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


Friday, July 11, 2014

Comics sales recover from winter to finish first half of 2014 flat; Archie tops GN list for first time

by John Jackson Miller
Comic shops in North America spent the same amount of money on comic books and graphic novels in the first half of 2014 as they did during the first half of 2013, according to new data released by Diamond Comic Distributors. Retailers purchased almost $250 million worth of comics, graphic novels, and magazines in the period, a decrease of less than $200,000 at full retail. That's the equivalent of a single upper-tier comic book*; had one more shipped in the year, the Direct Market would be even or slightly ahead.

The flat dollar sales result represents a slowdown in unit sales terms for comic books, as 6.36% fewer copies shipped in the first half of the year; graphic novel unit sales were up 5.41%. Overall dollar orders for the second quarter were up more than 4%, making up for the losses during the first quarter. Spring sales volumes are always larger than winter volumes in comics, so even a mildly positive figure is enough to erase a drop as small as we saw in the first three months.

Dollar orders in the second half of 2013 were nearly 7% higher than in the first half of 2013, so to outperform last year, the same pace will need to be bettered going forward. The aggregate sales changes:

JUNE 2014 VS. MAY 2014
Comics -3.19% -1.31%
Graphic Novels -3.36% 2.93%
Total Comics & GNs -3.25% -0.99%
JUNE 2014 VS. JUNE 2013
Comics -2.93% -4.51%
Graphic Novels 8.09% 10.26%
Total Comics & GNs 0.33% -3.46%
Comics 14.13% 11.07%
Graphic Novels 13.59% 2.88%
Total Comics & GNs 13.96% 10.34%
Comics 3.90% -1.29%
Graphic Novels 4.33% 1.25%
Total Comics & GNs 4.04% -1.09%
Comics -1.43% -6.36%
Graphic Novels 2.93% 5.41%
Total Comics & GNs -0.08% -5.46%

June's orders overall were approximately $41.7 million, an increase of a third of one percent. Graphic novels were, again, the better performer, up 8% versus the nearly 3% loss in comics dollar orders. June 2014 and June 2013 were both four-shipping-week months.

The top-selling comic book was DC's Batman #32; DC had five slots in the Top 10, with Marvel taking four and Image taking one. The top-selling comics:

1 Batman #32 $3.99 DC
2 Amazing Spider-Man #3 $3.99 Marvel
3 Original Sin #3 $3.99 Marvel
4 Harley Quinn #7 $2.99 DC
5 Superman #32 $3.99 DC
6 Original Sin #4 $3.99 Marvel
7 Amazing Spider-Man #1.2 $3.99 Marvel
8 Justice League #31 $3.99 DC
9 The Walking Dead #128 $2.99 Image
10 Detective Comics #32 $3.99 DC

Afterlife with Archie was the best-selling graphic novel in June 2014: it is the first time an Archie title has ever topped the graphic novel list. The book was offered with a Diamond-exclusive cover. The main Archie comic book title has topped the comics sales charts before, including during the year of 1969, when attention had been called to the line by the "Sugar, Sugar" song and The Archie Show animated TV series from Filmation, which ran the 1968-69 season on CBS.

The top-selling graphic novels and trade paperbacks:

1 Afterlife With Archie Vol. 1: Escape From Riverdale $17.99 Archie
2 Night of the Living Deadpool $16.99 Marvel
3 Velvet Volume 1: Before The Living End $9.99 Image
4 Saga Volume 3 $14.99 Image
5 Saga Volume 1 $9.99 Image
6 Superior Spider-Man Vol. 6: Goblin Nation $19.99 Marvel
7 Batman & Robin Vol. 3: Death of the Family $14.99 DC
8 Injustice: Gods Among Us Volume 1 $14.99 DC
9 Injustice: Gods Among Us Volume 2 HC $19.99 DC
10 Saga Volume 2 $14.99 Image

The market shares found Marvel in the lead in both dollars and units and the top five publishers all above 5% in dollar shares:

Marvel 33.71% 35.68%
DC 29.88% 33.20%
Image 8.93% 10.51%
IDW 5.60% 4.45%
Dark Horse 5.57% 4.89%
Dynamite 2.62% 2.30%
Boom 2.52% 2.52%
Valiant 1.20% 1.27%
Avatar 1.10% 0.81%
Archie 0.93% 0.64%
Other 7.94% 3.74%

Finally, the new release volume was slightly larger than five-ship-week May's:

Comics shipped GNs shipped Magazines shipped Total shipped
DC 77 28 1 106
Marvel 78 24 0 102
Image 53 10 0 63
Dark Horse 36 23 0 59
IDW 43 16 0 59
Boom 28 7 0 35
Dynamite 23 9 0 32
Avatar 9 7 0 16
Zenescope 11 2 0 13
Random House 0 11 0 11
Other 66 109 34 209
TOTAL 424 246 35 705
The complete analysis with estimates will be along next week, and look soon for the figures on the industry's sales overall in 2013, including channels outside the Direct Market. ICV2 has just posted its estimates for digital sales in 2013, finding them at $90 million, an increase over 2012 but not by the colossal margins of earlier in the decade.

If you are at San Diego Comic-Con, be sure to drop by the Random House/Del Rey booth in the Lucasfilm Pavilion, where I will be signing all four days. I will also be speaking at the Star Wars panel at 2 in room 7AB on Friday.

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 the New York Times bestseller Star Wars: Kenobi and the upcoming hardcover Star Wars: A New Dawn. Visit his fiction site at And be sure to follow Comichron on Twitter and Facebook!

(* EDIT: A previous calculation had estimated the difference was only $20,000 at full retail.) 
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