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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.

 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Marvel Legacy #1 ships 298k copies, top comic of 2017; DC's Dark Nights stays strong with #2 near 150k

by John Jackson Miller
 Marvel Legacy #1
Just back from New York Comic-Con, an amazingly busy event — and while attendance numbers have not been released, the outside observer certainly wouldn't have suspected it was taking place in a year in which comics and graphic novel orders had been, through September, down 10% in the Direct Market, as was reported here Friday. Of course, we don't know how independent the variables of convention attendance and comics sales are, but a strongly attended event is still likely to be a much better sign than the opposite. And on the print side, there's at least a change in trajectory because, again as noted Friday, this summer's losses have been pared somewhat, and Marvel's September beat its previous September by 14%, thanks in part to Marvel Legacy #1 moving more than 298,000 copies. Click to see our comics order estimates for September 2017.

That makes it the top-seller of 2017 thus far, beating out last month's new leader, Dark Nights: Metal #1; the second issue of that came in second place with nearly 150,000 copies shipped. It seems positive that we're getting new entries atop the top-sellers for 2017 list; again, better than the alternative. It'll be interesting to see how Legacy shakes up that list in October once the event is fully underway.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Marvel up 14% year-over-year in September as Legacy #1 tops charts; overall market pares losses

by John Jackson Miller

I had mentioned on Twitter earlier this week that while last September was a strong month for the Direct Market thanks to DC's Rebirth program, the month's sales levels offered a relatively reachable target. While information released today by Diamond Comic Distributors shows that September 2017 comics and graphic novel orders, at $43.52 million, fell six points short, that represents the smallest year-over-year drop since May.

Perhaps more significant, given the narrative we've seen in 2017, is that according to Comichron's analysis, orders for Marvel comics and graphic novels were up 14% in dollar terms over last September. That's an increase of about $2 million at retail, representing the publisher's best year-over-year performance since June 2016. The chart-topping Marvel Legacy #1 has something do with it, of course, and while there's always some level of deep-discounting on graphic novels, Marvel's unit and dollar shares were pretty close to one another -- right around 38% -- so there can't be too much of it involved. Marvel's 88 new comic books in September was also the smallest number of periodical releases for the publisher in any month this year.

Marvel's improvement relative to its past performance continues the reversal noted here last month of the trend seen earlier in 2017, in which the publisher was entirely responsible for the industry's decline in dollar terms; as of September it was DC, up against last year's Rebirth numbers, which accounts for the lion's share of the loss. But there, too, DC's rate of decline in September was nearly half what it was in August, thanks to the continuation of its Dark Multiverse event and the fact that Rebirth was starting to come down off its heights this time last year.

Does that mean that October, when DC's comparatives get easier and in which Marvel's Legacy event will be fully underway, will turn positive? Perhaps not a bet to take, as it will be a challenge: Marvel's October and November last year, while off from 2015, were relatively strong. An important question is whether graphic novels continue to under-perform: whereas periodicals pared their rate of loss for the year in September, graphic novels, led by Walking Dead Vol. 28, were down 13% in dollars. The number of new graphic novels in September was nearly the same as in August, which had an extra shipping week; new comics volume may seem high, but 365 new graphic novels is more than we've seen in a four-week month in three years.

The percentage changes:


DollarsUnits
September 2017 Vs. August 2017
Comics-0.44%1.26%
Graphic Novels-14.41%   -15.46%
Total Comics/GNs-4.81%-0.08%
Toys-18.35%-15.27%
September 2017 Vs. September 2016
Comics-2.98%-5.49%
Graphic Novels-13.14%   -16.98%
Total Comics/GNs-6.07%-6.37%
Toys-13.86%-30.78%
Year-to-Date 2017 Vs. Year-to-Date 2016
Comics-9.20%-6.15%
Graphic Novels-11.83%-13.22%
Total Comics/GNs-10.00%-6.71%
Toys-11.33%-18.24%

While the rate of decrease, as noted, did improve in September, the overall quarter was off 16%, the largest quarterly drop since 2003, when final orders began being reported by Diamond. There aren't too many events like Rebirth to be found in previous years.

The market shares:

DOLLAR
SHARE
UNIT
SHARE
Marvel37.97%38.13%
DC30.21%36.68%
Image9.55%8.81%
IDW4.30%3.67%
Dark Horse2.44%1.70%
Boom1.99%1.77%
Dynamite1.94%1.91%
Viz1.40%0.49%
Titan1.16%0.85%
Oni1.10%0.72%
Others7.94%5.27%

The top-selling comics:

COMIC BOOKPRICEPUBLISHER
1Marvel Legacy #15.99Marvel
2Dark Nights: Metal #2$3.99DC
3Venomverse #1$4.99Marvel
4Batman #30$2.99DC
5Batman #31$2.99DC
6Harley Quinn 25th Anniversary Special #1$4.99DC
7The Walking Dead #171$2.99Image
8Batman: The Red Death #1$3.99DC
9Batman: The Murder Machine #1$3.99DC
10Action Comics #987 Lenticular Edition$3.99DC

The top-selling graphic novels:

GRAPHIC NOVELPRICEPUBLISHER
1Walking Dead Vol. 28$16.99Image
2Batman: The Dark Knight III: Master Race HC$29.99DC
3Star Wars: Darth Maul$16.99Marvel
4East of West Volume 7$16.99Image
5DC Super Hero Girls Vol. 4: Past Times At Super Hero High$9.99DC
6Sex Criminals Volume 4: Fourgy$16.99Image
7All-Star Batman Vol. 1: My Own Worst Enemy$16.99DC
8Royal City Vol. 1: Next Of Kin$9.99Image
9Harley Quinn Vol. 3: Red Meat$16.99DC
10Wolverine: Old Man Logan Vol. 5: Past Lives$17.99Marvel

And the volume of new releases:

PublisherComics
shipped
Graphic
Novels
shipped
Magazines
shipped
Total
shipped
Marvel88420130
DC77340111
Image5825083
IDW4021061
Viz043043
Boom2810038
Dynamite297036
Titan1910332
Dark Horse1613029
Oni86014
Others12315417294
TOTAL SHIPPED48636520871

I'm appearing this weekend at New York Comic-Con, so look for the estimates next week as soon as I can get to them. But in the meantime, if you missed it, check out our feature on legacy numbering across time; my thanks to Bradley Glynn for helping to double-check some of the data there.



Comichron founder 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 novels including Star Wars: Kenobi, Overdraft: The Orion OffensiveStar Wars: A New Dawn, and the Star Trek: Prey trilogy. Read more about them at his fiction site.

Be sure to follow Comichron on Twitter and Facebook.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

New FAQ: How legacy numbering in comics has changed over time

by John Jackson Miller
The Legacy event — which will revise the issue numbering of many of its titles to restore their original numbering, or something close to it — released today, and it recalled that more than a decade ago, I had written a piece on what I termed "legacy titles" and their numbering for Comics Buyer's Guide, along with grids showing every title numbered above #100 at five year intervals beginning with 1935.

So now that readers have had a look at Marvel Legacy #1, I offer an updated list of those titles here on the site in our FAQ section: "How Legacy Numbering Has Changed Over Time." In addition to adding data for 2010 and 2015, there's a new essay about the origins of whole numbering in comics and the reasons that publishers have restarted titles in the past, as well as some reasons why, as Marvel has, they sometimes seek to recover a series' original numbering.

Additionally, I have a graphic showing how legacy numbering has changed across time, which clearly depicts the trends involved. You can see when several of the older publishers went away at once; likewise, you can see the echoes of events like Crisis on Infinite Earths. And depending on how long Legacy's changes continue, there may be significant shifts in the 2020 table on the next update. Time will tell.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Dark Nights Metal ships 262k copies, most of 2017, beating Rebirth #1's first month: August comics sales estimates

by John Jackson Miller

 See current listings for this issue on eBay
While comics shop orders during the month of August 2017 were down in all categories versus last August's blockbuster, we've finally found a book that's been able to top a mark set in that summer of DC Rebirth launches. And it's another DC book: Comichron estimates that Diamond Comic Distributors shipped almost exactly 262,000 copies of Dark Nights: Metal #1, the kickoff point for this fall's Metal event, to North American retailers in the month — quite a few more copies than the 235,800 shipped of DC Universe Rebirth #1, the corresponding launch book, in its first month. Click to see the full estimates for comics sold in August 2017. 

After that first month, of course, Rebirth #1 would go on to multiple printings and top 300,000 copies in North America — but Dark Nights' second printing reached shops last week, and there's something else of note: Dark Nights cost $2 more, at $4.99. It's also marked by Diamond as the number one dollar title of the month, and if all copies sold at cover price, it's not just the top-selling comic book of the year in units, but also dollars, eclipsing the $10 Amazing Spider-Man #25 earlier this year. Click to see our running track of top sellers in 2017, along with our market shares for the year to date.

The internal benchmarks also showed something positive: the 300th place comic book, Jimmy's Bastards #3 from Aftershock, moved 5,621 copies in North America, which is more than any book in that position in a five-week month since December 2015. While it may not be particularly meaningful as wins go, it's surprising that any position on the chart could be higher against last August, a month in which far more comics moved overall.


http://bit.ly/CCJackFF
On the graphic novel side, we find that the top-dollar book for the month is quite a ways further down the unit sales list: IDW's Jack Kirby Fantastic Four Worlds Greatest Artist Edition hardcover, a $150 book on the shelves in advance of the King's 100th birthday.

The larger picture of this August versus last August has been previously elaborated here; the market year-to-date is off 10%. But 2017 has big events yet on the slate with Metal and Legacy yet to come, and while there remain strong comparative months to come, the potential for a changed dynamic is there. Sometimes retailer money's on the sidelines, waiting for the right event; sometimes it just isn't there. This fall should tell us which is the case.

The data sheet for the month follow at the bottom of this post, but before that, I would like to remember Len Wein, comics writer and editor, who passed away on Sunday. Len is a large part of the success comics found in the Direct Market era, from his reboot of the X-Men and his introduction of Wolverine to his hand in developing comics for more sophisticated audiences with Swamp Thing.

I had the good fortune to spend some time with him at a convention several years ago and he was generous with his knowledge and his advice. His works were and are a big part of so many comics readers' lives, and I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to know him. He is already missed.

Friday, September 8, 2017

August's comics orders can't compare to 2016's Rebirth boom; Dark Nights: Metal, Paper Girls top charts

by John Jackson Miller

 See current listings for this issue on eBay
Full-line relaunches of the scale DC engineered in 2016 with "Rebirth" and 2011 with the "New 52" are colossal market-distorting moments, making a hash of the comparative statistics both when their sales are reported, and when any future month's sales are later compared with them. It takes a while for a revamped line to find its new equilibrium—sales levels that are achievable regardless of variants or the issue number on the cover—and only then are month-to-month or year-over-year comparisons of much use.

So when I warned a few weeks ago that August 2017 would not be the month to look to for any kind of revival in the comic shop market's fortunes, there was good reason: August 2016 was the epicenter of the Rebirth sales earthquake, with more than 10 million comic books shipping. It was the first time that mark had been seen in two decades, thanks in part to the Rebirth titles being returnable. Consequently, sales for last month were way off the previous year's pace, according to this morning’s report from Diamond Comic Distributors.

 See current listings for this issue on eBayShipments were down 26% in new comic book units, and overall retail dollars spent on comics, graphic novels, and magazines dropped by nearly 21%. Comichron calculates that $45.7 million in product shipped, down from the previous August’s 21st century record of $57.7 million; we also have revised our July figure down slightly here on the site, to $40.76 million. (Both Augusts had five shipping weeks, so that's not a factor.) Overall sales stand at $347.67 million, down about $41 year to date, or about 10.5%.

These are, in historic terms, significant drops. The period from June to August was down 20.5% against those Rebirth/Civil War II months a year ago, the worst three-month year-over-year comparison since… well, we have to go back 20 years to September 1997 though November 1997, the first set of year-to-year comparatives I ever calculated. Marvel’s “Heroes Reborn” event in September 1996 and the wedding of Superman had been succeeded in 1997 by “Heroes Return,” which didn’t fare as well. Top 300 unit sales in that three-month stretch in 1997 were off 21.9%, and graphic novels, while growing, weren’t yet much of a factor. There are certainly worse year-over-year drops in the 1990s before that.

 See current listings for this issue on eBay
But while the 2017 drops are up there on the list, “Heroes Reborn” only rebooted four titles; a bigger explanation for the 1997 collapse, even beyond reboot fatigue, was the number of comics shop failures. Absent that in 2017 and given that DC relaunched so many more books, the scope of 2017’s comparatives may say more about Rebirth’s strength last year they do about conditions today.

So once you catch your breath after reading those numbers, it’s worth looking at some things going on under the surface. It’s no surprise that DC’s August sales weren’t able to come remotely near comparing with its performance last year; the company had been tracking ahead of its 2016 performance earlier in the spring, but now accounts for about a third of the industry’s 2017 shortfall in the Direct Market.

On the other hand, August wasn't a bad month for DC, volume-wise, when compared with more normal recent months; its sales were actually higher than the last five-week pre-Rebirth month in 2016. DC had the top seller in Scott Snyder and Greg Capello’s Dark Nights: Metal #1, the launching point for DC’s fall event; the second printing of the issue went on sale this past Wednesday. Priced at $4.99, it stands a chance at being the publisher’s release of the year in dollar terms, given how the cheaper lenticular and non-lenticular Batman issues added up.  The first issue of Rebirth was priced at $2.99; once we see the full numbers on Monday, we’ll have a better notion of the scope of what might be coming in September as the Metal event gets more fully underway.

 Paper Girls Vol. 3
Marvel’s position is also interesting. Secret Empire came to an end with three releases; #10, the finale, outranked the previous two issues. Again, through the spring, Marvel had been responsible for 100% of the industry’s shortfall for the year, but as of August that’s down to only around half, now that DC’s facing its toughest comparatives from last year. Further, while Marvel’s shipments continued to be down, it’s pared back its losses — only off around 10% this month as compared with the 21% drop the whole market suffered. With "Legacy" launching, there’s a chance for some ground to be made up.

It should also be noted that after everything else that’s happened in 2017, Image, Dark Horse, and Dynamite remain ahead of where they were this time last year in terms of retail dollars ordered. Pockets of strength are good to see, because true recessionary times in comics tend to pull everything down. Image continues to be bolstered by strong graphic novel performances: Paper Girls Vol. 3 was the top-seller this month, and one of five Image GNs in the top 10.

The comparative statistics:


DollarsUnits
August 2017 vs. July 2017
Comics+9.56%+9.30%
Graphic Novels+18.34%+20.46%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels+12.16%+10.12%
Toys+52.54%+32.90%
August 2017 vs. August 2016
Comics-25.72%-25.91%
Graphic Novels-6.89%-10.02%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels-20.71%-24.84%
Toys-33.47%-42.90%
Year-To-Date 2017 vs. Year-To-Date 2016
Comics-9.94%-6.23%
Graphic Novels-11.68%-12.77%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels-10.47%-6.76%
Toys-10.99%-16.38%

The market shares:

PublisherDollar ShareUnit Share
Marvel35.01%39.52%
DC28.18%31.09%
Image10.06%9.23%
IDW4.81%3.69%
Dark Horse3.16%2.18%
Dynamite2.50%3.58%
Boom2.19%1.88%
Titan1.48%1.25%
Viz1.42%0.52%
Oni1.28%0.82%

The top-selling comics:

COMIC BOOK
PRICEPUBLISHER
1Dark Nights: Metal #14.99DC
2Batman #28$2.99DC
3Batman #29$2.99DC
4Secret Empire #10$4.99Marvel
5Generations: All-New Wolverine/Wolverine #1$4.99Marvel
6Secret Empire #8$4.99Marvel
7Secret Empire #9$4.99Marvel
8Generations: The Mighty Thor/Unworthy Thor #1$4.99Marvel
9Star Wars #34$3.99Marvel
10Star Wars #35$3.99Marvel

The top-selling graphic novels:

GRAPHIC NOVEL
PRICEPUBLISHER
1Paper Girls Volume 312.99Image
2Batman Volume 3: I Am Bane$16.99DC
3God Country$16.99Image
4Kill Or Be Killed Volume 2$16.99Image
5Wonder Woman Volume 3: The Truth$16.99DC
6X-Men Gold Volume 1: Back To Basics$15.99Marvel
7Reborn HC$24.99Image
8Superman Volume 3: Multiplicity$16.99DC
9Old Guard Book 1: Opening Fire$16.99Image
10X-Men Blue Volume 1: Strangest$15.99Marvel

The number of new releases is below. It may look like a lot of new comic books came out, but it's actually slightly down from the other two five-week months of 2017. It's the graphic novel count that spiked, up to its highest level since November:

PublisherComics
shipped
Graphic
Novels
shipped
MagazinesTotal
shipped
Marvel
106
40
1
147
DC
78
29
1
108
Image
62
18
0
80
IDW
56
22
0
78
Dark Horse
20
16
0
36
Dynamite
30
6
0
36
Boom
25
10
0
35
Titan
20
13
1
34
Viz
0
26
0
26
Oni
8
7
0
15
Others
119
182
32
333
TOTAL SHIPPED
524
369
35
928

The full estimates will be published here Monday morning. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to be alerted when they go online.

Lastly, we've added search and sorting mechanisms to all our end-of-year charts, beginning with 1991. Be sure to take a look.

Comichron founder 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 novels including Star Wars: KenobiOverdraft: The Orion OffensiveStar Wars: A New Dawn, and the Star Trek: Prey trilogy. He has a new story in the 40th anniversary compendium, Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View, releasing October 3. Read more about that and other stories at his fiction site.

Monday, August 14, 2017

July 2017 comics order estimates online: Dark Days: The Casting moves 128k, Monstress Vol. 2 tops 10k

by John Jackson Miller

 See listings for this issue on eBay
As described here on Friday, the Direct Market slowdown accelerated into July, as North American comic shop orders could not keep up with the blistering pace set by DC's Rebirth a year before, according to our analysis based on data released by Diamond Comic Distributors. Click to see our comics sales estimates for July 2017.

Much information is in that Friday article, including a look at where the industry is relative to previous years, with an eye to the odds for a recovery in the months remaining; it is worth a look. The estimates provide some additional insights. Top 300 comics sales, led by DC's Dark Days: The Casting #1 with more than 128,000 copies shipped to North America, were off almost exactly the same percentage in units and dollars as all comics were off, suggesting that the losses were evenly distributed between the better sellers and the "long tail."

Graphic novels, while also down, performed relatively better than they had in recent months, and Image's Monstress Vol. 2 was the first graphic novel to top 10,000 in orders since winter, and only the third all year.

The rise in cover prices in June to record levels abated, with the average price for new comics dropping down to $3.87; it had been up above $4.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Dark Days top comic as July fails to match 2016's Rebirth-charged numbers; year-to-date orders fall to 2014 levels


by John Jackson Miller


See listings for Dark Days on eBay
The pace of comics and graphic novel orders by North American comics shops worsened in July, according to data released today by Diamond Comic Distributors. Shipments for comic books, graphic novels, and magazines only reached a little over $40.76 million. That's down more than 19% from last year's blockbuster month for DC, when the publisher launched most of its Rebirth titles — but it's also down more than 11% from this June. All three of the months mentioned had the same number of shipping weeks.

While DC still had the most-ordered comic book in July with Dark Days: The Casting #1, the absence of Rebirth-launch-sized numbers meant the publisher joined Marvel as being behind for the year in North American orders, as measured by retail dollars. Marvel, which has been behind all year long, had accounted for all of the overall Direct Market shortfall in dollar terms up until June; now, with the market down $28.5 million for the year, Marvel represents only 70% of the drop. Marvel pared back its year-over-year losses some in July; while dollar orders were still off, they were off only half what they were in June.

Retailers ordered 6.95 million comic books in July, two and a half million copies fewer than last July, when the Rebirth comics were returnable. On the other hand, the year-to-date total remains at a competitive 53.05 million copies, off just 2.52%. And, yes, that figure includes a lot of 25¢ and free overship issues from early in the year, but on the other hand there's been no Loot Crate books to factor in so far.

Publishers also crammed a lot of new material into the comics shop channel, an event documented as it was happening by retailer Joe Field, who tweeted that shipments for the week of Comic-Con International had ballooned. We find that the number of new comics released in the month was up 7% over last July, and the number of new graphic novels released was up 13%. While the number of new items isn't that unusual in historical terms, retailers saw 45 more comics and 110 more new graphic novels over the last three months than they got in the corresponding months of 2016. Dollar sales for comics and graphic novels are off 12% in that period.

That graphic novel volume did count for something, as graphic novel dollar orders, led by Monstress Vol. 2, were off only 8.33%; even with a loss, it was the strongest category in July.

Percentage change figures for graphic novel dollars and units suggest that very little deep discounting is going on at the publisher level, a method that has often made the market look more robust than it actually is. What we're seeing now, thusly, is not inflated by a bunch of hardcovers shipped nearly for free, but is close to the actual retail demand.

The overall Direct Market stands at $302.21 million, which is around where it was in 2014 at this time, before Star Wars returned to Marvel. It is also off 8.69% year to date, which  (as you'll see in the graphic much further below) puts it at the lowest position it’s been at in the month of July relative to the previous year since we got the data necessary to calculate changes in overall comics and graphic novel sales in 2003 and 2004. That said, it’s relative: July’s orders were larger than they were five years ago — a really good year! — and 65% higher than the same month in 2003. That’s not all coming from inflation. More periodical comics have been ordered through July in 2017 than in the year to date for every year of this century up to and including 2014. It's also worth remembering that comics shops buy graphic novels from more vendors than just Diamond, so their overall picture may be different.

The charts follow, after which there are some thoughts about where we find ourselves at this point in the year:

Monday, July 17, 2017

June 2017 comics estimates: Average comic offered tops $4 for first time; our 250th consecutive monthly report!

by John Jackson Miller

 See current listings for this issue on eBay
The sales estimates for comics ordered by North American comics shops in June 2017 have been computed, and we have a new most-ordered comic book of the year: out in advance of the Spider-Man: Homecoming movie, Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #1 clocked in with orders of nearly 225,000 copies. Click to see the comics sales estimates for June 2017.

The issue was a needed bright spot, in a month we first reported on Friday: after a calendar-assisted rebound in the month of May, Marvel finished the first half of 2017 off $17.8 million at full retail in the Direct Market versus its performance in the same period in 2016, accounting for 94% of the market's $19 million shortfall. Up until June, the market minus Marvel was still in positive territory for the year, but as the above figure suggests, it turned slightly negative.

Marvel's share of June's smaller month was large enough to boost its market share for all of 2017 by a third of a percentage point; look for our exclusive Year-to-Date market shares in the left column of our 2017 page, beside our aggregated Top 40 Comics for the year so far.

An important mark was crossed, for better or worse, in June: the average comic book offered in the Top 300 topped $4 for the first time, landing at $4.03 and setting a new record. Removing the Dark Knight III Master Race #9 Collector's Edition, at $12.99, subtracts only two cents from the total; the median cover price offered was $3.99.  Previously, the weighted comics average — all Top 300 comics dollars divided by units — had crossed the $4 mark several times, only to return; the weighted average in June was actually the lower of the two measures, at $4.01.

Graphic novels, led by The Wicked & The Divine Vol. 5, were off considerably, although we don't note here nearly enough that Diamond isn't the only distributor comics shops order from; while, for example, we showed $405 million in graphic novels moving through book channel distributors in our annual 2016 report, a small portion of that was sold to comics shops, augmenting what retailers bought from Diamond.

(Update: Peter Parker #1 was in the Marvel Collector Corps box for the month; we don't know how many copies that kicked in, but it's likely far fewer than Loot Crate.)  

The vitals for the month:

Friday, July 14, 2017

June 2017 sales down against giant Rebirth month from last year; Spectacular Spidey snags top spot

by John Jackson Miller

Last June was the biggest month in comics in 20+ years, thanks to Rebirth and Civil War II — and the fifth week giveth, the fifth week taketh away. Pick your explanation, but the totals were very definitely down in June 2017, according to a report issued this morning by Diamond Comic Distributors. Comichron's analysis puts comic shop orders of comic books, graphic novels, and magazines at $46.09 million in the four-week month, down considerably from last year's record $58.59 million in a month with one additional shipping week. The comparative was always going to be extremely hard to beat, which is why we warned you about it early.

The news isn't all dire, so let's hit the brighter spots first: Under the hood, if you divide sales by the number of weeks in the month, the individual weeks in June were the strongest all year to date. That $46.09 million divides to $11.52 million per shipping week, the highest total since October. The second quarter beat the first quarter this year by 7.84% — as it should in any kind of normal situation — and 2017's new comics units so far, though infused with overship and 25-cent Image copies, are up from the year-to-date last year by 2.56%.

On the other hand, that's the only category that's up for the year. Comics dollars are slightly off, and combined comics, graphic novels, and magazines stand at $261.18 million for the year, off from $280.16 million in the more editorially front-loaded 2016. We were off even more, though, by this time in June 2011, and DC's New 52 relaunch brought the market almost to even by the end of the year.

(Update: Looking more closely, just three issues last June — Civil War II #1, Batman #1, and Batman Rebirth #1 — accounted for $3.72 million, or nearly a third of the margin last June had over this June. Blockbusters still matter — or at least, the absence of them does.)

The big laggard this year continues to be graphic novels, possibly in part a reflection of a weaker fall and winter last year for new releases, since now is when those comics are being collected. There may also be a dynamic of retailers keeping their powder dry, as July has a heavy release slate coming. Flying Colors' Joe Field tweeted yesterday about the challenges involved with ordering for July.

The aggregate sales:

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Comics and graphic novel sales up 5% in 2016

According to new estimate by ICV2 and Comichron

The comics and graphic novel market grew 5% in 2016, according to a new joint estimate by Comichron’s John Jackson Miller and ICv2’s Milton Griepp. Total comics and graphic novel sales to consumers in the U.S. and Canada reached $1.085 billion in 2016, a $55 million increase over sales in 2015.


“It’s gratifying to see continued growth in the audience for graphic novels,” Griepp said. “This represents growth in the broadest part of the market, where increased variety of content is being found by new audiences for comics, including kids and women.”


“Marvel’s lucrative relaunch of the Star Wars line in 2015 set a high mark for the comics shop market to beat in 2016,” Miller said. “The fact that it pulled even, thanks in part to DC’s ‘Rebirth’ event, was remarkable—and the book channel’s strength was even more so.”


Graphic novels in the book channel were the only area of growth in 2016, as sales in comic stores, through download-to-own digital channels, and in newsstands remained flat. Sales of graphic novels through the book channel grew 16% to $405 million in 2016, after growing 23% in 2015 and 16% in 2014.


As presented above and in the accompanying infographics, the analysis by Comichron and ICv2 was divided up between periodical comics (what some call “floppies” or “pamphlets”), graphic novels, and digital download-to-own sales. All print figures are calculated based on the full retail price of books sold into the market, and do not account for discounting or markup. Digital sales do not include subscription or “all you can read” services.

This is the fourth joint market size analysis from ICv2 and Comichron; the first three were for 2013, 2014, and 2015 sales. ICV2 and Comichron also previously collaborated on revised estimates for 2011 and 2012.

Comichron is the world’s largest public repository of comic-book sales figures, featuring data from the 1930s to today about comic book and graphic novel circulation, cover prices, and market shares on its website, www.comichron.com. With data and analysis on the distant past as well as the present, Comichron serves as a trusted resource for academics studying the historical reach of the medium and for collectors seeking accurate information about how many copies of a comic book originally circulated.

ICv2 is the #1 industry source on the business of geek culture, including comics and graphic novels, hobby games, and showbiz on its Website, www.ICv2.com, and in its magazine, Internal Correspondence. For the people on the front lines of the geek culture business, staying ahead of the trends isn't something that can be left to chance-it's a basic necessity for being successful. That's why ICv2 is the #1 source of news and information for the buyers, gatekeepers, and tastemakers on the front lines. ICv2 is where trend-watching is a science.
Infographics designed by Kate Willaert.

Monday, June 19, 2017

May 2017 comics sales estimates online; combining orders again gives Batman top slot

by John Jackson Miller

 See listings for Batman #22 on eBay
I mentioned here on Friday that, as in April, orders for DC's two "Button" issues of Batman and Flash would likely be split in reporting between the $3.99 lenticular and $2.99 standard-edition covers — and that posed the prospect that one or both of those issues would again edge past the reported top-seller, Marvel's Secret Empire, once orders were combined. That proved to be the case; click to see the comics order estimates for May 2017.

The original breakdowns are preserved in that list, but we can see that shipments of both versions of Batman #22 to comics shops in North America totaled nearly 186,900 copies (Edited: we'd initially used the numbers from #21), well over Secret Empire #1's total of more than 157,500. And Flash #22 hops up to second place, with a combined total of more than 163,700 copies. Again, the division of differently-priced variants is a long-standing practice in the charts; retailers, whom these charts are for, find knowing the breakdown of differently priced covers useful to know.

That said, Comichron has launched a running top-seller list for the year to date, combining the data from individual months; this can be found on the main 2017 page. There, we do fuse the entries, as we've done for years on our Comics of the Century and other pages.

The top dollar book on Diamond's charts, Venom #150, at nearly $6, would keep that status even if the Batman dollar orders were merged; Secret Empire #1 would remain the second-place dollar book. There's evidence of overshipping on the first two issues of All New Guardians of the Galaxy, which saw splits between their dollar and unit sales rankings. Meanwhile, the $9.99 Deadpool #30 is the seventh-highest dollar earner, while being only the 58th bestselling issue.

Spider-Man Omnibus Vol. 3 at TFAW
As noted in the preliminary report, May's orders represented an improvement over the previous year, thanks in part to a fifth shipping week — but we also see that lower tiers on the chart — 200th place and below — set some better-than-expected sales levels even for five-week months. (Be sure to check out our new sales charts for these sales levels: 1st, 50th, 100th, 150th, 200th, and 300th place.)

On the graphic novel side, Marvel's Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus Vol. 3 hardcover, at $100, was the top book in dollar terms. The dollar top-ten is populated by several other big-ticket books.

There was some deep-discounting of older hardcovers evident in the charts, but not a whole lot; enough to contribute to the ten-point split in units versus dollars on Diamond's percentage change charts for the month. Diamond shipped 14% more graphic novels this May versus last, but only earned 4% more dollars.

The vital statistics for the month:


Friday, June 16, 2017

Comics orders rebound in five-week May; Secret Empire tops list, Liefeld has #1 graphic novel

by John Jackson Miller

See current auctions for Secret Empire #1 on eBay
May 2017 was a win for the comic-book direct market, if a qualified one; comics shops ordered $48.16 million worth of comic books, trade paperbacks, and magazines in the month, an increase of more than 8% over the same month in the previous year. That month, however, had only four Wednesdays, while this May had five New Comic Book Days. Last May was also one of the weakest months of the year, a "holding pattern" month in advance of Civil War II and DC's Rebirth. But it's the first up month since October 2016, so we'll take it.

Marvel's performance, about which much was written this winter, improved year-over-year — although, following a pattern we've seen in 2017, the rest of the market improved by more. The overall market was up around $3.7 million; $700,000 of the addition came from Marvel and $3 million from everyone else. That said, Marvel's last year-over-year beat was back in August 2016, so positive movement is noteworthy. The market without Marvel is up 4.2% for 2017, so a few more good months for the publisher could turn the industry's year positive overall.

The challenge is going to be that, just as much of 2016 was up against big comparative months during Star Wars' launch year at Marvel, last summer was ginormous in dollar terms. June 2016 was the biggest month in the Direct Market this century, at $58.6 million; it also had an extra Wednesday. August 2016 was almost as big. More of DC's books are at $3.99 this time around, so we'll see what difference that makes.

The aggregate changes:


DollarsUnits
May 2017 Vs. April 2017
Comics16.49%17.36%
Graphic Novels17.13%19.52%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels16.69%17.53%
Toys52.15%52.94%
May 2017 Vs. May 2016
Comics10.58%16.74%
Graphic Novels3.54%13.65%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels8.31%16.49%
Toys40.46%29.34%
Year-To-Date 2017 Vs. Year-To-Date 2016
Comics0.11%8.89%
Graphic Novels-9.23%-8.72%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels-2.92%7.35%
Toys1.14%1.10%

We don't cover toys, but Diamond provides that data and they look to have bounced back by a lot.

Marvel topped both market shares categories, and improved its position in our projected annual dollar market shares, which through May are expected to wind up at Marvel 36.6%, DC 29.2%, Image 10.2%, IDW 5%, and Dark Horse 3.5%. Here's just the month of May:

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The complete sales history of Wonder Woman according to postal records, 1960-1987

by John Jackson Miller

Wonder Woman arrives in theaters this week, seventy-five years after she got her own comic book — and Comichron commemorates that moment with the publication (all in one place for the first time anywhere!) of the complete postal record sales history for both Wonder Woman titles for which DC filed Statements of Ownership, Management, and Circulation with the United States Postal Service. Click to see the postal filings for Wonder Woman Vol. 1, which run from 1960 (when circulation figures started being required) to 1984, and for Wonder Woman Vol. 2, which got just one year in before DC stopped filing reports.

Created by William Moulton Marston in All Star Comics #8, Wonder Woman got her own series in 1942 with #1— a title that would run for more than four decades. The title's first postal circulation data appears in 1960, when the book was shipping eight issues a year; 210,000 copies of each issue sold on average. That number makes it a lower-tier superhero book at DC in 1960, but a mid-range seller for the industry overall.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Star Wars comics sales history: A 40th anniversary look back

by John Jackson Miller


It's the 40th anniversary of the release of Star Wars: A New Hope — known to those of us who saw it then as just-plain Star Wars — so here's an update of a post from a couple of years ago on what the movie meant to comics in the 1970s.

Given that much of my professional comics and fiction output has been associated with Star Wars, it's perhaps surprising that I haven't gotten around to doing a circulation spotlight on the original 1977 Marvel series — especially since I've had all the Statement of Ownership, Management, and Circulation postal forms from the title on hand for years. With Star Wars back in the news for some reason, it seems like a good time to remedy that. Click to see the detailed circulation history of the original 1977 Marvel Star Wars series, according to the company's postal reports.

When the first Star Wars movie was adapted by Marvel in 1977, early issues of the comic book were released before the movie came out. The first issue appeared in two different first printings, both newsstand editions for Curtis Circulation; one was a special rare (and now valuable) variant with a test-marketed price. Beginning with the second issue, first printings of #2-4 were also included in one of the bagged releases for Western Publishing's Whitman three-pack program. (Nick Pope's excellent site catalogs the bagged Whitman Star Wars configurations found in the wild.)

Star Wars bagged editionOnce the movie was released and retailers knew they had a blockbuster on their hands, multiple printings of the early issues were ordered, both by Curtis Circulation — and, most consequentially, by Whitman for use in special Star Wars three-packs. The result was that the early issues of the title were the first comics to exceed 1 million copies per issue in sales since Uncle Scrooge and Walt Disney's Comics & Stories in 1960. According to Jim Shooter, later Marvel's Editor-in-Chief, "Star Wars saved Marvel" in the late 1970s.

Demand was so high for the reprints of the adaptation that Whitman only ordered Star Wars three-packs from Marvel for several months, perhaps explaining why there are no Whitman variants of other Marvel titles for a period in late 1977, corresponding to early 1978 cover dates. (That fact also helps explain why the "fat-diamond" versions of Marvel's comics in 1977-78 are better referred to as Whitman or special-market editions rather than Direct Market editions. Regardless of whether comics retailers got shipped copies from those print runs — and some reportedly did — those variant printings only existed because of the arrangement with Whitman, something Shooter confirmed to Comichron here.)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

How comics sales have changed across time; new pages tracking benchmark levels added

by John Jackson Miller

For years, we've had pages on Comichron collecting not just the #1 comic books ordered each month from Diamond Comic Distributors, but also the 300th-place titles, at the far end of the charts. The latter have always been a useful indicator when it comes to evaluating how much depth there is to sales; while volumes at the very top of the list are erratic due to first issue promotions and editorial events, there's much less volatility further down the charts.

We've always had the ability to report levels at other points on the chart, of course, and so with Diamond now having just passed 20 years of being the exclusive sales agent Marvel in the Direct market, we now present our expanded collection of sortable, searchable charts for the following sales levels:


There are good reasons to look at each of the new benchmarks. At 50th place, we're generally past the larger events and bigger first issue launches, and getting into the meat-and-potatoes books, the regular stalwarts on the charts. At 100th, we're at a level that is useful historically, since in the very early days, the Top 100 lists were all you saw from the distributors. Slot 150 is, of course, dead center of the list each month (well, it's actually between 150 and 151, but never mind) — though the real middle of the list may be closer to 200th place, given the fact that Diamond's slate of comics releases regularly reaches into the 400s.

When considered together — and removing the first-place books, which hop around wildly whether there's a Loot Crate situation involved or not — we clearly see a number of trends that have been mentioned on Comichron for years:


The above graph looks at the average number of copies ordered at each level annually on the chart across the last 20 years, which is a better way to look at it than a graph that tracks orders month-by-month; that graph would be frenetic and noisy due to the fact that there's four-shipping-week and five-week month data being mixed together. The fifth week results in higher sales levels, because there are more potential bestselling titles being offered and more time for the bestselling books to rack up sales. The averages shown above aren't a perfect solution — some years had more five week months than others — but it's pretty close. (We do provide the number of shipping weeks for each month on the destination pages linked above.)


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Why entries for some comics are split in the Diamond ranking charts

by John Jackson Miller

Comichron has had a presence on Twitter for a long time, and occasionally there I field questions about the datasets here on the site. Yesterday's sales report for April generated a number due to the fact that, as noted, Batman #21 and Flash #21 saw their sales figures divided up into two entries each, owing to the fact that both issues had a lenticular cover variant priced at a dollar higher.

Owing to the bifurcation, Batman and Flash ended up being the second-and-fifth place comics of the month in unit terms, rather than first and second, which they would have been with identical cover prices. This led to a number of articles, including the one I'm reacting to here:

...and those inclined can follow my Twitter response thread here.


http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?icep_ff3=9&pub=5575293798&toolid=10001&campid=5338078900&customid=&icep_uq=batman+21+lenticular&icep_sellerId=&icep_ex_kw=&icep_sortBy=12&icep_catId=&icep_minPrice=&icep_maxPrice=&ipn=psmain&icep_vectorid=229466&kwid=902099&mtid=824&kw=lg
In summary for the Twitter-impaired, the practice goes back a long way. In the early days of variants, each version tended to get its own line item in the charts published by Capital City Distribution and Diamond Comic Distributors; nothing was combined. The reason was simple: then, as now, the distributor chart isn't a scoreboard. The purpose isn't to say what's #1, but rather how shops ordered titles relative to other titles. So it was that in 1991, every cover of X-Men Vol. 2, #1 got its own listing in the tables. (It's hard to believe, but there was a possibility that the best-selling comic book of all time might not have topped the charts, had another of that era's blockbuster books happened along that month.) Multiple listings for titles — especially for "deluxe" versus newsstand editions offered to the Direct Market — were a common sight.

By the 2000s, however, printing advances made it easier to do micro-runs of variants, and the number of them exploded. It became impossible to break them out and still fit all the important issues into the charts in Diamond Dialogue magazine, where the tables ran until the title ceased publication at the end of 2008. Diamond chose to merge identically priced variants and second and later printings in the rankings because almost all had the same (or no) cover price, and where there was a variant price, it was often quite different, like a $9.99 "platinum edition," which really didn't belong in the same grouping of copies.

Monday, May 8, 2017

April 2017 comics sales estimates: Beyond Marvel's slow start, rest of industry growing

by John Jackson Miller

This April marked 20 years since Marvel Comics returned to Diamond Comic Distributors, ending the distribution wars and launching the Diamond Exclusive Era. While the move helped to reduce instability, the market was far from healthy, and Marvel itself was still going through Chapter 11. At the time, I remember hearing the head of a rival publisher had said "the industry needs a strong Marvel" — and that was certainly the case in that period, as the entire market remained in collapse for several more years.

Today, the comics market is far better shape than it was 20 years ago — any claims otherwise are divorced from history and reality — and Marvel's position is vastly improved. (Its Guardians of the Galaxy 2 film just passed $427 million in global box office.) Still, it remains the largest player in the market, and as such the impact of Marvel's slow start to the year can clearly be seen in Comichron's analysis of Diamond's sales to the Direct Market for April. Click to see our estimated order figures for individual titles in April.

Diamond's shipments of comics and graphic novels to comics shops in North America are off a little more than $10 million year-to-date at full retail, or 5.74% — but shipments of Marvel titles to that market so far this year are off closer to $13 million at full retail, and half of that shortfall came in April. Direct Market orders apart from Marvel are actually up 2.5% year over year; had Marvel's sales to date been flat, the market would have still been up 1.5%.

These figures are derived from multiplying Diamond's reported market shares for publishers by the overall sales of comics, graphic novels, and magazines, at full retail value, computed each month by Comichron using Diamond's percentage change statistics — and while we track these internals every month, we generally do not share the figures online as the "horse race" between publishers gets far too much attention already. As a medium, comics' race against past performance is the more relevant one — and there, Marvel had been improving over the last couple of reports; March's data found the publisher still behind, but by the smallest year-over-year percentage drop since September.

April, however, found Marvel up against a very strong comparative month in 2016. Only five times in the 21st Century has the full retail value of Diamond's shipments of Marvel products topped $20 million; last April, which included Black Panther #1, was one of them. And while around the same number of Marvel periodicals made the Top 300 in April 2016 and April 2017 — 94 versus 92 — ten of this year's issues were True Believer books, priced at one dollar. It cost $386.06 to buy one of every Marvel comic book in April 2016's Top 300; only $344.18 to do the same in April 2017.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Soft start to 2017 continues with April sales; Secret Empire #0 tops charts

by John Jackson Miller

Owing to the lower volumes the comics shop market sees in the winter, we have frequently observed here that a mildly good April is often enough to erase losses during a slow winter. In 2017, it'll have to be a different month that does it, because April was off year-to-year more than any month in the first quarter, according to Comichron's analysis of data released this morning by Diamond Comic Distributors. Comics shops ordered $41.27 million in comic books, graphic novels, and magazines in the month, a drop of more than $6 million from the same month the previous year.

For context, that drop is only the largest since December. And last April's orders were off more, 16% — only to see the year rebound and end up slightly ahead due to DC's "Rebirth" event. Of course, that April had a few things going against it — it was a four-shipping week month versus a five-shipping-week month in 2015, and 2015's sales were supercharged by Star Wars, still new at Marvel. On the other hand, April 2016 did have Black Panther #1, the first blockbuster book of that year.

Marvel's Secret Empire #0, at $4.99, was the top-seller for this April, but it seems less likely to reach the sales levels Black Panther did. Retailers ordered 7.08 million comic books in the month of April, off less than 5% from last April. Periodical dollars were off more; much of DC's line is at $2.99 and there were a number of $1 and other promotionally-priced books in the mix.

Graphic novels were off 17%, continuing the weakness in the category that we've seen all year. Batman Vol. 2: I Am Suicide was the top seller. This was a four-shipping-week month versus a four-shipping-week month, so the calendar is not in play.

The comparative sales statistics:


DollarsUnits
April 2017 Vs. March 2017
Comics-9.47%-5.31%
Graphic Novels-10.77%-6.00%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels-9.87%-5.36%
Toys-45.50%-39.17%
April 2017 Vs. April 2016
Comics-11.28%-4.66%
Graphic Novels-17.18%-15.47%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels-13.18%-5.62%
Toys-20.01%-21.08%
Year-To-Date 2017 Vs. Year-To-Date 2016
Comics-2.53%6.89%
Graphic Novels-12.41%-14.02%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels-5.74%5.04%
Toys-6.38%-5.57%

Image topped 10% in market share this month — and for the first time in a while, thanks perhaps to its Aliens promotion, Dark Horse reversed positions with IDW. The market shares:

Dollar ShareUnit Share
Marvel34.95%38.23%
DC30.49%34.34%
Image10.54%9.86%
Dark Horse4.46%3.06%
IDW3.63%2.95%
Boom2.27%1.95%
Dynamite1.44%1.60%
Viz1.30%0.48%
Titan1.30%1.20%
Archie0.90%0.79%
Other Non-Top 108.73%5.55%

The Top 10 comic books:

COMIC BOOKPRICEPUBLISHER
1Secret Empire #0$4.99Marvel
2Batman #21 Lenticular Edition (The Button)$3.99DC
3X-Men Gold #1$4.99Marvel
4X-Men Blue #1$4.99Marvel
5The Flash #21 Lenticular Edition (The Button)$3.99DC
6Batman #20$2.99DC
7Batman #21 (The Button)$2.99DC
8Star Wars #30$3.99Marvel
9Weapon X #1$3.99Marvel
10The Walking Dead #166$2.99Image


The Top 10 Graphic Novels:

GRAPHIC NOVELPRICEPUBLISHER
1Batman Volume 2: I Am Suicide$16.99DC
2Hellboy: Into The Silent Sea HC$14.99Dark Horse
3Saga Volume 7$14.99Image
4Superman Vol. 2: Trials Of The Super Son$16.99DC
5All-Star Batman Vol. 1: My Own Worst Enemy HC$24.99DC
6Saga Deluxe Edition Volume 2 HC$49.99Ima
7Batman Volume 10: Epilogue$16.99DC
8Justice League Volume 2: Outbreak$16.99DC
9Avatar The Last Airbender Vol. 15$10.99Dark Horse
10Red Hood & The Outlaws Vol. 1: Dark Trinity$16.99DC

The number of new comics releases for the major publishers was essentially unchanged from this April to last, off very slightly; the pace of new graphic novel releases slowed 6%. That's the same rate for the entire year; there are just fewer new graphic novels out there. The new release volumes:

PublisherComics shippedGraphic Novels shippedMagazinesTotal shipped
Marvel93410134
DC78331112
Image5711169
IDW4715062
Dark Horse2021041
Boom2612038
Viz030030
Titan232126
Dynamite156021
Archie123015
Other10811231251
Total47928634799

We stand at almost 30 million new comics shipped in 2017, up from about 28 million at this time in 2016; that's the impact of Marvel's overships and Image's 25-cent-books there, among other things.

As usual when there's a slow start to the year, it's worth looking at the long view: while people may not remember, in this decade the market has been down for the year overall by the end of April as many times as it's been up. It was down in 2010-11 and 2016-17, up in the other years. What's made this decade so successful in the Direct Market is some of the up years were really up, while both 2011 and 2016 clawed back to nearly even (or a little ahead in 2016's case) by year-end. In the case of both of those years, a DC relaunch mid-year made the difference; with Free Comic Book Day tomorrow, promotion of publishers' summer slates is well underway, so we'll see what impact those have.

(Quick programming note: For those in the Chicago area, I'll be doing an FCBD talk and event at noon on Saturday at the Algonquin Area Public Library — and heading over at 3 to do a Star Wars-themed event for the Arlington Heights Memorial Library.)

Comichron founder 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 novels including Star Wars: Kenobi, Overdraft: The Orion OffensiveStar Wars: A New Dawn, and the Star Trek: Prey trilogy. Read more about them at his fiction site.

Be sure to follow Comichron on Twitter and Facebook.
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