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Friday, November 9, 2018

Comics sales ahead for year after $49.4 million October; Batman, Walking Dead's 15th anniversary drive month

by John Jackson Miller

As predicted here, comics and graphic novel orders through Diamond Comics Distributors ended October ahead for the year-to-date, thanks to a stronger midsection of 2018 and one additional New Comic Book Day during the month. Retailers ordered $49.39 million in comics and graphic novels in October, up 8.4% year-over-year; year-to-date orders stand at $438.4 million, up $1.6 million (or 0.4%) over the past year. Click to visit our page for October 2018 comics sales estimates; the figures will be posted there on Monday.

 Find this book at TFAWIt has been a slow and steady climb — the first time the year-to-date figure has been positive since December 2016. And while November 2018 is up against a month from last year with one more shipping week, December 2017's sales were low enough that 2018 overall has a good chance of eking out a modest win.

The extra week distorts the comparisons with last October, a month dominated last year by Marvel's Legacy launch; Marvel, DC, and Image's dollar sales performances all improved against that month. Marvel's dollar sales of comics and graphic novels to retailers are up $6 million year-to-date; DC's are up $4 million, and Image's are back even. The smaller publishers were the last into the recession; publishers seem to be exiting it in the same order they went in.

October was generally without the major launches that previous months saw; the major event for the month was Walking Dead Day on Oct. 13, which saw 15 different "blind bag" editions of previous issues (along with new variant covers) on offer. Batman #56, with its foil edition, finished first in units and dollars among comic books, with Walking Dead #1's 15th anniversary edition in second. With fewer launches, the charting comic books were generally cheaper than we've seen — leading to a total shipment of comic books topping 8 million copies for the first time since May 2017, which had hundreds of thousands of copies of the 25¢ Saga #43 padding the totals.

 Find this book at TFAW
Comics unit sales were up 5% in the month, bringing the year-to-year loss to a little over five-and-a-half percent, or about 4 million copies — though that shortfall is partially because 25-cent Image issues like that Saga edition were in 2017's charts, as well as many more overshipped comics. The number of normally-priced comics that retailers paid their regular discounts for in 2018 is a lot closer to even with 2017. But there's another factor inflating 2017's comic-book unit sales: the number of releases. Through ten months, publishers have offered 4,732 new issues to retailers, a drop of 198, or 4%.

The Batman: White Knight trade paperback was the top graphic novel for the month in units; Wonder Woman Earth One Vol. 2 was tops in dollars. The number of new graphic novel offerings is slightly up this year; sales for the category through October were down less than 4% — down, but continuing to improve.

There were significant deep-discount sales promotions for retailers in October, manifesting in a nine-point gap in the comparative change statistics for graphic novel unit and dollar sales. Year-to-date, the categories are much closer.

Check out our lists below, and also our explanatory video:

The comparative sales statistics:

October 2018 Vs. September 2018
Graphic Novels+3.28%-0.76%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels+9.32%+10.49%
October 2018 Vs. October 2017
Graphic Novels+5.30%+14.38%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels+8.38%+5.95%
Year-To-Date 2018 Vs. Year-To-Date 2017
Graphic Novels-3.76%-4.45%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels+0.38%-5.48%

Thanks to its graphic novels and the Walking Dead event, Image's market shares vaulted to near 13%, both for units and dollars. A consequence: Marvel and DC's combined market shares were at their lowest level since August 2017.

The market shares:

PublisherDollar ShareUnit Share
Dark Horse3.32%2.41%
Random House0.78%0.16%

The top-selling comics by units:

1Batman #56$3.99DC
2The Walking Dead #1 15th Anniversary Ed.$2.99Image
3Spider-Geddon #1$3.99Marvel
4Batman #57$3.99DC
5Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider #1$3.99Marvel
6Heroes In Crisis #2$3.99DC
7Venom #7$3.99Marvel
8Justice League #10$3.99DC
9Amazing Spider-Man #7$3.99Marvel
10Amazing Spider-Man #8$3.99Marvel

The top-selling comics by dollars:

1Batman #56$3.99DC
2Spider-Geddon #1$3.99Marvel
3Venom #7$3.99Marvel
4Batman #57$3.99DC
5Venom Annual #1$4.99Marvel
6Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider #1$3.99Marvel
7Heroes In Crisis #2$3.99DC
8Amazing Spider-Man #7$3.99Marvel
9Amazing Spider-Man #8$3.99Marvel
10Justice League #10$3.99DC

The top-selling graphic novels by units:

1Batman: White Knight$19.99DC
2Wonder Woman Earth One Vol. 2 HC$24.99DC
3My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies HC$16.99Image
4Batman Vol. 7: The Wedding$16.99DC
5Gideon Falls Vol. 1: Black Barn$9.99Image
6Isola Vol. 1$9.99Image
7The Wicked & The Divine Vol. 7$17.99Image
8Death Or Glory Vol. 1$16.99Image
9Avengers By Jason Aaron Volime 1: Final Host$17.99Marvel
10Batman & The Justice League Manga Vol. 1$12.99DC

The top-selling graphic novels by dollars:

1Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 2 HC$24.99DC
2Batman: White Knight$19.99DC
3My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies HC$16.99Image
4Amazing Spider-Man By Michelinie & McFarlane Omnibus HC$100.00Marvel
5The Walking Dead Compendium 15th Annv Box Set$200.00Image
6Batman Vol. 7: The Wedding $16.99DC
7The Wicked & The Divine Vol. 7$17.99Image
8X-Men: Grand Design: Second Genesis$29.99Marvel
9Tomb Of Dracula Omnibus Vol. 1 HC$100.00Marvel
10Marvelocity: The Marvel Comic Art of Alex Ross HC$50.00Pantheon

Finally, the number of new items offered. The Image comics number is its highest in four years, but it's partially because all fifteen of the Walking Dead anniversary editions would have been tabulated as individual releases:

Graphic Novels
Dark Horse2320043
TOTAL SHIPPED526440381004

Lastly, the chart at right is a pretty good visualization of the market over the last couple of years — at least in terms of its month-to-month status. It shows year-to-date performance, as it changed every month in 2017 and 2018. (It is not sales levels — it's how the year compared to the year before at each point.)

You'll see that 2017 started off softly, but that the year really lost ground as it got to summer, and the months where DC's Rebirth issues entered the 2016 tallies. By August, the hole was dug — and things stabilized in September as Legacy began to ramp up: it's also the first time I noted any hint of a change. It turned out we'd found something close to a bottom: the first months of 2018 are a bit distorted because January had a ship week that March didn't. Beginning in April with Action #1000, the market began a long, more or less steady trek to claw its way out of the red.

So as expected, October put the year-to-date slightly ahead and November may well return it slightly behind, leaving December as the deciding factor. We beat December 2017's sales this September by 17%, so the prospects for a sixth up year in seven remain good. Click to see what we know about November and December 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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