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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.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

UPDATED: Confirmed -- New York Times drops graphic novel, manga bestseller lists; others pared back, eliminated

by John Jackson Miller

Since the New York Times added graphic novels to its bestseller lists several years ago, comics creators and publishers have had an additional chance for exposure; I was pleased to have made the softcover graphic novel list myself at one point. This Wednesday, however, publishing professionals who get peeks in advance began reporting that a number of cutbacks to several categories have taken place as of the Feb. 5 report — including elimination of the hardcover and softcover graphic novel lists and the manga list.

Following an early report, I communicated with a contact who receives an advance copy who noted there are further changes, including the elimination of the mass-market paperback charts and the merger of the e-book-only list with the fiction list. Other categories are reduced in size; the adult trade fiction list goes from 15 entries to 10, while the highest-profile list, the hardcovers, is cut from 20 entries to 15. It's not the first time that list has been trimmed; it went from 25 entries to 20 in 2014. Other categories have also reportedly seen changes.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Comics sales spotlight: Complete postal data for House of Mystery, 1960-1982

by John Jackson Miller
It's been a while since we've done any Title Spotlights on Comichron, listing all the postal Statement of Ownership circulation data from the 500+ titles confirmed to have run forms with numbers; in part, the plan was to wait for the redesign and for new templates to display the information. That redesign is now ongoing, so here's the first new title to be added: Click to see the full postal sales data for DC's House of Mystery.

The longest-running horror series at DC, the House of Mystery provided a showcase for strange and macabre stories beginning with the first issue in late 1951. The issue set the tone with the series with stories with names such as "Wanda Was a Werewolf," "I Fell In Love with a Witch," "Man or Monster?" and "The Curse of Seabury Manor.") Cain, the caretaker, kept the horror stories flowing straight on through the early 1980s, logging an impressive run of 321 issues. A companion House of Secrets was built next door later in the 1950s for Cain's milder-mannered brother.

Statements of Ownership appeared for many years in the title before DC (or, rather, National Periodical Publications) was required to publish sales figures beginning in 1960. The first report with numbers appeared in #107 of the series; the figure reported was 208,000 copies sold per issue.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Average comic book ordered in 2016 cost $3.85, down 11 cents

by John Jackson Miller

There's a mountain of information that comes out following the end of the year in comics — and more yet to come, as we await the 2016 final report from Diamond Comic Distributors. After last Friday's report on December comics, there's one more category we can report on: the average price retailers paid for comics appearing in the Top 300s each month. Looking at all 3,600 items and dividing by the number of copies ordered gives us a weighted average of a fraction over $3.85, down 11 cents from 2015.

Below and on our updated yearly sales data page, you can also see something we've not seen in a few years: the average comic book offered was actually more expensive than the average one retailers bought, at $3.89. This hasn't happened since 2011, when DC reduced the prices of its line from $3.99 to $2.99 the first time — and is the direct result of its doing so again in 2016.

Friday, January 13, 2017

December 2016 comics sales estimates online; all new Comichron charts are now sortable, searchable!

by John Jackson Miller morning, Diamond Comic Distributors released its detailed report on comics and graphic novels ordered by North American comics shops in December, and here at Comichron we've completed our estimates based on it. Click to see our comics sales estimates for December 2016.

I wrote yesterday about December and how its lackluster performance nonetheless brought the Direct Market year to a positive conclusion overall, up $1.7 million over last year — but allow a quick digression here on the presentation of the tables here at Comichron.

We are, as you may have seen, in the middle of a redesign, our first since 2008 — and unlike that event, forced hurriedly by the failure of a previous content management system, the new look for the site is the result of a lot of thought into how I can get more data — and I have much that is unpublished — online more efficiently and in a more useful manner.

To that end, I've made changes to my workflow, automating many file preparation steps that for 20 years on the spreadsheet side have been done by hand. On the web side, the styles for the tables — which once came in with lots of bric-a-brac courtesy of Microsoft Excel — have been standardized across the site. Only a handful of recent months have the new design, but each file is about half the size of its previous incarnation, loading faster. (You may need to hit refresh on some pages to see the new versions.)

A sample look at one of the new pages' navigation; December 2016. Click to go to it!

More importantly, the new issue-level data tables are now all sortable by column. You can resort and reverse ranks by dollar rank, title, issue number, price, publisher, and number of units sold. Every column, essentially!

And as a bonus, while it's hard to make multiple column tables too mobile-friendly without a database involved, it is now possible to show only a small number of entries at a time and page through them.

The Top 300 pages currently default to loading the entire charts, although that may change; the end-of year charts like 2015, already upgraded, display 250 entries at a time, unless you use the pull-down menu to request the full list.

There's a search box, as well; if you're looking for just titles with the name "Batman" in them, it'll limit to that.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

2016 comics shop orders beat 2015 -- barely -- after icy December

by John Jackson Miller

As projected here a ways back, comics shop orders of comic books, graphic novels, and magazines finished up for the year, just barely, after a fourth quarter that lost much of the momentum gained in a strong summer. That's according to my preliminary analysis of retailer orders just released by Diamond Comic Distributors, which found Direct Market orders at $580.9 million for last year, up just three tenths of a percent — or $1.7 million — over 2015.

That said, it's the fifth straight growth year, and the comics and graphic novel market overall is doing quite well, thanks to continued strength in the book channel and its reported 12% increase over 2015. And while there will be more analysis here in the coming days, 2016 looks a lot less disappointing when you consider that our year-by-year comparisons are with a black swan (or is that black wampa?) event, the monumental return of Star Wars to Marvel's comics line in 2015.

Starting right at the beginning of the year with a million-copy first issue, Star Wars alone accounted for about 6% of Direct Market sales in 2015, or an addition of more than $31 million just when you count comics and graphic novels that made the Top 300 lists that year. That's a tenfold increase over 2014, when Dark Horse was winding down with the license and published very little new material — a lot of dollars added to the marketplace. The Star Wars line continued to contribute in 2016, at about two-thirds 2015's super-heated pace — and other comics and graphic novels made up the difference to keep 2016 just barely ahead of the year before. But a repeat of 2015's 7% increase overall wasn't something market-watchers expected.

In fact, if you look at the growth figures following 2011's DC relaunch, you can see a pattern: the Direct Market finding its way to a slower-growth equilibrium following that major event, with a brief blip from Star Wars:
2012: +15%
2013: +6%
2014: +4%
2015: +7%
2016: +0.3%

As you can see, 2012 was huge, coming off one of the market's lower points in recent memory. Without the tens of millions of dollars added in 2015 and 2016 by Star Wars comics, we'd actually be looking at 2015 being the slowdown year, at +1% — and 2016 would have been an improvement, up 3%.

So part of the story is that, thanks in part to DC's Rebirth, the overall market was able to hang in there after a large burst of attention in 2015; the first quarter of 2016 was even able to eke out a slight gain versus the same quarter the year before, which was when the Star Wars launch began. New comics unit sales overall topped 99 million copies, just missing the nine-digit level. The letdown this year has really more been the fourth quarter, just ended: it was off 6%.

The aggregate changes:

Monday, January 9, 2017

Book channel graphic novel sales increase guarantees that 2016 was a growth year

by John Jackson Miller

The final report on comics sales to the Direct Market will surface this week, but here's a nice thing: whatever happens, the entire comics and graphic novel market will be up for 2016, yet again.

That's the nugget of news from Publisher's Weekly today as turned up by The Beat: while sales of books were up 3.3% while the adult fiction category was down 1%, "the lone bright spot in fiction was comics and graphic novels, which had a 12% increase on the year."

Since Comichron and ICV2 found the book channel in 2015 was responsible for $350 million in sales — more than 37% of the print market, excluding library sales, that increase would be more than enough to put the entire genre well ahead for 2016. The Direct Market was running slightly ahead of flat through November, meaning that pretty much regardless of December's outcome, a $42 million increase in the book channel would cover almost any eventuality.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

January Comics Flashbacks: From Krypton to the War Zone

Top comics shop seller:
Justice League #5 (DC)
138,600 copies first month, at least 148,500 in 2012

January 2012 was the best January since 2008 for comics orders, thanks to the ongoing DC relaunch, which was in its fifth month.

Justice League #5 was the top seller, with nearly 138,600 copies sold in its first month; another 6,100 copies of the Combo edition were sold. By the end of the year, the total for the main edition was 148,500 copies.

The top-selling graphic novel was the Batman: Through the Looking Glass hardcover. It had initial orders of more than 6,400 copies; that would rise to 7,400 by the end of the year.

Click to read the original Comichron analysis for the month. And check out the sales chart for the month here.

Top comics shop seller:
Civil War #6 (Marvel)
259,000 copies first month, at least 263,800 in 2007

There had been a number of strong winters in the mid 2000s, and January 2007 was part of one. Diamond’s sales overall increased by nearly a third — 32% year over year, with the market posting its best January in dollar terms since 1997.

In addition to such events as Civil War — whose sixth issue would wind up being the 11th bestseller of the decade —and strong year-over-year improvements for several titles, the calendar and the climate played a role. January had five shipping weeks, versus four in the previous year. And it actually may have had six, in a sense, given the delays in shipping comics to the West Coast due to inclement weather in the final week of 2006.

Click to read the original Comichron analysis for the month. The sales chart for the month is here.

Top comics shop seller:
Wolverine: The Origin #6 (Marvel)
179,300 copies first month
The recovery started the previous year continued into January, with Wolverine: The Origin #6 wrapping up that series' successful run. The issue would wind up being the 45th-place bestseller for the decade.

In Diamond's original charts, however, a different title was #1: Batman: The 10-Cent Adventure #1, one of a number of stunt-pricing promotions, sold more than 700,000 copies. After Marvel tried the same thing with a nine-cent Fantastic Four, Diamond wisely excluded promotionally priced titles from its later charts. Comichron has always kept it off the chart, with an asterisk.

The sales chart for the month is here.
Top comics shop seller:
X-Men Vol. 2, #62 (Marvel)
196,300 copies first month
Around 303,000 copies with newsstand and subscriptions

X-Men #62 was the top seller for what was a lackluster month. Previous Januaries had included major editorial events: The Age of Apocalypse had been published in the winter of 1995, while the big Marvel Versus DC crossover took place in the first quarter of 1996. January 1997 didn't have as much to offer.

Top Cow returned to Image after a brief run as an independent, while Marvel began winding down its Heroes World Distribution firm.

The sales chart for the month is here.

Top comics shop seller:
Punisher War Zone #1 (Marvel)
Likely more than 600,000 copies with newsstand and subscriptions

The comics market was continuing to heat up throughout the winter, with Marvel's "Big Guns" promotion spinning off yet another Punisher title, the third. At a higher price of $2.25,  Punisher War Zone #1 easily was both the top dollar and unit title at both Diamond and Capital; Capital alone sold 175,000 copies.

This was also the month when Diamond revamped its Dialogue newsletter into a regular magazine, reporting sales figures in more detail than before. That meant including a trade paperback and graphic novel chart; the top seller this month was Marvel Universe Master Edition #16, which was priced at $4.50.

Top comics shop seller:
Uncanny X-Men #216 (Marvel)
267,300 copies sold to comics shops
430,800 copies sold overall

Preorders for January-shipping titles were found in the December issue of Capital City's Internal Correspondence, where reports were slightly out of sync with the shipping schedule. Capital ranked Uncanny X-Men #216 at #1. Capital sold 56,800 copies out of the 267,300 copies that Marvel internal records report were shipped to the Direct Market. Another 113,000 copies went to the newsstand, with 430,800 copies sold overall once subscriptions and other markets were accounted for.

Marvel, which had just been sold by Cadence to New World, had a 48.3% market share at the end of 1986 at Capital. DC was at 26.8%.

Top seller:
Uncanny X-Men #156 (Marvel)
Around 313,000 copies sold monthly during year

The further back we go, the more we are into conjecture, as there were no indexed distributor sales charts before 1984. But we know from Statements of Ownership that Uncanny X-Men was by far the year's bestseller, beating out second-place Amazing Spider-Man by more than 20%.

Top seller:
Amazing Spider-Man #167 (Marvel)
Around 282,000 copies sold monthly during year

Amazing Spider-Man had surpassed Superman to become the market's top seller several years earlier; January's issue, #167, probably had close to a 45,000-copy lead on Superman. Early days yet for the Direct Market; Amazing during this year would have also had its sales supplemented by simultaneous bagged-edition printings for Whitman.

 Top comics shop seller:
Superman #249 (DC)
Around 318,000 copies sold montlhy during year

Spider-Man was chasing Superman down in this era, but DC's flagship title still had a lead of about 30,000 copies per issue.

The series by now was monthly after many years with two skip months, which you'll see something that impacts what months it was leading as we project backwards.

Top comics shop seller:
Batman #190 (DC)
Around 805,000 copies sold montlhy during year

January 1967 was one of those months with no Superman issue — but it wouldn't have mattered in 1967, when the ABC TV show had made Batman the top seller all the way.

Click to see our partial charts for the year.

Top comics shop seller:
Superboy #95 (DC)
 round 605,000 copies with newsstand and subscriptions

There was no Superman issue released in January in 1962 either, so the top seller honors would likely have gone to Superboy #95. The next Superboy #95 would be published almost 40 years later.

Click to see our partial charts for the year.

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