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More than 162,700 comic book and graphic novel circulation figures online!
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, November 12, 2018

October 2018 comics sales estimates online: Strong month for the midlist

by John Jackson Miller

 Click to see the estimates for October 2018

As reported last week, comics and graphic novel orders through Diamond Comics Distributors ended October ahead for the year-to-date, thanks to one additional New Comic Book Day during the month. We also know the month benefited from particularly strong sales of middle-tier titles, thanks to Comichron estimates, just posted: click to see the comics sales estimates for October 2018.

October was generally without the major launches that previous months saw; the major event for the month (besides the Venom movie) was Walking Dead Day on Oct. 13, which saw 15 different "blind bag" editions of previous issues (along with new variant covers) on offer. Batman #56, with its foil edition, finished first in units and dollars among comic books, with Walking Dead #1's 15th anniversary edition in second. The issues landed around 107,500 and 106,100 copies shipped respectively in North America.

But as noted, the performance of titles in the midsection of the charts was strong. The 150th place title shipped 17,305 copies, the third largest amount at that level in 20 years. The 200th place title sold 12,184 copies, the fourth highest amount in two decades. The 50th, 100th, 400th, and 500th place titles all hit one-year highs.

While in part due to more releases on offer after a year in which publishers had cut their slates back, it appears that, in the absence of a blockbuster title for the month, retailers may have spread their ordering dollars around to other issues. October's total comics shipment of 8 million copies was the largest since May 2017, which had the 25¢ Saga #43 padding the totals.

The Batman: White Knight trade paperback topped 12,000 copies shipped in October. It's now also nearly certain that Infinity Gauntlet will be the top-ordered graphic novel from Diamond in 2018; this would be the first time Marvel led that list since Civil War in 2007, after a five-year run with Saga volumes in the lead. Click to see sales for comics and graphic novels for the year to date; you can also see the top titles by year.

The vital statistics for October:

Friday, November 9, 2018

Comics sales ahead for year after $49.4 million October; Batman, Walking Dead's 15th anniversary drive month

by John Jackson Miller


As predicted here, comics and graphic novel orders through Diamond Comics Distributors ended October ahead for the year-to-date, thanks to a stronger midsection of 2018 and one additional New Comic Book Day during the month. Retailers ordered $49.39 million in comics and graphic novels in October, up 8.4% year-over-year; year-to-date orders stand at $438.4 million, up $1.6 million (or 0.4%) over the past year. Click to visit our page for October 2018 comics sales estimates; the figures will be posted there on Monday.

 Find this book at TFAWIt has been a slow and steady climb — the first time the year-to-date figure has been positive since December 2016. And while November 2018 is up against a month from last year with one more shipping week, December 2017's sales were low enough that 2018 overall has a good chance of eking out a modest win.

The extra week distorts the comparisons with last October, a month dominated last year by Marvel's Legacy launch; Marvel, DC, and Image's dollar sales performances all improved against that month. Marvel's dollar sales of comics and graphic novels to retailers are up $6 million year-to-date; DC's are up $4 million, and Image's are back even. The smaller publishers were the last into the recession; publishers seem to be exiting it in the same order they went in.

October was generally without the major launches that previous months saw; the major event for the month was Walking Dead Day on Oct. 13, which saw 15 different "blind bag" editions of previous issues (along with new variant covers) on offer. Batman #56, with its foil edition, finished first in units and dollars among comic books, with Walking Dead #1's 15th anniversary edition in second. With fewer launches, the charting comic books were generally cheaper than we've seen — leading to a total shipment of comic books topping 8 million copies for the first time since May 2017, which had hundreds of thousands of copies of the 25¢ Saga #43 padding the totals.

 Find this book at TFAW
Comics unit sales were up 5% in the month, bringing the year-to-year loss to a little over five-and-a-half percent, or about 4 million copies — though that shortfall is partially because 25-cent Image issues like that Saga edition were in 2017's charts, as well as many more overshipped comics. The number of normally-priced comics that retailers paid their regular discounts for in 2018 is a lot closer to even with 2017. But there's another factor inflating 2017's comic-book unit sales: the number of releases. Through ten months, publishers have offered 4,732 new issues to retailers, a drop of 198, or 4%.

The Batman: White Knight trade paperback was the top graphic novel for the month in units; Wonder Woman Earth One Vol. 2 was tops in dollars. The number of new graphic novel offerings is slightly up this year; sales for the category through October were down less than 4% — down, but continuing to improve.

There were significant deep-discount sales promotions for retailers in October, manifesting in a nine-point gap in the comparative change statistics for graphic novel unit and dollar sales. Year-to-date, the categories are much closer.

Check out our lists below, and also our explanatory video:



The comparative sales statistics:


DollarsUnits
October 2018 Vs. September 2018
Comics+11.93%+11.51%
Graphic Novels+3.28%-0.76%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels+9.32%+10.49%
Toys+19.04%+22.50%
October 2018 Vs. October 2017
Comics+9.66%+5.33%
Graphic Novels+5.30%+14.38%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels+8.38%+5.95%
Toys+21.58%+47.81%
Year-To-Date 2018 Vs. Year-To-Date 2017
Comics+2.13%-5.56%
Graphic Novels-3.76%-4.45%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels+0.38%-5.48%
Toys-2.16%-1.15%

Thanks to its graphic novels and the Walking Dead event, Image's market shares vaulted to near 13%, both for units and dollars. A consequence: Marvel and DC's combined market shares were at their lowest level since August 2017.

The market shares:


PublisherDollar ShareUnit Share
Marvel34.22%37.89%
DC30.48%32.99%
Image12.62%12.64%
IDW4.03%3.74%
Dark Horse3.32%2.41%
Dynamite2.37%2.06%
Boom1.86%1.52%
Viz1.34%0.48%
Titan0.87%0.57%
Random House0.78%0.16%
Other8.11%5.55%

The top-selling comics by units:

TOP COMIC BOOKS (by units)PRICEPUBLISHER
1Batman #56$3.99DC
2The Walking Dead #1 15th Anniversary Ed.$2.99Image
3Spider-Geddon #1$3.99Marvel
4Batman #57$3.99DC
5Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider #1$3.99Marvel
6Heroes In Crisis #2$3.99DC
7Venom #7$3.99Marvel
8Justice League #10$3.99DC
9Amazing Spider-Man #7$3.99Marvel
10Amazing Spider-Man #8$3.99Marvel

The top-selling comics by dollars:

TOP COMIC BOOKS (by dollars)PRICEPUBLISHER
1Batman #56$3.99DC
2Spider-Geddon #1$3.99Marvel
3Venom #7$3.99Marvel
4Batman #57$3.99DC
5Venom Annual #1$4.99Marvel
6Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider #1$3.99Marvel
7Heroes In Crisis #2$3.99DC
8Amazing Spider-Man #7$3.99Marvel
9Amazing Spider-Man #8$3.99Marvel
10Justice League #10$3.99DC

The top-selling graphic novels by units:

TOP GRAPHIC NOVELS (by units)PRICEPUBLISHER
1Batman: White Knight$19.99DC
2Wonder Woman Earth One Vol. 2 HC$24.99DC
3My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies HC$16.99Image
4Batman Vol. 7: The Wedding$16.99DC
5Gideon Falls Vol. 1: Black Barn$9.99Image
6Isola Vol. 1$9.99Image
7The Wicked & The Divine Vol. 7$17.99Image
8Death Or Glory Vol. 1$16.99Image
9Avengers By Jason Aaron Volime 1: Final Host$17.99Marvel
10Batman & The Justice League Manga Vol. 1$12.99DC

The top-selling graphic novels by dollars:

TOP GRAPHIC NOVELS (by dollars)PRICEPUBLISHER
1Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 2 HC$24.99DC
2Batman: White Knight$19.99DC
3My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies HC$16.99Image
4Amazing Spider-Man By Michelinie & McFarlane Omnibus HC$100.00Marvel
5The Walking Dead Compendium 15th Annv Box Set$200.00Image
6Batman Vol. 7: The Wedding $16.99DC
7The Wicked & The Divine Vol. 7$17.99Image
8X-Men: Grand Design: Second Genesis$29.99Marvel
9Tomb Of Dracula Omnibus Vol. 1 HC$100.00Marvel
10Marvelocity: The Marvel Comic Art of Alex Ross HC$50.00Pantheon

Finally, the number of new items offered. The Image comics number is its highest in four years, but it's partially because all fifteen of the Walking Dead anniversary editions would have been tabulated as individual releases:

PublisherComics
shipped
Graphic Novels
shipped
Magazines
shipped
Total
shipped
Marvel95410136
DC78381117
Image78240102
IDW3416050
Dark Horse2320043
Boom2614040
Dynamite279036
Viz026026
Titan1212125
Archie114015
Other14223636414
TOTAL SHIPPED526440381004

Lastly, the chart at right is a pretty good visualization of the market over the last couple of years — at least in terms of its month-to-month status. It shows year-to-date performance, as it changed every month in 2017 and 2018. (It is not sales levels — it's how the year compared to the year before at each point.)

You'll see that 2017 started off softly, but that the year really lost ground as it got to summer, and the months where DC's Rebirth issues entered the 2016 tallies. By August, the hole was dug — and things stabilized in September as Legacy began to ramp up: it's also the first time I noted any hint of a change. It turned out we'd found something close to a bottom: the first months of 2018 are a bit distorted because January had a ship week that March didn't. Beginning in April with Action #1000, the market began a long, more or less steady trek to claw its way out of the red.

So as expected, October put the year-to-date slightly ahead and November may well return it slightly behind, leaving December as the deciding factor. We beat December 2017's sales this September by 17%, so the prospects for a sixth up year in seven remain good. Click to see what we know about November and December sales so far.

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: KenobiStar 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, and check out our Youtube channel.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Historical document alert: 1961 Marvel sales push letter to wholesalers now auctioning

by John Jackson Miller

A fascinating find is now being auctioned by Heritage Auctions: a form letter from Independent News Company, distributor for Marvel Comics in 1961, offering wholesalers an improved return on issues sold above a certain quantity. (Hat tip to Patrick Ford for alerting me to it.)

This was in the time before Marvel's Silver Age phenomenon got going; Fantastic Four had just started, and the other titles in its line were all romance, horror, or western books. In the letter, Independent News vice president Harold Chamberlain tells wholesalers that "a 3¢ per copy bonus will be paid on all Marvel Comics sold over 60% in each agency!" 

Imaged by Heritage Auctions, HA.com
That'd be 25% of cover price at the time, which had just gone up to 12¢ — and so a significant bonus. The 60% refers to sell-through — Independent wanted to see no more than four in ten unsold copies returned for credit.

But what's tantalizing about this letter is the comment that its recipient marked in pencil on the letter: "None ever sells as much as 60%". The remark would have come from one of the resellers — and it appears to be in line with what we know about Marvel's sell-through levels on the newsstand at the time.

What we know about that comes from the Postal Circulation Statements; I have a complete run of the Marvel ones, eventually to all be posted here. Beginning with the 1963 reports, publishers were legally obliged to report how many copies they printed, as well as sold — allowing us to make estimates of sell-through levels.

Looking at the filings for 1963 titles, we see the following sell-through levels:


Tales of Suspense: 59% 
Journey into Mystery: 59% 
Tales to Astonish: 59% 
Strange Tales: 59% 
Rawhide Kid: 59% 
Kid Colt Outlaw: 58% 
Patsy & Hedy: 58% 
Modeling with Millie: 56% 
Patsy Walker: 56% 
Millie the Model: 55%

Nothing above 60%, but they're close. The titles with the super-hero content in this era were clustered at the top, with the romance titles at the bottom — though within a narrow, four-point range. So 60% looks to be a reasonable goal to offer to distributors.

The letter touts that Marvel's seventeen titles had combined sales in 1961 of 18 million copies, a figure that looks reasonably close to what we'd expect, going by postal statements. Interestingly, that's only about half what Marvel sells of its periodical comics today — though, of course, that's across a much larger number of releases.

Bidding begins tomorrow, Nov. 5 on the item, with the close of the auction slated for Nov. 11. There's another page to this document, not depicted by Heritage; hopefully whoever wins will share the contents with the world. (Update: Hake's previously sold the letter for $253 in 2016, and has the second page online; it simply denotes the on-sale dates of the eligible issues. Thanks to Frank Motler for the find!)

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: KenobiStar 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, and check out our Youtube channel.
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