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More than 139,000 comic book and graphic novel circulation figures online!
Welcome to Comichron, a resource for comic book circulation data and other information gathered by
John Jackson Miller and other pop culture archaeologists interested in comics history.

 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Full April 2014 comics sales estimates: Amazing Spider-Man #1 tops 532,000 copies

by John Jackson Miller

http://bit.ly/CCAmz1
The final comics sales estimates for April are out from Diamond Comic Distributors, and as reported here on Friday, Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 3 #1 was the best-selling title in the last 15 years in the comics market overall, and since the mid-1990s if we're looking at just the comics shop market. (It was definitely a high-interest issue, as Friday's post within a day became the most-read article in this site's history!) With the new information, Comichron estimates that Marvel sold retailers nearly 532,600 copies of the $5.99 comic book, including all its different variant cover editions. Click to see the sales estimates for comics ordered in April 2014.

The Top Comics of the Century List won't be updated until year-end, but barring any further blockbusters, expect to see this issue topping it. The sales of the previous leader,  Amazing Spider-Man #583, sales reached 530,500 copies over the course of an entire calendar year in 2009; Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 3 #1's sales already top it. Unless something happens to reduce the total — like Diamond accepting a lot of returns because of damaged copies — we should expect it to hold its position relative to #583.

Some have noted that to a far greater degree than many previous top entrants on the record-setter list, sales of Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 3 #1 were largely boosted by retailers ordering many copies in order to earn incentive special editions. That's true, but the practice is nothing new — and, in fact, every comic book Diamond sells retailers has a sales incentive attached: the more copies retailers order, the higher their discount gets. Amazing certainly lies on the extreme in its use of incentives, but if we're handing out asterisks based on the presence of promotions, the historical records will be replete with them.

RECORDS: In addition to the performance of the top-selling title this month, April set some new marks, one of which is reflected on the Diamond-era records page:


http://bit.ly/CCDeadpool27
• April saw the highest weighted average price for comic books ordered by retailers within the Top 300 — exactly $4 even, blowing away the previous record of $3.77. (We get this number by dividing the total dollars spent on comics in the Top 300 by the total number of Top 300 comics sold.)

This huge jump is entirely due to Amazing Spider-Man #1 and Marvel's Deadpool #27, which had a $9.99 cover price: excising those two titles, the average weighted price is just $3.78. There's not much of a case to be made for either issue — even Deadpool, at 100 pages — to not being included in the comics list, however: each is simply a special issue of an ongoing series, and there have been plenty of 100-page specials before.

It should be noted that we've seen many past occasions where a special issue bumps the average price far ahead briefly. The first time the weighted average passed $3 was December 2001, when the $7.95 Dark Knight Strikes Again #1 distorted the pricing curve. But the average weighted price was not to go above $3 for good until more than four years later.

The average weighted price went above $2 for the first time, incidentally, sometime before 1996.

Marvel's dollar sales of Top 300 comics reached $14.79 million, its highest figure seen in the Diamond Exclusive Era, which began in 1997. The records page does not track these individual marks for publishers, but we do keep tabs on them internally at Comichron.

The aggregate changes:

TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES
April 2014: 6.98 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: +3%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +4%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +9%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +11%
YEAR TO DATE: 25.28 million copies, -9% vs. 2013, +8% vs. 2009, +9% vs. 2004, +2 vs. 1999
ALL COMICS UNIT SALES
April 2014 versus one year ago this month: +6.96%
YEAR TO DATE: -6.91%
---

TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES
April 2014: $25.28 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -9%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +8%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +9%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +2%
YEAR TO DATE: $95.96 million, -4% vs. 2013, +22% vs. 2009, +44% vs. 2004, +52% vs. 1999
ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES
April 2014 versus one year ago this month: +17.37%
YEAR TO DATE: -0.89%
---

TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
April 2014: $7.58 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -14%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -3%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: +47%
Versus 15 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: +16%
YEAR TO DATE: $28.21 million, -11% vs. 2013
ALL TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
April 2014 versus one year ago this month: +16.78%
YEAR TO DATE: +5.44%
---

TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
April 2014: $35.54 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +8%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +7%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: +41%
Versus 15 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +85%
YEAR TO DATE: $124.18 million, -5% vs. 2013
ALL COMICS AND TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
April 2014 versus one year ago this month: +17.18%
YEAR TO DATE: +1.04%
---

OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)
April 2014: approximately $48.17 million (subject to revision)
Versus 1 year ago this month: +17%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +15%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +80%
YEAR TO DATE: $164.77 million, +1% vs. 2013

RELEASES
New comic books released: 481
New graphic novels released: 299
New magazines released: 63
All new releases: 843

As noted above, the average comic book in the Top 300 cost $3.72; the average comic book retailers ordered cost $4.00. The median and most common price for comics offered was $3.99. Click to see comics prices across time.

One curiosity in the charts: sales of graphic novels in the Top 300 were off 14% against last April, whereas Diamond reported that sales for the category overall were up nearly 17%. There's no disconnect here. The first measure is calculated based on full price of everything sold, whereas Diamond's overall figure is based on wholesale prices, or what it received from retailers. As last April's report notes, Marvel put a lot of hardcovers into the market back then at deep discounts, which is why the Top 300 dollar value was inflated. This April's total more realistically reflects what was sold.

The 300th-place comic book, incidentally, sold almost exactly 1% of the units that the #1 comic book sold. That's a spread we haven't seen in a long time (and it's not a bad thing, as the 300th-place book still sold over 5,000 copies).


Next month's report will reflect any reorders from Amazing #1, as well as sales activity spurred by Free Comic Book Day. Find your local comic shop here.

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 the New York Times bestseller Star Wars: Kenobi and the upcoming hardcover Star Wars: A New Dawn. Visit his fiction site at http://www.farawaypress.com. And be sure to follow Comichron on Twitter and Facebook!

Friday, May 9, 2014

April 2014 comics sales: Amazing Spider-Man #1 best-selling issue of 21st Century

by John Jackson Miller

http://bit.ly/CCAmz1
As expected, Marvel's second reboot of the Amazing Spider-Man title was a record-setter in April: Diamond Comic Distributors reported today that the issue "was the best-selling comic book in both units and dollars in over a decade." More importantly, the market turned positive for the year, mostly erasing a slow start. Diamond sold nearly $48.2 million in comics and graphic novels to comics shops in the month of April, a larger total than any month in 2013 except for the record-breaking $50 million October. This brings the first third of the year to nearly $165 million, up almost $2 million over the same period in 2013.

But first, a quick look at Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 3. #1, which had multiple variant covers, including many produced for specific comics shops. Diamond's wording means the issue outsold (by however much) 2009's Amazing Spider-Man #583, the Barack Obama inauguration issue: according to our Top Comics of the 21st Century list, that issue sold at least 530,500 copies across multiple printings.

Since that issue beats anything else on the post-1999 list, the next earlier top-selling single issues in the comics market overall would be likely be the 1999 issues of Pokémon: Pikachu Shocks Back, which Viz reported sold on average 680,000 copies each through multiple printings on the mass market; its predecessor title, Pokémon: The Electric Tale of Pikachu was the last title to top a million copies, during 1998 and 1999. The last million-seller in the comics shop market alone was likely Batman #500 in 1993. Click to read more about the last million-copy sellers.

It's unlikely that Amazing Spider-Man #1 will put those earlier records at risk, given the number of outlets that exist today: it's possible to top half a million, but the next half a million is a the much harder part. But it will likely wind up being the best-selling single issue in the Direct Market during the Diamond Exclusive Era, which began in 1997. We'll have a better idea of final sales at the end of the year, once reorders are added and any damaged copies — which appear to have been a concern — that are eventually allowed as returns get subtracted out.

Back to the overall. The sales changes:

DOLLARS UNITS
APRIL 2014 VS. MARCH 2014
COMICS 23.22% 14.36%
GRAPHIC NOVELS 8.90% -0.33%
TOTAL COMICS/GN 18.27% 12.90%
APRIL 2014 VS. APRIL 2013
COMICS 17.37% 6.96%
GRAPHIC NOVELS 16.78% 11.20%
TOTAL COMICS/GN 17.18% 7.32%
YEAR-TO-DATE 2014 VS. YEAR-TO-DATE 2013
COMICS -0.89% -6.91%
GRAPHIC NOVELS 5.44% 10.38%
TOTAL COMICS/GN 1.04% -5.61%

I said more than a few times that a strong April could easily wipe out the year-to-year deficit piled up this winter, and that is mostly what happened, with overall dollar sales and graphic novel dollar sales going positive for the year, with comics unit sales paring their deficit to under 7%. There is a caveat, however: this April was a five-shipping-week month, versus a four-week month last year.

That said, April 2013 was very strong relative to its previous year — up 14%, versus May and June 2013 which were up 1% and 3% respectively — which suggests that this May and June may not have very far to go to keep the industry on an even pace. April was strong enough this year that May and June can each be down 8% relative to 2013 and the market will still be matching last year's sales.

The market shares appear to have been impacted by the big seller at Marvel. Marvel's dollar share was higher than it's been since March 2013, while DC's 23.65% dollar share was its lowest showing since May 2002's 21.89%, when Dreamwave was around and the release of Star Wars Episode II bumped Dark Horse up to nearly 9%:

PUBLISHER DOLLAR SHARE UNIT SHARE
Marvel 39.27% 41.15%
DC 23.65% 27.24%
Image 9.34% 10.31%
Dark Horse 5.54% 5.18%
IDW 5.10% 4.24%
Dynamite 2.49% 2.47%
Eaglemoss 2.14% 0.54%
Boom 2.07% 1.97%
Avatar 1.15% 1.03%
Valiant 1.04% 1.18%
Other 8.21% 4.69%

As noted above, Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 3 #1 led the Top-Selling Comics list this time out:

RANK DESCRIPTION PRICE VENDOR
1 Amazing Spider-Man #1 $5.99 Marvel
2 Superior Spider-Man #31 $5.99 Marvel
3 Batman #30 $3.99 DC
4 Batman Eternal #1* $2.99 DC
5 Justice League #29 $3.99 DC
6 Batman Eternal #2* $2.99 DC
7 Hulk #1 $3.99 Marvel
8 Original Sin #0 $4.99 Marvel
9 Batman Eternal #3* $2.99 DC
10 Batman Eternal #4* $2.99 DC

Image scored seven slots on the Top Selling Graphic Novel and Trade Paperback list:

RANK Description PRICE VENDOR
1 Sex Criminals Volume 1 $9.99 Image
2 Saga Volume 3 $14.99 Image
3 East of West Volume 2: We Are All One $14.99 Image
4 Saga Volume 1 $9.99 Image
5 Amazing Spider-Man: Family Business HC $24.99 Marvel
6 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1: Cosmic Avengers $19.99 Marvel
7 The Joker: Death of the Family $24.99 DC
8 Saga Volume 2 $14.99 Image
9 Pretty Deadly Volume 1 $9.99 Image
10 The Walking Dead Volume 1: Days Gone Bye $14.99 Image

In part due to the five-week month, more titles were offered this April — 49 more comics  and 52 more graphic novels than March. It's the largest number of new comics released since the 515 in that record-breaking October:

PUBLISHER COMICS SHIPPED GRAPHIC NOVELS SHIPPED MAGAZINES SHIPPED TOTAL
Marvel 80 35 0 115
DC 79 26 1 106
Image 71 13 0 84
IDW 45 24 0 69
Dark Horse 38 27 0 65
Dynamite 43 6 0 49
Boom 25 7 0 32
Eaglemoss 0 0 26 26
Avatar 11 2 2 15
Valiant 13 2 0 15
Other 77 157 35 269
TOTAL 482 299 64 845
 
The final estimates for April should be out early next week. In the meantime, you can find your local comic shop here. (UPDATE: And now the estimates are online, here.)

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 the New York Times bestseller Star Wars: Kenobi and the upcoming hardcover Star Wars: A New Dawn. Visit his fiction site at http://www.farawaypress.com. And be sure to follow Comichron on Twitter and Facebook!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The last million-selling comic book in North America? It's Batman vs. Pokémon for the title


by John Jackson Miller

http://bit.ly/CCAmz1
Diamond Comic Distributors releases its sales reports for April 2014 orders from comics shops in North America soon, an it is widely expected that Marvel's Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 3 #1, the second relaunched version of that long-running series, will be a blockbuster. Its many variant covers — including a large number specially designed for specific individual comics stores—is likely to give it a high place on the Top Comics of the 21st Century list, which currently is topped by Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #583, the Barack Obama inauguration issue. That issue had orders of at least 530,500 copies across several printings in early 2009 — and more, if newsstand sales are included.

But wherever the 2014 offering lands, its single-copy sales are unlikely to hit seven figures: as Marvel no longer has appreciable newsstand sales, that would require comics shops to have average orders for the title in the neighborhood of 400 copies each. Million-sellers were easier to achieve in a day when there were two or three times as many comics shops —which was why we saw several in the early 1990s. So the question is raised: what was the last million-selling comic book? In answer, it's probably not what you think.

First off, some definitional constraints. The goal with the "best-selling comic" category has been to find a definition that recognizes strong rack sales, and not to capture the total ultimate readership for a comics story; sales in collected editions, trade paperbacks, and digital venues aren't included. As for what is included, Star Wars #1 in 1977 set the practice of counting reprinted comic books published within the same year or so as part of overall sales for an issue, so long as the interiors were identical (except for a note in the indicia as to reprint status). Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #1 in 1989 added variant covers to the practice, although again, the interiors were identical. This way, the category captures collector's edition covers, variants, and snap reprints without allowing in repackagings like "Marvel Must Haves."

The last million-seller on the strength of comics shop sales is very likely Batman #500, cover-dated October 1993 and on sale in August 1993, just before the market collapse. We can see from the 1993 overall chart at Diamond that the "Return of Superman" issues and Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #1 all ranked higher at the end of the year, but those all came out before Batman #500. Capital City Distribution's sales for Batman #500 were known to have been 318,450 copies. Since Capital City's share of comics DC sold to the Direct Market was likely lower than 31.845%, that means that the overall Direct Market sales were over 1 million copies. (And newsstand sales would have taken it even higher.)

None of the rest of 1993's top monthly sellers appear to top 1 million. So the next later likely suspects would have been 1994's top sellers — Spawn/Batman #1 at Diamond and Generation X #1 at Capital City, neither of which approaches a million copies ordered. That takes us into 1995-96's dead zone for data when Marvel took its sales to its own distributor—but we can tell from other sources that nothing we know about in that era gets anywhere near a million. Finally, starting in late 1996, monthly sales data begins again and doesn't stop. No million-sellers there, either.

So Batman #500's the last million seller, right? No, probably not—because the Direct Market isn't everything when it comes to some publishers. I remember consulting with Viz at the time on the following press release from 2000, which appears only on Archive.org but which I include the opening of here for posterity:

http://www.mycomicshop.com/search?TID=145981?AffID=874007P01
POKEMON HITS 1 MILLION COPIES
San Francisco, CA—Viz Comics announces that issue #1 of Pokémon: The Electric Tale of Pikachu, already the bestselling comic in America over the course of 16 printings, has now printed over 1 million copies. Adding up all issues of Pokémon currently in print, over 7.25 million Pokémon comics have been printed since November 1998.


Pokémon's sales are the highest of any manga (Japanese comic) in the U.S. Total sales for all reprints and distribution for Pokémon: The Electric Tale of Pikachu #1 are now 1,001,000 copies, outselling any other single comic released since 1993.

Pokémon #1 now joins the "comics 1 million club," which includes Superman #75 (the "Death of Superman" issue), Batman #500, and Spawn #1. Pokémon: The Electric Tale of Pikachu #2-4 average 950,000 copies each, and Pokémon: Pikachu Shocks Back #1-4 average 680,000 copies each. Pokémon is sold in more retail outlets than ever before, including 7-11, Babbages, Blockbuster (Canada), Kay-Bee, K-Mart, Target, Toys 'R' Us, Wal-Mart, Warner Bros. Studio Stores, and Wizards of the Coast stores.

I remember consulting with Oliver Chin, then Viz's head of marketing and at the time, a columnist for Comics & Games Retailer magazine, which I edited, on the press release. As the release indicates, there was heavy availability in toy stores: they were sold in sets in places like the defunct K•B chain, which explains the lack of variation in the sales figures for #1-4. Pokémon #1 didn't even break 10,000 copies in its initial offering in the Direct Market: preorders were 9,322 copies in the first month, ranking in 162nd place. But as with the popular trading card game which made no splash at all initially in hobby game stores before suddenly becoming a big hit, a lot of Pokémon comics were sold once the phenomenon got underway. (As I understood it, it's not possible to tell between the printings of those issues, but that may have changed later in the run.)

It's reasonable to assume that, with Pokémania having some distance to go yet in 2000, the other three issues of the initial miniseries probably topped 1 million; it's also a safe guess that the second series, at the reported 680,000 copies an issue at the time of the news release, probably didn't.

So within the comics shop market, Batman #500 is a good guess at the last million-selling comic book, while in the North American market overall, Pokémon: The Electric Tale of Pikachu #1-4 are all likely candidates for the most recent million-sellers—with #4 the most recent, but only technically, since almost all of the copies of the four would have been sold in sets, much like the distribution pattern for most of the copies of Star Wars #1-6.

There may be more possible candidates out there, as we get into these newsstand versions: I remember hearing stories that Ultimate Spider-Man #1's various newsstand versions had approached a million sold, but I seem to recall some were packaged in differently sized offerings that might not be classed as traditional newsrack comic books. Certainly, as you begin bringing in other versions, like trade paperbacks, there have been quite a lot of comics stories that have been sold more than a million times! Stricter categories will point to different titles.

The title for best-selling comic book in American publishing history, of course, continues to belong to X-Men Vol. 2 #1, with its more than 8 million copies sold. Read about it here. That's a record I expect won't be challenged in my lifetime, but you never know...

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 the New York Times bestseller Star Wars: Kenobi and the upcoming hardcover 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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