Comics sales up 40% over last year for May 2012

Diamond has released their preliminary information on May’s sales charts, and Marvel is back in units and dollars—both hard won victories—while AvX topped the singles chart and the New 52 trades topped the books charts quite handily.

Comics sales are up 40% from May 2011 —so if you want to know if the New 52 was a sales success, there’s your answer right there.

NOTE: May was a five week month, as opposed to last year which was a 4-week month. We’ll have a bit more drill down in a bit.

PUBLISHER MARKET SHARES – MAY 2012

RETAIL MARKET SHARE
PUBLISHER SHARE
MARVEL COMICS 35.32%
DC COMICS 32.73%
IMAGE COMICS 7.19%
IDW PUBLISHING 4.80%
DARK HORSE COMICS 4.75%
DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT 2.55%
BOOM! STUDIOS 1.60%
EAGLEMOSS PUBLICATIONS 1.08%
VIZ MEDIA 0.86%
ZENESCOPE ENTERTAINMENT INC 0.85%
OTHER NON-TOP 10 8.27%
UNIT MARKET SHARE
PUBLISHER SHARE
MARVEL COMICS 38.64%
DC COMICS 36.72%
IMAGE COMICS 6.70%
IDW PUBLISHING 4.04%
DARK HORSE COMICS 3.48%
DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT 2.63%
BOOM! STUDIOS 1.60%
ZENESCOPE ENTERTAINMENT INC 0.73%
ARCHIE COMIC PUBLICATIONS 0.71%
AVATAR PRESS INC 0.64%
OTHER NON-TOP 10 4.13%

unit-share.png dollar-share.png

COMPARATIVE SALES STATISTICS

DOLLARS UNITS
MAY 2012 VS. APRIL 2012
COMICS 20.60% 20.93%
GRAPHIC NOVELS 31.65% 22.13%
TOTAL COMICS/GN 24.11% 21.02%
MAY 2012 VS. MAY 2011
COMICS 45.12% 44.24%
GRAPHIC NOVELS 41.14% 24.98%
TOTAL COMICS/GN 43.76% 42.46%
YEAR-TO-DATE 2012 VS. YEAR-TO-DATE 2011
COMICS 21.77% 20.89%
GRAPHIC NOVELS 16.22% 12.77%
TOTAL COMICS/GN 19.95% 20.21%

TOP 10 COMICS

RANK DESCRIPTION PRICE ITEM CODE VENDOR
1 AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #4 $3.99 MAR120534 MAR
2 AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #3 $3.99 MAR120530 MAR
3 BATMAN #9 $3.99 MAR120184 DC
4 JUSTICE LEAGUE #9 $3.99 MAR120159 DC
5 BATMAN ANNUAL #1 $4.99 MAR120188 DC
6 AVX VS #2 $3.99 MAR120528 MAR
7 BATMAN INCORPORATED #1 $2.99 MAR120149 DC
8 DETECTIVE COMICS #9 $3.99 MAR120189 DC
9 ACTION COMICS #9 $3.99 MAR120176 DC
10 GREEN LANTERN #9 $2.99 MAR120204 DC

TOP 10 GRAPHIC NOVELS & TRADE PAPERBACKS

RANK DESCRIPTION PRICE ITEM CODE VENDOR
1 JUSTICE LEAGUE VOLUME 1: ORIGIN HC $24.99 JAN120299 DC
2 BATMAN VOLUME 1: THE COURT OF OWLS HC $24.99 JAN120300 DC
3 THE WALKING DEAD VOL. 1: DAYS GONE BYE TP $9.99 JUL068351 IMA
4 BATMAN: DEATH BY DESIGN DELUXE EDITION HC $24.99 JAN120285 DC
5 ANIMAL MAN VOLUME 1: THE HUNT TP $14.99 FEB120247 DC
6 THE WALKING DEAD VOL. 4: HEARTS DESIRE TP $14.99 SEP088205 IMA
7 KICK-ASS 2 PREMIERE HC (MR) $24.99 MAR120637 MAR
8 THE WALKING DEAD VOL. 2: MILES BEHIND US TP $14.99 SEP088204 IMA
9 WATCHMEN HC $39.99 JUL080172 DC
10 GREEN LANTERN VOLUME 1: SINESTRO HC $22.99 JAN120301 DC

Comments

  1. May was our best month ever, beating our previous best month by a full 20%!

    Like I keep saying, people are really excited about comics, and the excitement is spreading!

  2. Also: DC increasing both sales and dollar share, while Marvel’s sales share slips and dollar rises. The rest of the industry loses out…

  3. Mikael says:

    Take that, Marc-Oliver Frisch.

  4. arrowshaft says:

    It seems some of the ndcu bleeding cool fans only want to hear a positive spin on the ndcu sales.
    Sales are up but still rebooting your entire line with gimmicks will last only so long and still only gets you the same place (2ND)in sales as a year ago is not much to crow about.
    It was interesting seeing them at bleeding cool whining about The Beat and the way it presents the sales in their comments.
    Image, Idw and Dark Horse are gaining more readership over last years sales and that is good.

  5. Thomas Wayne says:

    This bump in sales is almost exclusively based on graphic novel and trade paperback sales…which is fantastic…but actual off-the-spin-rack (haven’t seen one of those in a while actually) sales increased only slightly…and I thought that was the point of the new 52…bring in new readers and lapsed ones to monthly books…

    Look at the graphic novels in the top ten…five are New 52 books…one would assume the spike in sales here is curious new comers and those who passed on the new 52 initial single issues. Those who read the first edition of the collected volumes may not move on to the second editions when they come out if they don’t like the stories so these numbers will eventually come down…hopefuly they won’t but I just don’t see books like Demon Knights and Hawk and Dove having a following in TPB form when they don’t have much of one in traditional form.
    But as I’ve pointed out before…you don’t need reboots and character changes to sell comics or graphic novels…tell good stories with compelling characters and they will come looking for you…just ask Kirkman and his Walking Dead empire.

    It all comes back to the story telling…sales and great stories walk hand in hand…thats why a new edition of Watchmen in hardcover breaks the top ten on this list at its 5078th printing or whatever number they are on…

    Take something like the Dark Knight Returns….how many millions of copies of that book in various editions have sold over the last 25 years?

    One, solid, great Batman story that readers (new, old, lapsed and otherwise) come back to time and again. Same with Watchmen, same with “insert any of the hundreds of great graphic novels over the years that have seen dozen of printings”.

    I’m starting to believe that the monthly sales of the standard 22 page comic should be set aside and all stories should be sold in graphic novel form. Release everything in TPB form from the get go…see if that doesn’t increase sales…comics have been monthly for…well…ever… let’s change that. Let’s get people excited about a Batman story that will come out in its complete form once every 3 or 6 months. Marvel and DC have already started doing this with the Earth One Superman and Batman hardcovers as well as the “year one” (don’t remember if thats what they are called or not…season one maybe?) Spiderman, FF, Daredevil and others.
    This sales approach has never hurt regular publishing efforts…novels with the same character are published all the time months if not years apart and those sales…although lower than in the past…are still relatively strong.

  6. jonboy says:

    @Thomas
    Great storytelling coupled with the publicity.

    Watchmen in the top 10 again? Right when all the news about the Before Watchmen hit?

    Batman being such a top seller when his movies (and TV cartoon) was so popular?

    Avengers vs X-Men being a top seller when the top movie is The Avengers?

    Coincidence?

    I don’t care how danged good your book is, if no-one knows about it, you won’t sell a danged copy.

  7. Audrey says:

    The problem with proclaiming the success of the new 52 is that you aren’t factoring in all the money that was spent on marketing and promotion leading up to the event and throughout the year. DC never used to do promotion. They spent a fortune on marketing last year. So it’s not just about selling more books in order for it to be a success they would also have to make enough of a profit to cover all the money they put out. People always seem to forget that point. It’s business 101.

  8. Torsten Adair says:

    Mr. Wayne:
    “This bump in sales is almost exclusively based on graphic novel and trade paperback sales…which is fantastic…but actual off-the-spin-rack (haven’t seen one of those in a while actually) sales increased only slightly…and I thought that was the point of the new 52…bring in new readers and lapsed ones to monthly books…”

    Correct me if I’m wrong…
    MAY 2012 VS. APRIL 2012
    COMICS 20.60% 20.93%

    MAY 2012 VS. MAY 2011
    COMICS 45.12% 44.24%

    YEAR-TO-DATE 2012 VS. YEAR-TO-DATE 2011
    COMICS 21.77% 20.89%
    GRAPHIC NOVELS 16.22% 12.77%

    20% from the previous month. 45% from the previous year. In any retail business those numbers would be cause for celebration. The Census Bureau shows a 7.5% rise in Monthly Retail Trade and Food Services Sales for March 2012 (the latest month on record).

    I do not see data on which categories account for which percentage of total May 2012 sales. Are comics periodicals shrinking? Anyone have any data?

  9. rahonaivs says:

    May had 5 weeks, April had 4. That could explain the 20% increase in sales. Once again 2011 was a very bad year (down about 15% form the year before) so factoring in the 20% boom from an extra month plus how does being only 10% above 2010 (another bad, but not as bad year) after all the publicity and spending denote an amazing success.

  10. Roland Gunner says:

    “Once again 2011 was a very bad year (down about 15% form the year before) so factoring in the 20% boom from an extra month plus how does being only 10% above 2010 (another bad, but not as bad year) after all the publicity and spending denote an amazing success.”

    Being 10% above where you were two years ago in an industry, paper publishing, that is in long term decline is a pretty striking success. 90% of other print vendors would take that any day.

    Efforts like the new 52 shouldn’t be judged against 20 or even 5 years ago. Instead, its an attempt to stabilize one part of the market, while digital sales builds up. Hopefully comics can continue to flourish with a mixture of the two.

  11. rahonaivs says:

    But then you also have to factor in how much you spent on marketing (never reported). If DC is spending twice as much on marketing (and give things like the theater release of a Nu52 trailer, all the subsequent trailers and all the adds on various sites that is quite possible) than your profits may still be down. Without an idea of how much more they are spending on marketing, you have no idea if this idea is a success or if “stabilizing” is worth it. Its like the dot com boom, if you spend so much on adds, even the gains you do make (much greater than 10%) won’t matter.

    I would love to see the profits DC is making in a year to year comparison, and then we can judge the true success of the Nu DCU.

  12. horatio weisfeld says:

    I would love to see the profits DC is making in a year to year comparison

    >>

    DC — Profits ??

  13. Torsten Adair says:

    According to the ICV2 White Paper reports:

    Combined comics and graphic novels:
    2005 ? (GNs surpass magazines in sales)
    2006 $640 million
    2007 $706 million
    2008 $715 million
    2009 $680 million
    2010 $635 million
    2011 ?

    Unanswered question: what are the numbers for digital comics?

    Comichron numbers, estimated:
    INDUSTRY-WIDE
    including bookstore and newsstand sales:
    2000: $255-275 Million
    2001: $260-280 million
    2002: $300-330 million
    2003: $350-400 million
    2004: $420-480 million
    2005: $475-550 million
    2006: $575-640 million
    2007: $660-700 million
    2008: $680-710 million (Diamond sales up 1.5%, $436.6 M)
    2009: ??? (Diamond sales down 2%, $429.47 M)
    2010: ??? (Diamond sales down 3%, $418.63 M)
    2011: ??? (Diamond sales down <1%, $414 M)

  14. So it’s not just about selling more books in order for it to be a success they would also have to make enough of a profit to cover all the money they put out. People always seem to forget that point. It’s business 101.

    Oh, I’m pretty sure nuDC’s corporate overseers at WARNER BROS are keeping an eye on the bottom line. Esp. when the end of the fiscal year comes closer and closer… and the Didio/Lee/Harras regime face their performance evaluations.

    The “New 52″‘s leadership Trinity: One Year Later?

  15. Torsten, my overall figures for 2009-2011 are updated on the site (have been for a while, must be an old save of the page).

    2009 $650-700 million
    2010 $660-690 million
    2011 $660-690 million

    Permanent repository here: http://www.comichron.com/yearlycomicssales.html

    Torsten, I don’t run monthly data on what share comics are versus trades — it can be derived from the change figures, but it’s complicated. The comics share at Diamond appears to have gone up slightly from 2010 to 2011, partly due to last year being softer for trades. Monthly comics are about 60% of the comics business at Diamond, but closer to 45% of the market overall.

    The digital figure for last year was probably around $25 million, according to Milton if I recall correctly. So an addition on a scale several times larger than postal subscriptions, but still less than newsstand sales. Periodicals across all North American markets were around $305 million last year, and trades across all North American markets were likely around $375 million. Visually represented here:
    http://blog.comichron.com/2012/02/big-picture-bookscan-comics-shops-and.html

    As to the fifth week — I’ve said many times, across the last decade, the observed increase in sales from the fifth week is not 20% (as you might think) but closer to 11% on average. The number of new releases from publishers does not increase in lockstep with the number of weeks; rather, they’re just spread out more. The extra week catches more reorders and late-shipped books starting their run, so it’s a meaningful addition — just not 20%.

    My early take on the figures here:
    http://blog.comichron.com/2012/06/may-2012-biggest-month-of-century-for.html

  16. There is also, Rahonaivs, no source I am aware of that reports comics sales down 15% in 2011. They were down 1% in comics shops — and new comics sales there were up by 3 million copies, or 4%:

    http://blog.comichron.com/2012/01/retailers-bought-at-least-3-million.html

    The only thing remotely close to down 15% was Bookscan’s number for mass-market TPB units, which was off 11.2% — but the dollar value (the more important figure) was off 6.2%. TPB units tends to be a volatile measure; for example, one of the problems for it in 2011 was that Scott Pilgrim’s movie was in 2010, moving a lot of lower-priced units. The average book sold in 2011 was more expensive and there were fewer of them.

  17. I’d be interested in seeing more comparison talk for how Image are doing. Every time these numbers gets released it’s always about the DC/Marvel race yet (correct me if I’m mistaken, please) it looks like Image are increasing their percentages every month.

  18. I don’t do a lot of horse-race stuff, but Image’s market share in April was its highest since 2003.

  19. Paul Mellerick says:

    The indie chart for April will be up soon, I discuss Image’s increased percentage a little there.

  20. Glenn Simpson says:

    I love it when people say “just tell good stories.” As if any comics company isn’t already trying to do that.

    If they aren’t telling good stories, then they don’t know how, and telling them to start doing so doesn’t accomplish anything.

  21. SomeGuy says:

    The way I look at it is that no “new 52″ DC title has picked up readers as it went along. They all peaked at #1 and stayed flat, or dropped dramatically. (Many lost well over 50% of their readers.) You can argue over the exact numbers, or try to normalize across 4- and 5-week months, but the key is that DC did not meet its own stated objective to bring in new and lapsed readers to the medium. They sold a lot of #1 issues to people who would not normally buy their stuff, but the trend since has been for a few comics at the top to stay on top and the rest to sink. DC is getting a boost by canceling titles and releasing #1 issues, which pads their numbers, but it doesn’t bring in new readers.

    Marvel has kept up its numbers by selling more comics to fewer people. Double shipping titles and so on. May’s “Exiled” is the perfect example: 5 issues of a single story in 1 month. I’m curious to see the numbers – probably all 5 sell 20k, but that’s a 100k blockbuster, sort of. But they can’t keep doing that indefinitely, and it is not a sign of a healthy industry.

    The fact that DC’s “new 52″ peaked with #1 and has gone nowhere, despite their mass-media marketing and promotion, is the final gasp of a dying industry. As long as the properties owned by Marvel and DC can be used to make movies and merchandise, the companies will continue as long as they break even, but I see comics in a death spiral that will end as soon as the companies can’t make a profit. Then they’ll be merged into their corporate owners’ larger portfolios of properties.

    As a lapsed reader who read comics in the 80, I totally agree that the writing in comics today is absolutely awful. Where are the storytellers? I looked at comics starting in late 2009, and Mike Caray is the only writer I thought could have made it in the 80s.

    Comics is way too insular and inbred – the same editors rotate around the same dozen or so writers. Comics needs fresh blood very badly. The art is generally fantastic, but the stories are awful. That’s why sales are in the tank.

  22. SomeGuy…
    How do you account for Batman #1 continuing to chart with Batman #8? Or the #5 issues reorders appearing on the same chart?

    REORDERS:
    286: 4,096 — Batman #1
    287: 4,094 — Batman Beyond Unlimited #1
    293: 3,985 — Batman #5
    298: 3,498 — Batman #6
    300: 3,447 — Justice League #5

    http://www.comicsbeat.com/2012/06/06/dc-comics-month-to-month-sales-april-2012/

    1-YEAR COMPARISONS
    +182.4%: JLA
    +142.3%: All Star Western
    +130.8%: Batman
    +118.5%: Detective Comics
    +101.8%: Teen Titans
    +101.1%: Batgirl
    + 66.9%: Supergirl
    + 62.7%: Superman
    + 62.7%: Wonder Woman
    + 46.3%: Action Comics
    + 16.6%: Green Lantern
    + 16.3%: Flash
    + 12.8%: Batman and Robin
    + 4.6%: Superboy

    That seems pretty successful to me.
    Of course, there is usually a sales decline from #1 onward. People are curious, or speculate. If the titles stabilize above the relaunch numbers, then it’s a success.

    (And, to play devil’s advocate, maybe it is a good thing to get rid of some of the older, long time readers. And, judging by your “Comics needs fresh blood very badly.” comment, you seem to agree.)

  23. Speaking from the retail trenches, I can say that while the aggregate number of purchasers of any particular New 52 series may be down since the #1s, there are new people trying these comics all the time.

    Remember that some of those #1 sales were to speculators (they still exist!) and #1 completists. A lot of additional sales went to people who were just curious about the #1s.

    Just talking about Batman, I have sold nearly as many #1s in 2nd-4th printings as I did of the first printing, which we ordered aggressively. Subscriptions to Batman are roughly 4x what they were pre-Relaunch.

    My subscriber list has grown 20% in the past 9 months, beginning on the strength of the excitement for the New 52, and bolstered by other great launches since, like (Miles Morales as) Ultimate Spider-Man and Saga, and the continued influx of Walking Dead- and Avengers- curious people brought in by other media.

Speak Your Mind

*