Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

February 12, 2014

Various Comics Sales Estimates Suggest General DM Lull

The comics business news and analysis site has offered up 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 January 2014.

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

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

I haven't done one of these in a while. I wish I could give you a better reason than "I suck," but I can't. The truth is I just got out of the habit of paying attention to these numbers. That may have been because there was a long run, about two years, where the numbers were pretty good for this kind of store owner: comic books were performing ahead of where they were before the sugar-boost that came with chugging DC's comic book equivalents of 52 liters of Mountain Dew in the Fall of 2011, Marvel stabilized a bit and had its moments here and there particularly down the charts, and individual Image comics began to perform well as retailers began to respond to those books in a way that seems remarkable in memory of the Wild West era of twenty years ago: for their fundamental "this writer/this artist/this project" stability. There was also a pretty strong trade market, both in the aforementioned Image titles but also series in general where you could argue -- or at least this was something that I heard from individual retailers -- that people were following those trades in serial fashion the way they used to pick up the comic books. It still felt like there was a missed opportunity in terms of DC not being able to extend the attention it received in 2011 to content-driven solid-performers, one could detect a generation of readers moving away from their mainstream-buying because of a shift in top-line creators at both Big Two companies, some of the licensed titles that had settled into a relationship with other top 10 publishers began to feel like they had been around a while, and one could certainly imagine these little market-share indulgences like instantaneous crossovers and rampant use of more than 12 titles in a year for individual series might eventually make things queasy rather than exciting.

So things have slowed a bit. Is a month like January what was expected? Maybe. And will this lead to drastic changes? Almost certainly not. It's not even clear we're really seeing a confluence of downward-trending factors. It could just be in the timing. When there's a lull in the direct market it's usually for more quotidian reasons, not enough debuts or books that are getting people excited publishing to maximum effect within the designated time period. But is worth noting that at least the momentum that had been months in the making wasn't enough to keep pushing past whatever reasons things have slowed down a bit. One way comics is tough is that it's seemingly not incentivized for its major players in terms of slow-growth strategies; it seems like everything but bread-and-butter, sold-performing comic book series drives this particular segment of the overall market. While this would seem to indicate the possibility of a shift in strategies taking hold, usually in comics the opposite holds true and something shakes the market back to life from the stunt or event families of comics-making. We'll see. I'm still under the impression that the performers in comics that are furthest away from maximizing their sales potential are those that because of tradition and a kind of general corporate weight still hold most of the top slots. I'm not sure that ever changes.
posted 1:59 am PST | Permalink

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