July Comic Book Sales Tumble Versus a Strong 2016

"Dark Days: The Casting #1" variant
Credit: Andy Kubert/Brad Anderson (DC Comics)
Credit: Jim Lee/Scott Williams/Alex Sinclair (DC Comics)

Sales of comic books and graphic novels in the Direct Market for July 2017 fell over 11% versus June and over 19% versus July of 2016, according to figures released by Diamond Comic Distributors Friday morning.

DC's Dark Days: The Casting #1, the prelude to their Dark Nights: Metal event, was the best-selling comic book of July, with Batman #26 and #27 also cracking the Top 5. 

Marvel Comics had six titles in the Top 10, including Charles Soule and Jim Cheung's Astonishing X-Men #1 in the #2 position, and Secret Empire #6 and #7 as the fifth and six best-selling books, respectively. 

Image Comics' The Walking Dead #169 at #9 was - as usual - the lone non-DC or Marvel title in the Top 10.

Credit: Sana Takeda (Image Comics)

Image's Monstress Volume 2 was July's best-selling graphic novel.

Marvel was July's top market share publisher with a 36.89% dollar share and a 39.53% unit share. DC was second in July with a 26.94% dollar share and a 31.15% unit share. In third was Image with an 11.47% dollar share and a 9.73% unit share.

Comparatively July's figures versus July 2016 (both four-week shipping months) don't look pretty, with comic book sales down 23.18% and overall sales down 19.31%, leaving 2017 now down 8.69% year-to-date compared to 2016.

What is it all mean? We turned to John Jackson MIller at Comichron to offer some perspective. 

The comparative month, July 2016, was incredibly strong - and this July, without an event of the same magnitude on the scene, lost a significant amount of ground for the year. The 8.69% decline year to date is (just barely) the lowest position the market has been relative to the previous year in July that we’ve seen since Diamond began reporting final sales data in 2003. The market is now around the size it was in the summer of 2014, near the end of a very successful run but before the booster shots that were the Marvel Star Wars return and DC

The last real period of decline in comics began in earnest in 2009. The first decade of the 2000s had seen a vibrant recovery after the disaster of the 1990s; the graphic novel format surged to first supplement the periodical sector - and, with sales outside the Direct Market, surpass it in dollar terms. The Great Recession of 2008, however, combined with escalating prices and creative exhaustion to produce three years that were off - though very slightly: low single digits, percentage-wise. 

The trajectory changed in the fall of 2011 with DC’s "New 52" relaunch, which spurred several years of strong growth. By 2014, that rate of growth was leveling off - but in January 2015 another shot of adrenaline hit, with Marvel getting Star Wars, which added more than $30 million to the Direct Market that year on its own. And when the pace again began slowing down in the spring of 2016, DC’s "Rebirth" provided another booster shot.

There has been no booster shot in 2017 so far; not many big launches. In July 2016, a $50 million month, the average issue number in the Top 10 was 1.8, and the median was 1. Almost everything was a first issue, thanks to "Rebirth." In July 2017 " With no "Marvel Legacy" titles increasing the numbering, in July 2017 the average issue number in the Top 10 was 27.2, and the median 6.5.

As of this point in 2017, we’re back to the size of the Direct Market at the same time in 2014. The last couple of injections, so to speak, have worn off, but the gains of the early part of the decade remain secure. It’s worth noting that even in the depths of the 2009-2011 slowdown - when the first top seller dropped beneath 100,000 copies, bottoming out in February 2011 with a bestseller only at 71,517 copies - conditions were still better than they’d been at the end of the 1990s, because we had the burgeoning trade paperback sector and a much stronger slate of middle-tier publishers. If hyperbole and panic were inappropriate then, they are more so, now - but it is an honest assessment to say that 2017 has been significantly underperforming, and by a rate that makes it less likely that the year will get back to even in the months remaining.

While 2011 clearly did rally from nearly the same July level to get back almost to even, the 2017 market continues to face some challenging comparatives. The main one is next month: August 2016 saw more periodical comics shipped than any time in the Diamond Exclusive Era, so odds favor a repeat of this month's story. By September, however, the comparatives get somewhat easier; a string of $48 million months would mean no further year-over-year losses, and could bring the dip for the year back into line with the low-double-digit drops earlier in this decade. We just had a $48 million month in May, so it’s doable.

Also, where earlier this year Marvel accounted for 100% of the market's shortfall, now DC is behind for the year, too, because of the Rebirth numbers this year is comparing with. Graphic novels actually performed relatively the best in July, while still being off; we see very little deep discounting going on at the publisher level, which usually adds an artificial boost when it happens. The GN orders in July are closer to the real retail demand.

The July 2017 Market ShareComparative Sales Data, and New Titles Shipped charts, along with Top 10 Comic Books and Top 10 Graphic Novels charts follow below.

TOP COMIC BOOK PUBLISHERS

RETAIL MARKET SHARE

PUBLISHER

SHARE

MARVEL COMICS

36.89%

DC ENTERTAINMENT

26.94%

IMAGE COMICS

11.47%

IDW PUBLISHING

3.83%

DARK HORSE COMICS

3.40%

BOOM! STUDIOS

2.32%

DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT

2.16%

ONI PRESS INC.

1.63%

VIZ MEDIA

1.12%

TITAN COMICS

0.95%

OTHER NON-TOP 10

9.29%

 

UNIT MARKET SHARE

PUBLISHER

SHARE

MARVEL COMICS

39.53%

DC ENTERTAINMENT

31.15%

IMAGE COMICS

9.73%

IDW PUBLISHING

3.26%

DARK HORSE COMICS

2.55%

BOOM! STUDIOS

2.33%

DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT

2.04%

ONI PRESS INC.

0.96%

TITAN COMICS

0.94%

AFTERSHOCK COMICS

0.84%

OTHER NON-TOP 10

6.69%


COMPARATIVE SALES STATISTICS

 

DOLLARS

UNITS

JULY 2017 VS. JUNE 2017

COMICS

-13.55%

-11.04%

GRAPHIC NOVELS

-6.41%

-18.21%

TOTAL COMICS/GN

-11.56%

-11.61%

TOYS

-10.76%

11.81%

JULY 2017 VS. JULY 2016

COMICS

-23.18%

-26.60%

GRAPHIC NOVELS

-8.33%

-10.96%

TOTAL COMICS/GN

-19.31%

-25.64%

TOYS

-18.79%

-25.46%

YEAR-TO-DATE 2017 VS. YEAR-TO-DATE 2016

COMICS

-7.01%

-2.52%

GRAPHIC NOVELS

-12.39%

-13.18%

TOTAL COMICS/GN

-8.69%

-3.41%

TOYS

-5.09%

-9.26%

 

NEW TITLES SHIPPED

PUBLISHER

COMICS SHIPPED

GRAPHIC NOVELS SHIPPED

MAGAZINES SHIPPED

TOTAL SHIPPED

MARVEL COMICS

93

40

0

133

DC ENTERTAINMENT

76

32

0

108

IMAGE COMICS

52

20

1

73

IDW PUBLISHING

41

12

0

53

DARK HORSE COMICS

20

22

0

42

BOOM! STUDIOS

23

8

0

31

DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT

24

3

0

27

TITAN COMICS

18

8

1

27

VIZ MEDIA

0

27

0

27

ONI PRESS INC.

8

5

0

13

OTHER NON-TOP 10

131

133

18

282

TOTAL

486

310

20

816

 

TOP 10 COMIC BOOKS

RANK

DESCRIPTION

PRICE

VENDOR

1

DARK DAYS: THE CASTING #1

$4.99

DC

2

ASTONISHING X-MEN #1

$4.99

MAR

3

BATMAN #26

$2.99

DC

4

BATMAN #27

$2.99

DC

5

SECRET EMPIRE #6

$4.99

MAR

6

SECRET EMPIRE #7

$3.99

MAR

7

STAR WARS #33

$3.99

MAR

8

DEADPOOL KILLS MARVEL UNIVERSE AGAIN #1

$3.99

MAR

9

THE WALKING DEAD #169 (MR)

$2.99

IMA

10

SPIDER-MEN II #1

$3.99

MAR

TOP 10 GRAPHIC NOVELS & TRADE PAPERBACKS

RANK

DESCRIPTION

PRICE

VENDOR

1

MONSTRESS VOLUME 2 TP (MR)

$16.99

IMA

2

RICK AND MORTY VOLUME 1 TP

$19.99

ONI

3

STAR WARS VOLUME 5: YODA’S SECRET WAR TP

$17.99

MAR

4

CURSE WORDS VOLUME 1 TP (MR)

$9.99

IMA

5

THE FLASH VOLUME 3: ROGUES RELOADED TP

$16.99

DC

6

THE LEGEND OF KORRA VOL. 1: TURF WARS PT 1 TP

$10.99

DAR

7

BATMAN/TMNT TP

$16.99

DC

8

BATMAN/TMNT ADVENTURES TP

$19.99

IDW

9

BLACK SCIENCE VOLUME 6 TP (MR)

$16.99

IMA

10

SERENITY VOLUME 5: NO POWER IN THE ‘VERSE HC

$19.99

DAR


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