Recovery in publisher release slate sizes stalled as winter began

Winter has historically meant fewer new comics releases, though in the 2010s the old “dead quarter” term ceased to be applicable. That said, this winter saw a slowing of last summer’s recovery in slate sizes, with January 2021 slates only 56% the size of last January’s.

January 2020 had an additional “week” in the form of a small batch of Jan. 1 releases; nonetheless Marvel went from 101 new comics to 54 a year later, and DC from 98 to 42. Marvel bumped up its slate size in February 2021; Image was actually above its Feb 20 slate size.

It does appear that part of the late-summer into early fall recovery in slate sizes came from the backlog of projects that could not be released in spring; to a degree, this winter we saw an echo of when publishers were out of production when it came to new material.

What you can still do even in such cases, however, is add variant covers — and that has definitely happened. January and February 2020 saw 1.43 variant-cover options (not copies!) for every regular version; in Jan-Feb 2021 it was 2.07 variant options for every regular version.

Diamond’s second pause in its monthly reporting began in November, as the recovery in release slate stalled out, but there’s much reporting that per-release sales are nonetheless much improved. (Paul Levitz talked about that at ICV2 yesterday.)

Slate-size comparisons from March 2020 to March 2021 won’t be of much use, incidentally, because that was when publishers started shoving books out the door quickly to get ahead of the impending shutdown. More about that March 2020 release glut here.

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