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2010 Graphic Novel Sales: Analyzing Diamond’s 2010 Graphic Novel Sales Chart

By now you’ve probably heard that Diamond has released its top 500 seller lists for 2010 and you’ve probably seen some write-ups and heard a few bold (but perhaps not wholly accurate) statements.  I’ve taken a look at the Top 500 Graphic Novels of 2010 and reached a few conclusions of my own.

Conclusion #1: The graphic novel category is driven by cross-media exposure and character franchises.  For example:

  • Highest selling GN that doesn’t have a movie/TV series based on its character(s) since 2005 or one slated for 2011 (Superman Returns in 2005 for Superman Earth One and Green Lantern in 2011 for Blackest Night): #13 – FABLES TP VOL 13 THE GREAT FABLES CROSSOVER
    • Next highest non-movie GN: # 21 – CHEW TP VOL 01 
  • Highest creator-owned title without a film/TV tie-in: # 21 – CHEW TP VOL 01
  • Franchise watch
    • # of Batman titles: 31
    • # of Walking Dead titles: 20 (Compendiums and hardcovers, plus the normal tpbs)
    • # of X-family titles: 19
    • # of Star Wars titles: 17
    • # of Fables titles:16
    • # of Green Lantern family titles: 13
    • # of Y The Last Man title: 13
    • # of Superman titles: 11
    • # of Spider-Man titles: 9
    • # of Avengers titles: 8
    • # of Invincible (Kirkman) titles: 8
    • # of Sandman (Gaiman, not Mystery Theater) titles: 7 (3 didn’t chart)
    • # of Wolverine titles: 7
    • # of Hellboy titles: 7
    • # of Scott Pilgrim titles: 6
    • # of Marvel Ultimate titles: 6
    • # of 100 Bullets titles 3
  • Top "other media" licenses (AKA: Joss Whedon has more direct market pull than Stephen King)
    • #33 Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 Volume 6
    • #53 Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 Volume 7
    • #54 Dr. Horrible
  • Only other Oni title besides Scott Pilgrim to chart: #310 – Lost at Sea

Between his Walking Dead and Invincible franchises, Robert Kirkman accounts for 28 books in the top 500.  Make it 30 titles when you add volume one of Haunt at #67 and volume three of Astounding Wolfman at #378.  That’s 6% of the top 500 titles.  44% of the top 25 (11 titles).  We probably don’t want to know what percentage of graphic novel sales in the direct market are driven by Kirkman.  Yes, the TV series helped, but Walking Dead was a strong seller to begin with and Invincible does better than most.  You can make an argument that Kirkman is singlehandedly propping up the graphic novel market while the monthly issue marketing is starting to slide.

Conclusion #2: Taken over a year, Vertigo holds up well.  Fables and Y The Last Man continue to be big sellers.  Unwritten’s first volume charts at #23.  Sandman is starting to fade (and let’s face it, that’s been out a looooooong time).  100 Bullets still has some volumes hitting.  Scalped and DMZ show up with multiple volumes.  Now, this is all relative to direct market sales, but given a suitably long view, the Vertigo tpb model still seems to be working.  The questions continues to be, at least this is how it’s been put to me by retailers, if Vertigo always gives titles enough time to seed those volumes.  The store owner would like the second or third tpb on the shelf for a month before cancellation is assessed or announced.

Conclusion #3: Marvel is still taking their monthlies more seriously than their trades.  You hear people complain about Marvel and their policies towards monthly comics, but that’s where they’re putting their marketing and planning.  There’s no reason they should be this far behind in the book trade unless they were focusing their attention elsewhere.  Kick Ass is only nominally a Marvel title.  Marvel happens to have it in their catalog and arrange for printing and fulfillment, they’re not promoting it.  The promotion is Mark Millar and the film.  Millar has the highest Marvel book with a Marvel character in it with Wolverine: Old Man Logan at #40.  Old Man Logan may or may not actually be in continuity at Marvel.  I’m inclined to call it a What If or an Elseworlds.  The first in-continuity Marvel title is Civil War at #45.  Yes, that’s Millar again.  And yes, that’s still selling better than anything else. [Secret Invasion weighs in at #278, outsold by Secret Invasion: Deadpool at #137.  Make of that what you will.]  The next bestselling Marvel title is one of the Stephen King Dark Tower adaptions at #64.  Ultimatum is the next Marvel title at #94, then Captain America Reborn is the second, in-continuity, main universe title at #103.  Really?

  • Top titles by publisher
    • Top Image title: #1 Walking Dead Vol. 1
    • Top Marvel Icon title: #2 Kick Ass
    • Top Oni Title: #4 Scott Pilgrim Vol. 6
    • Top Dark Horse title #19 SERENITY SHEPHERDS TALE
    • Top Dynamite title #30 The Boys Vol. 6
    • Top Marvel title (with a Marvel character in it) #40 Wolverine Old Man Logan
    • Top Toon Books title: #46 BENNY AND PENNY BIG NO NO 
    • Top Avatar title: #56 Crossed Vol. 1
    • Top Viz title: #77 Naruto Vol. 47
    • Top Boom title: #81 Irredeemable Vol. 1
    • Top Archie title: #83 Married Life Vol. 1
    • Top Scholastic title: #190 Bone Tall Tales
    • Top Archaia title: #211 Mouse Guard Vol. 2
    • Top Drawn and Quarterly title: #232 Wilson
    • Top Slave Labor title: #246 Johnny the Homicidal Maniac Director’s Cut
    • Top Random House (Villard) title: #247 Legend of Stuff
    • Top Cartoon Books title: #339 RASL Vol. 2
    • Top Yen Press title: #371 YOTSUBA & ! VOL 08
    • Top Abstract Studio title:#379 Terry Moore’s Echo Vol. 4
    • Top Red 5 title: #381 Atomic Robo Vol. 1
    • Top AdHouse Books title: #423 Process Recess Vol. 3
    • Top Fantagraphics title: #449 Love and Rockets New Stories Vol. 3
    • Top Ape Entertainment title: #462 SHREK PREQUEL RUMPELSTILTSKIN REVENGE

Looking at where the publishers chart, Dynamite’s The Boys is more popular than any graphic novel with a Marvel character in it, at least in terms of 2010 sales.  Not the case in monthly sales and not what you were likely expecting.  We do, however, see a lot of smaller publishers charting much higher with the graphic novels, than they do with monthly comics, and we see the licensed titles more prominently as the sales flagships.  Is this a case of media franchise fans catching up or not wanting serialization and/or the monthly trips that requires?  That’s a good question, but something’s up with that.

While you do see a few prominent creator-owned books, a lot of that is fueled by media-cross-over.  Remember, Hellboy also had a couple films.  Chew and The Boys are the "outside the system" big winners here, with Crossed, Haunt and Invincible having volumes turning up in the top 100.  Hmmm… Chew out there on an island and then 2 Ennis titles and two more Kirkman titles.  Writer’s market at the top?

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