August 2010: Worst Month For Comics Sales in a Long Time


At least that's the impression you might get from some of the fallout from today's ICv2 report that stated that August 2010 saw comic book sales drop 17% and graphic novel sales drop 21%. It's the worst year-over-year decline in comic book sales since May 2009. (Graphic novel sales had an even bigger drop in April 2010, when year-over-year sales fell 29%.)

Is it digital? Is it piracy? Is it that August, in general, sucks?

I think it's all those things and more. I don't think there is one reason you can point to for August being such a bad month, saleswise, rather there are many factors to consider. Here are a few:

Release Schedule is Random – Comic book companies can plan all they want to release books at certain times, and they do (especially around San Diego Comic-Con), but at the end of the day they are held hostage by the creators. Everyone knows that lateness plagues the comic book industry but one thing that is not talked about as much is how lateness throws the release schedule out of whack. Some months you've got a ton of big time, high sales books, and other months you have far fewer. Why? Because the release schedule varies from month to month. July saw the release of Scott Pilgrim Vol. 6. August had nothing even close to that book hit the shelves.

August Sucks – The joke around comics media is that August sucks. June and July is one long industry-wide feverish run up to San Diego Comic-Con. Everything is geared towards building up as much excitement for, and then surviving, that one week at the end of July. And then everyone collapses in August. The companies, the media, the fans. Everyone. There's no big news. People finally get to take vacations. There is decidedly less buzz around comics in August. Comic sales don't just plummet: iFanboy's worst month of the year, traffic and audience-wise, is almost always August.

The Digital Effect – Right now legal digital comics are so new that their impact on sales is negligible. Some companies say it's around 1% of their toatl sales. Not a huge factor, but one to throw into the mix.

Am I surprised that comic sales dropped so much in August? Not in the least. August is the doldrums of the comic book world. Look, it's just one month and these things will happen. Now, if the trend continues into the rest of the year then we'd have cause for concern, but I would be surprised if that happened.

In case you're curious, here's ICv2's estimated Top Ten Comics in August 2010 (a month that had no book sell more than 100,000 copies):

  1. Brightest Day #7 – 93,459
  2. Brightest Day #8 – 91,546
  3. Avengers #4 – 87,333
  4. New Avengers #3 – 81,351
  5. Secret Avengers #4 – 74,655
  6. Amazing Spider-Man #640 – 73,656
  7. Batman #702 – 73,414
  8. X-Men #2 – 71,464
  9. Uncanny X-Men #527 – 69,052
10. Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #1 – 68,332



  1. Yeah but what are ya gonna do?

    (reads Deadpool #25 again) 

  2. Where there’s smoke there’s fire. It can’t be that August sucks because you’re comparing one August to another August. The release schedule has to be the main factor. Either that or comics will be done for in a few years.

  3. Hey help me here, Conor.  My daughter was asking me how Tiny Titans was doing, and I wasn’t sure how to understand the sales numbers.  She’s especially worried because they just cancelled DC Super Friends, and Billy Batson two of her other favorite comics.  Could Tiny Titans be on the chopping block? I recall the comic sold 8000 or so issues last month,  making it number 100 and something on the list of sales.

    I’ve mentioned the coming cross-over between Tiny Titans and Archie was a good sign, but that was an uneducated guess.

    Anyway, can you give me any idea how I should view its sales?


  4. Can we assume that the price increase on many books from $2.99 to $3.99 is at least partially at fault here.  I cut my pull list last month because of the increase and the side effect was that my overall comic spending went down.  Look at it this way, say I was buying two books at $2.99 each.  That would be a retail (who pays retail but stick with me) of $5.98.  If both of those books went to $3.99 then I might have to cut one of them thus only spending $3.99 when I was originally spending $5.98.  Same thing could happen where I cut a $2.99 book that I only marginally liked to be able to continue to buy the other book I really enjoyed at $3.99.  The end result on the sales side would be both a quantity decrease AND a gross spending decrease.

    I read a lot from DC about the change in pricing and how they felt it would not hurt the books going up in price.  That might be true.  If someone wants to read a story they will probably keep reading it at $3.99.  The true side effect, however, will be people dropping other books or not buying new titles because the books they are already reading are more expensive.  In the end this will mean less choice, lowered spending and lower volume sales.  Not to mention raising the costs of entry for new readers.

    All of this, of course, is just one guy’s theory.  I may be wrong. 

  5. There are no major events happening at Marvel or DC right now.

    It’s making a difference in sales #s.

  6. Seriously though if August is considered a bad month in terms of sales and/or releases then that’s probably the problem.

  7. Hey August doesn’t suck, Conor. You take that back!

  8. Also there’s this thing with the economy going on.  I don’t know if anybody’s heard.  Apparently, things be bad.

  9. 2870798.35 Top Ten Comics August
    3133443.02 Top Ten Comics July
    -8.38% Decrease

    We can only hope that people are reading stuff that’s outside of the top ten, but since they say that on the whole they’re down 17% I doubt it. 

  10. Self fullfilling prophecy for the industry … they assume sucks, no events, so let’s spend less money on promotions.

  11. Chris Neseman nailed it.

    @Shadowhelm – That may be part of the issue, but there is a very well written article on this site concerning elasticity.  It addresses your points. 

    @nukethewhalesagain – But is it any worse than it was last year? (No, it’s actually better.) 

  12. I think the price increase is having an effect.  Who here hasn’t cut their pull list recently?  I also think that there have been a number of jumping off points recently.  Blackest Night to Brightest Day; Siege to Avengers / New Avengers / Secret Avengers; BND to OMIT / Origin of the Species.  My feeling is that people have paired back their reading lists a) to their "core" books, or b) decided to "take a break" from a title for a while (a la Josh and anything Avengers related).  

    I can speak for myself.  I was reading New Avengers, Dark Avengers and assorted Dark Reign titles prior to Siege.  Post-Siege, I am taking a break from the Avengers for awhile, despite trying all of the new #1 Avenger titles.  And, I am very close to dropping the Green Lantern titles after buying almost everything Blackest Night related.  

  13. @Stuclach: That’s the main thing here. Compare the same set of numbers from year to year. An increase is showing. Hence my avatar.

  14. @ChrisNeseman: I guess Shadowland and Brightest Day are not events then?

    PS, please bring back Around Comics. 

  15. It’s weird to see this because it felt like I read my face off on comics last month. Although… much of that was a Planetary omnibus, a Fantastic 4 trade.. and some random x-men back issues I’d been meaning to catch up on..

    Does reading trades help the comics industry any more or less than buying real issues?

  16. @JumpingJupiter – I don’t recognize your avatar, but feel like I should.  Who is that?

  17. At least for me its the price point. I put back a whole bunch of books every time i go to the store, mostly do to the fact that i’m not willing to spend $4 a pop on part of a story i’m not sure will even be any good. I started going to my shop on Fridays and weekends so i have time to read some user reviews first and trim my list down that way. 

  18. @ctrosejr: Nope. BRIGHTEST DAY is not an event. SHADOWLAND is not a major, company-wide event. It’s more of a minor crossover.

  19. @ErronSF: That’s a good point because I bought a shitload of comics (more so then usual) this August. Some stuff was delayed though so I could’ve bought even MORE comics.

  20. @conor–why isn’t Brightest Day an event? I read the line about it being a new direction for DC characters but the Brightest Day line itself feels like an event type book. 

  21. @wallythegreenmonster: It’s not an event, it’s a status quo. The BRIGHTEST DAY book itself just explores this new status quo. It’s the same as 52, which also wasn’t an event.

  22. @stuchlach & @jumpinjupiter:



    Anyway, I think people should understand that Brightest Day is a book starring Deadman in the lead. It sold 180k copies. WOw!

  23. Yeah, leat year we were knee deep in DC Zombies and Siege.

    It’s  alot of stuff. I think the $3.99 is having an effect. Economy in general is still rough. That, and honestly I think there needs to be a shake-up with creative teams on the bigger books. It’s been the same people driving the train around the circle shaped track for a while.

  24. My guess is that it has something to do with College students going back to school and paying tuition rather than buying comics.

  25. I’m always one of the first people in line questioning comic book sales analysis, but you can’t ignore the fact that there’s a pretty distressing year-over-year trend:

    August 2009

    1. BLACKEST NIGHT #2 (OF 8) $3.99 146,092

    2. CAPTAIN AMERICA REBORN #2 (OF 5) $3.99 125,366

    3. BATMAN AND ROBIN #3 $2.99 110,594

    4. GREEN LANTERN #45 (BLACKEST NIGHT) $2.99 102,431

    5. ULTIMATE COMICS AVENGERS #1 $3.99 94,985

    6. DARK AVENGERS #8 $3.99 94,191

    7. UNCANNY X-MEN #514 $3.99 90,316

    8. NEW AVENGERS #56 $3.99 89,996

    9. MARVELS PROJECT #1 (OF 8) #3.99 89,062 

    10.BLACKEST NIGHT BATMAN #1 (OF 3) $2.99 86,261 

    Just like Conor said above, July to August 2009 also saw a month-to-month dip (although not as significant as this year’s), but what’s fascinating is that the dollar share didn’t take a hit due to the amount of $3.99 books on the stands in 2009. 

    Given the push of SDCC and Scott Pilgrim: The Book: The Movie: The Cross-Marketing Bubble, it’s not surprising at all to see a drop, but there are a couple of trends that these numbers are also showing that run contrary to what people on the Internet like to talk about:

    1) Huge-ass events get people in the shops. For like the last 5 years, a good number of comics folks like talking about "event fatigue," but compare and contrast those lists: 2009 had Blackest Night, Dark Reign & some #1s – the only "non-event" book was Batman & Robin. Contrast to this year, in which Marvel & DC have both responded to fans and focused on smaller crossovers. Unlike Dark Reign, Heroic Age isn’t building to something. Brightest Day is largely contained to Green Lantern books (and hell, 3 of those books are the 1, 2 and 10 spots). 

    It’d be pretty easy for Marvel to look at their smaller, book-family-oriented "Curse of the Mutants" or "Shadowland" and think "well, this didn’t work." And you can argue quality of story or whatnot, but retailers didn’t have time to adjust for Curse of the Mutants between X-Men #1 & #2, and it STILL saw a 50% drop (remember, comic book retailers have to place their orders 3 months in advance – oftentimes it takes about 4 issues for people to get the demand right. If they’re lucky). Shadowland doesn’t even show up on the Top 10 at all. 

    2) That $4 price point ain’t goin’ nowhere. Last year, the $4 books were miniseries and events. Now, the $4 books are regular issues. I think it’s fairly obvious to point to the decline in spending over the last 3-4 years as part of the overall macroeconomic decrease in spending, but the price increases have kept everyone profitable and the corporate overlords happy. For all of the hand-wringing about $4, it doesn’t actually actually appear to have an impact on what people are buying – there may be fewer overall books being sold, but by and large, the comic-buying public have accepted that $4 is the standard for 22 pages of Avengers and X-Men books.

    There’s probably more to suss out, but those two things leap right off the page to me. I think it’s personally too soon to see any kind of digital effect, given that there’s only one DC/Marvel book that’s doing Day-&-Date, which means there’s only one book that could compete with this list (interestingly enough, both issues of Gen Lost show up in the Top 50, which is still fairly respectable).  

  26. Hah – while I was busy writing a book, y’all came to some of the same conclusions I did – go figure!

  27. Has anybody considered the ratio of lowered comic sales in relation to the number of geeks locked in their basement since Starcraft II came out – I believe – in the last week of July? I bet they forgot to pop into the LCS…

  28. @Conor: Brightest Day *is* an event, even if they are not calling it an event.  It has all the tell-tale signs of an event.  There’s a main "event" book with a definitive number of issues (i.e., it’s not on-going), there are tie-ins to on-going series with the event banner plastered all over it (GL, Birds of Prey, etc.), and there is a whole lot of marketing supporting the "event".  If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…

    As for Shadowland, I think your making an exception because it’s not a very *good* event.  By your logic, Siege was not an event because it only pertained to the Avengers corner of the Marvel universe.

  29. Actually – if you want to look at any Digital Effect, it would be that we’re seeing the opposite of what DC and Marvel are insisting; just aside from the overall number of comics purchased being lower, we aren’t seeing anything picking up from the backlist. If Marvel & DC are driving new customers into the stores, wouldn’t we expect an increase in some of the "evergreen" TPBs? Or am I giving retailers too much the benefit of the doubt that they’d know what to do with a new customer when there isn’t some big tentpole event or media tie-in to hide under?

  30. Amen on point #2, Ash.  Either accept it or don’t, but you’re paying $4 for most of you comics from now on.

  31. @ctoselr: Sorry, but BRIGHTEST DAY isn’t an event.

    SHADOWLAND is a minor event/major crossover. It is centered around a book that is not very popular whereas SIEGE was centered around Marvel’s most popular books and sold accordingly and had the appropriate all-Universe feel that an event must have.

    I made no statement about the quality of SHADOWLAND as I haven’t read it.

  32. Yes, Nostrodamus. And I second the motion to bring back Around Comics. I loved that show to itty bitty pieces. Back when I was a janitor working graveyard shifts. Pulled me through a hard year.

    P.S: I was the insane dude calling in as Ulysses. You may remember…

  33. There is an important factor being omitted… Give me the year-to-year/month-to-month $$$ sales.  Not the issue sales.  I would bet you a dollar to a donut that the actual $$$ comparisons are not 17% and 21%.


    the Tiki 

  34. status quo is the new event 

    like tan is the new black or something . . .  status quo is just an event that takes too long to tell 

  35. What’s the actual dollar figure comparison for August 2009 vs August 2010?  Is it more appropriate to compare that instead of the quantity sold? The income may be a lot closer because of the price increases over the year.

  36. Where’s Jason Wood when you need him?  He’d clear this shit up. 

    @JumpingJupiter: You just blew my mind.


  37. @ash: You pretty much nailed it. Great comment.

    @nextchamp: Yes, August is usually a slow month, but the distressing thing is that this August was so much lower than last August.

    @stuclach: You’re arguing that the economy is BETTER now than it was a year ago? No way. It might not be that much worse, or maybe it’s "about the same", but there are virtually no non-partisan voices saying that it’s better. Personally, I’d say it’s about the same; so as far as comic sales go, I think maybe the recession is finally catching up and making people make cuts that they otherwise wouldn’t’ve made in ’09. If someone thinks things are going to turn around in a few months or a year, that person probably won’t cut entertainment spending; but if it’s been a few years and things haven’t significantly improved, then it starts to dawn on people not to spend so much on personal entertainment

    It might be kinda the same thing as far as the $3.99 price point goes: after time, it catches up to you. At first I was going to argue that $3.99 have little to do with a decline in sales for the month of August 2010–since it’s not like all of a sudden the price point hit. The price point has been here for a while and it’s not like there were significantly more $3.99 books in August ’10 vs. any other month over the past 12-18 months. But I think the price point (coupled with the flat economy) might FINALLY be affecting sales. Like a poster above noted, if you’re already reading and liking a comic, then a buck increase probably won’t stop you from buying it. But you’re less likely to try something new for $4 vs. $3. At least, I am. Fewer people are reading the Bendis Avengers stuff because they’ve been $4 each. I know I stopped buying New Avengers for that reason.

    I don’t see any big disturbing watershed moment, but it seems like August 2010 was like a perfect storm of the flat economy and $4 price point finally catching up with some people, and coupled with the lack of big events the lower sales are all the more noticeable. If you start really digging into things, you notice that big books like Batman & Robin didn’t ship in August.

    Also note that due to the price increases, Marvel and DC are probably getting about the same amount of revenue.

    Really interesting article, guys.

  38. August is also hot as crap outside, at least here in Texas. Too hot to go to the comic store?

  39. Wait, isn’t this one of the signs of the Apocalypse?

    I’ll be in my bunker.

  40. Elasticity is a good concept here (had quite enough of it in my graduate economics class) but I am not sure the right data is being looked at.  What I would like to see are some numbers/graphs that compare average comic book price versus industry wide demand.  I think this would give better information than say looking at the demand for a single book at $2.99 versus that book at $3.99.  The second case doesn’t give us the whole story as it doesn’t show if a buyer is not choosing to buy book B because he has to pay more for book A.  The price change may not have a direct effect on a single book but an increase in the average price of a book may very well have an overal effect on the industry.  So ultimately what I am not sure of is if the demand for comics as a whole is price elastic or price inelastic.  One thing I do know is that I try and keep a set budget for books per month.  If prices on some books go up then something has to get cut.  

    I also think price is becoming a significant barrier to new readers and I just don’t mean kids.  If you are new to comics does $3.99 encourage you to try something?  You can eat lunch on that.  Maybe not a big lunch but you can get a meal.  Sure, we fans will pay more for the same book but what about the average person who wants to try something new?  At what point does price scare them away?  Are the numbers we are seeing reflective of the price barrier?

    I think the trend for some time has been less sales in both per issue numbers and revenue.  Raising the price shores up the revenue drop but not the # of issues drop and even then the flattening of the revenue curve can only be temporary as the steadily decreasing demand will eventually catch up to it.  What I would like to see is the publishers working to build the audience instead of trying to artificially prop up the income statement.  In the long run it is bad for everyone. 

  41. ctrosejr: I did? Cool.

  42. @Shadowhelm You will likely never see real customer demand, because many retailers don’t have that information and several of the ones who do actually keep track of their inventory (but not all) don’t want that information getting out.  

  43. Interesting.

    So from what i’ve gathered this means the industry is bankrupt and we should all panic  

  44. I personally don’t buy issues, but if I did I would do everything I could to get into digital ($3.99/book is pretty steep – one of the reasons keeping me from issues vs trades).  After the android comics apps (and tablets to some degree) are released, it will be really interesting to see how fast digital takes off – $1.99 an issue would get me on board if I had a tablet or iPad.

  45. I’ve heard that Diamond is being more strict on comic book orders too which has forced some retailers to not order too many comics. I can’t confirm this though.

  46. @Edward: lol, you’re on fire tonight!

  47. @froggulper – Actually, the economy is in better shape right now than it was a year ago. Output is up. The unemployment rate is lower. Things aren’t great, but they are better. Trust me. I’m as unbiased as they come.

    A few of you have mentioned elasticity. Go read Jason Wood’s article on this site. It’s quite good.

    I’d say the decrease is a combination of recession, price, and lack of events. I would argue that the lack of events is the primary reason.

  48. That wasn’t all directed at froggulper. Apparently, the browser in Android doesn’t like this iFanboy textboxes. Sorry @froggulper.

  49. I’m not gonna pretend that I know anything about sales or economic growth. But any industry whether it be Comics, Movies, or refrigirators has its ups and downs. sure august sucked but unless sales continue to plummet for the next six consecutive months I’d say there fine.

    Also: maybe the reason the top ten slots are still low is because some people dropped off and started reading Northlanders or something.

  50. Augest is a different Month. People pack in activities and try to enjoy the of the Summer. When I was a kid, as a family we would go to church pretty much every sunday until Augest. We would exhibit Sheep and Cattle at fairs and shows. Our big Month was Augest. We always had so much going on in that month.  We where gone every weekend and had little time for other stuff. I would imagine other people do something similar with Vactions, Camping, Outdoor Festivals, and Fairs.  In a month with less product, I can see how comics could be forgoten by the casual fans.

  51. great article conor

  52. Wait?!?! WHAT?!?!?! Comics don’t sell more than 100K copies?

    Jumps into souped-up DeLoren and heads back to 1992

    There. That’s much better.

  53. Home sales took the biggest drop in years in August.

    Foreclosures are still on the rise.

    People can weather a bad economic year.

    It worsens the longer things don’t "bounce back."

    I think it also takes some time before people stop funding excess habits/hobbies.

    I think the lack of events is a huge factor. Funny cuz there is so much bitching about events but motherfuckers can’t stop themselves from buying ’em, which means companies are going to keep pushing em.

    No such thing as event fatigue.

  54. I bought less comics in August.

  55. @Reform: It’s all your fault!

  56. @JJ Dammit! Stop attacking people.  You’re such a fucking troll;)

  57. A few weeks ago when I bought my comics, the guy at my comic shop made a comment about how light my pile was and said "I can always tell when its the first week of school". And it was totally true, I had spent a lot of money that week on books and school supplies and I noticed how empty the comic shop was that day. I think this has to be some some factor in sales since college students make up a large portion of comic readers.

  58. Then I got good news for you all.

    I am buying more comics in September than I have bought in four months.

  59. I felt like I bought lot of books last month. I bought 6 out of the top ten, sometimes I feel like my books keep going up in volume and price even though I dropped six titles last month.


  60. We are turning this downturn around now, baby!

  61. @DarkKnightDetective: I think your absolutely right. I’m in college right now and before i came back i was pulling close to 25 books a month. Now its more like 16 to 17, and I really had to stretch my budget just to afford those.

  62. August was a slow month for me for sure.  I feel like there is a lot of "average" out there right now, particularly on the superhero front, w/ the exception of Morrison’s Batman, and even that seems to have limited appeal.

  63. August is always slow. Also, we are still among an economic recession and comics are a complete luxury. I had to cut back even for a while. Also, no huge events, etc.

  64. I was just thinking about cutting back my weekly purchases, and seeing those numbers makes me think I shouldn’t.  Kind of an every vote counts mentality I guess.

  65. I switched over to trade in august

    Sorry for causing sales meltdown

  66. I for one pulled less comics this month then I have in years.

  67. One point of interest. Last month many folks were praising a new X-Men #1 for selling 140k copies. Some folks were hailing this as some kind of 90s renaissance, that we shouldn’t find surprising.

    Yet issue #2 sold just above half of that. For one reason or other almost half of those who bought the first issue decided not to pick up the second. That speaks volumes to me…

  68. The economy is bad, so people have to pinch pennies (or should be aware of their finances).  I’ve always thought within the past years the price of comics is too high, one reason I dropped out.  Unless publisher can find someway better to do that; cheaper paper (do we really need slick, super production on the average comic?), Kindle (I’d be all for this, but I want color), or whatever, I think sales will continue to decline.  $4. a book is just too damn high.  Unfortuately the one that gets hit the hardest is the comic shop retailer.  Plus the fact that you have several other things taking dollars away from the disposable money spent for comics: gaming, movies, dating, food, etc.  I have to agree with what a freind said, actually, you get more bang for the buck, if you did buy a game (even though neither of us are gamers).

  69. @skrulldave–its not really a quality of production issue. As a designer who does a lot of print work i don’t understand the $4 price point when looking at the product itself. When looking at the sales figures it starts to make sense…any other publication like a magazine would never get distributed with those numbers that most comics have.

    The paper used in most mainstream comics is the cheapest, lowest grade stock money can buy. Its the same stuff they print junk mail, sunday coupons and cheap magazines on. It just looks really good thanks to the plastic chemical coating which keeps the ink on the surface so in that respect its a good value. Coated papers like that are actually cheaper (and much easier to pre press color control) than newsprint because they are used for almost everything. Saddle stitched (have you noticed they even cut down from 3 staples to 2 staples?) printed with that low grade paper on a giant web press is the cheapest printed publication combo that exists. 

    Maybe the fact that it takes 6+ people to produce one 24 page single issue is part of the problem with price point…they all need to get paid right? 

    I do agree that comics are priced too high. I can’t afford to take a flier on a new unknown character/line until i hear enough good buzz…by that time the trade is out so i get that.  

  70. There’s a lot of designers at this site. We should start a sub-club or something…

  71. @jumping–YES! haha serioulsy–yes that would be fun and nerdy. 

  72. @Wally: There’s a good idea in there… Shall we run with it?

  73. I’m sorry everyone.  I didn’t realize that my semi-regular comic-buying sabbatical would have such an impact.  I’ll probably start buying again in a few months and then everyone can relax. 

  74. @JJ: i’m down. We can talk about the fucking hardware catalogues that i’m doing right now 

  75. @Ed and any other designer at this iste: We should meet on skype or something…

  76. @JJ and Ed….i’m totally down. But i have shunned all types of skype and IM…thanks to a job that required me to use it everyday. 

  77. Technically the recession ended last June: We have been very slowly expanding for 15 months.