Initial March comic orders from US pop culture retailers were up 7% over March 2001, powered by strong performances from Marvel and Dark Horse. Book format products led the way with a 47% increase vs. 2001 numbers, while comics posted a more modest 3% increase vs. the year ago period. Marvel and Dark Horse continued their run (see 'Comics and Graphic Novels Continue Growth in February'), with 27% and 26% growth rates vs. 2001, respectively. DC orders declined 2%, continuing the trend that has been masked by Dark Knight Strikes Again the last few months, and Image declined 35% vs. 2001 numbers. While the 7% growth rate represents a decline from the torrid 18-19% growth rates of the first two months of the year, it's still a strong showing for a month with no blockbuster miniseries or major #1s (see 'Mundane March Titles Hold Their Own'). Over-all March numbers were a wash vs. the stronger orders two years ago, with a near-doubling of graphic novel orders unable to overcome an 8% decline in comic orders vs. 2000 numbers.
The quarterly growth rate was excellent: comic and graphic novel orders grew 15% in Q1 2002 vs. Q1 2001, topping the 9% increase for Q4 (2001 vs. 2000). This may very well be the first time there have been two consecutive growth quarters in the comics business since the mid-90s, and validates the positive trends that began last summer (see 'Top Comic Stories of 2001'). While book products are leading the way, both format categories were up in Q1, with comics up 11% and graphic novels up 54% vs. 2001 numbers. The quarterly numbers were also up vs. 2000 orders, with a 10% over-all growth rate reflecting an 83% jump in book orders and a 4% increase in comic orders vs. the two years ago period.
With the Spider-Man movie due in less than 60 days (see 'Marvel's Monster Movies Mash the Screen,' and 'Marvel Talks Spider-Man Movie Tie-Ins'), the first industry-wide promotion in the history of the comics industry (see 'Free Comic Book Day on May 4'), and strong sales in the book trade, this is starting out to be a great year for the comics biz.
The numbers in this article are based on ICv2 estimates of initial raw orders to Diamond North America on titles scheduled for shipment in March 2002.
Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and Image distribute 100% of their comic store orders through Diamond. Some other publishers distribute directly to stores or through other distributors and as a result this analysis may underestimate their sales.
Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and Image distribute some of their titles through channels other than comic specialty stores, e.g., newsstands and bookstores. These quantity estimates do not reflect distribution through those channels.
The estimates above do not include advance reorders, late orders, or reorders.
Most of the titles involved in these calculations are also distributed to Europe by Diamond UK, which can account for significant sales for the publisher, ranging from 3-20% of the US numbers. Sales by Diamond UK are not included in the numbers above.
Even given the above, however, it is probably safe to say that our estimated quantities reflect 80% or more of the total North American sales by the publisher on most periodical comics.
For a list of the top comics in March, see 'Top 300 Comics -- March 2002.'
For a list of the top graphic novels in March, see 'Top 50 Graphic Novels -- March 2002.'
For last month's top comic list, see 'Top 300 Comics -- February 2002.'
For last month's graphic novel list, see 'Top 25 Graphic Novels -- February 2002.'
For an overview and analysis of last month's numbers, see 'DKSA #1 Again for February.