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Comics finish first half of 2012 well ahead

Friday, July 6, 2012

by John Jackson Miller

The Diamond Comic Distributors sales report for the middle of the comics year always hits right before Comic Con International: San Diego, which itself is about the future of the business; we see where we've been right before we see where we're going. Last year, the industry arrived in San Diego with the first half of 2011 off 8% versus the year before; this year, orders by Direct Market comics shops in North America are up more than 18% year-to-date. It's quite the turnaround. Retailers have already ordered more material through June — nearly $223 million in retail dollars— than they did in last year through July.

Marvel's Avengers Vs. X-Men #6 led the charts, with four DC Before Watchmen debut issues landing in fifth through eight place. Click to see the preliminary top sellers for June. June 2011 was a five-week month versus four shipping weeks for June 2012, and the beats were a little smaller than we've seen — but periodical units and dollars were still up double-digits. All the comics in the Top 10 were priced at $3.99.

On the trade paperback side, the release of Walking Dead Vol. 16: A Larger World both topped the charts. There was a slight year-to-year drop in graphic novel units, but not dollars — suggesting that maybe with the DC hardcovers and a new Walking Dead release priced higher than some of the earlier backlist releases, the average price for each graphic novel ordered increased some.

Retailers appear to have ordered $40.5 million in comic books and trade paperbacks from Diamond in the month, a sum that brings the second quarter orders to more than $20 million higher than the same three-month period last year. For the year to date, all Direct Market sales are more than $34 million ahead of the first half of 2011.

But the comparison observers may be more interested in isn't between the first six months of this year and the first six months of 2011 — but rather, with the last six months, which included the DC reboot. Direct Market orders were $224.92 million from July 2011 to December 2011 — so even with the reboot titles reaching double-digit issue numbers, the market is down less than 1% from that blockbuster six-month period. The reasons are several: Marvel has Avengers Vs. X-Men on the playing field, and graphic novels are rebounding with the DC hardcovers and Walking Dead. But the fact we can compare at all is significant, because the second half of the year has outperformed the previous first half every year for the last 10 years — and by an average of 10%. 

A letdown in the second half of 2012 would thus run contrary to recent history, even in our bad years. At present, a completely flat second half of 2012 would bring the year in nearly at $450 million, or up 8%. It would also be the best year of the century so far. With Walking Dead #100 and "Marvel Now" in the mix, the numbers for the second half hold the potential to be as interesting to watch as those from second half of 2011.

The aggregate change figures:


COMPARATIVE SALES STATISTICS

DOLLARS
UNITS
JUNE 2012 VS. MAY 2012
COMICS
-6.28%
-6.50%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
-15.42%
-14.72%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
-9.35%
-7.16%
JUNE 2012 VS. JUNE 2011
COMICS
14.97%
12.14%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
2.51%
-3.66%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
10.74%
10.79%
YEAR-TO-DATE 2012 VS. YEAR-TO-DATE 2011
(FIRST HALF 2012 VS. FIRST HALF 2011)
COMICS
20.47%
19.21%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
13.49%
9.53%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
18.16%
18.40%
SECOND QUARTER 2012 VS. FIRST QUARTER 2012
COMICS
16.79%
14.86%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
23.81%
18.98%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
18.97%
15.18%
SECOND QUARTER 2012 VS. SECOND QUARTER 2011
COMICS
15.81%
23.34%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
23.33%
11.53%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
18.14%
22.33%


The market shares are here:

TOP COMIC BOOK PUBLISHERS
PUBLISHER
DOLLAR
SHARE
UNIT
SHARE
MARVEL COMICS
33.77%
37.82%
DC ENTERTAINMENT
33.03%
38.23%
IMAGE COMICS
7.36%
6.45%
IDW PUBLISHING
6.22%
4.16%
DARK HORSE COMICS
4.51%
3.49%
DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT
2.82%
2.35%
BOOM! STUDIOS
1.25%
1.49%
EAGLEMOSS PUBLICATIONS LTD
1.21%
0.28%
AVATAR PRESS INC
0.84%
0.87%
TOP SHELF PRODUCTIONS
0.83%
0.32%
OTHER NON-TOP 10
8.16%
4.55%

Diamond will release the Top 300s at the beginning of next week; I am headed to San Diego myself (where I'll be signing for Dark Horse and Del Rey) but will try to get the analysis online if at all possible. Be sure to follow Comichron on Twitter and Facebook!

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