Superheroes and mainstream comics addendum: Diamond sales

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Updated on December 10, 2021

The Walking Dead #1
Art by Tony Moore.

Here’s an addendum to the previous post about how “mainstream” superheroes are: Diamond sales. Diamond, the monopoly distributor to comic book stores, offers general rankings for comic book store sales of both floppy single-issue comics and trade paperbacks.

For 2011, the top 10 ranking single-issue comics:

  1. Justice League #1
  2. Batman #1
  3. Action Comics #1
  4. Justice League #2
  5. Batman #2
  6. Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #160
  7. Green Lantern #1
  8. Justice League #3
  9. Action Comics #2
  10. Detective Comics #1

Between the “New 52” reboot and comic book shops being superhero books’ main lifeblood, not a surprise DC and Marvel dominate the top 10… or, looking down the list, the top *100.* Still, given this was a major reboot by DC, the individual sales figures aren’t overly typical. JL #1 sold at least 360,000 copies, while Batman #1 and Action #1 sold 250,000 copies, making them colossal hits by single-issue comic standards. Yes, those are extremely high numbers for single-issue comics; usually, anything above 100,000 is deemed a major hit.

By comparison, “Cat Fancy” magazine’s circulation numbers are (on average) 233,500 a month. Yes, despite his massive popularity in other media (and a highly devoted fan base), Batman’s lucky to even match or (for issue #1 above) narrowly beat a typical magazine aimed at cat owners. (Catwoman would be thrilled…)

While superheroes dominate single-issue comic sales, the story’s vastly different for the top 10 trade paperbacks:

  1. The Walking Dead, vol. 1
  2. The Walking Dead, vol. 14
  3. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen III Century #2: 1969
  4. The Walking Dead, vol. 15
  5. The Walking Dead, vol. 2
  6. Fables, vol. 15
  7. Batman: Noel (deluxe hardcover)
  8. The Walking Dead, vol. 3
  9. The Walking Dead, vol. 13
  10. Morning Glories, vol. 1

Only one superhero book in the top 10 (a Batman story). Rankings #11-20 show more superhero books (“Dark Knight Returns” at #11, “Batman: Hush” at #12, “Batman: Year One” at #19, and “Blackest Night” at #20), for a total of 5 out of 20 trade paperbacks being superheroes (and near-exclusively Batman).

Thus, based on the above, and the previous comics post, it seems that the only place superheroes dominate comics as a genre saleswise is the single-issue “floppy” comic. And even that’s not exactly as huge a sales presence as it once was.

I’d add digital comics’ sales to all of this, but they refuse to release sales numbers (which doesn’t sound encouraging). That, and I suspect similar patterns are probably present, i.e. lots of single-issue sales going to superheroes, but digital trades largely being of non-superhero material.


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Anthony Dean

Anthony Dean is the owner of Diverse Tech Geek and Diverse Media Notes.

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