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Friday, June 7, 2019

DCeased #1 leads May 2019 comics orders; Marvel's new comics slate may be largest since 1993

by John Jackson Miller

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May's orders of comic books and graphic novels in the comics shop market were higher than in any month since last October, but not quite good enough to beat May 2018, which had Amazing Spider-Man #800 among other blockbusters in the mix. Retailers ordered almost exactly $47 million in comic books and graphic novels from Diamond Comic Distributors this May, including 7.27 million comic books; both of those figures were down 4% year-over-year versus last May.

DC's DCeased #1 led new comics periodicals; we'll report on its estimated sales on Monday, when you'll be able to click here to find estimated sales figures for May 2019.

The tale of two strategies we've seen in 2019 continued with Marvel publishing more different periodical titles, and DC and Image publishing fewer. Diamond reported that market-share leader Marvel shipped 118 new comic books to market, a figure that's higher than any since Diamond began reporting monthly release counts in 2013. We're not absolutely certain that figure represents only unique new comic books, with no second or later printings included; it depends on how Diamond is keeping track. But if that 118 number holds, it’s likely to be the highest figure this century. Marvel placed 119 comics in the Top 300 in June 2009, but several of those were previously listed books that had been reordered.

(Update: I've confirmed the understanding I previously assumed to be correct — that second and later printings are not counted as new titles, but $1 reprints like the True Believers books are counted as new and distinct publications. So the 118 number is solid. Variants are only counted separately if they're at a different price point as the "regular" version.)

The month's total wouldn't be an all-time record, though. At the peak of the early 1990s comics boom, Marvel shipped 126 new comic books to retailers in August 1993, of which 123 issues made Diamond's Top 300. That appears to be the all-time record for it or any other American publisher.

Regardless, Marvel's May total was 26 more comics than it released in May 2018 — and necessary to allow the publisher to come close to its Spidey-fortified performance from that month. The total retail dollar value of Marvel's shipments to retailers was off single digits percentage-wise from that month. The publisher remains up 6% for the year.

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DC's 60 comics released in May 2019 was 14 fewer than last May, yet the publisher does appear to be succeeding at its stated goal: releasing fewer comics while increasing the sales of the ones it releases. Taking four of the top five slots on the comics charts, DC's shipments to retailers were up 5% in dollar terms versus last May, and its year-to-date shortfall narrowed to 4%. DC also had the top graphic novel by units in Lauren Myracle'Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale.

(Update: I've confirmed that DC's 25-cent Year of the Villain #1 was counted toward its unit market share, which is part of why the unit gap between DC and Marvel is narrow.)

Image, meanwhile, cut its offerings even more than DC did versus last May — releasing 38 new comic books in the month, the publisher's smallest slate since at least 2013. That's down from 65 comic books released in May 2018 — and the bottom line shows the impact, as Image's year-to-year sales to retailers for the month were greatly diminished. By this point in 2018, Image had shipped at least $4 million more in comics and graphic novels to retailers; that's twice the size of the industry's year-to-date shortfall.

Dark Horse, meanwhile, benefited from Umbrella Academy's Netflix show, placing fourth in dollar market share and landing three of the series' collections in the Top 10 Graphic Novels by units. The publisher's overall sales are up significantly year-over-year and also year-to-date.

May had one more shipping week than April (though the same number as last May), explaining part, but not all, of the boost in sales from that month; a 51% increase in graphic novel dollars over April is significant. We saw several hardcover-laden reorder charts in May, usually an indicator of sales and promotions. Graphic novel units are down versus last May by the same percentage that dollars are up, something explained partially by the fact that the $7.99 Tag & Bink Were Here #1 was classified as a graphic novel last May; it led the charts then with more than 16,000 units but didn't translate to as many dollars.

The year-to-date total slipped into the red for the first time in 2019, down less than 1%; orders through May 31 are $1.4 million shy of the total last year. That's less than a third of what Spidey #800 brought in last year, so the margin is fairly narrow.

The comparative sales statistics:

May 2019 Vs. April 2019
Graphic Novels+50.97%+44.63%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels+24.51%+16.35%
May 2019 Vs. May 2018
Graphic Novels+5.36%-5.36%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels-4.15%-4.38%
Year To Date 2019 Vs. Year To Date 2018
Graphic Novels-1.21%-5.94%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels-0.66%-5.18%

The market shares:

PublisherDollar ShareUnit Share
Dark Horse3.78%2.19%

The top-selling comics by units:

1DCeased #1$3.99DC
2Doomsday Clock #10$4.99DC
3Batman: Last Knight on Earth #1$5.99DC
4Savage Avengers #1$4.99Marvel
5The Batman Who Laughs #5$4.99DC
6Amazing Spider-Man #21$3.99Marvel
7The Immortal Hulk #17$3.99Marvel
8Batman #70$3.99DC
9Batman #71$3.99DC
10Amazing Spider-Man #22$3.99Marvel

The top-selling comics by dollars:

1DCeased #1$3.99DC
2Batman: Last Knight On Earth #1$5.99DC
3Doomsday Clock #10$4.99DC
4The Batman Who Laughs #5$4.99DC
5Savage Avengers #1$4.99Marvel
6The Immortal Hulk #17$3.99Marvel
7Amazing Spider-Man #21$3.99Marvel
8War Of Realms #3$4.99Marvel
9War Of Realms #4$4.99Marvel
10Batman #70$3.99DC

The top-selling graphic novels by units:

1Under The Moon: A Catwoman Tale$16.99DC
2Umbrella Academy Vol. 1: The Apocalypse Suite$17.99Dark Horse
3Middlewest Book 1$9.99Image
4Umbrella Academy Vol. 2: Dallas$17.99Dark Horse
5East Of West Vol. 9$16.99Image
6DC Super Hero Girls: Spaced Out$9.99DC
7The Immortal Hulk Vol. 3: Hulk In Hell$15.99Marvel
8Legend Of Korra Part 1: Ruins Of Empire$10.99Dark Horse
9Rat Queens Vol. 6: Infernal Path$16.99Image
10Saga Deluxe Edition Vol. 3 HC$49.99Image

The top-selling graphic novels by dollars:

1Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus Vol. 4 HC$125.00Marvel
2Saga Deluxe Edition Vol. 3 HC$49.99Image
3Amazing Spider-Man By J. Michael Straczynski Omnibus Vol. 1  Hc$125.00Marvel
4Umbrella Academy Vol. 1: The Apocalypse Suite$17.99Dark Horse
5Under The Moon: A Catwoman Tale DC Ink$16.99DC
6Umbrella Academy Vol. 2: Dallas$17.99Dark Horse
7East Of West Vol. 9$16.99Image
8Six Days: The Incredible Story Of D-Day's Lost Chapter HC$24.99DC
9Absolute Batman: The Black Mirror HC$99.99DC
10Batman: White Knight HC$29.99DC

Finally, the number of new items offered:

Dark Horse2230052

While April and May of 2018 were banner months for the business, last June represented a slight pause in that year's momentum, so getting back to even this month is at least possible. (Then July 2018's Batman #50 sales will presumably lend that year a boost, before August's Marvel Comics #1000 sends the pendulum back in 2019's direction.)

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 — and, releasing on July 30, Star Trek: Discovery - The Enterprise War. Read more about them at his fiction site.

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Saad said...

Is DC's unit share that high because of the 25-cent Year of the Villain or is their some other reason?

John Jackson Miller said...

We've confirmed that that is the case. The post has been updated accordingly.

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