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


Friday, September 13, 2019

Absolute Carnage, Marvel #1000, X-Men reboot lead August sales; Marvel dollar share at 22-year high

by John Jackson Miller

 See eBay listings for this issueThe question going into August was whether Marvel Comics #1000, Absolute Carnage #1, and HoX/PoX — the biweekly alternating House of X/Powers of X combo from Marvel — would add enough to the month to offset the fact that August 2018 had an additional shipping week. They were not, though they went some distance toward it, according to data released today by Diamond Comic Distributors. This August's orders were down year-over-year by a smaller amount than July's orders were up, and that was the month that got the extra Wednesday this summer. As a result, July and August combined this year clocked in at a slight increase over the same nine-week period last year.

We'll have the issue-by-issue estimates for the month on Monday; look for them on our August 2019 page.

So we find that after a $45 million month, things are basically still flat for 2019 so far, with retailer orders through Diamond standing at nearly $343 million year-to-date, down less than $1 million from the same eight months in 2018. The largest shortfall in the month by far was in graphic novels, down 20% in dollars versus last August; there was a major sale of graphic novels that month, with many deep discounts. The calendar certainly played a role, as 10% fewer new graphic novels were released.

But it's also reasonable to speculate that the big-ticket comics had the effect of drawing dollars away from the category; all but two of the top ten comics by units were priced at $4.99 or above. There's a good chance of record-breaking average cover prices once the full estimates are reported.

The $9.99 Marvel Comics #1000, which some had suggested itself might see record numbers, came in first in dollars but second in units behind Absolute Carnage, which was only $2 cheaper at $7.99. Marvel #1000 also shipped the last week of the month, and we already know that it's led September reorders in its first week of eligibility, so we haven't seen the full story on that one. ("Megacomics" priced at $8-10 is a category it's been difficult to project results for; Action Comics #1000, Detective Comics #1000 and Amazing Spider-Man #800 likely benefited from being parts of existing series, which would have started with bases of subscribers to draw upon.) Marvel was up 6% in dollars in August against a Fantastic Four #1-fortified month from 2018. Marvel's unit market share last month was almost exactly 50%.

(Update, 6:30 EDT, 9/13: I've confirmed that Marvel's dollar market share, 46.15%, is the highest it's ever been since Diamond began reporting final order shares in August 1997. The previous high was set just in April. DC's 24.86% share is its lowest since October 2015; Image's 6.32% dollar share was its lowest since September 2012.)

Find this book at TFAW
DC and Image were down year-over-year, with smaller new comic-book slates from both publishers. Last August, DC had 72 new comic books on the racks; this year, the figure was 64, and it looks like 12 of those were releases that Diamond counted twice because they were cardstock covers priced at a dollar higher. Half as many cardstock covers were offered in August than came out in July: August's batch included Aquaman #51, Batgirl #38, Batman #76, Catwoman #14, Flash #76 and #77, Green Lantern #10, Justice League #30, Justice League Odyssey #12, and two different versions of DCeased #4. It's likely that Batman #76, at least, might have appeared in the Top 10 otherwise. Batman/Superman #1 was DC's top comic book, the only $3.99 issue to make the top ten by dollars.

Image, meanwhile, went from 61 new comics on the racks last August to 47, while its graphic novel slate shrank from 16 new items to just nine, according to Diamond. But it got a strong performance from Walking Dead Vol. 32, which topped graphic novel sales in both units and dollars.

Every comparison in 2019 has needed that caveat that fewer comics have come from DC, which had published 100 more comics by this point in 2018; the numbers to date were 624 in 2018 versus 524 now, a number which is really in the high 400s when the cardstock covers are removed. Image is much the same, having gone from 496 new comics to 398. That factor wanes in the comparisons starting in the 4th quarter. (Remember, we're counting unique story interiors here, not variants; Diamond's new release charts count how many different stories publishers offered, not how many different SKUs retailers had a chance to carry.) Marvel, for its part, has released 120 more new comics year-to-date than it did last year at this point.

The comparative sales statistics:

August 2019 Vs. July 2019
Graphic Novels-5.13%+0.26%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels-5.78%-9.06%
August 2019 Vs. August 2018
Graphic Novels-20.11%-21.96%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels-5.76%-5.94%
Year To Date 2019 Vs. Year To Date 2018
Graphic Novels-3.24%-8.55%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels-0.26%-4.68%

The market shares:

PublisherDollar ShareUnit Share
Dark Horse3.27%2.65%

The top-selling comics by units:

1Absolute Carnage #1$7.99Marvel
2Marvel Comics #1000$9.99Marvel
3Batman/Superman #1*$3.99DC
4House of X #3$4.99Marvel
5Powers of X #2$4.99Marvel
6House of X #2$4.99Marvel
7Powers of X #3$4.99Marvel
8Absolute Carnage #2$4.99Marvel
9Batman #77$3.99DC
10Batman: Curse of The White Knight #2$4.99DC

The asterisk means Batman/Superman's reported sales were reduced due to returnability. And remember, Batman #76's sales were split between editions.

The top-selling comics by dollars:

1Marvel Comics #1000$9.99Marvel
2Absolute Carnage #1$7.99Marvel
3Batman/Superman #1*$3.99DC
4Superman: Year One #2*$7.99DC
5Powers of X #2$4.99Marvel
6House of X #3$4.99Marvel
7House of X #2$4.99Marvel
8Powers of X #3$4.99Marvel
9Absolute Carnage #2$4.99Marvel
10Batman: Curse of The White Knight #2$4.99DC

The top-selling graphic novels by units:

1Walking Dead Vol. 32$16.99Image
2Batman Who Laughs HC$29.99DC
3Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass$16.99DC
5War of The Realms$29.99Marvel
6Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Declassified Slipcase HC$49.99Marvel
7Star Wars: Vader: Dark Visions$15.99Marvel
8Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug And Cat Noir Season 2 Vol. 4: No Evil Doing$8.99Action Lab
9Disney Descendants: Evie's Wicked Runway Vol. 2$15.99Tokyopop
10Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 1: Final Gauntlet$17.99Marvel

The top-selling graphic novels by dollars:

1Walking Dead Vol. 32$16.99Image
2The Batman Who Laughs HC$29.99DC
3Saga Compendium Volume 1$59.99Image
4War of The Realms$29.99Marvel
5Joker: The Bronze Age Omnibus HC$99.99DC
7Marvel Masters of Suspense: Lee & Ditko Omnibus Volume 1 HC$100.00Marvel
8Amazing Spider-Man: Hunted$39.99Marvel
9Boys Omnibus Volume 1$29.99Dynamite
10Mister Miracle HC$34.99DC

Finally, the number of new items offered:

Dark Horse2118039
TOTAL SHIPPED43132824783

So an up-and-down year, netting out flat, continues to be the story for 2019 despite all the high-profile releases so far. September 2018 was almost identical in dollar sales to last month, so the next question is whether September 2019's heavy hitters, with the addition of Spawn #300, can keep pace. Last September was a very good month for graphic novels, as well, so there'll be ground to make up in that department as well.

Like 2018 before it, 2019 isn't far from the low-single-digit percentage increases seen in most of this decade; the final third of the year at least has a shot at getting back there. Helping in that regard will be the fact that this fall, we’ll finally be getting out of the months where we’re comparing against DC new-comics release slates from 2018 that regularly numbered in the 70s and 80s.

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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