Comichron April Analysis: Surging GN Sales Boost 2012 Growth

[Reprinted with permission from Comichron.com. Original article can be found here.]

With the Avengers movie opening to a record $207.2 million this past weekend in the United States, the good fortunes of the comics industry in 2012 also appeared to continue in April, according to figures released today by Diamond Comic Distributors. Retailer orders for comic books and graphic novels rose 15% in North America versus the year prior, and several titles pushed past the 100,000 copy mark. Click to see the full estimates for April 2012.

Last April was a fairly drab and depressing month — Diamond had to talk about its sales of comics-related merchandise in its release to find a bright spot, something it hasn't had to do again since the DC relaunch at the end of last summer. Only Fear Itself #1 topped 100,000 copies last April, versus four titles this year. Still, the boost for April 2012 means the industry has outperformed the first four months of the year by nearly $17 million when all comics and trades are counted — and this becomes important heading into the second half of the year, when the comparisons will become more difficult.

 

Marvel's Avengers Vs. X-Men #2 led the market with orders of nearly 159,000 copies, and the preceding issue — which was ranked as a March release even though it came out in April — sold an additional 27,000 copies this past month, bringing its total to around 230,000 copies. If the book had been tabulated with all its copies recorded for April, it would've been the highest one-month total for an issue since January 2009, and the Barack Obama Spider-Man issue. But the accounting can be done a lot of different ways. If you throw August 31 into September, Justice League #1 actually had a 232,400-copy month in North America when it came out, including the Combo Pack edition, so it too would have had a shot at that highest-one-month total figure. See the list of top sellers for each month here.

By the end of the year, Justice League #1 had shipped 231,000 copies to North American retailers; including the Combo Pack version, its sales surpassed 255,000 copies. So with more months of reorders for AVX, these two releases may wind up in the same general neighborhood. The early Civil War issues topped 300,000 copies in 2006, a year that likely had more stores.

 

Image's Walking Dead trade collections completely dominate their category, giving Image an 8.6% market share, its highest since February 2003. Graphic novels are now up nearly 10% for the year; the slowest category thus far, trade paperbacks may be poised to break into double-digits as the DC relaunch trades enter the mix.

As mentioned here many times previously, the recovery of the early 2000s was powered by a virtuous cycle of a hit from one publisher being followed by a hit from another publisher — so strength at middle-tier publishers is key to a recovery. But one difference in 2012 is that the trade paperback market is much more developed, so there is a place for retailers' dollars to go even when there are months without a major event comic book. Walking Dead and other trades may be evolving into just that — reliable places for retailers to hold their cash and a hedge against month-to-month volatility.

Partially because of Image's strength, Marvel and DC only combined for 64.76% of the market this month — their lowest combined market share since March 2004. Contrast the current figure with October's 81.26%, during the early weeks of the DC relaunch.

The aggregate figures:

TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES April 2012: 6.1 million copies

Versus 1 year ago this month: +14%

Versus 5 years ago this month: -14%

Versus 10 years ago this month: +7%

Versus 15 years ago this month: -35%

YEAR TO DATE: 23.99 million copies, +15% vs. 2011, -13% vs. 2007, +10% vs. 2002, -31% vs. 1997

ALL COMICS UNIT SALES

April 2012 versus one year ago this month: +16.11%

YEAR TO DATE: +15.12%

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TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES April 2012: $21.34 million

Versus 1 year ago this month: +12%

Versus 5 years ago this month: -2%

Versus 10 years ago this month: +31%

Versus 15 years ago this month: +3%

YEAR TO DATE: $82.94 million, +14% vs. 2011, -4% vs. 2007, +34% vs. 2002, +2% vs. 1997

ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES

April 2012 versus one year ago this month: +16.30%

YEAR TO DATE: +15.94%

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TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES April 2012: $6.76 million

Versus 1 year ago this month: +27%

Versus 5 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: -15%

Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 50 vs. the Top 50: +52%

YEAR TO DATE: $24.89 million, +23% vs. 2011

ALL TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES

April 2012 versus one year ago this month: +12.56%

YEAR TO DATE: +9.47%

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TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES April 2012: $28.1 million

Versus 1 year ago this month: +16%

Versus 5 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: -5%

Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +15%

YEAR TO DATE: $107.83 million, +16% vs. 2011

ALL COMICS AND TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES

April 2012 versus one year ago this month: +15.09%

YEAR TO DATE: +13.84%

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OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines) April 2012: approximately $36 million (subject to revision)

Versus 1 year ago this month: +15%

Versus 5 years ago this month: +3%

YEAR TO DATE: $137.81 million, +14% vs. 2011, +2% vs. 2007

The average price of comics in Diamond's Top 300 was $3.53, with the average comic book retailers ordered costing an average of $3.50. $3.50 was also the median price of all comics offered in the Top 300, while the most common price remained $2.99.

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Writer of fiction, comics and books about comics, John Jackson Miller (http://www.farawaypress.com) has tracked comics sales figures for years. He’s developing an online archive for academic researchers at The Comics Chronicles (http://www.comichron.com). 

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