July 2005: All-Star fastest seller since 1997’’s Darkness #11

by John Jackson Miller

More copies of All-Star Batman and Robin #1 were ordered by comics shops in July than any other comic book since 2003’s Batman #619, also from DC — and more were sold in a single month than any comic book since Top Cow’s Darkness #11 back in 1997, according to my analysis of the sales reports released by Diamond Comic Distributors on Aug. 12. Click to see the estimates for sales for July 2005.

More than 261,100 copies of All-Star were ordered by
retailers, outpacing all non-promotional-price releases since the end
of the “Hush” storyline nearly two years ago.

Actually, it’s hard enough to parse Diamond’s sales figures from 2003 that All-Star might be a brighter star, still. Diamond sold 235,000 copies of Batman
#619 in September 2003 across both direct covers and the newsstand
version, and then sold another 71,000 copies in October. But the order
codes are aggregated, and the specific reprint order code from the
special solicitation in Diamond Dateline appears
nowhere in any of Diamond’s charts. So it’s hard to sort out what are
true reorders for the original copies from the orders for the
gatefold-less second printing, which shipped Oct. 22 of that year.

Either way, All-Star had a stronger first month, and may yet surpass the total number of Batman #619s out there.

The top-selling single issue before Batman #619 was Darkness #11, which had preorders of 357,000 copies across its 11 different covers. That issue shipped the final week of 1997.

The top-selling DC comic book prior to 2003 was Superman: The Wedding Album,
which had Diamond preorders of 346,000 copies in its November 1996
release. A contemporaneous Marvel peak could be found in the “Heroes
Reborn” Fantastic Four Vol. 2, #1, which had preorders
of 314,000 copies from Heroes World Distribution. The comic book with
the largest print run of all time was 1991’s X-Men Vol. 2, #1, with 7.1 million copies across five covers.

A decent July. Thanks to All-Star
and a strong line of new series launches, July sales of comic books and
trade paperbacks to comics shops increased 3% over the same month in the
previous year, keeping alive a year thats flirting with double-digit
growth overall. Sales of comic books and trade paperbacks to comics
shops have increased 8% in the first seven months of 2005 to $192
million.

While July was slower than June — which had an extra shipping week —
it nonetheless showed year-over-year increases in all categories. Retailers have been reporting strong rack sales,
indicating high sell-through levels and bettering their bottom lines.

Comics unit sales: The Top 300 comic books had
retailer orders of 6.53 million copies in July, 6% more than July 2004,
which also had four shipping weeks.

Dynamite’s Red Sonja #1 placed 14th, one of the
highest debuts by an independent publisher since the 1980s nostalgia
wave landed several smaller companies high spots in the early part of
this decade.

New publishers posting in the Top 300 included BuyMeToys.com, with its Oz/Wonderland Chronicles Preview landing in 233rd, and Boom Studios, with its Hero Squared #1 evidently placing in 236th.

I’m saying “evidently” on that because of a typographical error in
the charts Diamond sent out, in which that issue’s order index number
appears to have had its decimal point moved by one space to the left. Despite its order-index number being boosted by a factor of
10, the issue is ranked 236th, nonetheless, and Boom Studios is absent
from Diamond’s market-share list, where it might be, if the larger
number was correct. If the larger number is the correct one, it would
boost the month’s sales by $100,000.

Comics dollar sales: The Top 300 comic books had sales worth $19.03 million in July, 7% more than July 2004.

For the first seven months of 2005, the Top 300 comics from each
month have sold a combined $123 million, a 3% increase over the same
half-year period.

Trade paperbacks: The Top 100 trade paperbacks and
graphic novels reported by Diamond had orders worth $3.47 million at
full retail in July. Adding those to the Top 300 comics for the month
yields $22.5 million, an increase of 6% over July 2004.

For the first seven months of 2005, the Top 300 comics and the Top
100 trade paperbacks from each month had orders worth $149 million, an
increase of 6% over the same six months in 2004.

Diamond’s overall sales: Diamond publishes dollar market shares for its top 20 publishers
across all comics, trade paperbacks, and magazines. Knowing the exact total orders of any publisher on
that list right down to the oldest backlist item allows you to calculate
Diamond’s total orders across these product groups.

The July 2005 total was $28.96 million, which increases to $31.36
million, when Diamond’s United Kingdom orders are added. The figure is
up 3% over July 2005. Overall, the last seven months stand at $192.4
million, as mentioned above — up nearly 8%.

Interestingly, July-to-July comics sales grew at a faster rate than
July-to-July sales overall, suggesting that the lower backlist — the
thousands of trade paperbacks that do not make
Diamond’s Top 100 list each month — wasn’t where the action was for this
month. There are a lot of high-octane events on the
periodical side of things, and that may be drawing some of the new
dollars away from the shelves and toward the racks.

The overall category overstates
comics’ actual performance to the extent that magazines that do not have
comics content are included. The comics publishers’ market shares would
actually be slightly higher, if ancillary items were removed.

Market shares: Marvel led DC in Diamond’s reported overall unit and dollar market shares, and that held true for each of the narrower calculations. DC had 98 comics in the Top 300 versus Marvel?s
80; and Image again posted a strong month, with 31 titles making the
list. Dark Horse’s strength continues to be in its backlist — coming in
third in Diamond’s overall dollar list, despite having only 14 comics in
the Top 300, the same number as Archie.

Price analysis: The average comic book on Diamond’s Top 300 list cost $3.19, up from $3.16 in July 2004.

The weighted average price — that is, the cost of the average comic book Diamond sold — was $2.92, up from $2.91 last year.

The average price of the comics that made the Top 25 was $2.69, up three cents from July 2004.

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