Diamond Comic Distributors, and as reported here on Friday, it was a good one, with orders of comics and graphic novels by comics shops in North America topping $50 million for the second time in three months — and just the third time in the last decade and a half. The result was the best quarter in dollar terms (not adjusted for inflation) in the 17 years that Diamond has been the exclusive distributor for all the major publishers. At $145.56 million, it topped the previous record, set in the fourth quarter of last year, by nearly $10 million. Click to see the sales estimates for comics ordered in September 2014.
The Death of Wolverine #1 was the top-selling title with orders approaching 262,000 copies, but the bigger story was DC and its Futures End event. The lenticular covers and the standard versions combined to give DC 115 entries in the Top 300 comics list. All those high-volume entries combined to push many publishers out of the Top 300 entirely; only nine publishers put more than one title onto the list.
That doesn't mean those publishers didn't have successful releases, however: with the 300th-place title getting orders of more than 6,300 copies — nearly but not quite a record for a four-week month — that left a lot of volume outside the charts. Archie was the 401st place title with 3,651 copies sold, for example; last September's 400th-place book had orders of 2,621, nearly a thousand fewer copies. It's why the Top 300 comics unit sales could be down 3% while overall comics unit sales were basically flat. The additional "Future's End" entries had the effect of making the "long tail" that much longer.
It's of interest to look at comic unit sales performance across Septembers across five-year intervals, to see a glimpse of comics performance where cover price inflation is not in play:
COMICS SHOP ORDERS OF TOP 300 COMICS
September 1999: 7.06 million copies
September 2004: 7.01 million copies
September 2009: 7.05 million copies
September 2014: 7.89 million copies
So there has been significant recent growth there, with increases of 12-13%. Of course, the choice of years for selection introduces some distortion: 1999 and 2009 weren't good years, while 2004 was part of a recovery from a deep hole. But it's of interest, too, to see where the volume has moved:
ORDERS FOR 300th PLACE COMIC BOOK
September 1999: 2,363 copies
September 2004: 1,681 copies
September 2009: 4,095 copies
September 2014: 6,306 copies
This implies that 2014 unit sales are actually significantly larger than those earlier years, on the basis of volume not captured by the charts. The bench has simply grown stronger relative to what it was in the past: the smaller publishers are releasing more titles, and to more comparative success.
RECORDS: A couple of Diamond Exclusive-era records were set in the month. In addition to the highest dollar value for comics, graphic novel, and magazine orders in a single quarter, September saw the highest dollar value for orders for the Top 300 comics, at $31.18 million.
We nearly saw a record with the highest weighted average price for comic books ordered by retailers within the Top 300 — $3.95, a nickel short of April's $4 mark. Here we find the influence of high prices for the better-selling titles: the Top 25 comics had an average cover price of $4.15.
And the 22.37 million copies ordered of Top 300 comics in the third quarter is the most in a quarter since the fourth quarter of 1997.
The aggregate changes:
Versus 1 year ago this month: -3%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +12%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +13%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +12%
Q3 2014: 22.37 million copies, +2% vs. Q3 2013
YEAR TO DATE: 60.76 million copies, -4% vs. 2013, +8% vs. 2009, +9% vs. 2004, +4 vs. 1999
ALL COMICS UNIT SALES
September 2014 versus one year ago this month: -0.12%
Q3 2014 vs. Q3 2013: +6.15%
YEAR TO DATE: -2.04%
Versus 1 year ago this month: +4%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +27%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +56%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +69%
Q3 2014: $85.67 million copies, +7% vs. Q3 2013
YEAR TO DATE: $230.44 million, unchanged vs. 2013, +20% vs. 2009, +45% vs. 2004, +53% vs. 1999
ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES
September 2014 versus one year ago this month: +4.58%
Q3 2014 vs. Q3 2013: +10.3%
YEAR TO DATE: +2.69%
Versus 1 year ago this month: -2%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +3%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: +37%
Versus 15 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: +78%
Q3 2014: $22.29 million copies, +4% vs. Q3 2013
YEAR TO DATE: $64.69 million, -4% vs. 2013
ALL TRADE PAPERBACK SALES
September 2014 versus one year ago this month: +8.49%
Q3 2014 vs. Q3 2013: +7.04%
YEAR TO DATE: +4.33%
Versus 1 year ago this month: +3%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +13%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: +43%
Versus 15 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +81%
Q3 2014: 107.94 million copies, +7% vs. Q3 2013
YEAR TO DATE: $295.12 million, -1% vs. 2013
ALL COMICS AND TRADE PAPERBACK SALES
September 2014 versus one year ago this month: +5.64%
Q3 2014 vs. Q3 2013: +9.33%
YEAR TO DATE: +3.19%
Versus 1 year ago this month: +6% Versus 5 years ago this month: +24%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +65%
Q3 2014: $145.56 million copies, +9% vs. Q3 2013
YEAR TO DATE: $395.1 million, +3% vs. 2013
New comic books released: 484
New graphic novels released: 265
New magazines released: 13
All new releases: 762
As noted above, the average comic book in the Top 300 cost $3.77; the average comic book retailers ordered cost $3.95. The median and most common price for comics offered was $3.99. Click to see comics prices across time.
That's it for September's report. I'll be at New York Comic-Con later this week, signing at the Random House/Del Rey booth. And wherever you are, be sure to visit 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 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!