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Comics Down--Three Is a Trend

March Sales Continue Slide

Published: 04/04/2014 11:31am
Batman #29
The long bull market in comics is officially over, or at least pausing, with a significant decline in sales to comic stores for a full quarter now in the books.  Sales of comics and graphic novels declined 1.48% in March, making the decline for the quarter 4.4% vs. the previous year.  Comic sales to specialty stores, according to numbers released today by Diamond Comic Distributors, were down 9.47% in March, while graphic novel sales were up 18.31%.  For the quarter, comic sales were down 6.89% and graphic novel sales rose 1.39%.    

Bad weather in parts of the U.S. definitely played a role, as may be indicated by March’s lower decline than the first two months of the year (see "Comics Down Second Consecutive Month").  If that’s the case, we should see sales bounce back in April, although it’s hard to imagine that the weather accounted for more than a couple of points of the decline. 

The decline may have more to do with the product being released by the Big Two, as indicated by the Top 10 lists released by Diamond.  In comics, Batman once again took the top spot, with no new launches appearing in the top five. 

The Top Ten Comic Books for March 2014
  1. Batman #29 (DC)
  2. Superman Unchained #6 (DC)
  3. Forever Evil #6 (DC)
  4. Sandman Overture #2 (DC)
  5. Superior Spider-Man #29 (Marvel)
  6. Daredevil #1 (Marvel)
  7. Superior Spider-Man #30 (Marvel)
  8. Silver Surfer #1 (Marvel)
  9. The Walking Dead #124 (Image)
  10. Uncanny X-Men #19 NOW (Marvel
In graphic novels, the story is similar, with only three titles from the Big Two in the Top 10, the same as in February.  This is a trend that has been playing out even more extremely in the book channel, where Marvel and DC failed to place a single title in the Top 20 for the second month in a row in March (see "March BookScan--Top 20 Graphic Novels").

The top few graphic novel titles were telling:  the latest The Walking Dead and Saga volumes from Image took the top two slots, and with the latest Chew at #5, three of the top five graphic novels in comic stores in March were from Image.  Top Shelf had the #3 slot with the latest League of Extraordinary Gentlemen volume, and with Dark Horse’s Avatar: The Last Airbender at #4, the Big Two were shut out of the top five in comic stores.  
The Top 10 Graphic Novels for March 2014
  1. The Walking Dead Vol. 20
  2. Saga Vol. 3
  3. Nemo: Roses of Berlin
  4. Avatar:  The Last Airbender Vol. 7
  5. Chew Vol. 8
  6. Justice League: Trinity War HC
  7. Harley Quinn: Welcome to Metropolis
  8. Adventure Time Vol. 3
  9. Marvel Masterworks: Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1
  10. Stray Bullets Uber Alles Edition

The comparisons to last year were extremely tough in the first quarter, with comics and graphic novel sales up nearly 20% in the first quarter of 2013 vs. 2012 (see "Comic Market Up 22%+ in March").  That means Q1 sales in 2014 were still up over 15% vs. 2012, so things aren’t all that bad.  Still, any interruption in the long growth trend for comics is worth noting.
The Walking Dead juggernaut may even be slowing.  We note that there were no early volumes of TWD in the graphic novel top 10 despite a weak month, perhaps an indication that new readers are no longer flocking to the title in the same numbers.  The season finale of the AMC show, which aired in March, drew 15.7 million viewers, a record for a season finale and up 27% over the previous year (see "'The Walking Dead' Round-Up").  But this was the first season for which the season finale did not top the season premiere.  Like the comic sales, not bad numbers, and still an overall great trend, but perhaps an indication that things are slowing down a little. 
Market shares were similar to last month’s, with Marvel at 34.31% and DC Comics at 25.94%.  Dark Horse Comics once again held the #4 position, topping IDW Publishing for the second month in a row.
For an overview and analysis of comic sales in March, see "Three Months, Three 100K Issues."

For our estimates of actual sales by Diamond U.S. from comic specialty stores on comic books shipped during March, see "Top 300 Comics Actual--March 2014."

For our estimates of actual sales by Diamond U.S. from comic specialty stores on graphic novels shipped during March, see "Top 300 Graphic Novels Actual--March 2014."

For our estimates of actual sales by Diamond U.S. from comic specialty stores on comic books shipped during February, see "Top 300 Comics Actual--February 2014."

For our estimates of actual sales by Diamond U.S. from comic specialty stores on graphic novels shipped during February, see "Top 300 Graphic Novels Actual--February 2014."

For an overview and analysis of the best-selling comics and graphic novels in Februay, see "Comic Sales Get 'Deep Freeze' in February."  For an analysis of the dollar trends in February, see "Comics Down Second Consecutive Month."
For our index to our reports on the top comic and graphic novel preorders for January 2000 through March 2014, see "ICv2's Top 300 Comics and Top 300 GNs Index."
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