February was another month in which a lot of comic books were shipped to the Direct Market at relatively little cost to retailers, although for a different reason than in January. That month, Marvel’s 10% minimum overship resulted in the largest number of comic books sent to market in any January since 1997. This time, it was Image’s 25th anniversary — and its promotionally priced comic books — that caused the largest number of new comic books to be shipped than in any February since 1997, according to Comichron’s analysis of data released today by Diamond Comic Distributors.
More than 7.85 million comic books were shipped by Diamond to retailers in North America, and more than 750,000 of them were copies of Walking Dead #163, which retailers ordered at its 25-cent cost. Special no-cover-price variants were also offered for retailers who ordered 250 copies or more, and again for 500 copies or more.
Diamond does not include comics cover-priced under a dollar in its Top Sellers lists, a move made after Batman: The Ten-Cent Adventure, a nine-cent issue of Fantastic Four and a 13-cent Gen13 topped the charts in 2002, along with all the original Free Comic Book Day issues. (We removed those issues to the tops of their respective months, with asterisks rather than rankings, in the Comichron charts.) So while Diamond acknowledged the performance of the Walking Dead issue in its press release, it ranked Marvel‘s Star Wars: Darth Maul #1 as the top-seller for February.
The 25-cent Image copies resulted in a lopsided market share reading for the company; its unit share was 18.13%, as compared with a 9.58% dollar share. While Diamond’s unit shares from month to month can be found on Comichron’s individual monthly pages, it isn’t something we keep a trendline file on (in part because of volatility like this) — so we can’t really say the last time its unit share hit such a level. The 9.58% dollar share is Image’s best since January 2016, so while it’s on the high end, it’s hit loftier marks relatively recently.
Retailers ordered $39.77 million in comics, graphic novels, and magazines across February’s four shipping weeks; that’s the first time the overall total has been below $40 million since February 2014. Comics dollar sales were off 4.47% and graphic novels off 3.3%, resulting in a year-over-year decline of 4.11%.
The comparative sales statistics:
|February 2017 vs. January 2017|
|Total Comics/Graphic Novels||-0.82%||3.61%|
|February 2017 vs. February 2016|
|Total Comics/Graphic Novels||-4.11%||14.70%|
|Year-To-Date 2017 vs. Year-To-Date 2016|
|Total Comics/Graphic Novels||-3.76%||10.26%|
Marvel and DC’s unit market shares were nearly tied this month, though you can easily see from the dollar market shares the impact of the $3.99/$2.99 contrast between Marvel and DC’s cover prices. Marvel’s dollar market share is nearly four points higher than its unit share; DC’s more than three points lower.
|Dollar Share||Unit Share|
The Top 10 comics included three DC titles whose sales were reduced by 10% due to returnability: Justice League of America #1, Super Sons #1, and Justice League of America: Rebirth #1.
|1||Star Wars Darth Maul #1||$4.99||Marvel|
|4||Justice League of America #1*||$2.99||DC|
|5||Super Sons #1*||$2.99||DC|
|6||Walking Dead #164||$2.99||Image|
|7||All Star Batman #7||$4.99||DC|
|8||Star Wars #28||$3.99||Marvel|
|9||Justice League of America Rebirth #1*||$2.99||DC|
|10||Justice League #14||$2.99||DC|
The regularly priced Walking Dead #164 also shipped in the month, and placed sixth.
On the graphic novel side of things, unit sales of graphic novels were down quite a bit against a February last year that had both a new Wicked & Divine and a new Lumberjanes volume. Seven to Eternity Vol. 1 led the chart:
|1||Seven to Eternity Vol. 1||$9.99||Image|
|2||Love Is Love||$9.99||IDW|
|3||Batman Detective Vol. 1 Rise Ot Batmen (Rebirth)||$16.99||DC|
|4||Snotgirl Vol. 1 Green Hair Dont Care||$9.99||Image|
|5||Wonder Woman Vol. 1 The Lies (Rebirth)||$16.99||DC|
|6||March Book 3||$19.99||IDW|
|7||Superman Action Comics Vol. 1 Path of Doom (Rebirth)||$16.99||DC|
|8||Hal Jordan & The GLC Vol. 1 Sinestro’s Law (Rebirth)||$17.99||DC|
|9||Outcast By Kirkman & Azaceta Vol. 4||$14.99||Image|
|10||Civil War II HC||$50.00||Marvel|
Low-priced comics aside, the number of different new comic books in February was off 7% versus the previous year, so this February’s releases punched their weight a little better. That said, Marvel’s 104 new comics was a higher figure than we usually see in the first quarter — and Titan’s 24 new comics is likely a new high for that company.
Boom, which made headlines a year or so ago by directing its efforts away from periodicals toward more graphic novels, seems to have gone back the other direction; it shipped 24 new comic books in February versus only three new graphic novels, according to Diamond.
Thus far it’s a slightly off start to the year, if a highly idiosyncratic one in statistical terms; as with all winter months, Comichron recommends not reading too much into it. Many is the year in which even a slightly strong April or May erased an entire first-quarter’s deficit. The volumes in play are simply lower at this time of year.
What was selling in Feburary in years past? Check out of Flashback column for the month.
This month marks the start of Comichron’s tenth anniversary celebration; I’m doing an Ask-Me-Anything on Reddit’s Comic Books subreddit at 3 Eastern today, March 3. (UPDATE: And you can read the questions and answers here.)
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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