Friday, September 16, 2016
by John Jackson Miller
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:
|August 2016 vs July 2016|
|August 2016 vs August 2015|
|Year-to-date 2016 VS. 2015|
|Publisher||Dollar Share||Unit Share|
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:
|1||Harley Quinn #1*||$2.99||DC|
|2||All-Star Batman #1*||$4.99||DC|
|3||Suicide Squad #1*||$2.99||DC|
|4||Amazing Spider-Man #16||$3.99||Marvel|
|5||Suicide Squad Rebirth #1*||$2.99||DC|
|8||Justice League #2*||$2.99||DC|
|9||Harley Quinn #2*||$2.99||DC|
|10||Supergirl 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:
|1||Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 3: The Shu Torun War||$16.99||Marvel|
|2||Batman: The Killing Joke Special Edition HC||$17.99||DC|
|3||Black Panther Book 1: Nation Under Our Feet'||$16.99||Marvel|
|4||Spider-Man/Deadpool Vol. 1: Isn't It Bromantic||$17.99||Marvel|
|5||Star Wars Volume 3: Rebel Jail||$19.99||Marvel|
|6||Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles HC||$24.99||DC|
|7||Saga Vol. 6||$14.99||Image|
|8||Teen Titans Earth One Vol. 2 HC||$22.99||DC|
|9||Harley Quinn Book And Mask Set||$34.99||DC|
|10||Harley Quinn & The Suicide Squad: Adult Coloring Book||$15.99||DC|
|Publisher||New comics||New GNs||New Magazines||Total shipped|
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.