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Friday, October 12, 2018

September graphic novels power second consecutive growth quarter; Return of Wolverine, Saga lead charts

by John Jackson Miller

 FInd this issue at TFAW
The recovery in the comics shop market gained steam in the third quarter of 2018. September comics and graphic novel orders rose 4% over the previous year, allowing the three-month period to close up 6%. Significantly better than the second quarter's 1% win, the $137.5 million quarter was the best in dollar terms since the fourth quarter of 2016. In all, orders during the past six months were up $9 million over the same period in 2017. Click to visit our page for September 2018 comics sales estimates; the figures will be posted there on Monday.

Last winter, my reports that the rate of decline was decreasing may have seemed like an exercise in excess optimism. That wasn't the intention: rather, signs of what might be a market bottom were becoming detectable, and that seemed worth sharing. I tried not to overstate the possible case, as I did in 1998 when I had much less history to look back upon — but it does now appear that the change in trajectory starting last winter was real, and is continuing.

The $45.18 million month of September was up $1.6 million, meaning that the year-to-year loss piled up this winter was cut in half for the third month in a row. Year-to-date sales now stand at $389 million, off just a little more than $2 million.

 Find this book at TFAW
I had some concern in late September after a couple of weekly reorder charts came in with very few comic books charting; one week, no comic books at all charted. But comics share the reorder charts with graphic novels, and those charts are measured in dollars — so a dearth of comics entries in a month with many high-profile graphic novels on sale isn't necessarily a negative indicator. Graphic novels were indeed a big winner in the month, up 12% year-over-year thanks to the Image trifecta of new editions of Saga, Walking Dead, and Monstress, which finished 1-2-3 in the unit sales charts.

Marvel's Return of Wolverine #1 led new comics sales, with DC's Heroes in Crisis #1 placing second; the controversial Batman: Damned #1 placed fifth in units and second in dollars. (See auctions for the issue on eBay.) Comics unit sales for the month stood at 7.19 million units, down half a million copies against the previous September, which was fueled by Marvel Legacy #1 — and the category is down 4.6 million copies year-to-date.

 See eBay listings for this issue
As noted here all year, of course, unit sales comparisons with 2017 are distorted due to that year's inclusion of many overshipped and 25¢ titles (and the lack of inclusion of this year's million-copy DC Nation #0). And there's something else in play. Through September, 4,206 new comic books have been released this year. In the same period last year, the figure was 4,446. That's 240 fewer comics released this year, a drop of 5.5%.

Marvel released 10 more comics this September than last September; DC, 10 fewer. Perhaps consequently, Marvel's overall dollar sales were up 9% year-over-year for the month, while DC's were unchanged. (Both Marvel and DC's dollar sales are up, year-to-date.) Image's graphic novels joined with a larger new comics slate to send the publisher up 10%; Image had the same number of new comics as DC, 66. It's the first time Image's slate has been as large as DC's since September 2015. Dark Horse's dollar sales were up substantially, though we can't tell why from the Top 10s. (Update: It turns out to be right in Diamond's press release: Stranger Things #1 debuted in 20th place, very high for a Dark Horse launch.)

See our explanatory video, here:

The comparative sales statistics are up first. Remember, August had an extra week, so the month-to-month changes aren't that important:

September 2018 vs. August 2018
Graphic Novels-7.07%-3.86%
Total Comics/GNs-5.30%-0.48%
September 2018 vs. September 2017
Graphic Novels+11.74%+15.36%
Total Comics/GNs+3.84%-5.09%
Third Quarter 2018 vs. Second Quarter 2018
Graphic Novels+0.83%+1.89%
Total Comics/GNs+0.40%+0.10%
Third Quarter 2018 vs. Third Quarter 2017
Graphic Novels+1.95%+3.85%
Total Comics/GNs+5.81%-0.47%
Year-To-Date 2018 vs. Year-To-Date 2017
Graphic Novels-4.80%-6.37%
Total Comics/GNs-0.55%-6.75%

The market shares:

PublisherDollar ShareUnit Share
Dark Horse3.62%2.91%

The top-selling comics by units:

1Return of Wolverine #1$4.99Marvel
2Heroes in Crisis #1$3.99DC
3Doomsday Clock #7$4.99DC
4Batman #55$3.99DC
5Batman: Damned #1$6.99DC
6Batman #54$3.99DC
7Thanos Legacy #1$4.99Marvel
8Fantastic Four #2$3.99Marvel
9Amazing Spider-Man #6$3.99Marvel
10Amazing Spider-Man #5$3.99Marvel

The top-selling comics by dollars:

1Return of Wolverine #1$4.99Marvel
2Batman: Damned #1$6.99DC
3Doomsday Clock #7$4.99DC
4Heroes in Crisis #1$3.99DC
5Thanos Legacy #1$4.99Marvel
6Batman #55$3.99DC
7Spider-Geddon #0$4.99Marvel
8Batman #54$3.99DC
9Amazing Spider-Man #6$3.99Marvel
10Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1$4.99Marvel

The top-selling graphic novels by units:

1Saga Vol. 9$14.99Image
2Walking Dead Vol. 30: New World Order$16.99Image
3Monstress Vol. 3$16.99Image
4Oblivion Song By Kirkman & De Felici Vol. 1$9.99Image
5Batman/Catwoman: The Wedding Album HC$17.99DC
6Franklin Richards: A Fantastic Year #1$7.99Marvel
7DC Super Hero Girls: The Search For Atlantis$9.99DC
8Descender Vol. 6: War Machine$16.99Image
9Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 3: Burning Seas$19.99Marvel
10Action Comics #1000: The Deluxe Edition HC$19.99DC

The top-selling graphic novels by dollars:

1Saga Vol. 9$14.99Image
2Walking Dead Vol. 30: New World Order$16.99Image
3Monstress Vol. 3$16.99Image
4Batman by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale Omnibus HC$125.00DC
5Spider-Man Vs. Venom Omnibus HC$125.00Marvel
6Absolute Batman: The Killing Joke HC$49.99DC
7Earth X Trilogy Omnibus Alpha HC$125.00Marvel
8Batman/Catwoman: The Wedding Album HC$17.99DC
9Dark Knight III: The Master Race$24.99DC
10Marvel Masterworks: Killraven Vol. 1 HC$100.00Marvel

Finally, the number of new items offered. This September saw 2% fewer comics released and 6% more graphic novels released than last September:

Graphic Novels
Dark Horse2521046
TOTAL SHIPPED47738717881

It is worth noting that, almost no matter what, October 2018 is likely to be a growth month, as well. It has five shipping weeks, versus four in last October. We give that week back in November — but historically, it's been better to get the extra week in October rather than November due to reduced slates the week of the Thanksgiving holiday.

A likely scenario is that October will put the year-to-date slightly ahead and that November will return it slightly behind — leaving December as the deciding factor. December 2017 was a horrible month, which we beat this September by 17% — so it would take a fairly significant change in direction to keep the year below break-even. Click to see what we know about October sales so far.

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: KenobiStar Wars: A New Dawn, and the Star Trek: Prey trilogy. Read more about them at his fiction site.

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