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


Friday, March 3, 2017

Darth Maul, Marvel top February comics orders; more than 750,000 25-cent Walking Deads ship

by John Jackson Miller

February was another month in which a lot of comic books were shipped to the Direct Market at relatively little cost to retailers, although for a different reason than in January. That month, Marvel’s 10% minimum overship resulted in the largest number of comic books sent to market in any January since 1997. This time, it was Image’s 25th anniversary — and its promotionally priced comic books — that caused the largest number of new comic books to be shipped than in any February since 1997, according to Comichron’s analysis of data released today by Diamond Comic Distributors.

More than 7.85 million comic books were shipped by Diamond to retailers in North America, and more than 750,000 of them were copies of Walking Dead #163, which retailers ordered at its 25-cent cost. Special no-cover-price variants were also offered for retailers who ordered 250 copies or more, and again for 500 copies or more.

Diamond does not include comics cover-priced under a dollar in its Top Sellers lists, a move made after Batman: The Ten-Cent Adventure, a nine-cent issue of Fantastic Four and a 13-cent Gen13 topped the charts in 2002, along with all the original Free Comic Book Day issues. (We removed those issues to the tops of their respective months, with asterisks rather than rankings, in the Comichron charts.) So while Diamond acknowledged the performance of the Walking Dead issue in its press release, it ranked Marvel's Star Wars: Darth Maul #1 as the top-seller for February.

The 25-cent Image copies resulted in a lopsided market share reading for the company; its unit share was 18.13%, as compared with a 9.58% dollar share. While Diamond’s unit shares from month to month can be found on Comichron’s individual monthly pages, it isn’t something we keep a trendline file on (in part because of volatility like this) — so we can’t really say the last time its unit share hit such a level. The 9.58% dollar share is Image’s best since January 2016, so while it’s on the high end, it’s hit loftier marks relatively recently.

Retailers ordered $39.77 million in comics, graphic novels, and magazines across February’s four shipping weeks; that’s the first time the overall total has been below $40 million since February 2014. Comics dollar sales were off 4.47% and graphic novels off 3.3%, resulting in a year-over-year decline of 4.11%.

The comparative sales statistics:

February 2017 vs. January 2017
Graphic Novels9.05%3.04%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels-0.82%3.61%
February 2017 vs. February 2016
Graphic Novels-3.30%-12.98%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels-4.11%14.70%
Year-To-Date 2017 vs. Year-To-Date 2016
Graphic Novels-7.60%-10.88%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels-3.76%10.26%

Marvel and DC’s unit market shares were nearly tied this month, though you can easily see from the dollar market shares the impact of the $3.99/$2.99 contrast between Marvel and DC’s cover prices. Marvel’s dollar market share is nearly four points higher than its unit share; DC’s more than three points lower.

Dollar ShareUnit Share
Dark Horse2.57%1.45%

The Top 10 comics included three DC titles whose sales were reduced by 10% due to returnability: Justice League of America #1, Super Sons #1, and Justice League of America: Rebirth #1.

1Star Wars Darth Maul #1$4.99Marvel
2Batman #16$2.99DC
3Batman #17$2.99DC
4Justice League of America #1*$2.99DC
5Super Sons #1*$2.99DC
6Walking Dead #164$2.99Image
7All Star Batman #7$4.99DC
8Star Wars #28$3.99Marvel
9Justice League of America Rebirth #1*$2.99DC
10Justice League #14$2.99DC

The regularly priced Walking Dead #164 also shipped in the month, and placed sixth.

On the graphic novel side of things, unit sales of graphic novels were down quite a bit against a February last year that had both a new Wicked & Divine and a new Lumberjanes volume. Seven to Eternity Vol. 1 led the chart:

1Seven to Eternity Vol. 1$9.99Image
2Love Is Love$9.99IDW
3Batman Detective Vol. 1 Rise Ot Batmen (Rebirth)$16.99DC
4Snotgirl Vol. 1 Green Hair Dont Care$9.99Image
5Wonder Woman Vol. 1 The Lies (Rebirth)$16.99DC
6March Book 3$19.99IDW
7Superman Action Comics Vol. 1 Path of Doom (Rebirth)$16.99DC
8Hal Jordan & The GLC Vol. 1 Sinestro's Law (Rebirth)$17.99DC
9Outcast By Kirkman & Azaceta Vol. 4$14.99Image
10Civil War II HC$50.00Marvel

Low-priced comics aside, the number of different new comic books in February was off 7% versus the previous year, so this February’s releases punched their weight a little better. That said, Marvel’s 104 new comics was a higher figure than we usually see in the first quarter — and Titan’s 24 new comics is likely a new high for that company.

Graphic Novels
Dark Horse1313026

Boom, which made headlines a year or so ago by directing its efforts away from periodicals toward more graphic novels, seems to have gone back the other direction; it shipped 24 new comic books in February versus only three new graphic novels, according to Diamond.

Thus far it’s a slightly off start to the year, if a highly idiosyncratic one in statistical terms; as with all winter months, Comichron recommends not reading too much into it. Many is the year in which even a slightly strong April or May erased an entire first-quarter’s deficit. The volumes in play are simply lower at this time of year.

What was selling in Feburary in years past? Check out of Flashback column for the month.

This month marks the start of Comichron’s tenth anniversary celebration; I’m doing an Ask-Me-Anything on Reddit’s Comic Books subreddit at 3 Eastern today, March 3. (UPDATE: And you can read the questions and answers here.)

Comichron founder 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 novels including Star Wars: Kenobi, Overdraft: The Orion OffensiveStar Wars: A New Dawn, and the Star Trek: Prey trilogy. Read more about them at his fiction site.

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