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


Thursday, December 26, 2019

Comichron's Decade in Review: The 2010s, year-by-year

by John Jackson Miller

Here's a look at the Decade in Review, a year-by-year glance back at the trends shaping comics shop orders. It's mostly been a decade of growth, with downturns in 2010-11 and 2017-18.

PRICES UP, SALES DOWN. Summer new comics sales were the worst since 2001; only one issue after July topped 100,000 copies. DC reversed its increase to $3.99; it didn't help. "The most popular, least successful move we ever made," a DC rep said. See the charts.

NEW 52 TO THE RESCUE. The 2010 woes dragged into 2011, with the worst monthly top-seller ever moving just 71,517 copies in February. But DC turned it all around with its reboot, nearly turning the year positive and taking 11 of the Top 12. See the charts.

ROBUST REBOUND. The New 52 continued to rule. Marvel had Avengers in theaters and Marvel NOW on shelves in the fall, and Walking Dead's anniversary issue was the bestselling comic in three years. Comics shop sales finished up 15% over 2011. See the charts.

MIDDLE TIER GROWS. Midrange publishers continued to grow their lines; "everybody else combined" surpassed both Marvel and DC. Direct Market sales passed $500 million for the first time since 1993; they'd stay above it the rest of the decade.  See the charts.

STILL CLIMBING. Amazing Spider-Man #1 outsold anything in 19 years; many of its 48 variants were available only to specific shops or outside retailers. The "subscription box" fad hit comics, with some variants included in Diamond's sales.  See the charts.

MORE RECORDS FALL. Star Wars went from Dark Horse to Marvel in January and got the first million-copy seller, partially fueled by sales to Loot Crate, which also aided other like Bravest Warriors and Orphan Black. Overall sales grew 7%.  See the charts.

A NEW HIGH. The Star Wars-fueled 2015 was hard to beat, but 2016 did it anyway, squeaking past it thanks to DC's Rebirth and Marvel's Civil War II, whose first issue was probably the real market leader if you discount Loot Crate's copies.  See the charts.

CORRECTION TERRITORY. After several years of ever-increasing sales, 2017's slate, headed by Secret Empire, couldn't match 2016's Rebirth/Civil War II performance. Direct Market orders saw a 10% drop; overall industry losses were smaller.  See the charts.

REBUILDING YEAR. The decline in Direct Market orders ended after the winter, with special issues like Action #1000 helping to fuel two growth quarters. A prospective narrow increase became a 1% drop as DC cut back its offerings at year-end.  See the charts.

AHEAD AGAIN. Helped by the X-Men relaunch, Detective #1000, and DC bulking up its offerings again, comics sales are poised to end higher in 2019. An increase of 25% over 2010's dollar totals; adjusted for inflation, it's still up about 8%. See the charts.

Finally, here's our chart combining the bestsellers from 2010-18; we've included where Detective #1000 will likely land once 2019's data hits.

Any official rankings released from Diamond are likely differ, because this method — just looking back at the year-end charts — shortchanges issues that release late in the year.

Comichron founder 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 novels including Star Wars: KenobiStar Wars: A New Dawn, and the Star Trek: Prey trilogy — and Star Trek: Discovery - The Enterprise War. Read more about them at his fiction site.

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