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More than 192,500 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.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Updated market share graphics -- now with IDW

The graphics section here on the site — including comics market shares across time and unit and dollar comics order trends, both recent and for the entire Diamond Exclusive Era — have been updated. I didn't intend to let this slide for so long, but other projects intervened.

In any event, an addition this time out can be found in the Diamond final order dollar market share graphics, which now include IDW. The "other" category in the graphics had been increasing in size lately due to IDW's growth — it topped 5% for the first time earlier this year — and so the change was due:

For the moment, the addition of IDW trendlines is limited to the Diamond Final Order graphics. It can and will be added to the narrower categories, but it's a labor-intensive proposition. Likewise, some data remains to be added to the market share graphics before 2003. IDW does not appear regularly in Diamond's Final Order charts before 2003, but there may be individual months here and there in which it made the list.

The reader will note that Crossgen remains in the market share graphic for the whole Diamond Exculsive Era (seen above as the brown line). The reason is similar: it's a big enough chunk of the miscellaneous grouping that the "other" category leaps quite a lot without it in the picture. It's also a case where the graphic itself appears to tell a story, which is what good graphics should do.

June comics sales: Flashbacks to the past

Continuing the look at what came before June 2009 — when Batman & Robin #1 topped the charts with approximately 168,500 copies ordered by comics shops through Diamond...

June 2008's top seller was Marvel's Secret Invasion #3, with first-month orders of approimately 175,700 copies in the direct market. Check out the sales chart here.

June 2004's top-seller was Identity Crisis #1, which stands just before the most recent wave of free-standing limited series, rather than ongoing series, serving as the hubs for events impacting entire comics universes. Issues of such series topped the charts five times in 2005 (Infinite Crisis, House of M), eight times in 2006 (Infinite Crisis, Civil War), six times in 2007 (Civil War, World War Hulk), eight times in 2008 (all Secret Invasion). Despite the "Crisis" name, Identity Crisis is probably not properly considered as part of that wave — being more of an independent story without the kinds of tie-in issues we saw for some of those later, more purely cross-over events — but it appears to have set the stage for later success this decade. The first issue had first-month orders of 163,100 copies copies in the direct market. It was boosted considerably by later reorders — 5,900 copies in July, 4,400 in August, Check out the sales chart here.

June 1999's top-seller was Uncanny X-Men #371, with preorders of approximately 125,600 copies in the direct market. 1999 was, by contrast, a year where not much at all was happening with major events, and Uncanny topped the charts ten months in a row. Check out the sales chart here.

June 1994's top seller was another X-Men issue — X-Men #35, from "adjectiveless" version of the series. It was the consensus leader at both Diamond and Capital City Distribution, outselling the original X-title by nearly 10%. Capital City alone sold 108,650 copies. While the Statement of Ownership reported overall sales of 614,075 copies, that's deceptive, as it's an average of months going back into the second half of the blockbuster year 1993; X-Men sales for the second half of 1994 were far lower, as evidenced by the next Statement that appeared, reporting average sales of 332,889 copies per issue.

June 1989's top seller at Capital City was Batman #436, beginning Marv Wolfman's "Batman Year Three." It was the first of two issues of Batman that sold that month, #437 coming in second place. The first Tim Burton Batman film was released on June 23rd (the sneak preview was June 22) — and it had a significant impact on the direct market, with Batman titles topping the charts for the entire rest of 1989, including the multi-cover Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, regarded by many (including this commenator) as the title launching the 1990s comics boom in earnest. Capital City's preorders on the issue were 118,650 copies, and the true total is at least in the neighborhood of half a million.

Finally, June 1984's top comic book, both at Capital and likely everywhere else, was Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #6, continuing the year-long mega-cross-over. As free-standing cross-over series go, this is one of the granddaddies!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

June 2009 comics sales: Almost tied at halftime

A lot of things put off finishing the calculations this month — half the industry is in San Diego, and I've busy promoting my new projects (both my new Star Wars ebook and news of my new Mass Effect series were released this week). As it is, I'll be doing the usual comics-sales-through-history notes in a separate, later post. But the estimates for June 2008 comics orders are now complete and online, and they show an industry that is in a lot better shape at midyear than many would have imagined.

A nice rebound in aggregate Top 300 comics sales helped overall orders for comics, trades, and magazines nudge slightly ahead of June 2008 — and I mean slightly, a difference of $60,000 or so. The numbers for the second quarter were ahead 4%, not quite recovering the ground lost in the first quarter. Overall dollar orders in the direct market at midyear stand at nearly $206 million, off about 1%, or less than $3 million, from the same period last year. The "long tail" of trades is where the difference is being made up, as Top 300 Comics units, dollars, and Top 300 Trade Paperback dollars are all off for the year to date by 10% or less.

The figures:

June 2009: 6.56 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: down 2%
Versus 5 years ago this month: unchanged
Versus 10 years ago this month: +1%
Q2 2009: 18.92 million copies, -7% vs. 2008
YEAR TO DATE: 35.49 million copies, -10% vs. 2008

June 2009:
$22.7 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +6%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +23%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +36%
Q2 2009: $64.06 million, -3% vs. 2008
YEAR TO DATE: $120.28 million, -4% vs. 2008

June 2009:
$6.04 million
Versus 1 year ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: -35%
Versus 5 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: +15%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: +35%
Q2 2009: $20.76 million, -17% vs. 2008 when comparing just the Top 100 TPBs each month
YEAR TO DATE: $39.09 million; down 9% when just comparing just the Top 100 TPBs each month


June 2009: $28.74 million
Versus 1 year ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: -3%
Versus 5 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: +31%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +36%
Q2 2009: $76.88 million, -6% vs. 2008 when comparing just the Top 100 TPBs each month
YEAR TO DATE: $159.34 million; down 5% when just comparing just the Top 100 TPBs each month

OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)

June 2009:
$37.03 million ($40.57 million with UK)
Versus 1 year ago this month: up less than 1%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +25%
Q2 2009: $114.79 million, +4% vs. 2008
YEAR TO DATE: $205.91 million, -1% vs. 2008, +33% vs. 2004

Right off, we see an interesting thing: When we look at the month of June across time, the Top 300 comics are generating unit sales within a very narrow range: 6.56 million copies now, 6.66 million last year, 6.53 million 5 years ago, and 6.52 million 10 years ago. That’s a 100,000-copy range, scarcely one hit title. Yet roughly the same number of units is generating 6% more dollars than last year, 23% more than five years ago, and 36% more than 10 years ago. Such is the change in pricing!

The average comic offered in the Top 300 cost $3.50; the average comic ordered cost $3.46. These are both records, and as noted here earlier, $2.99 is still the most common cover price for comics in Diamond’s Top 300, although that balance has changed a lot this year and $3.99 is catching up. The gradual changeover to $3.99 for many publishers is having amplified effects on the charts, relative to some of benchmark pricing changes in previous years; few publishers are stopping at the intermediate $3.50 step, and $2.99 to $3.99 matches the previous record jumps by percentage, from 15¢ to 20¢ in the mid-1970s and 75¢ to $1 in the late 1980s. The problem is that we really can’t look at the 75¢ to $1 records to see how it affected unit sales, because it was right at the beginning of that boom, where numbers on everything were going up because of the explosion in the number of comics outlets. There may be clearer effects visible in the 15-to-20¢ example, but I don’t know how useful info from a largely newsstand model will be.

In any event, at least the month of June shows unit orders holding relatively firm, despite the pricing trends.

The Top 100 Trades were off a great deal against June 2008; as described in the post on how graphic novel pricing has changed, last June's list had more hardcovers and more higher-priced products than June did this year. Still, as much as we hunt for the effects of price resistance in new comics sales, it's not unreasonable to expect that a recession might hit the big-ticket items to a more pronounced degree. We'll see as the summer progresses whether this is part of a larger trend.

Revised graphics are on the way, but in the meantime, some updates have been made to the Vital Statistics section. The Diamond-era records section now includes information as to how many publishers have had books in the #1 slot since 1997 (four: Marvel, DC, Image, and Dreamwave); the longest run for a title in that time at #1 (Uncanny X-Men, 10 issues in 1999); and the greatest number of consecutive months that a single publisher has had the #1 title since 1997 (Marvel, in a 27-month stretch that ended in April 2009).

And the #1 books for all months since 1996 have been updated on the Top Comics page. Seeing them all together notes a little numerological oddity: The issue numbers of the #1 books from December to May were #8, #583, #583, #3, #853, and #53! I suspect the Illuminati...

Oh, yeah — if you're looking in on us from the main site, there should now be a Flash module at left sending the Twitter feed. If you have the latest Flash version and it's not coming up, let me know — these things can be a little wonky.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

How graphic novel pricing has changed

The Diamond June 2009 order estimates are still in process, as I get pieces into place — but an increase in periodical sales year-over-year seems likely, along with a coincident drop in dollar orders for Diamond's top-selling trade paperbacks. This is a combination that has occured in individual months before, and in one year overall – 2003, a year that, as previously discussed here, had some similarities to things we've seen in 2009.

With attention on increases in the costs of new comics — and the recession's possible role in reducing unit sales — it's worth looking at something rarely examined: What's happening with pricing for the trades and graphic novels retailers order most often?

While Diamond produces a Top 300 TPB list right now, we can look at Top 100 comparisons now going back five years:

AVERAGE PRICE OF TRADE PAPERBACKS within the Top 100 TPBs June 2009: $19.34
June 2008: $20.88
June 2007: $17.31
June 2006: $16.77
June 2005: $16.17
June 2004: $14.56

June 2009: $15.47
June 2008: $17.95
June 2007: $14.99
June 2006: $14.95
June 2005: $12.99
June 2004: $9.99

June 2009: $19.09
June 2008: $19.85
June 2007: $17.75
June 2006: $16.43
June 2005: $15.57
June 2004: $15.35

June 2009: $14.99
June 2008: $19.99
June 2007: $9.99
June 2006: $9.99
June 2005: $9.99
June 2004: $9.99

Which measure is most useful? The weighted price — that third statistic listed — is generally more stable from month to month, less tossed by the balance of offerings. (The reason the median price in June 2009 falls at $15.47, a price no title was at, is because we're looking at an even number of items — and the 50th and 51st items in a price ordering were priced at $14.99 and $15.95.)

From these tables, we see that June 2009 pales next to June 2008 in part not simply because of unit sales — but because the the prices of the most popular trades were simply higher that month — and much higher than in June 2007. New comics prices last month may have set a record, but the price of the typical graphic novel offered and ordered actually went down, at least in the Top 100.

A major factor is the number of hardcovers. Here's the counts from the last few years:

HARDCOVERS in the Top 100
June 2009: 18
June 2008: 20
June 2007: 13
June 2006: 8
June 2005: 4

These are minimum counts — there might be a few hardcovers I didn't identify from the title.

Another thing that's going on involves manga; when more of these lower-priced volumes make it into the Top 100, all measures above usually drop. Relatively fewer manga appear in the June 2009 list than in months earlier in the decade, and two of them are at $19.99. The $9.99 price point, the most common one on the list from 2004 to 2007, finds far fewer entries today.

Something important to remember is that the Diamond trade list is ranked by unit sales, not by dollar totals. So when you do have a phenomenon such as, say, a weakening in demand for manga in the direct market, the items replacing them in the Top 100 are more likely to be more expensive — and in the case of hardcovers, much more expensive.

These are just individual months — a rolling average might find different results. There seem to be a number of things in play in the TPB charts from month to month — the popularity of manga and the mix of publisher offerings are only two. But if the recession plays a role in shaping the chart, we might well find it in the luxury or high-end items — the hardcovers and prestige editions. If we were to see prices in one or more of these categories continue to drift downward even as new comics prices increase, that might suggest fewer big-ticket items being ordered — or offered.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Diamond June 2009 Sales Rankings

Diamond Comic Distributors released its top-seller charts reporting its sales to comics retailers in North America for the month of June today, and the June charts now appear on Comichron, along with some initial data massaging. (Publisher names have been identified, average prices have been calculated, and links have been established to Amazon sales rankings for TPBs where they exist. Our sales estimates will follow in a few days.)

Notably, those average prices made June 2009 a record-breaker. The average comic book offered in Diamond's top-sellers list sold for $3.50; the average price of all comics ordered was $3.46. The first of those figures ties an all-time monthly record set in November 2008; the second figure is an all-time record high outright. The previous record was $3.41, set in January, February, and March of this year. The Diamond-era records page has been updated.

Something new is that $3.50 is actually the median price (or middle price) of all comics offered within the Top 300. The price had been sticking at $2.99, even as the averages went up past it; there were enough lower-priced titles in the catalog to keep the median lower. This is a jump we've been watching for during recent times, and it finally happened this month. However, the mode — the price most comics within the Top 300 are at — remains at $2.99. There are 138 comic books priced at $2.99 in the Top 300; 116 priced at $3.99. The intermediate step of $3.50 only accounts for 24 titles.

The rankings find that Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's Batman and Robin #1 took the top spot, followed by Marvel's return of Steve Rogers in Captain America #600. Cap, priced at $4.99, was the top dollar comic book.

DC's Final Crisis hardcover was the top-selling item on the graphic novels list. The top six were the same for both unit and dollar market shares overall: Marvel, DC, IDW, Dark Horse, Image, and Dynamic Forces.

As with last month, Diamond sent out a second resorting of the list in addition to its Top Independents file — a "Small Press" chart listing the Top 25 publishers outside the Top 10 publishers. (This added one title — Archie, in 307th place — to the overall data set.) Diamond also released two new lists, sorting the Independent and Small Press graphic novel sales, listing 25 items each. Diamond Director of Marketing Dan Manser said the new lists represent more ways to look at the charts, spotlighting titles for retailers and readers.

Again, estimates will be along soon, but it looks at first blush that June is at least better than the moribund May. If, for example, Batman sales held steady to what they were equal from month, this month's Top 300 list would then include 7% more units and 12% more dollars. However, fluctuations in that title from month to month could cause these estimates to vary in either direction. June 2008, while less challenging to beat than May 2008 was, still included Secret Invasion #3, Ultimate Origins #1, and Final Crisis #2, so there are still challenging comparatives — but this June at least has the benefit of more high-profile releases than the previous month did.

More later. We're now on Twitter; follow us for updates when the estimates become available.

Friday, July 3, 2009

1997 comics sales estimates now fully online

The Diamond comics rankings and estimates for 1997 are now finally online here with the addition of pages for October, November, and December 1997.

It's a period that saw major drops year-over-year against some pretty big events — November 1997 unit and dollar sales were off more than a quarter (!) versus the Superman wedding month of November 1996. But December also included the year's top-seller, Darkness #11, which with its eleven covers proved the death of the variant-cover craze was greatly exaggerated. And the quarter included the "Heroes Return" relaunches, setting some of Marvel's flagship titles off on their third volumes.

I also discovered that the Diamond Final Order Market Shares actually began two months earlier than I figured, in August 1997. Beginning with the October shares, the market shares appeared in Diamond's Dateline retailer newsletter — but the August and September shares appeared in Diamond's Dialogue magazines for October and November. The August and September 1997 Final Order Shares have been added to their respective pages and will eventually be added to the market shares graphics.
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