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John Jackson Miller and other pop culture archaeologists interested in comics history.

 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Comics and graphic novel market reaches $870 million in 2013

According to new estimate by Comichron and ICV2

The market for comics and graphic novels in the U.S. and Canada reached $870 million at retail last year, according to a new estimate prepared jointly by ICv2’s Milton Griepp and Comichron’s John Jackson Miller.

“I’ve been networking with Milton on questions of the numbers underlying the business since he was at Capital City Distribution and I was editing Comics Retailer magazine back in the 1990s,” Miller said.

“It’s been great to formally collaborate on these estimates for the first time, and I think the result is the most inclusive and accurate picture of the market either of us has ever been able to produce.”

“I’m very excited about the market model this collaboration with John has produced,” Griepp said.  “I’ve always had great respect for John’s work in the area of comic sales, and putting our heads together has enabled us to build a model that all can use to analyze and understand the market.”

As presented in the accompanying infographic, the 2013 analysis by ICv2 and Comichron was divided up between periodical comics (what some call “floppies” or “pamphlets”), graphic novels, and digital download-to-own sales. Graphic novels contributed the largest portion ($415 million) and comic books nearly as much ($365 million), and digital (based on numbers released yesterday by ICv2) continued to grow faster than the market at $90 million. All print figures are calculated based on the full retail price of books sold into the market, and do not account for discounting or markup.

According to the report by Comichron and ICv2, comics periodical sales occur primarily in the comics store channel ($340 million) and to a declining degree in the “newsstand” channel ($25 million).  For book format products, well over half of all graphic novel sales ($245 million) occur in the book channel, with a smaller share ($170 million) in the comics store channel.

ICv2 and Comichron also collaborated on market estimates for 2011 and 2012, revising earlier estimates by both.  According to the new report, comics periodical sales grew from $300 million in 2011 to $335 million in 2012; graphic novel sales grew from $390 million in 2011 to $400 million in 2012; and combined comics and graphic novel sales grew from $690 million in 2011 to $735 million in 2012.

“It’s great that the comics market has found new ways to grow even as the over-all book and magazine markets remain challenged,” Griepp said. “It’s proof of the fundamental entertainment and literary value of the comics medium.”

“According to our records here at Comichron, without adjusting for inflation, this is the highest dollar value the market has reached since 1993,” Miller said. “That’s great for the business, and we’re excited to see what comes next.”

Comichron is the world’s largest public repository of comic-book sales figures, featuring data from the 1930s to today about comic book and graphic novel circulation, cover prices, and market shares on its website, www.comichron.com. With data and analysis on the distant past as well as the present, Comichron serves as a trusted resource for academics studying the the historical reach of the medium and for collectors seeking accurate information about how many copies of a comic book originally circulated.

ICv2 is the #1 industry source on the business of geek culture, including comics and graphic novels, manga and anime, movie/TV products, and hobby games, on its Website, www.ICv2.com, and in its magazine, Internal Correspondence.  For the people on the front lines of the geek culture business, staying ahead of the trends isn't something that can be left to chance-it's a basic necessity for being successful.  That's why ICv2 is the #1 source of news and information for the buyers, gatekeepers, and tastemakers on the front lines.  ICv2 is where trend-watching is a science.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The life of Archie: 54 years of circulation history

by John Jackson Miller

Archie Andrews has cheated the calendar for many years, having been a teenager since his comics debut in the 1940s, but death finds him — at least in an alternate reality—in the upcoming Life With Archie #36, according to CBR reports today.

"Wein's Law" — named for Len Wein, the writer who coined it — famously holds that "no one in comics is ever dead unless you can see the body, and usually not even then." Comics "deaths" are usually temporary in nature and often done as a publicity stunt, and they have often been greatly successful in gaining attention. The November 1992 "Death of Superman" resulted in a reported $30 million day in comics shops, the most money ever made in the business in a single day; and more recently, the death (also temporary) of Captain America led to the comic book where it happened becoming the best-selling issue of 2007.  

Life With Archie is a magazine-sized title set in a different universe from regular Archie continuity, so this event doesn't exactly fit the mold: the regular Archie title goes on — as does Afterlife With Archie, the title which in June gave Archie — and his eponymous publishing house — its first ever appearance at the top of the graphic novel bestseller list. (See the just-released June estimates here.) As noted in our reports of that event, the main Archie title itself was no stranger to the top of the comic book charts, once upon a time; after many years of collecting, I am pleased to present the complete circulation record of the main Archie title, as reported in statements filed with the United States Postal Service. Click to see the grid of circulation statements.

The main Archie title began in Winter 1942 and has been published without interruption ever since; its frequency has changed over the years, increasing or decreasing to reflect market situations, but it has never been renumbered. (That makes it the longest-running ongoing North American title never to be renumbered, a good honor to have.) It has been sold by second-class or periodical-class subscription for most of that time, and as such, has had to file Statements of Ownership, Management, and Circulation, which it prints in the comic book in the early part of each year. Where DC and, more recently, Marvel have stopped printing the forms, Archie continues to do so, and so Archie represents one of the few titles for which an unbroken track of reports from 1960 exist.


The cross-time picture they paint is a good deal different from what could be drawn for many other titles, in part because of the nature of the comic book and its audience. The main Archie title was very popular in the newsstand era. Archie had been running for 18 years when the 1960s began; the title was selling half a million copies at that point. The series reached its post-1960 peak in 1968 with the launch of the animated TV series from Filmation, which ran during the 1968-69 season on CBS; by 1969, when the song "Sugar, Sugar" released by a band called The Archies reached #1 on the Billboard pop charts, Archie, too, surpassed Superman and Batman to become the #1 title in comics.


It remained at #1 through 1973, based on Comichron's collection of circulation statements; finally, in 1974, The Amazing Spider-Man and Superman both passed it. During the distribution tumult of the 1970s, Archie began focusing more on digests — a market it had helped to create through its work with the Comics Magazine Association of America to establish grocery store counter dumps; as such, in 1977, the same year that Archie fell out of the top 10, its sales were surpassed by Archie Comics Digest. Betty and Veronica surpassed Archie's sales in 1980.

In 1982, the title's frequency was reduced from monthly to bimonthly. As the comic-shop market grew in the 1980s, Archie's publishing focus remained on the newsstand; sales recovered a little in the late 1980s thanks in part to added attention to its subscription business, but the flourishing of the comic book market helped Archie less than most publishers, given its younger target demographic. Enough so that when the early 1990s brought a colossal boom in the comics shop market, it's barely noticeable from the title's sales. Editorial initiatives in the 2000s sought to raise the title's sales, with particular success in 2007, and later with the release of the landmark 600th issue. By the 2010s, however, the monthly comic book was being outsold three-to-one by its digest counterpart.

So the major differences between the title and other comics make it less reflective than most books of the history of circulation in the intervening years; as noted, it's not even a great bellwether for the publisher itself, where digests, digital, and other formats are an ever-larger part of the business. (Archie sold well over 2 million digests last year, judging from the other postal statements.) [7/15 addition:] Further, the title is increasingly less tied to the flagging fortunes of the newsstand market: comics shops accounted for about four out of every nine copies that visited a cash register in 2013. The main title's sales in comics shops have increased during the last decade: this June's #656 had orders of 4,063 copies, versus 3,097 copies for #549, exactly ten years earlier. 

But all told, more than 85 million copies of the main Archie title were sold between 1960 and 2013, making it one of the comics you're most likely to find on the secondary market. Archie lives — in our reality, anyway!

Look here tomorrow for the release of the long-awaited 2013 end-of-year data, including the direct market, outside channels, and digital, the product of our first-ever joint analysis with ICV2.

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!

June 2014 comics sales estimates: Market bounces back to a tie at halftime

by John Jackson Miller

http://bit.ly/CCBat32
The full estimates for June 2014 comics sales are now online, and as reported last weekend, at "halftime" we see a market that has rebounded from winter to bring this year's sales even with last year.

Retailers spent almost the exact same amount of money on comics and graphic novels in the period in the first halves of this year and last year, but this year they bought slightly more graphic novels and slightly fewer comic books. But the losses in comic books mainly came during the winter; they've perked up since. We were down 4% in overall sales in the first quarter and up 4% in the second. (So there's no "comics recession," at least in the two-negative-quarters definition of the term.)

http://bit.ly/AfterArchFurther, the "long tail" in comics has outperformed the Top 300. This is even more true of the long tail in graphic novels, though there is a caveat: the fact that Top 300 graphic novel revenue reads as off 8% for the year while Diamond says that the category overall is up 3% is partially explained by the fact that there were larger quantities of graphic novels dumped on the market at deep discount in the first half of 2013. We're seeing fewer graphic novels in the itemized charts, yes, but Diamond is seeing more wholesale revenue — which is what it bases its percentages on.

June itself was led by Batman #32 — and saw some upward movement by several titles, including Harley Quinn. The top graphic novel, as noted on Friday, was Afterlife with Archie Vol. 1, the first Archie graphic novel to top the book list with orders approaching 12,000 copies.

The comparison data:

TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES
June 2014: 6.46 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: -8%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -2%
Versus 10 years ago this month: -1%
Versus 15 years ago this month: -1%
Q2 2014: 20.09 million copies, -3% vs.Q2 2013
YEAR TO DATE: 38.39 million copies, -8% vs. 2013, +8% vs. 2009, +6% vs. 2004, +1 vs. 1999

ALL COMICS UNIT SALES
June 2014 versus one year ago this month: -4.51%
Q2 2014 vs. Q2 2013: -1.29%
YEAR TO DATE: -6.36%

TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES
June 2014: $23.75 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -7%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +5%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +28%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +43%
Q2 2014: $76.77 million, +2% vs. Q2 2013
YEAR TO DATE: $144.77 million, -4% vs. 2013, +20% vs. 2009, +41% vs. 2004, +49% vs. 1999

ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES
June 2014 versus one year ago this month: -2.93%
Q2 2014 vs. Q2 2013: +3.9%
YEAR TO DATE: -1.43%

TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
June 2014: $6.93 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +2%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +15%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: +25%
Versus 15 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: +27%
Q2 2014: $21.77 million, -7% vs. Q2 2013 
YEAR TO DATE: $42.4 million, -8% vs. 2013

ALL TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
June 2014 versus one year ago this month: +8.09%
Q2 2014 vs. Q2 2013: +4.33%
YEAR TO DATE: +2.93%

TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
June 2014: $30.68 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -5%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -2%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: +15%
Versus 15 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +52%
Q2 2014 vs. Q2 2013: $98.54 million, unchanged vs. Q2 2013
YEAR TO DATE: $187.18 million, -5% vs. 2013

ALL COMICS AND TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
June 2014 versus one year ago this month: +0.33%
Q2 2014 vs. Q2 2013: +4.04%
YEAR TO DATE: -0.08%

OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines) 
June 2014: approximately $41.68 million (subject to revision)
Versus 1 year ago this month: unchanged
Versus 5 years ago this month: +13%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +91%
Q2 2014 vs. Q2 2013: $132.94 million, up 4% vs. Q2 2013
YEAR TO DATE: $249.53 million, unchanged vs. 2013

RELEASES
New comic books released: 424
New graphic novels released: 246
New magazines released: 34
All new releases: 704

The average comic book in the Top 300 cost $3.72; the average comic book retailers ordered cost $3.67, a considerable drop. The median and most common price for comics offered was $3.99. Click to see comics prices across time.

Diamond only released the Top 300 this month, after several months of the Top 400. Various small publisher titles in the 300s and 400s were provided, and are shown on the listing page.

Look here tomorrow for the release of the long-awaited 2013 end-of-year data, including the direct market, outside channels, and digital, the product of our first-ever joint analysis with ICV2.

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, July 11, 2014

Comics sales recover from winter to finish first half of 2014 flat; Archie tops GN list for first time

by John Jackson Miller

http://bit.ly/AfterArch
Comic shops in North America spent the same amount of money on comic books and graphic novels in the first half of 2014 as they did during the first half of 2013, according to new data released by Diamond Comic Distributors. Retailers purchased almost $250 million worth of comics, graphic novels, and magazines in the period, a decrease of less than $200,000 at full retail. That's the equivalent of a single upper-tier comic book*; had one more shipped in the year, the Direct Market would be even or slightly ahead.

The flat dollar sales result represents a slowdown in unit sales terms for comic books, as 6.36% fewer copies shipped in the first half of the year; graphic novel unit sales were up 5.41%. Overall dollar orders for the second quarter were up more than 4%, making up for the losses during the first quarter. Spring sales volumes are always larger than winter volumes in comics, so even a mildly positive figure is enough to erase a drop as small as we saw in the first three months.

Dollar orders in the second half of 2013 were nearly 7% higher than in the first half of 2013, so to outperform last year, the same pace will need to be bettered going forward. The aggregate sales changes:

DOLLARS UNITS
JUNE 2014 VS. MAY 2014
Comics -3.19% -1.31%
Graphic Novels -3.36% 2.93%
Total Comics & GNs -3.25% -0.99%
JUNE 2014 VS. JUNE 2013
Comics -2.93% -4.51%
Graphic Novels 8.09% 10.26%
Total Comics & GNs 0.33% -3.46%
SECOND QUARTER 2014 VS. FIRST QUARTER 2014
Comics 14.13% 11.07%
Graphic Novels 13.59% 2.88%
Total Comics & GNs 13.96% 10.34%
SECOND QUARTER 2014 VS. SECOND QUARTER 2013
Comics 3.90% -1.29%
Graphic Novels 4.33% 1.25%
Total Comics & GNs 4.04% -1.09%
YEAR-TO-DATE 2014 VS. YEAR-TO-DATE 2013
Comics -1.43% -6.36%
Graphic Novels 2.93% 5.41%
Total Comics & GNs -0.08% -5.46%

June's orders overall were approximately $41.7 million, an increase of a third of one percent. Graphic novels were, again, the better performer, up 8% versus the nearly 3% loss in comics dollar orders. June 2014 and June 2013 were both four-shipping-week months.

The top-selling comic book was DC's Batman #32; DC had five slots in the Top 10, with Marvel taking four and Image taking one. The top-selling comics:

RANK DESCRIPTION PRICE VENDOR
1 Batman #32 $3.99 DC
2 Amazing Spider-Man #3 $3.99 Marvel
3 Original Sin #3 $3.99 Marvel
4 Harley Quinn #7 $2.99 DC
5 Superman #32 $3.99 DC
6 Original Sin #4 $3.99 Marvel
7 Amazing Spider-Man #1.2 $3.99 Marvel
8 Justice League #31 $3.99 DC
9 The Walking Dead #128 $2.99 Image
10 Detective Comics #32 $3.99 DC

Afterlife with Archie was the best-selling graphic novel in June 2014: it is the first time an Archie title has ever topped the graphic novel list. The book was offered with a Diamond-exclusive cover. The main Archie comic book title has topped the comics sales charts before, including during the year of 1969, when attention had been called to the line by the "Sugar, Sugar" song and The Archie Show animated TV series from Filmation, which ran the 1968-69 season on CBS.

The top-selling graphic novels and trade paperbacks:

RANK DESCRIPTION PRICE VENDOR
1 Afterlife With Archie Vol. 1: Escape From Riverdale $17.99 Archie
2 Night of the Living Deadpool $16.99 Marvel
3 Velvet Volume 1: Before The Living End $9.99 Image
4 Saga Volume 3 $14.99 Image
5 Saga Volume 1 $9.99 Image
6 Superior Spider-Man Vol. 6: Goblin Nation $19.99 Marvel
7 Batman & Robin Vol. 3: Death of the Family $14.99 DC
8 Injustice: Gods Among Us Volume 1 $14.99 DC
9 Injustice: Gods Among Us Volume 2 HC $19.99 DC
10 Saga Volume 2 $14.99 Image

The market shares found Marvel in the lead in both dollars and units and the top five publishers all above 5% in dollar shares:

PUBLISHER DOLLAR SHARE UNIT SHARE
Marvel 33.71% 35.68%
DC 29.88% 33.20%
Image 8.93% 10.51%
IDW 5.60% 4.45%
Dark Horse 5.57% 4.89%
Dynamite 2.62% 2.30%
Boom 2.52% 2.52%
Valiant 1.20% 1.27%
Avatar 1.10% 0.81%
Archie 0.93% 0.64%
Other 7.94% 3.74%

Finally, the new release volume was slightly larger than five-ship-week May's:

Comics shipped GNs shipped Magazines shipped Total shipped
DC 77 28 1 106
Marvel 78 24 0 102
Image 53 10 0 63
Dark Horse 36 23 0 59
IDW 43 16 0 59
Boom 28 7 0 35
Dynamite 23 9 0 32
Avatar 9 7 0 16
Zenescope 11 2 0 13
Random House 0 11 0 11
Other 66 109 34 209
TOTAL 424 246 35 705
The complete analysis with estimates will be along next week, and look soon for the figures on the industry's sales overall in 2013, including channels outside the Direct Market. ICV2 has just posted its estimates for digital sales in 2013, finding them at $90 million, an increase over 2012 but not by the colossal margins of earlier in the decade.

If you are at San Diego Comic-Con, be sure to drop by the Random House/Del Rey booth in the Lucasfilm Pavilion, where I will be signing all four days. I will also be speaking at the Star Wars panel at 2 in room 7AB on Friday.

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!

(* EDIT: A previous calculation had estimated the difference was only $20,000 at full retail.) 
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