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More than 147,000 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, November 10, 2014

October 2014 comics estimates online: Looking at the Loot Crate Effect

by John Jackson Miller

http://bit.ly/CCWD132
October smashed all comics records from the last decade-plus again, with a thousand new comic books, graphic novels, and magazines hitting the market. Based on Comichron's analysis of data released by Diamond Comic Distributors, comics shops in North America ordered more than $56 million in printed product during the month. Seven comic books had orders of more than 100,000 copies. Click to see the sales estimates for comics ordered in October 2014.

Highlights of the month included Diamond's Halloween ComicFest, its fall counterpart to Free Comic Book Day — and topping the charts again, we have a comic book whose sales were greatly inflated by a single order from the pop culture subscription club, Loot Crate. Image's Walking Dead #132 far outdistanced other comic books offered in October, with estimated orders of more than 326,000 copies.

The question is, how many of those copies did Loot Crate order? There's no way to know for sure — and no reason to expect that Diamond would reveal the ordering levels of one of its customer accounts. But unlike Rocket Raccoon #1, this issue of Walking Dead was in the middle of a series — and as such, the issues around it serve as clues. Issue #131 in September had first-month estimated sales of 69,810 copies; issue #133, which also came out in October, ranked 16th with orders of 69,561 copies.

The July Loot Crate included a Rocket Raccoon #1 variant
(Image © Loot Crate)
That suggests a floor for #132 in the Direct Market of nearly 70,000 copies — meaning however many copies Loot Crate purchased, it could not have been more than 256,000. How many fewer? While the Walking Dead fifth season did premiere on TV on Oct. 12, eleven days after the release of #132, it doesn't seem from the solicitation materials that the particular issue was the target of special attention. Diamond shipping records indicate no variant editions for the Direct Market. So while I had suggested here on Friday that the comic book could have topped the charts without Loot Crate's help, seeing the numbers suggests that's less likely. It could be possible, in fact, that Loot Crate ordered a quarter million copies of the issue.

Earlier in the year, Rocket Raccoon dropped 237,000 copies from its first Loot Crate-ordered issue to the next, but it would've dropped some part of that because of the difference between first- and second-issue sales. Loot Crate offers orders of specific individual bundles in addition to its subscriptions, so there could well be significant volatility from order to order. We need more data points to get a better gauge, but we are almost certainly in the peculiar situation of a variant, the Loot Crate labeled edition, being more numerous than the regular Direct Market version. 

All this raises the question of whether such colossal orders are being reported in the right place. Yes, Diamond is selling the books nonreturnably to Loot Crate, just as it does copies of other variant comics produced for mail-order houses — though none of them, to my knowledge, have ordered more copies than the entire Direct Market bought of a comic book. Does it make a difference if these orders are reported with the regular monthly data? It really depends on your point of view.

Certainly the publisher with the Loot Crate deal benefits by having the orders reported in the same place, while all the other publishers who might have vied for first place do not. While the importance of its suppliers' views are obvious, however, the target audience of distributor sales charts has always been retailers, looking to see what other shops are having success with and using the Order Index numbers to adjust their purchase numbers. The figures for Loot Crate-enhanced titles are thus basically useless for such a purpose, although they may tip shop-owners off that a bunch of new people have been introduced to the title.


http://bit.ly/CCMsMarvel1
Yet another group of end-users for the data is collectors who want to know how scarce a given comic book is, and the more data points for them, the better. We'd hate not to know how many total copies are out there. But there's no returning to the days of breaking out variant covers into their own entries, now that such variants are ubiquitous. I honestly don't know what the solution is, but I suspect that if other firms enter the Loot Crate space offering comics, odds are the question will be raised again. For Comichron's part, the sales are ginormous enough that we'll be including a dagger (as we're already using the asterisk) when any Loot Crate-enhanced issue appears in the rankings. Future readers won't need to wonder why sales spiked so high.

There's no similar gap on the graphic novel side of things; we see from the numbers that Ms. Marvel Vol. 1 topped the graphic novel charts with first-month orders of about 7,795 copies, surpassing the #2 title by a couple of cases.

RECORDS: There was, of course, the main record broken: the highest dollar value for comics, graphic novels, and magazines ordered in the Diamond Exclusive era, at $56.09 million. That's double the total for ten years earlier, October 2004.

But other records were set. Retailers ordered 8.41 million copies of the Top 300 comics, the highest number since December 1997, when Darkness #11 led the market. The Top 300 comics were valued at $31.94 million, the highest figure seen in the period. Image's unit sales in that grouping — again, boosted by Loot Crate — were its highest since April 2000 when Fathom was atop the charts, and Image's dollar sales in the Top 300 were at the highest level since July 1998.

Retailers ordered $40.76 million of the Top 300 comics and the Top 300 graphic novels, the highest figure for that category in the Diamond Era. Marvel's sales in that grouping were also its highest in the era.

The aggregate changes:

TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES
October 2014: 8.41 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: +8%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +36%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +42%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +30%
YEAR TO DATE: 69.17 million copies, -3% vs. 2013, +11% vs. 2009, +13% vs. 2004, +7 vs. 1999
ALL COMICS UNIT SALES
October 2014 versus one year ago this month: +10.14%
YEAR TO DATE: -0.66%

 ---

TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES
October 2014: $31.94 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +10%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +49%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +87%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +84%
YEAR TO DATE: $262.38 million, +1% vs. 2013, +23% vs. 2009, +49% vs. 2004, +57% vs. 1999
ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES
October 2014 versus one year ago this month: +10.84%
YEAR TO DATE: +3.64%
---

TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
October 2014: $8.82 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +6%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -9%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: +24%
Versus 15 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: 13%
YEAR TO DATE: $73.51 million, -3% vs. 2013
ALL TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
October 2014 versus one year ago this month: +12.9%
YEAR TO DATE: +5.31%
---

TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
October 2014: $40.76 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +9%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +36%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: +60%
Versus 15 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +98%
YEAR TO DATE: $335.88 million, unchanged vs. 2013
ALL COMICS AND TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
October 2014 versus one year ago this month: +11.46%
YEAR TO DATE: +4.15%

---

OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)
October 2014: approximately $56.09 million (subject to revision)
Versus 1 year ago this month: +11%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +64%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +101%
YEAR TO DATE: $451.19 million, +4% vs. 2013

RELEASES
New comic books released: 590
New graphic novels released: 374
New magazines released: 55
All new releases: 1,019

The average comic book in the Top 300 cost $3.75; the average comic book retailers ordered cost $3.80. The median and most common price for comics offered was $3.99. Click to see comics prices across time.

As mentioned Friday, 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.

That's it for October's report. I'll be speaking about the comics market in panels this weekend at Atomacon in N. Charleston, S. Carolina, and the weekend of Nov. 21-23 at Memphis Comic and Fantasy Con. Hope to see you there — and wherever you are, you can 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 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!

Friday, November 7, 2014

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

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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