It’s one of The Beat’s favorite times of year: Brian Hibbs’ annual BookScan analyses! Not only has he broken down reported sell-through for the graphic novel category, he’s made the raw data available for us all to have fun with. In past years, Hibbs used this data to talk about the importance/supremacy of the direct sales market for comics material, and I had cause to disgaree with some of his conclusions. This time, all he does is analyze the numbers, because they kind of speak for themselves. And he’s done an amazing job. I urge you all just to go to the link and read the whole damn long thing. But for those who have pressing matters, here’s my own edited take on a few conclusions: (And a lot are similar to what I said last year! And also to what I said about the Diamond year-end figures.) But it bears repeating:
* Kids/YA material is the fastest growing segment in comics.
* Creator owned material KILLED IT in 2010.
* Manga is way down, but still the dominant genre in bookstores.
* There is a title glut at all levels of the graphic novel industry (number of releases up but sales down)
Although we urge you to read the whole thing, we have broken out some of the charts for our own analysis. Here’s the 20 bestselling GNS of the year in bookstores, with commentary. In my Creator Owned category I’m including books where the author is listed as copyright holder with no other partner — granted, in the book field copyright doesn’t mean exactly what it does in comics, but it’s a useful benchmark.
Also, remember these numbers are only a metric and do not represent many many sales channels like book fairs, certain library sales and so on. The numbers are NOT the be all and end all. But the placements and magnitudes do tell a story.
1. 168,330 — DORK DIARIES — #2 seller last year. If you have never heard of this series you probably don’t have children. YA and CREATOR OWNED.
2. 126,558 — TWILIGHT GRAPHIC NOVEL V1 — Looks like a big number, but industry scuttlebutt is that the book didn’t sell as well as hoped. Still, a solid number. Although this is licensed from Hachette, the overall property is CREATOR OWNED.
3. 124,808 — ADVENTURES OF OOK & GLUK KUNG FU CAVEMEN — Dav Pilkey is a superstar children’s book author, and this book sells in superstar numbers. YA and CREATOR OWNED.
4. 90,664 — SCOTT PILGRIM V 1
5. 72,703 — SCOTT PILGRIM V 2
6. 70,393 — SCOTT PILGRIM V 6
7. 64,238 — SCOTT PILGRIM V 3
8. 62,720 — SCOTT PILGRIM V 4
9. 59,805 — SCOTT PILGRIM V 5 — Not much to add here except to say that this is a nice vindication for a series that Borders once refused to carry. CREATOR OWNED
10. 53,155 — NARUTO V47
11. 42,917 — NARUTO V48 — Once again, a proven sales champion continues to impress. YA CREATOR OWNED
12. 41,949 — BONE OUT FROM BONEVILLE — Jeff Smith’s magnum opus has not always been properly charted on Bookscan but now you see this modern classic in its rightful place. Kids comics strike again. CREATOR OWNED
38,378 — KICK ASS PREMIERE — Props to Mark Millar and JR. JR — a CREATOR OWNED concept outsells everything else at Marvel.
34,948 — BIG NATE FROM THE TOP — a collection of the comics strip and the FIRST book on the list not owned by the creators (the syndicate holds the copyright.)
34,376 — MAUS I — the power of the backlist. CREATOR OWNED
33,292 — WALKING DEAD V1 DAYS GONE BYE — Another giant media tie-in that flew high. All of Image’s books on this chart are Walking Dead with the exception of two volumes of CHEW. CREATOR OWNED
29,656 — BLACK BUTLER V1 — Another Yen Press success story. YA. Although published originally in a shonen magazine, creator Toboso Yana is a woman and this tends towards the Gothy side of manga audience CREATOR OWNED
29,171 — WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM 1 — even allowing for Amazon discounts, this book retails for $60. That’s a retail value of $1,750,260. You go, Robert Kirkman! CREATOR OWNED
29,171 — WATCHMEN — Another backlist hit. Copyright owned by DC Comics.
28,943 — EXILE AN OUTLANDER GRAPHIC NOVEL — Adaptation of the immensely popular Diana Gabaldon fantasy romance series. Amazon comments reveal the usual reader shock when they find out it’s a graphic novel. Technically licensed, but like Twilight, Gabaldon owns the series. CREATOR OWNED.
I’ll quote Hibbs himself on this list:
What lesson might we take from these first three books? Well, clearly, aiming comics at children or at women can pay massive, massive dividends, as those are vasty audiences not well served by traditional comics releases, as reflected in overall DM numbers.
Only two of these top 20 titles are not creator owned. As Hibbs points out, the success of most is media tie-in driven, but TWILIGHT, SCOTT PILGRIM, and WALKING DEAD were popular books BEFORE the media tie-ins and it’s been proven a media tie-in does no good unless there is quality source material.
If anything, 2010’s book sales were the spawning ground of the current unease being seen among creator owned books. Why — if creator owned is topping the charts — isn’t creator owned being given more attention by publishers? Why isn’t it more lucrative? Why isn’t it the hot thing? WHY WHY WHY? I’ll have answers to these questions eventually in another column or you can play along at home.
Hibbs also breaks out the best-selling authors on the list — these are our John Grishams and Jodi Picoults.
Masashi Kishimoto (Naruto) — 49 titles with him listed as author
Eiichiro Oda (One Piece) — 42
Tite Kubo (Bleach) — 26
Natsuki Takaya (Fruits Basket) — 22
Robert Kirkman (Walking Dead) — 21
Neil Gaiman (Sandman, etc.) — 15
Hiromu Arakawa (Fullmetal Alchemist) — 14
Tsugumi Ohba (Death Note) — 14
Brian K Vaughan (Y, The Last Man, etc.) — 14
Bill Willingham (Fables) — 14
Jennifer Holm (Babymouse) — 13
Akihisa Ikeda (Rosario+Vampire) — 13
Geoff Johns (Green Lantern, etc.) — 13
Jeff Smith (Bone) — 13
Matsuri Hino (Vampire Knight) — 12
Hidenori Kuaka (Pokemon) — 12
Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball Z) — 12
Hibbs’ number breakdown again:
These seventeen authors represent 320 of the Top 750 titles, or about 43% of them. This sums to 2.5m units sold (for $30.8m) or pretty much 20% of all books sold. (all of them, not just the Top 750)
And now for your entertainment pleasure I will do something that Brian didn’t and break out the Top Ten books from each publisher! Some major publishers did not have more then ten books in the Top 750 GNs of the year. In these cases we’ll go with what we have. I’m also going to introduce what I call the Shiga Index™. Jason Shiga’s MEANWHILE, a fantastically inventive book that has 3586 possible storylines by one of the most readable cartoonists on the planet, sold 12,253 copies. That is a very good number. This book, published by Abrams, was not mentioned at all in the DM in 2010 but it still managed to outsell hundreds of superhero and licensed spin-off tie-ins. It sold because it’s a wonderful book that people like to read (or play with) not because of marketing or continuity or anything to do with any corporate property. We’ll use the Shiga Index to see how each publisher’s sales compare to a book that people just like to read.
|20,808||V FOR VENDETTA NEW E||MOORE ALAN|
|20,063||BLACKEST NIGHT||JOHNS GEOFF|
|19,691||SUPERMAN EARTH ONE||STRACZYNSKI J. MICHAEL|
|17,471||BATMAN THE KILLING JOKE||MOORE ALAN|
|15,631||BATMAN THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS||MILLER FRANK|
|13,525||BLACKEST NIGHT GREEN LANTERN||JOHNS GEOFF|
|12,579||BATMAN HUSH||LOEB JEPH|
|12,265||BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM 15TH ANN||MORRISON GRANT|
|12,096||FABLES V13 THE GRT FABLES CROS||WILLINGHAM BILL|
All backlist but Superman: EO and Fables 13 (should really do a 2010 bestsellers list, as well.) Nine titles above the Shiga Index™. The success of SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE, which began its life as a title in DC’s planned “Ultimates” line, is probably as a big a shocker for DC as it is for those of us looking at these charts. Blackest Night’s strong sales is a comfort in dark times given the push and importance of the book.
|20,867||TROUBLEMAKER BK 1 ALEX BARNABY||EVANOVICH JANET|
|13,451||BUFFY TVS SEASON 8 V6 RETREAT||ESPENSON JANE|
|12,357||SERENITY THE SHEPHERDS TALE||WHEDON JOSS|
|10,924||HELLSING V 10||HIRANO KOHTA|
|8,644||BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER SEASO||MELTZER BRAD|
|7,863||BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER SEASO||ESPENSON JANE|
|7,821||BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER SEASO||WHEDON JOSS|
|7,507||SERENITY V 2 BETTER DAYS||WHEDON JOSS|
|6,373||BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER SEASO||VAUGHAN BRIAN K.|
|6,180||BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER SEASO||GODDARD DREW|
The actual Buffy volume numbers are cut off, but you get the idea. TROUBLEMAKER leads the pack but given its 10K print run and angry Janet Evanovich fans on Amazon, is something of a mixed success. Not so Joss Whedon whose huge, completist fanbase makes everything he touches a success. The only non-Whedonverse title is the manga Hellsing.
Three books above the Shiga Index™.
The #5 publisher has only four books in the top 750:
|4,584||JAMES PATTERSONS WITCH & WIZAR||PATTERSON JAMES|
|3,815||LOCKE & KEY CROWN OF SHADOWS||HILL JOE|
|3,777||PARKER THE OUTFIT||COOKE DARWYN|
|3,418||LOCKE & KEY HEAD GAMES||HILL JOE|
Licensed literary tie-ins lead the pack but Joe Hill’s Locke & Key has a strong showing. According to the copyright page, this is co-owned by Hill and IDW, so let’s call it creator participation.The success of Darwyn Cooke’s Parker adaptation shows that quality wins sometimes.
0 books above the Shiga Index™.
|33,292||WALKING DEAD V1 DAYS GONE BYE||KIRKMAN ROBERT|
|29,171||WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM 1||KIRKMAN ROBERT|
|21,859||WALKING DEAD V 2 MILES BEHIND||KIRKMAN ROBERT|
|20,925||WALKING DEAD V11 FEAR THE HUNT||KIRKMAN ROBERT|
|18,760||WALKING DEAD V12 LIFE AMONG TH||KIRKMAN ROBERT|
|15,741||WALKING DEAD V 3 SAFETY BEHIND||KIRKMAN ROBERT|
|15,685||WALKING DEAD V13 TOO FAR GONE||KIRKMAN ROBERT|
|15,492||WALKING DEAD BK 1||KIRKMAN ROBERT|
|12,459||WALKING DEAD V10 WHAT WE BECOM||KIRKMAN ROBERT|
|12,284||WALKING DEAD V4 HEARTS DESIRE||KIRKMAN ROBERT|
BOOOOOOOOring. Unless you’re Robert Kirkman. Seriously, this is the payday everyone wishes for. No wonder he was The Beat’s Person of the Year. All 10 books are even above the Shiga Index™ A record!
|38,378||KICK ASS PREMIERE||MILLAR MARK|
|15,624||STEPHEN KING DARK TOWER THE FA||FURTH ROBIN|
|9,208||HALO HELLJUMPER||DAVID PETER|
|9,081||DARK TOWER THE BATTLE OF JERIC||FURTH ROBIN|
|6,774||CIVIL WAR||MILLAR MARK|
|6,613||WOLVERINE OLD MAN LOGAN||MILLAR MARK|
|5,981||INVINCIBLE IRON MAN V 1||FRACTION MATT|
|5,965||DARK TOWER TREACHERY||FURTH ROBIN|
|5,856||SIEGE||BENDIS BRIAN MICHAEL|
|5,498||STAND V1 CAPTAIN TRIPS||AGUIRRE-SACASA ROBERTO|
|5,245||STAND V2 AMER NIGHTMARES||AGUIRRE-SACASA ROBERTO|
|5,154||DEADPOOL V 2 DARK REIGN||WAY DANIEL|
|5,153||CIVIL WAR||MILLAR MARK|
|4,958||MARVEL ADVENTURES SPIDER MAN H||TOBIN PAUL|
|4,847||MARVEL ZOMBIES RETURN||WELLINGTON DAVID|
|4,833||CAPTAIN AMERICA REBORN PREMIER||BRUBAKER ED|
|4,752||HALO UPRISING||BENDIS BRIAN MICHAEL|
|4,521||OZ THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ||SHANOWER ERIC|
|4,507||MARVEL SUPER HERO SQUAD HERO U||TOBIN PAUL|
|4,504||HALO BLOOD LINE PREMIERE||LENTE FRED VAN|
Marvel’s status as a non-starter in the GN world has been noted here before. The #1 comics publisher had a mere 32 titles — out of over 2300 — in the BookScan top 750. In fact, their list is so curious we’ve expanded it to the top 20 — 11-19 are in blue. The expanded list shows that Marvel was the beneficiary of the YA comics boomlet, as two kids line books by Paul Tobin and the wonderful Wonderful Wizard of Oz adaptation by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young all chart above Stan Lee, Bendis, JMS, and so on.
Whoever said that GNs by Stephen King — or one of his associates — would sell was right, to the surprise of no one. Besides four King tie-ins, there are three books by Mark Millar, a Halo tie-in, and, reassuringly, two actual Marvel U books based on hot properties, the Siege event and Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man.
Marvel has only two books above the Shiga Index™. No wonder they moved from Diamond to Hachette as their book distributor.
Beyond the top five publishers, few comics-only publsihers make a dint. (Oni”s list is all Scott Pilgrim, which you can see above.) Dynamite, the #6 publisher, has only one book — a Boys collection on the list, as does Fantagraphics. Here’s a selected list of other publishers, mostly on the literary side.
|6,864||WILSON||CLOWES DANIEL||DRAWN & QUARTERLY|
|4,092||WHAT IT IS||BARRY LYNDA||DRAWN & QUARTERLY|
|4,039||PICTURE THIS THE NEAR SIGHTED||BARRY LYNDA||DRAWN & QUARTERLY|
|6,773||ZEUS KING OF THE GODS||O’CONNOR GEORGE||FIRST SECOND|
|4,177||AMER BORN CHINESE||YANG GENE LUEN||FIRST SECOND|
|6,055||BLANKETS||THOMPSON CRAIG||TOP SHELF PRODUCTIONS|
|4,136||FROM HELL||MOORE ALAN||TOP SHELF PRODUCTIONS|
|3,627||GHOST WORLD FILM E||CLOWES DANIEL||FANTAGRAPHICS BOOKS|
|3,381||BOYS V 6||ENNIS GARTH||DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT|
No books above the Shiga Index™. With three books on the chart, D&Q wins the piece count. Almost all these are backlist except George O’Connor’s popular mythology series and the new Dan Clowes and Lynda Barry books. The fact that these did well is a big relief.
Why are we breaking out all these numbers? Just to show what people are buying and reading outside the bubble of the superhero market. Following the lemming rule of publishing, we should expect to see more YA and popular fiction adaptations/transmedia tie-ins as the GN market moves forward.
Also, because this is the end of an era.
I’ll expand upon this idea in a future post (I hope) but I believe these numbers represent the End of the Era of Book Store Expansion, which began in 2002 when Art Spiegelman, Colleen Doran, Neil Gaiman, and Jeff Smith went to the ALA and explained how cool comics are. In the nine years since we’ve seen the mainstream book publishers embrace GNs — book deals for cartoonists barely out of school or whose previous books had sold barely three figures — and then reject them when these books failed to find purchase in favor of more generic kids mystery comics and fantasy adaptations. We’ve seen every comics publisher try to take advantage of the backlist market by publishing every single thing with any kind of nostalgic following — to mixed results. We’ve seen a boom and a not-very-horrible bust that has left everyone significantly better off than we were a decade ago with multiple revenue channels and audiences.
Unfortunately, the impending bankruptcy of Borders and the rise of the e-reader means we (meaning the comics industry) have to invent a whole new business model. That comics can do this, I have no doubt. We just need a lot more Jason Shigas.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.