Let’s round-up all the sale charts we can, shall we?
ICv2 numbers are out and show sales slippage:
Comics and graphic novel sales to North American comic stores declined 4.25% in November vs. the year ago period, according to information released today by Diamond Comic Distributors. And that understates the true decline, because November 2016 was a five-week month, and November 2015 was a regular four-week month; had both years had the same number of weeks, the decline likely would have been closer to 20%.
John Jackson Miller has his own thoughts on the slide, none of which involve comics sales actually slipping.
As mentioned here on Friday, it was a softer month for a number of reasons. The volume of new comics releases went down from October despite the addition of a fifth shipping week, and a large holiday increase in graphic novel shipments wasn’t able to pick up all the slack. It’s possible one factor boosting the number of October comics releases over November was Halloween Comicfest, now fairly well established as a promotion for which giveaway comics are released; while giveaway comics are not included in the unit sales charts, it could be that they are in the new release totals. Local Comic Shop Day items were included, and we see several of them made the graphic novel Top 300.
ICv2 also has its monthly Bookscan and while it’s not cool to reprint it this one this one time I will to give a snapshot in one place. In case you came in late, Bookscan measures actual book sales in about 70% of retail book outlets, but not comics shops, big box stores or libraries.
For the first time, a DC Superhero Girls graphic novel made the Top 20, reflecting the underlying strength of this artfully launched property. Batman: The Killing Joke Dlx. Ed. HC and Harley Quinn Vol. 1 (N52) show the continuing influence of the Suicide Squad movie on DC graphic novel sales.
Marvel Comics had only one of its own titles, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther(which is showing great staying power), in the Top 20, but two DK Publishing Marvel volumes show the strength of the IP in the Top 20.
|1||THE WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM ONE||ROBERT KIRKMAN||IMAGE COMICS|
|2||THE WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM THREE||ROBERT KIRKMAN||IMAGE COMICS|
|3||ONE-PUNCH MAN VOL. 9||YUSUKE MURATA||VIZ MEDIA|
|4||MARCH: BOOK ONE||JOHN LEWIS||TOP SHELF PRODUCTIONS|
|5||THE WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM TWO||ROBERT KIRKMAN||IMAGE COMICS|
|6||MARVEL ENCYCLOPEDIA: UPDATED AND EXPANDED HC||MATT FORBECK||DK PUBLISHING|
|7||THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: LEGENDARY EDITION VOL. 1||AKIRA HIMEKAWA||VIZ MEDIA|
|8||MARCH (TRILOGY SLIPCASE SET)||JOHN LEWIS||TOP SHELF PRODUCTIONS|
|9||THE WALKING DEAD VOL. 26||ROBERT KIRKMAN||IMAGE COMICS|
|10||MARCH: BOOK THREE||JOHN LEWIS||TOP SHELF PRODUCTIONS|
|11||BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE DLX ED||ALAN MOORE||DC COMICS|
|12||MARVEL ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW HC||ADAM BRAY||DK PUBLISHING|
|13||MY HERO ACADEMIA VOL. 6||KOHEI HORIKOSHI||VIZ MEDIA|
|14||MARCH: BOOK TWO||JOHN LEWIS||TOP SHELF PRODUCTIONS|
|15||DC SUPER HERO GIRLS: HITS AND MYTHS||SHEA FONTANA||DC COMICS|
|16||BLACK PANTHER BOOK 1||TA-NEHISI||MARVEL COMICS|
|17||TOKYO GHOUL VOL. 9||SUI ISHIDA||VIZ MEDIA|
|18||HARLEY QUINN VOL. 1 (N52)||CONNER & PALMIOTTI||DC COMICS|
|19||TOKYO GHOUL VOL. 1||SUI ISHIDA||VIZ MEDIA|
|20||JOJO’S BIZARRE ADVENTURE PART 3 VOL. 1||HIROHIKO ARAKI||VIZ MEDIA|
Reprinted with permission of ICv2.
I find this list interesting for so many reasons – the mix of manga and US comics, the appearance of DC Super Hero Girls, and the appearance of only ONE legacy graphic novel. The Killing Joke. New hits.
Turning back to October, general book sales were down 1% in October, Jim Milliot reports.
That’s a small enough drop to be considered “Flat” but as with comics, a strong first six months has slipped, partly due to election anxiety. However, printed matter is still hanging in there.
Bookstore sales dipped 1.0% in October compared to a year ago, according to preliminary estimates released this morning by the U.S. Census Bureau. Sales for the month were $774 million, down from $782 million in October 2015.
After a solid first half of the year in which bookstore sales posted steady monthly gains, the second half of 2016 has seen a more up-and-down performance. A number of publishers and booksellers, including Barnes & Noble CEO Len Riggio, cited distractions caused by the presidential election as putting a damper on sales, and are hoping business will improve in the last months of the year.
Even with slowing gains in recent months, bookstore sales were still up 3.5% in the first 10 months of 2016 over the comparable period in 2015. Revenue was $9.77 billion in the January-October period in 2016, compared to $9.43 billion in the same span in 2015.
If you think all of this is too optimistic, here’s a note from Desert Sky Comics and Games, here’s a note from Desert Sky Comics and Games, a four store chain in Arizona that will soon be only Desert Sky Games, as comics have jumped the shark for them, saleswise.
I do a lot of doomsaying here on the Backstage Pass, and that’s not really where I want to go with this. We all know comics has a sunset on the horizon. We also don’t think it’s happening right now. (If it is, you all can thank me for being the harbinger.) I have stated before that I think it’s likely a few years out. However, the Pacific Southwest has proven to be what I am calling an “economically hypersensitive” consumer market. We can’t see canaries in coal mines from out here, because we are the canaries. So if the earliest furtive tremors of the end of dead-tree media comics as we know them are in fact shaking, I absolutely believe they may be shaking here.
What is more likely is that the current comics downturn, the existence of which there is much less disagreement about within the industry, is sufficiently harsh for a store in my position that it turns too many of the factors negative at the same time, and triggers a core dump. Comic stores operating at greater scale can weather the downturn. Comic stores in less economically sensitive areas can weather it. Comic stores with deeper subscriber box rosters can weather it. Comic stores that auto-tap credit cards are probably better off to weather it. My stores are none of those things.
While I have no insights into How DSC&G/DSG runs its business, it is worth noting that they started carrying comics in 2013, so they aren’t as passionate about the category as some other stores.
That said, any of this “comics are dying!!??!!??!!!?!??!?” talk is totally whack. People have been saying that since 1936 and it was never true and never will be. And so I present to you MacDonald’s Theorem:
The current comics industry may die, evolve, change, get tinkered with or stay sorta like it was. The art form will never die.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.