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October comics shop orders best in 17 years on huge volume; Walking Dead, Ms. Marvel top charts

Friday, November 7, 2014

by John Jackson Miller

The records just keep breaking in the comics industry. October 2014's shattered the record for retailer orders of new comic books and graphic novels in a single month in the Diamond Exclusive Era, which began in 1997; a record which was only three months old! Retailers ordered an estimated $56.09 million in comics, graphic novels, and magazines from Diamond Comic Distributors, according to Comichron's analysis of data released by the company today.

It's an 11.46% increase over last October's $50.32 million figure, which itself was a record for the business; both were five-week months. The comparatives for the month:

DOLLARS UNITS
OCTOBER 2014 VS. SEPTEMBER 2014
Comics 6.30% 9.64%
Graphic Novels 21.30% 25.98%
TOTAL COMICS/GN 10.45% 10.69%
OCTOBER 2014 VS. OCTOBER 2013
Comics 10.84% 10.14%
Graphic Novels 12.90% 6.28%
TOTAL COMICS/GN 11.46% 9.85%
YEAR-TO-DATE 2014 VS. 2013
Comics 3.64% -0.66%
Graphic Novels 5.31% 5.13%
TOTAL COMICS/GN 4.15% -0.22%
 
This makes the third straight year in which October has been the strongest month for comics. Overall, the Direct Market's orders for the year now total an estimated $451.19 million, up $18 million, or 4.15%, over 2013 through October. This now guarantees that overall comics shop sales will increase for the third year in a row: retailers only need to order $66 million in merchandise in November and December to beat the 2013 total.

Comichron projects the comic shop market will complete the year with orders totaling around $535-540 million; the smaller figure is reached if November and December are completely flat, the larger if sales are up 5%. Either one would bring the year-to-year increase to around 4%, the smallest year-to-year gain of the three up years. "Gravy Day" — the point after which any new sales are an increase over last year's sum — should fall in the second week of December this year.

Back to October, that $56.09 million figure remains impressive; it is more than double the $27.9 million sold exactly 10 years earlier in October 2004. That was a four-week month back then — and there is far more material available for ordering today. But it should be apparent that inflation alone does not account for the increase in sales. The market has grown larger. Is it because of demographic changes (as the graphic-novel chart-topping title this month, Ms. Marvel, might suggest), because existing customers are simply able to buy more, because digital and movies have expanded readership, or simply because of a change in the number of accounts? I suspect there's something of all of these in the answer (along with the much larger number of graphic novels available now, and the sales charts alone don't tell us for sure.

But they do demonstrate that a big part of the sales increase over last year is in the sheer volume of new material being released. Diamond has only been reporting its number of new releases for a bit over a year, but the totals for October are the highest we've seen. Diamond shipped 590 comics in October, up from 515 last October — and 374 new graphic novels, up from 342 last October. The number of comics, magazines, and graphic novels offered topped a thousand for the first time since the data began being reported, and at 1,020 items, that's 126 more than shipped last October:

Comics shipped Graphic novels shipped Magazines shipped Total shipped
DC 109 34 1 144
Marvel 94 45 1 140
Image 72 17 0 89
Dark Horse 38 34 0 72
IDW 47 25 0 72
Boom 38 9 0 47
Dynamite 38 9 0 47
Eaglemoss 0 0 22 22
Archie 16 5 0 21
Avatar 17 2 1 20
Other 121 194 31 346
TOTAL 590 374 56 1020

Comics shipped and ordered do not equal sales to consumers, of course. But a comic shop owner told me October 18 was the best sales day in his business's history not connected with any kind of special event; there's a lot more volume, but evidently also customers to buy the material. If that's being seen elsewhere, then we have what might be a sustainable increase.

http://bit.ly/CCWD132
Looking back to 2010, the best month of the year has always been whatever month of September, October, or November has five weeks; if that continues, look for September 2015 would be the big one next year.

For the second time this year, the online retailer Loot Crate made figuring out the comics shop sales of the market-topping comic book more complicated. Walking Dead #132 from Image topped the bestseller list, and releasing as it did at the start of the TV season, it may well have done so entirely on the basis of its comics-shop sales. But Loot Crate ordered thousands of copies of a variant edition through Diamond, making it the second comic book (after July's Rocket Raccoon #1) to see a giant boost. Dark Horse's Halo: Escalation #1 was part of the September Loot Crate offering, but only in the form of a digital download card. The physical comic book was not included.

The Death of Wolverine helped Marvel take most of the slots in the Top 10:

COMIC BOOK PRICE VENDOR
1 The Walking Dead #132 $2.99 Image
2 Death Of Wolverine #4 $4.99 Marvel
3 Thor #1 $3.99 Marvel
4 Death Of Wolverine #3 $4.99 Marvel
5 Avengers And X-Men: Axis #1 $4.99 Marvel
6 Batman #35  $4.99 DC
7 Amazing Spider-Man #7 $3.99 Marvel
8 Amazing Spider-Man #8 $3.99 Marvel
9 Harley Quinn Annual #1 $5.99 DC
10 Avengers And X-Men: Axis #2 $3.99 Marvel

Among graphic novels, the Ms. Marvel collection took the top spot:

GRAPHIC NOVELS & TRADE PAPERBACKS PRICE VENDOR
1 Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal $15.99 Marvel
2 Hawkeye Volume 3: L.A. Woman $15.99 Marvel
3 Batman Vol. 4: Zero Year: Secret City $16.99 DC
4 East Of West Volume 3: There Is No Us $14.99 Image
5 Batman Vol. 5: Zero Year: Dark City HC $24.99 DC
6 Southern Bastards Vol. 1: Here Was A Man $9.99 Image
7 Harley Quinn Volume 1: Hot In The City $24.99 DC
8 Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1: The Parker Luck $17.99 Marvel
9 Moon Knight Volume 1: From The Dead HC $17.99 Marvel
10 Batman: Death Of The Family Book & Joker Mask Set $39.99 DC
 
In the market shares, Marvel retook the lead in both the dollar and unit sales categories, bolstered by "The Death of Wolverine." Image's dollar share approached 10%:

Dollar share Unit share
Marvel 34.82% 36.35%
DC 27.53% 31.00%
Image 9.77% 12.28%
IDW 5.18% 3.94%
Dark Horse 4.74% 3.25%
Dynamite 2.60% 2.00%
Boom 2.39% 2.26%
Archie 1.19% 1.20%
Avatar 1.18% 1.25%
Eaglemoss 1.17% 0.30%
Other 9.43% 6.18%

The comics sales records page has been updated to reflect the October sales. Readers may wonder why I cut off records at the mid-1990s; it is because of the gap in data caused by the Exclusivity Wars between the distributors; read more about it here and here. I have materials enough to piece sales from that era and before together, but it is a large project and one that is still ongoing.

Look for the final estimates to appear on Monday.

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. He is the author of several bestselling novels including Star Wars: Kenobi and the recently released Star Wars: A New Dawn. Visit his fiction site at http://www.farawaypress.com. And be sure to follow Comichron on Twitter and Facebook!

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