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More than 10 million comics ordered in August, most since 1996; Harley Quinn is #1

Friday, September 16, 2016

by John Jackson Miller

http://www.shareasale.com/r.cfm?u=296154&b=44882&m=8908&afftrack=&urllink=www%2Etfaw%2Ecom%2FComics%2FProfile%2FHarley%2DQuinn%2D1%5F%5F%5F505963
Since 1998, Diamond Comic Distributors has never shipped more than 10 million comic books to comics shops in a single month. That changed in August, as DC's "Rebirth" resulted in shipments of 10.26 million comics to retailers in North America.

[UPDATE 9/19: The final estimates are out! Click for our August 2016 comics sales analysis and August 2016 comics sales estimates.]

It's the first time Diamond has ever revealed the full number of copies shipped in a single month; it previously has only announced a total for the entire year. (Last year's overall total was 98 million copies.) As a result of August's shipments, every category for 2016 has turned positive. Retailers ordered $57.66 million in comics and graphic novels in the month, up 31.62% -- bringing the year's total to $388.35 million, up nearly 3%. It's a five-week month versus a four-week month this time out; there have been 35 shipping weeks in the year to date, versus 34 weeks at the same time last year.

Although the full number of units ordered monthly has not been previously released, Comichron estimates of the Top 300 comics shipped in the past make it possible to guess at the most recent time that shipments topped 10 million. We know that the Top 300 comics sold 10.29 million copies in December 1996, for example, but that comes from a combination of Marvel's sales through Heroes World and Diamond's sales of everything else. Marvel's return to Diamond in April 1997 resulted in orders of 9.34 million copies of the Top 300 comics; it's possible that comics outside the Top 300 took that figure over 10 million, but it's tougher to believe that it topped 10.26 million. There weren't as many books beneath 300th place then, and lower-tier books were selling at levels a good deal lower back then.

Note that the Top 300 comics will almost certainly come in below 10 million in next week's final estimate report; the contribution of the comics at the bottom of the charts is well over 260,000 copies. But we will be able to see for the first time exactly what the bubbling-under portion accounts for in a sample month

And, importantly, since the comics unit changes across time are known, Comichron can now project monthly unit sales back to 2009. The change figures below suggest that last August's unit sales were 7.12 million copies. The Top 300 alone that month sold 6.52 million copies. We also now know that the direct market has ordered 64.7 million copies so far this year; last year's figure would have been almost identical. 

The aggregate changes:



DOLLARSUNITS
August 2016 vs July 2016
Comics13.30%8.28%
Graphic Novels16.50%19.21%
Total Comics/GNs14.13%8.95%



August 2016 vs August 2015
Comics44.58%44.02%
Graphic Novels5.53%7.15%
Total Comics/GNs31.62%40.77%



Year-to-date 2016 VS. 2015
Comics2.66%0.06%
Graphic Novels2.81%1.10%
Total Comics/GNs2.71%0.14%


DC led the dollar and unit market shares, posting its highest share since September 2013's 40.39%. The high-water mark for DC in the Diamond Exclusive Era was 42.27% in October 2011, the second full month of that year's DC reboot.

PublisherDollar ShareUnit Share
DC39.27%44.59%
Marvel30.78%32.11%
Image7.66%7.78%
IDW4.92%3.53%
Dark Horse3.08%2.28%
Boom1.98%1.57%
Dynamite1.57%1.14%
Titan1.19%1.09%
Viz1.14%0.41%
Oni0.83%0.55%
Other7.58%4.94%

Harley Quinn #1 was the top selling comic book, and DC took nine of the top ten slots. All of the issues have asterisks, denoting returnability. While returnable books have their orders reduced by an amount in the charts -- reportedly 10% -- as our recent analysis shows, the median returnable book improves on its reported sales levels. So while it's correct to say that returnability likely increased the numbers this month, it's not necessarily the case that the figures are inflated. In fact, the ultimate number of copies shipped in August might wind up higher than the reported figure.

Sales levels are quite a lot higher than at the corresponding time in the 2011 DC reboot, and it's worth noting at this point that returnability isn't the only reason why. Five years ago this week, I was discussing with a retailer that there was a natural check on just how big the New 52's sales could be: retailer cash flow. Sales in the spring and summer of 2011 had been horrible, meaning there was a limit to how much retailers could invest in preorders. 2016's event, meanwhile, jumps off from a superior position in terms of how much money is in the business. Add DC's returnability offer and its choice to stagger the release of new launches, and the current relaunch gets both a higher ceiling and a chance to possible have more durable long-term effects.

Diamond's phrasing was that the number was both the quantity shipped and the quantity ordered, so it's likely the 10.26 million-copy figure has not been reduced to account for returnability. 

The top-selling comics:

Comic Book
Price
Publisher
1Harley Quinn #1*$2.99 DC
2All-Star Batman #1*$4.99 DC
3Suicide Squad #1*$2.99 DC
4Amazing Spider-Man #16$3.99 Marvel
5Suicide Squad Rebirth #1*$2.99 DC
6Batman #4*$2.99 DC
7Batman #5*$2.99 DC
8Justice League #2*$2.99 DC
9Harley Quinn #2*$2.99 DC
10Supergirl Rebirth #1*$2.99 DC

While there isn't as much to say about graphic novels lately, it's worth remembering there will be an echo effect to Rebirth aiding the industry in the first quarter of 2017, when many of those titles will be collected. Winter is usually a time when the market needs the most help. The top-selling graphic novels:

Graphic NovelPrice Publisher
1Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 3: The Shu Torun War$16.99 Marvel
2Batman: The Killing Joke Special Edition HC$17.99 DC
3Black Panther Book 1: Nation Under Our Feet'$16.99 Marvel
4Spider-Man/Deadpool Vol. 1: Isn't It Bromantic$17.99 Marvel
5Star Wars Volume 3: Rebel Jail$19.99 Marvel
6Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles HC$24.99 DC
7Saga Vol. 6$14.99 Image
8Teen Titans Earth One Vol. 2 HC$22.99 DC
9Harley Quinn Book And Mask Set$34.99 DC
10Harley Quinn & The Suicide Squad: Adult Coloring Book $15.99 DC

The number of new items released by publisher was pretty high, as befits a five-week month. The number of new comics released increased 19%, while the number of new graphic novels was up 4%:

PublisherNew comicsNew GNsNew Magazines Total shipped
Marvel93350128
DC75331109
IDW5331084
Image5211164
Dark Horse2616042
Titan2010232
Boom228030
Dynamite226028
Viz024024
Oni102012
Other14411724285
Total shipped51729328838

The final estimates will be out next week, and mark a milestone for this site: August 2016 makes a full 20 years that I've been doing monthly reports, both on Comichron and before, in Comics & Games Retailer magazine. I'll have some thoughts to publish in the next week on how this project came to be, and some of the challenges involved with it; one is that I've often had to do the reports wherever I happened to be when they came out. I'm currently on a junket for my Star Trek and Halo books, for example -- television on Thursday and guesting at Dodecacon in Columbia, Mo., today. Neither rain nor snow nor comic convention shall hinder the monthly reports!


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, Overdraft: The Orion Offensive, and Star Wars: A New Dawn, now available in paperback. His trilogy for 2016, Star Trek: Prey, ships in consecutive months in September, October, and November.

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

2 comments:

Unknown September 16, 2016 at 11:31 AM  

JJ:

Thanks for your service to the comics industry and being the librarian/historian all these years!

Dan Manser

John Jackson Miller September 16, 2016 at 11:46 PM  

Thanks, Dan! And thanks to all the hard work the Diamond team puts in.

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