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


Friday, May 5, 2017

Soft start to 2017 continues with April sales; Secret Empire #0 tops charts

by John Jackson Miller

Owing to the lower volumes the comics shop market sees in the winter, we have frequently observed here that a mildly good April is often enough to erase losses during a slow winter. In 2017, it'll have to be a different month that does it, because April was off year-to-year more than any month in the first quarter, according to Comichron's analysis of data released this morning by Diamond Comic Distributors. Comics shops ordered $41.27 million in comic books, graphic novels, and magazines in the month, a drop of more than $6 million from the same month the previous year.

For context, that drop is only the largest since December. And last April's orders were off more, 16% — only to see the year rebound and end up slightly ahead due to DC's "Rebirth" event. Of course, that April had a few things going against it — it was a four-shipping week month versus a five-shipping-week month in 2015, and 2015's sales were supercharged by Star Wars, still new at Marvel. On the other hand, April 2016 did have Black Panther #1, the first blockbuster book of that year.

Marvel's Secret Empire #0, at $4.99, was the top-seller for this April, but it seems less likely to reach the sales levels Black Panther did. Retailers ordered 7.08 million comic books in the month of April, off less than 5% from last April. Periodical dollars were off more; much of DC's line is at $2.99 and there were a number of $1 and other promotionally-priced books in the mix.

Graphic novels were off 17%, continuing the weakness in the category that we've seen all year. Batman Vol. 2: I Am Suicide was the top seller. This was a four-shipping-week month versus a four-shipping-week month, so the calendar is not in play.

The comparative sales statistics:

April 2017 Vs. March 2017
Graphic Novels-10.77%-6.00%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels-9.87%-5.36%
April 2017 Vs. April 2016
Graphic Novels-17.18%-15.47%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels-13.18%-5.62%
Year-To-Date 2017 Vs. Year-To-Date 2016
Graphic Novels-12.41%-14.02%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels-5.74%5.04%

Image topped 10% in market share this month — and for the first time in a while, thanks perhaps to its Aliens promotion, Dark Horse reversed positions with IDW. The market shares:

Dollar ShareUnit Share
Dark Horse4.46%3.06%
Other Non-Top 108.73%5.55%

The Top 10 comic books:

1Secret Empire #0$4.99Marvel
2Batman #21 Lenticular Edition (The Button)$3.99DC
3X-Men Gold #1$4.99Marvel
4X-Men Blue #1$4.99Marvel
5The Flash #21 Lenticular Edition (The Button)$3.99DC
6Batman #20$2.99DC
7Batman #21 (The Button)$2.99DC
8Star Wars #30$3.99Marvel
9Weapon X #1$3.99Marvel
10The Walking Dead #166$2.99Image

The Top 10 Graphic Novels:

1Batman Volume 2: I Am Suicide$16.99DC
2Hellboy: Into The Silent Sea HC$14.99Dark Horse
3Saga Volume 7$14.99Image
4Superman Vol. 2: Trials Of The Super Son$16.99DC
5All-Star Batman Vol. 1: My Own Worst Enemy HC$24.99DC
6Saga Deluxe Edition Volume 2 HC$49.99Ima
7Batman Volume 10: Epilogue$16.99DC
8Justice League Volume 2: Outbreak$16.99DC
9Avatar The Last Airbender Vol. 15$10.99Dark Horse
10Red Hood & The Outlaws Vol. 1: Dark Trinity$16.99DC

The number of new comics releases for the major publishers was essentially unchanged from this April to last, off very slightly; the pace of new graphic novel releases slowed 6%. That's the same rate for the entire year; there are just fewer new graphic novels out there. The new release volumes:

PublisherComics shippedGraphic Novels shippedMagazinesTotal shipped
Dark Horse2021041

We stand at almost 30 million new comics shipped in 2017, up from about 28 million at this time in 2016; that's the impact of Marvel's overships and Image's 25-cent-books there, among other things.

As usual when there's a slow start to the year, it's worth looking at the long view: while people may not remember, in this decade the market has been down for the year overall by the end of April as many times as it's been up. It was down in 2010-11 and 2016-17, up in the other years. What's made this decade so successful in the Direct Market is some of the up years were really up, while both 2011 and 2016 clawed back to nearly even (or a little ahead in 2016's case) by year-end. In the case of both of those years, a DC relaunch mid-year made the difference; with Free Comic Book Day tomorrow, promotion of publishers' summer slates is well underway, so we'll see what impact those have.

(Quick programming note: For those in the Chicago area, I'll be doing an FCBD talk and event at noon on Saturday at the Algonquin Area Public Library — and heading over at 3 to do a Star Wars-themed event for the Arlington Heights Memorial Library.)

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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