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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, January 17, 2012

News archives restored

by John Jackson Miller

Two months from today marks five years online for The Comics Chronicles, and while I've gotten a lot of comics history on the site in that time, some of the site's own history has been absent. A database crash in August 2008 took out all the blog posts from before that time, and while I had access to them, I was more focused on getting new stuff online. But now most blog posts have been restored, right back to the first one in March, 2007. Readers framing forward will see the site got quickly into posting new figures, which at the time meant the end of Marvel's Civil War and the death of Captain America.

There aren't many essays in this material that haven't been reposted later, but there are some thoughts on speculation and sales charts and the end-of-year post for 2007, a very big year for the business. Some of the external links may not be functional, of course.

I did write pieces on the state of the market every month going back to 1994 which might be interesting to get online here in the future, but there are other priorities first.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

2000 for 2011: Top 1000 Comics and Top 1000 Trades, with Comichron estimates

by John Jackson Miller

Diamond Comic Distributors has released its lists of Top Comics and Top Trade Paperbacks and graphic novels for 2011, and as I did the last two years I have combined that information with my own estimates of aggregated sales of comics and trades throughout the year and other information to project longer lists, with estimates: the Top Thousand Comics and the Top Thousand Graphic Novels for 2011.

Again, it’s a fairly large page given the number of items, but I am reluctant to fission off trades to a separate page. I have rounded each entry to the nearest hundred copies, as before.

The Top Thousand Comics account for at least 47 million copies, or well over half of all the comics that Diamond sold. Last year, the Top 1000 amounted to 45.3 million copies. In full retail dollars, they sold for $161.3 million, slightly more than last year’s $160 million. The Top Thousand Trades went for $58.4 million, a drop from last year’s $64 million. That’s consistent with what we know about the year in general: comics up, trades down. Combined, these two lists alone account for around half the orders by dollars Diamond received in publishing last year.

Justice League #1 was the top seller for the year, with more than 230,000 copies sold to North American retailers across several printings. Note that Diamond did not combine the Combo Pack orders with the main entry, as they were differently priced; estimates for the Combo Pack for #1 brings the total number of copies of the issue in the Direct Market closer to 255,000 copies. Yes, this figure differs from one that was recently mentioned in a recent interview with DC, which put the number of copies shipped at just over 361,000. I believe that calculation must include European sales of the U.S. version through Diamond UK, which would be at least 10% again what the North American Numbers were; it also likely includes the number of copies shipped to the newsstand.

Who published the Top Thousand Comics? Here's the breakdown:

Marvel: 539
DC: 434
Image: 16
Dark Horse: 6
IDW: 3
Dynamite: 2

That’s a slight drop for Marvel and an increase of 28 entries for DC.

And here's the publisher breakdown of the Top Thousand Graphic Novels:

DC: 339
Marvel: 300
Dark Horse: 103
Image: 68
Viz: 32
Random House: 13
IDW: 24
Boom: 17
Hachette: 12
Archie: 12
Dynamite: 11
Oni: 11
Avatar: 9

Not a lot of change there: DC lost a few entries and Marvel added a few. Assorted others accounted for the rest.

Within the Top Comics list for the year, we find the following breakdowns for unit sales:

42 comics had orders of over 100,000 copies in 2011
85 comics had orders of 75,000-99,999 copies in 2010
342 comics had orders of 50,000-74,999 copies in 2010
978 comics had orders of 25,000-49,999 copies in 2010

This represents a big boost over the volumes seen across the board in 2010, seen here:

26 comics had orders of over 100,000 copies in 2010
68 comics had orders of 75,000-99,999 copies in 2010
209 comics had orders of 50,000-74,999 copies in 2010
648 comics had orders of 25,000-49,999 copies in 2010

I only ran the Top 500 comics in 2009, so we can only comparing the top three categories directly:

39 comics had orders of over 100,000 copies in 2009
80 comics had orders of 75,000-99,999 copies in 2009
260 comics had orders of 50,000-74,999 copies in 2009

I have split up the Top Comics of the Century up into two different pages: one for the Top Comics for the Decade of the 2000s and one for Top Comics From 2000 Forward. The 2010 and 2011 entries have been incorporated into the latter — and we find that 24 comics from 2011 made the Top 300 for the century. That’s an improvement over 2010, in which only nine issues would have made the list, and none higher than 51st place. Justice League #1 places 13th for the century — and note that on this one chart I did include known Combo Pack sales for all the issues that had them.

The average price of comics in Diamond's Top 1,000 comics for 2010 was $3.37; the median price was $2.99. Last year, the mean for the Top 500 was $3.52, with a median price of $3.99. In 2009, the mean for the Top 500 was $3.42, with a median price of $2.99.

There are 20 other years of Diamond annual reports on the site, going back to 1991.

That does it for 2011. On to 2012!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Diamond releases Top 10s, market shares for 2011

by John Jackson Miller

And in advance of the release of the larger lists for 2011, Diamond has released the Top 10 Comic Books and Trade Paperbacks of the year, plus the market shares.

The Top 10 Comics for the year are not surprisingly dominated by the DC relaunch:

1 Justice League #1 $3.99 DC
2 Batman #1 $2.99 DC
3 Action Comics #1 $3.99 DC
4 Justice League #2 $3.99DC
5 Batman #2 $2.99 DC
6 Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #160  $3.99 Marvel
7 Green Lantern #1 $2.99 DC
8 Justice League #3 $3.99 DC
9 Action Comics #2 $3.99 DC
10 Detective Comics #1 $2.99 DC

And here are the top trade paperbacks, led by the second repeat leader in four years, Walking Dead Vol. 1:

1 Walking Dead Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye $9.99 Image
2 Walking Dead Vol. 14: No Way Out $14.99 Image
3 League of Extraordinary Gentlemen III: Century #2 1969 $9.95 Top Shelf
4 Walking Dead Vol. 15: We Find Ourselves $14.99 Image
5 Walking Dead Vol. 2: Miles Behind Us $14.99 Image
6 Fables Vol. 16: Rose Red $17.99 DC 
7 Batman: Noel Deluxe Edition $22.99 DC 
8 Walking Dead Vol. 3: Safety Behind Bars $14.99 Image
9 Walking Dead Vol. 13: Too Far Gone $14.99 Image
10 Morning Glories Vol. 1: For a Better Future $9.99 Image

Marvel topped DC by several points in both units and dollars this year, although DC made up a great deal of ground in the second half of the year.

Marvel 37.29% 40.93%
DC 31.41% 36.77%
Image 5.27% 4.71%
IDW 4.73% 3.78%
Dark Horse 4.71% 3.35%
Dynamic Forces 3.06% 2.85%
Boom 1.73% 1.43%
Viz 1.09% 0.47%
Eaglemoss 0.96% 0.23%
Avatar 0.79% 0.54%
Other 8.95% 4.93%

A reminder that these calculations include not just comics and trade paperbacks, but also magazines: that's where Eaglemoss comes in. Eaglemoss sells magazines with action figures, which explains why its unit share is so much less than its dollar share — the price points are higher than the average price point on the list.

As discussed yesterday in the end-of-year report, retailers paid Diamond close to $188 million for the $417 million or so items represented above. You can apply the publishers' shares to these figures to guesstimate their own revenue — remember that Diamond would keep several percentage points from what it received.

Full top-sellers lists from the year coming soon.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Retailers bought at least 3 million more comics in 2011

by John Jackson Miller

Diamond Comic Distributors has released the full report for last month, and it completes the picture for the year for comics sales to North American comics shops. Click to see the sales estimates for December 2011.

As reported here on Friday, sales of periodical comics to comics shops went up during the year: sales of issues ranking in Diamond's Top 300 each month increased by nearly 3 million copies, to 72.13 million for the year. Getting back above 70 million in 2002 was a major step in the in industry recovery in the 2000s. Dollar sales within the Top 300 went up nearly $3 million for the year, a fact made more important because cover prices dropped in the year.

That's right: The average price of comic books dropped by about a dime in 2011. The average cost of all 3,600 comic books appearing in all twelve monthly Top 300 lists was $3.49, down from $3.58. The average price of comics ordered by retailers within that grouping was $3.44, down from $3.55.  (Click to see the table for average prices each month.) It is the first annual drop in either category since 2003, and it represents two factors: price drops by some publishers, particularly DC, earlier in the year; and also the weighting of the Top 300 toward DC in the fall with the DC relaunch. Average prices ticked up in December, for example, to $3.55 ($3.45 weighted); that's not so much a reflection of a rise in prices as it is a reflection of DC's smaller presence in the Top 300 as more of its reordered relaunch issues dropped out of the tables.

The trade paperback category suffered in comparison with 2011, but not by much: the Top 300 trades and graphic novels each month went for $70 million, down from $76.3 million last year. That accounted for the entire shortfall for the year when comics and trades were combined; that total dropped from $322 million to $318.5 million in 2011. Essentially, had trades simply remained flat, the year would have been up by as much as it was down — a figure less than 1%.

It's also noteworthy that the Top 300 trades were off 8% for the year, while the overall trade category was off 5%. That indicates that sales were better in the "long tail," which grows longer every year as long as Diamond has shelf spaces for the individual books.

The aggregate figures:

December 2011: 6.16 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: +11%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -12%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +8%
Versus 15 years ago this month: -40%
4th Quarter 2011: 20.76 million copies, +23% vs. 2010
2011 Year-End: 72.13 million copies, +4% vs. 2010, -12% vs. 2006, +8% vs. 2001

December 2011 versus one year ago this month: +11.83%
2011 Year-End: +4.57%


December 2011: $21.25 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -7%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +2%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +36%
4th Quarter 2011: $70.95 million, +16% vs. 2010
2011 Year-End: $248.44 million, +1% vs. 2010, -1% vs. 2006, +33% vs. 2001

December 2011 versus one year ago this month: +2.66%
2011 Year-End: +1.16%


December 2011: $6.06 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -7%
Versus 5 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: +2%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: +36%
4th Quarter 2011: $19 million, -9% vs. 2010
2011 Year-end: $70.06 million, -8% vs. 2010
December 2011 versus one year ago this month: -16.2%
2010 Year-End: -5.01%


December 2011: $27.3 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +2%
Versus 5 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: -2%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +19%
4th Quarter 2011: $89.95 million, +9% vs. 2010
2011 Year-end: $318.5 million, -1% vs. 2010

December 2011 versus one year ago this month: -3.94%
2011 Year-End: -0.89%


OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)
December 2011: approximately $34.71 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -4%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +3%
4th Quarter 2011: $116.24 million, +9% vs. 2010
2011 Year-end: $417.07 million, -1% vs. 2010

Those quarterly change figures are notable: comics units and dollars were up double digits in the fourth quarter, and total revenues nearly were.

Updates have been made to the Yearly Comics Sales tables, so you can see the numbers from the last decade with 2011 included now. Note that the total for the largest category, which includes newsstand and bookstore sales, is speculative; we won't know until more Bookscan reports surface how much that market was impacted by the closure of Borders.

Diamond has more end-of-year data to release, but the question always is whether the Dead Quarter will steal energy from the market, as it often does. It may not be very easy to tell for sure, because last January was anomalously low because of Diamond's recalibration of its shipping dates. In the meantime, updates have been made here to the Top Sellers by Month and 300th Place Title by Month tables, bringing them up to date for the end of the year.

UPDATE: The best-sellers of the year are now online.

Friday, January 6, 2012

More comics sold in 2011, but trade weakness contributes to slightly off year

by John Jackson Miller

It was close — very close. Comic books did what they were expected to do in December — but trade paperback novels do what they often do in December, resulting in overall comic book and trade paperback dollar orders finishing 2011 down by less than 1%, according to Diamond Comic Distributors. Click to see the Top 100 comics and trade paperbacks for the month.

December is historically a schizophrenic month in the comic book direct market. Sometimes, we find publishers loading the end of the year up with multiple comic book releases, trying to bring their budgets into line. December 2008 was enormous. The top-selling comic book of 1997, Darkness #11, came out on the very last ship-date of the year. On the other hand, there have been Decembers where publishers didn't try to do much at all in the closing weeks of the year — and in one recent year, Diamond was even closed between Christmas and New Year's. Another year saw horrible weather pushing shipments into the next calendar year. December is full of variety, at least as the sales charts go.

But one common theme has tended to be that November steals trade paperback orders from December. The reasons are obvious, as retailers begin stocking up for the holiday shopping season. Since 2000, Diamond's orders for its top trade paperbacks have dropped, on average, 21% in dollars from November to December. So while November's market move made it look very promising that the Direct Market would finish 2011 ahead overall for the first time since 2008, periodicals were going to have to carry a lot of the weight. And while total new comics sales were up for the month, it wasn't enough to offset the 16% year-over-year decline in trade paperback orders for the month.

So the year finishes off by a small amount, 0.89% in the widest category. But comics, driven greatly by the DC relaunch, rebounded in the year, up 4.57% in units and 1.16% in dollars. Trades finished off only 5.01% in dollar terms — and that made the difference. We can sort of see what happened by looking at trade paperback units, which were off by a wider margin, 11.64% for the year; we recall that 2010 was dominated by sales of Walking Dead and Scott Pilgrim, books priced lower on average than other trade paperbacks.

It is also worth noting that the average comic book cost considerably less in 2011 than it did in 2010, and while that pumped up unit sales, it could easily have contributed to the shortfall in overall dollars. It is also the case that not all comics that retailers received in 2011 have been recorded as sold by Diamond, because of the ongoing returnability of DC relaunch titles; that makes some difference, although, by my estimates, not enough to flip the year positive on its own.

Here are the aggregate totals for December:


YEAR 2011 VS. YEAR 2010

Now, as to figuring out the total sales for the year, there is still some work to be done. I mentioned last month that Diamond's month-to-month percentage change figures in 2011 were squaring up perfectly with its reported year-to-date change. The reported change percentages for the individual quarters of 2010 and 2011 also square up with the predicted values, based on the monthly changes.

Bringing all the year-to-year changes that Diamond has reported each month into a model with all the monthly changes, however, causes some minor problems. Using all the aggregate change figures Diamond has released (and correcting for the publication error in November 2010), the model tells us that 2011 should only be off 0.3% or so from 2010, not 0.89%. Since the reported monthly and quarterly changes are internally consistent, one conclusion would be that couple of the year-to-year percentage changes Diamond reported earlier in 2011 are very slightly off — January 2011, which was a complicated month anyway, appears to be one of them. What all that this means is that if you plug in any figure for the end-of-year sales for 2011, the component months will not derive a 2010 that was better by exactly 0.89% — all the numbers net out to a 0.3% loss this year. There's nothing to be done about this, really; my expectation is that the 2012 math and the 2011 math will square up better.

Taking one major publisher's total sales in 2010 and dividing by its end-of-year market share finds that Diamond's wholesale comics and trade orders amounted to $184.7 million. The full retail figure for 2010 was probably around $419 million, if we assume that everything Diamond sold to all its customers at different discount tiers went for an average discount rate of around 56%. (The major publisher in question nets out to 57.6%, so that seems about right, given that smaller publisher discounts tend to be smaller on average.)

So using the Diamond-reported end-of-year change figure, this year's wholesale total is just over $183 million, which, if we use that same 56% rate, lands 2011 at $416 million, or off about $3 million. We're still ahead of 2006, at that level, and still off the most recent market peak of $437 million in 2008.

It'll be possible to do some more fine-tuning on that when the end-of-year market shares and some more data come in — and individual month estimates will need some tweaking. But that's the estimate from here at the moment. Subject to change, as always!

Backtracking to December, again — Justice League #4 led the market, and it's a lock that Diamond will find Justice League #1 as the top-seller of the year. Walking Dead Vol. 15: We Find Ourselves led the trades for the month. The market shares are here:

There is probably more to be written on what's going on with trade paperbacks: as I've noted here before this year and yesterday on The Beat, the decline in trade orders would have been the big story of the year had it not been for the DC relaunch. Certainly the lack of hits on the scale of last year had something to do with it; another element is that trade sales echo periodical sales, so the weaker sales of comics in the first half of the year played out in the second half — when, of course, there was also the relaunch soaking up dollars. I also wonder whether Borders' closure played a role by dumping a lot of books at deep discount on the market, soaking up demand. In any event, the relaunch collections may help the business out in the first part of 2012.

Diamond will publish its end-of-year charts next week, I expect, as well as the full Top 300s for December. In the meantime, be sure to check out the tables from the last 20 years, now online here. And be sure to "like" Comichron on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!
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