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


Friday, June 15, 2018

May 2018 comics sales best in year and a half; Amazing Spider-Man #800 top comic

by John Jackson Miller

Improvement continued in the comic shop market in May, with retailers ordering $49.05 million in comic books, graphic novels, and magazines from Diamond Comic Distributors according to Comichron's estimates; that's the largest amount since November 2016. (6/18 UPDATE: The full sales charts are now online.)

 Find this issue at TFAWEarlier last week I tweeted that this May had a decent shot at beating the same month a year earlier, despite that month having the best sales of 2017. Both months had five weeks, and May 2018 had some major events, including the top-selling Amazing Spider-Man #800, Man of Steel #1, and a hit Avengers movie in theaters all month (not to mention Deadpool and a Star Wars film). This May beat last May by nearly 2% and came close to flirting with the $50 million level. Marvel dollar sales saw significant year-over-year improvement, as did those of Image; total Marvel titles shipped to market exceeded $20 million, the best figure for the company since June 2016.

The year-to-date shortfall was shaved yet again, to 2.67%; comics dollar sales, separate from graphic novels, which continued to lag, are now positive for the year. We know a bit about June's sales already; it's up against a relatively good month from 2017, so completely erasing the year's deficit at halftime (which is around $6 million) is unlikely. But April and May are up a combined 6% over the same months in 2017, and it's now nearly a mathematical certainty that the second quarter will be up, thus ending the recession in comics, at least as far as the conventional definition is concerned. (Check out our explainer video below.)

Economists often define a recession as any period in which growth has fallen two quarters in a row; our string of down quarters year-over-year began in the fourth quarter of 2016, running for a year and a half — which is about how long recessions tend to run in the general economy. We came close to a down period of this length in 2010-11, though it was interrupted by a growth quarter; it took the DC New 52 to kick off several years of growth. The comparison charts:

May 2018 Vs. April 2018
Graphic Novels+6.94%+4.85%
TOTAL COMICS/GNs+6.98%+3.13%
May 2018 Vs. May 2017
Graphic Novels-8.04%-13.85%
TOTAL COMICS/GNs+1.84%-9.06%
Year-To-Date 2018 Vs. Year-To-Date 2017
Graphic Novels-9.31%-10.56%
TOTAL COMICS/GNs-2.67%-9.85%

May's unit sales for comics were down versus last May as reported by Diamond — but there were a couple of things going on, the first of which resulted in the asterisks we've placed above.

See eBay listings for this issue
First and most important, last May included the 25-cent Saga #43, which sold in the hundreds of thousands of copies; this May included DC Nation #0, likewise priced at a quarter and selling a reported million copies. But while both comics were included in calculations for Image and DC's market shares respectively, our calculations show that unlike Saga #43, DC Nation #0 sales were not included in the computation of Diamond's year-over-year industry-wide comics unit sales.

Diamond would have faced a difficult choice with the issue: Free Comic Book Day issues — which DC Nation essentially served the role of for DC this year — are traditionally not included in either the percentage change table or unit market shares. They'd distort the comparisons too much. Yet comics with a nominal cover price — even 25¢ — traditionally have been counted toward both the percentage change tables and market shares. But a million promotional-rate copies is a lot, and would have wreaked a lot of havoc on the percentage-change tables, so it appears Diamond compromised here, giving DC its market share credit, while protecting the more important all-industry measures from distortion.

Because Saga #43 was included for percentage-change purposes last year, the decision has the effect of making the unit sales change number for this month look worse than it is. If we calculate DC Nation #0 as representing an exact million copies, then comics unit sales would have been up 16.5% over April, rather than 3%; sales versus last may would have been up 3.5% rather than down 8.65%; and year-to-date sales would have been down 7.3% rather than close to 9.8%. I do not intend to alter the charts, but will serve reminders here as necessary that 2018 has something a million copies not counted that would have been counted in previous years.

The other thing of note regarding unit sales is that this May saw 10% fewer new comics offered to market — 472 versus 527 last May, 55 fewer new releases. That more than accounts for the difference in unit sales, quarter-book complications aside.

The market shares:

PublisherDollar ShareUnit Share
Dark Horse2.54%1.63%

Marvel had four of the top 10 comics (including three Fresh Start launches), DC had five, and Image one. Several of the best sellers came out on the last week of the month, so they'll see significant traffic next month. Man of Steel #1's asterisk means it was returnable; unlike everything else in the top ten, it had no variants.

The top selling comics by units:

1Amazing Spider-Man #800$9.99Marvel
2Venom #1$4.99Marvel
3Doomsday Clock #5$4.99DC
4Avengers #1$4.99Marvel
5Black Panther #1$4.99Marvel
6Batman #47$2.99DC
7Batman #46$2.99DC
8Justice League: No Justice #1$3.99DC
9The Man of Steel #1*$3.99DC
10The Walking Dead #179$3.99Image

And the top-selling comics by invoiced dollars confirms that Action Comics #1000 was still doing big business in May:

1Amazing Spider-Man #800$9.99Marvel
2Venom #1$4.99Marvel
3Doomsday Clock #5$4.99DC
4Avengers #1$4.99Marvel
5Black Panther #1$4.99Marvel
6Action Comics #1000$7.99DC
7Despicable Deadpool #300$5.99Marvel
8Batman: White Knight #8$4.99DC
9Invincible Iron Man #600$5.99Marvel
10Justice League: No Justice #1$3.99DC

Find  this book on TFAW
The graphic novel sector has lagged all year, though it's only off single digits now. While 8% percent more new graphic novels were offered, 8% fewer dollars were made from them — a consequence, possibly, of retailers splitting up graphic novel dollars to stock Infinity War-related titles.

The 2011 printing of Infinity Gauntlet led reorders for most of the month (and it is still continuing to), and those combined to beat any new graphic novel out there in dollars. It just missed being the top graphic novel by units, because the $7.99 Star Wars: Tag & Bink Were Here #1 from Marvel was counted in the category.

The top-selling graphic novels by units:

1Star Wars: Tag & Bink Were Here #1$7.99Marvel
2Infinity Gauntlet$24.99Marvel
3Where We Live: Las Vegas Shooting Benefit Anthology$19.99Image
4Snotgirl Vol. 2: California Screaming$15.99Image
5Dark Days: The Road To Metal HC$29.99DC
6Wonder Woman Vol. 5: Heart Of The Amazon$16.99DC
7Amazing Spider-Man/Venom: Venom, Inc$19.99Marvel
8Hellboy Omnibus Vol. 1: Seed Of Destruction$24.99Dark Horse
9Black Magick Vol. 2: Awakening II$16.99Image
10Black Panther: Long Live The King$14.99Marvel

Marvel had a big blowout sale on older Marvel Masterworks hardcovers in May; while those sales are reflected in the unit charts, the dollars chart is based on what retailers actually paid. It's a new one that made the chart below, which is the top-selling graphic novels by invoiced dollars:

1Infinity Gauntlet$24.99Marvel
2Punisher Max By Garth Ennis Omnibus Vol. 1 HC$100.00Marvel
3Star Wars: Tag & Bink Were Here #1$7.99Marvel
4Dark Days: The Road To Metal HC$29.99DC
5Where We Live: Las Vegas Shooting Benefit Anthology$19.99Image
6Wolverine Goes To Hell Omnibus HC$100.00Marvel
7Infinity War$29.99Marvel
8Marvel Masterworks: Marvel Team-Up Vol. 3 HC$75.00Marvel
9Hellboy Omnibus Vol. 1: Seed Of Destruction$24.99Dark Horse
10Weapon X: The Return Omnibus HC$125.00Marvel

Finally, here are the number of offerings. As noted, fewer new comics shipped:

Graphic Novels
Dark Horse1716033
Total shipped47238632890

I'm a guest at All-Star Comic-Con in Tysons Corners, Virginia this weekend; look for the estimates on our May 2018 comics chart sales page next week when I return.

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.

Be sure to follow Comichron on Twitter and FacebookAnd check out our YouTube channel!
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Saad said...

Can you make an estimate of Marvel and DC's Unit Shares if DC Nation wasn't included?

John Jackson Miller said...

We will publish just the unit shares of the top 300 on Monday, and that will show that difference. But publishers have always gotten market share credit for twenty-five cent books, so its inclusion in the larger share grouping is not unusual.

colton said...

Thanos infinity gauntlet has been on deep discount on amazon for a while now. Probably a factor in sales

John Jackson Miller said...

Amazon's sales aren't counted in the above. It's comics shops only.

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