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October 21, 2010


Analysts: September 2010 DM Estimates

The comics business news and analysis site ICv2.com offers their usual array of lists, estimates and analysis regarding the performance of comic books and graphic novels in the Direct Market of comic and hobby shops, this time for July 2010.

image* Overview
* Analysis
* Top 300 Comic Books
* Top 300 Graphic Novels

John Jackson Miller at The Comics Chronicles has begun his analysis of the month here.

The Direct Market ends its stellar performance against general discretionary spending trends with a Chuck Jones ker-splat, as September caps off a brutal third quarter of decline: comics and graphic novels down a combined 12 percent, with component figures of comic sales down 14 percent and graphic novel sales down six percent. As ICv2.com puts it in the above-linked overview: "This is the largest year over year quarterly decline we've seen since we started tracking these numbers in 2004."

More troubling from my perspective is that this market failed the last three months to do what this market has been designed to do: drive readers to big hits that balance against a somewhat wobbly book-to-book base of modest to even marginal performers. Whereas in some cases the failure to meet certain ostensible goals could be seen as a market shift to different points of emphasis, it's difficult to build an alternative narrative here. The top serial comic topped out at just over 100,000 copies sold, and only 22 single comics sold over 50,000 copies -- and of course that's sell-into, not sell-through. Not only do such numbers indicate a malaise in terms of sales, there's a potential secondary effect where the lack of comics firing the imagination of fans risks making those fan intermittent or perhaps even only occasional comics shoppers. In other words, I think the biggest companies have oriented themselves towards a hit-driven market, and when the hits go away they are less likely to muddle through effectively than even the overall numbers indicate. My hunch is that the market would be better off with a few hits and less of a dependency on them to spike interest. It's hard to say which effort brings with it greater difficulty.

One positive note for an individual creator is that writer Robert Kirkman has six of the top 25 trade paperbacks sold in this month. Retailers tell me that Kirkman's work arrives in their shops on such a regular basis they have many people buying the trades in traditional serial comic fashion, which is not something I've sure we've seen before for a series also widely available in comic book form.
 
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