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


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The 2018 Two Thousand: A look at the 1,000 top-selling comics and graphic novels ordered by comic shops

by John Jackson Miller

With the release of 2018 end-of-year comics orders from Diamond Comic Distributors, Comichron has drawn upon that information to project estimates for the Top Thousand Comics and the Top Thousand Graphic Novels for 2018. The tables are on the page just beneath the image links to individual months.

This year's charts have our sorting and searching features implemented, as now do our previous 27 years of annual charts, going back to 1991. You can find the links to them, along with updated comparatives for how the market as a whole did across that time, by viewing our Yearly Comics Sales page.

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Led by Action Comics #1000, the Top Thousand Comics accounted for around 50.43 million copies; we don't yet know how many copies Diamond sold altogether. (We'll see that when the December data comes out.) This is an increase of 1.5% in units over what the Top Thousand sold in 2017.

Here are the totals for the Top Thousand Comics from the past few years. Diamond did not release figures for 2016, but we calculated minimum values for the Top Thousand based on known orders and reorders from that year:

2010: 45.3 million copies
2011: 47 million copies
2012: 53.43 million copies
2013: 52.21 million copies
2014: 52.07 million copies
2015: 58.59 million copies
2016: 59.8 million (minimum, probably slightly higher)
2017: 49.68 million copies
2018: 50.43 million copies

As you can see, 2018's figure comes in under 2012's — but we know that Diamond sold more comics in 2017 than in 2012, so it may have done so in 2018, too. This is a consequence of the Top Thousand representing a smaller portion of the distributor's volume. In full retail dollars, the Top Thousand Comics likely sold for $213.3 million, a big 11% leap over 2017's $190.6 million. That's a consequence of the top sellers being so much more expensive; $8 and $10 were not impediments to sales, in many cases.

Almost everything in the Top 100 had "multiple order codes" at Diamond, meaning there were variant covers or reprints combined into one entry; sometimes it's not a simultaneous variant, but rather a reprint with a different cover.

Breaking down unit sales — and again employing our estimated minimums for 2016 — we see a rebound in the higher tiers in 2018, but declines in the midrange and lower-tier sellers, in part a consequence of so many fewer comics (not variants, but unique interiors) being released in the year. The first chart shows what's in each bracket; the second is a cumulative measure:




2018 actually wound up better than 2014 when it came to the number of comics moving more than 100,000 copies. But the number selling between 50,000 and 75,000 copies is the lowest it's been this decade.

(Update: I was asked about variants. Fully 870 of the 1,000 bestselling issues in 2018 had multiple covers; 464 of the top 500, and 97 out of the top 100. That's 87%, 93%, and 97%. It's not localized to any one publisher; every single one with issues in the Top 1000 had some with variants. In 2018, it was standard.)

Every year we also add a number of items to the Top Comics of the Decade and the Top Comics of the Century (So Far, in each case) lists. A large number of new entrants, this time: The year 2018 added 21 comics to the 300 bestselling comics of the 2010s, with Action #1000 placing fifth, behind 2015's Star Wars #1, 2014's Amazing Spider-Man #1, 2015's Secret Wars #1, and 2009's Amazing Spider-Man #583. It also added 34 comics to the 300 bestselling comics of the 21st Century, with Action #1000 placing fourth.

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The Top Thousand Graphic Novels, led by Infinity Gauntlet, went for $58.2 million. This is a major 20% drop from 2017's $73.19 million.

2011: $58.4 million
2012: $71.4 million
2013: $79.03 million
2014: $81.19 million
2015: $81.46 million
2016: $69.48 million (minimum, likely a good deal higher)
2017: $73.19 million
2018: $58.2 million

That brings the year down just below what it was in 2011. Accounting for the difference: a lot of money was tied up in comics this year, which beat their 2017 performance, and the Walking Dead factor appears to have faded from what it was in previous years. It's also likely many of the graphic novels are still being sold to retailers, just not necessarily by Diamond.

Overall graphic novel sales were reported by Diamond to be down only 6.6%, which tells us that the long tail is where more of the business is being done. It's just that the bestsellers of 2018 weren't as popular; more of the sales went to a wider variety of books.

Combined, the Top Thousand Comics and Top Thousand Graphic Novel lists account for more than half of all the orders by dollars Diamond received for print products in 2018, a slight increase.

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

Marvel: 535 (+33)
DC: 399 (-60)
Image: 52 (+23)
Boom: 3 (+3)
Dark Horse: 3 (unchanged)
IDW: 3 (+1)
Valiant: 2 (-1)
Archie: 1 (+1)
Dynamite: 1 (unchanged)
Oni: 1 (+1)

DC, which published many fewer comics in 2018, saw the biggest drop, with gains to Marvel and Image. Titan dropped out of the list.

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

Marvel: 312 (+8)
DC: 277 (-29)
Image: 190 (+2)
 Viz: 58 (+17)
Dark Horse: 50 (unchanged)
Boom: 30 (+8)
IDW: 14 (-4)
Oni: 14 (unchanged)

Big move for Viz, moving into fourth, with Marvel passing DC.

So that's the year that was. December data will be on the way later.

Comichron founder John Jackson Miller has tracked the comics industry for more than 25 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 novels including the just-announced Star Trek: Discovery - The Enterprise War, releasing July 30 from Gallery Books, as well as Star Wars: Kenobi and the Star Trek: Prey trilogy. Read more about them at his fiction site.

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Unknown said...

Thank you for this information. Unfortunately since the population grows by a percent or two most years--the market has once effectively shrank in a units per capita basis. Comics are now more socially acceptable than ever before, but the print market seems poised for an implosion. Prices are too high. If someone thinks that four bucks is a great value for ten minutes or less of entertainment -- then you should have no problem paying fifty bucks to watch Aquaman either at the theatre or on DVD when it comes out --- and please don't tell me that your comics are worth x amount of dollars, because I have a relative that owns a comic book store and says that 99 percent of the time his customers never get back the price of the bag and board, and he almost never pays more than 15 percent cover price for trabebacks more than a year old. BTW he's had the store for more than 30 years.

John Jackson Miller said...

Comics inflation is usually considerably overestimated; it's tracked upward at a slower pace in recent decades than it did in, say, the 1970s. Actual data is here:

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