Comics retailer and analyst Brian Hibbs has released his annual report on 2022 bookstore graphic novel sales. The report’s information is pulled from NPD BookScan, a data provider service which covers 85% of US book channel sales.
As for BookScan’s criteria, to quote the report:
NPD BookScan says “Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Costco, General Independents, Hastings, Target, BJ’s, K-Mart, Hudson Group, Meijers, Follett Books, Books-A-Million, CEO Read, Powells, Toys R Us, Shoprite, SuperValu, Sam’s Club and Walmart are among our many data providers.”
What sales do NPD BookScan not track? Among others, this would include libraries, schools, specialty stores (like comic book stores!) and book clubs and fairs. NPD BookScan does not track sales at most independent bookstores. For many books those are very very important sales channels, and thus, NPD BookScan under-reports by some potentially significant degree, and don’t, in any way, represent all physical book sales or even all “book stores” selling comic book material.
So you won’t find comic book shops in this report (those would be part of the “direct market”). It also doesn’t include library purchases or Scholastic book fairs. The numbers in this report are also often based on broad estimates. Still, it’s the best source available to see how well graphic novels and manga sell via book channels.
The 10 best-selling graphic novels of 2022
Here’s the 10 top selling graphic novels of 2022:
- Cat Kid Comic Club, vol. 3: On Purpose, by Dav Pilkey; 623,348 sold
- Cat Kid Comic Club, vol. 2: Perspectives, by Dav Pilkey; 400,367 sold
- Cat Kid Comic Club, vol. 4: Collaborations, by Dav Pilkey; 325,719 sold
- Dog Man, vol. 10: Mothering Heights, by Dav Pilkey; 285,335 sold
- Five Nights at Freddy’s, vol. 3: The Fourth Closet, by Scott Cawthon; 283,452 sold
- Chainsaw Man, vol. 1, by Tatsuki Fujimoto; 276,761 sold
- Spy x Family, vol. 1, by Tatsuya Endo; 271,376 sold
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba, vol. 1, by Koyoharu Gotouge, 264,824 sold
- The Baby-Sitters Club, vol. 11: Good-bye Stacey, Goodbye, by Gabriela Epstein; 255,269 sold
- Dog Man, vol. 9: Grime and Punishment, by Dav Pilkey; 252,762 sold
Once again, “Dog Man” and its spin-off “Cat Kid Comic Club” dominated the sales charts, making up half of the top 10. Hibbs states that Pilkey’s books alone made up a bit over 7% of all comics sold via BookScan, which is impressive. Scholastic as a publisher made up 15 of the top 20 books sold.
Manga, of course, also stayed popular. Viz dominated the top of the charts, along with Scholastic; the first book that wasn’t from those two came in at #25 (Art Spiegelman’s “Maus,” from Pantheon).
If wondering, the first mainstream continuity DC superhero book didn’t come in until #257 (“Batman: Year One”), while the first such Marvel title clocked in at #483 (“Moon Knight by Lemire & Smallwood”).
The top 10 publishers of 2022
The top 10 graphic novel publishers in 2022 are as follows (amounts in millions of dollars):
- Viz Media $233.3
- Scholastic $135.0
- Kodansha $69.2
- Dark Horse $57.8
- Hachette $52.9
- DC Comics $43.5
- Penguin Random House $41.4
- Marvel $31.4
- Seven Seas $30.0
- HarperCollins $28.1
Total overall book channel sales for 2022 came in at $863.6 million, up 4.5% from 2021. If including units sold, sales were essentially flat (52.6 million volumes sold, up 1.5% from 2021). Still, they’re impressive figures.
Once again, Viz and Scholastic dominated the book channel market for comics. Listing the above publishers by percentage of total sales:
- Viz Media 27.0%
- Scholastic 15.6%
- Kodansha 8.0%
- Dark Horse 6.7%
- Hachette 6.1%
- DC Comics 5.0%
- Penguin Random House 4.8%
- Marvel 3.6%
- Seven Seas 3.5%
- HarperCollins 3.3%
Viz alone made up over a quarter of all book channel sales. Viz and Scholastic together made up a whopping 42.6% of all sales. As far as the book channel is concerned, Viz and Scholastic are the “Big Two,” not Marvel and DC.
Obligatory DC and Marvel remarks
As for Marvel and DC, the superhero giants together made up only 8.6% of all sales, or a bit more than half of Scholastic’s sales. Even if one left out manga, Scholastic still made up 40% of all Western books sold; Marvel and DC combined only made up 10%. While Batman and Spider-Man dominate the direct market (i.e. comic book shops), superheroes are just another genre in the book channel space.
The five top-selling DC titles:
- The Sandman Book One, 59,000 sold
- Batman: Year One, 33,000 sold
- Teen Titans: Beast Boy Loves Raven, 30,000 sold
- Watchmen, 29,000 sold
- The Sandman Book Two, 24,000 sold
The “Sandman” Netflix series presumably drove sales of those titles. Otherwise DC’s sales are dominated by Reagan-era perennials “Watchmen” and “Batman: Year One.”
As for Marvel, they only placed a single title in the top 750 books sold, the aforementioned “Moon Knight by Lemire & Smallwood” volume (17,000 sold), which is one more than last year’s zero. Marvel’s next three best-sellers (outside of the top 750) are two other “Moon Knight” volumes and a “Ms. Marvel” volume; Hibbs suggested sales are being driven by whatever’s airing on Disney+.
The top-selling Marvel books, including licensed publishers, are Viz’s “Deadpool: Samurai” (74,000 sold) and Scholastic’s “Miles Morales: Shockwaves” (42,000 sold). These two licensed titles outsold everything Marvel and DC themselves published (besides “Sandman Book One”), which says a lot about Viz, Scholastic, Marvel, and DC.
I wonder if Marvel’s poor showing is the result of the lingering influence of Ike Perlmutter, who’s (finally) been let go from Marvel by Disney. Hopefully, Marvel’s graphic novel and trade paperback handling will improve in the future. That said, DC didn’t exactly pull in massive sales, either; a single “Dog Man” volume easily outsold DC’s top five books combined.
Book channel comic sales are still strong, if a bit flat from last year. It’s a sign that a variety of genres helps make for a diverse and strong comics market. We’ve also moved past the days of DC and Marvel (and single-issue comics) driving everything comics-related. Hopefully next year shows similar strength in the book channel.
Image: “Cat Kid Comic Club, vol. 3: On Purpose,” art by Dav Pilkey (Scholastic); “Spy x Family, vol. 1,” art by Tatsuya Endo (Viz); “Baby-Sitters Club: Good-bye Stacey, Good-bye,” art by Garbriela Epstein (Scholastic)
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