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


Friday, June 10, 2016

May 2016 top-sellers: DC Rebirth, Civil War II attempt to reverse 2016's sluggish start

by John Jackson Miller

Five summers ago, the release of Justice League #1 in August 2011 kicked off the DC reboot and marked the beginning of a major turnaround for the comics direct market. While overall sales levels in the first part of 2016 are nowhere near as bad as they were in early 2011, the market, slightly down for the year, could use a definite shot in the arm — and publishers began a double dose of treatment with DC Universe: Rebirth #1 and Marvel's Civil War II #0, the top two ordered comics in May according to Diamond Comic Distributors. The issues presage wider launches in the next month, just as Justice League did.

This helps to make May 2016 — a month in which comics sales were down and graphic novel sales were up, netting out to an overall dollar loss of 9% — a peculiar month to judge from. An estimated $44.46 million in product was ordered, a drop of more than $4 million from last May, which also had four shipping weeks. The comparative sales statistics are as follows:

May 2016 vs April 2016
Graphic Novels-6.31%-11.10%
Total Comics/GNs-6.46%-4.77%
May 2016 vs May 2015
Graphic Novels4.52%-3.39%
Total Comics/GNs-9.05%-16.58%
Year to Date 2016 vs Year to Date 2015
Graphic Novels4.80%3.46%
Total Comics/GNs-5.11%-12.72%
We can't blame the number of offerings this time, as 10% more new comic books and 19% more new graphic novels were released this May versus last May. Marvel released 102 new comic books, the first time it's broken 100 since Diamond began reporting new release totals in 2013. (On the other hand, Image and Dark Horse both released fewer new comic books than either of those publishers have in more than a year, continuing the retrenchment trend seen last month.) Here you see the number of comics and graphic novels released by publisher:

Comics shipped Graphic Novels shipped Magazines shipped Total shipped
Marvel 102 34 0 136
DC 74 28 0 102
IDW 50 23 0 73
Image 43 22 0 65
Dark Horse 20 24 0 44
Boom 24 12 0 36
Dynamite 19 6 0 25
Titan 16 3 4 23
Oni 10 3 0 13
Valiant 10 2 0 12
Other 111 114 19 244
TOTAL 479 271 23 773

So the gap is coming from someplace else — and there's a lot to suggest it's coming from the very top of the charts, the Top 25 or so. Last May saw the launch of Secret Wars with over half a million copies sold of #1 and more than 200,000 copies sold of #2 — and the charts also included the last of the Loot Crate-charged titles, Bravest Warriors: Tales from the Holo John #1, which added half a million comics to the unit sales totals. So right off, there's more than a million units just in the Top 3 that weren't replicated — plus Star Wars was still riding high, A-Force and Old Man Logan launched, and Convergence added four copies with around 100,000 copies sold.

By contrast, only four of the Top 10 this time out were first or "zero" issues. Apart from the two Marvel and DC event launch comics, May 2016 was going up against May 2015 with a less flashy release slate including several higher-numbered issues. Here are the top sellers for the month:

1 DC Universe: Rebirth #1 $2.99 DC
2 Civil War II #0 $4.99 Marvel
3 The Punisher #1 $3.99 Marvel
4 Batman #52 $3.99 DC
5 Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 $4.99 Marvel
6 Star Wars #19 $3.99 Marvel
7 Justice League #50 $5.99 DC
8 Darth Vader #20 $4.99 Marvel
9 Black Panther #2 $3.99 Marvel
10 Amazing Spider-Man #12 $3.99 Marvel
1 Batman: The Killing Joke Special Edition HC $17.99 DC
2 Descender Vol. 2 $14.99 Image
3 Civil War $24.99 Marvel
4 Black Science Volume 4: Godworld $14.99 Image
5 We Stand On Guard Deluxe HC $24.99 Image
6 Chew Volume 11: Last Suppers $14.99 Image
7 The Joker: Endgame $24.99 DC
8 Star Wars: Kanan Vol. 2: First Blood $17.99 Marvel
9 Spider-Gwen Vol. 1: Greater Power $17.99 Marvel
10 Spider-Man/Deadpool: Don’t Call It a Team Up $34.99 Marvel

So May's performance would track with what we've seen elsewhere this year, which is that the middle- and lower-tier titles have been holding up their end, despite the fact that there are fewer of them; there just aren't as many heavyweight titles at the tops of the charts. But since we know that the Big Two publisher's events are just now getting rolling — Rebirth #1 is onto a third printing already — it's likely that if there is to be an inflection point in 2016's sales, we're about to see it. (We're also now at the end of the months with Loot Crate issues to compare against, thank Odin.)

Lastly, here are the market shares:

Publisher Dollar share Unit share
Marvel 39.64% 44.80%
DC 26.45% 26.34%
Image 8.38% 7.95%
IDW 5.70% 4.99%
Dark Horse 3.25% 2.31%
Boom 2.51% 2.34%
Dynamite 1.66% 1.51%
Titan 1.39% 1.48%
Valiant 1.09% 1.25%
Oni 0.98% 0.89%
Other 8.95% 6.13%

Full estimates will be out 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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