Every week, the New York Times runs bestseller listings, which include “Graphic Books”.  There’s a listing for Hardcover, Paperback, and Manga titles.  The Times dates the charts a week ahead of publication, while tabulating titles a week behind.  That means that the chart from January 1, 2012 “reflects sales for the week ending December 17, 2011”.  As I begin to type this, the December 30, 2012 chart has already been posted a week ahead of time.  Does this alter the analysis any?  Not really, a year is a year, and anyway, the holiday sales usually bleed into January anyway.  (Yes, I moved the goalposts, but it’s still the same distance between them.)

Walking Dead Compendium OneThe big winner?  Image.  The flagship title?
The Walking Dead Vol. 1 TP (MR) Compendium which charted 43 out of the 53 weeks of 2012, including TWELVE weeks at #1. Not bad for a paperback with a retail price of $60. Of course, it contains the first FORTY-EIGHT issues, so it’s a good value.  The second volume, launched in October to coincide with the new television season and New York Comic Con, soon hit the top of the charts, and will most likely continue to sell.  The big news, for Image, and a possible harbinger with the recent changing-of-the-guard at Vertigo, is that The Walking Dead, Volume 1 trade paperback has surpassed Watchmen with the longest run of weekly charts, with the week of December 30 marking 137 weeks!  (Watchmen continues to appear, mostly during back-to-college months, and has been on the charts 110 weeks since the New York Times has been tracking sales.)

While Image did dominate, in placements (155 out of 530), weighted rankings (34%), and Number One titles (27 of 53), it was a a diverse list of both publishers and genres/categories.

Among the publishers hitting Number One were Image and DC (to be expected), but also Scholastic (beating Batman during the Dark Knight Rises media onslaught), Dark Horse, Macmillan, and Papercutz.  What’s even more amazing, is that most of those “other” Number One titles were aimed at children.

Here’s the chronological list of #1 titles:NYT BS GN TP #1

  • The Walking Dead Compendium, Volume 1
  • Fables, Volume 16 (Vertigo/DC)
  • The Walking Dead, Volume 15 (5 weeks)
  • Health Care Reform (FSG, a division of Macmillan)
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender, Part 1 (Dark Horse) (2 weeks)
  • Ninjago: Mask of the Sensei (Papercutz)
  • Cinderella: Fables are Forever (Vertigo/DC)
  • Animal Man, Volume 1 (DC, the only New 52 TP to chart at #1)
  • Batman: Knightfall, Volume 1 (DC) (6 weeks)
  • Ninjago: Rise of the Serptentine (Papercutz)
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender, Part 2 (Dark Horse) (3 weeks)
  • The Walking Dead, Volume 16 (2 weeks)
  • Fables, Volume 17 (Vertigo/DC)
  • Smile (Scholastic) (5 weeks)
  • Amulet: Prince of the Elves, Volume 5 (Scholastic)
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender, Part 3 (Dark Horse) (2 weeks)
  • The Walking Dead Compendium, Volume 2 (7 consecutive weeks)
  • The Walking Dead, Volume 17

If one counts Vertigo as “indie”, then the majority are indie titles (30 weeks), followed by kids’ titles (15 weeks), superheroes (7 weeks) and one non-fiction title (1 title).  One could ask, “Given the non-fiction and juvenile titles charting, what percentage of graphic novel sales occur outside the Direct Market of comics shops?”

But what of the greater list?  Of course The Walking Dead will dominate the #1 listings!  And if you look deeper… they dominate the rest of the chart as well!  While there were a few weeks where those titles didn’t chart (during the Summer Blockbuster season), there were weeks, like April 22, where Image had eight titles listed.  (The other two? Ninjago.)NYT-BS-GN-TP-weighted

NYT BS GN TP qty(Sorry about the reduction.  Click on the graphic once to get the image link, then click again to get the “big picture”!)

The first chart shows weighted rankings, assigning ten points for a #1 ranking, down to one point for a #10 ranking.  The second chart is the quantity of listings for each publisher.  Twenty-six different publishers are listed.  (Imprints are counted under the parent company, and Papercutz with NBM, although they have a distro agreement with Macmillan.)

At a glance, you can see that, after Image and DC, the list is dominated by book publishers.  Not too surprising, as they know how to market books to bookstores and media.  (DC also gains from this, as Random House, which ranks #6, is their book trade distributor.)

NYT BS GN TP categoryNote that Disney charts books separately from Marvel.  That one title was an adaptation of Rick Riordan’s “Kane Chronicles”.  Disney’s Hyperion imprint is not as robust or as well known as their licensed properties, but that is changing with many book-based properties like this.  Yes, Riordan retains ownership of the book, and the first “Lightning Thief” movie was distributed by 20th Century Fox. Is Disney disheartened at the loss of revenue? Perhaps, but the books, which comprise at least three different series, continue to chart on the juvenile lists.  This could be a different model than the controlling nature of DC and Vertigo contracts.  Judging by the category chart to the left, that will probably become more commonplace.  (“Independent” includes mature and creator-owned titles from Vertigo, DC, and Marvel; “superhero” includes only those genre titles from Marvel and DC.)

Of note in the Category chart: 95 of the 530 placements are licensed properties.  Avatar, Ninjago, Star Trek, adaptations of prose novels, Star Wars, Adventure Time, John Carter of Mars all manage to chart well, if not long.  (Although, it is not uncommon for a backlist title to ride a frontlist title back onto the charts, as seen with Avatar, or even more amazingly, Smile rocketing to #1, blocking Raina Telgemeier’s new book, Drama, at #2 the same week.  Yeah, she’s really sore about that…)

Image dominated with The Walking Dead, but had success with other titles.  Saga had a strong showing at $9.99, charting for five weeks (and setting off a kerfuffle among retailers). The Manhattan Projects charted for two weeks near the bottom of the charts.  Invincible charted in February.  (Perhaps an ad during Walking Dead would help generate sales…)

And DC? 2012 was the year that the first volumes of the New 52 initiative launched, starting in May.  While DC had greater success in hardcover (all seven New 52 editions charted), there was mixed success with the trade paperbacks. Only thirteen titles charted, with only one title, Animal Man, reaching the #1 spot. Since the charts only list the Top Ten titles for each week, some titles could have sold well, but been blocked from the charts due to Batman backlist or The Walking Dead, or even more successful titles from other publishers. (That’s the problem with bringing in more readers to comics shops… sometimes they read stuff you don’t publish!) The titles which charted:

  • Animal ManDC TP GN BS
  • Catwoman
  • Detective
  • Suicide Squad
  • Swamp Thing
  • Teen Titans
  • Birds of Prey
  • Nightwing
  • Supergirl
  • Red Hood
  • Justice League International
  • I, Vampire
  • Justice League Dark

Only one Flashpoint title charted, and a few collections from before the Flashpoint/New 52 event, mostly Batman titles.  (Which proves DC’s decision to relaunch their superhero line.)  No Green Lantern titles appear.  But two Showcase volumes do, featuring lesser-known characters The Spectre and Rip Hunter.

The chart above shows the distribution of titles among categories.  The domination of “Old 52” titles (anything published before the New 52 relaunch) is partly due to the Batman backlist selling during the Dark Knight Rises media tsunami.  Vertigo sells a lot of backlist, with Fables Volume One finally charting for the first time this year!  There are also more recent titles, such as Scalped and Cinderella, Sweet Tooth, Fairest, Unwritten charting briefly.  Vertigo accounts for three of DC’s five #1 titles (Animal Man and Knightfall being the other two titles), and a quarter of all of DC’s titles.  If separated from DC, the 153 points (25% of DC’s total) would place them at #8 among publishers, between NBM and Random House.  DC would then only have 16% of the list.

No original graphic novels charted in paperback, although DC had great success with hardcover originals.  DC does not publish MAD paperbacks, instead licensing titles to other publishers.  (The 60th anniversary hardcover is published by a division of Warner Entertainment, so gets counted in the hardcover listing for DC.)  Licensing is similar to original graphic novels, being adaptations.  Might we see “Dragon Tattoo” here next year?

Questions for the year ahead:

  • Will the new season(s) of The Walking Dead continue to fuel sales, or is there a market saturation next year?
  • Will the trade paperback editions of DC’s new 52 hardcovers chart in paperback?
  • Will the Volume 2 New 52 paperbacks chart, or will sales decline like the monthly comics they collect?  What of the replacement series?
  • Can DC replicate the success of their Batman backlist with next year’s Man of Steel movie?
  • Will the kids and adult segments increase in influence?
  • Fables, Unwritten, and American Vampire from Vertigo sell consistently.  What new series can Vertigo midwife?  Or does their success depend more on original graphic novels?  How competitive can DC/Vertigo be when competing with Image and mainstream book publishers?
  • Will Penguin, with a new, strong graphic novel strategy, exert more influence on the charts?  Will their distribution partnership/merger with Random House help them market graphic novel titles more efficiently?
  • Will Marvel gain more notice with their “Marvel Now” initiative?  Will Disney Publishing impose more control over Marvel’s book publishing line?

Here’s the list of bestselling titles by publisher:

1821 Comics

  • Romeo and Juliet: The War

Abrams ComicArts

  • Economix: How and Why Our Economy Works

Alterna Comics

  • Fubar, Volume

Andrews McMeel

  • Masters of the Nonsenseverse: A Get Fuzzy Collection
  • Pearls Freaks the #*%# Out
  • The Complete Calvin and Hobbes
  • Get Fuzzy: The Stinking

Boom! Studios

  • Irredeemable, Volume 8
  • Irredeemable, Volume 7
  • Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, Volume 3
  • Adventure Time, Volume 1


  • Muhammad Ali: The King of the Ring


  • The Odyssey

Dark Horse

  • B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth, Volume 2
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender, Part 1
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender, Part 2
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise, Part 3
  • Empowered, Volume 7
  • Star Wars (The Clone Wars): The Sith Hunters

DC Comics

  • V for Vendetta
  • Fables, Volume 16
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
  • Batman: Year One
  • Batman: No Man’s Land, Volume 1
  • Batman: No Man’s Land, Volume 2
  • Watchmen
  • Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne
  • The Unwritten, Volume 5
  • Sweet Tooth, Volume 4
  • Batman: Gates of Gotham
  • Batman: Time and the Batman
  • Batman versus Bane
  • Flashpoint: Batman
  • Cinderella: Fables are Forever
  • Batman: Knightfall, Volume 1
  • Showcase Presents: The Spectre, Volume 1
  • Animal Man, Volume 1
  • Batman: Venom
  • Justice League International, Volume 1
  • Batman and Robin, Volume 3
  • Catwoman: The Game [Volume 1]
  • American Vampire, Volume 2
  • Fables, Volume 1: Legend’s in Exile [Finally making the list for the first time, in June!]
  • DMZ, Volume 12
  • Fables, Volume 17
  • Suicide Squad: Kicked in the Teeth [Volume 1]
  • Batman: Hush
  • Showcase Presents: Rip Hunter, Time Master, Volume 1
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum
  • Scalped, Volume 9
  • Batman: The Long Halloween
  • Swamp Thing: Raise Them Bones [Volume 1]
  • Teen Titans, Volume 1
  • Birds of Prey, Volume 1
  • I, Vampire, Volume 1
  • Nightwing, Traps and Trapezes [Volume 1]
  • Justice League Dark: In the Dark [Volume 1]
  • The Unwritten, Volume 6
  • Supergirl, Volume 1
  • Sweet Tooth, Volume 5
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws, Volume 1
  • Scalped, Volume 10
  • Fairest, Volume 1


  • The Red Pyramid: The Kane Chronicles, Book One


  • The Boys, Volume 10


  • Krazy and Ignatz, 1922-1924

Hachette/Yen Press

  • Twilight, Volume 1

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

  • Fun Home


  • Star Trek, The Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation 2

Image Comics

  • The Walking Dead Compendium, Volume 1
  • The Walking Dead Compendium, Volume 2
  • The Walking Dead, Volume 1 [surpassing Watchmen for the longest run on the bestseller list!]
  • The Walking Dead, Volume 2
  • The Walking Dead, Volume 3
  • The Walking Dead, Volume 4
  • The Walking Dead, Volume 5
  • The Walking Dead, Volume 9
  • The Walking Dead, Volume 10
  • The Walking Dead, Volume 14
  • The Walking Dead, Volume 15
  • The Walking Dead, Volume 16
  • The Walking Dead, Volmue ???? [ listed as “The Road to Woodbury”, but that does not correspond to any particular trade paperback.]
  • The Walking Dead, Volume 17
  • Invincible, Volume 15
  • The Manhattan Projects, Volume 1
  • Saga, Volume 1


  • Health Care Reform
  • The Silence of Our Friends
  • Olympians: Hades, Lord of the Dead
  • Legends of Zita the Spacegirl
  • Broxo

Marvel Comics

  • Criminal, Volume 6
  • John Carter: The World of Mars
  • Uncanny X-Force, Volume 2
  • Avengers vs X-Men: It’s Coming
  • Infinity Gauntlet
  • Prelude to Avengers: Fury’s Big Week
  • Uncanny X-Force, Volume 3
  • Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe


  • Ninjago: Mask of the Sensei
  • Ninjago: The Challenge of the Samukai
  • Ninjago: Rise of the Serentine
  • Ninjago: Tomb of the Fangpyre
  • Ninjago: Kindome of the Snakes


  • The Sixth Gun, Volume 3
  • Wasteland, Volume 7: Under the God


  • Marbles

Random House

  • Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, Volume 1
  • Maus: A Survivor’s Tale
  • The Complete Persepolis
  • Uglies: Shay’s Story
  • House of Odd
  • The City of Ember


  • The Complete Alan Moore: Future Shocks
  • Rogue Trooper: Tales of Nu Earth, Volume 1


  • Corto Maltese: The Ballad of the Salt Sea


  • The Adventures of Ook and Gluk, Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future
  • Amulet: The Last Council, Volume 4
  • Smile
  • Amulet: The Cloud Searchers [Volume 3]
  • Amulet: Prince of the Elves, Volume 5
  • Drama

Simon & Schuster

  • Amelia Rules!: Her Permanent Record

Top Shelf

  • Blankets
  • The Underwater Welder


  1. Road to Woodbury is the 2nd Walking Dead prose Novel, Rise of the Governor is the first.

    Walking Dead Vol 16 is entitled A Larger World

  2. The Road to Woodbury was a Walking Dead prose novel written by Kirkman (along with Rise of the Governor).

  3. I know about the novel… but why would it be on the Graphic Novel list, and not the prose list, just like the various movie adaptations of Batman?

    That title (“Woodbury”) appears both on the hardcover and paperback GN lists for 2013.

  4. I’m confused as to why the “List of bestselling titles by publisher” is fewer than the numbers on the pie chart above. That’s not nearly 125 books by DC or 155 titles by Image.

  5. @Allen
    Sorry if I wasn’t clear on that.

    The quantity listed on the pie chart is how many titles hit each week per publisher, over a 53-week period in 2012. If I did the sheet correctly, the numbers should total to 530 (10 titles a week x 53 weeks).

    A title like The Walking Dead Compendium, Volume 1 appeared 43 weeks at various placements (twelve times at #1), so that title accounts for 43 of Image’s 155 placements on the charts.

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