By John Jackson Miller
[Reprinted with permission from Comichron]
The comics market’s growth accelerated in 2015, with a strong finish to the year helping to negate a weaker third quarter, according to Comichron’s analysis of end-of-year data released byDiamond Comic Distributors.
Comics retailers ordered more than $579 million in comic books, graphic novels, and magazines from Diamond in 2015, beating last year’s total by 7.7% and resulting in the fourth consecutive growth year for the comic-shop market. 2014’s rate of increase was just 4%. The year finished slightly better than our November projections expected; we’ll see the December 2015 report later in the week, but the month would seem to have beaten the pace set in December 2014.
Diamond reported that comics retailers ordered more than 98 million comic books in 2015, up from 92 million copies in 2014. This is the first time Diamond has ever released its overall end-of-year unit sales numbers, and it tells us at last how much exists outside the Top 300s each month. In 2014, Diamond’s Top 300 each month accounted for 82.65 million copies, meaning that about 11% of units exist outside the list each month. That’s reasonably close to our previous projections here. We’ll know 2015’s Top 300 figures for sure when December is released, but odds are we’ll be looking at a similar ratio falling outside the Top 300s.
If the $3.95 average comic book price seen through November holds, then there’s another estimate we can finally perform: that Diamond’s comic books alone accounted for $387 million in 2015, or 66.8% of its comics-and-graphic-novel sales. This is almost exactly the two-thirds figure we’ve estimated at Comichron for a long time.
Diamond reported that its dollar sales for periodicals grew by 8.99%, a big jump from 2014’s growth rate of 4%. That percentage change figure also suggests 2014’s total for comics was $355 million — or about 65.7% of the Diamond’s print sales that year. That again would track: periodical comics had a better year this year than graphic novels did, relatively, so their share of Diamond’s shipments would likely have grown.
Going further back, the new information allows for additional new historical calculations, once we apply the end-of-year percentage changes which the distributor first made available in 2010:
We’ll be adding those calculations to our Yearly Sales Data page.
Back to to 2015. To no one’s surprise, Marvel’s Star Wars #1, with dozens of variant covers and more than a million copies shipped, was the #1 comic book title of the year, having outsold everything in the last 20 years. Highlighted titles were the top-sellers in their individual months:
|1||Star Wars #1*||$4.99||Marvel|
|2||Secret Wars #1||$4.99||Marvel|
|3||Bravest Warriors: Tales From Holo John #1*||$4.99||Boom|
|4||Orphan Black #1*||$3.99||IDW|
|5||Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1||$5.99||DC|
|6||Star Wars Vader Down #1||$4.99||Marvel|
|7||Darth Vader #1||$4.99||Marvel|
|9||Invincible Iron Man #1||$3.99||Marvel|
|10||Princess Leia #1||$3.99||Marvel|
The asterisks refer to comics that had outsized boosts from external repackagers whose books were shipped to them through Diamond. Star Wars #1 was boosted by a Loot Crate version but would likely have topped the list in any event; Bravest Warriors: Tales from Holo John #1 and Orphan Black #1 would not have made the list, had their Loot Crate copies not been included.
According to Comichron’s sources, other publishers are following DC’s lead of sending their comics directly to Loot Crate and similar repackagers, so Loot Crate’s outsized impact on the Diamond charts may finally be done, except where it appears in comparisons with the past. Comichron’s analysis of the wholesale dollar sales rankings suggest that handling Loot Crate issues couldn’t have been earning Diamond much money at all, if any—so the removal of these copies from direct market calculations ultimately doesn’t mean a lot for the distribution side of things.
Diamond’s graphic novel dollar sales were up by 3.14% in 2015; that represents a slowdown from 2014’s 5.18% category increase. Diamond reported an end-of-year unit figure here, too, of just over 8 million graphic novels shipped. It’s harder to convert that back into dollars because of the wide range of graphic novel prices — but there’s $192 million left over for graphic novels and magazines, and graphic novels would take the lion’s share of it. And — again as we’ve suggested often here — at least half of graphic novel sales by volume come from the titles below the Top 300 each month.
The top graphic novels list includes several familiar titles:
|1||Saga Vol. 4||$14.99||Image|
|2||Saga Vol. 1||$9.99||Image|
|3||Saga Vol. 5||$14.99||Image|
|5||The Walking Dead Vol. 23: Whispers Into Screams||$14.99||Image|
|6||Batman: The Killing Joke Special Edition HC||$17.99||DC|
|7||Saga Vol. 2||$14.99||Image|
|8||The Walking Dead Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye||$14.99||Image|
|9||Saga Vol. 3||$14.99||Image|
|10||Star Wars Volume 1: Skywalker Strikes||$19.99||Marvel|
That’s all five Saga volumes in the Top 10 — and this is the seventh year in a row that Walking Dead Vol. 1 has made the Top 10.
On to the market shares:
|Dollar share||Unit share|
|Publisher||Comics shipped||Graphic Novels shipped||Magazines shipped||Total shipped|
The number of overall titles shipped didn’t change much at all from 2014 — slightly fewer — but the differences in release slates can be seen more easily by publisher. Image offered 8% more comics and 24% more graphic novels than in did in 2014, and Boom’s comics output increased by 9% while its TPB output went up by 15%. Marvel and IDW’s output was basically unchanged.
DC shipped 13% fewer comics than in 2014, 963 versus 1,107, perhaps as a consequence of its West Coast move, and Dark Horse’s periodical comic output dropped 9%, offering 378 comics against 432 from 2014. Dynamite offered 18% fewer comics in 2015, but the number of graphic novels it released increased by 19%.
Check back here in the following days to see updated additional materials about 2015. We expect by Friday to have the December preliminary report and the Top Comics of the Century pages updated, and then next week sees the release of the full December data, making possible the Top Thousand charts we usually do.
Comichron.com curator John Jackson Miller has tracked the comics industry for more than 20 years, including a decade editing the industry’s retail trade magazine; he is the author of several guides to comics, as well as more than a hundred comic books for various franchises.
He is the author of several novels including Star Wars: Kenobi, Star Trek: The Next Generation – Takedown, and Star Wars: A New Dawn. New Dawn appears with a new Miller short story as part of the Rise of the Empirecompendium. His Star Trek: Prey trilogy is set for late 2016 release from Pocket books. Visit his fiction site at http://www.farawaypress.com. And be sure to follow Comichron on Twitter and Facebook.
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.