Search for titles on Comichron!
Custom Search

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.

 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Free Comic Book Day: The origin story

by John Jackson Miller

Saturday, May 2 is Free Comic Book Day, the fourteenth observance of the comics industry' official holiday — and while I was at a convention during last year's event and couldn't do a signing in my local shop, I will be returning to do one at Galaxy Comics, Games, and More in Stevens Point, Wisconsin from 1-3. And in something else that's become a tradition for this site, I'm retelling the story of how an event which began with a suggestion by a retailer in the pages of a trade magazine has  become a major happening in stores around the world, and the kickoff not just for the summer but most of the comic book year for many publishers.

There had been earlier hopes for an equivalent to the milk marketing board in comics — some kind of advertising council — over the years, including a publisher-and-distributor attempt in the mid-1990s that met several times but never generated much of anything before it vanished in the industry's collapse that decade. The idea for Free Comic Book Day, by contrast, came from the retail sector — or, rather, from a retailer: Joe Field, owner of Flying Colors Comics in California.

I had signed Joe on in the late 1990s as a monthly columnist for Comics & Games Retailer magazine, a trade publication that went for free each month to most of the comics shops in North America. Like the other columnists, Joe's contributions ranged from commentary on retail issues to practical advice — and in June 2001, just as the comics industry was beginning to emerge from the disaster of the 1990s, Joe advised us he had a special column on the way, along with something unusual: an instantaneous response from the Powers That Be being addressed.

In "The Power of Free," Joe spoke of how Baskin-Robbins had held its annual Free Scoop Night on May 2, 2001. The event resulted, he wrote, in the ice cream store near his shop moving 1,300 scoops in four hours, meaning that's how many patrons came through the door. Joe wrote that he'd suggested a national comics "open house" event to Diamond Comic Distributors in 1997; now, he thought, the key element to add would be giveaway comics.

Giveaway comics were a major source of new readers for the comics industry over its history, from the March of Comics issues given away at shoe stores to the Big Boy comics still distributed in restaurants. I've done a lot of research into those and several other giveaway lines over the years — and it's plain that many of the people who learned to read comics (and, odd as it sounds, the storytelling language of comics is something one does have to learn to read) learned it from ones they got for free. Most of those comics went completely away in the 1980s and 1990s. Joe's suggestion in the article was that publishers could create sampler comics for their different lines — "just as Baskin-Robbins has 31 flavors of ice cream... a selection of samplers available from different publishers would allow stores to better cover the disparate tastes of those who'll show up."

Joe suggested a variety of steps that could be taken by publishers, retailers, and creators; I've posted the original article pages here, which I hope he doesn't mind. Click the pages to see them larger. It shows that many of those ideas, relating to the production and distribution of the samplers, were pretty close to what was eventually adopted. It also shows the sidebar response from Diamond's Roger Fletcher, embracing the idea and promising to solicit retailer interest in the idea.

And it happened. The first Free Comic Book Day was on May 4 of the following year — right after the release of Spider-Man, and a year and two days after the Baskin-Robbins event that Joe said provided the partial inspiration. The magazine followed the progress of the event, and was happy to be associated — our Maggie Thompson attended many of the FCBD board meetings as an advisor. But it all came from Joe — and Diamond and the major publishers' evident agreement that, as he had written, 2001 was the beginning of a turnaround for comics, a new opportunity. "There's a strong sense among many retailers with whom I've spoken that we're definitely experiencing a resurgence of sales and customers," he wrote. "A promotion like this could be the calling card we need to give our market strong forward momentum."

And it did. A few years later, both the sportscard and gaming hobbies put together similar events, organizers citing the FCBD experience as a positive reason to go forward. And FCBD still goes forward.

Lots of free comics are on offer this year: you can find the full list of titles here. Participating stores and their events can also be found on their website. There's also a handy FAQ page on the site. If your local comic shop is not listed, give them a call for a complete list of events and signings.

http://bit.ly/SWNewDawnJohn 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, now available in paperback. He'll be on the Joy Cardin Show on Wisconsin Public Radio on Monday, May 4 at 6 a.m.

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

Monday, April 13, 2015

March 2015 comics sales estimates online; Princess Leia #1 tops 250k

by John Jackson Miller

http://bit.ly/PrLeia1
The final sales report for last month is now out from Diamond Comic Distributors, and as reported here on Friday, the first quarter closed with some modest improvement overall versus the same period last year. Marvel's Princess Leia #1, the top-selling title, topped a quarter million copies. Click to see the sales estimates for comics ordered in March 2015.

Readers studying Diamond's order index number will note a significant move this month; as there was no issue of Batman, the charts keyed off of Batman: Arkham Knight #1 instead. There also appears, from Diamond's wholesale rankings, to have been significant discounting on Guardians Team-Up #1. It had the same cover price as Amazing Spider-Man #16, which it sold nearly twice as many copies as — but Diamond took in more money for Amazing.

Someone asked what the first comic book was to top the monthly sales charts starring a female lead whose name was also the title of the comic book. (The title inclusion is an useful distinction, because several of the issues of Uncanny X-Men which led the market in the 1980s focused almost entirely on Storm, Kitty Pryde, and other characters.) My guess would be Dazzler #1, which sold 428,000 copies in Marvel's first major Direct Market-only experiment. For early 1981, that would have been enough to give it the top honors. Red Sonja's launch in the 1970s was certainly popular but likely didn't have near the distribution of other titles.

http://www.mycomicshop.com/search?q=dazzler+1&pubid=&PubRng=?AffID=874007P01In the 1960s, Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane reached as high as third in 1962, behind Superman and Superboy — and did so again in 1965. DC didn't publish sales data for 1963 and 1964 for those titles, but it likely was in around the same place then. But while there were months back then that Superman wasn't published, there was always a Superboy issue in those months. And Uncle Scrooge, #1 in 1960 and 1961, did not file a circulation statement with the U.S. Postal Service for 1962 because of Gold Key's split from Dell, so it might have been a contender for the top spot in 1962 as well.

Before the 1960s, I don't see any likely challengers. Wonder Woman was never a top-tier seller, Little Lulu was middle-tier at Dell, and it was 1980 before Betty and Veronica were outselling Archie. So I think while there may have been individual shipping weeks where Lois Lane was the bestselling title on the racks, Dazzler #1 is likely the first such title that topped the charts for an entire month.

(Edit: And to quickly correct any misapprehension, there were other titles in the Diamond Exclusive era that fit the description. Lara Croft, Tomb Raider led the charts in November 1999. 1998 saw months led by Fathom and Witchblade/Tomb Raider, which may not fit the strict definition if those weren't the lead characters' proper names.)

As detailed in Friday's report, the quarterly sales were up nearly 10% for the Direct Market this winter. The aggregate changes are as follows:

TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES
March 2015: 6.77 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: +9%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +12%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +1%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +16%
YEAR TO DATE: 20.77 million copies, +13% vs. 2014, +22% vs. 2010, +18% vs. 2005, +23% vs. 2000

ALL COMICS UNIT SALES
March 2015 versus one year ago this month: +9.92%
YEAR TO DATE: +13.76%

TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES
March 2015: $25.17 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +10%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +18%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +32%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +64%
YEAR TO DATE: $79.63 million, +17% vs. 2014, +34% vs. 2010, +60% vs. 2005, +81% vs. 2000

ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES
March 2015 versus one year ago this month: +11.19%
YEAR TO DATE: +13.85%

TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
March 2015: $6.23 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -28%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -40%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: -12%
Versus 15 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: +22%
YEAR TO DATE: $18.82 million, -9% vs. 2014

ALL TRADE PAPERBACK SALES
March 2015 versus one year ago this month: -12.56%
YEAR TO DATE: +0.65%

TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
March 2015: $31.4 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -1%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +5%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: +14%
Versus 15 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +33%
YEAR TO DATE: $98.42 million, +11% vs. 2014

ALL COMICS AND TRADE PAPERBACK SALES
March 2015 versus one year ago this month: +2.99%
YEAR TO DATE: +9.63%

OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)
March 2015: approximately $41.94 million (subject to revision)
Versus 1 year ago this month: +3%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +14%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +33%
YEAR TO DATE: $127.89 million, +10% vs. 2014

RELEASES
New comic books released: 455
New graphic novels released: 258
New magazines released: 29
All new releases: 742

The average comic book in the Top 300 cost $3.75; the average comic book retailers ordered cost $3.83. The median and most common price for comics offered was $3.99. Click to see comics prices across time.

And that concludes the March report. I'll be at Star Wars Celebration later this week; if you're there, stop by and say hello. My schedule is here.

http://bit.ly/SWNewDawnJohn 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, now available in paperback. He'll be in Anaheim, Calif. from April 16-19, speaking at Star Wars Celebration.

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

Friday, April 10, 2015

March 2015 sales mildly up as comics outperform graphic novels; Princess Leia #1 leads the charts

by John Jackson Miller


http://bit.ly/PrLeia1
March closed the winter quarter on a mildly positive note in the comics industry, according to data released this morning by Diamond Comic Distributors. Comic shops ordered nearly $42 million in comics and graphic novels, up about 3% over last March, which like this one had four shipping weeks.

Marvel's relaunch of the Star Wars line continued to energize what is usually a lighter quarter for new releases, with Princess Leia #1 taking the top slot and Star Wars #3 coming in second. The second issue of Princess Leia also made the top five, and Darth Vader #2 took eighth place. There weren't even four Star Wars titles in the Top 10 in May 1999 when Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace #1-4 all came out; the fourth issue of that placed 11th. So this is the first month four Star Wars titles have been in the Top 10 list in the Diamond Exclusive Era.

(Before that, we'd have to look at 1977, and when the waves of Whitman's reprints for the original Star Wars #1-3 were hitting; that would have put multiple Star Wars issues high on the charts. But we have no way of knowing how many of those came out, and in what months.)

Orders for the quarter totaled $127.9 million, up $11 million from the first quarter of 2014, which had an equal number of shipping weeks, despite what the calendar shows. (The first Wednesday of 2014 was counted with the December 2013 sales.)

Comparative Sales Performance
MARCH 2015 VS. FEBRUARY 2015
Comics -3.86% -4.32%
Graphic Novels 8.34% 10.63%
Total Comics & GNs -0.58% -3.37%
MARCH 2015 VS. MARCH 2014
Comics 11.19% 9.92%
Graphic Novels -12.56% -22.36%
Total Comics & GNs 2.99% 6.70%
YEAR-TO-DATE 2015 VS. YEAR-TO-DATE 2014
Comics 13.85% 13.76%
Graphic Novels 0.65% -8.96%
Total Comics & GNs 9.63% 11.76%
FIRST QUARTER 2015 VS. FOURTH QUARTER 2014
Comics -9.56% -8.37%
Graphic Novels -17.28% -15.58%
Total Comics & GNs -11.97% -8.93%

Comics unit sales were up 10%, making the category the bright spot this month. For a change, there doesn't appear to be an issue in the Top 10 obviously influenced by a Loot Crate variant. The Top 10:

Top 10 Comic Books
Title Price Publisher
1 Princess Leia #1 $3.99 Marvel
2 Star Wars #3 $3.99 Marvel
3 Guardians Team-Up #1 $3.99 Marvel
4 Spider-Gwen #2 $3.99 Marvel
5 Princess Leia #2 $3.99 Marvel
6 Amazing Spider-Man #16 $3.99 Marvel
7 Howard the Duck #1 $3.99 Marvel
8 Darth Vader #3 $3.99 Marvel
9 Batman: Arkham Knight #1 $3.99 DC
10 Amazing Spider-Man #16.1 $3.99 Marvel

A side note about the Star Wars titles, of interest mainly to indexers: Darth Vader, Princess Leia, and April's Kanan: The Last Padawan appear to represent the first Star Wars comics in eons — maybe Marvel's Ewoks, ending in 1987 — not to have "Star Wars" in their titles as shown in the issues' indicias. That's what price guides and indexing databases use to classify books.

Graphic novel sales were down more than 12%, with the market up against a strong comparative month in March 2014 which saw new Walking Dead and Saga releases. The Top 10:

Top 10 Graphic Novels and Trade Paperbacks 
Title Price Publisher
1 Nemo: River of Ghosts HC $14.95 IDW
2 Ms. Marvel Vol. 2: Generation Why $15.99 Marvel
3 Low Vol. 1: The Delirium of Hope $9.99 Image
4 Hawkeye Vs. Deadpool $16.99 Marvel
5 Saga Volume 4 $14.99 Image
6 Deadpool Volume 7: Axis $17.99 Marvel
7 Deadpool's The Art of War $12.99 Marvel
8 Deadly Class Vol. 2: Kids of the Black Hole $14.99 Image
9 Birthright Vol. 1: Homecoming $9.99 Image
10 Bob's Burgers Vol. 1 $17.99 Dynamite

The market share list contained the same ten publishers we've seen lately, with almost all of then topping 1% of the market in dollar sales:

Market shares 
Dollar share Unit share
Marvel 38.82% 41.53%
DC 23.01% 26.13%
Image 11.39% 12.98%
IDW 6.51% 5.16%
Dark Horse 3.90% 3.07%
Boom 2.41% 2.44%
Dynamite 2.37% 1.99%
Eaglemoss 1.83% 0.32%
Titan 1.01% 0.77%
Viz 0.98% 0.37%
Other 7.76% 5.23%

The new release slate was slightly larger this March versus last March on the comics side, but the number of new graphic novels released was almost identical:

New items released
Publisher Comics shipped Graphic novels shipped Magazines shipped Total shipped
Marvel 79 30 0 109
DC 85 17 0 102
Image 59 20 0 79
IDW 52 18 0 70
Dark Horse 27 22 0 49
Boom 40 3 0 43
Dynamite 28 6 0 34
Viz 0 27 0 27
Titan 8 7 2 17
Eaglemoss 0 0 14 14
Other 86 98 13 197
Total 464 248 29 741

That's the preliminary report; the estimated sales will be up next week.

http://bit.ly/SWNewDawnJohn 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, now available in paperback. He'll be in Anaheim, Calif. from April 16-19, speaking at Star Wars Celebration.

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

 

Copyright © John Jackson Miller. Original template design by Free Website Templates. Privacy policy.

Comichron is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Images used for identification are © their respective owners.