December 2014: Batman leads the market — but which issue? Another Loot Crate conundrum

The missing pieces from the sales picture for comics in 2014, December’s comics orders, were provided today by Diamond Comic Distributors — and they depict a market that closed out the year on a positive note. It is, in fact, probably more positive than it looks. Meanwhile, we have a curious situation in that while Batman #37 was the top-seller in the Direct Market in December, the highest-circulation comic book in North America was probably actually November’s issue, #36, which had a Loot Crate edition not distributed by Diamond.

More about that in a moment. December’s sales of comic books and trade paperbacks to comics shops amounted to around $43.4 million, up 2.83% from the same month in 2013. December
2013 only had four Wednesdays, but Diamond did a small shipment on New
Year’s Eve, which was a Tuesday — making it effectively a five-week
month. This December was a five-Wednesday month, as well, and while comics were up. graphic novels were down considerably:

Dollars Units
Comics 1.77% 0.31%
Graphic Novels -18.50% -21.51%
Total Comics/GN -5.14% -1.64%
Comics 6.67% 4.50%
Graphic Novels -5.41% -8.39%
Total Comics/GN 2.83% 3.46%
YEAR 2014 VS. YEAR 2013
Comics 4.03% 0.25%
Graphic Novels 5.18% 5.28%
Total Comics/GN 4.39% 0.64%
4th QUARTER vs. 3rd QUARTER 2014
Comics -2.90% -1.57%
Graphic Novels 6.31% 4.02%
Total Comics/GN -0.20% -1.16%
4th QUARTER vs. 4th QUARTER 2013
Comics 7.89% 7.05%
Graphic Novels 7.56% 6.13%
Total Comics/GN 7.78% 6.98%
2nd HALF 2014 vs. 2nd HALF 2013
Comics 9.10% 6.60%
Graphic Novels 7.31% 5.16%
Total Comics/GN 8.55% 6.49%
2nd HALF 2014 vs. 1st HALF 2014
All Products Dollars Units
Comics 19.34% 18.58%
Graphic Novels 10.54% 4.26%
Total Comics/GN 16.53% 17.36%

But there’s a reason for the evident softnesss in the graphic novel market: it may not be there. As we reported last year, December 2013 had about the same number of new
graphic novel releases, but there was a huge amount of holiday-season (or
clearance) graphic novel discounting going on that month: more than $3
million in sales came from older Omnibus hardcovers from Marvel which
were steeply discounted. December 2013 set a record that stands for dollar value of Top 300 Graphic Novels ordered, topping $10 million — but publishers realized a relatively smaller portion of that money.

Looking at the unit to dollar change spreads, I would expect that this December did not have the same
level of deep-discounting. With Saga Vol. 4 topping the December graphic novels chats, I would expect that when comparing only new material that sold for regular price, this year’s December graphic novel bottom line probably compares rather better with last December’s.

Loot Crate Edition of #36 (pic from

Batman #36,
which released to the Direct Market in November, was in the December Loot Crate — but Diamond did not distribute it to the repackager: its
placement in the end-of-year rankings Diamond posted earlier this week
do not reflect the colossal boost Loot Crate previously gave Rocket Raccoon #1 and Walking Dead #132.
This creates yet another unusual circumstance, because it’s quite
likely that #36 — and not #37 — is the comic book that had the most
copies enter circulation in the month of December.

before we lament that we’re running out of symbols to use for
asterisks, it’s important to remember what the charts are: a record of
what Diamond sold. It happens that increasingly, some of its sales each
month are going to places other than comic shops  — but in general, its
tables are a fairly good expression of the sales picture for the Direct
Market. There have always been comics selling other places — the
newsstand, obviously! — and while we count those sales in broader
indexes, we don’t worry with them in the monthly charts. Diamond can’t rank what Diamond didn’t ship.

the Direct Market’s sales of comics surpassed those for the newsstand
in the mid- to late 1980s, there have been only a few rare cases where
the highest-circulation comic book in a month hasn’t been sold in the
Direct Market. Pokémon: The Electric Tale of Pikachu #1
sold a million copies, almost all of them in bagged editions retailing
in toy and department stores, over the course of 16 printings from
November 1998 until early 2000. It’s possible several of those printings
were large enough to top the feeble sales numbers leading the Direct
Market in those dark months. Gears of War #1 was distributed in huge numbers in 2008, but almost entirely in game stores. Star Wars #1, which released this week, has distribution through a number of different channels, including a just-announced Loot Crate edition: there’s enough Direct Market copies that it will clearly be the top seller on our 21st Century charts here, but we’ll have to see from the numbers in a few weeks just how many of them moved through Diamond.

If there are companies that deal directly with repackagers like Loot Crate
as appears to be the case with DC here — we might expect there to be
quite a few more months where the top comic book in the industry isn’t
reflected in the Direct Market. Since Comichron’s monthly charts are
based on what Diamond sells, we’ll continue to keep to that in our
charts — though we might acknowledge what else is out there
parenthetically when we know about it. (More parenthetically than this!)

With all that said, the Top 10 comics Diamond sold in the month of December:

Title Price Publisher
1 Batman #37 $3.99 DC
2 Amazing Spider-Man
$3.99 Marvel
3 Shield #1 $4.99 Marvel
4 Batman Annual #3 $4.99 DC
5 Thor #3 $3.99 Marvel
6 Justice League #37 $3.99 DC
7 Amazing Spider-Man
Annual #1
$4.99 Marvel
8 Avengers and X-Men
Axis #7
$3.99 Marvel
9 Avengers and X-Men
Axis #9
$4.99 Marvel
10 Avengers and X-Men
Axis #8
$3.99 Marvel

The top-selling graphic novels:

Title Price Publisher
1 Saga Vol. 4 $14.99 Image
2 Captain America Peggy
Carter Agent of Shield #1
$7.99 Marvel
3 Just the Tips HC $12.99 Image
4 Manhattan Projects
Vol. 5 The Cold War
$14.99 Image
5 Sunstone Vol. 1 $14.99 Image
6 Superman Unchained
Deluxe Ed HC
$29.99 DC
7 Batman the Jiro
Kuwata Batmanga Vol. 1
$14.99 DC
8 New 52 Futures End
Vol. 1
$39.99 DC
9 Nightwing Vol. 5
Setting Son
$16.99 DC
10 Walking Dead Vol. 1
Days Gone Bye
$14.99 Image

The market shares:

Dollar Share Unit Share
Marvel 32.07% 34.10%
DC 31.76% 36.17%
Image 9.89% 10.40%
IDW 6.10% 4.17%
Dark Horse 3.47% 2.95%
Boom 2.66% 2.82%
Dynamic Forces 2.58% 2.26%
Eaglemoss 1.22% 0.22%
Archie 0.88% 0.91%
Avatar 0.86% 0.74%
Other 8.50% 5.25%

Finally, the number of new items released to the market:

Publisher Comics shipped Graphic Novels
Magazines shipped Total shipped
DC 102 36 1 139
Marvel 77 24 0 101
Image 52 18 0 70
IDW 44 24 0 68
Boom 42 6 0 48
Dark Horse 30 12 0 42
Dynamite 33 3 0 36
Viz 0 22 0 22
Action Lab 15 1 0 16
Hachette 0 16 0 16
Other 94 81 31 206
TOTAL 489 243 32 764

That’s a considerable number from Action Lab, appearing on this chart for the first time.

The December estimates will appear here Monday, to be followed by the estimates for the top sellers of 2014. We’ll also amend our Comics of the Century lists at that time as well.

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