In a fascinating post at Comichron, a great industry research site, writer John Jackson Miller details that more than 10 million comics were ordered in the month of August, a high that hasn’t been equalled since December of 1996. Diamond Comics Distributors have never reported shipping more than 10 million books in a single month in its history.
DC Comics led the dollar and market share for this month, buoyed by the top-selling Harley Quinn #1, which shipped over 400,000 advance copies. It’s DC’s biggest share since September 2013. The DC Rebirth Relaunch/Reboot/Whatever-You-Want-To-Call-It has been a goldmine for the company, with DC nabbing nine of the top ten books sold in August. Now, as the Comichron piece notes, a factor in these figures has to come from returnability, namely the practice of some publishers to allow comic shops to return unsold books, a practice that is relatively new and a particular feature of the DC Rebirth books. Out of fairness, Diamond Distributors reduces the orders of these books in their monthly sales charts by 10%. However, Comichron has done a study and concluded that median returnable books in 2014-15 wound up selling 10% more than Diamond originally reported, so take that as you will. By any measure, DC Rebirth has been a windfall for DC, revitalizing the line both creatively and financially.
On the graphic novel side, sales were more evenly split between the big two publishers. Dc still came out on top with six titles, though Marvel had four in the top ten, and Image’s Saga continue to be a sales juggernaut for the trade paperback division of Image.
Though the message of this month’s stats seems to be a tale of DC’s success, August’s numbers are good for the industry as a whole, too. Orders of comics and graphic novels by retailers in August were up nearly 32%, bringing the year’s total up by 3%, which resulted in every category for 2016 heading into the positive. Most encouragingly, the number of new comics published in August increased by 19% and new graphic novels increased by 4%, though how much this is function of a five-week month rather than a healthy creative trend is debatable.
For those who have been wondering whether comics, particularly monthly single issues, are dying, these sales numbers are encouraging to the contrary. Though a single month is not enough data to suggest a trend or a turnaround, it does provide at least an indication that the growing cultural impact of comics, in an age of Hollywood blockbusters and TV adaptations, might actually materialize into a healthier industry for the medium itself. One can only hope.