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Sunday, January 01, 2012

Comic Cuts - 1 January 2012

Tracking down hard data on the state of the comics industry isn't always easy but I have to hand a decent list of sales figures for 2011 with enough information to present the following charts covering the Top 75 annuals and Top 23 graphic novels for 2011.

For those of you not used to the traditional British annual, the annuals published in 2011 are usually dated 2012, a tradition that began when annuals released in September for the Christmas market also had a fairly steady sale in the early months of the following year. Thus, the Beano Annual 2012 was actually released on 10 July 2011.

The Beano Annual is the year's best-seller, as it has been for many years, yet sales are down from 200,435 in 2009, although it is not such a dramatic drop from last year's 137,034. Whilst the Dandy Annual 2011 picked up a number of further sales during the year — some 8,300 copies, probably in January bookshop sales and through remainder bookshops — the Beano added less than 5,600 copies (the lowest of the sales figures I have seen) to its 2010 total, which puts the total sales for Beano Annual 2011 at somewhere around 140,000. If this years sales continue that pattern, the final sales figure is likely to be around 135,000 for the 2012 annual.

Due to the fickle nature of kids, some previous best-sellers have all but disappeared. Hannah Montana Annual 2010 sold 147,144 copies in 2009, yet the 2012 annual could only manage 5,908. The other major faller in the same period has been Ben 10 which sold 32,761 this year compared to 144,626 in 2009.

The Official Doctor Who Annual has also seen a dramatic dip in sales, down from 143,000 in 2009 to 73,600 in 2011, around half its earlier sales. Peppa Pig has shed just as many readers in those same two years, down from 152,590 to 85,017. Only Monshi Monsters has stepped into the fray to lift overall sales and add a second 100,000-selling title for the year, compared to six in 2009 (Beano, Peppa Pig, Hannah Montana, Ben 10, Doctor Who, Top Gear).

2011 is also be notable as the year the Blue Peter Annual was dropped. After 46 years, sales of the annual had fallen to 13,140 for the 2011 edition, falling from 59,941 four years earlier.

I've no comparative figures for graphic novels, although from a personal point of view I'm a little disappointed to find no British reprints selling the minimum (5,600) to make the chart in a year that has included the regular releases of Dan DareCharley's War and Modesty Blaise from Titan and various Commando volumes from Carlton. Not a single original UK graphic novel made the cut and the majority of the chart entries have been given a boost from films (Scott Pilgrim, Tintin) or TV (The Walking Dead). Many of the others are perennial sellers (Watchmen, V For Vendetta, Batman Year One, Batman: Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Killing Joke, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Maus) that date from the "comics aren't for kids" boom of twenty years.

Not that it's all doom and gloom. Although you won't find any of my own Bear Alley Books troubling the charts, there is an extensive and vibrant comics market out there supporting independent presses. Back in October, Paul Gravett offered a fascinating look at the world of British comics in 2011 and it's a piece well worth studying. Even from my viewpoint — my main interest being the history of British comics in the fifty years following World War II — there are green shoots beginning to bloom. The presence of 2000AD, Judge Dredd Megazine, Beano, Dandy and Commando in the newsagents are a link to the past that I hope won't be broken. And we now have Strip Magazine and the upcoming The Phoenix, both carrying the torch of the traditional British anthology title. 2012 is already shaping up to be an interesting year.

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