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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, December 14, 2015

A long time ago: Original Star Wars comics title's sales history, 1977-1986

by John Jackson Miller

Given that much of my professional comics and fiction output has been associated with Star Wars, it's perhaps surprising that I haven't gotten around to doing a circulation spotlight on the original 1977 Marvel series — especially since I've had all the Statement of Ownership, Management, and Circulation postal forms from the title on hand for years. With Star Wars back in the news for some reason, it seems like a good time to remedy that. Click to see the detailed circulation history of the original 1977 Marvel Star Wars series, according to the company's postal reports.

When the first Star Wars movie was adapted by Marvel in 1977, early issues of the comic book were released before the movie came out. The first issue appeared in two different first printings, both newsstand editions for Curtis Circulation; one was a special rare (and now valuable) variant with a test-marketed price. Beginning with the second issue, first printings of #2-4 were also included in one of the bagged releases for Western Publishing's Whitman three-pack program. (Nick Pope's excellent site catalogs the bagged Whitman Star Wars configurations found in the wild.)

Once the movie was released and retailers knew they had a blockbuster on their hands, multiple printings of the early issues were ordered, both by Curtis Circulation — and, most consequentially, by Whitman for use in special Star Wars three-packs. The result was that the early issues of the title were the first comics to exceed 1 million copies per issue in sales since Uncle Scrooge and Walt Disney's Comics & Stories in 1960. According to Jim Shooter, later Marvel's Editor-in-Chief, "Star Wars saved Marvel" in the late 1970s.

Demand was so high for the reprints of the adaptation that Whitman only ordered Star Wars three-packs from Marvel for several months, perhaps explaining why there are no Whitman variants of other Marvel titles for a period in late 1977, corresponding to early 1978 cover dates. (That fact also helps explain why the "fat-diamond" versions of Marvel's comics in 1977-78 are better referred to as Whitman or special-market editions rather than Direct Market editions. Regardless of whether comics retailers got shipped copies from those print runs — and some reportedly did — those variant printings only existed because of the arrangement with Whitman, something Shooter confirmed to Comichron here.)

No circulation data was required to be published in the first two years of the series' existence, but Star Wars was certainly the #1 title in the industry in 1977, and very likely in 1978, too, as the Whitman Star Wars three-packs continued throughout the year.

In 1979, Marvel filed its first Statement of Ownership for Star Wars with the postal service, meaning it began publishing sales figured. By this point, the Whitman copies were no longer much of a factor. Yet the series still had combined newsstand and comic shop sales of nearly 280,000 copies a month, making it likely the industry's #2 title, not far behind Amazing Spider-Man and just ahead of Incredible Hulk, which was boosted at the time by its CBS TV show.

Sales of the Star Wars title declined every year after that, though 1984's sales were very close to those of 1983, when Return of the Jedi came out. That movie's adaptation appeared in its own stand-alone mini-series, so new stories weren't suspended for the duration of its run, as was the case with The Empire Strikes Back, which appeared in #39-44.

By the last full year of the title's initial run, it was a lower-tier book at Marvel, selling less than a third of the copies of the market-leading Uncanny X-Men. In all, the 107 issues of the regular series and its three annuals likely sold close to 40 million copies altogether. This doesn't count international versions, nor any of the collected editions released by Marvel, Whitman (Treasury editions), Ballantine (mass-market paperbacks), and later licensee Dark Horse.

Many years later, bringing things full circle (or is that "The circle is now complete"?), when Star Wars returned to Marvel in 2015 with a new title simply named Star Wars, it repeated its initial feat, with the first issue selling more than a million copies. That issue reappeared in the Top 300 for November 2015 (279th place), so ten months after its release it's still adding to the total. We'll have an end-of-year overall figure in mid-January.

Check out our other Title Spotlights here.

Comichron.com curator 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 novels including Star Wars: Kenobi, Star Trek: The Next Generation - Takedown, and Star Wars: A New Dawn. New Dawn appears with a new Miller short story as part of the Rise of the Empire compendium. His Star Trek: Prey trilogy is set for late 2016 release from Pocket books. Visit his fiction site at http://www.farawaypress.com. And be sure to follow Comichron on Twitter and Facebook.

Comichron November 2015 comics sales estimates online: Dark Knight III tops 440,000 copies

by John Jackson Miller


http://www.shareasale.com/r.cfm?u=296154&b=44882&m=8908&afftrack=&urllink=www%2Etfaw%2Ecom%2FProfile%2FDark%2DKnight%2DIII%2DMaster%2DRace%2D1%2D%2528of%2D8%2529%5F%5F%5F488216
The Dark Knight struck again in November, with the first issue of the revival of Frank Miller's 1980s classic take on Batman selling more than 440,000 copies into the Direct Market. That's according to Comichron's estimates based on charts released this morning by Diamond Comic Distributors. Click to see the estimated sales for comics shipped in November 2015.

Orders of Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1 were more than double the preorders for Dark Knight Strikes Again #1, back in December 2001; that title, which was priced nearly two dollars higher at $7.95, had first-month sales to retailers of more than 187,300 copies. In all, orders for Dark Knight III and the reprint volumes of earlier Dark Knight editions accounted for 5.35% of all dollars in the Direct Market in November; that would be enough to make those titles alone the fourth largest publisher in the industry last month. DC's market share without it would have been exactly 21%.

Marvel's relaunch continued to give comics sales a boost, 13 titles had sales over 100,000 copies, 11 of them from Marvel. Marvel's dollar sales within the Top 300 Comics grouping set a new high mark for the publisher in the Diamond Exclusive Era, as did its dollar sales when the Top 300 Graphic Novels are added to that grouping.

An ongoing thread to 2015 continued: Whereas in recent times the unit sales numbers at the top of the charts have been flattening while the sales of the lower tier titles have been increasing, the opposite has been true for most of this year. The 300th place title had orders of 4,197 copies, the lowest figure seen since March 2013. (Click to see the list of 300th place titles across time.) A lot has to do with the smaller number of titles Marvel and DC are offering: as almost everything those publishers produce charts in the Top 300, things drop off a little faster when their release slates shrink.

The aggregate changes are as follows:

TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES
November 2015: 8.3 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: +23%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +51%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +28%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +45%
YEAR TO DATE: 81.22 million copies, +7% vs. 2014, +28% vs. 2010, +17% vs. 2005, +27% vs. 2000
ALL COMICS UNIT SALES
November 2015 versus one year ago this month: +18.19%
YEAR TO DATE: +5.45%

TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES
November 2015: $34.73 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +38%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +72%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +79%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +124%
YEAR TO DATE: $321.02 million, +12% vs. 2014, +42% vs. 2010, +59% vs. 2005, +83% vs. 2000
ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES
November 2015 versus one year ago this month: +30.05%
YEAR TO DATE: +7.54%

TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
November 2015: $7.12 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -19%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -1%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: -4%
Versus 15 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: -46%
YEAR TO DATE: $82.21 million, unchanged vs. 2014
ALL TRADE PAPERBACK SALES
November 2015 versus one year ago this month: -17.50%
YEAR TO DATE: +2.24%

TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
November 2015: $41.85 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +23%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +43%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: +52%
Versus 15 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +136%
YEAR TO DATE: $403.22 million, +9% vs. 2014
ALL COMICS AND TRADE PAPERBACK SALES
November 2015 versus one year ago this month: +13.84%
YEAR TO DATE: +5.89%

OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)
November 2015: approximately $52.1 million (subject to revision)
Versus 1 year ago this month: +14%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +49%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +61%
YEAR TO DATE: $526.73 million, +6% vs. 2014

RELEASES
New comic books released: 470
New graphic novels released: 281
New magazines released: 39
All new releases: 790

The average comic book in the Top 300 cost $3.90; the average comic book retailers ordered cost $4.18, a new record. The median and most common price for comics offered was $3.99. Click to see comics prices across time.

Only $14 million in orders are needed in December for 2015 to top 2014.  Comichron projects that 2015's Direct Market sales will finish at around $570 million, up by about 6%, or $30 million.

Comichron.com curator 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 novels including Star Wars: Kenobi, Star Trek: The Next Generation - Takedown, and Star Wars: A New Dawn. New Dawn appears with a new Miller short story as part of the Rise of the Empire compendium. His Star Trek: Prey trilogy is set for late 2016 release from Pocket books. Visit his fiction site at http://www.farawaypress.com. And be sure to follow Comichron on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Miller's Dark Knight returns to top of comic sales charts in November 2015

by John Jackson Miller

http://www.shareasale.com/r.cfm?u=296154&b=44882&m=8908&afftrack=&urllink=www%2Etfaw%2Ecom%2FProfile%2FDark%2DKnight%2DIII%2DMaster%2DRace%2D1%2D%2528of%2D8%2529%5F%5F%5F488216Frank Miller's Dark Knight returned again in November, giving DC the top slot on a new comic book chart otherwise dominated by Marvel, according to a report released today by Diamond Comic Distributors, Comichron projects the month's orders of new comics, graphic novels, and magazines amounted to $52 million, up nearly 6% over last November, which also had four shipping weeks.

In past years where sales have been up year-over-year, we've spoken of a "gravy day" — the date when the previous year's dollar sales are surpassed, making everything afterward gravy, so to speak. In one recent strong year, that date had gone back into November; this year, the day is right around today. Only $14 million in orders are needed in December for 2015 to top 2014.  Comichron projects that 2015's Direct Market sales will finish at around $570 million, up by about 6%, or $30 million.

The aggregate change statistics:

  Dollars Units
November 2015 vs. October 2015    
Comics 8.62% 4.93%
Graphic novels -11.93% -10.96%
Total Comics/Graphic novels 2.70% 3.80%
     
November 2015 vs. November 2014    
Comics 30.05% 18.19%
Graphic novels -17.50% -21.76%
Total Comics/Graphic novels 13.84% 14.63%
     
Year-to-date 2015 vs. Year-to-date 2014    
Comics 7.54% 5.45%
Graphic novels 2.24% 3.06%
Total Comics/Graphic novels 5.89% 5.26%

While periodical comics units were up more than 18%, dollars were up more than 30% over the same month a year ago. The fact that market-topper Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1 was priced at nearly $6 had a lot to do with that. With eight issues scheduled, the title is expected to be a presence in the charts well into 2016. The top comic books:

  Comic Book Price Publisher
1 Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1 $5.99 DC
2 Star Wars: Vader Down #1 $4.99 Marvel
3 Deadpool #1 $4.99 Marvel
4 Secret Wars #7 $3.99 Marvel
5 Extraordinary X-Men #1 $4.99 Marvel
6 All-New All-Different Avengers #1 $4.99 Marvel
7 Star Wars #11 $3.99 Marvel
8 Uncanny X-Men #600 $5.99 Marvel
9 Star Wars #12 $3.99 Marvel
10 All New Wolverine #1 $4.99 Marvel

The first issue of Miller's previous entrant in the series, Dark Knight Strikes Again, had placed #1 in December 2001.

Dollar sales of graphic novels were down by 17.5%, but that translates to a smaller dollar amount than the increase comic books saw, and there were 20 fewer graphic novels released in November 2015 versus November 2014. Sandman Overture led the chart:

  Graphic Novel Price Publisher
1 Sandman Overture Deluxe Edition HC $24.99 DC
2 Star Wars: Journey to the Force Awakens: Shattered Empire $16.99 Marvel
3 Star Wars: Princess Leia $16.99 Marvel
4 Ms. Marvel Volume 4: Last Days $17.99 Marvel
5 Spider-Gwen Vol. 0: Most Wanted $16.99 Marvel
6 Deadpool Vs. Thanos $16.99 Marvel
7 Low Volume 2: Before The Dawn Burns Us $14.99 Image
8 Vampirella #1969 $7.99 Dynamite
9 Star Wars: Kanan Volume 1: The Last Padawan $19.99 Marvel
10 Saga Volume 5 $14.99 Image
  Having the top performers in both categories helped DC close the gap with Marvel somewhat. The market shares:

  Dollar Share Unit Share
Marvel 43.20% 47.65%
DC 26.35% 26.09%
Image 8.67% 10.02%
IDW 4.42% 3.50%
Dark Horse 3.17% 2.69%
Boom 1.96% 1.67%
Dynamite 1.90% 1.60%
Oni 1.06% 0.61%
Titan 0.73% 0.64%
Valiant 0.73% 0.87%
Other 7.82% 4.66%
 
New title volume was relatively light, with 42 fewer items released. The number of new releases by type and publisher:
 
  Comics shipped Graphic novels shipped Magazines shipped Total shipped
Marvel 72 39 0 111
DC 77 27 0 104
Image 61 14 0 75
IDW 42 22 0 64
Dark Horse 36 15 0 51
Boom 27 11 0 38
Dynamite 19 5 0 24
Titan 11 6 5 22
Valiant 9 5 0 14
Oni 6 6 0 12
Other 110 131 34 275
Total 470 281 39 790

The per-title estimates will be along next week.

Comichron.com curator 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 novels including Star Wars: Kenobi, Star Trek: The Next Generation - Takedown, and Star Wars: A New Dawn. New Dawn appears with a new Miller short story as part of the Rise of the Empire compendium. His Star Trek: Prey trilogy is set for late 2016 release from Pocket books.


Visit his fiction site at http://www.farawaypress.com. And be sure to follow Comichron on Twitter and Facebook.
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