Comic orders were up again in October, kicking off the fourth quarter with the best dollar month this year to date (see 'Top 300 Comics -- October'). As we reported last month (see 'September Orders Buck Seasonal Trends'), retailers have been reporting strong sales all summer, with better traffic, sales, and consumer mood than have been seen in pop culture stores for years. Total dollars for October were up over 11% compared to September, which was an unusually strong month when compared to normal seasonal trends, and were the highest monthly total since we started doing these reports early this year.
Surprisingly, the strength this month came in the bottom two thirds of the list. The dollars of the top ten titles grew at about the same rate as the over-all dollars, while the dollars of the top 100 titles grew only about 5% versus September. Circulations on the top ten books were mostly down as well, reflecting this trend toward greater strength among titles out of the top of the list (see 'Top 300 Comics -- September'). Marvel's 100 Greatest Marvels title (five issues) were among the lower circulation titles contributing to a strong dollar total.
While the orders that made up these numbers were placed before the September 11th attack on the U.S., anecdotal reports so far have been positive with regard to comic sales (see 'Steady as She Goes'), and if past patterns hold, even the U.S. recession may end up having a positive impact on sales (see 'Recession!').
Marvel dominated the top of the list to exactly the same degree as it did last month, with nine out of the top ten titles, and twenty-one out of the top twenty-five. DC and Image each had two titles in the top twenty-five.
The estimated North American advance orders to Diamond for the top 25 comic titles for October are as follow:
122,632 Origin #2
120,205 Origin #3
115,828 New X-Men #119
110,158 Uncanny X-Men #399
99,329 Ultimate X-Men #11
86,876 X-Treme X-Men #6
86,456 Amazing Spider-Man #36
78,436 Ultimate Spider-Man #14
78,414 Green Arrow #9
71,314 Wolverine #169
64,226 Punisher #5
60,794 X-Treme X-Men Savage Land #2
58,771 Avengers #47
56,327 Daredevil Yellow #5
54,793 Elektra #4
52,719 Daredevil #26
50,146 Peter Parker Spider-Man #36
49,274 X-Force #121
48,616 Fantastic Four #48
48,552 Iceman #1
47,470 Rogue #3
46,559 Spawn #115
46,310 Rising Stars #18
46,185 Ultimate Marvel Teamup #9
For a discussion of the type of reporting we do here and the potential for better numbers in the future by DC's top business operations executive, see '20 Questions: Paul Levitz, Part III.'
Our analysis is based on a combination of the information Diamond releases in Diamond Dialogue and actual order numbers provided to ICv2 from publisher sources. By plugging in the circulation numbers we know and using the Diamond order index, all of the circulation numbers for comics ordered through Diamond can be interpolated. Since Diamond calculates its indexes based on initial advance orders from its US location only, we use publisher numbers for the same kind of orders to do our calculations. This produces very accurate estimates of the initial orders for North American shops. It is not an estimate of the total sales by publishers.
Here are the limitations to our analysis:
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 quantities above do not include advance reorders, late orders, or reorders.
Most of the titles on this chart 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 these quantities reflect 80% or more of the total North American sales by the publisher on most periodical comics.
One other factor to consider is that sales through Diamond and other comic distributors are non-returnable to retailers. That means that there is a considerable unknown percentage of books unsold at the retailer level. If that percentage is 10-20% of sales (a reasonable assumption), the estimates above may be quite close to actual sales of new releases to consumers.