Batman #6, the first of the fully nonreturnable issues, led the charts with orders of nearly 139,000 copies. That's a hard number, not reduced for returns. Batman #5, the previous month, shipped about 158,000 returnable copies, of which 142,000 were reported in the charts; so retailers ordered nonreturnable copies at about 88% of their returnable levels. That suggests both that were pretty sure about selling most of what they ordered, and that they had already honed in their returnable orders close to demand levels.
One consequence of the price drop is that while unit comics sales were up 23% in the third quarter over the same period last year — more comics were sold in the Top 300 than in any quarter since the fourth quarter of 1996! — comics dollar sales were only up 18%. So it's still open to question how well 2016 will finish out versus last year: we're up only $11 million, or less than 3%.
Walking Dead Vol. 26 led the September charts with nearly 21,000 copies ordered.
This marks the beginning of the 21st year I've been tracking monthly comics sales — read more about that here — and as such, we can now do 20-year comparisons with what was sold in September 1996. That month was the first month of Marvel's "Heroes Reborn" mini-reboot, and we can see a number of things right away.
So while this September's unit sales in the Top 300 were off 32% versus the same month 20 years ago, it's worth remembering that we probably have more sales not in the Top 300 now — and, of course, we have graphic novels and digital adding sales in a way they didn't then. Also recall that because we were getting preorder data in 1996, actual sales levels were probably different anyway. They could have been higher due to reorders, yes — but also the charts back then included titles that shipped in later months or never came out. (Dollar sales of the Top 300 are actually up 5% versus September 1996 — inflation in action right there!)
The most important thing to remember about these cross-time comparisons is that the largest factor in determining Direct Market comics levels across time is the number of comics shops. At this time in 1996, we still had between 4,500 and 5,000 comics stores — well over what we have today. But shops then were closing swiftly, and today we're seeing modest growth.
The changes over time:
TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES
September 2016: 7.54 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: +21%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +4%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +14%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +29%
NEW! Versus 20 years ago this month: -32%
3rd Quarter 2016: 25.48 million copies, +25% vs. Q3 2015
YEAR TO DATE: 65.52 million copies, +1% vs. 2015, +28% vs. 2011, +8% vs. 2006, +35% vs. 2001
ALL COMICS UNIT SALES
September 2016: 8.15 million copies
September 2016 versus one year ago this month: +15.61%
3rd Quarter 2016: 27.88 million copies, +23.2% vs. Q3 2015
YEAR TO DATE: 72.83 million copies, +1.59% vs. 2015
TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES
Versus 1 year ago this month: +12%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +11%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +33%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +66%
NEW! Versus 20 years ago this month: +5%
3rd Quarter 2016: $92.36 million, +17% vs. Q3 2015
YEAR TO DATE: $252.1 million, -1% vs. 2015, +42% vs. 2011, +35% vs. 2006, +90% vs. 2001
ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES
September 2016 versus one year ago this month: +9.23%
3rd Quarter 2016: +18.31% vs. Q3 2015
YEAR TO DATE: +3.32%
Versus 1 year ago this month: -5%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +16%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: +25%
Versus 15 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: +30%
3rd Quarter 2016: $21.7 million, -7% vs. Q3 2015
YEAR TO DATE: $66.43 million, +7% vs. 2015
ALL TRADE PAPERBACK SALES
September 2016 versus one year ago this month: -10.94%
3rd Quarter 2016: -8.66%
YEAR TO DATE: +1.15%
Versus 1 year ago this month: +8%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +3%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: +13%
Versus 15 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +66%
3rd Quarter 2016: $114.06 million, +12% vs. Q3 2015
YEAR TO DATE: $322.39 million, unchanged vs. 2015
ALL COMICS AND TRADE PAPERBACK SALES
September 2016 versus one year ago this month: +2.2%
3rd Quarter 2016: +9.40%
YEAR TO DATE: +2.65%
OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)
Versus 1 year ago this month: +2%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +20%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +50%
3rd Quarter 2016: $154.51 million, +9% vs Q3 2015
YEAR TO DATE: $434.67 million, +3% vs. 2015
New comic books released: 458
New graphic novels released: 301
New magazines released: 16
All new releases: 775
The average comic book in the Top 300 cost $3.87; the average comic book retailers ordered cost $3.61. The median and most common price for comics offered was $3.99. Click to see comics prices across time.
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.