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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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