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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:

December 2018 Vs. November 2018
Graphic Novels-17.46%-17.18%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels-7.35%-4.55%
December 2018 Vs. December 2017
Graphic Novels-26.35%-35.98%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels-2.26%-3.72%
Year 2018 Vs. Year 2017
Graphic Novels-8.22%-9.71%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels-1.08%-5.98%

(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
Dark Horse2.82%2.37%

The top-selling comics by units:

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:

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:

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:

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:

Total shipped
Dark Horse2111032
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.

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