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

 

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:

Dollar ShareUnit Share
Marvel38.05%39.91%
DC27.93%30.88%
Image10.25%11.83%
IDW4.65%3.78%
Dark Horse3.05%2.21%
Boom2.10%1.74%
Dynamite1.72%1.85%
Titan1.18%0.99%
Viz1.12%0.39%
Oni0.89%0.59%
Other Non-Top 109.06%5.83%

The top-selling title of the month was Marvel's Secret Empire #1, although May was another case where several different claimants could exist. Let's look first at the table:

COMIC BOOK
PRICEPUBLISHER
1Secret Empire #1$4.99Marvel
2Venom #150$5.99Marvel
3Batman #22 Lenticular Edition$3.99DC
4Flash #22 Lenticular Edition$3.99DC
5Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout #1$4.99Marvel
6Secret Empire #2$4.99Marvel
7Batman #23$2.99DC
8Secret Empire #3$3.99Marvel
9All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #1$3.99Marvel
10Walking Dead #167$2.99Image


See listings for this issue on eBay
We'll set aside the second-place Venom #150 (one of the more complicated attempts at creating a legacy title by cobbling together the numberings of multiple series), which cost a dollar more and might or might not wind up with some bragging rights depending on how the retail rankings shake out, and look simply at copies shipped. There, there's little doubt what image shipped more copies: Image's Saga #43, which as part of the publisher's 25th anniversary program shipped with a 25¢ cover price. We won't see an exact number of copies because Diamond does not include comics priced below $1 in its charts — but it was surely the highest-volume book.

Then, as with April, we have a situation where both DC's Batman #22 and Flash #22 "Button" issues had lenticular covers priced at a dollar more than their regular versions, and following long-standing convention, Diamond splits those books up in its rankings. We'll know on Monday whether the combined versions might account for enough copies again to surpass the nominal first-place book. I wrote last month about why such issues are divided into separate entries; back in 1994 you'd see the Deluxe and Newsstand versions of Marvel's books likewise split up.

It's all a reminder that, as I've written many times, the distributor charts are not a scoreboard. They were created to help retailers place their future orders, and it's helpful for them to, for example, know how the lenticular and regular versions were ordered relative to one another. Yielding a true "winner" every month for spectator interest is irrelevant to the charts' purpose; for the shops, it's not a game.

Marvels Guardians line got two top-ten entries, Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout #1 and All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #1, in a month in which its movie sequel released to a huge opening.

Graphic novels bounced back, finally, aided by a bigger-ticket item in Deadpool: Bad Blood. The book featured the return to the top of the charts by Rob Liefeld, nearly 26 years after his first top-seller on the comics charts, June 1991's X-Force #1. But the bigger factor appears to be a large increase in the number of new graphic novels shipped, from 271 last May up to 358. That's more than the fifth week would be expected to add.

The chart:

GRAPHIC NOVEL
PRICEPUBLISHER
1Deadpool: Bad Blood HC$24.99Marvel
2Bitch Planet Volume 2: President Bitch$14.99Image
3Saga Vol. 7$14.99Image
4Wonder Woman Volume 2: Year One$16.99DC
5Moonshine Vol. 1$9.99Image
6Flash Vol. 2: The Speed of Darkness$14.99DC
7Champions Vol. 1: Change the World$15.99Marvel
8Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 2: Victim Syndicate$16.99DC
9Unworthy Thor$15.99Marvel
10Doom Patrol Vol. 1: Brick By Brick$16.99DC

And speaking of new release volume we see that the big increase in new comics came from Image, which had 71 new periodical entries in the month. That's the highest figure for the company since December 2015.

Publisher
Comics
shipped
Graphic Novels
shipped
MagazinesTotal
shipped
Marvel99
43
0
142
DC
82
34
0
116
Image
71
14
1
86
IDW
59
15
0
74
Boom
26
10
0
36
Titan
22
7
4
33
Dark Horse
20
12
0
32
Dynamite
23
7
0
30
Oni
6
4
0
10
Viz
0
9
0
9
Other
119
203
28
350
TOTAL SHIPPED
527
358
33
918

Look for the full charts and estimates here on Monday.

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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