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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.


Friday, December 16, 2016

First comics industry Statement of Ownership with electronic-copy sales data appears

by John Jackson Miller
Since 1960 when the U.S. Postal Service began requiring publications that shipped Second Class (now Periodical Class) to include circulation data in their annual Statements of Ownership, Management, and Circulation, comics researchers have been collecting them; I currently have 3,854 out of a projected 4,100, with the remaining balance mostly in Charlton and Harvey titles from the 1960s. (Learn more about Statements here.)

The decline of comics by postal subscription has narrowed the number of titles including the Statements dramatically, from around 170 in the early 1960s to less than a dozen now. Among comics publishers, only Archie continues to publish them since Marvel stopped several years ago — and those only in a handful of titles.

But there is one other comics-related title we've long tracked: Mad, which on schedule published in issue #543 (Feb 2017) its 57th consecutive annual Statement, adding to my complete set for that title. In my rankings of postal data, I've always kept Mad apart because it's only partially comics — and, of course, for many years its numbers blew away anything happening on the spinner racks. Those numbers remain high; its 2016 average paid bimonthly circulation of 127,040 copies would make it #1 in the Direct Market some months. That readership is heavily subscriber-based; each issue in 2016 had 75,466 average subscribers, well over half. It's easy to see why the title still carries a postal license!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The difference a dollar makes: What 2016 might have looked like with Rebirth titles at $3.99

by John Jackson Miller
In the midst of the last comics recession in 2010, DC embarked upon a plan to cut page counts by two pages (from 22 to 20) in order to allow a price cut from $3.99 to $2.99. Much remarked upon at the time, it was not the only time price cuts had been employed as a strategy — and it was partially in response to the fact that comics prices had increased quickly despite the weakness in the general economy.

It was also, as I heard it later put by a DC executive, "the most popular, least financially successful thing we've ever done." The price drop took a slow patch editorially and compounded it. By February 2011, several months into the switch, DC led the rankings — but its unit sales in the Top 300 had dropped 12%, while its dollar sales for those comics were off by a lot more: 17%. By May, DC had announced plans for its relaunch, leaving most of the $2.99 pricing in place but pairing it up with its largest event in years.

Monday, December 12, 2016

November 2016 comics estimates now online

by John Jackson Miller
Estimates have been calculated by Comichron for comic books shipped to North American retailers last month by Diamond Comic Distributors; click to see the estimates for November 2016.

As mentioned here on Friday, it was a softer month for a number of reasons. The volume of new comics releases went down from October despite the addition of a fifth shipping week, and a large holiday increase in graphic novel shipments wasn't able to pick up all the slack. It's possible one factor boosting the number of October comics releases over November was Halloween Comicfest, now fairly well established as a promotion for which giveaway comics are released; while giveaway comics are not included in the unit sales charts, it could be that they are in the new release totals. Local Comic Shop Day items were included, and we see several of them made the graphic novel Top 300.

Batman #10 was the new comic with the largest numbers of copies shipped, while Paper Girls Vol. 2 led the graphic novel list. The 300th place title is the same one it was in October, Uncle Scrooge, and sales at that level are around 4,800 copies, which is a positive sign that sales in the lower tiers are hanging in there.

The aggregate totals and changes over time:

Friday, December 9, 2016

Graphic novels monopolize publisher slates, retailer budgets in slow November

by John Jackson Miller
Publishers always look to November as a time for graphic novels, and that was the case this month in what is almost certainly record fashion: Diamond Comic Distributors shipped 436 new graphic novels in November 2016 -- while on the periodical side, the market-leading publishers didn't increase their output to take advantage of a fifth shipping week. 

Those appear to be among the major factors contributing to what was, in overall terms, a disappointing month -- especially so since sales were off 4.25% versus a November last year that only had four shipping weeks. (While I'm a guest this weekend at Paradise City Comic Con, it's an unusual enough result that I took some time to look at it.) In the Direct Market, a better month for graphic novels doesn't always have to mean overall sales are down, but since only one in three dollars in comics shops comes from GNs, the category has more work to do to offset losses in periodicals.

Before getting further into the possible explanations, here are the aggregate changes. Retailers ordered $49.89 million in new comics and graphic novels in the month, down from $52.1 million last November:

Graphic Novels19.48%18.91%
TOTAL COMICS/GN-2.72%-11.35%
Graphic Novels21.56%25.78%
TOTAL COMICS/GN-4.25%-4.15%
Graphic Novels1.74%0.77%

You can see right away a couple of important things. First, the dollar sales of new comics periodicals are off quite a lot more than the units are -- which suggests principally that the month's most popular offerings were lower-profile lower-priced titles. It also suggests what retailers have reported, that a number of specific Marvel titles have been receiving free overships of significant size. Monday's retail rankings will point to specific ones.

Diamond sold 8.36 million new comics in November 2016, down from 8.91 million last year -- and that difference becomes more stark when you consider the number of weeks involved.

November 2015October 2016November 2016
Comics ordered in month8,906,5009,642,5008,364,000
Total value of comics, GNs, magazines ordered in month$52,102,800 $51,289,400 $49,891,800
New Comics Days in month445
Comics ordered PER SHIP WEEK in month2,226,6252,410,6251,672,800
Total value of comics, GNs, magazines ordered PER SHIP WEEK in month$13,025,700 $12,822,350 $9,978,360

As noted above, however, it's the release slates that have a lot to do with the numbers above. While publishers do not increase their periodical slates by 25% to accommodate a fourth week, they have in practice increased new offerings at least somewhat most such months. And by simple chance, late-shipping books from earlier in the year would get an additional week in which to appear. But what we find is that November's 518 new comics was actually a smaller number than we saw in four-week October!

Graphic Novels
Total shipped
Dark Horse2826054

Marvel and DC released slightly fewer comics this month versus last -- and the 103 average new comics per week overall is pretty low by 2016 standards. Image's new comics and graphic novel slates were slimmer by a greater margin, offering 11 fewer new comics this November versus last November and -- in a departure from the rest of the market -- only nine new graphic novels, its smallest roster in at least two years.

Other graphic novel publishers, by contrast, went to town -- with 45 new Viz titles in November as compared with October. Titan published two graphic novels in October; in November, the number was 18. And the "other" category ballooned. If this volume increase explains the big leap in graphic novel sales, it well ought to affect comics unit sales, with only so many dollars to go around.

DC has now cycled through most of its returnable windows for its Rebirth launches, and while that could also be a contributing factor to lower aggregate unit sales, it does seem more that the decline was spread more across the market evenly, suggesting most of those effects hit in October's charts. The market shares:

Dollar share Unit share
Marvel 38.08% 39.46%
DC 26.17% 31.30%
Image 8.99% 9.06%
IDW 5.23% 4.59%
Dark Horse 3.65% 2.85%
Boom 1.98% 1.66%
Titan 1.61% 1.30%
Viz 1.52% 0.56%
Dynamite 1.40% 1.23%
Archie 1.01% 1.06%
Other 10.38% 6.92%

The impact of DC's lower average prices this year can be seen in the dollar-to-unit share gap -- and that, too, has shaped the year-to-year comparisons.

Finally, the Top 10s. Two regular Batman issues led the comics charts:

Comic BookPrice Publisher
1Batman #10$2.99 DC
2Batman #11$2.99 DC
3Civil War II #7$4.99 Marvel
4All Star Batman #4$4.99 DC
5Invincible Iron Man #1$3.99 Marvel
6Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #1$4.99 Marvel
7Batman Annual #1$4.99 DC
8Venom #1$3.99 Marvel
9Walking Dead #160$2.99 Image
10IVX #0$4.99 Marvel

And on the graphic novel charts, we see that while Image didn't offer many new titles, it took the top slot with Paper Dolls Vol. 2:

Graphic NovelPrice Publisher
1Paper Girls Vol. 2$12.99 Image
2Marvel: The Hip-Hop Covers Vol. 1 HC$34.99 Marvel
3DC Super Hero Girls Vol. 2: Hits And Myths$9.99 DC
4Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 4: End of Games$19.99 Marvel
5Unbelievable Gwenpool Vol. 1: Believe It$16.99 Marvel
6Sandman Overture$19.99 DC
7DC Universe: Rebirth Deluxe Edition HC$17.99 DC
8Vision Vol. 2: Little Better Than Beast$17.99 Marvel
9Moon Knight Volume 1: Lunatic$15.99 Marvel
10Deadpool V. Gambit: V Is For Vs $16.99 Marvel

There does seem to be a heavier than normal degree of deep discounting in the graphic novels category as publishers sold books to retailers at lower-than-usual prices, but that's not unusual for this time of year.

Finally with regard to November, under the heading of unusual correlations that probably don't mean anything, across all United States presidential election years since and including 2000, when the party in the White House wins another term, November's comics periodical unit sales have gone up, while a switch in party has in every case coincided with a down month. There's only five cases to look at and it's likely a spurious correlation, given that the vast majority of shipments represented are based on orders placed before the election result was known -- and in 2000, even that wasn't known for sure in November. But it is an interesting conversational piece.

One more month to go in 2016, and with November's lackluster performance, it now looks like the year will end slightly better than flat -- and perhaps just missing the 100 million copy mark for new comics periodical orders. A finish up around 2% would match 2008, the last year of a strong cycle before a three-year recessionary stretch in comics; publishers and retailers alike certainly hope the resemblance ends there. Time will tell...

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. All three volumes of his novel trilogy for 2016, Star Trek: Prey, are now on sale.

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