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20 years of end-of-year comics bestseller lists

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

by John Jackson Miller


Best-seller for 1991 (and all time!)
This is the week for end-of-year lists, but the comics bestseller list won't be out for a week or so. So how about 20 old lists, instead — some seeing the light of day for the first time in years?

December tends to be the time of year when I get a few extra days to prep for the posting some of the research I've had waiting in the wings — and this year is no different. The Comics Chronicles now has online every end-of-year best-seller list for the last 20 years, as published by Diamond Comic Distributors and in many cases augmented with my own sales estimates.

Simply scroll to the bottom of the Yearly Comics Sales page and click any of the linked issues to see the year's top seller list.

A few of the later years were already online here at the site, and a couple from the early days. But the vast majority of what is posted has never before appeared on the Web. Much of the heavy-lifting came from sometime assistant and world's-fastest-typist T.M. Haley over the course of 2010, keying in data and adding cover prices and publishers where they were missing from Diamond's charts. I added a lot of work cleaning up some lists and interpreting what had been published over the last year-and-a-half, as time allowed.


1992
Diamond's end-of-year listings appeared in its retail publication Diamond Dialogue, and the first one posted here, from 1991, comes from the very first issue of that magazine's relaunched version in January 1992. Diamond Dialogue existed only as a monthly newsletter through the end of 1990; it did include some monthly sales reports, but I have not found any with end-of year rankings. Nor have I found them in any of the 1991 issues I have, which were the first magazine-like incarnation of the publication. So earlier Diamond end-of-year rankings may still exist, though as I have only found monthly numbers from the newsletters, 1990 might be the only year left out there.

What Diamond published in these lists changed over time. Sometimes it published the Top 100 issues; sometimes the Top 200 or 300. (These days, it's up to 1,000!)


1993
Rankings for trade paperbacks were also included each year, although again the number printed varied, as did Diamond's definition of a trade paperback. (Most of the items in the 1991 list were Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe loose-leaf binder pages!) The lists do appear to be ranked by unit sales, always, and not dollars.

There are occasional shifts in what Diamond included in its rankings. The 1991 list includes items that shipped in January 1992, but not January 1991. I have marked those on the page. As I mentioned here when I posted the 1995 and 1996 pages, those years do not include Marvel because it was being distributed by Heroes World. And 1994's list seems to have a glitch, with Violator #1 ranking #1 at Diamond despite being much, much lower at Capital City: Spawn/Batman is almost certainly the correct top seller.

Here are the top-sellers within each year. Click on the years to see the full Top 100s (or 200s or 300s, etc.):

Comic-book Title Issue Price Publisher Est. DM Orders
1991 X-Men Vol. 2 1 $1.50 Marvel 8,014,500
1992 Superman 75 $2.50 DC
1993 Action Comics 687 $1.95 DC
1994 Spawn/Batman 1 $3.95 Image
1995 DC Versus Marvel 1 $3.95 DC
1996 DC Versus Marvel 4 $3.95 DC
1997 Darkness 11 $2.50 Image 357,100
1998 Fathom 1 $2.50 Image 257,100
1999 Tomb Raider 1 $2.50 Image 189,500
2000 Uncanny X-Men 381 $2.25 Marvel 119,300
2001 Dark Knight Strikes Again 1 $7.95 DC 188,700
2002 Ultimates 1 $2.25 Marvel 160,200
2003 Batman 619 $2.25 DC 235,100
2004 Superman 204 $2.50 DC 244,100
2005 All Star Batman & Robin 1 $2.99 DC 276,000
2006 Civil War 2 $2.99 Marvel 341,900
2007 Captain America 25 $3.99 Marvel 317,700
2008 Secret Invasion 1 $3.99 Marvel 263,000
2009 Amazing Spider-Man 583 $3.99 Marvel 530,500
2010 Avengers 1 $3.99 Marvel 175,100

The Trade Paperback list is, again, unusual in the early years because Diamond was using the category as a catchall for more expensive titles:

Trade Paperback Title
Price Publisher
1991 Punisher: Bloodlines
$5.95 Marvel
1992 Punisher: G-Force
$4.95 Marvel
1993 WildC.A.T.S.
$9.95 Image
1994 Superman: Under a Yellow Sun
$5.95 DC
1995 Sandman Midnight Theater
$6.95 DC
1996 Batman Captain America
$5.95 DC
1997 X-Man
$5.99 Marvel
1998 Battle Chasers Collector's Ed.
$5.95 Image
1999 Batman War on Crime
$9.95 DC
2000 JLA Heaven's Ladder
$9.95 DC
2001 Wonder Woman Spirit of Truth Oversized
$9.95 DC
2002 September 11 Vol. 2
$9.95 DC
2003 Justice League Liberty & Justice
$9.95 DC
2004 Batman Hush Vol. 1
$12.95 DC
2005 Sin City Vol. 1 Hard Goodbye
$17.00 Dark Horse
2006 V For Vendetta
$19.99 DC
2007 Civil War
$24.99 Marvel
2008 Watchmen
$19.99 DC
2009 Watchmen
$19.99 DC
2010 Walking Dead Vol. 1 Days Gone Bye $9.99 Image


1997
Diamond was not publishing market shares in its early end-of-year charts, so I have printed the ones for Capital City on those yearly pages. Diamond and Capital's market shares would have deviated some, just as they would have differed from those for the whole market. I have also synposized the year's sales-related events on each yearly page. It's a snapshot of some of  the ups and downs of each year.

A permanent landing page has been established for the Top Comics By Year in the newly reorganized Vital Statistics section. A space has been reserved for Justice League #1, which will be tops in 2011 unless something very unusual happens in December.

Finally, I have guesstimated top sellers based on Capital City's data for 1984-1990; these titles appear, unlinked, on the Yearly page for future population. The only real surprise is the seemingly random Uncanny X-Men issue in 1987, but it seems to be the case from my cursory look through Capital's data from the time. Additional research is necessary before any more can be posted.

It's a lot of fun reading these old lists. 1991 is a particularly interesting year, coming just before the boom of new publishers like Image; Marvel has 90 of the top 100 titles for the year!

More data goodies are coming soon, including the end-of-2011 figures, and a much-delayed updating of figures from the 1960s and 1970s. And while I haven't mentioned it at least four years, there is an account for donations to The Comics Chronicles. I run the site on my own time and expense — and would do so in any event — but additional resources translates to more information being generated by more hands, as was the case with this post.

Happy comics new year!

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