2010 Top Thousand Lists for Comics and Graphic Novels
Top 300 lists are the staple for comics sales chart reporting — but now, at the end of the a sales year, we’re able to go much deeper. Diamond Comic Distributors posted its Top 500 Comics and Graphic Novels lists earlier today and released its full report for December 2010, making it possible to project a longer list from the year, with estimates. Click to see the Top 1000 Comics and Top 1000 Trade Paperbacks for 2010:
The page is large so it may take a few seconds to load; 2,000 table items is probably the limit for one page! Each entry’s estimate is rounded off to the nearest hundred copies.
The Top Thousand Comics is a significant subset, in the sense that they account for 45.3 million copies sold, or well over half of all comic books Diamond sold in 2010. In retail dollars, the thousand comics sold for $160 million. The Top Thousand Trades is a big chunk as well, worth more than $64 million. Combined, these two lists alone account for more than half the orders by dollars Diamond received in publishing last year.
Who published the Top Thousand Comics? Here's the breakdown:
Dark Horse: 12
And here's the publisher breakdown of the Top Thousand Graphic Novels:
Dark Horse: 121
Random House: 19
Archie, Avatar, Fantagraphics, Scholastic, and Zenescope: 5 each
...then assorted others combined for 42 entries.
Within the Top Comics list for the year, we find the following breakdowns for unit sales:
26 comics had orders of over 100,000 copies in 2010
68 comics had orders of 75,000-99,999 copies in 2010
209 comics had orders of 50,000-74,999 copies in 2010
648 comics had orders of 25,000-49,999 copies in 2010
Last year, I had run another extended list for 2009…
…but only went out to 500 comics, so we can only comparing the top three categories directly:
39 comics had orders of over 100,000 copies in 2009
80 comics had orders of 75,000-99,999 copies in 2009
260 comics had orders of 50,000-74,999 copies in 2009
So that's declines in every grouping, supporting my contention about the flattening of the curve at the front part of the list described in previous Comichron columns. There well could be a point on the list where the 2010 entries are outselling the 2009 entries, but I would have had to take both lists out rather far. If it's the comics at the bottom of the Top 300 that are doing slightly better, those wouldn't appear on an aggregated annual list until closer to the 3,000s.
How many of these comics would have placed in the Top 300 comics for the last decade? Nine, it appears — with 2010's top comic book placing 51st. You can find the list of Top Comics for the 2000s here:
The average price of comics in Diamond's Top 1,000 comics for 2010 was $3.52; the median price was $3.99. In 2009, the mean for the Top 500 was $3.42, with a median price of $2.99.
And now, speaking of monthly sales, to December — and the end-of-year numbers for 2010. The estimates for December 2010 appear here:
Batman: The Dark Knight #1 led the charts in a month in which comics periodical orders were down by nearly 11%. The top seller landed at almost exactly 90,000 copies, marking an all-time record low for a top-seller. First-month sales were actually 10,000 copies less than last month's top seller, another Batman first issue priced at a dollar more.
As this is the sixth month with the top-seller in five figures and the fourth time in five months for it, the 100,000 figure may seem a less useful benchmark for the future — but given how much higher sales roles off the lows of 2000 (numbers that were not much different than these), it's not time to put it away just yet.
On the bright side, we're still looking at high unit sales levels for the 300th-place item — 3,811 copies for a comic book priced at $7.99 (!), the third-highest unit sales for the cut-off item all year. That said, the sales fall off fairly quickly just a dozen items after that in the list, with the 313th-place item at just over 3,300 copies.
And on an even brighter note, trade paperback and graphic novel sales, aided by Walking Dead, were up 26.74% year-over-year, a remarkable amount. That was enough to put December into the black, overall, with total comics and trade dollars up 2.2%. The aggregate totals for December, and the year:
TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES
December 2010: 5.56 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: -12%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -15%
Versus 10 years ago this month: unchanged
4th Quarter 2010: 18.66 million copies, -10% vs. 2009
2010 Year-End: 69.2 million copies, -8% vs. 2009, -9% vs. 2005, unchanged vs. 2000
ALL COMICS UNIT SALES through Diamond
December 2010 versus one year ago this month: -10.69%
2010 Year-End: -5.91%
TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES
December 2010: $20.33 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -10%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +2%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +29%
4th Quarter 2010: $61.39 million, -6% vs. 2009
2010 Year-End: $245.72 million, -5% vs. 2009, +11% vs. 2005, +29% vs. 2000
ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES through Diamond
December 2010 versus one year ago this month: -7.45%
2010 Year-End: -4.65%
TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
December 2010: $6.52 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +24%
Versus 5 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: unchanged
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: +42%
4th Quarter 2010: $20.83 million, +20% vs. 2009
2010 Year-end: $76.31 million, -2% vs. 2009
ALL TRADE PAPERBACK SALES through Diamond
December 2010 versus one year ago this month: +26.74%
2010 Year-End: -1.02%
TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
December 2010: $26.85 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -3%
Versus 5 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: -1%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: -4%
4th Quarter 2010: $82.23 million, -1% vs. 2009
2010 Year-end: $321.98 million, -4% vs. 2009
ALL COMICS AND TRADE PAPERBACK SALES through Diamond
December 2010 versus one year ago this month: +2.2%
2010 Year-End: -3.48%
OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)
December 2010: approximately $36.5 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +2%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +15%
4th Quarter 2010: $109.05 million, +4% vs. 2009
2010 Year-end: $418.63 million, -3% vs. 2009
The average comic book in Diamond’s Top 300 cost $3.74. The average Top 300 comic book that retailers ordered from Diamond cost $3.65. The median comic book price in Diamond’s Top 300 was $3.99, and the most common cover price on Diamond’s list was also $3.99.
The overall estimated sales total is still subject to updates, but if it’s indeed between $415 and $420 million, the figure is down from the 2008 peak of $437 million, but still above $400 million, a mark broken in 2007.
Diamond President and CEO Steve Geppi said that while sales for the year were down, there have been “a lot of positive signs in the last quarter. Sales have steadily picked up and most retailers reported better than average holiday shopping sales.” Trade paperback and graphic novel orders do appear to have rebounded nicely in the fourth quarter, and while TPBs only account for about a third of dollars in comics shops, they're almost the whole ballgame in mass-market bookstores. So it'll be interesting to see from the Bookscan numbers for 2010 how the needle's moved in the mass market.
Overall, 2010 was a rougher year for the comics market, as some of the momentum that carried us through 2009’s general recession was spent. The result is that 2010 looked much like 2000, a year in which cash-strapped retailers ordered very conservatively when it came to additional copies for the shelf. Today, publishers are using digital promotions as a way to help readers sample titles, but it of course helps growth to have actual print copies in stock to drive that reader to.
With the digital share still small (but growing), the engine of recovery in comics remains, as it has been since the late 1970s, the direct market. More than half of industry sales are in comics shops, and there is no recovery in the industry without growth in the spending power of those shops — and in the number of those shops. While the general economy’s effect on comics sales is not always easy to trace, its effect on prospective retailers’ ability to get financing for new locations is clear-cut. So external forces could have a bigger than usual impact in 2011: a rising tide might help our little fleet more than normal this year.
There are now many Diamond annual reports on The Comics Chronicles site; the earliest is 1992, which is the earliest Diamond listing I can find:
More from the years since then will be added soon, but monthly reports now exist on The Comics Chronicles from 1995 forward:
Writer of comics and books about comics, John Jackson Miller (http://www.farawaypress.com) has tracked comics sales figures for years. He’s developing an online archive for academic researchers at The Comics Chronicles (http://www.comichron.com). Follow research updates on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/comichron.