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

 

Friday, January 18, 2019

December 2018 sales slightly off on smallest new comics slate in years; DC's 52 new comics its fewest since 1991

by John Jackson Miller


 Find this comic at TFAW
The December report for comics sales is always a strange one, because the annual report from Diamond Comic Distributors, which these days gets released before it, obviously has December data baked into it. From the annual report, we already know many of the top entries in the charts—and from the indexed charts, we know how many copies those issues sold. (Click to see the Top Thousand Comics and Graphic Novels for 2018.)

The annual report also sometimes includes metrics
, and while often they come from the monthly change tables, at other times they've reflected more complete information, factoring in sales not included in the monthly reports. (Read more about that dynamic here.) So it is that the December 2018 report arrives with some information already known, and a little more explanation than usual on a few fronts. (UPDATE: The sales estimates for all comics in the month are now online here.)

Batman Who Laughs #1 was the top-selling comic book in December, with orders (already known from the annual report) of more than 226,000 copies. DC had all five of the top five comics — yet in a month that was down 2% for the business overall, the publisher was down 11% in dollar orders versus December 2017.

A possible contributing factor: DC only released 52 new comic books in December, which appears to be the lowest number in any month for that publisher since September 1991. (Click to see our 1991 page.) Meanwhile, Marvel, which had 90 comic books out, slightly over its annual average for 2018, was up 12% in dollars year-over-year in December.

The fact that more new titles being offered often correlates with higher overall sales may not be much of a surprise; at the same time, it wouldn't be strange at all for publishers and retailers to prefer to have more profit coming in from a smaller number of titles that perform better on average. In December 2018, they got their way in that fully 11% fewer comic books came out versus the same month last year; at 398 releases, it was the smallest number in any month in at least four years. Yet the number of units sold in the month was only slightly down versus December 2017.

However, that was not the rule during 2018 overall: we now know that 5,553 new comics came out in 2018, down 6% from the 5,919 in 2017 — and comics unit sales were down for the year by 6%. In 2018, lighter new release volume coincided with an equally lighter number of copies sold.

The usual caveats with new-release volume measures apply. They count the number of unique comic book interiors, regardless of variant covers; the number of stories, if you will. Retailers actually were coping with many more specific items to order and stock; 87% of the Top 1,000 comics of 2018 had variants, and 97% of the Top 100. But the median number of copies of a single comic book purchased by individual consumers is still one; total purchases do not increase in parallel with the number of variants, because most people just want one copy to read. It's the fact that that "one copy" might not be the main cover that makes retailers' lives more complicated.

(The holiday schedule did play a role in output in December; Diamond limited Christmas week to a book apiece from major publishers. It did reduce slates overall, but not everyone's: Marvel's 90 releases were 11 more than November, and several other publishers were above their 2018 averages. The other weeks were just heavier.)

Analysis of the monthly table grids suggests that the month came in at $37.61 million in comics, graphic novels and magazines shipped — slightly less than December 2017, possibly due in part to the unexpectedly small number of releases. That puts the year-end at nearly $517 million at full retail. The aggregate charts:


DollarsUnits
December 2018 Vs. November 2018
Comics-3.53%-3.58%
Graphic Novels-17.46%-17.18%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels-7.35%-4.55%
Toys-58.05%-53.99%
December 2018 Vs. December 2017
Comics+9.29%-0.42%
Graphic Novels-26.35%-35.98%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels-2.26%-3.72%
Toys-44.01%-47.06%
Year 2018 Vs. Year 2017
Comics+2.04%-5.67%
Graphic Novels-8.22%-9.71%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels-1.08%-5.98%
Toys-6.39%-6.48%

(Update: Diamond has issued corrected charts, above; a previous version included the numbers reported in the 2018 end-of-year press release; which we assumed were reflective of a larger and more accurate data set in our Monday analysis; those figures have been corrected in the Diamond release as well.)

Diamond did not release quarterly and half-year information in its grids, but we calculate that were one to go just from the monthly charts, the quarter was slightly down, and the second half of the year was slightly up.

The market shares:

PublisherDollar ShareUnit Share
Marvel38.57%44.09%
DC31.51%30.75%
Image8.73%9.06%
IDW4.10%3.66%
Boom2.98%2.38%
Dark Horse2.82%2.37%
Dynamite2.11%2.10%
Viz1.03%0.38%
Titan0.82%0.59%
Valiant0.71%0.78%
Other6.62%3.85%

The top-selling comics by units:

TOP COMIC BOOKS (by units)PRICEPUBLISHER
1Batman Who Laughs #1$4.99DC
2Batman: Damned #2$6.99DC
3Doomsday Clock #8$4.99DC
4Batman #60$3.99DC
5Batman #61$3.99DC
6Amazing Spider-Man #11$3.99Marvel
7Fantastic Four #5$7.99Marvel
8Amazing Spider-Man #12$3.99Marvel
9Batman Annual #3$4.99DC
10Shazam #1$4.99DC

The top-selling comics by dollars:

TOP COMIC BOOKS (by dollars)PRICEPUBLISHER
1Batman Who Laughs #1$4.99DC
2Batman: Damned #2$6.99DC
3Doomsday Clock #8$4.99DC
4Fantastic Four #5$7.99Marvel
5Batman #60$3.99DC
6Batman #61$3.99DC
7Batman Annual #3$4.99DC
8Shazam #1$4.99DC
9Infinity Wars #6$5.99Marvel
10Fantastic Four Wedding Special #1$4.99Marvel

The top-selling graphic novels by units:

TOP GRAPHIC NOVELS (by units)PRICEPUBLISHER
1Paper Girls Vol. 5$14.99Image
2Batman Vol. 8: Cold Days$16.99DC
3Avatar: The Last Airbender: Imbalance Part One$10.99Dark Horse
4Saban's Power Rangers: Soul Dragon Original$19.99Boom
5Star Wars Vol. 9: Hope Dies$19.99Marvel
6The Flash Vol. 8: Flash War$16.99DC
7My Hero Academia Vol. 16$9.99Viz
8Thor Vol. 1: God Of Thunder Reborn$17.99Marvel
9Venom: First Host$15.99Marvel
10Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 8: On The Outside$16.99DC

The top-selling graphic novels by dollars:

TOP GRAPHIC NOVELS (by dollars)PRICEPUBLISHER
1Paper Girls Vol. 5$14.99Image
2Batman: The Golden Age Omnibus Vol. 6 HC$125.00DC
3Fantastic Four By Waid & Wieringo Omnibus HC$100.00Marvel
4Marvel Masterworks: Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 20 HC$75.00Marvel
5Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale: Yellow, Blue, Gray & White Omnibus HC$100.00Marvel
6Batman Vol. 8: Cold Days$16.99DC
7Saban's Power Rangers: Soul Dragon Original$19.99Boom
8Marvel Universe By John Byrne Omnibus Vol. 2 HC$125.00Marvel
9Before Watchmen Omnibus HC$125.00DC
10Wonder Woman Diana Prince: Celebrating The 60S Omnibus HC$125.00DC

Finally, the number of new items offered:

PublisherComics
shipped
Graphic
Novels
shipped
Magazines
shipped
Total shipped
Marvel90380128
DC5237190
Image5210062
IDW3210042
Boom2416040
Dark Horse2111032
Viz023023
Titan87217
Dynamite131014
Valiant5207
Other1011139223
TOTAL SHIPPED39826812678

No videos right away this month, as there's still a lot of data to digest, and the December estimates are yet to be done. Those estimates should appear here soon.


Comichron founder John Jackson Miller has tracked the comics industry for more than 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 the just-announced Star Trek: Discovery - The Enterprise War, releasing July 30 from Gallery Books, as well as Star Wars: Kenobi and the Star Trek: Prey trilogy. Read more about them at his fiction site.

Be sure to follow Comichron on Twitter and Facebook, and check out our Youtube channel.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The 2018 Two Thousand: A look at the 1,000 top-selling comics and graphic novels ordered by comic shops

by John Jackson Miller


With the release of 2018 end-of-year comics orders from Diamond Comic Distributors, Comichron has drawn upon that information to project estimates for the Top Thousand Comics and the Top Thousand Graphic Novels for 2018. The tables are on the page just beneath the image links to individual months.

This year's charts have our sorting and searching features implemented, as now do our previous 27 years of annual charts, going back to 1991. You can find the links to them, along with updated comparatives for how the market as a whole did across that time, by viewing our Yearly Comics Sales page.

 Find eBay listings for this issue

Led by Action Comics #1000, the Top Thousand Comics accounted for around 50.43 million copies; we don't yet know how many copies Diamond sold altogether. (We'll see that when the December data comes out.) This is an increase of 1.5% in units over what the Top Thousand sold in 2017.

Here are the totals for the Top Thousand Comics from the past few years. Diamond did not release figures for 2016, but we calculated minimum values for the Top Thousand based on known orders and reorders from that year:

2010: 45.3 million copies
2011: 47 million copies
2012: 53.43 million copies
2013: 52.21 million copies
2014: 52.07 million copies
2015: 58.59 million copies
2016: 59.8 million (minimum, probably slightly higher)
2017: 49.68 million copies
2018: 50.43 million copies

As you can see, 2018's figure comes in under 2012's — but we know that Diamond sold more comics in 2017 than in 2012, so it may have done so in 2018, too. This is a consequence of the Top Thousand representing a smaller portion of the distributor's volume. In full retail dollars, the Top Thousand Comics likely sold for $213.3 million, a big 11% leap over 2017's $190.6 million. That's a consequence of the top sellers being so much more expensive; $8 and $10 were not impediments to sales, in many cases.

Almost everything in the Top 100 had "multiple order codes" at Diamond, meaning there were variant covers or reprints combined into one entry; sometimes it's not a simultaneous variant, but rather a reprint with a different cover.

Breaking down unit sales — and again employing our estimated minimums for 2016 — we see a rebound in the higher tiers in 2018, but declines in the midrange and lower-tier sellers, in part a consequence of so many fewer comics (not variants, but unique interiors) being released in the year. The first chart shows what's in each bracket; the second is a cumulative measure:

NUMBER OF COMIC BOOK ISSUES SELLING THIS MANY COPIES DURING YEAR


200,000+100,000+75k-100k50k-75k25k-50k10k-25k
200923980260
201002668209652
201134244257641
2012563662746971150
20136641142127381302
2014436682937941158
20152174722007991114
2016*1183111261n.a.n.a.
2017346502338341200
20181144771797631104


NUMBER OF COMIC BOOK ISSUES SELLING
AT LEAST THIS MANY COPIES DURING YEAR
200,000+100,000+75,000+50,000+25,000+10,000+
2009239119379n.a.
201002694303955
201134286343984
201256312940311002250
201366417839011282430
201444010840111952353
2015219516736711662280
2016*1194205466n.a.n.a.
20173499933211662366
2018115513231110742178

2018 actually wound up better than 2014 when it came to the number of comics moving more than 100,000 copies. But the number selling between 50,000 and 75,000 copies is the lowest it's been this decade.

(Update: I was asked about variants. Fully 870 of the 1,000 bestselling issues in 2018 had multiple covers; 464 of the top 500, and 97 out of the top 100. That's 87%, 93%, and 97%. It's not localized to any one publisher; every single one with issues in the Top 1000 had some with variants. In 2018, it was standard.)

Every year we also add a number of items to the Top Comics of the Decade and the Top Comics of the Century (So Far, in each case) lists. A large number of new entrants, this time: The year 2018 added 21 comics to the 300 bestselling comics of the 2010s, with Action #1000 placing fifth, behind 2015's Star Wars #1, 2014's Amazing Spider-Man #1, 2015's Secret Wars #1, and 2009's Amazing Spider-Man #583. It also added 34 comics to the 300 bestselling comics of the 21st Century, with Action #1000 placing fourth.


 Find this book at TFAW
The Top Thousand Graphic Novels, led by Infinity Gauntlet, went for $58.2 million. This is a major 20% drop from 2017's $73.19 million.

2011: $58.4 million
2012: $71.4 million
2013: $79.03 million
2014: $81.19 million
2015: $81.46 million
2016: $69.48 million (minimum, likely a good deal higher)
2017: $73.19 million
2018: $58.2 million

That brings the year down just below what it was in 2011. Accounting for the difference: a lot of money was tied up in comics this year, which beat their 2017 performance, and the Walking Dead factor appears to have faded from what it was in previous years. It's also likely many of the graphic novels are still being sold to retailers, just not necessarily by Diamond.

Overall graphic novel sales were reported by Diamond to be down only 6.6%, which tells us that the long tail is where more of the business is being done. It's just that the bestsellers of 2018 weren't as popular; more of the sales went to a wider variety of books.

Combined, the Top Thousand Comics and Top Thousand Graphic Novel lists account for more than half of all the orders by dollars Diamond received for print products in 2018, a slight increase.

Who published the Top Thousand Comics this year? Here's the breakdown:

Marvel: 535 (+33)
DC: 399 (-60)
Image: 52 (+23)
Boom: 3 (+3)
Dark Horse: 3 (unchanged)
IDW: 3 (+1)
Valiant: 2 (-1)
Archie: 1 (+1)
Dynamite: 1 (unchanged)
Oni: 1 (+1)


DC, which published many fewer comics in 2018, saw the biggest drop, with gains to Marvel and Image. Titan dropped out of the list.

And here's the publisher breakdown of the Top Thousand Graphic Novels. Those with 10 or more entries:

Marvel: 312 (+8)
DC: 277 (-29)
Image: 190 (+2)
 Viz: 58 (+17)
Dark Horse: 50 (unchanged)
Boom: 30 (+8)
IDW: 14 (-4)
Oni: 14 (unchanged)

Big move for Viz, moving into fourth, with Marvel passing DC.

So that's the year that was. December data will be on the way later.


Comichron founder John Jackson Miller has tracked the comics industry for more than 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 the just-announced Star Trek: Discovery - The Enterprise War, releasing July 30 from Gallery Books, as well as Star Wars: Kenobi and the Star Trek: Prey trilogy. Read more about them at his fiction site.

Be sure to follow Comichron on Twitter and Facebook, and check out our Youtube channel.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Diamond's combined comics and graphic novel sales up slightly in 2018; Action #1000, Infinity Gauntlet top titles

by John Jackson Miller


Diamond Comic Distributors has released its annual top-sellers list for 2018, and the entries are basically as we had projected them here through November at Comichron — and our projected dollar market shares were spot-on. We also got from the data a little information about what sold in December.

 See eBay listings for this book
To no one's surprise, April's Action Comics #1000 was the top-selling comic book to comics specialty shops in 2018, and Infinity Gauntlet, a 1991 release, was the top-selling graphic novel. The one December entry in the comics top ten is clearly going to be the #1 comic for December: Batman Who Laughs #1.

 Find this book at TFAWMeanwhile, there's a split decision on annual sales: Diamond reports that annual dollar sales of comic books were up 2.04%, that graphic novel dollar sales were down 8.22%, and that combined comics and graphic novel sales were down slightly for the year, 1.08%. (Update: These figures are based on corrections Diamond made to the original release on Friday, Jan. 18, and replace earlier reported figures believed to have been reflective of a broader dataset than that which appears with the monthly charts. The discussion which had originally appeared in this post about the possible distinctions between the two sets is thus superfluous.)

First up are the market shares. Marvel's and Image's dollar shares were up slightly from 2017, DC's was stable. IDW's and Dark Horse's dollar shares declined:  (Update: These are also corrected comparisons; a previous version of this post had accidentally compared 2018 dollars with 2017 units.)


PublisherDollar ShareUnit Share
Marvel38.24%40.40%
DC30.04%33.82%
Image9.93%9.90%
IDW3.83%3.30%
Dark Horse2.92%2.10%
Boom2.24%1.90%
Dynamite1.86%1.73%
Viz1.22%0.46%
Titan0.87%0.61%
Oni0.83%0.54%
Other8.01%5.25%

Here are the top-selling comics by units sold:

TOP COMIC BOOKS (by units)PRICEPUBLISHER
1Action Comics #1000$7.99DC
2Amazing Spider-Man #800$9.99Marvel
3Batman #50$4.99DC
4Fantastic Four #1$5.99Marvel
5Amazing Spider-Man #1$5.99Marvel
6Return of Wolverine #1$4.99Marvel
7Venom #1$4.99Marvel
8Amazing Spider-Man #798$3.99Marvel
9Batman Who Laughs #1$4.99DC
10Amazing Spider-Man #799$3.99Marvel

Here is that chart resorted to report the top-selling comics by dollars sold. The missing entries didn't make the unit Top 10, but we have good guesses at them here.

TOP COMIC BOOKS (by dollars)PRICEPUBLISHER
1Action Comics #1000$7.99DC
2Amazing Spider-Man #800$9.99Marvel
3Batman #50$4.99DC
4Fantastic Four #1$5.99Marvel
5Amazing Spider-Man #1$5.99Marvel
6Return of Wolverine #1$4.99Marvel
8Batman Who Laughs #1$4.99DC
9Venom #1$4.99Marvel
10Amazing Spider-Man #798$3.99Marvel
13Amazing Spider-Man #799$3.99Marvel

And now the top-selling graphic novels by units sold.



Saga Volumes 1 and 8 leapfrogged Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman with December sales. Only four of the top ten were published in 2018:

TOP GRAPHIC NOVELS (by units)PRICEPUBLISHER
1Infinity Gauntlet$24.99Marvel
2Saga Vol. 9$14.99Image
3Saga Vol. 1$9.99Image
4Saga Vol. 8$14.99Image
5Action Comics 80 Years of Superman HC$29.99DC
6Walking Dead Vol 29 Lines We Cross$16.99Image
7Paper Girls Vol. 1$9.99Image
8Batman White Knight$19.99DC
9Dark Nights Metal Deluxe Ed HC$29.99DC
10Monstress Vol. 1$9.99Image

And here is that chart resorted to report the top-selling graphic novels by dollars sold. Again, the missing entries didn't make the unit Top 10, but we have good guesses at them here.

TOP GRAPHIC NOVELS (by dollars)PRICEPUBLISHER
1Infinity Gauntlet$24.99Marvel
2Action Comics 80 Years of Superman HC$29.99DC
3Dark Nights Metal Deluxe Ed HC$29.99DC
4Saga Vol. 9$14.99Image
6Saga Vol. 8$14.99Image
7Batman White Knight$19.99DC
8Walking Dead Vol 29 Lines We Cross$16.99Image
19Saga Vol. 1$9.99Image
33Monstress Vol. 1$9.99Image
38Paper Girls Vol. 1$9.99Image

We'll have more material to analyze when the December data is released, but the basic read of the eleven monthly reports and the annual report is that 2018 was a mixed bag of a year where a virtuous cycle got going in the summer but started to run out of steam with fewer high-profile releases in the fourth quarter (and fewer new periodical releases in general, not counting variants). Six of the monthly performances were up year-over-year and six down.

Likely next up, this week: the Top 1000s for the year. Stay tuned!

Comichron founder John Jackson Miller has tracked the comics industry for more than 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 the just-announced Star Trek: Discovery - The Enterprise War, releasing July 30 from Gallery Books, as well as Star Wars: Kenobi and the Star Trek: Prey trilogy. Read more about them at his fiction site.

Be sure to follow Comichron on Twitter and Facebook, and check out our Youtube channel.
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