Updated on December 10, 2021
Brian Hibbs has released his annual analysis of 2015’s bookstore comics sales, which gives a look at how comic sales are doing outside of the world of comic shops.
Sales figures are drawn from sales of books at various retailers, including: Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Costco, General Independents, Hastings, Target, BJ’s, K-Mart, Hudson Group, Meijer, Follett Books, Books-A-Million, CEO Read, Powell’s, Toys “R” Us, Shoprite, SuperValu, Sam’s Club and Walmart. Not tracked in these sales are sales to libraries, schools, comic book shops (see Diamond’s figures for that), book clubs, and most independent bookstores.
There’s also a few other oddities in how sales are tracked (categorization of titles, whether “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” counts as a “comic” or not, etc.), but for the most part, these figures seem reasonably accurate.
The actual article I linked to above is quite numbers-heavy, though Comics Beat drew some highlights if you want a briefer take.
The top 20 comics sold
The top 20 comics sold at bookstores in 2015:
- 352,791 — DORK DIARIES 10
- 296,415 — DORK DIARIES 9
- 263,932 — DRAMA
- 240,045 — SMILE
- 219,421 — SISTERS
- 116,683 — KRISTY’S GREAT IDEA: FULL-COLOR
- 115,424 — DORK DIARIES 1
- 89,774 — BIG NATE: SAY GOOD-BYE TO DORK
- 73,258 — EL DEAFO
- 69,913 — BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE HC
- 69,748 — JEDI ACADEMY
- 68,081 — THE TRUTH ABOUT STACEY: FULL-COLOR
- 66,898 — BIG NATE’S GREATEST HITS
- 66,442 — THE WALKING DEAD: COMPENDIUM V3 TP
- 62,666 — BIG NATE: WELCOME TO MY WORLD
- 60,493 — THE WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM V1 TP
- 60,485 — BIG NATE: THE CROWD GOES WILD!
- 58,818 — HYPERBOLE AND A HALF
- 58,338 — PERSEPOLIS 1
- 58,261 — DORK DIARIES 9 TALES FRO B&N EDITION
As noted by Hibbs and Comics Beat, 15 of the above 20 are comics aimed at children, while 12 of them are written by women. Raina Telgemeier’s comics continue to put in a strong showing. On those lines, I notice most of the above are creator-owned works, and that there’s only one superhero title (up from zero in last year’s list), the nearly-30-year-old “The Killing Joke.”
Overall, comics aimed at children and from a variety of (predominantly non-superhero) genres seem to be what sells best outside of the world of comic shops.
The top 10 graphic novel publishers
The list of the top 10 graphic novel publishers (among the top 750 published books) is the biggest surprise in this year’s news. DC Comics has been knocked out of the #1 slot by Scholastic, publishers of “The Baby Sitters’ Club” books. The top 10 are:
3. Simon & Schuster
6. Andrews McMeel
7. Random House Penguin
9. Dark Horse
10. Henry N. Abrams
Marvel would probably have higher figures (given their larger popularity than DC nowadays), but they apparently do a mediocre job at keeping trade paperbacks/graphic novels in stock. But again, it’s clear that it’s non-superhero genres that rule bookstores.
Bookstore comic sales are up
Comic sales in bookstores (for the top 750 comics, or the vast majority of relevant sales) are up by a whopping 31.6% (in units)/25.24% (in dollars) over 2014.
The Big Two’s sales
Batman, to nobody’s surprise, is DC’s best-selling property. 55 of their 100 DCU-set titles that placed are Batman or Batman-related character; 32 of the Bat-books are New 52-era books.
Overall, 55 of the 100 books are New 52 titles. The top five DC books: “The Killing Joke,” “Watchmen,” “The Dark Knight Returns,” “Sandman Overture,” and “Court of Owls.” Yet again, I’ll note three of the top five best selling DC books date from the Reagan administration, plus the disproportionate reliance on just one character/franchise for sales.
The top five Marvel title are “Civil War,” “Ms. Marvel,” and three “Star Wars” books. While their trade sales lag behind DC’s, the fact that their top sellers either tie into what the general public’s interested in (“Star Wars,” the upcoming “Civil War” movie) is promising. Also promising is how well “Ms. Marvel” is doing, despite nearly no non-comics media appearances. Marvel might want to consider doing something about boosting Kamala Khan‘s visibility outside of comics as a way to cash in on her popularity.
Elsewhere, Deadpool took up nearly a third of Marvel’s bookstore sales slots, also reflecting his popularity. I’d expect him to put in a strong showing for 2016’s sales as well, given the success of Deadpool’s movie.
DC had 119 titles place in the top 750, while Marvel had 63 titles. This gives the Big Two 182 titles total, or 24% of the top 750 of bookstore sales slots.
Archie’s sales are off
Archie only has two books in the top 750 of sales, both licensed characters and not the Riverdale gang: “The Best of Sonic the Hedgehog” and the “Sonic/Mega Man: Worlds Collide” crossover. This is in spite of the attention toward the “Archie” reboot in 2015, though the first major trade paperbacks from that will be released this year.
Still, their top 750 bookstore sales are down 19.08% (by units)/23.73% (by dollars) from 2014, despite that bookstores should be one of the company’s strong points. Possible factors I wonder about:
- The high number of children’s books now available (versus years ago) means Archie isn’t the default or dominant/only choice anymore.
- A decline in newsstand sales, given, well, newsstands’ decline in relevancy overall, doesn’t fare well for the traditional digests/floppy comics, which are usually found there. The revamped titles are now selling OK, thanks to comic book shops, but I haven’t seen sales figures for the digests in a few years now.
- Said rivals’ children’s books might feature elements/characters that’re more appealing or modernized than even Archie’s efforts of late?
- The core Riverdale gang just aren’t as popular as they once were? Suspect Sabrina the Teenage Witch and maybe Josie and the Pussycats are more popular than Archie himself these days, and would be an easier sell: wacky or dramatic magical hijinks; an all-teenage-girl rock group; fewer dated elements to try to revamp or deal with; etc.
- It feels like Archie’s revamp efforts are more focused on attracting older customers versus kids. While I felt Archie might’ve made a good sitcom for the Disney Channel, instead the new Archie TV show‘s coming to the older-viewer-aimed CW. (The middle school-set proposed cartoon from a few years ago seems to have been shelved.)
Presumably, trades of the reboot plus the fate of the CW TV series (if positive) might lead to some boost in bookstore sales this year.
Manga sales are also up
Manga sales are up for a second year in a row. Last year, “Attack on Titan” topped the charts; this year, it’s “Tokyo Ghoul.” “One-Punch Man” also seems to be doing well, reflecting its popularity.
The top 20 selling manga titles:
- 50,541 — TOKYO GHOUL V1 TP
- 34,107 — ATTACK ON TITAN 1
- 30,110 — TOKYO GHOUL, VOLUME 2
- 28,371 — ONE-PUNCH MAN, VOLUME 1
- 26,756 — THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: A LINK TO THE PAST TP
- 23,807 — NARUTO, VOL. 72
- 23,730 — DEATH NOTE BLACK EDITION, VOL.
- 23,340 — NARUTO, VOL. 70
- 22,541 — FAIRY TAIL VOL. 1
- 20,437 — NARUTO, VOL. 71
- 20,125 — BLACK BUTLER, VOLUME 1
- 19,814 — TOKYO GHOUL, VOLUME 3
- 19,108 — ATTACK ON TITAN 2
- 18,667 — NARUTO, VOL. 69
- 18,633 — ATTACK ON TITAN 15
- 18,532 — ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM, VOL.
- 18,065 — ONE-PUNCH MAN, VOLUME 2
- 15,977 — BIG HERO 6, VOL. 1
- 15,898 — BLUE EXORCIST, VOLUME 1
- 15,822 — UNOFFICIAL HATSUNE MIX
Overall, things are definitely looking up for comics as a medium among the general public. A more diverse group of publishers, genres, creators, and buying audience ensures a strong future for non-Big Two comics.
Anthony Dean is the owner of Diverse Tech Geek and Diverse Media Notes.