April '10 COMICHRON Report: The Difference a 5th Week Makes

As well as the comic-book direct market performed in the month of March, the industry underperformed in April, with orders for all comic books, trade paperbacks, and magazines off nearly $10 million, or 24%. The monthly estimates appear here.

The mention of the previous month is intentional, as March had five weeks versus the previous March’s four, while April had four shipping weeks versus the previous April’s five. According to our recent analysis of month-to-month volatility, the average five-week month since 2004 has seen 11% more sales of Top 300 comics units than the average four-week month. Had March 31st been a Tuesday, it’s clear the relative pictures for March and April would have been much different.

So while there’s a tendency toward jubilance over reports like March’s — and pessimism over reports like April’s — the key is to stay focused on the year-to-date figures. Those, currently, find Top 300 comics orders off 3% in units and unchanged in dollars, with overall sales including all trade paperbacks off 3% for the year thus far.

Brightest Day #0 joined with the new Flash title, Green Lantern #53, and Batman and Robin #1 1 to give DC the top four slots on the chart. Marvel led in both dollar and unit market shares overall, helped by the top-ordered graphic novel, the hardcover Kick-Ass compilation. It was the second month in a row for the title to top the charts; the film based on the comic book released in mid-April. There was no new Siege issue in April (apart from the tie-ins), also impacting overall sales.

The aggregate figures:


April 2010: 5.57 million copies

Versus 1 year ago this month: -17%

Versus 5 years ago this month: -8%

Versus 10 years ago this month: -4%

YEAR TO DATE: 22.63 million copies, -3% vs. 2009, -4% vs. 2005, unchanged vs. 2000


April 2010: $19.31 million

Versus 1 year ago this month: -15%

Versus 5 years ago this month: +12%

Versus 10 years ago this month: +25%

YEAR TO DATE: $78.66 million, unchanged vs. 2009, +17% vs. 2005, +32% vs. 2000


April 2010: $5.54 million

Versus 1 year ago this month: -29%

Versus 5 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: -10%

Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: +65%

YEAR TO DATE: $22.25 million, -15% vs. 2009


April 2010: $24.86 million

Versus 1 year ago this month: -19%

Versus 5 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: +8%

Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +28%

YEAR TO DATE: $100.86 million, -4% vs. 2009

OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)

April 2010: $31.97 million ($35.44 million with UK)

Versus 1 year ago this month: -24%

Versus 5 years ago this month: +18%

YEAR TO DATE: $129.24 million, -3% vs. 2009, +19% vs. 2005

The average comic book in Diamond’s Top 300 cost $3.47. The average Top 300 comic book that retailers ordered from Diamond also cost $3.47. The median comic book price in Diamond’s Top 300 was $3.50, and the most common cover price on Diamond’s list remained $3.99 for the second consecutive month.

As mentioned above, the poor overall showing for the month puts the overall market back into negative territory for the year, with only the Top 300 Comics Dollar Sales category keeping pace with 2009. Trade paperbacks had a rough outing in both the frontlist and backlist — though, again, the extra week is a important determinant of trade sales. Also, it’s believed that April 2009’s charts may have reflected additional sales owing to some deep-discount promotions by publishers, so that also muddies the water for comparison purposes.

Here's a look back at what was going on in previous years...

April 2009 's top seller was DC’s Detective Comics #853, with estimated first-month Diamond orders of 104,100 copies. The Neil Gaiman issue performed an interesting feat: as Comichron reported, it was the first time an issue of Detective, the longest-running ongoing series in American comics, had ever topped the charts. Check out the sales chart here.

April 2005 's top-seller was Marvel's New Avengers #5, with Diamond first-month orders of over 162,300 copies. But DC took the next four of the top five slots in a month where the narrower categories were flat or slightly off year-over-year. Star Wars Episode III helped Dark Horse to one of its higher market shares across history; the movie came out in May, but orders for the adaptation issues and trade were recorded in April. Check out the sales chart here.

April 2000 's top-seller was Image's Fathom #12, with estimated Diamond preorders of approximately 124,500 copies. Image topped the charts only twice more in the 2000s, with an anniversary issue of Spawn and Masters of the Universe #1 a couple of years later.

Also in April 2000, Marvel boosted its cover prices from $1.99 to $2.25 for most of its line, helping its market share. Check out the sales chart here.

April 1995 's top seller at Diamond and at Capital City Distribution was Marvel's X-Men Omega, the final chapter of the "Age of Apocalypse" storyline. Capital reported preorders of approximately 143,050 copies, placing overall orders north of 400,000 copies. Omega represented something close to an end to the enhanced-cover era; its acetate outer cover makes it one of those issues where online scans look nothing like the comic book!

The book was priced at $3.99 — and the average comic book ordered within Diamond's Top 300 cost $2.39. The most common cost of comics was $2.50, believe it or not: Marvel and DC's lines were scattered across several price points, including $1.50, $1.75, $1.95, and $2.25, whereas Image, Malibu, Dark Horse, and Acclaim had many of their comic books priced at $2.50.

April 1990 's top seller at Diamond and Capital City was Legends of the Dark Knight #8, the third issue of Grant Morrison's "Gothic" storyline. Capital City's orders on the issue were 84,950 copies, suggesting that overall sales were closer to half a million copies.

Finally, April 1985 's top seller at Capital City was Marvel's Secret Wars II #2, the shorter sequel to 1984's best-selling comics series. Capital's orders were approximately 65,000 copies, suggesting overall sales in the 300,000-to-400,000-copy range.

While the identically priced Crisis on Infinite Earths undeniably had a longer-term impact on its publisher's line, Secret Wars II was nearly outselling it two-to-one at Capital in April.

Market share and other historical sales graphics can be found here.

Writer of 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). Follow research updates on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/comichron.


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