The Star Wars Dissection: 2011 In Review

Hello everyone! It’s Andrew Halliday with a new installment of The Star Wars Dissection. Today, I’m hoping to look back at Star Wars publications in calendar year 2011. I know it’s a bit late to do a year-in-review post, but there are some interesting trends worth investigating. I’d like to have a look at the trends I noticed in earlier issues of The Star Wars Dissection and see how the year 2011 measures up to the rest. As a result, I’m going to look at publishing media, publishing eras, comic sales, comic prices, novel prices, and novel page numbers.

Publishing Media: 2011

As in previous years, Star Wars stories were published in several media. A total of 125 pieces of published material and other comparable newsworthy events were released in calendar year 2011. This includes novels (hardcover and paperback, including re-releases), ebooks, young reader books (all ages), comics (issues, trade paperbacks, digests, and omnibuses), video games, television episodes, home videos (DVD and Blu-Ray), reference guides, strategy guides, etc. I’ve also included such interesting news as the opening of Star Tours: The Adventure Continues and the cancellation of Star Wars Galaxies. I have chosen to use US release dates for all material, which in this case makes a difference (the Haynes Manual to the Millennium Falcon is not counted here, as it was released in 2011 in the UK, but 2012 in the US and Canada).

Figure 1: Number of products published per medium in 2011 (Click for larger image)

In Figure 1, you can see that the majority of published works in 2011 were comics. There were no less than 40 comic issues (between 2 and 5 per month), 11 Trade Paperbacks (6 series collections, one of which was in hardcover, and 5 omnibuses), and 4 digests (2 from The Clone Wars, 2 from Star Wars Adventures). The next largest publishing medium was from episodes. 23 episodes of The Clone Wars aired in 2011 (11 from Season 3 and 12 from Season 4), as well as the one-time special LEGO Star Wars: The Padawan Menace. 15 novels were released, including 5 newly published hardcovers, 3 newly published paperbacks, 5 paperback reprints of 2010 hardcovers, and 2 genuine re-releases, Heir to the Empire and Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter. Three exclusively electronic books were published, including two Lost Tribe of the Sith short stories and the most recent update to The Essential Atlas Online Compaion. There were 11 young reader books published, six of which were for very young children, two for the older 9-12 age group (Secret Missions: Duel at Shattered Rock, and The Clone Wars: Warriors of the Deep), and three young reader encyclopedias (Star Wars Character Encyclopedia, The Clone Wars Incredible Vehicles, and LEGO Star Wars Character Encyclopedia). A total of five home videos were released on DVD and/or Blu-Ray: The Complete Third Season of The Clone Wars, LEGO Star Wars: The Padawan Menace, and the six films in three distinct blu-ray box sets (Complete Saga, Original Trilogy, and Prequel Trilogy). Two new video games were released (LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: The Old Republic), and the servers for Star Wars Galaxies were permanently shut down (classified here as “Other”). The remaining items in the “Other” category include The Star Wars Craft Book, The Jedi Path (standalone, without the kit), Star Wars: The Blueprints, Darth Vader: A 3D Reconstruction Log, The Complete Vader, the explorer guides for Clone Wars Adventures and The Old Republic, the overhaul of Starwars.com, and the opening of Star Tours: The Adventure Continues.

Publishing Eras: 2011

In 2011, as in previous years, Star Wars material has been classified under one of six Publishing Eras. These distinguish the time period during which the story takes place. The eras for classification sometimes go by different names, but I have been using the following: the Old Republic era (25,000 BBY-1,000 BBY), the Rise of the Empire era (1,000 BBY-1 BBY), the Rebellion era (0 ABY-4 ABY) the New Republic era (5 ABY-24 ABY), the New Jedi Order era (25 ABY-39 ABY) and the Legacy era (40 ABY onward). The exact cutoff between each era is the beginning and end of the calendar year described (using the BBY/ABY system, which translates to Day 3, Month 3 in the Great reSynchronization calendar), except for the Old Republic era, which ends at the conclusion of the Seventh Battle of Ruusan. The Before the Republic Era (before 25,000 BBY) was only invented in 2012 for the Dawn of the Jedi comics, and as such is not included here.

Figure 2: Number of products published per era in 2011 (Click for larger image)

Note that, as it has been since 2008 or so (see The Star Wars Dissection: Publishing Eras, 3 May 2011), the Rise of the Empire era has been prominently featured. This is due to roughly 22 episodes of The Clone Wars being released annually, along with the tie-in materials (novels, comics, young reader books). For transparency, I will indicate that this analysis does include some material that was intentionally excluded from the last review, such as learning-to-read books like Battles for the Galaxy and R2 To The Rescue, but the trend remains clear and consistent. 2011 also brings back the New Republic era, which has not been visited since 2008′s Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor. We were given the 20th Anniversary Edition of Heir to the Empire, three issues of Crimson Empire III: Empire Lost, and The Jedi Path (an in-universe book technically written during the Rise of the Empire era, but the margin notes indicate that the copy we have was released for purchase shortly before the events of the Jedi Academy Trilogy). The Rebellion era was only touched on briefly, with the novel Choices of One, two volumes of Star Wars Adventures (Boba Fett and the Ship of Fear and the framing story of Chewbacca and the Slavers of the Shadowlands), the Galaxies cancellation, and four of the five omnibuses (two volumes of Omnibus: A Long Time Ago…. and two volumes of Omnibus: At War with the Empire). Except for the seven issues, one TPB, and one paperback novel for Knight Errant, the Old Republic era mostly got The Old Republic video game and its tie-ins: two tie-in novels (Deceived and Revan), the paperback reprint of Fatal Alliance, the two TPB volumes collecting The Old Republic 1-6, as well as initial releases of issues 7-11, and the video game’s explorer guide. We saw typical releases for the New Jedi Order era, with five more issues of Invasion as well as a single TPB, and with the Legacy era, with 2 new hardcovers and three paperback reprints of Fate of the Jedi, as well as 5/6 issues of Legacy: War and the new paperback novel Riptide. The “Not Applicable” category includes various items which cannot be classified under any era, such as The Star Wars Craft Book, Star Wars: Blueprints, The Complete Vader, Head-to-Head Tag Teams, the two Character Encyclopedias, the Essential Atlas Online Companion Update, and the overhaul of Starwars.com. Please note that many cross-era books were classified not as Not Applicable, but rather in one era or the other (the blu-rays for the Prequel Trilogy and Original Trilogy were classified appropriately, but The Complete Saga was placed in the Rise of the Empire era, as was the Omnibus of the same name, and the Blood Ties TPB).

Figure 3: Publishing eras per medium (click for larger image)

This last figure just provides an interesting look at where the different media and eras fit together. As you can see, 100% of episodes are in the Rise of the Empire era, and will continue to be in the future; the proposed Live Action series, tentatively called Star Wars: Underworld, will likely be set in the years following Episode III, well in advance of the Rebellion era. Indeed, the comics medium is the only place where there’s a fair amount of variety, with series taking place in the eras of the Old Republic (Knight Errant, The Old Republic), Rise of the Empire (Dark Times, The Clone Wars digests and Free Comic Book Day issue, Agent of the Empire), Rebellion (Star Wars Adventures digests, omnibuses), New Republic (Crimson Empire III), New Jedi Order (Invasion), and Legacy (Legacy: War).

Comic Sales:

Figure 4: Sales figures for comic issues published in 2011 (data provided by www.comichron.com) (click for larger image)

A total of 39 comic issues were put up for sale in the year 2011 (this does not count The Clone Wars: Opress Unleashed, which was given away as part of Free Comic Book Day). In their respective first month of release, the sale of Star Wars comics came to a total of 603,219 issues, bringing in $1,831,339.48. Note that this only covers the sales in the first month of release, which I understand is when the vast majority of comic book shops buy their stock from Diamond Comics. Still, it is possible that these figures are higher than shown due to later sales (indeed, it looks like the third issue of Darth Vader and the Lost Command got a number of re-orders in the second month, but that skewed the data tremendously).

The highest selling comic in 2011 was the first issue of Crimson Empire III: Empire Lost, which has been anticipated by fans for years. It sold 19,095 issues in October 2011. The second highest, with 18,949 issues sold in May 2011, was Jedi: The Dark Side #1. Rounding out the top 3 is Darth Vader and the Lost Command #1, with 18,654 issues sold in January 2011. This follows the trend I noticed in The Star Wars Dissection: Trending Comic Sales (28 March 2011). Typically, issue 1 of a new series has much higher sales, and the number dwindles down slowly but surely. What is interesting is that this trend seems to apply to the issues that represent the first issue of the second or third arc of a meta-series, which Dark Horse has chosen to label as #1. Recall that, in the past, issues were labeled continuously, and the subtitles classified which arc they fell into (e.g. Knights of the Old Republic #7: Flashpoint, Part 1). However, starting at the end of 2010, Dark Horse Comics chose to change this system. Now, each arc represents a mini-series, several of which fall under one meta-series (or maxi-series), and so we get Knight Errant #1: Deluge, which is actually the sixth issue of the Knight Errant meta-series. Ostensibly, this was to raise sales by getting new readers to pick up the issue on the newstand or at their Local Comic Store, because new readers are far more likely to buy #1 than they are to buy #51. This seems to have only partially worked. The sales figures for Knight Errant #6, the first issue of Deluge were higher than that of issue #5, the last issue of Aflame, but considerably lower than those of Knight Errant #1. This applies as well to Invasion, where issue #12 (Revelations #1) sold better than issue #11 (Rescues #6), but considerably worse than issue #1 (Refugees #1) or issue #6 (Rescues #1).

How do Star Wars sales compare overall though?

Table 1: Sales of the #1 selling comic of each month in 2011 (data provided by www.comichron.com) (click for larger image)

No Star Wars title achieved first place in sales for any month during 2011. Indeed, per my March analysis, the highest selling Star Wars comic ever was issue #1 of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, which reached fourth place in May 1999. Per Table 1, the highest selling comics in 2011 were all from Marvel Comics or DC Comics, and in almost every case was related to an event. In early 2011, the start of specific events, such as the War of the Green Lanterns, Fear Itself, Future Foundation, or Spider Island, or the deaths of characters, such as the Human Torch or Ultimate Spider-Man, represented the highest sales. That changed in the last week of August 2011, when the first batch of DC Comics’ New 52 were published. In brief, DC Comics stopped publishing almost all of its old series (with a few exceptions) and relaunched 52 of them with issue #1, doing either hard or soft reboots with each character. Justice League and Batman represent the most popular and best selling stories, and so won first place every month from August to December.

Comic Prices:

On 11 April 2011, EUCantina.net published The Star Wars Dissection: Being Smart with your Comic Money. This analysis looked at the pricing of comic books, and judged how Trade Paperbacks or Omnibuses cost in terms of the cover price of the issues therein. This study was repeated for the 2011 Review.

A total of five Trade Paperbacks and one hardcover were published in 2011 that collected recent issues of particular comic series. They were The Old Republic Volume 1 (collecting issues 4-6), Invasion Volume 2 (collecting issues 6-11), Blood Ties: A Tale of Jango and Boba Fett (collecting the four issues of that mini-series), The Old Republic Volume 2 (collecting issues 1-3), Knight Errant Volume 1 (collecting issues 1-5), and Darth Vader and the Lost Command hardcover (collecting the five issues of that series). The issues collected in those books cost either $2.99 each (The Old Republic, Invasion, Knight Errant) or $3.50 each (Blood Ties, Darth Vader).

Figure 5: Cost savings if you purchased TPBs instead of issues (click for larger image)

If you decided to purchase your comic stories as TPBs instead of as individual issues, you lost money in 2011. Even in the case of Invasion Volume 2, you lost a single penny per issue, as the book cost $17.99, but the price of five issues came to $17.94. Indeed, 2011 was the worst year for TPB losses, with each volume of The Old Republic costing $15.99, but the three issues in each came to $8.97, yielding a loss of $7.02 per volume. The Darth Vader and the Lost Command hardcover is worse, costing $24.99, but with its issues summing at $17.50 (loss of $7.49). That said, many fans prefer TPBs, as they can read an entire story all together, as opposed to having to wait a month between each installment (or longer, as is often the case with Dark Times). Some people prefer TPBs for storage purposes, as they fit neatly on bookshelves better than issues. The Darth Vader hardcover is in that case almost forgiveable, as hardcovers are of better quality than TPBs. Another legitimate upside to TPBs is that they sometimes collect more than just the miniseries in question (Dark Horse’s Mass Effect Volume 2: Evolution also included numerous Mass Effect comics that were originally published exclusively online). For that reason, I am buying Crimson Empire III as the TPB, because I’m hoping it will include the special Issue 0 story that was featured in Dark Horse Presents and on Starwars.com. I myself prefer buying issues though. Not only are they often cheaper, but they’re the original publishing medium of most comic stories, can stand the test of time (especially when stores with bags and boards in special boxes), can still easily be taken out and read, and are of better quality (several of my TPBs have worn down, and the glue keeping the cover on has dried out).

Figure 6: Cost savings if you purchased Omnibuses instead of issues (click for larger image)

If you purchased the Omnibus line of Star Wars comics this year, and did not already own their contents as issues or TPBs, you saved a LOT of money. In the case of Omnibus: A Long Time Ago…. Volumes 3 and 4, it is difficult to calculate, as comics back in the 1970s and 1980s cost significantly less than they do now. That said, I assigned them comparable prices to modern standards to show savings: $2.99 per issue (similar to most Marvel titles right now), except for the two Annual issues, which I’ve listed as $4.99 each. These omnibuses were $24.99 each, and their contents came to $58.81 and $70.77, respectively. The other three Omnibuses, At War with the Empire Volumes 1 and 2, and The Complete Saga, are easier to calculate (though I used a similar pricing procedure for the ten Marvel issues collected in The Complete Saga). All three of these books cost $24.99 each, and their contents came to $50.83 (At War with the Empire Vol 1), $81.42 (The Complete Saga), and $59.80 (At War with the Empire Vol 2), again yielding significant savings.

As a result, I strongly urge all Star Wars fans to pick up the Omnibus series and keep it going. We got 5 great omnibuses in 2011, and the first three in 2012 are equally great (the conclusion of A Long Time Ago…., a third volume of At War with the Empire named “The Other Sons of Tatooine”, and “Droids and Ewoks”, collecting the old Marvel/Star Imprint comics.

Novel Prices and Page Numbers:

This next analysis is not derived from a previous Star Wars Dissection post, but from a letter I sent to the hosts of The EU Review, an old Solosound.net podcast (the host is now on Star Wars: Beyond the Films, found at The Star Wars Report). I looked at the novels that have been published, their prices, and their page counts, and hoped to find a trend. There was no connection between price and page count (that trend continues, data not shown), but there were some other conclusions that could be made from the data.

I would like to note that I assume books are being purchased at cover price, from a brick-and-mortar store. If you buy from Amazon or another discount location, I cannot predict the price, but I imagine that prices are decreased in a fairly rational way, so the trends should remain the same.

Table 2: Price and page counts of novels published in 2011 (click for larger image)

The price of Star Wars books remained consistent within 2011 and with previous years. Hardcover books were $27.00, except for the 20th Anniversary annotated Heir to the Empire hardcover, and paperbacks were $7.99. If you choose to buy your books in their initial release, you spent $158.97 in 2011 (and a bit more in 2010, buying the books whose paperback reprints came out in 2011; that figure excludes the reprints of Heir to the Empire and Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter too). If you intentionally waited for paperbacks, you spent only $71.91, but you won’t get to enjoy such excellent books like Deceived and Revan until mid-to-late 2012. Of course, buying eBooks for your kindle, nook, or kobo is a good intermediate step (Deceived was $12.59 for the kindle), but the pricing model for buying new books electronically is sometimes strange, leading to unpredictable prices.

I would also like to note positive trend for my fellow Canadian Star Wars fans: the difference between USD and CAD cover prices has been decreasing lately. The hardcover of Rogue Planet (2001) was $26.00 USD, or $33.00 CAD. That’s and exchange rate of 1 USD = 1.269 CAD. But in 2011, the prices have improved. Deceived cost $27.00 USD, or $31.00 CAD (1:1.148). The Knight Errant paperback cost $7.99 USD or $8.99 (1:1.125, the best yet). Shadow Games was a bit more, at $7.99 USD, but $9.99 CAD (1:1.250). But these rates are still better than even 2010, when Crosscurrent was $7.99 USD, $10.99 CAD (1:1.375). I’m glad that Del Rey has reflected the ever-changing exchange rate between the Canadian and US dollar.

The average page count of a Star Wars book in 2011 was 389.33 pages for hardcover and 412.44 for a paperback. Note that all hardcover books in 2011 exceeded 300 pages, which cannot be said for 2009 and 2010. For paperbacks, none were lower than 300 and some exceeded 450. A few years ago, fans perceived a trend of decreasing book size, with increasing prices. My last analysis proved that false; it was only that there was a large standard deviation. The average page count was consistent from year to year, but recent years gave us many high highs (Order 66, Fatal Alliance, Vortex) and low lows (Death Troopers, Red Harvest, Omen). In 2011, however, it looks like the average might be higher than it has been. In my last analysis, I declared that a hardcover page count of 375 was “above the average”, but this year’s average is 389 1/3. Overally, it has been a very good year for Star Wars books; I’m glad that fans have been getting more for our dollar.

In conclusion, I’d like to leave you with some fun facts: If you read every novel published in 2011 (hardcovers and paperbacks, originals and re-issues), you read 6,048 pages worth of material. If you purchased every single Star Wars novel, young reader book, other physical books (Jedi Path, Complete Vader, etc.), comic issues, TPBs, omnibuses, and digests, in the year 2011, you paid $925.52 USD, before taxes. If you watched every televised episode, you spent 8.8 hours in front of the television. If you also watched everything that was released on DVD or blu-ray (not counting special features, and assuming you buy the movie blu-rays only once), you spent another 21.3 hours watching Star Wars. Similar statistics aren’t available for the video games, as game prices can vary tremendously, and both MMOs and LEGO games are designed for almost infinite replayability.

I look forward to spending 2012 with you all, continuing to enjoy Star Wars!

Written by Andrew Halliday
All staff members can be contacted at staff@eucantina.net

About the Author

Andrew Halliday contributes to EUCantina as a writer. He writes our column "The Star Wars Dissection," published every second Monday, and also reviews episodes of The Clone Wars television show. He began writing in 2010, sending letters to the SoloSound.net podcast The EU Review, using mathematics to look at certain trends in Star Wars content. These monthly analyses were expanded into his column in 2011. He has a degree in biology and a love for all things science and math.