2016 In Review – A Comic Book Shop Talks Comic Book Sales Trends

2016 in Review

Comic Book Sales Trends for Fantom Comics

 

We’re very excited to present our 3rd Year in Review! (here’s our 2014 Year in Review and our 2015 Year in Review). 2016 represented the 2nd full year in our Dupont Circle location, so the year-on-year comparisons are more informative than the ones we did last year (when we were comparing against a year which was split between two different storefronts).

We also want to disclose that we recycled – and often straight up plagiarized verbatim – a lot of the narrative from last-year’s report. Why? Because a lot of facts didn’t change year over year, and if we said it well last year, we saw no reason to reinvent the wheel. Don’t worry though! There’s plenty of fresh analysis and while some of the verbiage may not be original, all of the data is brand, spanking new!

So without further ado, let’s get started!

A note on nomenclature (1): in the interests of consistency and simplicity, “Graphic Novels” encompass all bound comics (trade paperbacks, hard covers, stand-alones) and “Comics” represent periodicals (monthlies, floppies, magazines, etc).

 

A note on nomenclature (2): Within this report we refer to “subscriber” on several occasions. For those not familiar, a subscriber is the heart and soul of any comic book shop. They’re the folks that agree to purchase every issue of a series as it comes out, and their shop holds their requested copies aside. While a “subscriber” is always a “regular” customer, the reverse is not always true, as regulars can opt not to subscribe to books ahead of time. We will not be using the terms “regular” and “subscriber” interchangeably.

 

A note on analysis (1): Unless stated otherwise, all interpretations, extrapolations, observations, recommendations and suggestions apply only within the bubble of the Fantom Comics universe. Our location and customer base are not typical for a comic book store (and really, what is “typical,” anyway?) and so our analysis of the data may draw us to conclusions that – while appropriate to our store – are not necessarily so at other stores, or indeed the industry at large. We can only infer based on our own concrete data.

 

A note on analysis (2): With the previous caveat in place, this sales information is still informative to a larger audience, as there is shockingly little data out there as to how well comics actually sell (graphic novel data is a little better due to their larger presence in non-direct market retail outlets and on Amazon). When a comic book publisher boasts they’ve “sold” a million copies of a comic book, what they’re really saying is that they’ve sold a million non-returnable copies to direct market shops like Fantom. It’s a B to B metric. Those industry numbers do not reflect how many copies actual readers buy. Those million copies sold to comic book shops could easily hide the sad truth that the comic was terrible and in fact only a small percentage of that number was ultimately purchased by consumers.

 

 

DEPARTMENT AND PARCEL
How does our revenue break down by sales department?

 

Graphic Novels and Comics remain our bread and butter, bringing in just a hair over 88% of all of our revenue. However, it’s worth noting that in 2015 they comprised over 90% of our revenue and in 2014 over 96%. Both departments grew significantly between 2015 and this year (21% and 18% respectively…see chart below), but many of our other sources of income are growing even faster.

In fact, let’s see exactly how fast. Here’s a chart showing revenue growth (or loss) in 2015 compared to 2014:

 

Some notes on this chart:

  • Despite growing 42,511 percent (yes, you read that right) between 2014 and 2015, Gaming continued to grow in 2016. And since we had virtually zero gaming in 2014, this 2016 rise is in many ways more impressive that 2015’s 5-figured increase, as we already had a fully functioning gaming program (read: Friday Night Magic) in 2015
  • We’ve had a lot of luck with our Apparel department. Better displays; more variety; more attention paid to trends. We’ve still got room to grow in this area, but 113% growth year on year is a pretty solid start
  • What surprised us was the decline in Events & Beverage sales. We’ve been devoting a lot of time and effort to increasing the number and quality of our events, so this was unexpected. However, digging deeper into the numbers we found that given the still relatively small amount of revenue these events generate (at least compared to comics and graphic novels), it took us missing out on only two big events to explain the decline: our SPX After-Party and Back to the Future Day
  • And of course there’s that 22% increase in revenue across All Departments. Thanks to all of our valued customers – no, friends – we grew 22% in revenue between 2015 and 2016!

 

GRAPHIC NOVEL CATEGORIES
Which Categories do the best?

We track our graphic novels by category. So it was very easy to see the percentage breakdown of 2015 graphic novel sales. And…here it is:

 

Let’s dissect some of this data:

  • Obviously, there’s subjectivity in how one categorizes their books. Ex Machina, for example, is the series with the second highest revenue in the Action Adventure category. But technically the book is about a superhero, so you could be asking, “well, how did it get here?” (did you catch the Talking Heads reference there?). We try to cater the categories to the customer, and not necessarily the technically correct classification. While Ex Machina starred a superhero, it was not really about a superhero, if that makes sense. We felt the book would find its audience better in the Action Adventure section rather than the Superhero section
  • For the Crime category, well, see above. Sex Criminals is about criminals, true (it’s in the damn title, people), but it could also be argued that it belongs in Science Fiction
  • The Horror section makes up one of the most unequal of all of our categories, with just three titles taking in 43% of the revenue. (with Locke & Key and The Walking Dead in a perfect tie for third place)
  • Our Non Fiction category deserves a mention, because, while the March books retained their rightfully deserved 1st place status, the book Cook Korean by store favorite Robin Ha gave Rep. Lewis a run for his money (though in the 2017 report March is going to kill it, thanks in no small part to certain remarks by a certain president who foolishly insulted Rep. Lewis)
  • Just 5 titles – Wicked & Divine, Fables, Rat Queens, Sandman and Shutter made up 70% of our Fantasy sales. Of those five, Wicked & Divine sales were 3x larger than the second best selling series, which – surprisingly – was Fables. Fables itself sold nearly twice as much as the 3rd place finisher: Rat Queens
  • In the Sci-Fi category, Saga actually managed to beat last year’s impressive numbers by making nearly 4x as much money as its 2nd place competitor
  • The Superhero category is a really fascinating one, for a couple of reasons:
    • As this report will highlight again and again, Fantom staff and customers tend toward non-superhero books. We don’t dislike the capes and spandex, we just don’t focus on them and the most engaged portion of our customer base reflects that (or equally likely the staff reflects the customers’ preferences). And in a 2-category world of superhero and non-superhero, the non-superhero comics win. But when superhero comics are looked at as just another genre, you notice that superhero books are the most popular genre we have with a 36% share of all graphic novels sold! And this was a nearly 3% increase in share over last year!
    • Once again, Batman and Avengers books dominated the Superhero genre. 30% of all superhero graphic novels sold in 2016 fell under either the Batman or Avengers umbrella (if a character spun off of Batman or the word ‘Gotham’ is in the title of the book, we consider it a ‘Batman’ book; if a character was featured in the Avengers movies, they were placed under the Avengers umbrella). Worth noting, however, is that in 2015 these two superhero brands controlled 37% of our superhero sales

 

CAPITOL PUBLISHMENT
Which publishers do best at Fantom?

 

Marvel remains our top publisher for the 3rd year in a row, while DC took back 2nd place from Image…by a matter of $18.56. Is that crazy?! We’re talking 6-figures worth of sales for each publisher, yet DC beat Image out by a single graphic novel sale.

Marvel’s dominance actually increased over last year, in fact. The biggest win for Marvel in 2016 had to be the Ta-Nehisi Coates Black Panther series. We’ve never seen anything like it at Fantom (and more on that later). But Marvel’s dominance seems to come from its deep stable of popular characters rather than any single home run. Take a look at this chart, which represents almost exactly 50% of all our Marvel revenue:

 

Hands off the Avengers, but eliminate any one of the remaining three brands and Marvel would still be our biggest publisher. Let’s take a look at our list of the Top 50 Titles of 2016 from a publisher standpoint (there’s more on this in a later section). This list adds up all of the issues and / or graphic novel volumes that were sold throughout the year for a specific title.

 

Do you notice that Marvel has over twice as many titles as DC that made the Top 50, yet the 12 titles DC does have are responsible for 69% of the books sold? Why is that? What is this saying?

Many of DC’s books are running bi-weekly. That accounts for some but not all of the overperformance of those 12 DC titles. The bigger factor comes from the fact that DC relies too heavily on a few powerhouse titles. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Justice League…. These books and a handful of others can not only match Marvel head-to-head (T’Challa aside), but win. The problem is that once you file past, say, Green Arrow or The Flash the popularity of DC titles plummets. Marvel creams DC in the next 50 titles on the list in both number of titles and number of copies sold. Why? Cause Marvel seems to rely less than DC on selling us a specific title or a gimmick (and yes, of course there are many exceptions to this rule). It sells you on the character.

Thanks to Marvel’s success in Hollywood, the publisher now possesses an impressive stable of characters even non-fans of superhero comics would recognize and know at least some back story. We’re not talking Spider-Man, here. No, we’re talking B-Rate characters nobody outside a comic shop used to know or care about, like Deadpool, The Hulk, Thor or Doctor Strange. Is Martian Manhunter any less prevalent in the DCU than, say, Magneto is in Marvel? Up to the 1990s who could say who was the bigger star? Try asking someone randomly on the street today what the deal is with Magneto and you’re probably gonna get an answer. Ask them about Martian Manhunter and expect a dull stare.

Now, is that person going to run off to a comic book shop and necessarily buy a Magento comic book? Probably not. But if and when they do end up in a comic book shop, they’re going to buy a Magneto comic before it ever occurs to them to buy a Martian Manhunter comic.

Add into this recipe Marvel’s control of the Star Wars franchise and you’ve got a winning brew that’s even more valuable than the occasional Black Panther grand slam.

Okay, let’s break these publisher numbers out further, shall we? One for just graphic novels and another for comics:

 

 

The two charts above tell some stories:

  • Once again, Marvel is the master of the monthly. Some thoughts:
    • Black Panther: This one title alone made up 14% of our Marvel comic revenue. Marvel had a huge hit that’s probably not replicable in 2017…
    • Female leads: Last year, female-led comics generated 21% of our Marvel comic revenue. This year that number dropped to 20%, but as the Ms Marvel comic lost its newness and novelty (as all series do) in 2016, we’re impressed that was all it went down. Marvel continues to do a better job in this area than DC, and it shows. As you’ll see in a chart later in this report, 27% of the money our female customers spend at our store is on Marvel products. DC gets a paltry 12%
    • Star Wars: The franchise keeps putting out quality titles
    • Strong stable of recognizable characters (see several paragraphs above)
  • Image continues to dominate the graphic novel space. Even though (or perhaps because) Image’s volume 1s are typically only $9.99, the revenue generated from this publisher made up nearly 1/4 of all of our graphic novel revenue
  • DC continues to flail. Despite going balls to the wall with their Rebirth launch, to the point of dropping the price point to $2.99 and offering retailers full returnability, the stories simply haven’t caught on with readers. This is all anecdotal, of course, but common complaints in the store range from the bi-weekly schedule for many titles (too much) to the hodgepodge of creators that come and go, making for less than cohesive storylines. For whatever the reason DC has struggled in 2016

…or has it? For all that was said above about Image and Marvel doing it right and DC not, take a look at the chart below. The results – at first glance – are rather shocking:

 

When we amputate the regrettably diseased and rotting Vertigo imprint from the larger DCU, we see that DC actually grew its share of our comic and graphic novel sales by 18%. Aside from Boom, which saw the slightest, little uptick, DC was in fact the only one of our top publishers to grow at all. Even Image lost ground to other publishers compared to last year.

So, what does that mean? It means…not that much, actually. That 18% increase looks impressive, but it comes down to the publisher growing from 15% of our comic and graphic novel sales to 17%, and with the Rebirth launch this year compared to the Convergence debacle of last year, that 2% increase of market share makes some sense.

And what of Image? Don’t worry about ‘ol Image. We sold nearly 10% more Image in 2016 than we did in 2015. Other publishers just grew more and ate into their percentage a bit.

And that’s just it: in 2016 we ordered from a lot more publishers, and had a lot more success when selling this wider, more diverse library of titles. It’s quite possible that 2017 will see continued decline in share of revenue for the top publishers, who are losing out to the growing army of quality comics and graphic novels from smaller publishers.

One final comment: we’d like to stress once again that these numbers only reflect a single shop out of all the comic shops, and is not necessarily indicative of the industry. Chin up, DC!

 

SUPERMAN RETURNS
On the state of superhero books

Defining a comic as “superhero” or not is sometimes surprisingly difficult. For the purpose of this report we determined a comic to be “superhero” if it fulfilled 2 of the following 3 criteria: 1) The story takes place in a universe populated with superheroes; 2) The main character(s) wear costumes; 3) The main character(s) fight crime and/or injustice. As an example of a case in which this rule needed to be applied, Hellblazer – in which Constantine does not wear a costume but is within the DC universe and fights demons – was counted as a superhero comic. Also worth noting: while deciding where to put these troublesome comics can be tricky, they were also a very, very small percentage of our sales, and regardless of our interpretation hardly affected the results.

 

We at Fantom devote a lot of time toward promoting and cultivating non-superhero comics. Not because we don’t like spandex and biceps, but because as professional purveyors of an entire medium it seems disingenuous to focus on just a single type of comic book.

Especially a type that rarely needs help in boosting its awareness. As you can see on the chart below, despite rarely doing superhero book clubs or holding superhero creator Skype chats or recommending superhero books in our weekly “What’s Out This Week?” tumblr posts, superhero books are doing quite well for themselves.

 

47 cents of every dollar we make is thanks to superhero stories. That’s a big chunk of change for a single genre. And more than that, check this out: our superhero sales grabbed a 3% larger share of sales than last year! In 2015 superhero sales made up only 44% of our revenue, while non-superhero comics share dropped from 56% to 53%.

Are superheroes on an upswing here at Fantom? Probably not. Again, we like superhero comics and aren’t picking sides. What we’re aiming for at Fantom is diversity in our selection, and having too many Bat eggs in the Bat basket is something we’re weary of as a business. So when we saw these numbers we did some investigatin’.

First, to put this into perspective, let’s break these numbers out between comics and graphic novels:

 

Superhero comics remain the dominant medium in comics; non-superhero comics reign in graphic novels. This is the same scenario we’ve seen the last 2 years. What jumps out at you, though, is the year on year changes:

  • Within graphic novels, superhero books took a 4% hit compared to 2015, dropping from 37% of revenue to 33% of revenue
  • However, in comics, superhero books jumped from a 55% share to a startling 66% share

Before we look into why superhero comics had such a great year, let’s address why year in and year out comics are dominated by capes and graphic novels by stories about people who for some reason don’t wear capes. For this we’re going to recycle our commentary from 2014 because, well, we’re lazy. But we also think we hit the nail on the head and see no reason to rewrite the same thing differently as if this is a high school paper we’re ripping off from Wikipedia. So here you go:

There must be a plethora of reasons comics lend themselves to superheroes in a way graphic novels don’t, but based on our experience here’s our best guess: since almost all superhero stories take place in a fast-paced, constantly moving-forward universe, readers identify with the stories like fans do for sporting events. Fans want to see the action “live,” and not months later in a collection, after the buzz has ended and the players around them have moved on.

Alternatively, the accepted practice for non-superhero books is to “write for the trade,” so that many of the best series read better in their collected editions, and many readers prefer waiting for the graphic novel release. See Binge Watching.

 

Now that we have that settled, let’s address why superhero comics are clawing back territory from all other genres in such a non-superhero focused store as ours. As it happens, we have (most of) the answers:

  • Black Panther: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther and the first issue of its spin-off World of Wakanda are superhero comics that singlehandedly represented 6% of all of our comic sales in 2016. This one series of 9 issues and one spin-off series of a single issue explains over half of the 11% rise in superhero books in 2016 (and this is even more impressive when you realize that BP #9 only dropped on December 28th). Also worth noting: this is a superhero book that pulled in a lot of non-traditional readers. So rather than being a superhero book that might have cannibalized an existing fan’s dollars from some other superhero book, for the most part these series brought in completely new money.
  • DC Rebirth: No matter how crappy a Marvel or DC universe reboot may be, people are going to flock to read the first few issues. We saw this with the Rebirth titles. Taking into account just the Rebirth one-shots and first two issues of each new series we can explain away roughly the remaining 5% of the superhero gain in 2016. Now, you have to take this with more than a grain of salt: the money for these books may have come at the expense of other superhero books. It didn’t create 5% of our comic revenue in 2016 out of thin air, it mostly shifted it from pre-Rebirth superhero purchases that would have happened regardless. Nonetheless, the reboot definitely brought new people in and definitely encouraged more buying from a significant percentage of existing superhero fans, so we feel very comfortable using this as a contributing factor, even if the 5% we’re crediting it with may be too generous.

Let’s throw one more chart out there. This one breaks down the superhero / non-superhero buying habits of our customers by gender:

 

What’s interesting in this chart is not so much the visual representation that males prefer superhero comics more than females do. We doubt that surprised anyone. What is interesting is that the share of revenue going to superhero comics increased 1% with women and 3% with men. Wanna guess why? …. Nope, wrong guess! That’s just stupid. Get off this page. We don’t need you. The answer, of course, is Black Panther.

 

LIKE SANDS THROUGH THE HOURGLASS, SO ARE THE DAYS OF OUR NEW COMICS CYCLE
Wednesdays remain on top. Nobody shocked.

As any comic book reader worth their salt knows, Wednesday is New Comic Book Day. It’s the reason that Fantom measures its weeks from Wednesday to Tuesday: what comes out on Wednesday can be a very accurate indicator of sales over the next 7 days, and come the following Wednesday we start all over.

It’s also the day the most dedicated customers trek to their shop of choice to buy their comics. Here’s a breakdown of the percentage of revenue earned by day for the last 3 years:

 

Wednesday’s share of weekly revenue is still impressive: about 26 cents of every dollar we make comes in on that single day. Wednesdays also continued their downward progression in 2016, from 33% of a week’s revenue in 2014 to 27% in 2015 to 26% this year. But it looks like we may be hitting a natural wall. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, every single day of the week in 2016 brought in more cash than it did in 2015. But it remains frustrating to see that Mondays and Tuesdays, specifically, remain stubbornly weak compared to the other days of the week.

Now let’s take a look at when during the week our various departments bring in their money:

 

We sell over 40% of our comics on Wednesdays. Every subsequent day of our week we sell progressively less, with a huge drop on Thursday and Monday and Tuesday being basically tied. There are no surprises here.

It was a bit of a surprise to find Saturday as the biggest sales day for graphic novels. Not a huge surprise, but a bit of one, what with Wednesday being such a dominant sales day overall. But tourists and casual readers prefer graphic novels, and Saturday is their day of choice, and there you go.

That Friday won ‘The Rest’ comes down to Friday Night Magic and Saturday’s second place finish is thanks to event and beverage revenue from the many Saturday events we host.

 

RESERVEDLY SO
Comparing books that are reserved vs books bought off the rack

There are two ways a comic book store sells a book:

  • Rack. This is an item we – the shop – take a bet on. We don’t know if this item will sell, but we think it will. Rack books are always tricky, as the inventory ordered by direct market shops (i.e. the traditional comic book store) are un-returnable. If we guessed wrong with Wolverine Gets an MRI #1 and end up with 50 copies we can’t sell, we eat it. Conversely, if we under-ordered this book then we lose money in lost sales. Generally speaking, shops like to minimize the amount of risk they take on rack items.
  • Reserved. Reserved items (or ‘pulled’ or ‘subscribed to’) mean we know ahead of time that this item will sell. The customer is telling us that they want to purchase said item when it’s released, and we – the shop – can bank on the sale. Reservations are safe. They’re comforting. They’re also elusive, as customers – naturally – like to browse physical comics and often make purchasing decisions only after scanning the books as they come out.

Customers can theoretically reserve any item they like before its release, but the vast majority of all reservations are either comics or graphic novels. Let’s take a look at the chart below:

 

No real surprises here. Graphic novels can be reserved, of course (either by reserving a single volume ahead of time or subscribing to all future volumes) and, indeed, 2% of the graphic novels we sell are sold that way. But graphic novel reservations pale in comparison to comic reservations, which we attribute to 2 primary factors:

  • This is a measure of all of our graphic novel and comic sales in 2016, not just sales of brand new books. The vast majority of comic book issues have a shelf life of just a few weeks, while a quality graphic novel has a potentially unlimited shelf life. Pulling a book requires – by definition – reserving it before its release date, yet our graphic novel library is so vast that new books are overwhelmed by perennials, hence diluting the percentage of graphic novel sales that are new release pulls
  • Walk-ins who know little to nothing about comics are much heavier buyers of graphic novels. They like the contained story line, the higher gift appeal, and when our staff recommends an item 99 times out of 100 it’s going to be a graphic novel. Subscribers and solid regulars experimenting with a new series also usually reach for a graphic novel rather than a comic, for pretty much the same reasons mentioned above. These sales help overwhelm pulled graphic novel sales in a way that isn’t reflected on the comic side

A note on the year-on-year changes in Reserved vs Rack: this was the first full year we’ve been able to track to near 100% accuracy whether a book was sold off of the rack or had been reserved ahead of time. Before this year we had to do some guess work. We think we did a pretty good job of it, but it wasn’t perfect, and 2016 is, or at least so close to it as to not matter. So year-on-year comparisons to 2015 unfortunately aren’t very telling.

Dominant the rack may be, there’s one area in which reserved crushes rack, and that’s in the later life cycle of a comic book. Below is a chart showing the break-down between rack and reserved for a popular 2016 comic that lines up with the larger trend: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers:

 

You can see that even a book with a ton of buzz and a lot of interest from customers couldn’t rely on many reservations in their first few issues. Again and again Fantom sees this: the first 3 issues are going to be ruled by rack sales. After that, a few transition issues which could go either way, and ultimately, inevitably, the diminishing of rack sales’ importance to the success of a book compared with reserved copies. What keeps a mature title alive are the reservations from subscribers who are finally confident that they like the series.

Next we isolated all of the comic titles of which we sell more than 120 copies a year (or 10 per month) and looked at which ones had the most and least reserved sales as a percentage of their total sales. Here’s what we found:

 

Look at the titles that sell predominantly off the rack. First, they’re books with relatively low issue numbers; they didn’t have as much time in 2016 to reach the reservation plateau of a longer running title. And those “low issue numbers” includes a 1st issue for all of these titles. #1s are always going to inflate the rack sales.

Beyond that commonality there are characteristics unique to each series we can point to:

  • Flintstones: Both great name recognition and a staff member who really believed in the series and pushed it accordingly
  • Trinity: Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman meant a large audience was sure to test this out
  • New Super Man: A lot of media buzz around this title; a lot of people were going to give it a chance
  • Black Monday Murders: A store favorite. We tried to get this into every hand we could and even those customers that became subscribers couldn’t match the number of new sales we were making
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws: Noodle tickler here. If anyone has any thoughts, hit us up on Twitter @FantomComics and give us your thoughts

It’s the complete opposite on the other end of the spectrum. These are mature, long running series. People who are going to read these books made their decision a long time ago (we even saw Giant Days and Shutter in the Top 5 last year!).

While we’re on the subject of reserved books, let’s look at the most reserved titles at Fantom. The chart below will show the titles that have the highest number of subscribers as a percentage of all of our active subscribers (an active subscriber being a customer who subscribes to at least one title):

 

34% of our subscribers reserve Black Panther. Over 1 in every 3. Last year’s 1st place title (Saga) peaked at 23%.

Of the 2016 Top 10 Titles:

  • 2 are in the Black Panther family
  • 5 were on the list last year (Saga (1st), Paper Girls (2nd), Ms Marvel (3rd), Wicked & Divine (4th), Bitch Planet (5th)

Only Batman, Monstress and Star Wars Poe Dameron are new to this year’s list and not associated with the golden halo of T’Challa.

For those keeping score, last year the titles count in the Top 10 by publisher was 7 Image titles and 3 Marvel titles. This year we have 5 Image titles, 4 Marvel titles and 1 DC title.

 

WALK-IN TALL
Regulars vs Walk-Ins

We talked a lot in the last section about the values of reserved items vs racked items. But what about the people behind those transactions? How does Fantom’s customer base divide between regulars (defined as subscribers and customers who come in often enough that they are also tracked in our system) on the one hand and walk-ins and infrequently returning customers on the other? These labels are distinct from our rack vs reserved comparisons, though there is a correlation. Subscribers can – and often do – purchase items off the rack, after all. A subscriber purchase ≠ a reserved sale, necessarily.

Let’s look at the (monetary) value of our customer base by regular vs walk-in:

 

The percentage of our revenue generated from our regulars was 34% in 2014; 41% in 2015 and 45% in 2016. Our walk-in sales continue to rise, but not as fast as our increase in revenue from our regulars. It’s not just that regulars are spending more, it’s that we’re converting walk-ins into regulars.

Did our 2015 prediction hold true? Let’s see what we said last year:

Our prediction for 2016: A slight reversal in favor of walk-ins as the Dupont store matures. We saw a lot of walk-ins become regulars in 2014 and 2015 as people discovered us. And while we’re still converting, it’s just not as easy as the first year you open your doors.

 

Whoops! Our bad.

 

MAKING SOME GENDERALITIES
Examining male and female buying patterns

Let’s talk about something near and dear to our hearts at Fantom: opening the medium up to everybody. There’s definitely a stigma that comic shops are boys clubs. And while that reputation is unfortunately sometimes deserved, it’s certainly not the case at Fantom where we work hard to welcome everyone, be them dudes, ladies or those that identify with something that doesn’t fall under a neat label.

And in regard to those customers that indeed do not identify under the 2 neat labels of male and female, we apologize for leaving you out. Your numbers were simply too small to draw any meaningful conclusions from the data.

While there are vast expanses of variation within any demographic, sometimes obvious patterns do emerge. We see a few interesting trends when comparing the data between our male and female customer bases.

First, let’s look at Fantom’s breakdown of revenue and subscribers by gender:

 

Males remain the bulk of both our subscribers and our revenue. It’s worth noting, though, that the number of female subscribers – while still significantly lower than male subscribers – did increase their share from 31% in 2015 to 36% in 2016.

And for those detail oriented people out there, the missing 1% of revenue represents sales to organizations.

Now let’s look at the breakdown of department sales by gender:

 

And here’s a break-down of “The Rest”:

 

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that comics and gaming suck up a larger percentage of male dollars than they do female dollars.

Here’s a look at how publishers fare between female and male customers:

 

Remember that chart a few sections ago when we broke down superhero and non-superhero books along gender lines? If so, then much of the chart above should come as no surprise. With 63% of all books purchased by females being non-superhero, then it’s makes perfect sense that DC (sans Vertigo) and Marvel compose a smaller share of their pie than with males.

Now, let’s breaks down the 10 comic titles that were purchased the most and the least by female customers (of titles that sold at least 120 copies over the course of 2016):

 

Some notes here:

  • Lumberjanes has made the Top 5 three years running
  • Jem & the Holograms was the only other Top 5 series to return, moving from 2nd to 1st place
  • Of the Bottom 5, every title is a superhero comic
  • Return offenders in the Bottom 5 are Uncanny Avengers and, while technically not the same series, Earth 2 Society (last year Earth 2 World’s End was in the Bottom 5). There was also a Wolverine book in the Bottom 5 last year, so Old Man Logan is not a new surprise
  • Earth 2 Society: of the hundred and twenty eight copies we sold over the entirety of 2016, not a single one was bought by a female customer. Take note, DC Comics.

 

TOP SELLERS OF 2016
What were the big hits in 2016?

Let’s close this report with some data we’re sure a lot of people are curious about: which titles sold the strongest at Fantom?

First let’s look at our bestselling comic book issues. The chart below features the top sellers based on how many multiples it sold above the average:

 

Let’s break this down a bit:

  • You might have noticed a tiny, itsy bitsy, little trend here. Namely: 8/10 of these issues came from a single seriesBlack Panther. Additionally, 9/10 of the issues are from the Black Panther family
  • The 2015 comic that sold more copies than any other was Star Wars #1. It sold around 22 times as many copies as the average comic, which, in 2016, would have put it only at a tie for 8th place
  • 9/10 of the Top 10 are Marvel titles, but of course, Point One explains that away
  • The top-selling Image comic: Wicked & Divine #18 at 15th place, which was also the most sold non-superhero comic

Now that we’ve seen the single issue powerhouses, let’s see how comic book series stack up. The chart below is the Top 10 titles by sales of all of the issues and volumes in their series:

 

Some thoughts:

  • One needn’t be Reed Richards to have predicted that Black Panther would take #1 after seeing the previous chart
  • Batman, Justice League, Wonder Woman and Detective Comics (so, really, all the DC titles) need to be taken with a grain of salt. With those titles bi-weekly for much of 2016, it helped them sell a lot more copies than they normally would. However, sell more they did, regardless of how they made it happen, and so we felt they still deserved to be on this list

Now let’s check out our top graphic novel sales of 2014:

 

Okay, let’s dig into this a bit:

  • 2016’s best selling graphic novel (which sold 38 times as many copies as our average graphic novel) would only have placed in 5th last year, right behind Saga Vol 05, which sold almost 40 times as many copies as the average
  • To the point above, our graphic novel department flattening out isn’t a bad thing. The deeper the pool of hits gets, the less we rely on a series like Saga to pay the bills. The multiples above average for the top sellers weren’t lower because they necessarily sold less copies, but because the average graphic novel sells more copies than it did in 2015
  • Given the previous two charts you might be surprised to find Black Panther Vol 01 so far down the list. But here’s the thing: the graphic novel didn’t drop until August 31st. In just 4 months it managed to beat all but 5 graphic novels in the store
  • Cook Korean by Robin Ha came in 8th place, a real surprise, even given that we know Robin and love her work. That she managed to outsell every single graphic novel in the store less 7 others is really, really impressive

 

 

GOODBYE!
The section in which we thank you for reading and hope this information was of interest

We hope this report was as enjoyable to read for you folks out there in Internetland as it was fun and informative for us at Fantom to create.

If you have any suggestions for additional information you’d like included in our 2017 Annual Review, please shoot us your idea(s) at fantomhq@fantomcomics.com.

Yours as always,

The Fantom Comics Team

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