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


Friday, November 11, 2016

Champions #1 top dollar comic in October 2016 split decision; Loot Crate effect returns

by John Jackson Miller
Well, we thought we were done with it. After an absence from the sales rankings of more than a year, the repackaging service Loot Crate again in October vaulted an unlikely lead comic book atop Diamond Comic Distributors chart of best-selling comics.

Boom Studios' Big Trouble in Little China/Escape from New York #1, in addition to having one of the longer names for any best-selling comic book, becomes the publisher's first top-seller; back in May 2016, it just missed with its previous Loot Crate offering, the second-place Bravest Warriors: Tales from the Holo John #1. That was the last Loot Crate item to make a big statistical splash. it's good to see comics circulating in a variety of places, neither issue was likely anywhere near a top-five book within the Direct Market. Diamond is well aware of the disconnect, as evidenced by its news release; the lead item is that Marvel's Champions #1 was the distributor's top comic in dollar terms, with the Boom title mentioned later in the first paragraph. Since Loot Crate variant copies do not result in many — if any — dollars to the distributor, Loot Crate copies add little to a book's ranking on the dollar charts.

Diamond shipped 9.64 million comic books in the month, including those Loot Crate copies; the true  number going to comics shops is a few hundred thousand copies lower. But that's still enough to be well ahead of October 2015's total — and the dollar total for the whole Direct Market, $51.29 million, is just slightly above the mark set a year earlier. That has the result of keeping the whole year on pace for an increase over last year, if just barely. The aggregate changes over time:

October 2016 vs. September 2016
Graphic Novels-7.01%-9.67%
TOTAL COMICS/GNs10.69%16.23%
October 2016 vs. October 2015
Graphic Novels-10.40%-5.82%
TOTAL COMICS/GNs1.09%12.23%
Year-to-Date 2016 vs. Year-to-Date 2015
Graphic Novels-0.01%-1.28%
TOTAL COMICS/GNs2.48%2.52%

Diamond began reporting monthly and annual change figures for toys; it's the first time it's reported non-print aggregate data in a long time. Diamond used to report the shares of all its sales categories within Diamond; it can be seen on the lower left on this page, for example. Toys were the largest non-print category for the distributor 15 years ago and today that likely remains the case (no pun intended).

Both this October and last had four shipping weeks — as did September 2016 — making our new weekly sales breakdown chart straightforward:

October 2015September 2016October 2016
Comics ordered in month8,488,0008,145,4009,642,500
Total value of comics, GNs, magazines ordered in month$50,732,300 $46,334,000 $51,289,400
New Comics Days in month444
Comics ordered PER SHIP WEEK in month2,122,0002,036,3502,410,625
Total value of comics, GNs, magazines ordered PER SHIP WEEK in month$12,683,075 $11,583,500 $12,822,350

As noted above, Big Trouble earns the "Loot Crate dagger" in the Top 10 rankings, to go with the asterisks denoting returnability:

Comic BookPricePublisher
1Big Trouble In Little China/Escape From New York #1†$3.99Boom
2Champions #1$4.99Marvel
3Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #1$3.99Marvel
4Dark Knight III: The Master Race #6$5.99DC
5Batman #8$2.99DC
6Batman #9$2.99DC
7Civil War II #6$4.99Marvel
8Darth Vader #25$5.99Marvel
9All-Star Batman #3*$4.99DC
10The Walking Dead #159$2.99Image

We've got Dark Knight III and Civil War II back in the charts this time — as well as what may be the highest-ranked Doctor Strange issue ever, timed for the movie release.

Technically, the result this month makes Boom the sixth publisher in the Diamond Exclusive Era to post a comic book at #1, following Marvel, DC, Image, Dreamwave, and IDW. But on our records page, we still count it as four with an asterisk, given that both Boom's and IDW's 2015 entry came mostly via comics sold outside the Direct Market.

Champions also rules the top-seller charts for graphic novels in October, although here the reverse is true of the Champions comic book; at $7.99, the Champions: No Time for Losers reprint edition (which collects five Champions issues from the 1970s) is almost certainly not the top seller by dollars.

That honor goes to something further down the list; the tenth-place Dark Knight Returns Book and Mask Set went for $39.99 and is a likely prospect.

Graphic NovelPricePublisher
1Champions: No Time For Losers #1$7.99Marvel
2The Wicked & The Divine Vol. 4: Rising Action$14.99Image
3East Of West Volume 6$14.99Image
4Tokyo Ghost Volume 2$14.99Image
5Low Volume 3: Shore of The Dying Light$14.99Image
6Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up The Marvel Universe HC$24.99Marvel
7Doctor Strange: Flight of Bones$24.99Marvel
8Color Your Own Star Wars$9.99Marvel
9Trees Volume 2$12.99Image
10Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Book & Mask Set$39.99DC

The result of October's action was a return for Marvel to the top of the unit and dollar market shares charts, after several months during which DC's Rebirth titles gave it the lead. The returnable phase of releases is coming to an end for most of those books, yet DC remained a strong second with both figures topping 30%. Boom shot up to fourth place in unit sales, though much of that again is a Loot Crate statistical artifact.

Dollar ShareUnit Share
Dark Horse3.47%2.27%

Finally, looking at the new items shipped tells us that new release volume increased a lot in the month. The number of new comics, 528, is the largest figure since June and 19% more than we saw last October. The graphic novel release total is also up 24% over last year, and is the largest number of new GNs in a month since March:

Dark Horse2521046

With two months left to report, the Direct Market stands $93 million shy of its total for 2015. Comics shops can hit that even if sales drop 11% in November and December. If the months are simply flat, the year should come in around $591 million; $600 million is still possible but it's an increasingly long shot. On the other hand, prospects look very good for overall comic book purchases to top 100 million copies for the first time in many years.

Full estimates for October should be online here Monday.

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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