January numbers not so great

ICv2 released its January figures the other day — ICv2 – ‘Siege’ Tops the Charts BLACKEST NIGHT didn’t ship for DC. Siege #1 was the top book followed by GREEN LANTERN #50. THE WALKING DEAD Vol. 11: FEAR THE HUNTERS topped the GN chart with a stellar estimated 16,914 copies.

Other charts:
Dollar trends
Top 300 Comics
Top 100 Graphic Novels

The fact that only two books topped 100,000 copies — the two mentioned above — caused some furrowed brows around the blogosphere. Marc-Oliver Frisch sees this as the inevitable winding down of the “Event Era” in an analysis that makes his monthly DC charts read like Stuart Smalley benedictions:

A year ago, I would have said that at least Marvel managed to lure people into direct-market with shiploads of immediately understandable and accessible Civil War and World War Hulk comic books and collections. But that seems no longer true. Where are those people now? I don’t know, but it seems to me that the point at which they started to leave was when editorial thought it was a good idea to turn the Marvel Universe into one big story and call it “Dark Reign.”

While January is generally a crappy month for sales (aside from the Obama stimulus from last year), this January is definitely showing even more erosion. Guess it’s time to fire up those comic book movies!

Comments

  1. And there isn’t a shift of readership to the mid-level books, or even the last-of-the-chart-#300 books. Readers are evaporating.

  2. Roman Bednar says:

    No, the point at which they started to leave was when they raised the price of their best selling comics to 3.99 during the worst recession in memory. Having a Marvel executive state that Marvel was a cash machine and their fans were willing to pay whatever price only made things worse.

  3. “No, the point at which they started to leave was when they raised the price of their best selling comics to 3.99 during the worst recession in memory.”

    That would only make sense if the charts showed that the top best-sellers WEREN’T the 3.99 titles. Obviously that is not the case.

  4. If fans’ budgets are limited, then midlist titles will suffer as fans drop titles to afford “must have” comics.

    From ICV2:
    “Sales of periodical comics through Diamond Comic Distributors in January inched up by one percent versus January of 2009, but for the tenth straight month graphic novels declined. Traditionally January is not a very strong month for comic book sales and the total sales of periodicals was the lowest since last May, but comics did manage to post a gain, although it was 8% below January of 2008 and 7% below that of January 2007.”

    So some are spending the same, others aren’t spending at all. I wonder how the circulation figures compare?

  5. Brett says:

    @Roman…

    Agreed.

    Gee, I wonder who the genius is at Marvel who has such a degenerative view of readers that they think consumers will just buy anything, even if they raise the price to $3.99? Wasn’t Spider-Man one of the first books to sport that price?

    Marvel: ‘Hey, if they’ll pay $3.99 for this garbage, they’ll pay $3.99 for anything.’

    Still, while readership is indeed in an alarming state of erosion, I believe if there was more quality in comics, readers would and will return.

    Thing is, what Marvel Executives do to the characters while exercising their 20 year old fanboy wetdreams and what consumers actually want to read about are clearly two different things.

  6. Roman Bednar says:

    “That would only make sense if the charts showed that the top best-sellers WEREN’T the 3.99 titles. Obviously that is not the case.”

    Only 1 Marvel book in January sold over 100,000 copies. The event books have been 3.99 for a while with the rest of the line at 2.99. When they moved more books to 3.99 I think that people started dropping books from their pull list. I know that I did. I did not feel like paying 3.99 for Siege Embedded #1 or Siege: Storming Asgard.

  7. It is becoming increasingly obvious that both DC and Marvel need to re-focus their efforts on creating product that sells down both the DM and Book Store sales channels.

    Marvel dominates the DM channel with their product, but sales in the periodical market are shrinking to the point that it seems unlikely to be sustainable on its own. DC dominates the Book Store channel that has its own challenges. However, there is very little overlap between product that sells effectively down one channel and the other.

  8. WOW the formatting on this was super screwed up. Just got a chance to fix it. Sorry about that.

  9. “Only 1 Marvel book in January sold over 100,000 copies. The event books have been 3.99 for a while with the rest of the line at 2.99.”

    And just where are the 2.99 ones located on the chart as opposed to the rest of the 3.99 titles?

    Your analysis is faulty anyway, since January is normally a soft numbers month.

  10. DC and Marvel don’t need to create product which sells in both the Direct Market and bookstores. Looking at the graphic novel Top 300 list on ICV2, Marvel posts 12 of the top 25 titles. DC has six. Looking at last year’s BookScan data, Marvel’s best title charted in the low 60s (and their superhero titles much lower).

    Sure, it’s nice when stuff sells well in both markets. However, if publishers only published such titles, there would be a fewer titles published. I’m sure Marvel is happy that their superhero titles sell well in the DM, and their Marvel Illustrated line sells well in book stores.

    What’s important is that these titles are available in a variety of markets. The bookstore market feeds libraries (the “other” direct market; libraries keep what they order) which allows another outlet for readers. Some newsstands might carry the Marvel Adventure digests or Naruto volumes. WalMart or Target could decide to pick up a title. If the industry is really lucky, gas stations will sell a hot title.

  11. rick h says:

    Comic book publishers need to admit that the new retail comic book business is not a collectable form of entertainment any more. They need to embrace multiple formatting. Place the new books on line and let customers read them for .25 or .50 a shot. Think of how many titles you could read at that price and then pay your dollars for only what you want to keep. If they like what they read then they will pay the big bucks to buy them, either thru downloads or in print in trades.

    Think of how much money the retailers could save not publishing everything in the traditional format. Also quicker turn around if something doesn’t work and if it does then more of what customers want. This method is guaranteed to pull in more new customers than any brick and mortar place can do today.

    In the late seventies early eighties the direct market format saved the comic book business, it’s time for another major change.

  12. The books are too expensive and are just not fun to read. Not enough bang for my buck. Meanwhile, I can pick up a volume of Rumiko Takahashi’s work or find a public domain copy of Police Comics to read on my iPhone, and I’m happy as a clam.

    When a comic spends time explaining why Electro can’t wear that funky star-shaped mask he’s been sporting for more than 40 years, that’s a sign someone’s taking this stuff way too seriously. If it’s ok for Yugi-Oh to have star-shaped hair and be super successful, why not Electro? For 40 years I’ve suspended belief and had fun. Too bad comics can’t seem to do that nowadays.

  13. So all the event of the decade that was seven years in the making could muster is 108k copies sold for it’s number 1 issue?.

    Talk about a FLOP, seriously I can’t wait to read Tom’s next tweet about how Siege was going to destroy Blackest Night.

    Looks like even the diehard Marvel Zombies have had enough of Bendis boring dialog and mediocre stories good for them.

    This has to be the biggest disaster or the Joe Q. era, say what you want but not even Final Crisis failed this badly and considering the fact that there are more Marvel fans than DC fans this looks even worse.

    Can’t wait to see the spin that comes from the House of Ideas to explain away how badly this just blew up in their faces.

  14. Volde says:

    Hey, maybe Siege #1 will have huge reorders, like another 100k… Yeah, right.

  15. To be fair, there is a “Director’s Cut” edition coming up.

  16. Volde says:

    I haven`t looked at any of the Director`s Cut comics but by what they differ from original issue? In film industry it usually contains some cut footage which director wanted to include while editors refused. So what Director`s Cut edition has? Discarded art? Different dialogues?

  17. “Volde-

    Hey, maybe Siege #1 will have huge reorders, like another 100k… Yeah, right.”

    Except that those weren’t re-orders, BN #6 came out the last week of December when no other comics shipped and you had to sign an agreement to be able to get them a week earlier. Obviously while alot of people did sign the agreement some either didn’t want to or coudn’t and receieved their copies the next week which was the first of January.

    Even if let’s say Siege #1 sells 40k more copies to be generous next month it’s still a FLOP, every Marvel event has sold around 200k copies for their first issue if not alot more. The fact that Siege #1 sold so poorly is a debacle as far as Marvel goes, I honestly can’t wait to see someone ask either Tom or Joe about how badly their big event has failed.

  18. Wraith says:

    Well being the not so modest SOB that I am, I will proudly (and loudly) like to say that I TOLD YOU GUYS SO. I told you guys that this day was coming soon, and it has.

  19. Lynxara says:

    What I see happening here is that readers are either dropping buying comics altogether (probably due to the recession), or people are at the very least cutting orders back to a handful of beloved titles.

    This order pattern will favor the bottom of the list, curiously enough, where indies and cult books with niche audiences tend to dominate. It will be the big bloated events and struggling midlist books that have the most to lose.

  20. brandon says:

    and yet the revenue is up slightly over last year and up substanially over 5 years and 10 years.

    http://blog.comichron.com/2010/02/january-2010-comics-sales-steady-market.html

  21. Leslie says:

    Obviously the Blackest Night skip month.

    Blackest Night is what Secret Invasion was for Marvel, a true head scratcher of a moneymaker that the masses bought for no explicable reason other than creative marketing.

    I thought this would only a short-term spike in sales for DC, but it looks they are turning tide. Sales for the Siege event are down BY A LOT compared to Secret Invasion. And Invasion had much worse laid out storyline. People have finally woken up and smelled the coffee.

    But the true test will be Brightest Day vs. the Heroic Age. After having two failed weekly series in Trinity and Countdown (to Final Crisis), can Can Didio’s biweekly titles succeed against Marvel’s “big 3″ written by the overrated hack known as Brian Bendis? Stay tuned!

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