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September 2012 comics sales: Best quarter in decade

Monday, October 8, 2012

by John Jackson Miller

The estimates for comics sales for September 2012 are now online here at The Comics Chronicles, and they complete a quarter that in non-inflation-adjusted dollar terms was the biggest since at least the mid-1990s. North American comics retailers ordered $123.6 million in comic books and graphic novels in the quarter, beating the previous record set just three months earlier by the second quarter.


Because the third quarter of 2011 contained the start of the DC relaunch, the industry's pace against 2011 actually slowed by two full percentage points: now, the Direct Market is up 16.16% for the year. But it took retailers until the second week of November 2011 to order as much material as they had by September 30 of this year — $346.6 million worth. The market is now running $48 million ahead of its 2011 pace.

With the DC relaunch entering the comparative picture, periodical sales were down last month. Avengers Vs. X-Men #11 led the market and was the only Marvel title in a Top 10 filled with DC Zero Month issues. To date in 2012, retailers have ordered nearly 59 million copies of periodicals appearing within the Top 300; a year-end total of 80 million is tantalizingly withing reach. The Direct Market hasn't been above 80 million copies since 2008.

No repeat appearance for Walking Dead #100 in the rankings; we'll  see the final sales in the end-of-year totals.

Trade paperbacks and graphic novel sales, however, helped keep the market just barely in positive territory for the month — though it's debatable whether the market-leading title, Thanos Quest #1, should be counted with the trades. It is a collected edition, compiling two issues of a microseries released in September and October of 1990 (when they had sales through Capital City Distribution of 23,000 and 19,300 copies respectively) — but alone in the top-ranked trades it has no ISBN number, and when it was collected in January 2000, it was counted as a comic book by Diamond.

But its cover price then, $3.99, was not substantially more than the average comic-book price at the time; the current version's $7.99 is more than double the current average. Inclusion on the graphic novel list has tended over the years to be a function of price. The 2000 version, incidentally, landed in 151st place during its release month, with preorders of more than 12,500 copies; the current version just beats that total, with more than 13,100 copies sold at twice the price. (Movie buzz tends to help!) Counted as a comic book, it would have been in 164th place.

Just as Diamond releases "small" and "indie" publisher charts for comics that sometimes extend the Top 300 lists, Diamond also does so for graphic novels. Rarely do the charts include items not already seen on the larger list, but last month and this month they have. We can actually see down to 464th place, where items are still selling around 280 copies; as the 300th-place level for trades this month was 396 copies, that suggests a very slow drop-off in the "long tail." The trades from 301st to 464th place likely add around 55,000 copies and a million dollars all on their own to industry sales.

The aggregate totals:


TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES
September 2012: 6.51 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: -10%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -3%
Versus 10 years ago this month: -7%
Versus 15 years ago this month: -17%
Q3 2012: 20.51 million copies, +6% vs. Q3 2011
YEAR TO DATE: 58.83 million copies, +15% vs. 2011, -8% vs. 2007, +12% vs. 2002, -22% vs. 1997

ALL COMICS UNIT SALES
September 2012 versus one year ago this month: -8.72%
Q3 2012 versus Q3 2011: +6.06
YEAR TO DATE: +14.26%

---

TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES
September 2012: $22.8 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -7%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +6%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +36%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +18%
Q3 2012: $73.23 million, +11% vs. Q3 2011

YEAR TO DATE: $206.81 million, +17% vs. 2011, +2% vs. 2007, +41% vs. 2002, +15% vs. 1997

ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES
September 2012 versus one year ago this month: -4.42%
Q3 2012 versus Q3 2011: +11.5%
YEAR TO DATE: +17.12%

---

TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
September 2012: $7.15 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +12%
Versus 5 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: -6%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 50 vs. the Top 50: -13%
Q3 2012: $21.99 million, +18% vs. Q3 2011

YEAR TO DATE: $62.61 million, +23% vs. 2011

ALL TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
September 2012 versus one year ago this month: +14.43%
Q3 2012 versus Q3 2011: +15.37%
YEAR TO DATE: +14.16%

---

TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
September 2012: $29.95 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -3%
Versus 5 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: +4%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 50 TPBs: +15%
Q3 2012: $95.21 million, +12% vs. 2011

YEAR TO DATE: $269.41 million, +18% vs. 2011

ALL COMICS AND TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
September 2012 versus one year ago this month: +1.02%
Q3 2012 versus Q3 2011: +12.71%
YEAR TO DATE: +16.16%

---

OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)
September 2012: approximately $38.96 million (subject to revision)
Versus 1 year ago this month: +1%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +19%

Q3 2012: $123.6 million, +13% vs. 2011

YEAR TO DATE: $346.59 million, +16% vs. 2011

The average comic book in the Top 300 cost $3.56, with the average comic book ordered by retailers costing $3.50. $3.50 was the median price of comics, and $2.99 was the most common price.

Updates have been made to the pages listing the #1 comics of each month, the 300th place comics of each month, and the Diamond-era sales records.

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September 2012 sales beat first DC relaunch month on GN strength

Friday, October 5, 2012

by John Jackson Miller

Question #1 all year has been how the industry's fall sales would compare with those of 2011, once the Direct Market began comparing its sales with those of the DC relaunch. With the release of the preliminary September 2012 comics sales data from Diamond Comic Distributors, the answer is: so far, so good.

While retailer orders of periodicals couldn't quite match the gangbusters sales from last September, a healthy rise in graphic novel and trade paperback orders made up the difference. September dollar orders overall rose 1.02%, to nearly $39 million.

Marvel had the top periodical with Avengers Vs. X-Men #11. But DC, with its "Zero Month" promotion, took all the other slots in the Top 10:

TOP 10 COMIC BOOKS
RANK
DESCRIPTION
PRICE

VENDOR
1
Avengers Versus X-Men #11
$3.99

Marvel
2
Batman #0
$3.99

DC
3
Justice League #0
$3.99

DC
4
Green Lantern #0
$2.99

DC
5
Detective Comics #0
$3.99

DC
6
Action Comics #0
$3.99

DC
7
Batman: The Dark Knight #0
$2.99

DC
8
Batman and Robin #0
$2.99

DC
9
Earth 2 #0
$2.99

DC
10
Batman Incorporated #0
$2.99

DC

Marvel also had an entry topping the trade list — the one-shot Thanos Quest #1, which benefited in the unit sales rankings from its $7.99 price. Trade paperback orders were up a whopping 20.18% in units, partially thanks to the number of low-cost offerings in the charts.

TOP 10 GRAPHIC NOVELS & TRADE PAPERBACKS
RANK
DESCRIPTION
PRICE

VENDOR
1
Thanos Quest #1
$7.99

Marvel
2
The Judas Coin HC
$22.99

DC
3
The Walking Dead Volume 8 HC
$34.99

Image
4
Avatar The Last Airbender Volume 3: Promise Part 3
$10.99

Dark Horse
5
Aquaman Volume 1: The Trench HC
$22.99

DC
6
The Tower Chronicles Vol. 1: Geisthawk
$7.99

Legendary
7
The Manhattan Projects Volume 1: Science Bad
$14.99

Image
8
Thief of Thieves Volume 1
$14.99

Image
9
Batman: Arkham City
$16.99

DC
10
Batman: Knightfall Vol. 3: Knightsend
$29.99

DC

The market comparatives for the month, quarter, and year:
COMPARATIVE SALES STATISTICS

DOLLARS
UNITS
SEPTEMBER 2012 VS. AUGUST 2012
COMICS
-11.89%
-9.62%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
-14.31%
-15.83%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
-12.69%
-10.17%
SEPTEMBER 2012 VS. SEPTEMBER 2011
COMICS
-4.42%
-8.72%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
14.43%
20.18%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
1.02%
-6.85%
YEAR-TO-DATE 2012 VS. YEAR-TO-DATE 2011
COMICS
17.12%
14.26%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
14.16%
13.60%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
16.16%
14.21%
THIRD QUARTER 2012 VS. SECOND QUARTER 2012
COMICS
2.36%
0.41%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
1.46%
8.75%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
2.07%
1.06%
THIRD QUARTER 2012 VS. THIRD QUARTER 2011
COMICS
11.50%
6.06%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
15.37%
21.21%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
12.71%
7.19%

(Note: The 3Q 2012 dollar change figures have been revised upward from the initial press release, after Comichron alerted Diamond to an issue with a formula.)

The market shares:


TOP COMIC BOOK PUBLISHERS
PUBLISHER
DOLLAR
SHARE
UNIT
SHARE
DC COMICS
36.41%
41.10%
MARVEL COMICS
31.04%
33.65%
IDW PUBLISHING
6.36%
4.82%
IMAGE COMICS
6.09%
5.56%
DARK HORSE COMICS
4.49%
3.69%
DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT
2.97%
2.97%
BOOM! STUDIOS
1.40%
1.50%
AVATAR PRESS
1.11%
0.87%
ZENESCOPE ENTERTAINMENT
0.96%
1.00%
EAGLEMOSS PUBLICATIONS
0.92%
0.18%
OTHER NON-TOP 10
8.25%
4.67%

DC led both the dollar and unit sales categories, and even appears to have bested its own dollar sales for September 2011 slightly.

With sales to date in 2012 at approximately $346.6 million, the Direct Market is running nearly $48 million ahead of the first nine months of 2011. "Gravy Day" for comics — the day when we pass 2011's sales — continues to look as if it'll come just before Black Friday. (Which, when you think about it, is as it should be!) Current projections peg final 2012 sales at approximately $460 million.

The full data will be available next week. Get it quickly by following Comichron on Twitter and Facebook!

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