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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%

---

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.

Follow Comichron on Twitter and Facebook, to be alerted when new estimates are released.

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May 2012 biggest month of century for comics market

Friday, June 8, 2012

by John Jackson Miller

The comics industry is hitting on all cylinders as it kicks off its summer sales season. The month of May had Free Comic Book Day, the Avengers movie, Marvel's Avengers Vs. X-Men event, DC's release of its first hardcover collections of its relaunch issues, and continued strong sales from Images Walking Dead trades. The result? What appears, in early estimates based on figures released today by Diamond Comic Distributors, to be a $44.7 million month for comics shop orders of comics and graphic novels — which would make it the single largest month in non-inflation-adjusted dollar terms since Diamond began reporting Final Order data in 2003. Click to see the preliminary rankings for comics for May 2012.

That makes it the biggest month of the century thus far, in unadjusted dollar terms. Since my overall estimates became possible when Diamond began releasing its final order data, it isn't possible to say for certain how a $44.7 million month stacks up against months before February 2003. But the dollar totals at the beginning of the last decade were much lower than they are today, and if you don't adjust for inflation, my expectation is that it probably is a higher figure than any seen since 1995, when there were close to three times as many comics shops. (There isn't much inflation in the new comics market itself in the last couple of years — average cover prices actually went down in 2011.)

It is also, regardless of the overall estimate, the largest year-over-year increase for any month seen since Diamond began reporting Final Order data. Retailers spent 43.76% more on comics and graphic novels this May versus last May. That percentage year-over-year increase, which mostly takes inflation out of play, looks to me to be the largest since probably 1993. Again, we're just talking percentage increase: it's not that this May's sales are remotely comparable with that best year in the history of the business, or several of the years after it. But after 1993, the trajectory was mostly downward, and we never saw year-over-year increases of this percentage size.

The change figures:


COMPARATIVE SALES STATISTICS

DOLLARS
UNITS
MAY 2012 VS. APRIL 2012
COMICS
20.60%
20.93%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
31.65%
22.13%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
24.11%
21.02%
MAY 2012 VS. MAY 2011
COMICS
45.12%
44.24%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
41.14%
24.98%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
43.76%
42.46%
YEAR-TO-DATE 2012 VS. YEAR-TO-DATE 2011
COMICS
21.77%
20.89%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
16.22%
12.77%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
19.95%
20.21%



The caveats are worth noting — this May had five shipping days versus last May's four. Last May was anemic, with Fear Itself and Flashpoint doing less business for Marvel and DC than their main titles are doing now. Graphic novels were suffering then — whereas the DC hardcovers this month, led by Justice League Vol. 1: Origin, were the turbocharge that sector's been waiting on all year. The dollar figures aren't adjusted for inflation. And the end of the year will find the industry comparing against higher numbers from the start of DC's relaunch.

But the caveats are growing perhaps less important now. Year-over-year percentage comparatives in the 40s, which were observed in both comics and graphic novel sectors, are well above anything a fifth week would explain. The unit sales increase would seem to suggest a 7.4 million copy month for comics orders, which would put it close to October 2011, the best month for unit sales during the relaunch. And the industry is now $30 million ahead of where it was after the first five months of 2011. With that much banked, a down year would require seven months averaging about what we did in January 2012. While that isn't mathematically impossible, it is definitely improbable.

Here's the market share data for the month:


TOP COMIC BOOK PUBLISHERS
PUBLISHER
DOLLAR
SHARE
UNIT
SHARE
MARVEL COMICS
35.32%
38.64%
DC COMICS
32.73%
36.72%
IMAGE COMICS
7.19%
6.70%
IDW PUBLISHING
4.80%
4.04%
DARK HORSE COMICS
4.75%
3.48%
DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT
2.55%
2.63%
BOOM! STUDIOS
1.60%
1.60%
EAGLEMOSS PUBLICATIONS
1.08%
0.26%
VIZ MEDIA
0.86%
0.38%
ZENESCOPE ENTERTAINMENT
0.85%
0.73%
OTHER NON-TOP 10
8.27%
4.84%


Finally, it is worth noting this month that Publisher's Weekly has begun compiling and releasing Bookscan figures for, among other categories, graphic novels (as it defines them, which isn't always as the comics market would). The lists appear to be going subscriber only at some point, and don't provide the full picture that Brian Hibbs' end-of-year charts do, but they're an interesting addition to what is out there.

Full estimates will be out next week. Follow Comichron on Twitter and Facebook, to be alerted when they are posted.

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