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

 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Some improvement in March 2017 comics orders; $9.99 Amazing Spider-Man #25 tops charts

by John Jackson Miller


If you didn't know a number of things about the comics market this past winter, looking at the comics shop market sales estimates for the first quarter would be extremely confusing. By the numbers, for example, fewer comics were shipped in five-shipping-week March, 7.47 million copies, than in either of the four-week months of January and February, for example (7.57 and 7.85 million copies respectively). Yet retailers spent more on comics in March than in either of those two months.

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:

DollarsUnits
March 2017 vs. February 2017
Comics+15.00%-4.72%
Graphic Novels+15.44%+19.72%
Total Comics/GNs+15.14%-3.13%
Toys+34.66%+55.98%
March 2017 vs. March 2016
Comics+6.02%+8.93%
Graphic Novels-15.36%-17.47%
Total Comics/GNs-1.68%+6.21%
Toys-9.24%+0.51%
Year-to-Date 2017 vs. Year-to-Date 2016
Comics+0.70%+11.05%
Graphic Novels-10.68%-13.49%
Total Comics/GNs-3.01%+8.89%
Toys-2.52%-0.31%

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:

PublisherComics shippedGraphic Novels shippedMagazinesTotal shipped
Marvel
92
39
0
131
DC
92
31
0
123
Image
61
16
2
79
IDW
60
19
0
79
Dark Horse
25
14
0
39
Titan
24
6
5
35
Boom
24
10
0
34
Viz
0
26
0
26
Dynamite
21
1
0
22
Valiant
7
2
0
9
Other
130
161
20
311
TOTAL SHIPPED
536
325
27
888

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 ShareUnit Share
Marvel35.41%34.34%
DC28.75%35.46%
Image10.71%10.02%
IDW5.68%4.72%
Dark Horse3.48%3.09%
Boom2.15%1.86%
Dynamite1.76%2.00%
Titan1.15%1.06%
Viz1.14%0.43%
Valiant1.14%1.37%
Other8.62%5.64%

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:

COMIC BOOK
PRICEPUBLISHER
1Amazing Spider-Man #259.99Marvel
2Dark Knight III: The Master Race #8$5.99DC
3Batman #18$2.99DC
4Batman #19$2.99DC
5Iron Fist #1$3.99Marvel
6X-Men Prime #1$4.99Marvel
7Star Wars #29$3.99Marvel
8All-Star Batman #8$4.99DC
9The Walking Dead #165$2.99Image
10Justice League #16$2.99DC

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:

GRAPHIC NOVELPRICEPUBLISHER
1Saga Vol. 714.99Image
2The Walking Dead Vol. 27: The Whisperer War$14.99Image
3Harley Quinn Vol. 1: Die Laughing$16.99DC
4Suicide Squad Vol. 1: The Black Vault$16.99DC
5Death of X$17.99Marvel
6Titans Vol. 1: The Return of Wally West$16.99DC
7Wolverine: Old Man Logan$29.99Marvel
8Deathstroke Vol. 1: The Professional$16.99DC
9Batgirl Vol. 1: Beyond Burnside$16.99DC
10Deadly Class Vol. 5: Carousel$14.99Image

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 OffensiveStar Wars: A New Dawn, and the Star Trek: Prey trilogy. Read more about them at his fiction site.

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