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Monday, May 6, 2013

April 2013 comics sales big, even without blockbusters

by John Jackson Miller

Diamond Comic Distributors has released the main wave of comics sales statistics for April 2013 comics sales, and the estimates are now online here at Comichron. Click to see Comichron's estimates for April 2013 comics sales.

As reported here on Friday, North American comics shop retailers ordered just over $41 million worth of comic books and graphic novels in April 2013, an increase of more than 18% over the same month last year. That figure brings the year-to-date total to $163 million, up more than $25 million from 2012 at this point. The market would just top $500 million for the year if the next eight months were completely flat.

Batman #19 from DC led the comics sales list in the month, with first-month orders of more than 132,000 copies. This is, in fact, the lowest figure for a top-seller since May 2011, as we can see from the list of top-sellers by month; it's significant that the month is as far ahead as it is, without having a major blockbuster issue. Marvel placed several Age of Ultron issues in the Top 10.

The Top 300 graphic novels again posted a huge number — up 30% over the same dollar value from last year — but as with last month, there is a significant caution. Marvel offered many hardcovers to the market at a deep discount during the tracking period, contributing to the total value. But Diamond calculates its market shares based on wholesale value — what retailers paid, not the cover prices of the items they bought — so we do not see an outsized influence of those sales on the market shares.

As usual, Diamond also released lists of its Top 50 Small Publisher comics and graphic novels; many of these fell outside the Top 300 lists, and have been added to Comichron's tables. (Don't ask to see the missing entries, because they're from the larger publishers and weren't on the lists Diamond released.) The graphic novel list contains data this month going almost to 500th place, where Diamond was still selling about 300 copies of each title.

You can see what was selling in comparative months of the past in our April Flashbacks column, which is now online. April was the 20th anniversary of the return of Superman from the dead, the top month for comics orders in the history of the Direct Market.

The aggregate sales:

TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES
April 2013: 6.79 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: +11%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +1%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +13%
Versus 15 years ago this month: -3%
YEAR TO DATE: 27.72 million copies, +16% vs. 2012, +7% vs. 2008, +20% vs. 2003, unchanged vs. 1998

ALL COMICS UNIT SALES
April 2013 versus one year ago this month: +11.71%
YEAR TO DATE: +16.85%

---

TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES
April 2013: $24.28 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +14%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +13%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +45%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +38%
YEAR TO DATE: $99.48 million, +20% vs. 2012, +22% vs. 2008, +54% vs. 2003, +48% vs. 1998

ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES
April 2013 versus one year ago this month: +13.87%
YEAR TO DATE: +19.44%

---

TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
April 2013: $8.77 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +30%
Versus 5 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: +10%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 50 vs. the Top 50: +10%
YEAR TO DATE: $31.55 million, +27% vs. 2012

ALL TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
April 2013 versus one year ago this month: +14.83%
YEAR TO DATE: +15.85%

---

TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
April 2013: $33.05 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +18%
Versus 5 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: +11%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +26%
YEAR TO DATE: $131.02 million, +22% vs. 2012

ALL COMICS AND TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
April 2013 versus one year ago this month: +14.18%
YEAR TO DATE: +18.32%

---

OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)
April 2013: approximately $41.11 million (subject to revision)
Versus 1 year ago this month: +14%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +12%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +54%
YEAR TO DATE: $163.05 million, +18% vs. 2012

The average comic book in the Top 300 cost $3.55; the average comic book retailers ordered cost $3.58. The median and most common price for comics offered was $3.99. Click to see comics prices across time.

IDW once again saw its highest dollar market share yet, 7.54%: the update has been made to the list of Diamond Exclusive Era records.

The pages for monthly top sellers and 300th place titles across time have been updated. 

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Personal plug department: Be sure to check out Overdraft: The Orion Offensive, my new Kindle Serial with 47North. A complete science-fiction novel delivered in eight biweekly episodes, all for only $1.99! Download now and receive all episodes published to date, with automatic delivery of the rest.

Friday, May 3, 2013

April 2013 Comics Flashbacks: Superman returns from the dead, 20 years later

by John Jackson Miller

With April 2013 comics sales data just posted, let's take a look at comics sales in previous Aprils. Again, I've added a snapshot of what one major retailer is charging for the top-sellers; Comichron isn't a price guide site, but 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.

1 YEAR AGO


April 2012 sales figures were reported the same weekend that the Avengers movie opened to a record $200.3 million in the United States. So there was already a lot of buzz about the good fortunes of the comics industry at the time. Retailer orders for comic books and graphic novels in April 2012 rose 15% in North America versus the year prior, and several titles pushed past the 100,000 copy mark.

Marvel's Avengers Vs. X-Men #2 led the market with orders of nearly 159,000 copies. By the end of the year, those orders were up to 200,300 copies, making it the 5th best-selling title of the year. (Click to see the full list.)

As of this posting, the main version of Avengers vs. X-Men #2 had an aftermarket price of $18 in Near Mint at MyComicShop.com.

Image's Walking Dead trade collections completely dominated their category, giving Image an 8.6% market share, its highest since February 2003.
   
Click to read the original Comichron analysis for the month. And check out the sales chart for the month here.

5 YEARS AGO

April 2008 saw Marvel’s Secret Invasion #1 leading the pack with 250,000 copies ordered in its initial month to kick off the summer event season. Later orders brought it up to at least 263,000 copies, making it the 12th best-selling comic book of the decade of the 2000s. (See the whole list here.)

As of this posting, the main version of Secret Invasion #1 had an aftermarket price of $2.70 in Near Mint at MyComicShop.com.

The Marvel trade Secret Invasion Infiltration had orders of approximately 7,250 copies in its first month to lead the trade paperbacks list.

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

10 YEARS AGO

April 2003 was Diamond's third month of reporting final orders rather than preorders, and in that month, Jim Lee’s "Hush" phenomenon continued to roll on. Batman #614 topped the charts with 153,600 copies sold to retailers in its first month; it would continue to pile up reorders afterward. Later orders brought it up to at least 165,200 copies, making it the 66th best-selling comic book of the decade of the 2000s. (See the whole list here.) 

It was only one of three titles to sell more than 100,000 copies. The 10,000-copy mark was at 180th place; the 300th place comic sold only 1,600 copies.

At the time of this posting, Batman #614 had an aftermarket price of $2 in Near Mint at MyComicShop.com.

Diamond only published reports for its Top 50 trades in 2003 — so to compare apples to apples, the 2008 numbers have been pared back to the Top 50 to show a clear comparison.

The Batman: Hush hardcover had first-month orders of 7,300 copies, slightly eclipsing the more expensive Orbiter hardcover with its 7,200 ordered copies. A bigger dollar performer than either was the third-place item, the $49.95 Hellboy: Art of Mike Mignola.

Check out the sales chart for the month here.

15 YEARS AGO


The month of April 1998 saw Uncanny X-Men #356 as the market leader at Diamond, topping the charts with 149,500 copies preordered. Eight comics had preorders in the six figures, while the 10,000-copy mark was at 178th place.

At the time of this posting, Uncanny X-Men #258 had an aftermarket price of $3.30 in Near Mint at MyComicShop.com.

Significant for tracking purposes is that April 1998 was the first month in which Diamond reported indexed preorder figures for its Top 25 trade paperbacks, permitting us our first ten-year comparisons this month.

Interestingly, dollar sales for the same grouping of items more than doubled in the following decade — although part of the comparison is skewed because in April 1998, Diamond was still working out what belonged on the trade paperback list and what belonged with the comics. The top item, for example, was the $6.95 Verotik Illustrated #3, with its preorders of 8,600 copies; where the top traditional trade was probably Image’s $9.95 Kabuki: Skin Deep, with preorders of approximately 4,200 copies. Diamond even included a $4 Vampirella ashcan in the April 1998 list. In later tables, Diamond would tend to move such items into the comics listing.

DC bested Marvel 25.25% to 23.31% in dollar shares at Diamond, the second time it had done so since Diamond began its “final order” share reporting in October 1997. DC had 71 comics in the Top 300, to the bankruptcy-limited Marvel’s 51.

Check out the sales chart for the month here.

20 YEARS AGO


Twenty years ago, April 1993 saw the peak of the early 1990s comics boom — and what was likely the single most financially lucrative month in the history of the industry. When Superman “died” in November 1992, the result was a $30 million dollar day in the business — quite comparable to blockbuster movie openings at the time. With Superman set to return in April 1993, retailers ordered big in an attempt not to be caught short of copies.

The result, according to one internal publisher estimate made available to The Comics Chronicles, was direct market preorders of 48.18 million copies. The biggest single month of the 1990s comics boom — and more than 13 million copies more than the totals for the two months on either side of it.

Was April 1993 the biggest month in comics history? Going back to 1952, the peak year in the pre-Silver Age period for the number of copies offered, we find an average of about 250 new comic books coming out each month. Just comparing with that direct-market figure, those 1952 comic books would need to average 180,000 copies to match the April 1993 total. That’s very possible; the average circulation for comic books publishing Statements of Ownership in 1960 was around 315,000 copies. Not all titles had sales like Superman, but it’s a safe bet that, by units sold, quite a number of months in the 1950s would have topped April 1993.

Dollarwise, however, April 1993 is almost certainly the peak — both adjusted for inflation and not. With all the premium covers around, Capital City Distribution found the average cost of the 630 new titles it offered to be $2.65. That figure is certainly higher than the weighted average, but even at that, a direct-market total of $100 million is not out of the realm of possibility for the month. According to one inflation calculator, that equates to $18 million in 1952 dollars — which would require a mind-boggling 180 million 10-cent copies to be sold, or a per-title average of 720,000 copies. While there were likely quite a few titles above that average, there were considerable distribution-related disparities between the performances of publishers in the 1950s that make that average seem high. And, again, we’re not counting the newsstand for April 1993 — or the aftermarket, next to nonexistent so long ago. (On the other hand, we have no way of knowing what sell-through was in 1993, either, so the real dollar total would be lower to some degree.)

Adventures of Superman #500 was the #1 comic book both at Diamond and at Capital City. Capital sold 717,800 copies of the $2.95 collector’s cover and 161,250 copies of the newsstand cover; Diamond also saw the newsstand cover enter the Top 10. One existing calculation suggests a direct-market total of 3.45 million copies for the collector’s version; that’s a huge number, but not out of line with what else was on the charts. Diamond sold 8.6 times as many Adventures #500s as it sold Amazing Spider-Man #378s — a book that had sold 400,000 direct-market copies several times in the previous year.

At the time of this posting, Adventures of Superman #500 had an aftermarket price of $1.10 in Near Mint at MyComicShop.com.

At both publishers, the Superman titles took all five Top 5 spots. That performance helped DC to top the market shares at Diamond for only the second time in the distributor’s history, with 33.07% of dollars preordered; at Capital, where DC generally sold disproportionately fewer copies, the 27.55% share was still enough for first place.

The top trade paperback was likely Image’s WildC.A.T.S. Collection, priced at $9.95.

Check out the sales rankings for the the overall year here.
 
25 YEARS AGO

Capital City reported that Uncanny X-Men #232 was its top-selling comic book of April 1988. Marvel sold 420,100 copies of the issue through all channels, including 261,200 direct-market copies and 111,100 newsstand copies, and copies in subscription, foreign, and other special markets sales. Capital preorders for the issue were 66,600 copies, meaning it was responsible for just over a quarter of the issue’s direct market sales.

At the time of this posting, Uncanny X-Men #232 had an aftermarket price of $2.60 in Very Fine at MyComicShop.com.

Marvel led DC in Capital’s dollar market shares, 41.25% to 32.38% — although, again, Capital is believed to have sold disproportionately fewer DC comics relative to Diamond.

The average cost of the 352 items on Capital City’s sales charts was $2.30 — a consequence of the combining of comic books with larger items, like Fantagraphics’ $49 Mars Attacks Mini Comics Box. That said, Marvel had recently gone from 75¢ to $1 on its most popular titles, so if the average comic offered wasn’t above $1 before, it certainly was in 1998.

The top-selling trade paperback item was likely the Crash: Iron Man Graphic Novel, which at $12.95 nonetheless placed 97th among units sold at Capital.

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 April 1983's leader was Uncanny X-Men #172. Statements of Ownership put that as the likely top-seller for the month, averaging 336,824 copies across all channels for the year, including newsstand and subs.

At the time of this posting, Uncanny X-Men #172 had an aftermarket price of $4.80 in Very Fine 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 March 1978 would be Marvel's Star Wars #13, which between newsstand and Whitman bagged editions would have likely sold between 350,000 and 400,000 copies. The issue has an aftermarket price of $3.80 in Very Fine- at MyComicShop.com.

Back 40 years ago, the top-selling issue was likely Archie #226. The title's average monthly issue that year sold 345,087 copies.

And again, relying on the Postal Statements, for 45 years ago we're likely looking at Superman #207 (636,000 copies average in the year).

And 50 years ago we don't have DC data, because the publisher didn't publish any. It was a skip month for Superman, so Superboy #105, likely to have shipped that month, would probably have led the market at around 600,000 copies. The issue has an aftermarket price of $48 in Very Fine at MyComicShop.com.

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Strong April keeps comics market on half-billion dollar pace for 2013

by John Jackson Miller

North American comics shop retailers ordered just over $41 million worth of comic books and graphic novels in April 2013, an increase of more than 18% over the same month last year, according to data released today by Diamond Comic Distributors.

That figure brings the year-to-date total to $163 million, up more than $25 million from 2012 at this point. If the later months of the year continue at the same pace, the Direct Market is on track to easily exceed half a billion dollars in orders for the year. In fact, the market would just top $500 million if the next eight months were completely flat. (Last year's total was $475 million.) That's how much ahead things already are.

Batman #19 from DC led the comics sales list in the month, during which IDW once again saw its highest market share yet posted.

The aggregate change figures:

DOLLARS UNITS
APRIL 2013 VS. MARCH 2013
 Comics -4.95% -5.73%
 Graphic novels 10.32% 10.11%
 Total Comics/Graphic Novels -0.56% -4.56%
APRIL 2013 VS. APRIL 2012
 Comics 13.87% 11.71%
 Graphic novels 14.83% 19.00%
 Total Comics/Graphic Novels 14.18% 12.29%
YEAR-TO-DATE 2013 VS. YEAR-TO-DATE 2012
 Comics 19.44% 16.85%
 Graphic novels 15.85% 14.15%
 Total Comics/Graphic Novels 18.32% 16.64%

Age of Ultron took several spots on the top-sellers list for comics: 

RANK DESCRIPTION PRICE VENDOR
1 Batman #19 $3.99 DC
2 Thanos Rising #1 $3.99 Marvel
3 Jupiter's Legacy #1 $2.99 Image
4 Age of Ultron #4 $3.99 Marvel
5 Justice League #19 $3.99 DC
6 Age of Ultron #5 $3.99 Marvel
7 Age of Ultron #6 $3.99 Marvel
8 The Walking Dead #10 $2.99 Image
9 Batman and Red Robin #19 $2.99 DC
10 Guardians of the Galaxy #2 $3.99 Marvel

It was a month with roughly equal gains in comics and trades. The perennial best-seller, The Walking Dead Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye returned to top of the graphic novel charts:

RANK DESCRIPTION PRICE VENDOR
1 The Walking Dead Vol. 1 Days Gone Bye $14.99 Image
2 The Manhattan Projects Vol. 2 $14.99 Image
3 Happy $12.99 Image
4 Saga Vol. 1 $9.99 Image
5 Punk Rock Jesus $16.99 DC
6 Batman Detective Comics Vol. 1 Faces of Death $16.99 DC
7 Batman Detective Comics Vol. 2 Scare Tactics HC $29.99 DC
8 Batman Killing Joke Special Edition HC $17.99 DC
9 Swamp Thing Vol. 2 Family Tree $14.99 DC
10 Hawkeye Vol. 1 My Life as a Weapon $16.99 Marvel

As noted above, IDW beat its previous market share record, reaching 7.54%. Its previous best mark was in February, 7.09%. The market shares:

Publisher Dollar Share Units Share
Marvel 37.95% 41.78%
DC 25.98% 27.72%
Image 9.04% 9.87%
IDW 7.54% 5.59%
Dark Horse 4.35% 4.09%
Dynamic Forces 2.98% 2.60%
Boom 1.92% 1.97%
Valiant 1.04% 1.11%
Eaglemoss 0.94% 0.19%
Zenescope 0.80% 0.72%
Other 7.46% 4.37%
 
So, at least as of the preliminary charts, April looks to have been a month right in line with the gains of the 2012-13 comics recovery. The full charts will be out next week.

Iron Man 3 is now in wide release: click to check out our historic sales data on the main title. And, of course, Saturday is also Free Comic Book Day: click to read Comichron's history of the genesis of the event. I will be signing my own comics works at Galaxy Comics in Stevens Point, Wis., from 1-4; click here to find out where the events are in your area. And check out Hugh Jackman's video greeting, here!

Be sure to follow Comichron on Twitter and Facebook.

Personal plug department: Be sure to check out Overdraft: The Orion Offensive, my new Kindle Serial with 47North. A complete science-fiction novel delivered in eight biweekly episodes, all for only $1.99!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Iron Man comics sales history updated, 1968-present

by John Jackson Miller


With the release of the third Iron Man film, I've updated one of the features here on the site: postal statement sales figures for the main series. The main Iron Man series, as Marvel numbers the issues, unifies several distinct runs going all the way back to the first Iron Man title in 1968.  

When Marvel renegotiated its restrictive agreement with its distributor that year, it was suddenly able to increase its number of offerings. It did so by drawing upon the characters in several of its "double feature" titles. Iron Man and Captain America fissioned from Tales of Suspense, with Captain America continuting the original series' numbering. Iron Man began with a fresh #1, only after a weird one-month gap during which the feature was paired with the Tales to Astonish orphan, Sub-Mariner, in the Iron Man and Sub-Mariner one-shot.

Marvel did not publish sales figures for the title for a very long time, but by the time it did, Iron Man was a mid-range seller along with the other Avengers titles. The series peaked above 200,000 copies in the mid-1980s during David Michelinie and Bob Layton's first run on the title; it approached that level again several times before collapsing during the market recession of the mid-1990s.


Marvel addressed the decline then — and several more times — with the same strategy: restarting the series from a new #1. The "Heroes Reborn" volume 2 and the "Heroes Return" volume 3 resuscitated sales (and began a run that, later on, included my own year on the title). The Warren Ellis Volume 4 reboot in 2004 similarly gave a big boost to sales.

That title was officially renamed Invincible Iron Man in the indicia with #17 in 2007 and then Iron Man Director of SHIELD with #29 in 2008. That title ran until #35, but a concurrent Invincible Iron Man series had already started from #1 earlier that summer. It was that title that, after Invincible Iron Man #33, assumed the numbering from all the earlier series and continued with #500 in 2011.

(Which complicates matters even further, since all those comics added up to 503 issues. The rationale — further described here — was that the last three issues of Director of SHIELD had War Machine on their logos. That's so, but the indicias never changed, and in fact, the Iron Man Director of SHIELD Statement of Ownership ran in that third "War Machine issue." But if it's weird to not count Director of SHIELD #33-35, it's odd to count #29-32, as well, as those issues were coming out concomitant with the series that numerically would have followed. Ah, renumberings!)

Sales reports on individual issues can be found in the monthly reports. And there are many other Title Spotlights here as well.
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