January comics sales start 2019 strong, up 14%; Batman Who Laughs #2, Conan top charts

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The holidays often make the charts for December and January vary greatly from expectations, and the 2018-19 season was no different. After a December that saw Diamond Comic Distributors take Christmas week off and DC release a 28-year-low number of comic books, January came roaring back with healthy-sized slates from major publishers; it was the largest January, in nominal dollars, in the Diamond Exclusive Era.

An early look at the sales for the month is below: on Monday, we’ll have the full January 2019 comics sales estimates online.

The $44.9 million that retailers spent on comics, graphic novels, and magazines in January is more than $5 million more than last January, which also had five shipping weeks; that’s an increase of 14%. It even beat out the $43.75 million spent in January 2015, the month of the release of million-copy seller Star Wars #1. Retailers bought 7.04 million comic books in January 2019, 300,000 more copies than the previous January. That’s around the range for the first month of the year for several of the healthier years this decade, though some of those Januaries reached the 7 million mark with one fewer shipping week.

As mentioned, December’s sales were artificially low because Diamond did not have a full release week during Christmas Week: rather, a handful of select titles had been shipped to stores the Friday before, street-dated for the 26th. While those comics weren’t invoiced until Jan. 9, it does appear that the expected dollar value was figured into the December charts, because those Christmas-week releases have normal dollar rankings. It does appear that significant business that otherwise would have transpired in December occured in January instead; graphic novel shipments were up dramatically, 43% over December dollars and 12% over the previous January’s.

If we’re looking for a measure that wipes out the holiday factor, consider the sales when December and January are considered a single nine-week unit: $82.55 million, up 6% over the same two months a year earlier. Comics unit sales were 13.25 million copies, up 310,000 copies over December 2017/January 2018. The chart below shows the two-month combo across the decade:

New Comic
Book Days
New Comics
Released
Comics shipped
(millions of
copies)
New Graphic
Novels
Released
Overall comics
+ GN sales
(millions of dollars)
Dec 10/
Jan 11
9
n.a.
10.48
n.a.
61.45
Dec 11/
Jan 12
8
n.a.
12.71
n.a.
66.68
Dec 12/
Jan 13
8
n.a.
14.76
n.a.
80.87
Dec 13/
Jan 14
9
905
13.94
493
81.16
Dec 14/
Jan 15
9
938
14.92
511
87.17
Dec 15/
Jan 16
9
1006
16.03
575
94.42
Dec 16/
Jan 17
9
935
15.78*
535
85.16
Dec 17/
Jan 18
9
925
12.94
625
77.8
Dec 18/
Jan 19
9
913
13.25
627
82.55

The asterisk with January 2017 denotes that month’s unit sales were artificially inflated by a massive Marvel overship of its entire line. It’s worth noting, as well, that this decade, the five-week month only fell in January in this year and last; for the mid 2010s, December got the fifth Wednesday.

Here’s our explanatory video about the month’s sales:

The comparative sales statistics:

Dollars Units
January 2019 Vs. December 2018
Comics +11.93% +13.49%
Graphic Novels +42.79% +40.93%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels +19.47% +15.18%
Toys +154.01% +234.27%
January 2019 Vs. January 2018
Comics +15.32% +5.03%
Graphic Novels +11.98% +2.36%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels +14.33% +4.82%
Toys +34.53% +57.58%

Would the comics market have ended 2018 in positive territory had Christmas Week been a normal week for shipments? It’s impossible to tease out what January sales wouldn’t have fallen into the first week of 2019 otherwise, but we do know this: if the year ran from December to November, then 2018 would have ended very narrowly up.

MARKET SHARES

Among publishers, Marvel bettered its January 2018 dollar orders by a massive 31%; Dark Horse, by an even larger 81%. DC was up very slightly, and Image slightly down. Dark Horse found its way back to the #4 position in dollars, while IDW held that slot in units.

Publisher Dollar Share Unit Share
Marvel 39.24% 41.29%
DC 29.70% 33.39%
Image 7.56% 7.77%
Dark Horse 3.95% 2.97%
IDW 3.65% 3.32%
Boom 2.32% 2.23%
Dynamite 2.13% 1.83%
Viz 1.55% 0.61%
Titan 0.80% 0.60%
Archie 0.78% 0.77%
Other 8.31% 5.20%

TOP SELLING COMIC BOOKS

Batman Who Laughs #2 continued the title’s reign as the top comic book in the Direct Market. Batman was the only title running for longer than a year to make the Top 10. The top-selling comics by units:

TOP COMIC BOOKS (by units) PRICE PUBLISHER
1 Batman Who Laughs #2 $4.99 DC
2 Captain Marvel #1 $4.99 Marvel
3 Guardians of the Galaxy #1 $4.99 Marvel
4 Conan The Barbarian #1 $4.99 Marvel
5 Amazing Spider-Man #14 $3.99 Marvel
6 Batman #62 $3.99 DC
7 Batman #63 $3.99 DC
8 Heroes In Crisis #4 $3.99 DC
9 Heroes In Crisis #5 $3.99 DC
10 Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1 $4.99 Marvel

The dollar rankings reversed the positions of the top two, putting Captain Marvel #1 in first place and bringing Young Justice #1 into the Top 10. The top-selling comics by dollars:

TOP COMIC BOOKS (by dollars)
PRICE PUBLISHER
1 Captain Marvel #1 $4.99 Marvel
2 Batman Who Laughs #2 $4.99 DC
3 Guardians of the Galaxy #1 $4.99 Marvel
4 Conan The Barbarian #1 $4.99 Marvel
5 Amazing Spider-Man #14 $3.99 Marvel
6 Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1 $4.99 Marvel
7 Young Justice #1 $4.99 DC
8 Batman #62 $3.99 DC
9 Batman #63 $3.99 DC
10 Heroes In Crisis #4 $3.99 DC

Why did Captain Marvel pass Batman Who Laughs, despite the two comic books having the same cover price? Simple: remember that the dollar charts (just like the market shares) are computed based on the number of dollars Diamond received. The mix of retailers who bought Captain Marvel #1 appear to have done so at a slightly less favorable average discount, meaning they paid more per copy. This happens all the time, and is why there is no simple metric for relating invoiced dollars to retail dollars.

In most of these split-decision cases, the two books have order quantities that are pretty similar.

TOP SELLING GRAPHIC NOVELS

The Dark Nights Metal softcover was the top-selling graphic novel, while last year’s leader, Infinity Gauntlet, placed second. The top-selling graphic novels by units:

TOP GRAPHIC NOVELS (by units)
PRICE PUBLISHER
1 Dark Nights: Metal $19.99 DC
2 Infinity Gauntlet $24.99 Marvel
3 The Life of Captain Marvel $15.99 Marvel
4 Star Wars: Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith Volume 4: Fortress Vader $19.99 Marvel
5 Cosmic Ghost Rider: Baby Thanos Must Die $15.99 Marvel
6 Black Hammer Vol. 3: Age of Doom Part I $19.99 Dark Horse
7 Farmhand Vol. 1 $12.99 Image
8 Dark Days: The Road to Metal $19.99 DC
9 Batman: White Knight $19.99 DC
10 Spider-Geddon: Edge of Spider-Geddon $15.99 Marvel

Conan’s return to Marvel was celebrated with graphic novel that brought in the most money, Conan the Barbarian Omnibus Vol. 1. The top-selling graphic novels by dollars:

TOP GRAPHIC NOVELS (by dollars)
PRICE PUBLISHER
1 Conan The Barbarian Omnibus Vol. 1 $125.00 Marvel
2 Infinity Gauntlet $24.99 Marvel
3 Dark Nights: Metal $19.99 DC
4 Marvel Masterworks: Uncanny X-Men Vol. 11 $100.00 Marvel
5 House of Mystery: The Bronze Age Omnibus Vol. 1 $99.99 DC
6 Infinity $49.99 Marvel
7 Marvel Masterworks: Marvel Team-Up Vol. 4 $75.00 Marvel
8 Star Wars: Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith Volume 4: Fortress Vader $19.99 Marvel
9 Black Hammer Vol. 3: Age of Doom Part I $19.99 Dark Horse
10 Spider-Man: Ben Reilly Omnibus Volume 1 $125.00 Marvel

NEW RELEASE VOLUME

As mentioned earlier, new release volume significantly rebounded, with 8% more new comics released versus January 2018 and 21% more graphic novels. It was the most new comics from Marvel since September 2017; just since February 2018 for DC. The number of new items offered:

Publisher
Comics shipped Graphic Novels shipped Magazines Total shipped
Marvel 102 40 0 142
DC 87 31 0 118
Image 57 10 0 67
IDW 39 17 0 56
Dark Horse 27 19 0 46
Boom 25 11 0 36
Dynamite 19 6 0 25
Viz 0 25 0 25
Titan 10 9 0 19
Archie 13 5 0 18
Other 136 186 37 359
TOTAL SHIPPED 515 359 37 911

The estimated sales for individual issues should be up on Monday.

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