comics sales estimates for August 2014.
Unit sales for the Top 300 comics were up less than 1% over last August, a month which also had four shipping weeks; once comics outside the top 300 are accounted for, the margin of increase grows to 4%. Batman #34 led the market, while Rocket Raccoon established a more normal sales level for its second issue with orders above 56,000 copies, following a first issue that benefited from a gargantuan order from a single online retailer. Comics shops still ordered additional copies of Rocket Raccoon #1 in August, however, with reorders placing it in 227th.
Positively the craziest thing I've seen in the Diamond Top 300 in a long time came along in 251st place: Tales from the Crypt #3, listed as being published by "WIL" with a cover price of $2 and an order code from 1991. Tales from the Crypt #3 was published in the summer of 1991 by Russ Cochran; Diamond listed it in its catalog under "E.C. Comics", and indeed, it was a reprint of the original E.C. issue, Tales from The Crypt #22 in from February-March 1951. On seeing it, I thought it a computer error; it had the same order number it did in 1991, but I couldn't imagine it being still in stock.
In fact, it was and is, as sources at Diamond have confirmed. When Diamond owner Steve Geppi purchased Cochran's company in the mid-1990s — which he folded into Diamond's sister company Gemstone Publishing — a large amount of inventory came with the sale, significant quantities of which still reside in Diamond's warehouse. Diamond confirmed that a very large sale of Tales from the Crypt #3 did take place, and that its presence on the chart is legitimate.
Diamond listed the publication as being sold by "WIL" — meaning William Gaines — though for chart purposes its sales could well be assumed to belong to Cochran's company, long gone. It's amazing that a reordered title could chart after 23 years — and still more amazing I could find the original listing for it in my files!
The aggregate change statistics:
Versus 1 year ago this month: unchanged
Versus 5 years ago this month: -6%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +2%
Versus 15 years ago this month: -6%
YEAR TO DATE: 52.87 million copies, -5% vs. 2013, +8% vs. 2009, +9% vs. 2004, +3 vs. 1999
ALL COMICS UNIT SALES
August 2014 versus one year ago this month: +4.20%
YEAR TO DATE: -2.32%
Versus 1 year ago this month: +3%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +2%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +33%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +35%
YEAR TO DATE: $199.26 million, -1% vs. 2013, +19% vs. 2009, +44% vs. 2004, +51% vs. 1999
ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES
August 2014 versus one year ago this month: +7.3%
YEAR TO DATE: +2.4%
Versus 1 year ago this month: +4%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -7%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: +3%
Versus 15 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: +40%
YEAR TO DATE: $57.3 million, -5% vs. 2013
ALL TRADE PAPERBACK SALES
August 2014 versus one year ago this month: +8.31%
YEAR TO DATE: +3.81%
Versus 1 year ago this month: +3%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -8%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: +18%
Versus 15 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +45%
YEAR TO DATE: $256.55 million, -1% vs. 2013
ALL COMICS AND TRADE PAPERBACK SALES
August 2014 versus one year ago this month: +7.6%
YEAR TO DATE: +2.84%
Versus 1 year ago this month: +8%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +14%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +50%
YEAR TO DATE: $344.32 million, +3% vs. 2013
New comic books released: 451
New graphic novels released: 280
New magazines released: 47
All new releases: 778
The average comic book in the Top 300 cost $3.72, and the average comic book ordered cost $3.73. The average comic book in the Top 25 cost $3.67. The median and most common price for comics offered was $3.99. Click to see comics prices across time.
A couple of sites have highlighted the paucity of comics above 100,000 copies; this is a headline that could have been written a few dozen times over the last decade and a half, and I'm not sure it matters as much when the market has the breadth that it does. The first time the market got down to having only a couple of titles above 100k was near the turn of the century, when the 300th-place title was doing less than 1,000 copies. Now, it's doing more than 5,000 copies. The sales are still there; they're just spread out.
Yes, it is more efficient for a retailer to sell one extra copy of a title selling a hundred copies, rather than a single copy of a less popular title which takes up an additional racking spot and time to process, but the market has been trending for a long time toward its current state. The need for more racking and time to handle each additional title has increased gradually over the years, rather than coming all at once, so that increased cost of doing business may not stand out as much.
This isn't to say the direct market doesn't "need" blockbusters; certainly, they produce many ancillary effects when they happen. But having them happen every other month or so, as we've seen this year, may generate much of the same effect.
John Jackson Miller has tracked the comics industry for more than 20 years, including a decade editing the industry's retail trade magazine; he is the author of several guides to comics, as well as more than a hundred comic books for various franchises. His latest novel, Star Wars: A New Dawn, has just been released by Random House. Visit his fiction site at http://www.farawaypress.com. And be sure to follow Comichron on Twitter and Facebook.