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Friday, September 14, 2018

Fantastic Four #1 leads August 2018 comics sales; market up 4%, Marvel up 22%

by John Jackson Miller

 Find this issue at TFAW
2017 truly was the summer of our discontent. The June-July-August stretch saw the worst year-over-year declines of any three month stretch in two decades, and August itself was down dramatically, despite a huge number of new comics releases. Marvel's Secret Empire was ending, with multiple series wrapping up in advance of the publisher's fall Legacy event; DC's sales were down dramatically against the huge Rebirth launch sales of 2016.

Given the improvement seen so far this year, it would have been remarkable if August 2018 comics and graphic novel orders didn't beat those from the previous year — and indeed, they did, up 4% with dollar sales increases for both comics and graphic novels. Comics shops in the United States and Canada ordered $47.7 million in comics, graphic novels, and magazines in the month; the year-to-date total stands at $343.8 million, just 1% off last year. Click to visit our page for August 2018 comics sales estimates; the figures will be posted there on Monday.

What is remarkable is that retailer dollar orders beat the previous August despite many fewer releases. While both Augusts had five shipping weeks, exactly 60 fewer new comic books were offered to market last month versus in August 2017, and slightly fewer graphic novels. That's a reduction in the new comic book slate of 11%; there were even fewer new comics released than in July, which had one less shipping week. That reduction in offerings, plus DC's higher prices this year, explains why new comics unit sales were up 5% while comics unit sales were down 5%. Remember, most new current product slates would have gone into development late last year, when prospects were a lot worse; belt-tightening on the number of new releases now is likely at least in part an echo of what happened then.

The comics that were released, however, sold relatively better in the aggregate — led by Fantastic Four #1, the top seller for the month. That comic book, along with significant discount offerings on many graphic novels, helped Marvel to a month that was up 22% in dollars over the previous August, a rate of increase that was five times better than the market as a whole and a pace matched among top-ten publishers only by Boom. Marvel represented $19.5 million of the $47.7 million worth of comic books and graphic novels retailers ordered in the month; that's actually it's best August performance in the Diamond Exclusive Era, though that neither accounts for inflation nor the number of shipping weeks in the month. (In some stronger recent years, August only had four ship weeks.)

Our preliminary video for the month is below:

Just as Marvel accounted for the entire loss in the early period of the comics recession in 2017, in August 2018 Marvel's gains were enough to account for the entire increase. DC and Dark Horse were slightly up, with other publishers down. If the recovery follows the 2017 path, we'd expect to see improvements at Marvel and then DC flowing outward to the other publishers.

The comparative sales statistics:

August 2018 vs. July 2018
Graphic Novels+33.98%+28.57%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels+6.88%-3.97%
August 2018 vs. August 2017
Graphic Novels+2.91%+1.44%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels+4.37%-4.71%
Year-To-Date 2018 vs. Year-To-Date 2017
Graphic Novels-6.73%-8.83%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels-1.10%-6.95%

The market shares:

PublisherDollar ShareUnit Share
Dark Horse3.05%2.37%

The top-selling comics by units:

1Fantastic Four #1$5.99Marvel
2Infinity Wars #1$5.99Marvel
3Batman #52$3.99DC
4Batman #53$3.99DC
5Amazing Spider-Man #3$3.99Marvel
6Sandman Universe #1$4.99DC
7Amazing Spider-Man #4$3.99Marvel
8Superman #2$3.99DC
9Justice League #5$3.99DC
10Justice League #6$3.99DC

The top-selling comics by dollars:

1Fantastic Four #1$5.99Marvel
2Infinity Wars #1$5.99Marvel
3Sandman Universe #1$4.99DC
4Batman #52$3.99DC
5Punisher #1$4.99Marvel
6Batman #53$3.99DC
7Amazing Spider-Man #3$3.99Marvel
8Infinity Wars #2$4.99Marvel
9Amazing Spider-Man #4$3.99Marvel
10Venom: First Host #1$3.99Marvel

 Find this book at TFAW
Graphic novels, led in units by Dark Horse's Legend of Korra Vol. 3: Turf Wars Part 3 and in dollars by Punisher Max by Garth Ennis Omnibus Vol. 2, were up 3% in dollars; this is the just the second time since August 2016 that both new comics and graphic novel dollar sales were up (the other time being April 2018).

DC Super-Hero Girls: Out of the Bottle
 placed second in units, while Infinity Gauntlet finally slipped out of the unit sales Top 10, though it did make the dollar charts.

We do expect to see significant deep-discounting in the final graphic novel data, given what's appeared in the reorder charts — but given how often in the last couple of years graphic novels were the weak point, it is a positive change. Remember, also, that the 3% increase are based on the number of dollars Diamond received, so monies paid in definitely did go up, even if some of the books went out at a steeper discount.

The top-selling graphic novels by units:

1Legend of Korra Volume 3: Turf Wars Pt 3$10.99Dark Horse
2DC Super Hero Girls: Out of the Bottle$9.99DC
3East Of West Volume 8$16.99Image
4Black Panther Book 1: A Nation Under Our Feet$16.99Marvel
5Spider-Man/Deadpool Vol. 1: Isn't It Bromantic?$17.99Marvel
6Rat Queens Vol. 5: Colossal Magic Nothing$16.99Image
7The Flash Vol. 1: Lightning Strikes Twice$17.99DC
8Kill Or Be Killed Volume 4$16.99Image
9I Hate Fairyland Volume 4$16.99Image
10Sex Criminals Vol. 5: Five-Fingered Discount$16.99Image

The top-selling graphic novels by dollars:

1Punisher Max By Garth Ennis Omnibus Vol. 2 HC$100.00Marvel
2Jack Kirby: Marvel Heroes & Monsters Artist Edition$90.00IDW
3X-Men Revolution By Chris Claremont Omnibus HC$100.00Marvel
4Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection: Venom$39.99Marvel
5Spider-Man/Deadpool Vol. 1: Isn't It Bromantic?$17.99Marvel
6Black Panther Book 1: A Nation Under Our Feet$16.99Marvel
7The Flash Vol. 1: Lightning Strikes Twice$17.99DC
8X-Men: Dark Phoenix Saga Omnibus HC$100.00Marvel
9Seven Soldiers By Grant Morrison Omnibus HC$75.00DC
10Infinity Gauntlet$24.99Marvel

Finally, the number of new items offered:

Dark Horse2321044

Lower unit sales of comics does appear to be the main discordant note in the report; when a five-month August's publishing slate of new comics is smaller than any month of the year since March, capitalize on improving conditions is a greater challenge. But even a flat September would yield a third quarter up 5%, making for two back-to-back increases. Prospects for the year ending slightly positive continue to improve. Click to see what we know about September sales so far.

Comichron founder John Jackson Miller has tracked the comics industry for 25 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: KenobiStar Wars: A New Dawn, and the Star Trek: Prey trilogy. Read more about them at his fiction site.

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