December brings 2006 to $396 million, up 12%

by John Jackson Miller

The comics industry completed its sixth consecutive year of sales increases in December, surpassing 2005’s sales by $37 million overall, according to my analysis of the sales reports released by Diamond Comic Distributors on January 15. See the charts here.

Increases for the year came in all sales categories — with growth in both unit and dollar sales of Diamond’s most popular comic books outpacing growth for its most popular trade paperbacks.

Top 300 comics unit sales were up 8% for the year with dollar sales up 14%, as compared with an increase of 6% for Diamond’s Top 100 trade paperbacks. Diamond’s Top 300 comics and Top 100 trades together each month came to just over $300 million — up 12% and the highest that total has been since 1996 — and the “overall” category including all comics, trades, and magazines ended at $395.55 million.

With an identical 12% rise in both the best-sellers total and the overall total, it’s clear that the backlist was neither outpacing or underperforming the frontlist by much. The “off-the-charts” sales not in Diamond’s Top 300 comics or Top 100 Trades each month of the year totaled $94.92 million in 2006, versus $84.96 million in 2005, up 12%. Backlist growth has been significantly outpacing growth in the frontlist in recent years.

2006 was more about the new, which should serve the industry well as that new material migrates into the backlist.

Comics unit sales: The Top 300 comic books had retailer orders of 6.97 million copies in December, up 6% over December 2005, which had the same number of shipping weeks (four).

For 2006, the Top 300 comics from each month have sold a combined 81.85 million copies, an increase of 8% over the 76.13 million copies sold in the period in the previous year. (Year-over-year statistics for 2006 are summarized here.)

It’s the first time we’ve sold more than 80 million copies from the Top 300 since 1998, when sales were 84.45 million. Unit sales were up month-over-month for 10 out of 12 months in 2006.

DC’s two issues of Justice League of America topped the list, with #4 selling 136,700 copies.

With Marvel and DC again 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 30 publishers placed titles in the Top 300, with no new publishers cracking the list at all.

Comics dollar sales: The Top 300 comic books had sales worth $21.94 million in December, 10% more than December 2005.

For 2006, the Top 300 comics from each month sold a combined $252.18 million, an increase of 14% over the $221.73 million worth sold in the same period in the previous year.

Comics dollar sales were up 12 months out of 12 in 2006, and $252 million is higher than for any year since we’ve been tracking. Itemized Top 300 sales are only available since 1997; 1996’s Top 300s probably totaled more than $300 million.

Trade paperbacks: The Top 100 Trade Paperbacks and graphic novels reported by Diamond had orders worth $3.79 million at full retail in December, a drop of 2% versus December 2005. It’s the second consecutive month the total has dropped year-over-year.

For 2006, the Top 100 Trades for each month totalled $48.45 million, up 6% from the same period in the previous year, when sales were $45.84 million.

Adding the Top 100 trades to the Top 300 Comics for the month yields $25.73 million, an increase of 8% over the $23.86 million ordered in the same month in 2005.

For 2006, the Top 300 Comics and the Top 100 Trade Paperbacks from each month had orders worth $300.63 million, 12% over the $267.57 million ordered in 2005.

Again, this combined category was up every single month in 2006.

Exclusive: Diamond’s “overall” sales: The December 2006 total was $323.62 million, which increases to $37.55 million, when Diamond’s estimated United Kingdom orders are added. The figure is up 6% from the $31.63 million ordered in the U.S. in December 2005. Again, overall, the year finished at $395.55 million in North America, an increase of 12% over 2005’s total of $352.33 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: Marvel and DC placed almost as many comics in the Top 300 in December as they did in November, which had one more shipping week. DC placed 97, and Marvel placed 91. Image edged back in front of Dark Horse in all categories, were Dark Horse had surpassed it in all categories in November.

Price analysis: The average comic book on Diamond’s Top 300 list cost $3.28, up from $3.27 in the same month in 2005.

The weighted average price – that is, the cost of the average comic book Diamond sold – was $3.15, up from $3.05 last year.

The average price of the comics that made the Top 25 was $3.09.

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

6.97 million copies

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

$21.94 million

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

$3.79 million

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

$25.73 million

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

$33.62 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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