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


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Comichron's provisional Direct Market comics sales rankings and market shares for 2016

by John Jackson Miller

In the rules of golf, if a ball is lost in the woods, the player continues with a "provisional ball." If the original ball is found within a limited time, the original is the one played; if not, the player takes a penalty and continues with the provisional ball as if it were the original.

This diversion into USGA Rule 27-2 is relevant to comics because — as many have noticed — the 2016 end-of-year Top Sellers and Market Shares from Diamond Comic Distributors have been lost in the proverbial woods this year. There is a multi-step process involved every year in the publication of Diamond's year-end charts; the distributor has informed me that the process for 2016’s reports was not fully completed — and is not now expected to be, especially as we're already in mid-February. (CORRECTION: The latter characterization was mine, stemming from my misunderstanding of what I had been told. While it is correct that steps remain before publication, there was no intention on Diamond's part to convey that it would never happen. I apologize for the error.)

As such, Comichron’s provisional rankings and market shares, which we've based on the previous twelve months’ estimates, now appear on our 2016 page and will remain unless and until more definitive information becomes available. These figures have also become the basis for our updates to several other tables on the site, including the Top-Selling Comics of the 21st Century.  
Click to see our projections for the Top Thousand Comics and Graphic Novels for 2016, or read on for more detail on how we arrived at the calculations:

Provisional 2016 Market Shares

The end-of-year dollar market shares were calculated by simply multiplying the dollar share information Diamond provided in its monthly reports by the total number of dollars Comichron calculates were in the Direct Market in those months. (Those figures are known to be accurate, and work across time when Diamond's monthly and yearly change statistics are applied to them.) Summing across results in the following dollar shares:

(projected based on monthly data)

Share of Overall Dollars
Marvel 37.50%
DC 29.84%
Image 8.68%
IDW 4.96%
Dark Horse 3.12%
Boom 2.34%
Dynamite 1.55%
Titan 1.20%
Viz 1.08%
Oni 0.93%
Other 8.81%

(EDIT 2/16: Revised; one Dark Horse month was erroneously in the "Other" column.) We used the same method on monthly data from the last three years to see if it would correctly predict the annual dollar market shares that Diamond announced in those years; it performed very well in those experiments. Some small variance might crop up as a result of monthly variance in the average discount rates publishers charged retailers, but in general the above figures are likely to approximate the actual market shares.

As compared with 2015's market shares, the biggest movement was DC, which predictably picked up four points thanks to Rebirth. Marvel dropped only a point, however; the balance appears to have come from the field. No change in the order of the top eight publishers; toy magazine publisher Eaglemoss, which hasn't made the monthly Top 20 Dollar Shares since last spring, dropped off the list, to be replaced by Oni.

Note that annual unit shares are not possible. We know approximately how many comic books were shipped in 2016, but not how many graphic novels and magazines released.

Provisional 2016 top comics rankings and estimates

The rankings for the year require a bit more explanation. We've merged all the estimates calculated for comics and graphic novels during 2016 as they appeared in the monthly Top 300 lists. In the case of some popular graphic novels, there were reports from every single month; some comic books also appeared in the charts multiple times due to reorders. But in general, we only have the first month's data or two on most entries.

The resultant tables, thus, tell the minimum number of copies sold for each nonreturnable entry; for most comics, you can expect that the real totals are a few percent higher, thanks to reorders. Very strong reorders usually are reflected below, because those books charted again, and were counted.

But ... since we do not have the final end-of-year shipping numbers, we do not know what the final performance was of titles that were marked returnable. Those titles had their orders reduced in the tables by 10% in the monthly charts; we have no basis for adjusting those figures either upward or downward. So when it comes to these titles — which include all the early DC Rebirth books — all we can do is go by the originally reported figures, adding any copies that were reported when any of those books charted again. We have left those titles with asterisks in the tables.

And because nothing is simple, we've also got the "Loot Crate dagger" present in our charts — in fact, as predicted, it's at the very top. Boom's Big Trouble in Little China/Escape from New York #1 topped the charts for the year, its presence there owing to the majority of its copies being ordered by the repackaging service Loot Crate.

Comic-book TitleIssuePricePublisherEst. sales
1Big Trouble in Little China/Escape From New York1†$3.99Boom421,625
2Civil War II1$5.99Marvel391,526
3Harley Quinn1*$2.99DC366,110
5DC Universe Rebirth1$2.99DC305,735
7All Star Batman1*$4.99DC289,348
8Black Panther1$4.99Marvel286,755
9Suicide Squad1*$2.99DC217,672
10Batman Rebirth1*$2.99DC209,286

It's difficult to say what would have been the top-seller in the true Direct Market in 2016. Marvel's Civil War II #1 had variants in non-Direct Market channels, including Marvel's Collector's Corps box — but then, we don't know for sure that would be first, because Harley Quinn #1's sales might have been higher, too, if it sold through all the copies it shipped and the 10% reduction Diamond initially applied on the monthly tables. The book recurred on the charts, which seems to suggest it did.

So, in all candor, I can say I don't have the slightest idea what the Direct Market's top seller was in 2016. In a very weird situation, Boom, Marvel, and DC each could have a claim. At the moment, we're just passing on the numbers we have; should we get more information, we'll revise. mentioned above, we've updated the Top Selling Comics of the 21st Century page, the Top Selling Comics of the 2010s page, and the Top Comics By Year page with the provisional data. In each case we've mentioned the caveats involved. The Decade and Century pages already had apples-to-oranges issues in certain cases, so this year's situation is nothing new.

Provisional 2016 top graphic novel rankings and estimates

Because the bestselling graphic novels tend to recur on the charts every month, there's much less uncertainty about what Diamond's top-selling graphic novels were. Every single title in the Top 10 charted every month in which they were available, meaning that there is no doubt as to the order of the rankings; everything Diamond sold for those titles should be included.

Image's Saga Vol. 6 took the top honors, edging out DC's Killing Joke hardcover, which likely sold for more dollars. It's likely that Marvel's Civil War collected edition was the top dollar item.

Trade Paperback titlePricePublisherEst. sales
1Saga Vol. 6$14.99Image47,968
2Batman The Killing Joke Special Ed HC$17.99DC44,124
3Saga Vol. 1$9.99Image37,306
4Civil War$24.99Marvel34,921
5Paper Girls Vol. 1$9.99Image33,712
6Walking Dead Vol. 25 No Turning Back$14.99Image33,214
7Saga Vol. 5$14.99Image27,186
8Monstress Vol. 1$9.99Image26,008
9Walking Dead Vol. 26 Call to Arms$14.99Image24,937
10Walking Dead Vol. 1 Days Gone Bye$14.99Image23,243

It is the fourth year in a row that Saga has taken the top slot; previous perennial leader Walking Dead topped out at sixth this year.

Note that all other statistics on end-of-year sales on our 2016 page are based upon December's report from Diamond, so those estimates include everything.

So last year's report will live, at least for the time being, with some extra asterisks; in a near quarter-century of following these things, we've accumulated a few of those. January 2017’s sales report, I am assured, will be released as usual and is expected in the coming days. Follow Comichron on Twitter and Facebook to be alerted when they appear.

John Jackson Miller has tracked the comics industry for more than 20 years, including a decade editing the industry's retail trade magazine; he is the author of several guides to comics, as well as more than a hundred comic books for various franchises.  He is the author of several novels including Star Wars: Kenobi, Overdraft: The Orion OffensiveStar Wars: A New Dawn, and the Star Trek: Prey trilogy. Read more about them at his fiction site.
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