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Friday, February 9, 2018

Fifth week helps January comics sales arrest slide; Doomsday Clock #3 leads big month for DC

by John Jackson Miller

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A fifth shipping week in January helped reduce the year-to-year drop in Direct Market sales to the smallest dropoff we've seen since last spring, just under 2%, according to information released today by Diamond Comic Distributors. We've been reporting reorders and advance reorders for January comics at Comichron for weeks now; now, we finally have a look at how those reorders relate to overall sales.

The quick line on the month is that DC had a strong opening to the year; the internal math suggests DC's dollar sales were up 15% over its total for January 2017, aided by the chart-topping Doomsday Clock #3 and Dark Nights Metal #5. Marvel was off, but high-single digits against what was a very unusual month for it last year.

And that's an important matter: It's critical, first off, to ignore out of hand the unit sales drop, because January 2017 was the month that Marvel offered free overships of its entire line, distorting that category of the charts. Diamond shipped 6.71 million comic books to retailers in the month; to find a comparable figure without the overships we need to go back to January 2016, in which a little over 7 million comics were shipped.

Second, five-week Januaries are actually more rare than the calendar would suggest, because often the January 2 ship day has been counted as part of December. We have to go back to 2008, ten years earlier, for another January where Diamond counted all five New Comics Days as being part of the month. (January 2018's sales were up 14% over January 2008.)

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But the fifth week does not appear to have added much at all in terms of new comics releases; they were just up 5%, and at 478 new comic books that's the lowest number of new comics out per week since before 2015. Marvel only put out one more comic book in January than December, which had one less week. Dark Horse's 10 new comics for the month appears to be a 21st century low (though it had the top graphic novel by units in The Legend of Korra: Turf Wars Part 2, as we'll see below).

Graphic novels, meanwhile, were where publishers shifted their attention for the month, with 23% more new titles shipping this January versus last. The result was a better month for graphic novels relative to comics, about with 560,000 copies shipping versus 527,000 last January. In dollar terms, graphic novels were up 4%.

While the "dead quarter" pattern has been subverted in recent years, the first quarter of the year has generally seen fewer new high-profile offerings than in other times of the year; sales volumes are simply lower, and trends seen now — positive or negative — will have less effect on the year overall. The fact that DC has entered the year with momentum, however, does distinguish this year from last, and the fact that a new Robert Kirkman series is slated to debut in March could change the picture further.

Here's the comparative sales stats:

January 2018 Vs. December 2017
Graphic Novels-6.09%-11.86%
Total Comics/GNs2.13%5.79%
January 2018 Vs. January 2017
Graphic Novels3.96%6.09%
Total Comics/GNs-1.97%-10.26%

The market shares, below, were revised by Diamond after an erroneous table released.

PublisherDollar ShareUnit Share
Dark Horse2.50%1.27%

The number of titles released, as discussed above:

Publisher Comics
Graphic Novels
Total shipped
Dark Horse1014024
TOTAL SHIPPED47829625799

And now onto the sales rankings. Diamond did something new this month, using its initial release to put forward not just the usual Top 10 by units, as seen below...

1Doomsday Clock #3$4.99DC
2Dark Nights Metal #5$3.99DC
3Batman #38$2.99DC
4Batman #39$2.99DC
5Walking Dead #175$3.99Image
6Avengers #675$4.99Marvel
7Batman: White Knight #4$3.99DC
8Amazing Spider-Man/Venom: Venom Inc. Omega #1$4.99Marvel
9Batman And The Signal #1$3.99DC
10Old Man Hawkeye #1$3.99Marvel

...but also the Top 10 by Dollars Invoiced, or received from retailers. Marvel does a bit better here because of its higher prices relative to DC.

1Doomsday Clock #3$4.99DC
2Dark Nights Metal #5$3.99DC
3Avengers #675$4.99Marvel
4The Walking Dead #175$3.99Image
5Amazing Spider-Man/Venom: Venom Inc. Omega #1$4.99Marvel
6Batman #38$2.99DC
7Batman: White Knight #4$3.99DC
8Batman #39$2.99DC
9Batman And The Signal #1$3.99DC
10Old Man Hawkeye #1$3.99Marvel

Then we have the graphic novels by units, as reported in the traditional way. As mentioned above, Dark Horse's Legend of Korra Vol. 2 led the chart:

1Legend of Korra Volume 2: Turf Wars Pt 2$10.99Dark Horse
2The Wicked & The Divine Volume 6: Imperial Phase Part 2$16.99Image
3DC Super Hero Girls: Date With Disaster$9.99DC
4Descender Volume 5: Rise Of The Robots$16.99Image
5Kill Or Be Killed Volume 3$16.99Image
6Saga Volume 8$14.99Image
7Wolverine: Old Man Logan Vol. 6: Days Of Anger$17.99Marvel
8Vision HC$39.99Marvel
9Saga Volume 1$9.99Image
10Harley Quinn Volume 4: Surprise, Surprise$16.99DC

And now the graphic novels by dollars paid in. The Vision hardcover led reorders for hardcovers one week in January, and did so overall in dollars:

1Vision HC$39.99Marvel
2The Wicked & The Divine Volume 6: Imperial Phase Part 2$16.99Image
3Gene Colan's Tomb Of Dracula Artist Edition HC$125.00IDW
4Superman: The Golden Age Omnibus Volume 5 HC$125.00DC
5Marvel Masterworks: Daredevil Volume 12 HC$75.00Marvel
6Marvel Masterworks: Sub-Mariner Volume 8 HC$75.00Marvel
7Legend Of Korra Volume 2: Turf Wars Pt 2$10.99Dark Horse
8Descender Volume 5: Rise Of The Robots$16.99Image
9Kill or Be Killed Volume 3$16.99Image
10Deadpool & Co. Omnibus HC$125.00Marvel

Remember, you can sort any chart in Comichron's monthly sales section by either dollars or units.

Take a look also, for comparison, at ICV2's new list of top Bookscan graphic novels for January. The book channel's tastes don't always have much in common with the Direct Market's, but the comparisons are interesting.

The full data should be along on Monday. Enjoy the Olympics!

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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