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


Friday, November 8, 2019

Blockbuster: X-Men relaunch powers October 2019 comics orders; $56.35 million month is fourth best in decade

by John Jackson Miller

Memories in the comics hobby are often short, a condition Comichron exists to help address. With a poor year for the comics shop market in 2017 and with much of 2018-19 spent bobbing along, neither gaining nor losing much ground, it's easy to forget that the decade of the 2010s has been a strong one for the industry, with regular and sometimes spectacular sales growth running from the DC "New 52" event in 2011 to DC's "Rebirth" event in 2016. It's not simply a story of inflation: by Thanksgiving, retailers will have ordered more new comic books in 2019 than they did in all of 2011 (and that includes that New 52 event). But apart from a few months dominated by big anniversary issues, the last three years really haven't had one of those blockbuster months like we saw in the earlier part of the decade.

 Find this issue at TFAW
With Walking Dead's 15th anniversary and the launch of the Batman: White Knight trade paperback, October 2018 was the strongest month of that year, so it was reasonable to speculate that October 2019 would have had some trouble matching up. It turned out there was no need for concern; in fact, we got the blockbuster. Where both this October and last October each had five New Comic Book Days, last month almost looks like a six-Wednesday month, as retailers ordered $56.35 million in comic books, graphic novels, and magazines from Diamond Comic Distributors. That's an increase of 14.09%, or nearly $7 million. Comic shop orders of comics, graphic novels, and magazines from Diamond stand at $446.25 million for the year through October, up nearly $8 million, or 2%. Our full estimates for the month will appear here on Monday.

October 2019 was the fourth best month of the decade in dollar orders, and the best month since August 2016, itself an outstanding month when retailers ordered more than 10 million comic books during the "Rebirth" event. Last month was also the first month to top $50 million in orders in exactly three years, since October 2016. Retailers ordered 8.82 million comics, an increase of 10% and likewise the most comics ordered in a single month in three years. Yet publishers actually released 1% fewer comics this October, five fewer. It was what the comic books were that mattered more.

October saw the launch of Jonathan Hickman's X-Men title, which placed first in dollars and units, and the wrap-up of Powers of X and House of X, whose finales placed third and fourth in units respectively. But it also would have seen reorders for the latter two titles becoming available in significant numbers, with more reprints in circulation —  and Marvel also benefited from Top 10 debuts from Amazing Mary Jane, Ghost Rider, and Marauders.We believe it was Marvel's best month in dollar terms since Civil War II debuted in June 2016; its year over year sales were up 32% during the month. An improved year for Marvel in 2019 is guaranteed; it will have taken in more revenue by the end of November than it did in all of 2018.

While the X-Men launch may be the most obvious factor, the industry hit on other cylinders as well. As noted several times this year in this space, DC had cut its new comics offerings deeply in 2019, to a point where we estimated that improved per-title sales weren't going to be able to help 2019 keep pace with 2018 overall. That situation has reversed. DC shipped 107 new comic books in October, a number — as in recent months — partially inflated by its cardstock covers receiving second entries at Diamond. We believe 17 comics fit that description in October, so the real number is more like 90 — but that's still a dozen more than last year, and DC's largest offering since November 2017.

 Find this book at TFAW
The larger slate mattered: DC's October dollar sales improved by 19% over the same month in 2018; it's still slightly behind year-to-date, but is at least in striking distance of flipping positive by year-end. The publisher got a big assist from Doomsday Clock Part 1 hardcover, which led graphic novels in dollars; with the Joker movie in theaters, Joker: Year of the Villain #1 was its top debut in comics, placing fifth in units.

Image's record-breaking Spawn got a second shot of sales; Spawn #301, which officially passed Cerebus in issue count, placed second, down one slot from September. The publisher also got the top graphic novel by dollars in the Walking Dead Compendium Vol. 4. Image's new release count, however, remains much lower than in 2018; it sent 50 new comics to market versus 78 last October.

Dark Horse got a new graphic novel franchise rolling (no pun intended) with Critical Role Vol. 1: Vox Machina Origins, which placed eighth among graphic novels in units. The book also was the top product reordered last week, so it'll see action stretching into the November charts.

The number of new graphic novels offered to market dropped 5% year-over-year to 417. (EDIT: A previous transcription error on our part had stated a number much higher.) Marvel had 50 releases, its most in that six year period.

The comparative sales statistics:

October 2019 Vs. September 2019
Graphic Novels+12.88%+15.87%
Total Comics/GNs+19.82%+16.45%
October 2019 Vs. October 2018
Graphic Novels-3.32%-7.10%
Total Comics/GNs+14.09%+8.68%
Year To Date 2019 Vs. Year To Date 2018
Graphic Novels-4.16%-9.71%
Total Comics/GNs+1.81%-2.40%

The market shares:

PublisherDollar ShareUnit Share
Dark Horse2.93%2.11%

The top-selling comics by units:

1X-Men #14.99Marvel
2Spawn #301$4.99Image
3Powers of X #6$5.99Marvel
4House of X #6$4.99Marvel
5The Joker: Year of The Villain #1$4.99DC
6Amazing Mary Jane #1$3.99Marvel
7Absolute Carnage #4$4.99Marvel
8Ghost Rider #1$4.99Marvel
9Immortal Hulk #25$5.99Marvel
10Marauders #1$4.99Marvel

The top-selling comics by dollars:

1X-Men #14.99Marvel
2Spawn #301$4.99Image
3Powers of X #6$5.99Marvel
4The Joker: Year of The Villain #1$4.99DC
5House of X #6$4.99Marvel
6Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity #1*$5.99DC
7Harleen #2$7.99DC
8Immortal Hulk #25$5.99Marvel
9Absolute Carnage #4$4.99Marvel
10Amazing Mary Jane #1$3.99Marvel

Criminal Sanity has the asterisk because it was returnable; its orders were reduced slightly for the charts to compensate.

The top-selling graphic novels by units:

1Doomsday Clock Part 1 HC$24.99DC
2The Wicked & The Divine Vol. 9$17.99Image
3Spider-Man: Life Story$24.99Marvel
4Thanos: The Infinity Ending HC$24.99Marvel
5Ascender Volume 1$9.99Image
6DC Super Hero Girls At Metropolis High$9.99DC
7The Walking Dead Compendium Vol. 4$59.99Image
8Critical Role Vol. 1: Vox Machina Origins$19.99Dark Horse
9My Hero Academia Vol. 1$9.99Viz
10Gideon Falls Vol. 3: Stations of The Cross$16.99Image

The top-selling graphic novels by dollars:

1Walking Dead Compendium Vol. 459.99Image
2Doomsday Clock Part 1 HC$24.99DC
3John Byrne's Marvel Classics Artifact Edition HC$75.00IDW
4Namor Sub-Mariner By Byrne And Jae Lee Omnibus HC$125.00Marvel
5Spider-Man: Life Story$24.99Marvel
6Thanos: The Infinity Ending HC$24.99Marvel
7Batman By Snyder & Capullo Omnibus Vol. 1 HC$125.00DC
8Immortal Hulk Vol. 1 HC$34.99Marvel
9Boys Omnibus Vol. 1$29.99Dynamite
10Marvel Masterworks: Ghost Rider Volume 1 HC$75.00Marvel

Finally, the number of new items offered:

Dark Horse2621047

The Direct Market as expressed through Diamond orders entered November $8 million to the good, meaning that prospects for a positive year are excellent. Last November and December were weak months, marked by large cuts to DC's line; even flat months for the rest of 2019 would result in a year up 1.5%. Two months with increases similar to October's, however, could push the year-over-year increase closer 3 or 4% — numbers that would look quite in line with the growth years earlier in the decade.

FLASHBACKS: Check out our charts from 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 years ago!

October 1989 •  •  •  October 1999 •  •  • October 2004
October 2009 •  •  • October 2014

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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