By John Jackson Miller
[Reprinted with permission from Comichron.com.]
Marvel’s Secret Wars revival made a big splash in the comics market in May, moving more than 527,000 copies to comic shops in North America. That’s according to Comichron’s estimates for May 2015 comics sales based on information released by Diamond Comic Distributors. You can find the report here.
That’s enough to place the issue fourth on the list of best-selling comics of the century, and it could go higher with reorders. It came in a month when strong six-figure launches from A-Force and Old Man Logan, and a dominating performance from Batman: Earth 2 Vol. 2 on the graphic novel charts helped push the market to a 13% increase.
The Secret Wars issue edged out a surprise second-place finisher, Bravest Warriors: Tales from the Holo John #1 — and with the comic book, Loot Crate‘s effect on the Direct Market sales charts may finally have reached — pun entirely intended — cartoonish levels. Just over half a million copies of the comic book based on the animated series were shipped by Diamond, and indications are that most of those copies went directly to one customer: Loot Crate, which then doled them out to its subscribers (who do not know in advance what comic books they’re going to receive). When the regular Bravest Warriors title appeared on the periodical charts more than a year ago, it was selling around the 4,000 copy level, and while this first issue likely sold more copies than that in comic shops, it’s likely that more than 98% of the copies went to one customer.
The massive single order had effects on the charts in several ways. Comics unit sales were up 20% over last May: 7.5% of that came from the Loot Crate copies. Industry sales went up $5.8 million versus last May, but $2.5 million of that came fromBravest Warriors. The title cost $4.99, so it helped punch up the weighted average cover price — the price of the average comic book Diamond shipped — to a record $4.17; without the inclusion of the Loot Crate books, that average drops to $4.11. (Still a record, but it only beats the last one — set in April — by nine cents.) It also sent Boom‘s market share northward, making it the #4 publisher in terms of units sold last month — and #3 in dollar sales within just the Top 300.
Where we don’t see the distortion is in Diamond’s dollar shares, which only look at the dollars it was paid — and there, Boom is in fifth place. According to Diamond’s dollar rankings, it sold 2.4 copies of Bravest Warriors for every Secret Wars #2 it sold — and yet the distributor made more money on Secret Wars #2. Since Secret Wars #2 and Bravest Warriors cost the same — $4.99 — that would indicate that Loot Crate got a much better deal from Boom at wholesale on its copies than retailers got from Marvel. In the case of this issue and Februrary’s chart-topping Orphan Black, it’s probably more appropriate to look at these as promotional copies. Diamond stopped including comics promotionally cover-priced below $1 in its charts several years ago, but there doesn’t appear to be a rule concerning a wholesale price minimum. (If there were, we wouldn’t see graphic novels sold at deep discounts included in the charts — and those have often distorted the sales figures by several million dollars.)
There is, again, no single rule I can think of that would easily fit all occasions here — and as the number of box offerings proliferates, the potential impact on the charts grows. (Secret Wars #1 itself was in the Comic Block, Geek Fuel, and Comic Con boxes in May, and Convergence: Action Comics #1 andMythic #1 were also in the Comic Block box, although the numbers involved are likely much smaller than the Loot Crate case. It’s also not clear whether they’re all going through Diamond: DC didn’t go through Diamond with its first Loot Crate offering.) About the only suggestion I might have would be for Diamond to remove from the Top 300 charts sales any non-Direct Market accounts that do not order a variety of comics monthly; that would allow in sales from outlets like Hastings, but separate out promotional one-off purchases by outside firms. Such titles might be reported as an addendum to the charts, such that we’d know how they affected the market shares and bottom line; publishers would also see their sales reflected in that event. But that approach might be more difficult to do as the number of grab-bag retailers increases.
The aggregate changes are as follows:
TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES
May 2015: 8 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: +20%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +30%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +36%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +33%
YEAR TO DATE: 37.16 million copies, +16% vs. 2014, +29% vs. 2010, +26% vs. 2005, +30% vs. 2000
ALL COMICS UNIT SALES
May 2015 versus one year ago this month: +19.53%
YEAR TO DATE: +16.9%
May 2015: $33.34 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +33%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +55%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +96%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +105%
YEAR TO DATE: $146.69 million, +21% vs. 2014, +46% vs. 2010, +75% vs. 2005, +94% vs. 2000
ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES
May 2015 versus one year ago this month: +19.94%
YEAR TO DATE: +16.48%
May 2015: $7.27 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: unchanged
Versus 5 years ago this month: +21%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: +28%
Versus 15 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: +34%
YEAR TO DATE: $35.1 million, -1% vs. 2014
ALL TRADE PAPERBACK SALES
May 2015 versus one year ago this month: -0.29%
YEAR TO DATE: +3.41%
May 2015: $40.61 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +26%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +38%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: +72%
Versus 15 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +118%
YEAR TO DATE: $181.76 million, +16% vs. 2014
ALL COMICS AND TRADE PAPERBACK SALES
May 2015 versus one year ago this month: +13.49%
YEAR TO DATE: +12.31%
May 2015: approximately $48.89 million (subject to revision)
Versus 1 year ago this month: +13%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +39%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +83%
YEAR TO DATE: $233.5 million, +12% vs. 2014
New comic books released: 436
New graphic novels released: 228
New magazines released: 44
All new releases: 708
As mentioned above, the average cover price of the comic books in Diamond’s Top 300 was $3.95, a record; there were 205 comics priced at $3.99, 26 above that mark, and 69 below. There were only 38 comics in the chart prices at $2.99, the previous most common price point. Click to see cover prices across time.
Our joint report with ICV2 on 2014’s overall comics sales is being finalized; look for it here in the coming days.
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.