X-Men reboot, Walking Dead finale, extra ship week help comics sales in July; first 1-2 finish for X-comics since 2001

 

 

Value judgments are tough to avoid in describing economic activity, even when the changes under discussion are very small. One person’s “stable” is another person’s “stagnant.” Much depends on expectations: if you think comics stores should be proliferating like sandwich shops, then “flat” is a bad word. If you think over-fast growth often leads to chaos, “steady” sounds just fine.

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The Comichron position is often seen as defaulting toward the positive — at least in headline copy! — but it’s a bit more nuanced than “ties go to the runner.” For the last 20 years, monthly periodical sales in comics shops have oscillated around a mean of about 7 million copies a month — all while the dollar volume of the comics market overall has nearly tripled thanks to graphic novels collecting those monthly comics. If you believe that a desirable level of comics sales is “whatever allows Direct Market stores to subsidize the serialization of enough stories to keep the bookshelves full,” then sales volume has clearly hit that level most years, and “unchanged” is, very much, “stable.” (Inherent in that is the strong belief that serialization is not just a necessary part of the publishers’ toolkit, but a valuable one; monthly comics amortize as they advertise, and feed a secondary market which many retailers also realize revenue from.)

Whichever way your adjectives go, a market constantly dipping above and below “no change” throws a constant series of choices at headline writers — and thus far, 2019 has been a workout for those of us looking for new descriptive terms. This year and last year haven’t tracked exactly, but the deviations have been small, like January, which saw the release of a lot of comics delayed from 2018. Or the fact that while Action Comics #1000 came out in April 2018, this year’s anniversary blockbuster, Detective Comics #1000, dropped in March. We see now from Diamond Comic Distributors that July, aided by a fifth shipping week, had another wobble, this time to the plus side; look here on Monday for the estimates for individual comics sales in July 2019.

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Against last July’s Batman #50 and Amazing Spider-Man #1, retailers last month had Jonathan Hickman‘s X-Men relaunch and Robert Kirkman‘s surprise Walking Dead finale. The net result was a July that was up 7% in dollars, or by about $3 million; that brought the year-to-date total to $298 million, up about $2 million, or less than 1%.

Marvel beat its dollar sales of comics and graphic novels from last July by more than $2 million, or 13%; it’s up 8% year-to-date. That July performance was boosted by House of X #1 and Powers of X #1, and it also had Amazing Spider-Man #25 in the Top 3. It’s published 118 more new comics this year than last year, so far, but its July total was only up by one new comic despite the extra shipping week.

Not counting when Avengers Vs. X-Men double-shipped, July was the first time two X-Men comics finished 1-2 since August 2001. X-Men comics finishing in the top two slots was once incredibly common, back in the 1990s days of Uncanny X-Men and “adjectiveless” X-Men. Indeed, in the latter years of the 1990s it had come to be seen as symbolic of the market’s malaise: literally nothing else in comics was going on that was interesting enough to unseat them. August 2001 was right when things were finally turning around.

Meanwhile back in July 2019, DC saw a major rebound in its number of new comic books on the market, with 86 titles out; far above its 50 from June and its most since January. The publisher, which had the top graphic novel in the Black Label release The Joker, was still down in dollars versus the previous July (again, supercharged by Batman #50). The publisher still has a long way to go to catch up to its new-release pace from 2018, if that were its interest: it’s published 92 fewer comics and 18 fewer graphic novels so far this year.

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Image had a stronger July than it did last year thanks in part to Walking Dead #193, which placed fourth; eBay prices for #193 that had approached $40 seem to have settled back into the teens as the reprint became available, though professionally graded copies differ (a 9.9 CBCS-slabbed issue, priced by its seller at $855, appears to be the high end).

Dark Horse
had another strong month and is up 27% year-to-date thanks in part to Umbrella Academy. And Dynamite saw a big jump in dollar sales overall with Vampirella #1which broke into the Top 10 on the dollar charts; we know 90,000 copies of that went to Diamond, though that figure likely includes overseas copies.

The number of new graphic novels on the market was essentially unchanged versus July 2018; dollars brought in by the category improved 12%.

One other thing we know — while we don’t track the category, Diamond is having a blockbuster year when it comes to toys. They were up 72% in July, and 32% in the year overall. It’s been some years since Diamond published data about the relative sizes of its categories, but the contribution of toys to Diamond and many of its retailers is significant.

The comparative sales statistics:

 

  Dollars Units
July 2019 Vs. June 2019    
Comics +15.75% +12.25%
Graphic Novels +5.58% +4.42%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels +12.93% +11.72%
Toys +48.78% +61.20%
     
July 2019 Vs. July 2018    
Comics +4.99% -0.73%
Graphic Novels +12.83% +0.08%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels +6.91% -0.68%
Toys +72.30% +84.85%
     
Year To Date 2019 Vs. Year To Date 2018    
Comics +0.97% -4.36%
Graphic Novels -0.25% -6.20%
Total Comics/Graphic Novels +0.63% -4.50%
Toys +32.17% +35.90%

The market shares:

Publisher Dollar Share Unit Share
Marvel 41.38% 45.49%
DC 26.79% 27.63%
Image 8.43% 8.64%
IDW 4.22% 3.99%
Dark Horse 3.10% 2.42%
Dynamite 2.31% 2.19%
Boom 2.05% 1.86%
Viz 1.51% 0.58%
Titan 0.74% 0.68%
Archie 0.68% 0.75%
Other 8.80% 5.77%

The top-selling comics by units:

  TOP COMIC BOOKS (by units) PRICE PUBLISHER
1 House of X #1 $5.99 Marvel
2 Powers of X #1 $5.99 Marvel
3 Amazing Spider-Man #25 $7.99 Marvel
4 Walking Dead #193* $3.99 Image
5 Batman: Last Knight on Earth #2 $5.99 DC
6 Batman: Curse of the White Knight #1 $4.99 DC
7 The Batman Who Laughs #7 $4.99 DC
8 Black Cat #2 $3.99 Marvel
9 Immortal Hulk #20 $3.99 Marvel
10 Batman #74 $3.99 DC

The asterisk with Walking Dead #193 means it’s returnable, which I presume was the case because retailers were not informed of its significance. It’s hard to imagine anyone had any copies to return!

The top-selling comics by dollars:

  TOP COMIC BOOKS (by dollars) PRICE PUBLISHER
1 House of X #1 $5.99 Marvel
2 Powers of X #1 $5.99 Marvel
3 Amazing Spider-Man #25 $7.99 Marvel
4 Batman: Last Knight On Earth #2 $5.99 DC
5 Walking Dead #193* $3.99 Image
6 Batman: Curse of The White Knight #1 $4.99 DC
7 The Batman Who Laughs #7 $4.99 DC
8 Black Cat #2 $3.99 Marvel
9 Immortal Hulk #20 $3.99 Marvel
10 Vampirella #1* $3.99 Dynamite

The top-selling graphic novels by units:

  TOP GRAPHIC NOVELS (by units) PRICE PUBLISHER
1 Joker $14.99 DC
2 Bad Weekend HC $16.99 Image
3 Deadly Class Vol. 8: Never Go Back $16.99 Image
4 They Called Us Enemy $19.99 IDW
5 Adventure Zone Vol. 2: Murder on Rockport Limited $19.99 First Second
6 Dear Justice League $9.99 DC
7 Conan The Barbarian Vol. 1: The Life and Death of Conan Book 1 $19.99 Marvel
8 Miles Morales Vol. 1: Straight out of Brooklyn $17.99 Marvel
9 Die Die Die Vol. 1 $19.99 Image
10 Daredevil By Chip Zdarsky Vol. 1: Know Fear $15.99 Marvel

The top-selling graphic novels by dollars:

  TOP GRAPHIC NOVELS (by dollars) PRICE PUBLISHER
1 Conan The Barbarian: Original Marvel Years Omnibus Vol. 2 HC $125.00 Marvel
2 The Joker $14.99 DC
3 Monstress Volume 1 HC $49.99 Image
4 Bad Weekend HC $16.99 Image
5 DC Universe: Bronze Age Omnibus By Jack Kirby HC $150.00 DC
6 Adventure Zone Vol. 2: Murder On Rockport Limited Gn $19.99 First Second
7 They Called Us Enemy $19.99 IDW
8 Superman: The Golden Age Omnibus Vol. 6 HC $125.00 DC
9 Marvel Masterworks: Captain America Vol. 11 HC $75.00 Marvel
10 Thanos by Donny Cates HC $34.99 Marvel

Finally, the number of new items offered:

Publisher Comics
shipped
Graphic
Novels
shipped
Magazines
shipped
Total
shipped
Marvel 105 45 0 150
DC 86 24 0 110
IDW 45 20 0 65
Image 50 10 0 60
Dark Horse 18 20 0 38
Boom 15 16 0 31
Viz 0 23 0 23
Dynamite 16 5 0 21
Archie 13 3 0 16
Oni 4 5 0 9
Other Non-Top 10 143 150 23 316
TOTAL SHIPPED 495 321 23 839

The normal prediction would be that August 2019 would see the market dip back under the 2018 pace year-to-date; last August was a $47 million month and had both Fantastic Four #1 and one more shipping week. But with Marvel Comics #1000 in the mix as well as continuing reorders on House of X and Powers of X, it’s too early to say. A year-over-year increase in August, if it happened, would be the first time all year we’ve had three in a row.

 

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