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Relaunch takeaways: Everyone up, but DC boosted industry most

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

by John Jackson Miller

With the release of the August sales estimates for the comic-book direct sales market, we now have a full year of data following the DC relaunch to compare with the year prior to the relaunch. The Comics Chronicles does very little in the way of horse-race analysis, breaking out individual publishers' performance — but this is a topic of certain historical interest for the field, and the new data points allow us to do some calculations that are different from the "year-to-date" ones. We can compare relaunch to pre-relaunch months individually, and together, seeing what change occurred, and which publishers contributed the most to the change. Several takeways:

Overall sales were up significantly. Direct Market orders for comic books and graphic novels from September 2010 to August 2011 (a month that admittedly included the first day of relaunch sales, with Justice League #1) were $405.65 million. From September 2011 to August 2012, that sum was $461.42 million, an increase of nearly 14%. Justice League #1 itself accounted for around $760,000 on Aug. 31, 2011, so if we shift those sales into September 2011, that takes the increase to just over 14% — with retailers ordering about $57.34 million more in printed merchandise than they did the year before. The chart at right compares the months to the year previous (and there we left Justice League with August 2011). As we can see, only in three months did the pre-relaunch months' top those for the same month in the year following — and in all three of these months, we were comparing a four-ship-week month now to a five-ship-week month then.


All major publishers improved. By applying the individual publishers' market shares to Comichron's estimated overall orders for comic books and trade paperbacks in the two periods, we find that every major publisher —Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, IDW, and "everything else" grouping — saw retailers order more material by dollars from September 2011 to August 2012 versus the year before. So there's something to the "rising tide" theory — but not all ships were raised by the same amount, as we see next: 

DC is responsible for two-thirds of the increase in overall sales. Including Justice League #1's August 2011 numbers in its post totals, we find that the increase in DC's overall orders accounts for around 67% of that $57.34 million increase. Again, every publisher finished ahead some — and some, as we'll see, were ahead a lot — but DC's totals contributed the most to the overall change.

You can see its relative performance versus the market in the table below....

Overall comics and graphic novel sales in the direct market, versus one year before

Industry-wide DC All but DC
Sep-11 -1.8% 37.2% -15.3%
Oct-11 11.0% 48.8% -6.6%
Nov-11 18.4% 24.2% 15.6%
Dec-11 -4.8% -2.8% -5.7%
Jan-12 27.5% 62.1% 15.1%
Feb-12 20.1% 27.6% 17.2%
Mar-12 -2.6% 9.1% -7.1%
Apr-12 15.2% 28.1% 10.4%
May-12 43.9% 76.5% 32.0%
Jun-12 10.8% 30.6% 3.1%
Jul-12 20.3% 28.8% 16.6%
Aug-12 17.8% 28.2% 13.2%
12-MONTH TOTAL 13.7% 31.3% 6.5%

From this table — which is partially distorted due to differences in shipping weeks compared to the previous year, most notably in December, March and May — we can see that there has not been a post-relaunch month when DC underperformed the market as a whole. And while there was no month that DC turned what would have been a down month for the rest of the market into an up month overall, it did move the needle by as much as 17 points, in October 2011. We also see that the non-DC sector has been positive for all but one month in 2012. And digging into that sector, we find some other interesting things:


Image, not DC, has bettered its past performance by the most. While Diamond's reported sales of DC products (including Justice League #1) for the past year improved by nearly 33% in dollar terms over the preceding 12-month period, one publisher has actually done better, relative to its past sales: Image. Powered by Walking Dead, Image's post DC-relaunch orders of comic books and graphic novels are up by 36.3% in dollars over the past year. Image's improvement explains 14%, or the second largest amount, of the industry-wide gains in the 12-month period.

Among other publishers, IDW is also up by a lot, the third most-improved large publisher with gains of nearly 29% over the pre-relaunch period. IDW's sales gains account for about 10% of the difference between pre-relaunch and relaunch dollars sold. Marvel's gain was the smallest of all major publishers by ratio, staying relatively nearer to its past performances most months. But we may be doing this same type of comparative report in another year, as following Marvel's new publishing effort.

Periodical sales were up a lot, mostly due to DC. Again, moving Justice League into the post-relaunch grouping, retailers ordered 80.5 million Top 300 comic books in the post-relaunch period, an increase of 20%, or nearly 14 million comic books. DC alone accounted for more than 10 million of those added comics sales, comparing its pre-and post-relaunch totals. Note that the Top 300 measure fails to capture a small percentage of comics sales bubbling under the Top 300 each month — and this too could show disproportionate gains for DC, since it had many titles with heavy reorder activity.

Note that this analysis only takes into account print sales through Diamond to retailers in North America. Bookstore sales, overseas sales, and digital are not accounted for.

All individual months can be found here. In four months, we'll have the full-year comparison ready for 2012 — but the past 12 months are of particular interest, and will likely be referred to again.

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Full August 2012 comics sales estimates online

Monday, September 10, 2012

by John Jackson Miller

The full estimates for Diamond Comic Distributors' sales of comic books and graphic novels to comic shops in North America for August 2012 are online here at The Comics Chronicles, and as reported here on Friday, the market continued posting substantial gains. With orders of $44.6 million at full retail shipping in August, the market had its second best month of the last 16 years in non-inflation-adjusted dollar terms, led only by this past May. Click here to see the full sales estimates for August 2012.

Both this August and last August had five shipping weeks, and last August 31 saw the release of Justice League #1, the first of the DC relaunch titles. Nonetheless, the market handily beat last August's mark with 900,000 more copies of the Top 300 comics ordered, an increase of 15%.

Avengers Vs. X-Men #9 was the top-selling issue of the month. July's blockbuster, Walking Dead #100, charted again with nearly 22,000 copies sold in its second month of release; this, plus the copies from last month, totals over 357,000 — and with the UK copies adding about 10% this reaches the total that Image announced it had sold. The 31,000 Premium edition copies from last month bring the total number of versions of the issue ordered by retailers to 388,000 copies. The record of the Barack Obama Amazing Spider-Man #583 as best-selling comic book of the century — with 530,500 copies ordered by comics shops — thus appears safe. But not only did the new Walking Dead issue, #101 chart, but so did #97-99, so the anniversary event is helping bring attention to the title's other issues.

As happens with five-week months, more titles had more time on the market to ship issues — but even compared with other five-week months, August's "bench" was deep. The 300th-place title set a Diamond Exclusive Era record for that position, with Dark Horse's Strain #7 selling approximately 5,376 copies.

The graphic novel and collected edition market, led by Batman: Earth One, performed even better versus last year's mark, with the Top 300 trades up 21% by dollars. Once again, this figure far outstrips the 15% increase for the overall category, as reported by Diamond, so the list is evidently topheavy. The weighted average price of all  graphic novels ordered in Diamond's Top 25 was $19.52 versus $18.32 last year, and the Top 25 Trades did more volume — more than 87,000 copies versus 62,000 copies.

The comics shop market is on pace for at least a $470 million year, and at $308 million currently, the industry is only $105 million away from beating last year's $413 million end-of-year total, and is expected to surpass it in early November.

The aggregate figures:

TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES
August 2012: 7.1 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: +15%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -8%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +7%
Versus 15 years ago this month: -14%
YEAR TO DATE: 52.32 million copies, +19% vs. 2011, -9% vs. 2007, +13% vs. 2002, -22% vs. 1997

ALL COMICS UNIT SALES
August 2012 versus one year ago this month: +14.22%
YEAR TO DATE: +17.97%

---

TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES
August 2012: $25.53 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +18%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +4%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +40%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +23%
YEAR TO DATE: $184.01 million, +20% vs. 2011, +2% vs. 2007, +41% vs. 2002, +135 vs. 1997

ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES
August 2012 versus one year ago this month: +19.27%
YEAR TO DATE: +17.8%

---

TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
August 2012: $7.71 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +21%
Versus 5 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: -13%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 50 vs. the Top 50: +5%
YEAR TO DATE: $55.46 million, +24% vs. 2011

ALL TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
August 2012 versus one year ago this month: +14.95%
YEAR TO DATE: +14.13%

---

TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
August 2012: $33.23 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +19%
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: +23%
YEAR TO DATE: $239.46 million, +21% vs. 2011

ALL COMICS AND TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
August 2012 versus one year ago this month: +17.8%
YEAR TO DATE: +18.41%

---

OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)
August 2012: approximately $44.6 million (subject to revision)
Versus 1 year ago this month: +18%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +14%
YEAR TO DATE: $307.63 million, +18% vs. 2011

The average price of comics in Diamond's Top 300 was $3.54, and the cost of the average comic book retailers ordered was $3.60. The average comic book in the top 25 was priced at $3.91. The median price of comics offered stayed at $3.50.The most common price for comics went back down to $2.99, after a month at $3.99.

This report completes my sixteenth year of published estimates and analysis of these figures as they release; the first month appeared back in September 1996 in Comics Retailer magazine, when comics distribution was bifurcated between Diamond and Heroes World Distribution. It is at this point probably the longest stretch of consecutive reports on the topic, although Milton Griepp has certainly done far more in total, combining his reports for Capital City Distribution's Internal Correspondence and for ICV2.

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Strong August 2012 comics sales suggest $470 million year

Friday, September 7, 2012


by John Jackson Miller

For most of the year, the industry has been going like gangbusters — but there's always been a slight asterisk in that the year-to-year comparatives were against months before the start of the DC relaunch in 2011. With the August data previewed today by Diamond Comic Distributors, we finally hit a comparison with month — er, a day — from that relaunch, which started with the release of Justice League #1 on Aug. 31, 2011.

That first day's sales, plus strength from other titles, helped the industry erase half its losses for the year in 2011. It was a strong month, up 20% in overall dollars to $37.85 million. So how did August 2012's direct market orders for comic books and graphic novels compare? Up 18.41% over that month, to around $44.6 million. That figure would be just a smidgen less than the number for this past May, which saw the highest non-adjusted sales for one month since the Diamond Exclusive era began in 1997. Both this August and last August had five shipping weeks, as did the record-setting May.

The comparative sales statistics:


COMPARATIVE SALES STATISTICS

DOLLARS
UNITS
AUGUST 2012 VS. JULY 2012
COMICS
6.49%
6.38%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
22.13%
19.48%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
11.23%
7.43%
AUGUST 2012 VS. AUGUST 2011
COMICS
19.27%
14.22%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
14.95%
24.74%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
17.80%
15.09%
YEAR-TO-DATE 2012 VS. YEAR-TO-DATE 2011
COMICS
20.51%
17.97%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
14.13%
12.78%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
18.41%
17.54%


Avengers Vs. X-Men #9 was the top-selling comic book of the month, as seen here:




Top 10 Comic Books

Description
Price

Vendor
1
$3.99

Marvel
2
Avengers Vs X-Men #10
$3.99

Marvel
3
Batman #12
$3.99

DC
4
Justice League #12
$3.99

DC
5
Amazing Spider-Man #692
$5.99

Marvel
6
Before Watchmen: Rorschach #1*
$3.99

DC
7
Avx Vs #5
$3.99

Marvel
8
Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #1*
$3.99

DC
9
Green Lantern #12
$2.99

DC
10
Detective Comics #12
$3.99

DC


...and the Batman Earth One hardcover repeated as the top graphic novel:

Top 10 Graphic Novels & Trade Paperbacks
Description
Price

Vendor
1
$22.99

DC
2
$9.99

Image
3
Swamp Thing Vol. 1: Raise Them Bones
$14.99

DC
4
Superman: Action Comics Vol. 1: Superman Men Of Steel HC
$24.99

DC
5
Batman Vol. 1: The Court Of Owls HC
$24.99

DC
6
Hulk Season One Premiere HC
$24.99

Marvel
7
Scott Pilgrim Volume 1 Color HC
$24.99

Oni
8
Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Sith Hunters
$7.99

Dark Horse
9
The Walking Dead Col. 2: Miles Behind Us
$14.99

Image
10
Fear Itself
$29.99

Marvel

And the market shares:


TOP COMIC BOOK PUBLISHERS
PUBLISHER
DOLLAR
SHARE
UNIT
SHARE
DC COMICS
33.32%
37.12%
MARVEL COMICS
32.42%
37.18%
IDW PUBLISHING
5.88%
4.64%
IMAGE COMICS
5.75%
5.37%
DARK HORSE COMICS
4.92%
3.89%
DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT
3.19%
3.16%
EAGLEMOSS PUBLICATIONS LTD
1.83%
0.40%
BOOM! STUDIOS
1.52%
1.48%
VIZ MEDIA
0.96%
0.41%
ARCHIE COMICS
0.85%
0.82%
OTHER NON-TOP 10
9.35%
5.52%


Batman: Earth One
So the question becomes, will the last four months of the year be able to match the 2011 figures, which had the full DC relaunch going? The biggest month last year was actually not September or October, but last November, once the charts were filled with DC reprintings and reorders. But November's sales were $41.3 million — much less than August 2012, and only about a million dollars more than this summer's four-week months. So far this year, only March 2012 has been beaten by the previous year's total; it's conceivable 2012 could be as 2006 was, a year in which that only happened for one month.

In the aggregate, with the first two thirds of the year now in, the comics shop market is on pace for at least a $470 million year, and at $308 million currently, the industry is only $105 million away from beating last year's $413 million end-of-year total, and is expected to surpass it in early November. At the current pace, the direct market could reach that mark even if Marvel — or DC — published nothing else in the year. So it's pretty much set: 2012 will beat 2011 — and could do so with one publisher tied behind its back!

Full figures next week. Watch for them by following Comichron on Twitter and Facebook!

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