Sunday, October 14, 2018

Weekend Headlines - September Comic Book Sales

Well, latest comic book sales report is out.

The recovery in the comics shop market gained steam in the third quarter of 2018, as September comics and graphic novel orders rose 4% over the previous year, allowing the three-month period to close up 6%. Significantly better than the second quarter's 1% win, the $137.5 million quarter was the best in dollar terms since the fourth quarter of 2016. In all, orders during the past six months were up $9 million over the same period in 2017. Click to visit our page for September 2018 comics sales estimates; the figures will be posted there on Monday.

Last winter, my reports that the rate of decline was decreasing may have seemed like an exercise in excess optimism. That wasn't the intention: rather, signs of what might be a market bottom were becoming detectable, and that seemed worth sharing. I tried not to overstate the possible case, as I did in 1998 when I had much less history to look back upon — but it does now appear that the change in trajectory starting last winter was real, and is continuing. The $45.18 million month of September was up $1.6 million, meaning that the year-to-year loss piled up this winter was cut in half for the third month in a row. Year-to-date sales now stand at $389 million, off just a little more than $2 million.

I had some concern in late September as a couple of weekly reorder charts came in with very few comic books charting; one week, no comic books at all charted. But comics share the reorder charts with graphic novels, and those charts are measured in dollars — so a dearth of comics entries in a month with many high-profile graphic novels on sale isn't necessarily a negative indicator. Graphic novels were indeed a big winner in the month, up 12% year-over-year thanks to the Image trifecta of new editions of Saga, Walking Dead, and Monstress which finished 1-2-3 in the unit sales charts.

Marvel's Return of Wolverine #1 led new comics sales, with DC's Heroes in Crisis #1 placing second; the controversial Batman: Damned #1 placed fifth in units and second in dollars. Comics unit sales for the month stood at 7.19 million units, down half a million copies against the previous September, which was fueled by Marvel Legacy #1 — and the category is down 4.6 million copies year-to-date.

As noted here all year, of course, unit sales comparisons with 2017 are distorted due to that year's inclusion of many over-shipped and 25¢ titles (and the lack of inclusion of this year's million-copy DC Nation #0) — and there's something else in play. Through September, 4,206 new comic books have been released this year. In the same period last year, the figure was 4,446. That's 240 fewer comics released this year, a drop of 5.5%.