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

June 16, 2009

Analysts: May 2009 DM Estimates

The comics business news and analysis site 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 May 2009.

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

John Jackson Miller at The Comics Chronicles has his analysis up for May 2009 right here.

The big news this month is a sudden drop in the sales of comic books, both as measured in comparison to last year's figures -- the most utilized measure by comics industry watchers -- and in terms of sales from earlier this year. Sales of comics were down around 20 percent and sales of graphic novels were down about 13 percent for an overall 18 percent drop or so. This after an April that looked promising and featured a surge in sales, although some had warned of two extraordinary circumstance holding up the charts January-April: the extreme popularity of the Obama/Spider-Man team-up as it topped the charts not once but twice, and the strength of Watchmen trade sales as anticipation for the movie went through its final stage.

imageI think I'd tend to support John Jackson Miller's general take as to what this means. This is obviously a drop at the top of the charts, although a reason why titles on down the charts might be doing better than in past years is because they're more likely to be big company titles than they used to be. I would put it like this: this is a market that's been shaped to deliver top-of-charts success, events series and first issues, and there just aren't a whole lot of them right now. That's something that's been underlined in recent years by the attempts of the two big mainstream companies to revitalize or keep vital their mid-list performers. I also imagine there could be something to JJM's supposition that this could reflect trouble at a very specific kind of suburban store that anecdotal evidence suggests has long served as an avenue for a certain kind of high-income spender to buy a lot of comics all at once.

So I'd say the drop is worrisome, if not outright scary. Just look at the top of the serial comic book market in 2008 as compared to 2009. In 2008, there were seven titles selling above 100K; in 2009, none. In 2008, there were 42 titles selling above 50,000 copies; in 2009, there are 24. And what's even more worrisome is that the biggest companies tend to treat the Direct Market as a resource to be exploited rather than a partner to be supported; they're not traditionally the kind of agencies in times of trouble for focused change and market reform. It's enough to make one nostalgic for a year ago, when all people had to worry about and comment on was the under-performance of Final Crisis #1.

(Although the trends story dominates and I think does so with good reason, kudos to Top Shelf's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen re-launch for top of the chart placement via unit sales and dollar amount.)

posted 8:20 am PST | Permalink

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