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Friday, April 8, 2016

2016 turns positive with strong March: Walking Dead Vol. 25, Batman, Power Rangers lead lists

by John Jackson Miller slow start to 2016 was erased with a March that saw extremely strong graphic novel sales, thanks to a much-larger-than-usual new release slate led by Walking Dead Vol. 25.

The preliminary report on the month from Diamond Comic Distributors, released today, found that North American comics shops ordered approximately $46.58 million in comics, graphic novels, and magazines in March, as compared to $41.95 million last March.

The resulting 11.04% year-over-year dollar increase was enough to erase the shortfall during the first two months of the year; the first quarter ended up 1.32%, with the graphic novel portion up 12.67%. In March alone, graphic novel dollar sales were up 36.36%.

The aggregate statistics:

March 2016 vs. February 2016
Comics 3.62% 2.59%
Graphic Novels 31.90% 26.24%
Total Comics/GNs 12.29% 4.61%
March 2016 vs. March 2015
Comics 0.53% -8.45%
Graphic Novels 36.36% 34.78%
Total Comics/GNs 11.04% -5.31%
Year-To-Date 2016 vs. Year-To-Date 2015
Comics -3.40% -9.16%
Graphic Novels 12.67% 13.56%
Total Comics/GNs 1.32% -7.53%

Caveat department: This March had five shipping weeks versus four shipping weeks last year, and in a circumstance made more likely by this being a leap year, the first quarter of 2016 had 13 New Comics Days versus 12 in 2015. So the March increase is sort of in line with what we'd expect from an additional week in a month, but normally we'd expect the year to be doing just a little better to date for the additional week.

Also, periodical unit sales were down 8.45% for the month year-over-year, even though there was no Loot Crate comic book distorting the statistics in March 2015.

While comics units were down, comics dollars were up, thanks in part to the category-leading Batman #50 and its $5.99 price, releasing the same month that the Batman/Superman movie came out. Also noteworthy is the performance of Boom's Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #1, which debuted at a startling second place. Rankingwise, that's far better than the title's performance during its 1994-96 incarnations.

Top selling comic books
Comic Book Price Publisher
1 Batman #50 $5.99 DC
2 Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #1 $3.99 Boom
3 Star Wars #17 $3.99 Marvel
4 Superman #50 $4.99 DC
5 Amazing Spider-Man #9 $3.99 Marvel
6 Darth Vader #17 $3.99 Marvel
7 Darth Vader #18 $3.99 Marvel
8 Deadpool #8 $3.99 Marvel
9 International Iron Man #1 $3.99 Marvel
10 Avengers Standoff: Assault On Pleasant Hill Alpha #1 $4.99 Marvel

The graphic novel side, as noted, was led by Walking Dead Vol. 25. The Paper Girls Vol. 1 trade paperback launched strongly — and noteworthy was the top-ten placement of the $50 Secret Wars hardcover.

Top selling graphic novels
Graphic Novel Price Publisher
1 The Walking Dead Volume 25: No Turning Back $14.99 Image
2 Paper Girls Volume 1 $9.99 Image
3 Civil War $24.99 Marvel
4 Tokyo Ghost Volume 1: Atomic Garden $9.99 Image
5 Batman Volume 7: Endgame $16.99 DC
6 Beauty Volume 1 $9.99 Image
7 East Of West Volume 5: All These Secrets $14.99 Image
8 Secret Wars HC $50.00 Marvel
9 Batman Volume 8: Superheavy HC $24.99 DC
10 Avatar The Last Airbender Volume 12: Smoke & Shadow Part 3 $10.99 Dark Horse

The market shares found Marvel leading both categories, with Boom leaping to fifth thanks to the Power Rangers offering:

Market shares
Dollar Share Unit Share
Marvel 37.39% 42.71%
DC 26.32% 25.94%
Image 8.73% 8.63%
IDW 5.82% 4.41%
Boom 3.26% 4.07%
Dark Horse 2.82% 2.47%
Dynamite 1.69% 1.56%
Viz 1.45% 0.63%
Titan 1.42% 1.48%
Eaglemoss 1.21% 0.34%
Other 9.88% 7.77%
 If you missed it earlier this week, be sure to examine our 25-year track of market shares.

Finally, we see that the number of offerings was significantly up over last March, largely due to the extra week in the month:

Comics shipped Graphic Novels shipped Magazines shipped Total shipped
Marvel 84 44 0 128
DC 77 40 0 117
IDW 50 32 0 82
Image 54 19 0 73
Eaglemoss 0 0 47 47
Viz 0 43 0 43
Dark Horse 23 16 0 39
Titan 19 11 5 35
Boom 23 11 0 34
Dynamite 18 2 0 20
Other 140 153 29 322
TOTAL 488 371 81 940

While the 2016 list for March only includes 33 additional comic books, the graphic novel slate was much larger, with 113 additional graphic novels offered. That's a big addition. Also noteworthy is the sheer number of action-figure magazines that Eaglemoss put out: 47 is likely the largest number we've seen in this category.

Final estimates for March will appear here next week.
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 several novels including Star Wars: Kenobi, Overdraft: The Orion Offensive, and Star Wars: A New Dawn, now available in paperback. His trilogy for 2016, Star Trek: Prey, ships in consecutive months in September, October, and November.

Visit his fiction site at And be sure to follow Comichron on Twitter and Facebook.
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comicsatemybrain said...

The “year to date” comparison stats are going to be a little flakey for a while b/c of the insane Star Wars numbers that were in the charts for the beginning of 2015.

As an additional complication, March ’16 is also the month with a bunch of DC Comics priced higher than normal (those #50 issues).

This is on top of the extra shipping Wednesday in the first quarter of 2016, as you point out.

Have you done any analysis for first quarter 2016 vs. 2015 taking all of those unusual factors into account? Is that even possible in a meaningful way?

John Jackson Miller said...

I'm not sure it is, really. Almost every quarter we would compare has some unusual thing making it out of the ordinary -- that's just part of the normal variance that exists in the market.

I think the rationale is stronger for excising something like Loot Crate, which brought no dollars into comic shops directly (though they might have boosted their titles somewhat later on). Star Wars, on the other hand, injected money into the market directly that would have had had knock-on effects in later months. The Star Wars effect in Q1 thus isn't just for the specific titles, but also in the other unrelated books in March that retailers were able to afford more of because of Star Wars #1 in January.

No, I've always thought seeking a standardized measure for performance was an impossible task. I tried doing a "Dow 30" once just looking at benchmark books, but it, too, was really prone to significant variance based either on external events or events peculiar to the individual titles.

The fifth-week factor -- or thirteenth-week factor -- is also pretty hard to wash out, because of the other factors involved. We know that fifth weeks don't increase sales by 20%, but rather something like half of that -- because the number of titles that publishers can physically produce in a month is a structural constraint. Comics are monthly, not every-four-weeks. So you get a boost, but it's not always clear what that boost should be. (Add to the analytic mess that one of the five-week months is often December, where the sales range widely depending on when the Wednesdays fall.)

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