Double-page spread from “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” © 2008 DC Comics.

Is the comic industry in trouble?

Absolutely not. And I can prove it!

Today as I was having my morning coffee and perusing one of my favorite industry blogs The Beat (Highly recommended!), I came across a post from Editor-In-Chief Heidi MacDonald titled “February sales numbers are out and if you’re the worrying kind, plenty of fodder” and was instantly intrigued.

Heidi pointed out that the February comic and graphic novel sales figures from Diamond Comic Distributors had been released over at ICv2 and based on those figures, analysis from both Milton Griepp of ICv2 and John Jackson Miller from Comichron show that there was indeed a drop in comic orders place by retailers through Diamond. But is that really a cause for alarm? Not really. Heidi also brought up the excellent point that some people are saying that if you take Star Wars comics out of Marvel’s sales equation then Marvel’s sales would be down. Well, I immediately jumped into my February sales data generated from my store’s Point-Of-Sale system to see what the data would tell me and here is what I came up with.

First off, the data and my analysis of that data pertains only to my store here in San Diego. My store by no means represents what any other store may be experiencing with their comic sales. That being said, I would consider my store to be average in sales compared to other stores. The big difference for my store is that we are located in a shopping mall which exposes us to what I feel is a more diverse crowd of readers than a typical store located off the beaten path of retail. In other words, we have a lot of civilian traffic that I feel is more apt to frequent a traditional book store rather than a traditional comic book store to satisfy their comic addiction. Anyway, here is what comparing the February 2016 comic and graphic novel sales data to the February 2015 comic and graphic novel sales data revealed to me:

 Comic Sales Feb 2015 vs Feb 2016

DC                                     -33%

IMAGE                              +20%

MARVEL                           +10%

STAR WARS                     -60%

MARVEL + STAR WARS  -13%

ALL OTHERS                    +30%

 Graphic Novel Sales Feb 2015 vs Feb 2016

DC                                     +11%

IMAGE                               +54%

MARVEL                            +54%

STAR WARS                       N/A

MARVEL + STAR WARS   +59%

ALL OTHERS                     +45%

Overall, a positive analysis!

Taken as a whole, the Diamond February comic sales figures show a drop, while graphic novel sales are up. No argument there. But when I actually broke sales down by publisher, I found that comic sales were up double digits for all publishers except DC in my store. That is fantastic! Even DC graphic novel sales were up as I was shocked to discover, though not nearly as high as other publishers.

DC Graphic Novel Sales Analysis

Analyzing DC graphic novel sales I found that in my store Vertigo accounted for 44% of DC GN sales, Pre-52 graphic novels accounted for 29% of DC GN sales and Post-52 graphic novels accounted for 27% of DC GN sales. Yet more evidence that DC’s current super hero universe is an epic failure by any standard. But hey, an 11% increase in DC graphic novels sales is a welcome relief from DC’s catastrophic continuing decline in single issue sales and I’ll take it!

Marvel Graphic Novel Sales Analysis

Marvel dominated graphic novel sales at my store in February (up 54%) due to the Deadpool movie. Deadpool graphic novels accounted for 59% of Marvel GN sales while Star Wars graphic novels accounted for 11% of Marvel GN sales. If not for the Deadpool movie and Star Wars graphic novels, Marvel graphic novel sales would have probably been about the same as last February. That is really no big deal as Marvel graphic novels sales have never really been that big over the years for whatever reason.

Image and the Other Publisher’s Graphic Novel Sales Analysis

Image graphic novel sales in my store were up 54% (The same as Marvel. How weird is that?) Since the fourth quarter of 2015 Image has been the King of graphic novel sales here unit wise but running a close second to DC dollar wise due to DC’s higher graphic novel price point. When you combine Image graphic novel sales with a 45% combined graphic novel sales increase from publishers like Boom!, IDW, Oni Press, Fantagraphics, Benitez Productions, Dark Horse, Dynamite, Scholastic, First Second, Archie, Drawn & Quarterly, Graphix, Joe Books, Titan, Slave Labor Graphics and Udon you get a true picture of the glowing health of the comics industry. This data just shows that the comic reading public is hungry for quality non super-hero content that is not event driven. Creator owned is the future of comics!

DC Single Issue Sales Analysis

What can I say? DC single issue sales in my store are down 33% from last year with no bottom in sight. Stick a fork in DC single issues, they’re done! ‘Nuff said on DC. Hopefully that will change this Summer with Rebirth!

Marvel Single Issue Sales Analysis

Love it or hate it (and I hated the idea!), Marvel’s All New All Different (ANAD) is working for now. So props to them. Marvel’s single issue sales are up 10% in my store from last February if you don’t include Star Wars sales and that is a big winner in my book! If I include Star Wars single issue sales with Marvel’s super-hero books, I get a decrease of 13% in marvel single issue sales. I do not group them together for this sales analysis because the Star Wars Universe is totally separate from the Marvel super-hero universe. So if you take away Star Wars sales Marvel has an increase in single issue sales contrary to popular belief. But I’m still not forgiving them for the lateness of Secret Wars. That cost all retailers sales. Shame on them.

Marvel Star Wars Single Issue Sales Analysis

If I compare Marvel’s Star Wars single issue sales from February 2016 to February 2015 in my store I get a 60% sales decrease. At first glance that might seem appalling, but let us examine those sales realistically. In February 2015 there were only two Star wars titles on their second issue. The Star Wars frenzy was in full swing and the comics were selling crazy numbers. Fast forward twelve months and there are four titles. Sure, sales are down 60% from 2015, but they are still some of Marvel’s best selling comics. Three of the titles are selling at 100,000 plus comics a month and Kanan is selling over 38,000 copies. That is incredible! And at our store Star wars sales are stable which is more amazing still. So as you can see, Marvel is tearing it up right now!

Image Single Issue Sales Analysis

Image single issue sales are up 20% in my store from last February. Is there any doubt that creator owned non super-hero fare is the future of the comic industry? Image continues to do everything right and their single issue and graphic novel sales increases reflect that across the board. Way to go Image! Keep it up. The only problem I see with Image is how are they going to continue to increase sales on their single issues. We sell way more Image trades than single issues because most Image readers appear to prefer the trade over single issues. Any ideas on this?

Other Publisher Single Issue Sales Analysis

With a combined single issue sales increase of 30% in my store, independent publishers are coming on strong. Diverse, quality books are driving the industry these days and the smaller independent publishers are leading the way. Bee & Puppycat, Lady Mechanika, Lumberjanes, Invader Zim, Hip Hop Family Tree and many other independent comics too numerous to name have truly brought us into a Golden Age of comics. But just like Image, these publishers need to come up with new ways to increase and maintain single issue sales. Without the single issue sales there can be no trades.

In Closing

Is the comic industry in trouble? I hope that you can see from my analysis that it is not. Do not let the bad management at DC comics by “The Usual gang Of Idiots” (DC’s Mad Magazine’s words not mine!) make you think that this wonderful industry is in trouble because I believe it is healthier than it has ever been. Today’s wonderful creator owned stories and artwork have never been better and when you combine that with the the incredible diverse fan base that has embraced the comics medium, the future looks brighter than it has ever been. I have been reading and collecting comics for over forty-five years and selling them for more than a quarter century and believe me, comics are better than they have ever been and they are going to get even better!