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Comics in March: half empty or half full?


Yesterday’s initial sales charts left no doubt that so far 2012 has been a strong year for comics sales, but the numbers were also flat from last March — five Wednesdays in 2011 vs four in 2012, perhaps? The numbers prompted a vague shadow of worry to cloud the brow of Milton Griepp at ICv2:

Thus though the March 2012 year-over-year declines were not particularly large, and March numbers could be something of an aberration caused by the fact that there were only 4 ship weeks in March of 2012 versus 5 in 2011, they still present something of a red flag for the bull market in comics which began last August with the advent of the Justice League, the first of DC’s “New 52” titles, which finally relinquished its hold on the top spot on the charts in March. If comics sales resume their growth in April, then March is just a blip, an aberration due largely to the calendar, but if the declines continue it might indicate that the head of steam that the market picked up with the launch of the “New 52” is petering out as the relaunched titles age.

But Jaunty John Jackson Miller was nearby to point out how great the entire quarter was: the first time this century that overall comics sales topped $100 million in the first quarter (it would have done so even without the addition of the early shipping AvX #1.) It was also the first month since 1994 that five publishers have topped 5% in dollar market share, something Miller thinks is significant news. Beyond that, Miller sees all good for the quarter:

The Comics Chronicles initially estimates retailer orders of $33.7 million for the month; that brings the quarter to $101.9 million. (Click to see the preliminary charts for the month.)  Retailers ordered more than $12 million more in comic books and trade paperbacks than they did in the first quarter of 2011, and the figure even beats out the first quarters from the boomlet years mid-decade in the 2000s. (That is not adjusted for inflation —2007 or 2008 would probably beat out this quarter if it were. But comics prices have actually gone down since the first quarters of 2011 and 2010, so inflation becomes less relevant to the nearer-term comparisons.)

Us? We’re not dedicated number crunchers like Griepp and Jackson, but we are market watchers and….we’re somewhere in the middle. DC brought back the readers for a while, and enough of them are sticking around. The continued flat sales of GNs are somewhat troubling. As Griepp points out, there hasn’t been a new breakout hit since Scott Pilgrim or Walking Dead, and the industry really needs those month in and month out sellers.

Idea: perhaps somewhere in Image’s rollout of new titles there were be a new perennial? A SAGA perhaps? A pick up in GNS sales would be great for the whole business. BUT…see the next post.

  1. Is it really clear DC brought back lapsed readers? And what about new readers?
    More likely (and reports vary), the “NEW 52” brought back the purchase of multiple copies.

  2. It’ll be interesting to see how trades of some of Image’s brilliant new titles sell.

    I’d wager Fatale, Prophet and Saga are going to be BIG sellers! Pretty safe bet, of course.

  3. @ Patrick Ford
    How many people do you really think are purchasing multiple copies that are not issue #1s? The new52 brought in way more lapsed readers than new readers. It also got some “avid” readers to buy more issues. That’s balanced by people who jumped ship. Right now they’ve dropped back down to “Flashpoint months” level of sales.

  4. The Nielsen survey proved that only 5% of new readers tried The New 52 and that was back in September/October! How many of them are still around? It’s quite obvious that people bought many of the #1s and #2s for collector’s purposes and now they are giving up! DC sales are now lower than last August’s right before the reboot, maybe even lower than July! And things will only get worse with all those people giving up The New 52 now that the first arcs have concluded! Just look how low ACTION COMICS has sunk in just 6 months, or WONDER WOMAN which is heading back to pre-reboot levels(THE FLASH is already there!) or all those books that are selling much less than pre-reboot(GREEN ARROW, BIRDS OF PREY, JLI, SUPERBOY, GL spin-offs etc.). DC alienated their fans with the cheap changes and only books like SWAMP THING or ANIMAL MAN or BATWOMAN which kept history and quality intact manage to stay afloat!

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