Robot 6

Comics sales fall off a cliff

The retailer-oriented site ICv2 has the latest comics sales numbers from Diamond, and the news is grim: In their own words, third-quarter comics sales “sucked.” Compared to the third quarter of 2009, comics sales are down 14% and graphic novels are down 6%, for a combined drop of 12%, the largest the ICv2 gurus have seen since they started tracking year-to-year sales in 2004.

Their reasoning seems to buck conventional wisdom: What you mainly read on the blogs is that fans hate big events and stopped buying comics when Marvel and DC raised the price of a single issue to $3.99. The numbers seem to say otherwise:

Wolverine #1, the top selling comic in September

We took a look to see to what degree higher prices were holding up comic periodical sales, and although there was an effect, it wasn’t huge. Piece sales for the quarter were down 16%, vs. the 14% decline in comic dollars noted above.

Pricing may be part of the problem, but the real issue is a dearth of major hits. Like all entertainment businesses, the comics category rises and falls on the strength of its strongest titles, and the strongest titles just aren’t that hot right now, especially in the core superhero lines of the Big Two. Marvel took a break from major events this year (see “Interview with Marvel’s Dan Buckley, Part 1”) and hasn’t had any big PR successes for a while, and DC has seemed like it was moving through molasses for much of the year as its New York staff waited for the other shoe to drop in the company’s ongoing reorganization (it recently hit the floor, see “DC’s Move West to Affect 80”).

This is strictly direct market sales, of course; these charts don’t cover bookstores, where graphic novels tend to do better. The article does end on a moderately cheerful note, pointing out that comics have done better than one might think given the dismal economy, and that the holiday season is yet to come.

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Comments

9 Comments

There are some very interesting points here. (one could say price points…) The question is, how long can the conventional comics distibution apparatus hold up with sales declining at this rate?

Comic stories out of the Big 2 are always cyclical. Eventually the same stories are retold in a different more modern way. We’re hitting that cycle now, and we old time collectors are noticing retreads of the same stories from 20-30 years ago. Heroic Age and Brightest Day represented what we were waiting for: jumping off points.

Now, I’m taking a break from Big 2 books and reading more Indies and trades of stories I have missed over the years. Money I save from dropping the myriad of Batman and Avengers books is buying me the TPB Preacher set I have been dying to finally ready. It has been quite refreshing!

Well for DC what’s happening?

Batman is “dead”.
Robin is Batman.
Wonder Woman is in an alternate timeline.
Superman is walking.
Flash is dead, then alive, then another dead flash comes back.
Green Lantern is doing something or other.
Events that make you go *yawn*

For Marvel?
Spiderman continuity is all messed up.
MJ is gone (sorta)
Red Hulk/Green Hulk what?
X-Men are in San Fran
10 different X titles
5 different Avengers titles
3 (more?) Deadpool titles
events that make you go *yawn*
Punisher was Frankenstien
Constant wolverine overload
Daredevil is going to be “dead” for a few month then he’s going to come back.
Captain America was “dead”
Thor was “dead”
Captain America is Buckey

Fan or not, the above is true.

I dropped my Marvel titles for two reasons: $3.99 and too many titles. I would not be surprised if Marvel is publishing the same or more titles now than during their events.

How can a good title be recognized and rewarded with sales if it is lost in a sea of the run-of-the-mill titles being pumped out?

I think they need to cut out all the crap by getting rid of the redundant and marginal books (5 Avengers titles, really guys?) and promote the core books.

It looks like Wolverine is making a big, gray poopie.

I’m with Mike. My purchasing is way down due to the $3.99 price. I spend less per week in my local store, and I doubt that this is rare (especially with the poor economy)….

An event won’t make me buy more books, because most event books are priced at $3.99 (at Marvel, anyway)…

It’s just pure foolishness. They dilute the market with hundreds of titles per month and they wonder why people are scared off? Event or no event, you cannot read a complete story anymore without buying dozens of titles.

Time for an implosion of quantity and explosion of quality.

BTW, is that cover with Wolverine the same pose as a new 3D statue that’s being relesed?

Cross promotion for $3.99 a pop…

Marvel dropped all the books I liked, especially the cosmic stuff.

Instead they gave us a gazillion cap and thor.

Sorry, not my cup of JOE!

DC’s Superman stuff is horrible, GL got away from the sci-fi cosmic angle and went more earth like, and Batman ughhh..

The Big Two aren’t offering me anything I like.

Now if the Indies would just get their act together and get stuff OUT ON TIME!

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