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Friday, March 9, 2018

Comics dollar sales off just 3% in February, but graphic novels sag; Wild Hunt #1 leads pack

by John Jackson Miller

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With no new Doomsday Clock issue in the offing, February was a slow month in comics shops, according to Comichron's analysis of data released this morning by Diamond Comic Distributors. But whereas comics and graphic novels were equally responsible for 2017's overall shortfall, last month graphic novels were the main culprit, with periodicals nearly, but not quite, holding their own.

Retailers ordered $36.66 million in comics and graphic novels; comics were off 3% in dollars and graphic novels off 18.5% to land down 8% for the month.

An important thing to remember when looking at the February 2018 data is to ignore the comics units sales, because the year-to-year comparisons are impacted by last February's 25th anniversary Image event, which included a reported 750,000 copies of a 25¢ issue of Walking Dead. (Walking Dead #163 will not be found in our charts for that month, because Diamond reports nothing with a cover price below $1.). Combine that with January 2017's 10% overship on Marvel's entire line, and the comics unit year-to-date comparisons are a total wreck.

The 6.3 million copies shipped this February finds a nearer comparative in the last four-week month we experienced, December 2017 — and there, comics unit sales were slightly up over that month. (Granted, December was pretty bad, but how often does February outsell December? Not very.) Comics dollar sales are going to be much more representative of reality — and here they're the bright spot, again only off 3% in February year-to-year. Had there been a Doomsday Clock issue in February, the category might have been nearer to break-even still.

The comparatives are here; remember that January had an extra New Comics Day:

February 2018 vs. January 2018
Graphic Novels-14.54%-16.60%
Total Comics/GNs-6.72%-6.83%
February 2018 vs. February 2017
Graphic Novels-18.53%-14.13%
Total Comics/GNs-7.81%-19.31%
Year-To-Date 2018 Vs. Year-To-Date 2017
Graphic Novels-7.77%-4.17%
Total Comics/GNs-4.88%-14.86%

 appears to have almost exactly paced the market overall, with Image and Dark Horse shipping slightly more dollars worth of material than they did a year ago. MarvelTitan, and IDW were behind their individual paces from February 2017Dynamite was significantly ahead.

Some of that plays out in the market shares:

PublisherDollar ShareUnit Share
Dark Horse2.85%1.68%

DC's Dark Nights Rising: The Wild Hunt #1 led comics sales in a month with the exact same number of new comics released as in the previous February; Image, Dark Horse, and Dynamite released a few more, IDW a few less. The top-selling comics by number of copies shipped:

1Dark Knights Rising: The Wild Hunt #1$4.99DC
2X-Men Red #1$4.99Marvel
3Batman #40$2.99DC
4Batman #41$2.99DC
5The Walking Dead #176$3.99Image
6Batman: White Knight #5$3.99DC
7Peter Parker: Spectacular Spider-Man #300$5.99Marvel
8Star Wars #43$3.99Marvel
9Infinity Countdown Prime #1$4.99Marvel
10Amazing Spider-Man #796$3.99Marvel

The top-selling comics by dollar volume results in a slightly different list:

1Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #300$5.99Marvel
2Dark Knights Rising: The Wild Hunt #1$4.99DC
3X-Men Red #1$4.99Marvel
4The Walking Dead #176$3.99Image
5Batman: White Knight #5$3.99DC
6Batman #40$2.99DC
7Batman #41$2.99DC
8Infinity Countdown Prime #1$4.99Marvel
9Star Wars: Thrawn #1$4.99Marvel
10Swamp Thing Winter Special #1$7.99DC

Graphic novels, for their part, lacked any kind of real hit in February; when an already-released graphic novel beats anything new, that becomes pretty obvious. Image's Saga Vol. 8 was the most reordered graphic novel for almost the entire month, and those reorders combined to give it the top slot. More than 460,000 graphic novels were shipped overall. The top graphic novels by units shipped:

1Saga Vol. 8$14.99Image
2Star Wars: Doctor Aphra Vol. 2$17.99Marvel
3DC Meets Looney Tunes$19.99DC
4Teen Titans Vol. 2: The Rise of Aqualad$14.99DC
5Star Wars: Jedi of the Republic: Mace Windu$15.99Marvel
6Justice League Vol. 5: Legacy$16.99DC
7Despicable Deadpool Vol. 1: Deadpool Kills Cable$17.99Marvel
8Titans Vol. 3: A Judas Among Us$16.99DC
9Astonishing X-Men Vol. 1: The Life of X$17.99Marvel
10Neil Gaiman'S American Gods Vol. 1: Shadows$29.99Dark Horse

And the top graphic novels by dollar volume:

1House of Secrets: The Bronze Age Omnibus HC$125.00DC
2Daredevil: Shadowland Omnibus HC$125.00Marvel
3Absolute Wonder Woman By Azzarello & Chiang Vol. 2 HC$125.00DC
4Deadpool By Daniel Way Omnibus Vol. 1 HC$100.00Marvel
5Batman: Secrets: Sam Kieth Gallery Edition HC$125.00DC
6Moebius Library: Inside Moebius Vol. 1 HC$39.99Dark Horse
7Neil Gaiman'S American Gods Vol. 1: Shadows HC$29.99Dark Horse
8New Teen Titans Omnibus Vol. 2 HC$75.00DC
9Dc Meets Looney Tunes$19.99DC
10Star Wars: Doctor Aphra Vol. 2 SC$17.99Marvel

While new comics offerings were exactly the same in quantity from year to year, the top four publishers released 10% fewer new graphic novels, although other publishers made up the gap, meaning that 7% more new graphic novels were released this February versus last February. The new release volume:

PublisherComics shippedGraphic Novels shippedMagazinesTotal shipped
Dark Horse1613029
TOTAL SHIPPED44931826793

We've also seen enough reorders and advance from the past few weeks from Diamond Comic Distributors to be able to collate some information onto pages for March 2018 and April 2018.

Winter, as I have often said, is not where most turnarounds have historically begun in the Direct Market; while we know a few things already about this March, the first quarter of 2018 is almost certain to end down given that last March had an extra sales week. Recent years haven't really gotten rolling until Free Comic Book Day, so keep watching. In the meantime, look here early next week for the final estimates for the month.

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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