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Comics A.M. | Comics rebound in 2011 while graphic novels slump

Justice League #4

Publishing | John Jackson Miller takes apart the December sales numbers and finds that while comics were up for the month, graphic novel sales fell just enough to prevent the direct market from having its first up year since 2008. In fact, trades are down 16 percent from December 2010, and Miller spends some time discussing why that might be — and why next year might be different. [The Comichron]

Publishing | Houghton Mifflin has high hopes for Are You My Mother?, the new graphic novel from Fun Home author Alison Bechdel: The publisher plans a first printing of 100,000 copies. [Publishers Weekly]

Retailing | Diamond’s Retailer Summit will be held the two days before the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, with attendees receiving free admission to the April 13-15 convention. [ICv2]

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Comics A.M. | Antarctic Press to stop selling Wimpy Kid parody

Diary of a Zombie Kid

Legal | Antarctic Press has agreed to stop selling Diary of a Zombie Kid and Diary of a Zombie Kid: Rotten Rules under the terms of a temporary restraining order issued Wednesday by a federal court. Wimpy Kid Inc. is suing Antarctic for trademark infringement, among other things, claiming that its Diary of a Wimpy Kid parodies are too close to the real thing. Antarctic CEO Joe Dunn signed the temporary restraining order, signifying that Antarctic agreed to it; the two companies are negotiating a settlement, according to court papers. One interesting tidbit: Diary of a Zombie Kid sold all of 850 copies in comics shops in August, while the first printing on the latest Wimpy Kid book was 6 million. [ICv2]

Retailing | The auction for the inventory of Arizona retail chain Atomic Comics announced last week has been moved to Jan. 10. [Sierra Auction Management]

Comics | Bayou Arcana is a new anthology of Southern Gothic horror comics with a gender twist: All the comics are written by men and illustrated by women. There are some pretty broad generalizations in this article — “There is a certain sensitivity that you find in women’s art that just does not appear in a lot of guys’ work,” says the project editor, James Pearson — but the project itself sounds interesting. [The Guardian]

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Quote of the day | Tom Brevoort on DC’s ‘returnability Ponzi scheme’

Tom Brevoort

“DC extended the terms of their returnability Ponzi scheme for two more months. Until we get to a month in which retailers are ordering straight up, without needing to hit unrealistic numbers in order to qualify for returnability, you guys looking at the limited and skewed charts that you get to see aren’t going to be able to see what is clear to those of us who get to see the actual numbers and track the day-to-day week-to-week sales flow of the business.”

Tom Brevoort, Marvel’s senior vice president of publishing, responding to a question on his always-interesting Formspring account about when, in his view, the Diamond charts will accurately reflect sales of DC Comics’ New 52 titles

Don’t call it a comeback? Marvel’s ‘seriously inflated’ top-seller

Point One

The takeaway from November’s direct-market sales estimates seemed to be that Marvel had rebounded from its thrashing the previous month by DC Comics, whose New 52 numbers appear to be settling. With 33.3 percent of dollar shares and 37.94 percent of unit sales, the House of Ideas came within two points of its competitor.

However, in its analysis ICv2.com suggests that those numbers don’t tell the whole story, and that the sales of some of Marvel’s top titles are a bit — or, in one case, “seriously” — inflated.

The retail news and analysis site reminds us that the publisher’s top-selling comic at No. 5, the $5.99 Point One, was over-shipped, with stores receiving double their initial orders as free copies. That means retailers didn’t order an estimated 113,352 copies but rather around 56,600, placing Point One at No. 29 on the Diamond Comic Distributors chart, between The Amazing Spider-Man #673 and The Avengers #19.

Skipping past The Avenging Spider-Man #1 and Wolverine and the X-Men #2, with their variant covers — four for the former alone — brings us to Fantastic Four #600, the anniversary issue whose $7.99 price tag helped Marvel to gain ground in dollar share.

Related: John Mayo looks at November sales estimates for Comic Book Resources

Comics A.M. | The case against, and for, sales estimates

X-23 #20

Sales charts | Responding to an iFanboy article that speculates on what titles Marvel might cancel next, Men of War and Viking writer Ivan Brandon makes the case against sales charts and the subsequent analysis of them each month: “There’s an ongoing debate, for a bunch of years now. There are numbers that circulate every month, inaccurate numbers, people track them, people use that flawed ‘data’ to comment on what they see as the progress or decline on the list. A lot of comics professionals are against this, for a lot of reasons. In my case, for my books, the books I personally share copyright on … my reason is, and no offense to anyone out there: My income is none of your business. Just as your income is none of mine.”

Tom Spurgeon offers a counterpoint: “Sales information seems to me an obvious positive, not because it reveals the bank accounts of creators, but because what sells and to what extent is basic information about a marketplace, and the shape and potency of a marketplace seems to me a primary item of interest for anyone covering that marketplace. It’s foundational to our understanding of how things work and why. Certainly this information is already manipulated to brazen effect by companies with something to put over on customers; I have to imagine this would become worse under a system of no information at all being released.” [Ivan Brandon, The Comics Reporter]

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Comics A.M. | ‘Death of Phoenix’ page fetches $65,000 at auction

From Uncanny X-Men #137

Comics | An original page by John Byrne and Terry Austin from Uncanny X-Men #137, the 1980 issue that featured the death of Phoenix, sold at auction Wednesday for $65,725. As ICv2 notes, the sale continues the trend of 1980s comic art going for high prices; a page of Frank Miller art from Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #3 sold for $448,125 in May. [ICv2.com]

Digital | ICv2’s Milton Griepp makes the case for publishers to provide sales information on digital comics. “Why would this information be useful? There are a number of reasons. One is that it would help distributors (most importantly, Diamond Comic Distributors) and retailers selling physical comics and graphic novels identify which titles have the largest audiences in digital form. They could then make sure that they’re merchandising the top digital titles appropriately, so they can take advantage of demand for physical titles that results from digital exposure (we’ve been hearing that there’s a significant phenomenon of digital purchasers looking for collections of comics they’ve purchased online). Digital demand can also indicate potential demand for physical books from consumers that aren’t purchasing digitally; a good book, after all, is a good book, and if digital purchasers are finding a title that’s not as popular in physical form, it may indicate that there’s an untapped market of consumers of physical books as well.” [ICv2.com]

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Sales of DC’s New 52 titles slip just 6% in second month

In a month when half the books ordered by direct market retailers were from DC Comics, sales of October’s New 52 titles declined just 6 percent from those of the September debuts, a figure ICv2.com notes is less than half the typical decay between first and second issues.

As Comic Book Resources reported on Friday, DC claimed 42.47 percent of the market in dollars and 50.97 percent in united sold in October and dominated Diamond Comic Distributors’ Top 20 with 17 spots. According to newly released estimates from ICv2, the top six DC titles broke the 100,000-copy mark, led by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee’s Justice League #2 with about 180,700.

Sales of 14 New 52 titles saw gains from their first issues, with Animal Man boasting a 14-percent jump, followed by Batman and Swamp Thing with 7 percent each. Superman and Blackhawks, however, saw 26-percent drops. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the two DC relaunches that attracted controversy, Catwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws, saw 6-percent jumps.

Just one Marvel title sold more than 100,000 copies: Incredible Hulk #1, by Jason Aaron and Marc Silvestri, with about 106,470. Wolverine and the X-Men #1 and Fear Itself #7 each hovered above 95,000.

It’s probably also worth pointing out the sheer number of DC reorders that appear high on October’s Top 300, led by Aquaman #1 in the 88th spot with more than 28,000 copies (pushing total sales of the first issue past 100,000 copies). That’s more than the orders for new issues of Marvel’s Hulk, Deadpool, Punisher and Thunderbolts.

Related: Rood & Wayne Unpack DC’s New 52 Sales Success

Comics A.M. | SPX attendance up; more on Justice League #1 sales

SPX

Conventions | Executive director Warren Bernard said attendance at this year’s Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland, was up 10 to 15 percent, with exhibitors reporting strong sales and many sell-outs. “A great line-up of new material was partially responsible, but the region itself is also a factor — the economy around metro DC has remained relatively stable even in the recession, and a lot of people with good jobs seem to save up their money for the whole year just to spend at SPX,” reported Publishers Weekly’s Heidi MacDonald and Calvin Reid. Because of the growth, next year the show will move to a bigger room with about 50 percent more space. Daniel Clowes and Chris Ware scheduled to attend. [Publishers Weekly]

Organizations | The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, meanwhile, reports that it raised $12,500 at SPX, thanks to efforts like the Jeff Alexander Memorial Benefit auction and fundraising activities involving Craig Thompson, Roz Chast and Sara Varon. [press release]

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Comics A.M. | ‘Spider-Island’ tops sluggish July; BOOM!’s Disney titles end in October

Amazing Spider-Man #666

Publishing | Sales of comic books and graphic novels in July fell 6.17 percent versus July 2010, with dollar sales of comic books sold through Diamond Comic Distributors falling 4.27 percent and graphic novels falling 10.10 percent year-over-year. Unit sales for comics were only down slightly, at .52 percent, which ICv2 points out “indicates that comic book cover prices have in fact declined. The problem is that circulation numbers have not risen enough to make up for the decline in revenue from lower cover prices.” Marvel’s Amazing Spider-Man #666, which kicked off the “Spider-Island” event, was the best-selling comic of the month, while League of Extraordinary Gentlemen III Century #2 from Top Shelf topped the graphic novel chart. John Jackson Miller has commentary.

Marvel saw a slight increase in its dollar market share for July when compared to June, while DC’s jumped from 28.03 percent in June to 30.55 percent in July. IDW, the No. 5 publisher in terms of dollar share in June, moved to the No. 3 position in July. The top seven publishers were rounded out by Image, Dark Horse, Dynamite and BOOM! [ICv2]

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Comics A.M. | DC’s gay and lesbian heroes, ‘more brooding’ Superman

Stormwatch #1

Publishing | DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio talks about the gay and lesbian characters appearing in the company’s books come September, including Batwoman and WildStorm imports Apollo, Midnighter and Voodoo: “When we looked at trying to incorporate some of the characters that inhabited the WildStorm universe Apollo and Midnighter are two characters that have always popped out. Not because of what they represent, but they’re just strong characters in their own right and [they] were able to represent a story, a style of character that wasn’t represented in the DC Universe. There’s more of an aggressive nature with those characters that will interact interestingly with other characters and allows us to tell more and better stories.” [The Advocate]

Publishing | Todd Allen, Tom Foss and Graeme McMillan react to the list of changes to the “younger, brasher and more brooding” Superman who will inhabit the DC Universe following the September relaunch. [Indignant Online, Fortress of Soliloquy, Blog@Newsarama]

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Comics A.M. | Comic sales slide slows; Thor press kit triggers bomb scare

Fear Itself #1

Publishing | The drop in year-over-year sales in the direct market slowed in April, with periodicals slipping 1.75 percent and graphic novels just .84 percent. Overall sales were down 1.46 percent for April and 6.5 percent for the first four months of the year. Marvel topped Diamond’s comics chart with Fear Itself #1, while DC led the graphic novel category with the 15th volume of Fables. [ICv2.com]

Crime | Police evacuated the bus terminal in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan, Friday afternoon after a suspicious package was discovered across the street. The Michigan State Police bomb squad was called in, and it was determined the mysterious package was merely a briefcase-shaped media kit promoting Acura’s involvement with Marvel’s Thor. A writer for Automobile, whose offices are next to the terminal, had discarded the “S.H.I.E.L.D. Assessment Test” kit in the recycling bin, but it wasn’t picked up — apparently because it isn’t recyclable. [WXYZ, Jalopnik]

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Comics A.M. | Spider-Man musical producers ‘stepped in dog poo’

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Broadway | Michael Cohl and Jeremiah Harris, producers of the troubled Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, talk candidly about the $70-million musical — or “$65 plus plus,” as Cohl says — as it shuts down for more than three weeks for a sweeping overhaul. Will the production, plagued by delays, technical mishaps, injuries and negative reviews, hurt their reputation? “It might,” Cohl concedes. “It’s a matter of the respect of those whose opinions I care about. Most will recognize that Jere and I stepped in dog poo and are trying to clean it up and pull off a miracle. We might not.”

In related news, Christopher Tierney, the actor who was seriously injured on Dec. 20 after plummeting 30 feet during a performance, will rejoin rehearsals on Monday. [Bloomberg, The Hollywood Reporter]

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Comics A.M. | FF #1 breaks 100K; Nic Cage’s stolen Action #1 found

FF #1 -- Marko Djurdjevic variant

Publishing | On the heels of Monday’s direct-market overview for March, ICv2 has released its sales estimates for the month, placing the top-selling FF #1 at 114,472 copies — more than 37,500 ahead of the No. 2 title, Green Lantern #64. The retail news and analysis site notes that the relaunched FF #1, aided by variant covers, joins the Human Torch-killing Fantastic Four #587 as the only titles to sell more than 100,000 copies in the past six months.

While 11 of the Top 25 comics saw sales increases, if only slight, the graphic novel category looked decidedly more grim, with just the third volume of The Unwritten and Batman and Robin: Batman Reborn breaking the 4,000-copy mark. [ICv2.com]

Crime | Los Angeles police have recovered a copy of Action Comics #1 stolen from the home of actor Nicolas Cage in 2000. The 1938 comic, worth as much as $1.5 million, was discovered last month by an unidentified man who claims to have bought the contents of an abandoned San Fernando Valley storage locker. It’s now in an LAPD evidence safe while the department’s art details detectives try to track down the thieves, but Cage says he can’t wait to get the comic back. “It is divine providence that the comic was found and I am hopeful that the heirloom will be returned to my family,” he said in a statement. [Ventura County Star, Los Angeles Times]

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Comics A.M. | One Piece breaks another record, more on Diamond Digital

One Piece, Vol. 61

Publishing | The 61st volume of Eiichiro Oda’s insanely popular pirate manga One Piece sold more than 2 million copies in its first three days of release, according to the Japanese market-survey firm Oricon. It’s the fastest-selling book in the Oricon chart’s nearly three-year history, breaking the previous record set by the 60th volume of One Piece, which sold more than 2 million copies in four days. [Anime News Network]

Retailing | Heidi MacDonald talks to Dave Bowen, Diamond’s director of digital distribution, about the newly announced deal with iVerse Media that will allow retailers to sell digital comics in their stores: “The retailer will login using their Diamond retailer login and be presented with the opportunity to create store-specific, item-specific codes in whatever quantities they need. Then we’ll use some approved cryptographically secure method to generate random codes for the retailer to use. And we’ll format those in a PDF which they can then print out. Likely what will happen is, it’ll print easily on Avery 30-up laser labels. So what you have is a sheet of Avery laser labels with a bunch of different books and codes on individual labels. In that case the retailer takes that material and secures it and then when someone wants Transformers #16 they simply ring the sale and give the label or sticker or cut-out to the consumer. […] It’s really very simple. Then the consumer that has that code, which is live, they could literally step out of the line, pull out their iphone or ipad or whatever other device and redeem the code and begin reading the material.” Meanwhile, Todd Allen dissects what he describes as “a particularly silly digital download scheme.” [The Beat, Indignant Online]

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Quote of the day | Is DC Comics a two-man operation?

Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns (via Bleeding Cool)

Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns (via Bleeding Cool)

“The 26 best-selling DC single issues were all written or co-written by either Geoff Johns or Grant Morrison.”

Techland’s Douglas Wolk makes a startling observation about Diamond’s 2010 sales charts. I mean, I knew Johns and Morrison were DC’s two bestselling authors by a long shot, and since I enjoy their work a great deal I’m pretty happy about that, but that level of dominance is really stunning to me. Moreover, Wolk goes on to note that “The best-selling DC single issue that was neither a Batman comic nor a tie-in to Blackest Night/Brightest Day was Superman #700, at position #109.” In other words, DC’s dominant writers have made the properties on which they work — predominantly Batman and Green Lantern — DC’s dominant franchises as well. Even superstar writer J. Michael Straczynski’s much-ballyhooed Superman debut failed to gain much traction relative to the Johns/Morrison juggernaut.

I think it’s safe to assume that Johns is being pulled in more and more directions by his Chief Creative Officer duties — the same position, keep in mind, that Joe Quesada recently relinquished his Editor-in-Chief gig to focus on over at Marvel. Meanwhile, Morrison is a writer whose work meets with frequent delays at the best of times, and who has a full slate of creator-owned work and various media projects (Hollywood screenplays and adaptations, the indie flick Sinatoro, My Chemical Romance videos, etc). Finally, there’s no way to tell how the Green Lantern movie will affect fan interest in the franchise. That’s a lot of eggs to have in relatively few baskets.


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