So as the new year approaches, I continue my look back at the graphic novels which made the New York Times bestseller lists in 2012.

Uncle_Scrooge_348_09I’m a bookseller and librarian, and this past year saw a continuing growth of comics in bookstores and specialty shops.  DC published their first volumes of their successful New 52 titles.  Media tie-ins raised the public’s awareness of comics throughout the year, selling thousands of copies of both the adapted work as well as ancillary titles.  (Even Marvel managed to chart a few books with The Avengers movie, but still not to the extent of DC and its Batman franchise.)

The New York Times samples both bookstores and comics shops, which is evident in the weekly lists.  “Habibi”, published by Pantheon, was the number one title on the January 1 list.  Kate Beaton’s “Hark! A Vagrant” took the top spot the next week, “Are You My Mother? was #1 four weeks, and many Hollywood blockbusters drove sales of Tintin, Batman, Walking Dead, John Carter, Avengers, and other titles.

Of course, comics shops influence the lists as well, driving first-week sales of many titles, many of them driven by sales of monthly comic books this year and last.  The first week, DC’s $150 behemoth “DC comics: The New 52” charted at #3 (an amazing feat, given the price).

How did I analyze the lists, if it’s a ranking with no index?  Two ways: numerical (how many titles did each publisher place on the list) and weighted (10 points for #1, 9 points for #2…)  Everything was entered into an Excel spreadsheet, charts were generated, and further analysis was performed to give more minute analysis of certain trends.

NYT BS GN HC weightedHow diverse is the comics hardcover market?  Here are the following publishers with #1 titles in 2012 (in chronological order):

  • Random House: Habibi; A Game of Thrones (2 weeks); Building Stories (3 weeks);
  • Drawn & Quarterly: Hark! A Vagrant; Jerusalem: Chronicles From the Holy City
  • Hachette: The Adventures of Tintin, Volume 1 (2 weeks)
  • Marvel: X-Men: Schism (2 weeks), Daredevil, Volume 1; X-Men: Age of Apocalypse
  • DC: Batman: The Black Mirror; Batman & Robin: Dark Knight, White Night; American Vampire, Volume 1; Fables: The Deluxe Edition, Book Four; Flex Mentallo: Man of Muscle Mystery; Batman Incorporated Deluxe, Volume 1; Batman: The Court of Owls (3 weeks); Detective Comics, Volume 1; Batwoman, Volume 1; Get Jiro!; Batman: Earth One (4 weeks); Action Comics: Superman and the Men of Steel; Batman: The Killing Joke (2 weeks); The Invisibles Omnibus; Aquaman, Volume 1; The Judas Coin; Green Lantern Corps, Volume 1; Totally MAD: 60 Years of Humor, Satire, Stupidity and Stupidity (4 weeks); Superman: Earth One, Volume 2 (2 weeks); Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland;
  • Image: The Walking Dead, Book 7; The Walking Dead: Book 1 (3 weeks); The Walking Dead: Book 8;
  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Are You My Mother? (4 weeks)


DC dominates, but with a wide variety of titles and imprints (MAD! Vertigo! Old DC!  Original superhero graphic novels!).  (And these are just the #1 titles, scroll down to see all of DC bestsellers!)  All hardcover editions of the New 52 chart, many at #1.  But a bigger surprise?  Original graphic novels!  Both “Earth One” volumes chart, as does an original Batman graphic novel from Walter Simonson.  Vertigo’s original “Get Jiro!” and “Werevolves of the Heartland” sell well.  (If Vertigo were an independent publisher, it would have a 6% share of the weekly titles, and have SIX #1 titles for the year.)  For many years, DC’s licensed books charted during the holidays.  (The “Old 52” encyclopedia continues to sell in bookstores!)  This year, Warners, via their Time Books/Oxmoor division, published a 60th anniversary tome of Mad, which continues to dominate the list, charting at #1 for four weeks, and no lower than #3.

Image, of course, has success with The Walking Dead (even more in trade paperback), although they only hit Number One twice.  For three consectutive weeks in April, all seven hardcover collections charted!  Image does not have a strong hardcover line, but that is partly due to the “pay as you go” business model which requires creators to fund the printing.

Marvel surprises, as their titles usually don’t sell well. (Brian Hibbs will have his annual analysis in a few months, but you can read the 2011 report here.) Their list is split between 616 collections, Season One titles, and Dark Tower/Icon titles.

Random House has success with two literary titles and one media tie-in. Their Pantheon line offers many great creators and stories, while other imprints adapt prose novelists into grapic novel editions.

Drawn & Quarterly, a graphic novel publisher, seems to have mastered the bookstore market with a popular webcomic, and the latest non-fiction from a backlist author.  (D&Q is the rare GN publisher which appears at book festivals, the “other comic con” in publishing.)

Hachette, best known for their impressive manga imprint Yen Press, charts a backlist title from imprint Little, Brown (previously owned by Warner Communications), an omnibus volume of the first three Tintin novels.  Another Tintin omnibus charts, as does Twilight and (at the other end of the vampire literary spectrum) Interview with the Vampire.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, not known for their graphic novels, scores expected success with Allison Bechdel’s “sequel” to her bestselling memoir “Fun Home”.  The annual “Best American Comics” volumes chart (hopefully, we’ll soon see Harvey and Eisner awards anthologies in the near future).

But these are just the #1 publishers.  What exists when we drill down into the list?  Even more publishers, some charting for just a week.

NYT BS GN HC qty pictureDark Horse appears, via licensed properties like Valve and Firefly.  Archaia charts with “The Dark Crystal”, the same week Stan Lee charts with “Romeo and Juliet: The War” via 1821 comics.  Abrams, publisher of amazing book of and about comics, has success with “Chico and Rita”.  “Vampirella Archives, Volume 4” appears briefly in April, giving Dynamic Entertainment some exposure.  Oni Press charts three titles , once with “Courtney Crumrin, Volume 1” and then with both colorized volumes of “Scott Pilgrim”.  Boom! surprises with “The Amrory Wars: Ultimate Edition”.  NBM’s Rick Geary has success with the latest 20th Century Murder title (and sister imprint Papercutz sells lots of Ninjago!)  And then there’s IDW, Top Shelf, Macmillan, and the #1 publishers listed above, charting multiple times.  (Scroll down for the list of titles, sorted by publisher.)

Original graphic novels of established characters:

  • Season One: X-Men, Spider-Man, Daredevil, Fantastic Four, Dr. Strange
  • Earth One: Superman, Batman [both #1!]
  • The Judas Coin
  • Batman: Noel
  • Batman: Through the Looking Glass

Licensed titles:

  • Twilight
  • Valve
  • The Dark Tower: The Batlle of Tull
  • The Stand: The Night Has Come
  • Dark Tower: The Gunslinger: The Way Station
  • A Game of Thrones
  • Fever Moon
  • Silent Partner
  • Parker:  The Score
  • A Wrinkle in Time
  • Blood Crime
  • Ninjago: Kingdom of Snakes
  • Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Interview with the Vampire: Claudia’s Story
  • World of Warcraft: Pearl of Pandaria

 The list of bestselling titles, by publisher:

(#1 bestsellers in purple)


  • Romeo and Juliet: The War


  • Chico and Rita


  • The Dark Crystal

Boom! Studios

  • The Armory Wars: Ultimate Edition

Dark Horse

  • Valve Presents the Sacrifice
  • Blacksad
  • Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale
  • Serenity: Those Left Behind

DC Comics

  • DC Comics: The New 52DC HC category
  • Batman: Noel
  • Batman: The Black Mirror
  • Batman: The Dark Knight, Volume 1
  • Batman: Through the Looking Glass
  • Annotated Sandman, Volume 1
  • War of the Green Lanterns: Aftermath
  • Batman & Robin: Dark Knight, White Knight
  • American Vampire, Volume 3
  • Fables: The Deluxe Edition, Book Four
  • Superman: Reign of Doomsday
  • Wonder Woman: Odyssey, Volume 2
  • Flex Mentallo: Man of Muscle Mystery
  • Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo, Volume 1
  • Batman Incorporated Deluxe, Volume 1
  • The New Teen Titans Omnibus, Volume 2
  • Justice League, Volume 1
  • Black Orchid, Deluxe Edition
  • Batman: The Court of Owls
  • Legion of Super-Heroes Archive, Volume 13
  • Batman: The Killing Joke [Charting 90 weeks by the end of 2012!]
  • Green Lantern: Sinestro
  • Absolute Batman: Dark Victory
  • Batman: Death by Design
  • Wonder Woman, Volume 1
  • Fables, Volume 17
  • Detective Comics, Volume 1
  • Batman, Volume 1
  • Batman: The Black Glove, Deluxe Edition
  • DC HC #1 category
    DC Comics #1 titles, by category and quantity

    Get Jiro!

  • The Batman Archives, Volume 8
  • Batman: Earth One
  • Batman & Robin: Born to Kill
  • Batgirl: The Darkest Reflection
  • Batman: Year One, Deluxe Edition
  • Action Comics: Superman and the Men of Steel
  • The Invisibles Omnibus
  • Aquaman, Volume 1
  • The Judas Coin
  • Green Lantern Corps, Volume 1
  • 100 Bullets: Deluxe Edition, Book Three
  • World of Warcraft: Pearl of Pandaria
  • American Vampire, Volume 4
  • Justice League of America: The Rise of Eclipso *[trade paperback on the hardcover list]
  • Death: Deluxe Edition
  • Batman: Odyssey
  • Batman: The Dark Knight, Volume 1
  • Green Lantern: New Guardians, Volume 1
  • Totally Mad: 60 Years of Humor, Satire, Stupidity and Stupidity
  • Superman: Earth One, Volume 2
  • The Flash, Volume 1
  • Spaceman: Deluxe Edition
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Book 1
  • Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland
  • Superman, Volume 1

Drawn & Quarterly

  • Hark! A Vagrant
  • The Adventures of Herge
  • Jerusalem: Chronicles From the Holy City
  • Ed the Happy Clown
  • New York Drawings


  • Vampirella Archives, Volume 4


  • Pogo, Volume 2


  • The Adventures of Tintin, Volume 1
  • Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 2
  • The Adventures of Tintin, Volume 4
  • Interview with the Vampire: Claudia’s Story

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

  • The Best American Comics 2011
  • Are You My Mother?
  • The Best American Comics 2012


  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection, Volume 2
  • Parker: The Score
  • Locke & Key, Volume 5
  • Locke & Key, Volume 1
  • Dave Stevens’ Stories and Covers

Image [All seven “Walking Dead: Book” titles charted on April 8, 2012; April 15, 2012; and April 22, 2012!]

  • The Walking Dead: Book 1
  • The Walking Dead Omnibus, Volume 2
  • The Walking Dead, Book 2
  • The Walking Dead, Book 7
  • The Walking Dead, Book 3
  • The Walking Dead, Book 5
  • The Walking Dead, Book 6
  • The Walking Dead, Book 4
  • The Walking Dead, Book 8


  • Feynman
  • Baby’s In Black
  • Trinity
  • Journalism
  • Eye of the World, Volume 2
  • Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me
  • Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time
  • Sailor Twain, or The Mermaid in the Hudson


  • X-Men: Schism
  • Fear Itself
  • Invincible Iron Man, Volume 2
  • The Dark Tower: The Battle of Tull
  • Spider-Man: Spider-Island
  • Daredevil, Volume 1
  • Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Volume 1
  • Fantastic Four: Season One
  • The Stand: The Night Has Come
  • X-Men: Age of Apocalypse
  • Superior
  • Uncanny X-Force, Volume 4
  • X-Men: Season One
  • Avengers: The Children’s Crusade
  • Deadpool, Volume 10
  • Daredevil: Season One
  • Wolverine and the X-Men, Volume 1
  • Spider-Man: Season One
  • Avengers: X-Sanction
  • Silver Surfer: Parable
  • Avengers: Kree/Skrull War
  • Kick-Ass 2
  • Uncanny X-Force: Otherworld
  • Dark Tower: The Gunslinger: The Way Station
  • Dr. Strange: Season One
  • Avengers vs X-Men


  • Lovers’ Lane: The Hall-Mills Mystery
  • Ninjago: Kingdom of the Snakes


  • Courtney Crumrin, Volume 1
  • Scott Pilgrim, Volume 1 [color edition]
  • Scott Pilgrim, Volume 2 [color edition]

Random House:

  • Habibi
  • Silent Partner
  • A Game of Thrones
  • Fever Moon
  • The Complete Maus, A Survivor’s Tale
  • Building Stories
  • The Hive
  • X’ed Out
  • Blood Crime

Top Shelf Productions

  • Cleveland





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