The preliminary March comic sales numbers are out, and while DC and Marvel still dominate, for the first time in the Diamond Distribution exclusive stranglehold, five publishers have the managed to achieve market shares of over 5%. The individual retail numbers break down like this: Marvel (36.21%), DC Comics (30.95%) [Exclusively Marvel or DC fans, feel free to start the requisite trash-talking with one another about which is the best publisher... now], Image (6.66%) [devilish], IDW Publishing (5.74%), and Dark Horse (5.24%). While the “Big 2” titles continue to absolutely dominate the top 39 sales slots (Kick-Ass 2 is creator-owned and came in at #32, but is published by Marvel’s ICON imprint), the numbers for other publishers show signs of improvement, with the overall sales numbers down a bit across the board compared to March and the first quarter of last year. So what are the reasons behind this, and what does it all mean?
March Retail Sales %
Dark Horse Comics
Image Comics’ strong showing was no doubt helped in part by the debut of Brian K. Vaughan’s new series in Saga #1 (which is the first non “Big 2” title to appear on the charts at #40), and The Walking Dead #95 (which came in at slot #54). The Walking Dead Vol. 1 continues to be popular as well (no doubt aided by the popularity of the hit AMC TV series), and was the top-selling TPB with the attractive new $9.99 sales price. In fact, volumes of The Walking Dead make multiple appearances of the Best Selling TPB List for March and helped give Image a good sales push. Image has been putting out some excellent work, and also received lots of press for the many exciting announcements made at the Image Expo in the last week of February. Did this additional spotlight help to increase Image’s presence with the people who buy comics? I don’t know, but I am sure that it didn’t hurt.
The positive IDW Publishing numbers might be connected to such factors as: the Magic the Gathering and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics both cracking the top 100 (at #91 and #98, respectively). The current IDW comic event, Infestation 2, is currently going on and may have contributed to the push. IDW also had many titles that showed up on March’s Best Selling TPB List, including: Star Trek, Classic GI Joe, Ghostbusters, and Doctor Who. The critically acclaimed Womanthology hardback also made its debut in March as well, and with its $50.00 (and totally worth it) price tag also managed to crack the top 100 sellers list, helping the sales revenue numbers in the process.
Dark Horse Comics has a stable (excuse the pun) of awesome titles, and usually manages to do fairly well in the sales numbers. Looking at the March list, no big DH titles really jump out, though both Buffy and Star Wars titles made the top 100 single issue list. The Top Selling TPB list is a different story, with Hellboy Vol. 12 “The Storm and the Fury” grabbing the #2 spot, and Star Wars Clone Wars Vol. 7 “The Enemy Withing” grabbing the #7 spot. Many other DH titles populate the TPB list as well, including: multiple Star Wars collections, Axe Cop, BPRD, Teminal City, and more. With all of the strong titles, a big upcoming event in the Mignolaverse, and a plethora of new titles announced at ECCC that are scheduled to be released this year, and a great digital program already in place, keep an eye on Dark Horse to continue making gains in the comic market.
So what do the sales numbers really mean? Do they represent a shift starting to take place in the comic market? If you happened to read one of my previous articles, Escape the Comic Straightjacket, you know that I would like to believe that change is starting to occur. As a comic reader who almost exclusively buys and reads titles outside of the “Big 2,” I find these numbers encouraging, but remain cautiously optimistic. The fact is that it’s just too early to make predictions and generalized statements about the future of the comics market. Marvel and DC are, for the time being, still the big players in comics. Let’s wait to see what the number look like in the coming months, with Marvel’s AvX (which Diamond mysteriously included in the March totals since it was shipped to stores, even though it wasn’t available until April) just getting started and the big comic movies slated to hit the theaters. In the meantime remember: every time you buy something, you are essentially voting with your dollars. Buy comics that you enjoy, don’t buy the ones you don’t, and be sure to make an effort to support creators whose work you like (especially their creator-owned titles).