month: the Top 300 comics plus the Top 300 graphic novels combined for sales of almost exactly $34 million, beating the previous record from December 2008 by nearly $2 million.

These are dollar sales and not unit sales — though the unit figures came close to setting records, and inflation is not really a huge factor in comparisons over the last two or three years. As we can see on this table of average comics prices, that December 2008 peak found the average weighted price of comics in the Top 300 to be $3.31; this month, the average weighted price was $3.53. That's less than a 7% increase over three and a half years.

The 300th place issue didn't set a record, but it was the second-highest total for issues at that rank since 1996, with more than 4,800 copies sold. We've also now gone a full year where all first place issues each month topped 100,000 copies. So we are, as they say on CNBC, well "off the lows" for the decade.

Again, the Diamond Exclusive Era records are exactly that — they don't take into account the mammoth sales of the early 1990s, the Golden Age, or anything earlier than 1997.

The aggregate totals for the month:

TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES
May 2012: 7.3 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: +42%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -6%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +27%
Versus 15 years ago this month: -8%
YEAR TO DATE: 31.29 million copies, +20% vs. 2011, -11% vs. 2007, +13% vs. 2002, -27% vs. 1997

ALL COMICS UNIT SALES
May 2012 versus one year ago this month: +44.24%
YEAR TO DATE: +20.89%

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TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES
May 2012: $25.72 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +44%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +5%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +60%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +36%
YEAR TO DATE: $108.66 million, +20% vs. 2011, -2% vs. 2007, +39% vs. 2002, +8% vs. 1997

ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES
May 2012 versus one year ago this month: +45.12%
YEAR TO DATE: +21.77%

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TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
May 2012: $8.27 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +47%
Versus 5 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: -17%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 50 vs. the Top 50: +47%
YEAR TO DATE: $33.16 million, +28% vs. 2011

ALL TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
May 2012 versus one year ago this month: +41.14%
YEAR TO DATE: +16.22%

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TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
May 2012: $34 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +45%
Versus 5 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: +1%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +36%
YEAR TO DATE: $141.83 million, +22% vs. 2011

ALL COMICS AND TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
May 2012 versus one year ago this month: +43.76%
YEAR TO DATE: +19.95%

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OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)
May 2012: approximately $44.68 million (subject to revision)
Versus 1 year ago this month: +44%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +9%
YEAR TO DATE: $182.49 million, +20% vs. 2011, +4% vs. 2007

The average price of comics in Diamond's Top 300 was $3.53 as was the cost of the average comic book retailers ordered. $3.50 was the median price of all comics offered in the Top 300, while the most common price remained $2.99.

The numbers already show it, but there's increasing anecdotal evidence of a turnaround out there — including this piece in yesterday's Ventura County Star. The headline alone is of a sort we haven't seen in the business in a long time. Brian Jacoby from Secret Headquarters in Tallahassee, Fla., also provides a very positive view in the comments thread of this ComicsBeat post. "My subscriber list has grown 20% in the past 9 months, beginning on the strength of the excitement for the New 52, and bolstered by other great launches since, like (Miles Morales as) Ultimate Spider-Man and Saga, and the continued influx of Walking Dead- and Avengers-curious people brought in by other media." That's how recoveries have worked in the past: one thing leads to the next.

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