Despite ? and in part owing to ? higher prices on titles of interest to many readers, double-digit expansion continued in many comics sales categories in April, according to CBG?s analysis of the sales reports released by Diamond Comic Distributors on May 22.
For the first time ever, the average price of comic books in Diamond?s Top 25, $3.21, was higher than either the average cost of comics in Diamond?s Top 300, which was $3.20, said John Jackson Miller, F+W Publications editorial director for collectibles. Miller analyzed how comic-book prices have changed across time in his ?Longbox Manifesto? column in Comics Buyer?s Guide #1619, on sale now.
Nonetheless, he said, comics unit sales increased over April 2005, and comics unit sales in the year to date are up 15%. Miller’s chart analysis for April appears here.
Comics unit sales: The Top 300 comic books had retailer orders of 6.25 million copies in April, 3% more than April 2005?s total of 6.04 million copies, which had the same number of shipping weeks.
Infinite Crisis #6 led the list with more than 194,400 copies sold, followed in second place by Wolverine: Origins #1, debuting with orders topping 150,000 copies.
John Taddeo?s Superverse firm had a strong launch for Zoom Suit, placing 114th with approximately 17,700 copies sold. Other publishers making debuts on the list included Adhouse, with Superior Showcase #1 selling 2,100 copies and taking 266th, and Narwain with Zombie-Sama #1 selling 1,800 copies and placing 281st.
One of the strongest issues on the back-issue market, Mouse Guard #1 from Archaia Studios, saw its second issue place 267nd with 2,100 copies ordered.
Across the first four months of 2006, retailers ordered 27.05 million copies, 15% more than last year?s total of 23.6 million copies. ?Strong individual comics sales are really the headline for the first part of 2006,? Miller said.
Comics dollar sales: The Top 300 comic books had sales worth $19.42 million in April, 12% more than April 2005?s total of $17.24 million.
For the first four months of 2006, the Top 300 comics from each month have sold a combined $75.8 million, an increase of 13% over the same period in the previous year, when the total was $66.93 million.
Trade paperbacks : The Top 100 trade paperbacks and graphic novels reported by Diamond had orders worth $3.55 million at full retail in April, an drop of 12% below last April?s total of $4.03 million. To date, the Top 100 trades have sales of $14.59 million, off 4% against 2005?s total of $15.14 million.
?This does not mean trade paperback sales are down overall,? Miller said. ?There just aren?t as many heavy hitters on the very top of the list this year.?
Adding those April TPB sales to the Top 300 comics for the month yields $23.05 million, an increase of 8% over April 2005. For the first four months of 2006, the Top 300 comics and the Top 100 trade paperbacks from each month had orders worth $90.39 million, 10% over the same period in 2005.
Exclusive: Diamond?s ?overall? sales: In the most inclusive category calculated by anyone in comics, CBG is able to estimate Diamond?s total sales for comics and trade paperbacks, including all those not in the Top 300/100 every month.
?Diamond publishes dollar market shares for its top 20 publishers across all comics, trade paperbacks, and magazines,? Miller said. ?Knowing the exact total orders of any publisher on that list right down to the oldest backlist item allows you to calculate Diamond?s total orders across these product groups.?
The April 2006 total was $30.29 million, which increases to $33.74 million, when Diamond?s United Kingdom orders are added. The North American figure is 10% over April 2005?s sales of $27.43 million. Overall, the last four months stand at $119.29 million, 10% more than 2005?s figure of $108.86 million.
CBG cautions that the ?overall? category overstates comics? actual performance to the extent that magazines that do not have comics content are included. The comics publishers? market shares would actually be slightly higher, if ancillary items were removed.
Market shares: Marvel led DC in Diamond?s reported overall unit and dollar market shares. DC had 100 comics in the Top 300 versus Marvel?s 85, reversing the roles seen last month. Dark Horse solidly bested Image in every category, including comics unit sales.
Price analysis: The average comic book on Diamond?s Top 300 list cost $3.20, up from $3.06 in April 2005.
The weighted average price ? that is, the cost of the average comic book Diamond sold ? was $3.12, up from $2.84 last year.
The average price of the comics that made the Top 25 was $3.21 ? again, the first time that figure has ever topped the average price of all comics offered.
Historical context: Increasingly, Comics Buyer?s Guide is adding to its online library of past sales figures. The archive of all months posted from April 1997 to the present appears here and includes links to summary pages for individual years.
Methodology: Diamond keys orders for all comics it lists sales for to Batman, with one ?order index point? being equal to 1% of that title?s orders. Using actual Diamond final orders from titles accounting for more than 25% of Diamond?s Top 300, CBG determined that one point on Diamond?s order index was likely to equal 729 comic books ? with a 95% probability that the real figure was between 728 and 730.
For more information: Historical graphics for several categories tracked above appear in Comics & Games Retailer magazine. Also, check issues of Comics Buyer?s Guide and CBGXtra.com.