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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.

 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Chet Krause, 1923-2016: Comics Buyer's Guide publisher, and a titan in collecting

by John Jackson Miller

As many in the Krause Publications community have posted this morning, Chester "Chet" Krause has died at the age of 92. You may not be aware of the name -- there is no Wikipedia page, only one on a currency site but if you have been to the collectibles magazine and book sections of your bookstore or library, you have certainly seen his name. Chet took Numismatic News, a magazine for coin collectors started on his kitchen table in 1952, and parlayed it into the world's largest hobby publisher, greatly spurring development in his hometown of Iola, Wisconsin.

The company's line grew not only to include his own hobby interests in coins and old cars, but also sportscards, records, toys, and comics which is how I learned his name, following his 1983 purchase of the magazine that became Comics Buyer's Guide. I had been a subscriber for nearly a decade when I took a life-changing job with the staff in the early 1990s; Chet came to visit me at my desk, as he did all new employees, bringing me a signed copy of the book you see here.

Krause with the first issue of Numismatic News in 1952.
I saw him frequently following that, as he would stop by to offer advice on publishing and indexing collectibles. Early on as I struggled to find easy ways to report on all the items comics shop sold, he said he'd learned that "the only category in any hobby that captures everything is 'miscellaneous'." Later on he dropped by after we bought Scrye, the Magic: The Gathering magazine; he confessed he didn't understand the product area we were covering at all. Yet he understood there was a market of hobbyists interested in the field, and that meant Krause Publications needed to be there.

Folks in the area also thrilled to one of his other hobby pursuits, collecting many of the military vehicles from his World War II unit. A tour of Chet's tanks was a regular stop on the Comics Buyer's Guide picnic. There are old car and military vehicle shows near the publishing company's grounds to this day; the Iola Old Car Show, every July, attracts more than 100,000 annually. 

Krause at the historical marker unveiling outside his home
(Credit: Iola Historical Society)
Importantly, he arranged to sell the company to its employees, giving them all a stake in its future. The employees later sold the company as it faced internet headwinds; he was unhappy following that, wanting to take his name back. I remember suggesting at the time it might be worth renaming the town after him as he had played such a role in so many lives. Certainly I would not be working in the comics and science fiction fields today without his presence, and I know there are other writers with similar stories.

I did see him later as he continued to keep offices downtown in Iola; a couple of years ago he gave my young son several old railroad stock certificates, from yet another hobby he was pursuing. I thought it made sense: he was continuing to spread the word about collecting. Chet will be very much missed indeed.

Monday, June 13, 2016

May 2016 comics sales estimates online; DC Rebirth tops 235k in orders

by John Jackson Miller

Comics retailers in North America ordered nearly 236,000 copies of DC Universe Rebirth #1 in May 2016, according to Comichron's analysis of data released by Diamond Comic Distributors. The figure, certain to increase with figures from later months, gave the $2.99 issue the top slot in the charts for May — but more money was earned by the second-place finisher: Marvel's $4.99 Civil War II #0, with orders of more than 177,000 copies. Click to see the sales estimates for comics ordered in May 2016.

Four comic books posted sales of more than 100,000 copies, down from 10 last year — confirming our Friday view that most of the difference between this May's and last May's performance comes from a lack of blockbusters. Last year had the launch of Secret Wars with over half a million copies sold of #1 and more than 200,000 copies sold of #2 — and the charts also included the last of the Loot Crate-charged titles, Bravest Warriors: Tales from the Holo John #1, which added half a million comics to the unit sales totals. There was also Convergence in the mix back then.


http://bit.ly/CivilWarII0
May 2016's top-sellers simply didn't have the same high volumes. In total, the Top 300 comics sold 6.37 million copies in the month, down 20% from almost exactly 8 million last May — but really, that should be down 15% from 7.5 million, since the Loot Crate copies were never part of the Direct Market. That leaves a deficit of 1.13 million copies, which is almost entirely explained by softer sales in the Top 100.

On the other hand, all comics in 140th through 300th places outsold those in the corresponding rankings on the list from last year; this month's 300th place title sold 4,986 copies, which is a very respectable number. (Click to see the sales of 300th-place titles across time.)

So why are the midlist and low-end entries doing better? One reason is that they're more likely to be Marvel titles this year as opposed to last year. Marvel placed 102 titles in the Top 300 this May; last May, there were only 81. There are fewer comics coming from the middle-tier publishers this year, so if Marvel is taking those spots on the list, its generally higher volumes would have an impact. To be clear, we're describing the relative performance of titles at the same rank on the charts, not the performance of specific ongoing titles over time. But it is another example of the shape of the comics sales chart evolving. Depth continues, even if the bestsellers aren't reaching the same heights.

The aggregate changes are as follows:

TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES
May 2016: 6.37 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: -20%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +24%
Versus 10 years ago this month: -16%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +32%
YEAR TO DATE: 31.51 million copies, -15% vs. 2015, +21% vs. 2011, -3% vs. 2006, +26% vs. 2001
ALL COMICS UNIT SALES
May 2016 versus one year ago this month: -17.60%
YEAR TO DATE: -14.01%

TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES
May 2016: $25.24 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -24%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +42%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +7%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +94%
YEAR TO DATE: $125.61 million, -14% vs. 2015, +39% vs. 2011, +26% vs. 2006, +86% vs. 2001
ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES
May 2016 versus one year ago this month: -14.34%
YEAR TO DATE: -9.23%

TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
April 2016: $7.07 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -3%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +26%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: +23%
Versus 15 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: -7%
YEAR TO DATE: $39.76 million, +13% vs. 2015
ALL TRADE PAPERBACK SALES
May 2016 versus one year ago this month: +4.52%
YEAR TO DATE: +4.80%

TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
May 2016: $32.31 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -20%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +27%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: +7%
Versus 15 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +94%
YEAR TO DATE: $164.75 million, -9% vs. 2015
ALL COMICS AND TRADE PAPERBACK SALES
May 2016 versus one year ago this month: -9.05%
YEAR TO DATE: -5.11%

OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)
May 2016: approximately $44.46 million (subject to revision)
Versus 1 year ago this month: -9%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +43%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +18%
YEAR TO DATE: $221.58 million, -5 vs. 2015

RELEASES
New comic books released: 479
New graphic novels released: 271
New magazines released: 23
All new releases: 773

As noted, the average comic book in the Top 300 cost $3.89; the average comic book retailers ordered cost $3.96. The median and most common price for comics offered was $3.99. Click to see comics prices across time.

http://bit.ly/STPrey1
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.

Friday, June 10, 2016

May 2016 top-sellers: DC Rebirth, Civil War II attempt to reverse 2016's sluggish start

by John Jackson Miller

Five summers ago, the release of Justice League #1 in August 2011 kicked off the DC reboot and marked the beginning of a major turnaround for the comics direct market. While overall sales levels in the first part of 2016 are nowhere near as bad as they were in early 2011, the market, slightly down for the year, could use a definite shot in the arm — and publishers began a double dose of treatment with DC Universe: Rebirth #1 and Marvel's Civil War II #0, the top two ordered comics in May according to Diamond Comic Distributors. The issues presage wider launches in the next month, just as Justice League did.

This helps to make May 2016 — a month in which comics sales were down and graphic novel sales were up, netting out to an overall dollar loss of 9% — a peculiar month to judge from. An estimated $44.46 million in product was ordered, a drop of more than $4 million from last May, which also had four shipping weeks. The comparative sales statistics are as follows:

DOLLARS UNITS
MAY 2016 VS. APRIL 2016
Comics -6.54% -4.15%
Graphic Novels -6.31% -11.10%
Total Comics & GNs -6.46% -4.77%
MAY 2016 VS. MAY 2015
Comics -14.34% -17.60%
Graphic Novels 4.52% -3.39%
Total Comics & GNs -9.05% -16.58%
YEAR-TO-DATE 2016 VS. YEAR-TO-DATE 2015
Comics -9.23% -14.01%
Graphic Novels 4.80% 3.46%
Total Comics & GNs -5.11% -12.72%
 
We can't blame the number of offerings this time, as 10% more new comic books and 19% more new graphic novels were released this May versus last May. Marvel released 102 new comic books, the first time it's broken 100 since Diamond began reporting new release totals in 2013. (On the other hand, Image and Dark Horse both released fewer new comic books than either of those publishers have in more than a year, continuing the retrenchment trend seen last month.) Here you see the number of comics and graphic novels released by publisher:

Comics shipped Graphic Novels shipped Magazines shipped Total shipped
Marvel 102 34 0 136
DC 74 28 0 102
IDW 50 23 0 73
Image 43 22 0 65
Dark Horse 20 24 0 44
Boom 24 12 0 36
Dynamite 19 6 0 25
Titan 16 3 4 23
Oni 10 3 0 13
Valiant 10 2 0 12
Other 111 114 19 244
TOTAL 479 271 23 773

So the gap is coming from someplace else — and there's a lot to suggest it's coming from the very top of the charts, the Top 25 or so. Last May saw the launch of Secret Wars with over half a million copies sold of #1 and more than 200,000 copies sold of #2 — and the charts also included the last of the Loot Crate-charged titles, Bravest Warriors: Tales from the Holo John #1, which added half a million comics to the unit sales totals. So right off, there's more than a million units just in the Top 3 that weren't replicated — plus Star Wars was still riding high, A-Force and Old Man Logan launched, and Convergence added four copies with around 100,000 copies sold.

By contrast, only four of the Top 10 this time out were first or "zero" issues. Apart from the two Marvel and DC event launch comics, May 2016 was going up against May 2015 with a less flashy release slate including several higher-numbered issues. Here are the top sellers for the month:

TOP SELLING COMICS PRICE PUBLISHER
1 DC Universe: Rebirth #1 $2.99 DC
2 Civil War II #0 $4.99 Marvel
3 The Punisher #1 $3.99 Marvel
4 Batman #52 $3.99 DC
5 Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 $4.99 Marvel
6 Star Wars #19 $3.99 Marvel
7 Justice League #50 $5.99 DC
8 Darth Vader #20 $4.99 Marvel
9 Black Panther #2 $3.99 Marvel
10 Amazing Spider-Man #12 $3.99 Marvel
TOP SELLING GRAPHIC NOVELS PRICE PUBLISHER
1 Batman: The Killing Joke Special Edition HC $17.99 DC
2 Descender Vol. 2 $14.99 Image
3 Civil War $24.99 Marvel
4 Black Science Volume 4: Godworld $14.99 Image
5 We Stand On Guard Deluxe HC $24.99 Image
6 Chew Volume 11: Last Suppers $14.99 Image
7 The Joker: Endgame $24.99 DC
8 Star Wars: Kanan Vol. 2: First Blood $17.99 Marvel
9 Spider-Gwen Vol. 1: Greater Power $17.99 Marvel
10 Spider-Man/Deadpool: Don’t Call It a Team Up $34.99 Marvel

So May's performance would track with what we've seen elsewhere this year, which is that the middle- and lower-tier titles have been holding up their end, despite the fact that there are fewer of them; there just aren't as many heavyweight titles at the tops of the charts. But since we know that the Big Two publisher's events are just now getting rolling — Rebirth #1 is onto a third printing already — it's likely that if there is to be an inflection point in 2016's sales, we're about to see it. (We're also now at the end of the months with Loot Crate issues to compare against, thank Odin.)

Lastly, here are the market shares:

Publisher Dollar share Unit share
Marvel 39.64% 44.80%
DC 26.45% 26.34%
Image 8.38% 7.95%
IDW 5.70% 4.99%
Dark Horse 3.25% 2.31%
Boom 2.51% 2.34%
Dynamite 1.66% 1.51%
Titan 1.39% 1.48%
Valiant 1.09% 1.25%
Oni 0.98% 0.89%
Other 8.95% 6.13%

Full estimates will be out next week.

http://bit.ly/STPrey1
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.
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