That's because -- as you know if you've been reading -- Marvel shipped a significant number of copies to retailers for free in January, while February saw retailers buy three quarters of a million copies of a 25-cent issue of Walking Dead. Meanwhile, March's top-ordered comic book, Amazing Spider-Man #25, cost nearly $10!
As a result, according to Comichron's analysis of data released this morning by Diamond Comic Distributors, March was the best month of the year thus far, with nearly $45.8 million in comics, graphic novels, and magazines shipping to retailers.
That's still a drop from the previous year, but only of 1.68% -- meaning that the year-over-year decline has narrowed to just 3%, or about $4 million dollars ($125.67 million versus $129.58 million last year). And if we skip back to the first quarter of 2014 -- before Star Wars arrived at Marvel and transformed the winter charts dramatically -- we find that the first quarter of 2017 is up 8% in dollars by comparison.
The aggregate sales statistics:
|March 2017 vs. February 2017|
|March 2017 vs. March 2016|
|Year-to-Date 2017 vs. Year-to-Date 2016|
Now, as you can see from the above, it's not all good news, because dollar orders for graphic novels were off more than 15%. But on comparison, we see that 12% fewer new graphic novel titles were released this March versus last March, 325 versus 371. That explains a lot; with 46 more graphic novel releases, March overall might have gone into positive territory. The new release figures:
|Publisher||Comics shipped||Graphic Novels shipped||Magazines||Total shipped|
It's DC and Image that had the largest declines in new graphic novel releases versus last March. On the comics side, the number of new releases increased, from 488 last March to 536 this March, with Marvel shipping fewer titles and DC, Image, IDW, Dark Horse, and Titan expanding their release slates.
On the market share side, Marvel led the dollar shares while DC again took the unit share lead, with its cheaper price points. The market shares:
|Dollar Share||Unit Share|
As suggested in the headline, part of what helped build Marvel's dollar-share is a comic book that, if it led the unit shares, must have done gangbusters on the dollar side: the $9.99 Amazing Spider-Man #25. It beat out the $5.99 Dark Knight III: The Master Race #8 and everything else for the top slot:
|1||Amazing Spider-Man #25||9.99||Marvel|
|2||Dark Knight III: The Master Race #8||$5.99||DC|
|5||Iron Fist #1||$3.99||Marvel|
|6||X-Men Prime #1||$4.99||Marvel|
|7||Star Wars #29||$3.99||Marvel|
|8||All-Star Batman #8||$4.99||DC|
|9||The Walking Dead #165||$2.99||Image|
|10||Justice League #16||$2.99||DC|
Saga Vol. 7 and Walking Dead Vol. 27 led the graphic novel charts. The final month of the quarter is when you often see publishers offering deep discounts on hardcovers, and this March was no different -- but the presence of these high-volume titles atop the list probably worked to keep the graphic novel unit and dollar share performances reasonably close, only two percentage points apart. The titles:
|1||Saga Vol. 7||14.99||Image|
|2||The Walking Dead Vol. 27: The Whisperer War||$14.99||Image|
|3||Harley Quinn Vol. 1: Die Laughing||$16.99||DC|
|4||Suicide Squad Vol. 1: The Black Vault||$16.99||DC|
|5||Death of X||$17.99||Marvel|
|6||Titans Vol. 1: The Return of Wally West||$16.99||DC|
|7||Wolverine: Old Man Logan||$29.99||Marvel|
|8||Deathstroke Vol. 1: The Professional||$16.99||DC|
|9||Batgirl Vol. 1: Beyond Burnside||$16.99||DC|
|10||Deadly Class Vol. 5: Carousel||$14.99||Image|
That's it for the preliminary analysis of March's sales; a first quarter that, for all the hue and cry heard about it, lands right in the middle of winters over the last twenty-plus years; neither particularly strong or weak. That is, of course, from the 30,000-foot level of aggregate sales -- but when the market's increased in dollar volume five years in a row and book channel graphic novel sales are up 12%, it should take a bit more than a 3% drop in the traditionally smallest quarter of the year to sound the general alarm. A defining feature of the comics market in 21st Century has been its resilience, and there's nothing in the numbers -- as yet -- to suggest that's going away any time soon.
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 Offensive, Star Wars: A New Dawn, and the Star Trek: Prey trilogy. Read more about them at his fiction site.
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