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John Jackson Miller and other pop culture archaeologists interested in comics history.


Monday, January 13, 2014

2000 for 2013: Top Thousand Comics and Top Thousand GNs, with Comichron Estimates

by John Jackson Miller
With today's release of December comics orders from Diamond Comic Distributors — and our subsequent analysis and estimates for December 2013 comics sales now posted — Comichron has drawn upon that information to project estimates for the Top Thousand Comics and the Top Thousand Graphic Novels for 2013. The tables are on the page just beneath the image links to individual months.

As in past years, it is a large page, necessarily, so it may take a bit to load. Also as in the past, I have rounded off to the nearest hundred comics. Top Thousand Comics account for around 54.21 million copies; as we've seen in earlier years, that's well over half of all the comics that Diamond sold. In 2012 the figure was 53.43 million copies; in 2011, it was 47 million copies, and in 2010, the total was 45.3 million copies. So that's at least straight years of growth in unit sales for the grouping. In full retail dollars, the Top Thousand Comics sold for $202.02 million, a $10 million increase over last year's total of 191.4 million. (See the 2012 article here and charts here; and read the 2011 article here, and the charts here.)

Notably, almost every single one of the Top 100 comics on the list had a "multiple order codes" notation from Diamond, meaning there were variant covers or reprints combined to make the main entry. 

The Top Thousand Graphic Novels, led by Saga Vol. 1, went for $79.03 million, up from $71.4 million in 2012 and $58.4 million in 2011. Combined, the Top Thousand Comics and Top Thousand Graphic Novel lists account for about 54% of the orders by dollars Diamond received in publishing last year, which was around $518 million. The Top Thousands accounted for 55% of all dollars retailers spent in 2012.'s Walking Dead #115 was the top seller of the year; Comichron estimates that, all told, around 329,300 copies of the issue, including all variants, were ordered by Direct Market retailers in North America. That's enough to make it the fifth highest-selling comic book of the 21st Century, behind only the Obama Amazing Spider-Man #583, with orders of 530,500 copies in 2009, last year's Walking Dead #100, and Civil War issues #2 and #3. You can see the updated top-sellers by year here.

The entire Top Comics of the 21st Century list has been updated, and it has now also been split into lists for the decade of 2000-2009 and the decade of the 2010s. As we can see from just the top of the list, one other 2013 title, Justice League of America #1, also cracked the Top 10 for the century, giving DC its highest ranking entrant in some time: 


Comic-book Title Issue Ship Price Publisher Est. sales
1 Amazing Spider-Man 583 Jan-09 $3.99 Marvel 530,500
2 Walking Dead (including Chromium edition) 100 Jul-12 $3.99 Image 384,800
3 Civil War 2 Jun-06 $2.99 Marvel 341,900
4 Civil War 3 Jul-06 $2.99 Marvel 337,000
5 Walking Dead 115 Oct-13 $3.99 Image 328,500
6 Civil War 1 May-06 $3.99 Marvel 328,500
7 Justice League of America 1 Feb-13 $3.99 DC 326,000
8 Captain America 25 Mar-07 $2.99 Marvel 317,700
9 Uncanny Avengers 1 Oct-12 $3.99 Marvel 305,900
10 Civil War 4 Sep-06 $2.99 Marvel 291,000

Twenty-one issues from 2013 made the Top 300 for the 21st Century list, fewer than last year. Ten 2013 issues made the Top 100, and six made the Top 50.

Who published the Top Thousand Comics this year? Here's the breakdown:

Marvel: 498 (-32 from 2012)
DC: 410 (-9 from 2012)
Image: 49 (+18 from 2012)
Dark Horse: 18 (+10 from 2012)
IDW: 15 (+9 from 2012)
Aspen: 5 (+5 from 2012)
Boom: 2 (-1 from 2012)

Valiant: 1 (-2 from 2012)
Dynamic Forces (Dynamite): 1 (-1 from 2012)
Archie: 1 (+1 from 2012)

That's one publishers that wasn't on last year's list: Aspen.

And here's the publisher breakdown of the Top Thousand Graphic Novels. Those with 10 or more entries:

DC: 362 (+21 from 2012)
Marvel: 288 (+4 from 2012)
Image: 96 (+25 from 2012)
Dark Horse: 91 (-3 from 2012) 
IDW: 42 (+4 from 2012)
Random House: 17 (-4 from 2012)
 Viz: 16 (-24 from 2012)
Boom: 12 (+2 from 2012)

That's a big move for DC and Image, with a similar-sized drop in the count of entries from Viz.

Walking Dead softcovers and hardcovers in the Top Thousand added up to nearly $7.8 million at retail — with comics bringing the total for the line up to nearly $12 million. That's enough to give it a market share approaching 2.4%, which would make it once again the seventh largest publisher for the year.

Now, some notes about the shape of the market, as seen on the lists. We find the following breakdowns for unit sales:


200,000+ 100,000+ 75,000+ 50,000+ 25,000+ 10,000+
2009 2 39 119 379 n.a. n.a.
2010 0 26 94 303 955 n.a.
2011 3 42 86 343 984 n.a.
2012 5 63 129 403 1100 2250
2013 6 64 178 390 1128 2430
Another way to look at the above is: where does the 100,000-copy level start on the chart? In 2010, every book above 39th place sold that many copies or more; in 2013, six-figures started at 64th place. 

As you can see, the upper tier, above 100,000 copies, was basically unchanged from 2012 to 2013. But nearly 50 more titles sold above 75,000 copies in 2013 than in 2012. The middle to lower tiers were more stable, but it appears that quite a few more issues broke the 10,000-copy level.

Repeating the end-of-year report, the comic shop market in North America ordered nearly $518 million worth of comics and graphic novels in 2013, an increase of 9% over 2012. The final end-of-year report, bringing in outside channels, will appear later this winter. (And no, there is no source for digital sales, although they appeared in 2012 to be about 10% of print sales in dollar terms, based on industry reports.) Diamond also reported in September that the number of comics accounts it sells to increased 4% to 2,638 from September 2012.

There are 22 other years of Diamond annual reports on the site, going back to 1991. You can also find comparatives for how the market as a whole did across that time by viewing our Yearly Comics Sales page.

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December 2013 comics sales estimates now online

by John Jackson Miller

The final comics sales estimates for December are out from Diamond Comic Distributors, and as reported here on Friday, the Direct Market closed out the year up 9%. Click to see the sales estimates for comics ordered in December 2013.

Origin II #1 was the top-selling comic book of the month; at 131,700 copies, it almost exactly matches first-month sales of Origin #2 from 2001. Not one of the bigger blockbusters for the year, it'll likely still make the Top 300 for the 21st Century list.

December is always a hard month to compare across time because of the variable shipping schedules caused by the holidays. This December, for example, had only four Wednesdays—but five New Comics Days, because retailers were given a Tuesday release date for the New Year's Eve shipment. On the other hand, the Christmas Eve shipment was tiny (including only Origins II #1, a book of mine, and 11 other items), so it works out to four weeks of new release volume. Given some retailers' holiday schedules and UPS's problems at the end of the year, it's probably a four-week month for sales purposes, too.

Something else was noteworthy. The Top 300 Graphic Novels category vaulted over the $10 million mark — it had never topped $9 million before — but the result should not be taken at face value. Or, rather, at full retail value. There was a lot of holiday-season (or end-of-fiscal-year clearance) graphic novel discounting going on this month: more than $3 million in sales came from older Omnibus hardcovers from Marvel which were steeply discounted. We can see this because while Diamond's charts are ranked by units sold, and not dollars, it does offer dollar-ranking information — but both its dollar rankings and its market shares are based on wholesale dollars.
So, for example, we see that a newer $30 book, Deadpool Classic Vol. 9, brought in almost as many dollars to Diamond as the $100 Ultimate Spider-Man Omnibus Vol. 1 from last year: they were 15th and 16th respectively in Diamond's dollar rankings. retailers ordered 17% more copies of the Ultimate Spider-Man Omnibus. So the Omnibus had to be selling for less than a third of what Diamond normally would have sold the book to retailers for. Thus, while the topline figure for graphic novel sales was way, way up — up 67% over last December, within just the Top 300 — the real figure was an increase of 18%.

I've written about this several times in the past: there's not really anything to do about it, as running rankings based on wholesale dollars would tend to be confusing — and the central purpose of this site is reporting how many copies entered into the Direct Market. It's true that $10 million in Top 300 graphic novels by cover price were ordered by retailers in December: if they sold them all at full retail, the sum would still reflect what the industry made. In any event, take the category with a grain of salt this month.

Records set during the month:

Highest dollar volume for Top 300 Trade Paperbacks in a single month: $10.51 million; overstated by the means described above.

Highest dollar volume for comics and graphic novels ordered in a quarter: $134.79 million, beating the record set last quarter.

Highest dollar market share for IDW: 8.18%

Additionally, the combined market shares of IDW, Image, and Dark Horse are higher than has been seen for the 3-4-5 publishers since 2003. Click to see other Diamond-era records.

The aggregate changes, which give us our end-of-year figures:

December 2013: 6.6 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: -5%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -14%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +4%
Versus 15 years ago this month: -9%
Q4 2013: 20.98 million copies, -3% vs. Q4 2012
2013 YEAR END: 84.51 million copies, +5% vs. 2012, +4% vs. 2008, +16% vs. 2003, unchanged vs. 1998

December 2013 versus one year ago this month: -3.64%
Q4 2012 versus Q4 2012: -0.97%
2013 YEAR END: +6.7%


December 2013: $24.55 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -1%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -3%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +36%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +32%
Q4 2013: $78.19 million, +8% vs. Q4 2012
2013 YEAR END: $308.71 million, +8% vs. 2012, +17% vs. 2008, +49% vs. 2003, +47% vs. 1998

December 2013 versus one year ago this month: +1.09%
Q4 2013 versus Q4 2012: +4.16%
2013 YEAR END: +10.22%


December 2013: $10.51 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +67%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +57%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 50 vs. the Top 50: +66%
Versus 15 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: +128%
Q4 2013: $26.22 million, +19% vs. Q4 2012
2013 YEAR END: $93.91 million, +11% vs. 2012

December 2013 versus one year ago this month: +18.02%
Q4 2013 versus Q4 2012: +7.8%


December 2013: $35.06 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +13%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -3%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 50 TPBs: +31%
Versus 15 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +45%
Q4 2013: $104.4 million, +4% vs. Q4 2012
2013 YEAR END: $402.31 million, +9% vs. 2012

December 2013 versus one year ago this month: +5.93%
Q4 2013 versus Q4 2012: +5.28%   
2013 YEAR END: +9.04%


OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)
December 2013: approximately $42.22 million (subject to revision)
Versus 1 year ago this month: +6%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +6%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +47%
Q4 2013: $134.79 million, +5% vs. 2012

2013 YEAR END: $517.66 million, +9% vs. 2013

New comic books released: 471
New graphic novels released: 239
New magazines released: 29
All new releases: 739

The average comic book in the Top 300 cost $3.66; the average comic book retailers ordered cost $3.72. The median and most common price for comics offered was $3.99. Click to see comics prices across time.

The release of December data allows the end-of year estimates to be made: those will be up shortly. (Update: Click to see the Top 1,000 Comics and Top 1,000 Graphic Novels for 2013.)

Be sure to follow Comichron on Twitter and Facebook.

Friday, January 10, 2014

December comics sales close 2013 on high note; another IDW market share record

by John Jackson Miller
Diamond Comic Distributors released the preliminary 2013 year-end data on Wednesday; now, it has added the closing chapter of the sales year with the preliminary sales report for December.

Retailers ordered $42.22 million in comic books and graphic novels in December, a sum almost identical to that of November. Less than $9,000, or the sales of a single issue of a 400th-place title, separated November and December's orders. But last December was weaker than last November, so the result was an uptick in the year-to-year percentage change: the direct market ordered nearly 6% more dollars worth of comics and graphic novels this December than last December.

Orders for the fourth quarter totaled $134.79 million in comics and graphic novels, more than a million dollars better than the third quarter and an improvement of more than $6 million over the fourth quarter of 2012. Since the third quarter was already a record for the Diamond Exclusive Era, the fourth quarter represents the highest dollar value for a quarter, unadjusted for inflation, since the early 1990s.

The resulting sales for the year came in at around $517.66 million, which as reported earlier this week is an increase of 9% over last year's figure of $474.45 million.

The percentage change statistics:


Comics 0.63% 1.60%
Graphic Novels -1.40% 3.67%
Total Comics and Graphic Novels -0.03% 1.76%


Comics 1.09% -3.64%
Graphic Novels 18.02% 20.38%
Total Comics and Graphic Novels 5.93% -2.07%

YEAR 2013 VS. YEAR 2012

Comics 10.22% 6.70%
Graphic Novels 6.50% 5.12%
Total Comics and Graphic Novels 9.04% 6.58%

Comics -0.72% -2.39%
Graphic Novels 5.79% 2.09%
Total Comics and Graphic Novels 1.23% -2.06%

Comics 4.16% -0.97%
Graphic Novels 7.80% 9.50%
Total Comics and Graphic Novels 5.28% -0.22%

IDW had a dollar market share of 8.18%, a record for the publisher; it was good enough to put the company into the third place slot. The previous high for IDW was 7.54%, in April 2013. It's the only time in 2013 IDW placed third; it did so three times each in 2011 and 2012, first doing so in June 2009. See other Diamond-era records here.

The next three publishers after Marvel and DC had 21.78% of the dollar orders: this is the highest total for that sub-grouping since February 2003, when it was 23.47% (with the CrossGen in IDW's place). The market shares for December:

Marvel 36.56% 35.42%
DC 31.13% 27.22%
IDW 6.17% 8.18%
Image 8.07% 7.32%
Dark Horse 6.35% 6.28%
Dynamite 3.25% 3.22%
Boom 2.12% 2.06%
Zenescope 1.16% 1.11%
Eaglemoss 0.18% 0.98%
Zenescope 0.91% 0.91%
Other 4.08% 7.32%

Marvel's Origin II #1 was the top-selling comic book, though since it didn't appear in Diamond's year-end top 10, that tells us it wasn't one of the year's bigger blockbusters. Once again, only one comic book in the Top 10 was priced below $3.99. The Top 10 comic books for the month:

1 Origin II #1 4.99 Marvel
2 Avengers #24.Now 4.99 Marvel
3 Batman #26 3.99 DC 
4 Forever Evil #4 3.99 DC 
5 Superman Unchained #5 3.99 DC 
6 Justice League #25 3.99 DC 
7 Harley Quinn #1 2.99 DC 
8 Justice League #26 3.99 DC 
9 Inhumanity #1 3.99 Marvel
10 Superior Spider-Man #23 3.99 Marvel

Fables Vol. 19 from DC led the graphic novel charts. The Top 10 graphic novels for the month:

1 Fables Volume 19: Snow White 16.99 DC
2 Adventure Time Volume 2: Pixel Princesses 11.99 Boom
3 Richard Stark's Parker: Slayground HC 17.99 IDW
4 Deadpool Kills Deadpool 14.99 Marvel
5 Star Lord: Worlds On The Brink 7.99 Marvel
6 Nightwing Volume 3: Death Of The Family 16.99 DC
7 Saga Volume 1 9.99 Image
8 Deadpool Volume 3: Good Bad And Ugly 15.99 Marvel
9 Saga Volume 2 14.99 Image
10 The Walking Dead Volume 1: Days Gone Bye 14.99 Image

Here's the list of how many new titles each major publisher shipped. IDW had 88 items on the shelves, contributing volume to that market share record:

DC 92 25 1 118
Marvel 72 30 0 102
IDW 55 33 0 88
Dark Horse 50 12 0 62
Image 47 12 0 59
Dynamite 34 6 0 40
Boom 28 4 0 32
Zenescope 11 3 0 14
Valiant 8 4 0 12
Eaglemoss 0 0 5 5
Other 74 110 23 207
TOTAL 471 239 29 739

The final December report should be along on Monday.

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Comics close 2013 up 9%; Image has best-selling comic, graphic novel of year

by John Jackson Miller
In advance of the larger releases of its December and 2013 year-end sales tables, Diamond Comic Distributors has released a sneak peek at the topline figures for the year.

Comic shop orders for comic books and graphic novels in North America reportedly increased by 9.04% over 2012. It's a smaller increase than last year's 14.72% boost. It would bring the year in at more than $518 million — in line with previous estimates here at Comichron — and an increase of around $43 million for the year. Note that this figure does not include comics and graphic novels sold through bookstore and newsstand channels, which adds another $200 million or so — nor does it include digital sales, which were reported to be in excess of $75 million in 2012 and would likely have been more in 2013.

Orders for comic books were up by 10.22% in dollars, while graphic novel orders were up by 6.5%. October's The Walking Dead #115 was the best-selling comic book of the year, with sales in excess of 300,000 copies — and, perhaps not coincidentally, it cost at least a dollar less than anything else on the top-ten list.


1 The Walking Dead #115 $2.99 Image
2 Justice League Of America #1 $3.99 DC
3 Superman Unchained #1 $4.99 DC
4 Guardians of the Galaxy #1 $3.99 Marvel
5 Superior Spider-Man #1 $3.99 Marvel
6 Infinity #1 $4.99 Marvel
7 X-Men #1 $3.99 Marvel
8 Age Of Ultron #1 $3.99 Marvel
9 Uncanny X-Men #1 $3.99 Marvel
10 Superman Unchained #2 $3.99 DC
Image also had the top-selling graphic novel in Saga Vol. 1 — again, priced quite a bit less than anything else in the Top 10. It unseated Walking Dead Vol. 1, which had led the list for three years running; that book still placed second. Image had seven out of ten entries on the list.


1 Saga Volume 1 $9.99  Image
2 The Walking Dead Volume 1: Days Gone Bye $14.99  Image
3 Saga Volume 2 $14.99  Image
4 The Walking Dead Volume 18: What Comes After $14.99  Image
5 The Walking Dead Volume 2: Miles Behind Us $14.99  Image
6 The Walking Dead Volume 19: March To War $14.99  Image
7 Hawkeye Volume 1: My Life As Weapon $16.99  Marvel
8 Batman Volume 1: The Court Of Owls $16.99  DC
9 Batman: The Killing Joke Special Edition HC $17.99  DC
10 The Walking Dead Volume 3: Safety Behind Bars $14.99  Image

Marvel led the publishers list in both dollar and market shares, and the dollar rankings were identical to 2012's list, with the exception of Valiant replacing Viz at ninth:

Marvel Comics 36.97% 33.50%
DC Entertainment 33.35% 30.33%
Image Comics 8.49% 8.00%
IDW Publishing 5.10% 6.47%
Dark Horse Comics 4.50% 5.17%
Dynamite Entertainment 2.59% 2.72%
Boom! Studios 1.92% 1.99%
Eaglemoss Publications 0.26% 1.25%
Valiant Entertainment 1.06% 0.98%
Avatar Press 0.74% 0.89%
Other Non-Top 10 5.02% 8.70%

The monthly reports for 2013 can be found here, and previous years for comparison can be found here.

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