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John Jackson Miller and other pop culture archaeologists interested in comics history.

 

Friday, February 17, 2017

More comics shipped in January 2017 than any January in 20 years; U.S. Avengers #1 leads pack

by John Jackson Miller

January comics and graphic novel orders got 2017 off to a slightly slower start than last year, according to Comichron's analysis of data released today by Diamond Comic Distributors. But while the $40.1 million in orders — off 3% — was the lowest one-month total since February 2014, Marvel's overship promotion offering a free 10% match to retailers' orders helped create a situation in which more comics were shipped than in any first month of the year since January 1997, 20 years ago.

Diamond shipped 7.57 million comic books to retailers in the month, up 7.21% over January 2016 and even beating out 2015's massive Star Wars #1 month. Free comics obviously don't impact dollar sales, so comics dollar sales were only up 0.36%.

That disjoint suggests that while January's performance was off at the distributor level, it could easily have been an up month at the retail level, depending on how all that extra material sold. Diamond's comparative sales statistics charts and market share charts are based on wholesale prices and not retail, which is what that $40.1 million figure is; the real dollar value of comics and graphic novels retailers had to sell was probably several million higher.

This isn't new; every month there's some level of deep discounting of graphic novels or promotional pricing of comics, and so there's always a bit more — and some months, a lot more — potential sales out there for retailers than the overall sales number suggests. The comparative stats for the month:


DollarsUnits
January 2017 vs. December 2016
Comics-7.50%-7.84%
Graphic Novels-18.85%-28.03%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels-11.00%-9.49%
Toys-38.37%-39.98%
January 2017 vs. January 2016
Comics+0.36%+7.21%
Graphic Novels-11.88%-8.61%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels-3.41%+6.01%
Toys-15.43%-2.28%


It was a four-week month versus a four-week month, so we're comparing apples to apples between this January and last. But weather differences naturally figure into winter month comparisons in a way that we don't see during the rest of the year.

Because free overshipped copies count on the unit side but not the dollar side of the market shares charts, January found Marvel with one of the larger splits between the two categories we've seen. There's almost a six point gap between Marvel's 42.62% unit share and its 37.09% dollar share.


DOLLAR
SHARE
UNIT
SHARE
Marvel37.09%42.62%
DC28.93%31.33%
Image9.82%9.36%
IDW5.25%3.45%
Dark Horse4.04%2.91%
Boom2.09%1.91%
Dynamite1.65%1.47%
Titan1.24%1.10%
Viz1.15%0.39%
Valiant0.82%0.81%
Other7.92%4.65%

We'll see these figures go haywire again next month when Image's 25th anniversary 25-cent comics make their appearance in the February stats.

Marvel's U.S. Avengers #1 with its multiple state covers — forming an American flag puzzle — had the largest number of copies shipped in the Direct Market, passing DC's two Batman issues. We'll have a better sense of how the overship figured into that — and other titles' — performance on Monday, when we have the dollar or retail rankings of the titles to work with. Comichron now includes the retail ranking on all new monthly sales charts — and we're increasingly adding them to the older months.

COMIC BOOKPRICEPUBLISHER
1U.S.Avengers #13.99Marvel
2Batman #14$2.99DC
3Batman #15$2.99DC
4Justice League/Power Rangers #1$3.99DC
5The Walking Dead #162$2.99Image
6All-Star Batman #6$4.99DC
7Justice League Vs. Suicide Squad #3$3.99DC
8Monsters Unleashed #1$4.99Marvel
9Amazing Spider-Man #23$3.99Marvel
10Justice League #12$2.99DC

We started to get more DC Rebirth-era graphic novels in January, but there were 10% fewer releases this January versus last January (and understandably, far fewer than in December). Graphic novel dollar sales were off about 12% as a result. Batman Vol. 1: I Am Gotham was the top-selling graphic novel.
GRAPHIC NOVELPRICEPUBLISHER
1Batman Volume 1: I Am Gotham$16.99 DC
2Kill Or Be Killed Volume 1$9.99Image
3The Flash Vol. 1: Lightning Strikes Twice$17.99DC
4Superman Vol. 1: Son of Superman$16.99DC
5Saga Volume 1$9.99Image
6Justice League Vol. 1: The Extinction Machine$16.99DC
7Paper Girls Vol. 1$9.99Image
8Star Wars: Han Solo$16.99Marvel
9Green Arrow Vol. 1: The Life & Death Of Oliver Queen$16.99DC
10Black Monday Murders Volume 1: All Hail God Mammon$19.99Image

And to finish off the commentary regarding new release volume, the number of new comic books released was just about the same this January as it was in the previous January.

PublisherComics
shipped
Graphic Novels
shipped
Magazines
shipped
Total
shipped
Marvel
97
33
0
130
DC
86
26
0
112
Image
44
16
0
60
IDW
41
17
0
58
Dark Horse
27
16
0
43
Boom
26
7
0
33
Titan
24
0
4
28
Dynamite
16
6
0
22
Viz
0
21
0
21
Valiant
9
3
0
12
Other
87
96
27
210
TOTAL SHIPPED
457
241
31
729

All told, it's a start to 2017 that is down, but not by much — and the added volume of the overships presents the potential that it was better on the retail level than it looks from the above data. Which is part of the goal of overships, of course. How that strategy plays out going into the year will be interesting to see.

The final estimates will be along Monday (UPDATE 2/20: They are now online, here.); in the meantime, be sure to read our Flashback column for January to see how the month's book's compare against the month from 5, 10, and even 50 years ago. The February column is already up, as well — and you can also see our provisional end-of-year report for 2016.

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.
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