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Friday, December 7, 2018

November comics orders down on smallest new issue release slate since before Rebirth

by John Jackson Miller

 Find this issue at TFAW2018 is going to come down to a photo finish. We already knew that November comics orders would come in behind those of November 2017, due to that month having an extra New Comics Day, bringing the year-to-date figure back into the red and making December the deciding factor. The question was how much December would need to make up.

According to preliminary figures released today by Diamond Comic Distributors, the November loss came in on higher end of our estimated range for two major reasons: even with the shortened calendar, comics publishers did not commit nearly as many titles to the month — and increasingly, much of the holiday graphic novel business has moved to October. Click to visit our page for November 2018 comics sales estimates; the figures will be posted there on Monday.

Fully 121 fewer new comics were released versus the same month in 2017, a drop of 22%; that's the smallest new comics slate since April 2016, before the DC Rebirth event began. Marvel's 79 new comic books was its lowest number of new releases since October 2015 — and DC's 67 new comics were down from 95 the previous year. Through the end of November, publishers have released 5,155 comic books in 2018, versus 5,472 in 2017. The year is not going to catch up; it's like 2017 had a few extra weeks of comics. 2018 has seen 6% fewer new periodical releases.

 Find this book at TFAWThat figure exactly matches the comics unit sales drop for the year — and is, in fact, evidence that comics periodicals are doing better, per release, than they were in 2017. Comics dollar sales this year are up close to 1.5% on those 6% fewer releases — and we know 2017's units were padded by many overships and 25¢ issues, so the true unit performance is probably a couple of points better than that 6%. So the "sales per issue" performance is better.

Graphic novel slates were 12% smaller this November than in the previous November, but the 840-title October-November slate this year was actually 5% larger than 2017's total number of offerings. With Halloween being a New Comics Day, a big chunk of releases in advance of the holidays landed in October, instead. Dollar and unit sales changes for graphic novels are in a narrow range, so it doesn't appear that deep-discounting played a larger-than-usual role in the month.
 Find this book at TFAW
Despite the month's drop overall and its smaller slate, Marvel actually had a better month than it did the year before; its overall dollar sales were up 3%. The publisher had the top comic book in dollar and unit sales in Uncanny X-Men #1, priced at $7.99. The top dollar graphic novel was X-Men: Mutant Massacre, priced at $100. It was also a big month for Venom. In addition to the surprising strong performance of the character's film in theaters, Marvel had the top graphic novel in Venom by Donny Cates Vol. 1 and a top-three new-comics finisher in Web of Venom: Carnage Born #1.

DC benefited from a new Green Lantern #1, placing second. Overall, it was a much softer month for DC comparatively, year-over-year, largely because of the aforemetioned smaller slate; DC also had timing issues in play, as November had no new releases from Doomsday Clock or the bimonthly Batman Damned. Both those get new issues in December.  Image was off single-digits year-to-year after a big graphic novel month, and Dark Horse was up substantially.

The charts are below, as are some scenarios for 2018's final totals. We also have our explanatory video online:

Be sure to subscribe on Youtube to get all the videos as they release.

The comparative sales statistics:

November 2018 Vs. October 2018
Graphic Novels-21.10%-23.49%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels-17.81%-19.99%
November 2018 Vs. November 2017
Graphic Novels-30.36%-31.11%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels-13.61%-13.02%
Year-To-Date 2018 Vs. Year-To-Date 2017
Graphic Novels-6.67%-7.25%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels-0.98%-6.15%

The market shares:

PublisherDollar ShareUnit Share
Dark Horse3.37%2.58%

On the unit charts, we see that Amazing Spider-Man #10 beat #9 — there was a J. Scott Campbell variant available based on orders received for #10. (Thanks to Ryan Higgins for the heads-up!) The top-selling comics by units:

1Uncanny X-Men #1$7.99Marvel
2Green Lantern #1$4.99DC
3Web of Venom: Carnage Born #1$4.99Marvel
4Amazing Spider-Man #10$3.99Marvel
5Batman #58$3.99DC
6Batman #59$3.99DC
7Amazing Spider-Man #9$3.99Marvel
8Heroes In Crisis #3$3.99DC
9Avengers #10$5.99Marvel
10Venom #8$3.99Marvel

We see that in the dollar rankings, Web of Venom: Carnage Born #1 passed Green Lantern #1, which was ahead of it on the unit charts. How could that be, when they both cost the same? Simple: the dollar charts are based on invoiced dollars, or what retailers paid Diamond. The mix of retailers ordering Green Lantern must have gotten a slightly better discount from DC than the mix ordering Venom got from Marvel comics. Every retailer's discount is calculated individually based on their order volumes.

The The top-selling comics by dollars:

1Uncanny X-Men #1$7.99Marvel
2Web of Venom: Carnage Born #1$4.99Marvel
3Green Lantern #1$4.99DC
4Avengers #10$5.99Marvel
5Amazing Spider-Man #10$3.99Marvel
6Batman #58$3.99DC
7Batman #59$3.99DC
8Amazing Spider-Man #9$3.99Marvel
9Heroes In Crisis #3$3.99DC
10Venom #8$3.99Marvel

The top-selling graphic novels by units:

1Venom by Donny Cates Vol. 1: Rex$17.99Marvel
2Thanos: The Infinity Conflict HC$24.99Marvel
3Justice League Vol. 1: The Totality$17.99DC
4Black Eyed Peas Presents: Masters Of The Sun: The  Zombie Chronicles$24.99Marvel
5Amazing Spider-Man By Nick Spencer Vol. 1: Back To Basics$15.99Marvel
6The Immortal Hulk Vol. 1: Or Is He Both?$15.99Marvel
7Batman: White Knight$19.99DC
8Unnatural Vol. 1: Awakening$9.99Image
9Star Wars: Lando: Double or Nothing$15.99Marvel
10Domino Vol. 1: Killer Instinct$17.99Marvel

The top-selling graphic novels by dollars:

1X-Men Mutant: Massacre Omnibus HC$100.00Marvel
2Thanos: The Infinity Conflict HC$24.99Marvel
3Absolute Transmetropolitan Vol. 3 HC$125.00DC
4Silver Surfer By Slott And Allred Omnibus HC$75.00Marvel
5Black Eyed Peas Presents: Masters Of The Sun: The Zombie Chronicles$24.99Marvel
6Venom by Donny Cates Vol. 1: Rex$17.99Marvel
7Firefly: Big Damn Heroes Box Set$150.00Boom
8Wonder Woman: The Golden Age Omnibus Vol. 3 HC$125.00DC
9Marvel Masterworks: The Mighty Thor Vol. 17 HC$75.00Marvel
10Justice League Vol. 1: The Totality$17.99DC

Finally, the number of new items offered:

Graphic Novels
Dark Horse1619035
TOTAL SHIPPED42339922844

Which brings us back to December's role in how 2018 finishes. As the autumn has progressed, I've been tending to think that the market would finish slightly ahead for one reason: that December 2017 was such a low target to beat. Its orders of $38.49 million made it the weakest month of 2017, worse than any winter month earlier in the year. The size of November's slate reduction, however, has increased the difficulty.

There are a number of scenarios for 2018 overall:

• If December orders are down by no more than 13% (a $33.54 million month):
The second half of 2018 will finish ahead of the second half of 2017.

• If December orders are flat year-over-year ($38.49 million): 
2018 will finish at $519.57 million, down 0.5%.

• If December orders are up at least 7% ($41.07 million):
The 4th Quarter of 2018 will finish positive, resulting in three up quarters in a row.

• If December orders are up at least 12% ($43.27 million):
2018 will finish above $522.24 million, ahead of 2017.

(Remember, the above totals are only for orders placed through Diamond; retailers order graphic novels from other distributors, as well, and of course book channel performance is a separate thing.)

So looking at the above, a second-half beat is very likely; that's because the weak part of 2018 was last winter. As to whether the other targets can be beaten, what is likely to matter most is how much material publishers bring to market. Advance reorders for December 2018 showed good results for Batman Who Laughs #1 and Batman Damned #2, as well as the Aquaman Omnibus, timed for the new movie.

So stay tuned — and drop back Monday when we'll have the individual title sales estimates for November.

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, including Star Wars, Star Trek, Halo, Mass Effect, and Battlestar Galactica.

He is also 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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