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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:
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.