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July 2012 comics sales online; Walking Dead #100 posts 366k

Monday, August 6, 2012

by John Jackson Miller

(REVISED to reflect the separate entry for the Chromium Edition)

The full data from Diamond Comic Distributors for July is out, and The Comics Chronicles estimates that the distributor  shipped more than 335,000 $3.99 copies of Walking Dead #100 to North American comics shops in July. It's the highest one-month total for a comic book in more than four years. There are an additional nearly 31,000 copies of the $9.99 Chromium edition — which Diamond reported as a distinct item; if added, that takes the total to just over 366,000 copies. Click to see the estimates for comics sold in July.

This figure is, as expected, below the 383,612-copy figure announced by Image several weeks ago. This is perfectly normal. The Diamond total includes only comics that the distributor shipped to North American retailers in July. It does not include later reorders, nor its overseas sales — and obviously it doesn't include comics Image sold to the newsstand and through other special markets. British sales customarily add an additional 10% or so to North American sales; they could cover the difference all on their own and then some.

The largest single-month total previously posted at Diamond in the 21st Century was the 352,800-copy first-month figure for the "Barack Obama Spider-Man," Amazing Spider-Man #583, from January 2009. The comic book — which didn't have overseas copies in its total either — charted at #1 again the next month and continued to sell through the year, eventually rolling up 530,500 copies sold through Diamond in North America in calendar 2009.

Thus, a look down the one-month totals puts Walking Dead #100's $3.99 copies behind ASM #583 — and both behind Image's other multi-cover chart-topper, Darkness #11 from December 1997, which had preorders of 357,000 copies. With the Chromium cover included, Walking Dead tops them both — as the records chart reflects. As with ASM #583, Walking Dead #100 would be expected to continue having sales throughout the year; Comichron will not update the Top Comics of the 21st Century list until January.

There are several gray areas when it comes to ranking bestsellers: One — an obvious one since I missed it myself on the first posting a couple of hours ago — is the Chromium edition. At $10, Diamond could not merge its order code with the other titles. Should it, then, be a distinct item for purposes of an overall ranking?

In practice, the answer is no. Marvel had newsstand and deluxe editions in the 1990s with different prices; for purposes of determining an overall issue's reach, they've always been aggregated. In more recent practice, while the Combo editions of the DC relaunch issues have been listed separately by Diamond, I have combined them in the all-time rankings because the books are essentially the same.

A ten-dollar variant presents a somewhat unusual situation. For years, the higher-priced Dynamic Forces variants for many titles that appeared in the Diamond charts were really not considered as part of the sales story for the main book; there, we had a difference not just in cover and price, but in who was offering the title. My expectation is that, since Image is offering the variant, it probably would be counted together at the end of the year — but it might be helpful to consider an asterisk, to show that a tenth of the book's units actually accounted for a disproportionate amount of its dollars. There may have been 366,000 copies ordered this month, but they went for $1.65 million, not $1.46 million.
 
Second: should reprints count? The Obama Spider-Man's total included several variants that were actually "snap reprints," wherein the publisher had quickly gone back to press; should those be counted differently from Walking Dead's variants, which were printed and released simultaneously? Whatever your answer, it really doesn't matter in practical terms. At one time, Diamond did break out later printings separately in its rankings — but it has been aggregating them under one order code for several years now.

And as a functional matter, how is a snap reprint that appears a week or two after a comic's initial release any different from the weekly variant-cover printings of X-Men, Vol. 2 #1 from 1991? Those have always been aggregated in rankings before.  X-Men Vol. 2, #1 with its 8 million copies remains the best-selling comic book of all time (although many retailers would note that figure does not reflect the number of copies actually reaching consumers) — and there, the total includes variants published over the course of five weeks.

I think where you don't count reprints is when the package becomes substantially different, beyond changes to the cover. Star Wars #1 in 1977 went to more than 1 million copies with its reprintings — but those printings were identical but for changes to the black plate on the cover and the indicia. You wouldn't, however, count the treasury-sized or other collected edition reprintings — any more than you'd count the Marvel Must Haves version of Ultimate Spider-Man #1 with it. So aggregation of similar packages released within the same year seems to make sense. Yes, collectors still want to know how many versions of each edition exist — but as a matter of ranking the sales success of a single release, expect any total to include reprints bundled in.

Regardless: Image's placement at #1 this month is the first time that's happened since November 2002, when Masters of the Universe #1 took the top spot. (There was that 1980s revival, once upon a time.) Walking Dead #100 accounted for 1 out of every 19 comic books retailers ordered within the Top 300 in July. Elsewhere on the list, the 300th-place title had orders of 4,187 copies, the second-highest total seen for a four-week month; the records page now distinguishes between four- and five-week months for the purposes of 300th-place titles, which are much affected by the extra volume a fifth week adds.

As reported last Friday, the market overall continued to percolate, up nearly 20% over the previous year. A gap is developing between the sales of the Top 300 graphic novels and graphic novel sales overall; the Top 300s for the last seven months are up 25% over last year, whereas everything in the category is only up 14%. That suggests a list that's been top-heavy with unit volume and/or dollars. The Batman: Earth One hardcover had three-quarters of a million dollars worth of orders all on its own this month.

The aggregate figures:

TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES
July 2012: 6.9 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: +17%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -10%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +14%
Versus 15 years ago this month: -16%
YEAR TO DATE: 45.22 million copies, +19% vs. 2011, -9% vs. 2007, +14% vs. 2002, -23% vs. 1997

ALL COMICS UNIT SALES
July 2012 versus one year ago this month: +15.24%
YEAR TO DATE: +18.59%

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TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES
July 2012: $24.9 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +23%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +4%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +46%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +23%
YEAR TO DATE: $158.48 million, +20% vs. 2011, +1% vs. 2007, +42% vs. 2002, +13% vs. 1997

ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES
July 2012 versus one year ago this month: +22.09%
YEAR TO DATE: +20.72%

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TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
July 2012: $7.13 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +20%
Versus 5 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: +5%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 50 vs. the Top 50: +70%
YEAR TO DATE: $47.75 million, +25% vs. 2011

ALL TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
July 2012 versus one year ago this month: +16.89%
YEAR TO DATE: +13.98%

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TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
July 2012: $32.03 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +22%
Versus 5 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: +4%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +26%
YEAR TO DATE: $206.23 million, +21% vs. 2011

ALL COMICS AND TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
July 2012 versus one year ago this month: +20.46%
YEAR TO DATE: +18.51%

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OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)
July 2012: approximately $40.04 million (subject to revision)
Versus 1 year ago this month: +20%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +9%
YEAR TO DATE: $263.03 million, +19% vs. 2011

The cost of comic books has been sneaking up again. The average price of comics in Diamond's Top 300 was $3.61 as was the cost of the average comic book retailers ordered; this is the highest figure since December 2010, before DC began making its price cuts. The most common price for comics went back up to $3.99, a figure not seen since January 2011. The weight of the $3.99 Walking Dead played a role in affecting the weighted sales figure. Meanwhile, the overall averages may be seeing the effects of Marvel and DC, which tend to have lower cover prices than smaller publishers, releasing fewer different titles. The median price of comics offered stayed at $3.50.

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