Record November means $395+ million year for comics

by John Jackson Miller

Tax experts describe Tax Freedom day as the spot on the calendar when taxpayers stop working for the government and begin earning for themselves. For the comics industry, the Nov. 22 shipment marked the moment when the industry surpassed 2005’s sales — so every dollar from here on out is growth, according to my analysis of the sales reports released by Diamond Comic Distributors on December 15. See the charts here.

Superlatives heap upon superlatives in looking at November 2006: While having five shipping weeks exactly like November 2005, it bested the previous year’s sales in several categories by a wide margin.

Top 300 comics unit sales were up 23% over last November and were the best since December 1997. Those comics were worth 27% more than the comics sold last November — comics dollar sales were higher than they’ve been in any month since November 1996, exactly ten years ago. The combined sales of the Top 300 comics plus the Top 100 trade paperbacks were higher than we’ve seen since we began tracking the category. Marvel had its best month since at least 1996. And so on.

And overall, Diamond’s sales including all trades and comics not in its top-sellers list and also magazines, were $39.25 million for November — again, the highest for any month since that statistic became available in 2002. I now project that 2006 will close at least at the $395 million year mark. While $400 million is not impossible, it’ll require a near-repeat of November. We’re on pace for a 13% increase over 2005.

Comics unit sales: The Top 300 comic books had retailer orders of almost 7.96 million copies in November, up a considerable 23% over November 2005, which had the same number of shipping weeks (five).

To date in 2006, the Top 300 comics from each month have sold a combined 74.88 million copies, an increase of 8% over the 69.57 million copies sold in the period in the previous year. (Year-over-year statistics for 2006 are summarized here.)

Eighty million copies for the year should be an easy walk from here.

Marvel’s Civil War #5 topped the list, selling at least 272,600 copies. DC’s top performer was Justice League of America #3, at 140,900 copies.

With Marvel and DC taking up nearly two-thirds of the Top 300, most of the offerings from other publishers were forced further down or off the list. Only 28 publishers placed titles in the Top 300, and the only new publisher was Fun Publications, whose Transformers Timelines placed 248th with an estimated 5,500 copies sold.

Comics dollar sales: The Top 300 comic books had sales worth $24.6 million in November, a whopping 27% more than November 2005.

To date in 2006, the Top 300 comics from each month have sold a combined $230.24 million, an increase of 14% over the $201.72 million worth sold in the same period in the previous year.

Trade paperbacks: The Top 100 Trade Paperbacks and graphic novels reported by Diamond had orders worth $4.64 million at full retail in November, a drop of 2% versus November 2005 and a slowdown from the gangbusters sales of October.

To date in 2006, the Top 100 Trades for each month total $44.66 million, up 6% from the same period in the previous year, when sales were $41.99 million.

Adding the Top 100 trades to the Top 300 Comics for the month yields $29.24 million, an increase of 21% over the $24.11 million ordered in the same month in 2005. It’s the highest total ever since Diamond began reporting the category.

To date in 2006, the Top 300 Comics and the Top 100 Trade Paperbacks from each month had orders worth $274.9 million, 13% over the $243.71 million ordered in the same period in 2005.

Diamond’s “overall” sales: The November 2006 total was $39.25 million, which increases to $44.35 million, when Diamond’s estimated United Kingdom orders are added. The figure is up 22% from the $32.28 million ordered in the U.S. in November 2005. Overall, the year to date stands at $361.93 million, an increase of 13% over 2005’s total of $320.70 million.

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: The fifth week resulted in Marvel and DC each having nearly 100 comics in the Top 300. DC placed 97, and Marvel placed 94. Dark Horse went into third place in all categories, including comic-book unit sales.

Price analysis: The average comic book on Diamond’s Top 300 list cost $3.26, up from $3.219 in September 2005.

The weighted average price – that is, the cost of the average comic book Diamond sold – was $3.09, up from $3.00 last year.

The average price of the comics that made the Top 25 was $2.93.

Unit Sales for Diamond’s Top 300 Comic Books (est.):

7.96 million copies

Dollar Sales for Diamond’s Top 300 Comic Books (est.):

$24.6 million

Dollar Sales for Diamond’s Top 100 Trade Paperbacks (est.):

$4.64 million

Combined Dollar Sales for Diamond’s Top 300 Comics and Top 100 TPBs (est.) :

$29.24 million

OVERALL U.S. Dollar Sales for Diamond’s Comics, Trade Paperbacks, and Magazines (est.):

$39.25 million

Average price of comic books in Diamond’s Top 300:


Average price of comic books in Diamond’s Top 300, weighted by orders:


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