January 2014 was a fairly wretched month for weather in the United States and Canada, and that may have played some role in a softer market for comics, judging from the data released this morning from Diamond Comic Distributors. Comics shops sold nearly $39 million worth of comic books and graphic novels in January, off 5% from last January. Comic book dollar orders were essentially unchanged, but the graphic novel category dropped against difficult competition from the previous year.
It was the first year-over-year decline since August, and the first January drop since 2011. But it’s still 21% better than January 2012 — a time after the DC relaunch — so these things are all relative!
January is always an odd duck statistically, and not just because of the weather: the holidays at the beginning of the year impact shipping and how Diamond accounts for sales. Both this January and last January had five Wednesdays, but in each case, the first week’s sales were invoiced with the last week of December. So a lot of sales that really did happen in January were counted with the previous month—and same for last January.
The comparative statistics across time:
|January 2014 Vs. December 2013|
|January 2014 Vs. January 2013|
Marvel led the market shares in a month in which eight publishers had dollar shares above 2%; I can’t find that happening anytime in the recent past, and a cursory search of some likely months a decade ago (when Wizard would have been in the list) hasn’t found an instance either. Eaglemoss had 14 magazines out in the month, bumping it above 2%.
The market shares:
|Publisher||Dollar share||Unit Share|
|Dark Horse Comics||4.74%||4.22%|
|Other Non-Top 10||9.11%||5.95%|
Batman #27 was the top-selling comic book, beating out the $8 Detective Comics #27, which likely did better in dollar sales. Despite the overall drop and a drop in unit orders, comics sales were almost exactly flat versus last January in dollar terms, thanks in part to the Detective issue.
The top-selling comic books:
|2||Detective Comics #27||$7.99||DC|
|3||Avengers World #1||$3.99||Marvel|
|4||Justice League #27||$3.99||DC|
|5||Superior Spider-Man #25||$4.99||Marvel|
|6||All New X-Men #22.Now||$3.99||Marvel|
|7||Superior Spider-Man #26||$3.99||Marvel|
|8||Harley Quinn #2||$2.99||DC|
|10||Justice League of America #11||$3.99||DC|
Graphic novel sales, led by Saga Vol. 1, were the weak link in the market this month, down double-digits from the previous January. Last January had a new Fables release at the top of the charts and Saga Vol. 1 was newer then, so the competition last year was stronger.
The top-selling graphic novels:
|1||Saga Volume 1||$9.99||Image|
|2||The Walking Dead Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye||$14.99||Image|
|3||All-New X-Men Volume 1: Yesterday’s X-Men||$19.99||Marvel|
|4||Superior Spider-Man Vol. 4: Necessary Evil||$17.99||Marvel|
|5||Batman ’66: The TV Stories||$14.99||DC|
|6||Saga Volume 2||$14.99||Image|
|7||X-Men: Battle Of The Atom HC||$49.99||Marvel|
|8||The Unwritten Volume 8: Orpheus In The Underworlds||$16.99||DC|
|9||Batman: The Dark Knight Volume 2: Cycle Of Violence||$14.99||DC|
|10||Thor: God Of Thunder Vol. 1: God Butcher||$19.99||Marvel|
And finally, the number of new releases:
|PUBLISHER||Comics||Graphic Novels||Magazines||Total shipped|
As I’ve written on Comichron for many years, wintry January was, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, what back-to-school September was for comics in the 1980s — a
time when momentum ended and sales dropped. Publishers tended to launch
fewer major initiatives in “the Dead Quarter.” This effect has increasingly diminished over time, as publishers have tended to even out their releases a bit more. Diamond didn’t release a list like the above one for January 2013, but there were 739 items shipped in December — 471 comics and 239 graphic novels. About 10 fewer comics a week, about four more graphic novels.
With January, we now have eleven years of Final
Order data from Diamond, and we can see how past Januaries did. First,
here’s how they Overall Sales did versus the Januaries of the year
January 2004: $21.9 million, +4.29%
January 2005: $23.2 million, +6.39%
January 2006: $25.56 million, +9.7%
January 2007: $33.71 million, +31.89%
January 2008: $34.56 million, +2.52%
January 2009: $31.31 million, -9.4%
January 2010: $32.01 million, +2.23%
January 2011: $25.31 million, -20.91%
January 2012: $32.27 million, +27.47%
January 2013: $41.06 million, +27.16%
January 2014: $38.97 million, -5.09%
So we see that January beats always happened during the growth years of the mid-1990s, with the largest being in 2007, when Civil War #6 came out. In 2012 and 2013, January sales increased by a combined $15 million.
Now, let’s compare these figures with Decembers past:
December 2003 to January 2004: -23.69%
December 2004 to January 2005: -23.33%
December 2005 to January 2006: -19.19%
December 2006 to January 2007: +0.27%
December 2007 to January 2008: -3.68%
December 2008 to January 2009: -21.29%
December 2009 to January 2010: -10.27%
December 2010 to January 2011: -29.95%
December 2011 to January 2012: -6.73%
December 2012 to January 2013: +3.01%
December 2013 to January 2014: -7.71%
Again, a drop-off from December is very much the norm for the Direct Market.
If we look at just comic-book sales, excepting collected editions, we can see further back. Here’s the estimated change within the Top 300 comics dollar sales from December to January from 1997 to present:
December 1996 to January 1997: -15.3%
December 1997 to January 1998: -27.7%
December 1998 to January 1999: -15.2%
December 1999 to January 2000: -18.5%
December 2000 to January 2001: -8.9%
December 2001 to January 2002: -3.6%
December 2002 to January 2003: -4.8%
December 2003 to January 2004: -19.9%
December 2004 to January 2005: -26.7%
December 2005 to January 2006: -17.0%
December 2006 to January 2007: -4.8%
December 2007 to January 2008: -7.0%
December 2008 to January 2009: -24.36%
December 2009 to January 2010: -13.96%
December 2010 to January 2011: -22.68%
December 2011 to January 2012: -6.73%
December 2012 to January 2013: -3.44%
December 2013 to January 2013 (all comics): -5.87%
So the dropoff really does seem to reflect the 8% fewer new comics on the market in January versus December.
The full report for January should be along next week.
Comichron founder John Jackson Miller has tracked the comics industry for more than 25 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: Kenobi, Star Wars: A New Dawn, Star Trek: Discovery – The Enterprise War, and his latest release, Star Trek: Discovery – Die Standing. Read more about them at his fiction site.
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