After posting year-over-year gains for seven straight months, comic sales slipped 1.18% in dollar sales in March versus March 2011.  Graphic novels were off even more, dropping 5.67% in year-over-year numbers in March. But strong growth in sales in January and February gave both the comic and graphic novel categories robust growth numbers for the first quarter.  Comics were up 15.85%, while graphic novels were up 8.39% for the quarter, with the combined sales of comics and graphic novel sale up 13.42% for the quarter.
While the first quarter numbers are great, the year-over-year March numbers are somewhat troubling because March of 2011 was hardly a banner month.  Sales of the Top 300 comics were down 4.28% in March of 2011 versus March of 2010, and graphic novels fell 7.58% versus March of 2010.  In March of 2011 only two graphic novel titles sold over 4,000 copies, which meant that even the top titles were selling barely one copy per store, which indicates that March 2012 graphic novel numbers will be on the puny side (check back on Monday for ICv2’s estimates of the sales of the Top 300 Comics and Graphic Novels). 
Thus though the March 2012 year-over-year declines were not particularly large, and March numbers could be something of an aberration caused by the fact that there were only 4 ship weeks in March of 2012 versus 5 in 2011, they still present something of a red flag for the bull market in comics which began last August with the advent of the Justice League, the first of DC’s “New 52” titles, which finally relinquished its hold on the top spot on the charts in March.  If comics sales resume their growth in April, then March is just a blip, an aberration due largely to the calendar, but if the declines continue it might indicate that the head of steam that the market picked up with the launch of the “New 52” is petering out as the relaunched titles age.
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After sweeping the Top Ten for the first two months of the year, DC Comics netted only 7 of the top ten titles in March as Marvel took the top two spots with its AVX titles (one of which (issue #1) shipped the last week of March, but couldn't be sold until April 4th) and its Avengers movie tie-in title Avengers Assemble debuted at #5.  Even with these three titles in the Top Ten, Marvel’s marketshare lead diminished from 6.45% in February (35.92% to 29.47%) to 5.26% in March (36.21% to 30.95%) in dollar share.
The churn among mid-tier publishers continued as Image regained the third spot in March with a 6.66% dollar share followed by IDW with 5.74%, Dark Horse with 5.24%, and Dynamite Entertainment with 2.9%.
The graphic novel category has been considerably less bullish than periodical comics over the past seven months, and part of that could be the result of the changeover in the DCU, which rendered the final collections of pre-New 52 material largely irrelevant.  The good news is that the “New 52” collections will be out soon and DC reports that preorders are strong.  Two of DC’s Flashpoint collections, which chronicled the events leading up to the launch of the “New 52” are in the Top 10 and collections of the re-launched DC series are due in May, so this category could be poised for a turnaround, particularly if Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises has even half the effect on graphic novel sales that his previous Batman film, The Dark Knight had in 2008.
The graphic novel category is extremely hit-driven and that can be seen in the March chart, which was topped by the first volume of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, which, buoyed by huge ratings from the TV series, topped the charts in April.  The latest volumes of Dark Horse’s Hellboy and Dynamite Entertainment’s The Boys also made the list along with the Marvel “jump-on” title X-Men: Season One HC.  Mention should also be made of the fact that Brian Wood, one of the best writers in comics, had the latest volume of two of his Vertigo series, DMZ Vol. 11 and Northlanders Vol. 6 in the Top Ten, while Dark Horse’s incredibly consistent Star Wars Clone Wars collections continue to do very well in both the bookstore and direct markets.

For an overview and analysis of comic sales in March, see "'AvX' #1 Ends 'Justice League's' Reign."

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 2012."

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 2012."

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 2012."

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 2012."

For an overview and analysis of the best-selling comics and graphic novels in February, see "DC Sweeps Top 10 Again in February."  For an analysis of the dollar trends in February, see "Comic Sales Boom in February."

For our index to our reports on the top comic and graphic novel preorders for January 2000 through March 2012, see "ICv2's Top 300 Comics and Top 300 GNs Index."