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January 2013 Comichron Flashbacks: From Justice League to Superboy

Friday, February 22, 2013


by John Jackson Miller

It's been a couple of years since I've done any Comichron Flashback columns, but with the January 2013 data now reported, I wanted to look at resuming the effort during months when time allows.

I've added a snapshot of what one retailer is charging for the top-sellers; Comichron isn't a price guide site, but sometimes it's interesting to see how once-popular titles held up.

As always, this reflects what Diamond Comic Distributors (and, in earlier times, other distributors) sold to retailers, not what the retailers themselves sold. In recent times, retail inventory is much more tightly controlled, so the numbers are more representative of actual sales. In the distant past, not so much.

For comparison with the past, this January's top title, Superior Spider-Man #1,  had first-month orders of over 188,000 copies, as seen in the charts here.

1 YEAR AGO


January 2012 was the best January since 2008 for comics orders, thanks to the ongoing DC relaunch, which was in its fifth month.

Justice League #5 was the top seller, with nearly 138,600 copies sold in its first month; another 6,100 copies of the Combo edition were sold. By the end of the year, the total for the main edition was 148,500 copies.

The top-selling graphic novel was the Batman: Through the Looking Glass hardcover. It had initial orders of more than 6,400 copies; that would rise to 7,400 by the end of the year.

Click to read the original Comichron analysis for the month. And check out the sales chart for the month here.


5 YEARS AGO

January 2008's top seller was was Hulk #1, with initial orders of 133,895 copies in the direct market. Later months brought it up to at least 139,800 copies. There were irregularities in Diamond's initial reporting that month that led to a revised list being published; in that list, Hulk #1's orders were combined with its Phoenix Comicon variant, allowing it to leapfrog the first "Brand New Day" issue of Amazing Spider-Man, #546. It came in second, at 127,856 copies in its first month.

As of the time of this posting, the main version of Hulk #1 had an aftermarket price of $8 in Near Mint at MyComicShop.com.

On the trade paperback front, Savage Sword of Conan Vol. 1 topped the list, with more than 6,200 copies ordered.

Click to read the original Comichron analysis for the month. And check out the sales chart for the month here.

10 YEARS AGO

The big comics news in January 2003 remained Jim Lee’s “Hush”: Batman #611 topped the list with preorders of approximately 129,400 copies; reorder months brought it at least to 142,500 copies. It was the second issue of the storyline to top the list, and six more issues would be in the #1 position before it was over.

At the time of this posting, Batman #611 had an aftermarket price of $2.40 in Very Fine at MyComicShop.com.

CrossGen was still active at this point; Sojourn #19 being its top entry at 80th place and 24,600 copies. DC and Marvel fielded smaller slates in this winter month — 76 new comics for DC and 49 for Marvel — resulting in a whopping 51 publishers placing titles in the Top 300, including names such as Gutsoon, Geek Punk, Peter Four, Girl Twirl, and Lumakick, to name a few. That compares with 22 publishers in January 2008’s list.

And January 2003’s top trade paperback? A little book called 30 Days of Night — selling 6,200 copies to retailers, the first of many. It stayed on the top trades list for months.

Check out the sales chart for the month here.

15 YEARS AGO

January 1998 was deep within the comics recession, a year in which the “dead quarter” very definitely lived up to its name. Marvel was still fresh off its return of Avengers, Captain America, Fantastic Four, and Iron Man from its “Heroes Reborn” Jim Lee/Rob Liefeld experiment. Second and third issues of those titles, renumbered as “Volume 3,” each made Diamond’s Top 10, garnering preorders of between 108,000 and 139,000 copies.

But the top-charting titles of the month were both issues of X-Men — Uncanny X-Men #353 and “adjectiveless” X-Men #73, at 154,400 and 148,600 preordered copies respectively. Spawn #70 was in fourth place, the first of four Image titles in the top 12 (including Witchblade, Darkness, and Curse of Spawn).

At the time of this posting, Uncanny X-Men #353 had an aftermarket price of $2.30 in Near Mint at MyComicShop.com.

DC’s only items in the Top 25 were three JLA titles. But DC outpaced Marvel in the overall dollar shares, 27.56% to 27.41% — a consequence of DC’s much larger backlist of trade paperbacks in those days; in terms of sheer numbers of releases, Marvel was relatively later to the TPB party. Marvel’s comics line was thinner as well in this Chapter 11 era for the publisher: DC had 77 titles in the Top 300, while Marvel had only 50.

Marvel, DC, Image, and Dark Horse accounted for 70% of dollars of product preordered in the month. There were 40 publishers placing books in the Top 300, as opposed to 22 in January 2008. While Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse dollar shares were lower in January 1998 than they are today, Image’s was higher, at 11% — WildStorm still a part of the company at that point.

The top-selling trade paperback was the Divine Right Collected Edition from Image; this was the last month that Diamond did not report sales figures with trades, so we don't know how many copies it sold. In February 1998, Diamond began reporting sales data for trades.

Check out the sales chart for the month here.

20 YEARS AGO

January 1993's top seller was Image's Darker Image #1. Capital City Distribution sold 257,125 copies of the issue by Sam Keith and Rob Liefeld, which included the first appearances of The Maxx and Deathblow. At Diamond, the title also ruled, selling more than 30% more copies than the #2 title, Amazing Spider-Man #375. (At Capital, Darker Image sold 24% more.)

While we don't know details on Image's overall sales, we do know a bit more about Marvel's in this era. Archival documentation pegs the Direct Market sales of Amazing Spider-Man #375 at 914,300 copies, not counting newsstand: that's enough, according to this report, to make it the top-selling issue of Amazing Spider-Man of all time to date.

Given the relative position of it and Darker Image at Diamond and Capital, that would seem to put Darker Image at between 1.1 and 1.2 million copies in the Direct Market. Overall, though, since Marvel had a stronger newsstand presence than Image did — plus subscribers — Amazing Spider-Man #375 probably actually had more copies in circulation.

As speculators in those days learned, a lot of copies doesn't make for investment value. At the time of this posting, Darker Image #1 had an aftermarket price of $1.10 in Near Mint at MyComicShop.com. Amazing Spider-Man #375 fares somewhat better, at $4 in Near Mint.

At Diamond, the top graphic novel was the first Books of Magic collection.

Check out the sales rankings for the the overall year here.

25 YEARS AGO

January 1988's top seller at Capital City was Uncanny X-Men #229. The issue had orders through that distributor of 71,800 copies. According to archival sources, total Direct Market orders for the issue were 296,100 copies, with another 109,800 copies moved through the newsstand; all channels, including subscriptions, brought the title to orders of just over 450,000 copies.

At the time of this posting, Uncanny X-Men #229 had an aftermarket price of $3.30 in Near Mint at MyComicShop.com.

But while Marvel had the top title, DC led the market share by what Capital City called "a record" 13 percentage points, 42.62% to 29.62%. According to the distributor, Marvel cut its production back greatly for January 1988 and increased prices on most titles from 75¢ to $1: DC also led graphic novel sales with the $50 Watchmen hardcover limited edition. Capital appears to have sold 2,322 copies of the book in the month, meaning it made 62% more money than Uncanny #229 made.

30 YEARS AGO ... and more


We're back before the Direct Market distributor charts — the ones I have from Capital start running data in 1984 — but January 1983's top seller was almost certainly Uncanny X-Men #169. The average issue of the title sold 336,824 copies in 1983 according to postal statements, but it's early enough in the year this issue's sales are probably closer to 1982's figures, which were lower. Between 325,000 and 330,000 copies through all channels seems a good estimate.

At the time of this posting, Uncanny X-Men #169 had an aftermarket price of $3.40 in Near Mint at MyComicShop.com.

Once we get to 35 years ago, the data is spare, and it becomes trickier to judge what items came out in the same month. (I'm not looking at cover dates here, but likely ship dates, to keep things squared up with present practice.) The known information is incomplete enough that most of what follows is conjecture. A good guess for January 1978, however, would be Marvel's Star Wars #10, which between newsstand and Whitman bagged editions would have likely sold close to 400,000 copies.

Back 40 years ago, there was no issue in January 1973 of Archie (which appeared from postal statements to lead the industry in 1973, still hanging onto its cartoon publicity). That'd likely put Superman #262, whose average annual sales were 309,318 copies per issue, on top.

And again, relying on the Postal Statements, for 45 years ago we're likely looking at Superman (636,000 copies average in the year) — but if there wasn't a Superman issue shipping in January, which appears to be likely, then we'd probably be looking at Archie #180 (566,587 copies average).

And 50 years ago we don't have Superman data, because DC didn't publish it — but it's likely the industry leader at around 640,000 copies. If not that, then Superboy — likely, issue #103, selling slightly fewer copies.

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Overall print comics market topped $700 million in 2012

Sunday, February 17, 2013

by John Jackson Miller

While the 2012 Year-In-Review data for the North American comics shop market appeared here in January, there's of course a wider world out there — and while the "Direct Market" does continue to account for almost two thirds of print sales, it helps to put things into a larger perspective.

As in past years, Brian Hibbs has gotten access to the actual sales for trade paperbacks and graphic novels in 2012 as recorded by Bookscan, a service of Nielsen — and I have again used that material as a tool to figuring out the larger world. You can see my 2011 report here, as well as a grid with all years on the site. It also informs the graphic at lower right, which is a visual representation of the relative sizes of each category, depicted by physical area.

Bookscan draws upon cash-register data from many member bookstores — and from Amazon — and its share of industry sales on individual titles varies. The service reportedly covers something like 75% of bookstore sales, but that varies depending on the item; Bookscan appears to capture more sales for some titles and less for others, but Hibbs' list does go all the way down to the single digits for copies sold, so it's a fair starting point for analysis.

Hibbs finds that the top 750 items, once non-comics items are weeded out, sold for $89.92 million at full retail, up 12.4% from last year. That's a nice improvement, but the "long tail" shrank, with sales of the 23,365 graphic novels in Bookscan's report down 6% to $164.4 million.

Armed with that, as in past years, I have calculated an "all-industry number. Here's how it works.

• The Top 300 comic books each month in the Direct Market are known to have had orders totaling $285 million. The Top 300s capture most, but not all the comics activity; if 5% of sales fell outside the Top 300, North American periodical sales in comics shops would be close to $300 million.

• Periodicals are also sold in the newsstand. Marvel's postal Statements of Ownership have not yet appeared to my knowledge, and Archie's are only now coming out, but I expect we'll find little change in that market: it's a very small portion of sales. Throwing in the few million dollars that remain for postal subscription sales of comics, we're probably looking at around $30 million in North American periodical sales outside of comics shops.

So that's about $330 million for comic books. That's up about 10% from my guess from last year. On to graphic novels, a term which for our purposes here includes softcover and hardcover collected editions:

• We know that in 2012 the Top 300 Graphic Novels each month had orders totaling $84.6 million in the comics shop market. That only captures a bit more than half of the overall amount Diamond shipped, however; the overall figure for 2012 is probably in the neighborhood of $175 million.

That gives us $475 million for the Direct Market overall, of which about 70% comes from single-issue comics.

•  Now to graphic novels outside the comics shops. Hibbs' data finds $164 million in graphic novels sold by Bookscan. He's had to make some judgment calls because of Nielsen's classifications: he's kept in the market-leading Dork Diaries, which I probably wouldn't, but may have excised things I'd have kept, too. As my former boss Chet Krause once said, the only category that fits every product in a field is "miscellaneous."

• If Bookscan covers between 75-80% of the market, that could mean there's another $46 million or so in graphic novel sales outside Bookscan.

That would give us $210 million for all graphic novels sold outside comics shops in 2012 — about 55% of the total $385 million in graphic novel sales for the year.

All together, we'd be looking at around $715 million for all North American comics and graphic novels: up about $35 million from 2011. And that growth is all in the comics shop market, which offset losses in the mass market. In 2011, the comics shop market was about 60% of the overall market for print sales; in 2012, it was closer to two thirds. The synopsis:


North American Comic Book and Graphic Novel Print Edition Sales, 2012
 (all figures estimated)


Comic books Graphic novels
Comic Shops                       ("Direct Market") $300 million $175 million
Mass Market Booksellers reporting to Bookscan - $164 million
Mass Market Booksellers not reporting to Bookscan $30 million $46 million
Sector total $330 million $385 million

Overall total: Around $715 million

There's nothing in the the Bookscan comic book category despite Bookscan-reporting places like Barnes & Noble selling periodicals: as magazines, comic books get ISSN or International Standard Serial Numbers rather than ISBN book numbers, and aren't tracked through that mechanism.

It's important to note that the above chart does not include at least three important groupings:

1) International sales. Diamond UK sells about 10% again its U.S. direct market sales of comics and graphic novels to comics shops in the United Kingdom — so that's another $45 million or so that publishers here realize. This may or may not expand out to the UK bookstore market the same way, given rights issues, but if it did, the United Kingdom could add $70 million or more to the U.S. total, meaning U.S. print products are bringing in three quarters of a billion dollars annually.

2) Library sales. Libraries make their graphic novel purchases outside the above systems, and I'm told these account for a considerable amount. In the absence of specifics, however, it's hard to guess how much.

3) Digital sales. This is what everyone wants to know about, despite being a sector that very little hard data is made public for. It's clear from reports that digital sales ballooned for comics in 2012, at least tripling; that would put them north of $75 million, or a little less than 10% of the whole market if it were simply combined with the print totals. With print sales increasing, too, the case for optimism is strengthened: digital appears to be on its way to becoming a third leg of the stool, alongside periodical and graphic novel formats.

So the figures you see above may be considered minimums, considering those other sources. For just the traditional categories, I've entered $700-730 million on the table for 2012 on the Yearly Comics Sales page, but I think the estimate is far more likely to be low than high. That figure, by the way, is the highest seen since probably 1993 or 1994, although those markets were far larger considering the effects of inflation since.


A notable: For what I think may be the first time in years, the Direct Market's graphic novel dollar orders exceeded the value of the Bookscan orders (but not the entire mass market). I attribute it at least in part to the huge traffic in Walking Dead trades: comics shops ordered at least 74,000 copies of the first volume in 2012, versus 38,000 copies through Bookscan's retailers. That's a big difference.

As always, these calculations are rough, and subject to revision as I get more data. The biggest question marks above have to do with the portion of the mass market outside Bookscan, first and foremost — and then the size of the newsstand market. The Direct Market figures are pretty solid, comparatively; we simply know a lot more about them. But the twin lessons again are that the world of comics is much larger than the comics shop — and that the comics shops still have the larger portion of the overall pie.

2/18 UPDATE: A number of sites today are leading with the whole-dollars comparison with the 1990s made a couple of paragraphs ago — which I deliberately didn't headline here, because, as I mentioned above, once you account for inflation, the similarity goes away. But for folks who would like to see the math:

The most frequently cited figure for sales in 1993, the market's all-time peak, is $850 million. That amounts to an inflation-adjusted $1.35 billion, nearly double the size of the current market. This should not surprise us, given the fact there were 12 distributors and nearly four times as many retail accounts ordering comics as exist today. But even the $1.35 billion is an imperfect analog, though, because comics have increased in price since the mid-1990s faster than the CPI rate. The average comic book retailers ordered in January 1995 cost $2.20; now it’s $3.58. That’s 20 cents higher than what the CPI calculator says it should be. So 1993's comics-inflation-adjusted figure could be even higher!

The best way to take inflation completely out of the picture is to forget dollars and focus on units. We just don’t tend to do that when trade paperbacks and hardcovers are in the mix, because their pricing varies so much. We know that in 2012 we’re selling way fewer comics than in the early 1990s, and way more graphic novels (and, obviously, digital versions); the net being that we’re still quite a lot behind the early 1990s in adjusted dollars.

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January 2013 dollar orders double total from ten years ago

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

by John Jackson Miller

As reported here Friday, January comics sales performed the rare feat of beating December's sales; now, with the release of new data from Diamond Comic Distributors, we can see the numbers behind the headline. Click to see Comichron's comics sales estimates for January 2013.

As also noted Friday, despite the calendar, January is a four shipping week month, just like January 2012 was. As a result of Diamond taking Christmas week off, most material that left its warehouses during the week after Christmas was counted as part of December, even though it had an on-sale date of January 2. But Direct Market comics and graphic novel orders, led by Superior Spider-Man #1 and Fables Vol. 18, were still up nearly $9 million over last January to $41 million, and unit sales of comics within the Top 300 were up nearly a million copies to 6.72 million.

Another interesting fact is that total retail orders in dollars have almost doubled the level they were at ten years ago. Diamond began reporting Final Orders in February 2003, permitting me to calculate the Overall Comics and Graphic Novel sales for the entire Direct Market; with this month's data, we finally have a full ten years. I was able to make an educated guess at January 2003 to complete that year's data, and it looks like this January's total is up 96%, or more than $20 million, over that same month ten years ago. (Look for the ten-year overall comparison on this site now with each monthly report.)

That shows some significant progress, as according to the U.S. government's inflation calculator, inflation rose 25% from 2003 to 2012. That means about three quarters of the gain comes from two sources: new material, and however much comics have increased in price faster than inflation. There's definitely new material involved. This January saw 20% more individual comics sold than in January 2003 just in the Top 300. More importantly, though, the graphic novel backlist is much larger. The material below the bottom of the comics and graphic novel charts in January 2003 accounted for only $3.5 million. If you shorten this January's charts to be the same length (they only went to the Top 50 graphic novels back then) then the "off-the-charts" material today accounts for $14.5 million, an increase of $11 million!

Another explanation for January's growth over time can be found in the fact publishers are more aggressive in the winter than they once were. Retailer Brian Hibbs of Comics Experience in San Francisco, long a columnist when I was editing Comics & Games Retailer, noted after that piece ran that there never really was a "Dead Quarter" as far as retailers were concerned; that it was all a matter of publishers holding high-profile titles back. I do believe there are some demand-driven effects on the retailers' side: few people get to comics shops in snowstorms, and I've heard over the years that accounts tend to close more frequently at the end of the year, for tax or whatever reasons. But I agree that the vast majority of the issue is publishers not taking the field with high-profile titles or even their full regular slates.

In years past, I've noted many times here that January is the time that small publishers "bubbling under" the main charts are most likely to break into the Top 300. What's remarkable is the extent to which that trend has reversed. January 2013 saw only fourteen publishers in the Top 300, the lowest number in the Diamond Exclusive Era. Take a look at the record:

PUBLISHERS WITH ENTRIES
IN THE TOP 300 IN JANUARY
1998: 40
1999: 51
2000: 37
2001: 48
2002: 52
2003: 51
2004: 51
2005: 44
2006: 31
2007: 28
2008: 25
2009: 27
2010: 26
2011: 24
2012: 21
2013: 14

That's right: In 2013, January has gone from being a month where the major publishers tended not to take the field to a month that resembles any other. In addition to the 85 and 84 entries in the list that Marvel and DC respectively had, Image, IDW, Dark Horse, and Dynamic Forces (Dynamite) combined to chart 100 titles in January. Last month, the four combined for 118 entries, which may be a record high. (Our unit count across time page needs updating, but you can see some general trends.)

And where January consequently used to have some incredibly low totals for the titles at the bottom of the charts — as low as 660 copies for the 300th place title in January 2001 — this January's total was 4,257 copies for the 300th place book. That's up from 2,606 copies last January, a month that was pretty darn good on its own. It looks like there are at least 440 comic books above the 1,000-copy level at Diamond in January 2013. Click to see the 300th place issues over time.

Publisher willingness to bring larger slates to market in the winter would appear to be a good indicator of increased confidence in the Direct Market. So as long as publishers continue to feel that way, the Dead Quarter may be declared dead — for now. The aggregate data:

TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES
January 2013: 6.72 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: +16%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -1%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +20%
Versus 15 years ago this month: -4%
YEAR TO DATE: 6.72 million copies, +16% vs. 2012, -1% vs. 2008, +20% vs. 2003, -4% vs. 1998

ALL COMICS UNIT SALES
January 2013 versus one year ago this month: +19.86%
YEAR TO DATE: +19.86%

---

TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES
January 2013: $23.95 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +21%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +14%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +54%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +44%
YEAR TO DATE: $23.95 million, +21% vs. 2012, +14% vs. 2008, +54% vs. 2003, +44% vs. 1998

ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES
January 2013 versus one year ago this month: +22.32%
YEAR TO DATE: +22.32%

---

TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
January 2013: $7.31 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +22%
Versus 5 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: +1%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 50 vs. the Top 50: +36%
YEAR TO DATE: $7.31 million, +22% vs. 2012

ALL TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
January 2013 versus one year ago this month: +37.89%
YEAR TO DATE: +37.89%

---

TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
January 2013: $31.26 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +21%
Versus 5 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: +12%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 50 TPBs: +36%
YEAR TO DATE: $31.26 million, +21% vs. 2012

ALL COMICS AND TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
January 2013 versus one year ago this month: +27.16%
YEAR TO DATE: +27.16%

---

OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)
January 2013: approximately $41.06 million (subject to revision)
Versus 1 year ago this month: +27%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +19%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +96%
YEAR TO DATE: $41.06 million, +27% vs. 2012

The average comic book in the Top 300 cost $3.57, with the average comic book ordered by retailers costing $3.56. The average comic book in the Top 25 cost $3.63. $3.50 was the median price of comics, and $3.99 was the most common price. Click to see monthly comics prices over time and median comics prices since 1961.

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January 2013 comics sales beat December by largest margin in decade

Friday, February 8, 2013

by John Jackson Miller

In a move that sent me back to the archives to examine its scale, comics shop orders of comic books and collected editions from Diamond Comic Distributors jumped more than 27%, or nearly $9 million, year-over-year in January. And this January even beat December's total by 3%, the largest margin for January over December in at least a decade. And it did it with one shipping week tied behind its back.

This is important, because the first thing we look at in moves of this scale is whether we're comparing a five-ship-week month to a four-ship-week month. But despite the calendar, January is a four shipping week month, just like January 2012 (which itself was a huge month for sales). That's because, as noted last month, possibly to adjust for Diamond taking Christmas week off, material that left its warehouses during the week after Christmas was counted as part of December, even though it had an on-sale date of January 2.

That was the first thing I looked at when I saw this change, but Dan Manser, Diamond's director of marketing, confirmed to me that "Jan. 2 items were invoiced in December, so they were part of December's numbers." The January figures are really for the for weeks that followed, and they beat December by more than a million dollars overall. Orders are estimated to have topped $41 million for the first time in any January since probably 1994 or 1995.

The aggregate changes:
 
COMPARATIVE SALES STATISTICS

DOLLARS
UNITS
JANUARY 2013 VS. DECEMBER 2012
COMICS
-4.44%
-3.34%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
21.64%
16.63%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
3.01%
-2.03%
JANUARY 2013 VS. JANUARY 2012
COMICS
22.32%
19.86%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
37.89%
30.73%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
27.16%
20.65%

Comics unit and dollar sales were slightly off December's totals, but walloped those of January 2012. The top title for the month was Marvel's Superior Spider-Man #1 — a title whose first printing is going for $10 on the aftermarket — and several other titles of recent Marvel vintage made the top 10. DC's relaunch titles were in the list, too:


RANK
DESCRIPTION
PRICE

VENDOR
1
Superior Spider-Man #1
$3.99

Marvel
2
Batman #16
$3.99

DC
3
Justice League #16
$3.99

DC
4
New Avengers #1
$3.99

Marvel
5
Superior Spider-Man #2
$3.99

Marvel
6
Savage Wolverine #1
$3.99

Marvel
7
Uncanny Avengers #3
$3.99

Marvel
8
Detective Comics #16
$3.99

DC
9
Avengers #3
$3.99

Marvel
10
Uncanny X-Force #1
$3.99

Marvel

The thing that made the difference in beating December overall, however, was the graphic novel and collected edition category. Fables Vol. 18 led the list, which was up nearly 22% over last month's GN sales, and an incredible 38% over last January's:


RANK
DESCRIPTION
PRICE

VENDOR
1
Fables Volume 18: Cubs In Toyland
$16.99

DC
2
Saga Volume 1
$9.99

Image
3
The Walking Dead Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye
$9.99

Image
4
Silver Surfer By Stan Lee And Moebius
$7.99

Marvel
5
The Walking Dead Vol. 2: Miles Behind Us
$14.99

Image
6
Justice League Vol. 2: The Villain's Journey Hc
$24.99

DC
7
Justice League Vol. 1: Origin
$16.99

DC
8
The Walking Dead Vol. 3: Safety Behind Bars
$14.99

Image
9
The Walking Dead Vol. 17: Something To Fear
$14.99

Image
10
Animal Man Vol. 2: Animal Vs. Man
$16.99

DC

Finally, the market shares:

TOP COMIC BOOK PUBLISHERS
PUBLISHER
DOLLAR
SHARE
UNIT
SHARE
MARVEL COMICS
34.82%
40.23%
DC ENTERTAINMENT
31.61%
35.41%
IMAGE COMICS
8.19%
7.45%
IDW PUBLISHING
6.30%
3.92%
DARK HORSE COMICS
4.55%
3.62%
DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT
2.20%
2.13%
BOOM! STUDIOS
1.45%
1.55%
EAGLEMOSS PUBLICATIONS
1.22%
0.26%
AVATAR PRESS
0.87%
0.73%
VALIANT ENTERTAINMENT
0.86%
0.93%
OTHER NON-TOP 10
7.92%
3.76%

Now, let's look again at the issue of January. As has been written here in much detail, wintry January has been for the comics industry in the 2000s what back-to-school September was for comics in the 1980s — a time when momentum ends and sales drop. Publishers tended to launch fewer major initiatives in "the Dead Quarter." But there were a number of launches this January, including Dark Horse's new sub-title-less Star Wars #1, already onto a third printing. So there doesn't seem to be much reluctance associated with this time of year any more.

How new is this? With January, we now have a full 10 years of Final Order data from Diamond, and we can see how past Januaries did. First, here's how they Overall Sales did versus the Januaries of the year before:

January 2004: $21.9 million, +4.29%
January 2005: $23.2 million, +6.39%
January 2006: $25.56 million, +9.7%
January 2007: $33.71 million, +31.89%
January 2008: $34.56 million, +2.52%
January 2009: $31.31 million, -9.4%
January 2010: $32.01 million, +2.23%
January 2011: $25.31 million, -20.91%
January 2012: $32.27 million, +27.47%
January 2013: $41.06 million, +27.16%

So we see that January beats always happened during the growth years of the mid-1990s, with the largest being in 2007, when Civil War #6 came out. Over the last two years, January sales have increased by more than $15 million.

Now, let's compare these figures with Decembers past:

December 2003 to January 2004: -23.69%
December 2004 to January 2005: -23.33%
December 2005 to January 2006: -19.19%
December 2006 to January 2007: +0.27%
December 2007 to January 2008: -3.68%
December 2008 to January 2009: -21.29%
December 2009 to January 2010: -10.27%
December 2010 to January 2011: -29.95%
December 2011 to January 2012: -6.73%
December 2012 to January 2013: +3.01%

So January beat December for the first time since that Civil War month — and the margin was the best in a decade.

If we look at just comic-book sales, excepting collected editions, we can see further back. Here's the estimated change within the Top 300 comics dollar sales from December to January from 1997 to present:

December 1996 to January 1997: -15.3%
December 1997 to January 1998: -27.7%
December 1998 to January 1999: -15.2%
December 1999 to January 2000: -18.5%
December 2000 to January 2001: -8.9%
December 2001 to January 2002: -3.6%
December 2002 to January 2003: -4.8%
December 2003 to January 2004: -19.9%
December 2004 to January 2005: -26.7%
December 2005 to January 2006: -17.0%
December 2006 to January 2007: -4.8%
December 2007 to January 2008: -7.0%
December 2008 to January 2009: -24.36%
December 2009 to January 2010: -13.96%
December 2010 to January 2011: -22.68%
December 2011 to January 2012: -6.73%
December 2012 to January 2013 (all comics): -4.44%

We won't know what the Top 300 portion will look like until next week, but I'm willing to bet that the Top 300 percentage comes in a little better than the overall percentage. It'll probably still be a drop, but it only has to go a little ways to beat the December 2001 to January 2002 change to become the best January for top-selling comics relative to the previous month since at least 1996.

The absence of a Dead Quarter is a sure sign of continued health in the market. We'll see if this can continue into the spring.

The full estimates will be along next week. Find out about them right away by following the site on Twitter and Facebook.

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Faraway Looks: The Blog of John Jackson Miller

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