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Behind the comics best sellers



Every Friday, The New York Times presents its “graphic books” best seller list. It’s compiled from BookScan, Diamond, and, as far as we can tell, magic juju algorithms of some kind. It is, like all best seller lists, probably a little subjective and magical, but it certainly reflects a stable metric of what books are selling briskly that week. Given all that we’ve talked about this week in terms of superheroes and literary comics and manga and what not…let’s see exactly what is selling THIS week in American comics, with my own commentary.

1 X’ED OUT, by Charles Burns. (Pantheon, $19.95.) NOT SUPERHERO. Lit comix master

2 THE EXILE: AN OUTLANDER GRAPHIC NOVEL, by Diana Gabaldon and Hoang Nguyen. (Random House, $25.) Involves a nurse and a “kilt-wearing 18th-century Scotsman.” Unlikely that a manly 35-year-old male ever touched this book, and if one comes near it, he will spontaneously combust. NOT SUPERHERO. Also one of those fantasy spin-off adaptations that are selling increasingly well.

3 BATMAN, LIFE AFTER DEATH, by Tony Daniel. (DC Comics, $19.99.) SUPERHERO. Also a self contained story.

4 THE OUTFIT, by Darwyn Cooke. (IDW, $24.99.) NOT SUPERHERO. New Mainstream comics master.

5 THE ADVENTURES OF OOK AND GLUK, by George Beard and Harold Hutchins. (Scholastic, $9.99.) Times description: “Ook and Gluk, two cave boys, must learn kung-fu to save their prehistoric home from a menace from the future.” This is a children’s book. KIDS READING COMICS. NOT SUPERHERO

6 WITCH & WIZARD: BATTLE FOR SHADOWLAND, by Dara Naraghi and Victor Santos. (IDW, $17.99.) See #2 above. However this one is aimed at the YA audience, based on the James Patterson juggernaut. NOT SUPERHERO — although it is action adventure,

7 BLACKEST NIGHT, by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis. (DC Comics, $29.99.) SUPERHERO.

8 X-MEN: SECOND COMING, by various. (Marvel Entertainment, $39.99.) SUPERHERO. Event-led corporate comics that hit the mark. Note price. THIS IS A FRICKING HUGE BOOK.

9 AMERICAN VAMPIRE, VOL. 1, by Scott Snyder, Stephen King and Rafael Albuquereque. (DC Comics, $24.99.) NOT SUPERHERO. If only Stephen King would write comics, we would save the industry.

10 KICK-ASS, by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.. (Marvel Entertainment, $14.99.) SUPERHERO — in its 33rd week on the chart. Marvel has probably made more off this creator-owned book than any of its own graphic novels this year.


1 BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: SEASON 8, VOL. 7, by Brad Meltzer, Joss Whedon and others. (Dark Horse Comics, $16.99.) NOT SUPERHERO.

2 SCOTT PILGRIM: PRECIOUS LITTLE LIFE, by Bryan Lee O’Malley. (Oni Press, $11.95.) NOT SUPERHERO Also in its 33rd week.

3 SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD, by Bryan Lee O’Malley. (Oni Press, $11.95.)

4 SCOTT PILGRIM AND THE INFINITE SADNESS, by Bryan Lee O’Malley. (Oni Press, $11.95.)

5 SCOTT PILGRIM’S FINEST HOUR, by Bryan Lee O’Malley. (Oni Press, $11.99.)

6 SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE UNIVERSE, by Bryan Lee O’Malley. (Oni Press, $11.95.)

7 SCOTT PILGRIM: GETS IT TOGETHER, by Bryan Lee O’Malley. (Oni Press, $11.95.) NOT SUPERHERO

8 PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF, by Robert Venditti and Attila Futaki. (Hyperion, $9.99.) See slots 2 and 6 above. A very well done adaptation of a HUGE YA series. NOT SUPERHERO

9 THE WALKING DEAD, VOL. 1, by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore. (Image Comics, $14.99.) NOT SUPERHERO. On the chart nearly a year.

10 ODD IS ON OUR SIDE, by Fred Van Lente, Dean Koontz and Queenie Chan. (Del Rey, $10.99.) NOT SUPERHERO Dean Koontz doing the YA sorta-manga GN spinoff thing.


1 NARUTO, VOL. 49, by Masashi Kishimoto. (VIZ Media, $9.99.)

2 BLACK BIRD, VOL. 6, by Kanoko Sakurakoji. (VIZ Media, $9.99.)

3 HETALIA AXIS POWERS, VOL. 1, by Hidekaz Himaruya. (TOKYOPOP, $10.99.)

4 YU-GI-OH! GX, VOL. 5, by Kazuki Takahashi and Naoyuki Kageyama. (VIZ Media, $9.99.) 5 MAXIMUM RIDE, VOL. 3, by James Patterson and NaRae Lee. (Yen Press, $12.99.) JAMES PATTERSON AGAIN

6 CHI’S SWEET HOME, VOL. 3, by Kanata Konami. (Vertical, $13.95.) Kitteh!

7 CASE CLOSED, VOL. 36, by Gosho Aoyama. (VIZ Media, $9.99.) This is the manga version of CSI.

8 BLEACH, VOL. 32, by Tite Kubo. (VIZ Media, $9.99.) This is the manga version of CSI: Miami

9 ALICE IN THE COUNTRY OF HEARTS, VOL. 4, by Quinrose and Hoshino Soumei. (TOKYOPOP, $10.99.)

10 MARCH STORY, VOL. 1, by Kyung-il Yang and Hyung-min Kim. (VIZ Media, $12.99.)

There ya go. Out of 30 books, exactly 4 are superhero. Okay, so it’s unfair to include manga on the chart? Then out of 20 books, exactly 4 are superhero. The “Scott Pilgrim Effect” has obviously had an impact on the number of trades that get on the chart, but who can argue about over one million books in print?

Many of these books are young-skewing, including the “YA spinoff” sub-genre indicated by Patterson and Koontz. (Gabaldon is more of the fantasy romance, female-skewing category.)

Now for comparison, here is how these books rank on the most recent Top 50 on the Diamond charts:

1, 8.85, WOLVERINE OLD MAN LOGAN TP, $29.99, MAR,        6,820

2, 8.54, DR HORRIBLE TP, $9.99, DAR,        6,582

3, 7.75, INVINCIBLE TP VOL 13 GROWING PAINS, $16.99, IMA,        5,968


5,660 5, 6.86, SCOTT PILGRIM GN VOL 01 PRECIOUS LITTLE LIFE, $11.99, ONI,        5,285

6, 6.68, WALKING DEAD TP VOL 01 DAYS GONE BYE, $9.99, IMA,        5,142

7, 5.55, EMPOWERED TP VOL 06 (MR), $15.99, DAR,        4,276

8, 4.90, WALKING DEAD TP VOL 12 LIFE AMONG THEM, $14.99, IMA,        3,771

9, 4.82, AMERICAN VAMPIRE HC VOL 01 (MR), $24.99, DC ,        3,712

10, 4.62, STAR WARS CLONE WARS YR TP HERO OF CONFEDERACY, $7.99, DAR,        3,562

11, 4.56, SCOTT PILGRIM GN VOL 02 VS THE WORLD, $11.99, ONI,        3,513

12, 4.51, CAPTAIN AMERICA REBORN TP, $19.99, MAR,        3,472

13, 4.46, X-MEN SECOND COMING HC, $39.99, MAR,        3,439

14, 4.45, WALKING DEAD TP VOL 02 MILES BEHIND US (NEW, $14.99, IMA,        3,431

15, 4.43, WORLDS GREATEST SUPER HEROES TP, $29.99, DC ,        3,416

16, 4.24, STAR WARS FORCE UNLEASHED GN VOL 02, $11.99, DAR,        3,268

17, 4.19, BATMAN CACOPHONY TP, $14.99, DC ,        3,228

18, 3.88, OZ MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ HC, $29.99, MAR,        2,986

19, 3.79, BERSERK TP VOL 34, $14.99, DAR,        2,922

20, 3.74, WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM TP VOL 01 (MR), $59.99, IMA,        2,878

21, 3.70, BLEACH TP VOL 32, $9.99, VIZ,        2,854

22, 3.41, OZ WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ TP GN, $19.99, MAR,        2,623

23, 3.40, SCOTT PILGRIM GN VOL 03 INFINITE SADNESS, $11.99, ONI,        2,616

24, 3.32, WALKING DEAD TP VOL 03 SAFETY BEHIND BARS, $14.99, IMA,        2,555

25, 3.25, INCORRUPTIBLE TP VOL 02 (MR), $16.99, BOO,        2,501

26, 3.17, TRANSMETROPOLITAN TP VOL 08 DIRGE (MR), $14.99, DC ,        2,440

27, 3.11, RED TP NEW EDITION, $14.99, DC ,        2,397

28, 3.08, WALKING DEAD TP VOL 11 FEAR THE HUNTERS (MR), $14.99, IMA,        2,371

29, 3.01, SCOTT PILGRIM GN VOL 06 FINEST HOUR, $11.99, ONI,        2,315

30, 3.00, LEGEND OF ZELDA GN VOL 10 PHANTOM HOURGLASS, $7.99, VIZ,        2,309

31, 2.96, WALKING DEAD TP VOL 04 HEARTS DESIRE (NEW PTG), $14.99, IMA,        2,281

32, 2.94, SCOTT PILGRIM GN VOL 04 GETS IT TOGETHER, $11.99, ONI,        2,267

33, 2.91, LOVE AND ROCKETS NEW STORIES TP VOL 03, $14.99, FAN,        2,245

34, 2.91, RED ROBIN COLLISION TP, $19.99, DC ,        2,243

35, 2.89, STAR WARS DARK EMPIRE TRILOGY HC, $29.99, DAR,        2,230

36, 2.79, TINY TITANS TP VOL 04 THE FIRST RULE OF PET CLUB, $12.99, DC ,        2,148

37, 2.76, MARVEL ZOMBIES RETURN TP, $19.99, MAR,        2,126

38, 2.75, WALKING DEAD TP VOL 05 BEST DEFENSE (NEW PTG), $14.99, IMA,        2,119

39, 2.68, SUPERMAN NEW KRYPTON TP VOL 02, $17.99, DC ,        2,061

40, 2.67, WALKING DEAD TP VOL 09 HERE WE REMAIN (MR), $14.99, IMA,        2,059

41, 2.65, SIEGE DARK AVENGERS PREM HC, $24.99, MAR,        2,040

42, 2.64, SANDMAN THE DREAM HUNTERS TP (MR), $19.99, DC ,        2,033

43, 2.58, SIEGE NEW AVENGERS PREM HC, $29.99, MAR,        1,988

44, 2.57, DARK X-MEN TP, $16.99, MAR,        1,981

45, 2.56, SCOTT PILGRIM GN VOL 05 VS THE UNIVERSE, $11.99, ONI,        1,969

46, 2.54, WALKING DEAD TP VOL 10 WHAT WE BECOME, $14.99, IMA,        1,957

47, 2.47, WALKING DEAD TP VOL 06 SORROWFUL LIFE (NEW PTG) (SEP088207), $14.99, IMA,        1,903

48, 2.46, SHOWCASE PRESENTS LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES TP VOL 04, $19.99, DC ,        1,894

49, 2.42, WALKING DEAD TP VOL 07 THE CALM BEFORE (MR), $12.99, IMA,        1,866

50, 2.37, WALKING DEAD TP VOL 08 MADE TO SUFFER (MR), $14.99, IMA,        1,823

The takeaway from both lists? Backlist, backlist, backlist…..and media tie-in, media-tie in, media tie-in. Both of which are pretty much true in EVERY medium.

It’s been said that 2010 has been a year lacking in hits. From the showing of franchises WALKING DEAD and SCOTT PILGRIM, it’s clear that in the book market, serial storytelling is definitely driving the comics category — but in the manner that book series have done since the invention of pulp fiction.

Scott Pilgrim is our Percy Jackson.


  1. “8 BLEACH, VOL. 32, by Tite Kubo. (VIZ Media, $9.99.) This is the manga version of CSI: Miami”

    I hope Viz quotes that on the cover of an upcoming volume.

  2. I see these charts all the time and i wonder why marvel even continues to print trades – i work at a major bookseller and see lots of them getting looked at but very few actually selling – pilgrim and walking dead on the other hand, customers ask when the next one is coming in

  3. @Larry: well, I suspect the Marvel trades are really aimed more at the direct market, and do quite well there.

    Does anyone know if Bookscan and/or the NYT Best Sellers List take into account other sales venues such as Scholastic catalogs and “book clubs” like the Science Fiction Book Club? In the case of my Witch & Wizard GN, I know it’s carried by both, and I suspect for a lot of other “Not Superhero” books, there’s an even bigger market out there when you count these channels.

  4. “Does anyone know if Bookscan and/or the NYT Best Sellers List take into account other sales venues such as Scholastic catalogs and ‘book clubs’ like the Science Fiction Book Club?”

    I’m pretty sure that Bookscan does not take into account sales made by Scholastic’s book fairs or catalogs, nor sales made through consumer mail-order book clubs like the Science Fiction Book Club.

    (Also worth noting is that Bookscan does not include sales made by Walmart or Sam’s Clubs which can be significant for books carried in those venues.)

    Not sure if/how the NYT itself may or may not incorporate data from those sorts of channels.

  5. If the two lists prove anything it’s that the readers for non superhero trades and the traditional comic book audience are two completely different audiences. Which pretty much proves what I’ve been saying all along about the complete disconnect between Manga readers, “female oriented” serialized novel readers, non superhero content readers and the traditional superhero comic marketplace. That being males over 35.

    And where is the breakdown from NYT and USA Today and all the other papers who only focus on trades and not monthlies? Whoops, they don’t talk about monthlies and their direct correlation to the popularity of superhero themed trades that are comprised of those monthlies, do they?

    As I pointed out earlier, these are two completely different audiences who, with the exception of the fringes, are not crossing over into other themes. The female consumers and the “indie loving trendies” consumer are sticking to the obvious and the rest, or the majority of comic book readers I should say, are reading superhero monthlies and superhero trades. So take away Manga and subtract the sales to customers who belong to the prime demo for comics who will buy the occasional indie stuff and this is a great list that really helps to make my point. Oh and subtract all those copies that the trendy, enlightened B&N stock boy ordered that are gonna sit on the shelves for the next 10 years. And all the copies that those cool librarians ordered. Also, wouldn’t you have to add the sales figures of people who bought the monthly story arc and add those numbers to the sales of the compiled story arc/trade? That would prove my point even more about who is the main and most reliable consumer base for comics here. Males. Those spouting this ideology of “all dollars are equal” and the “death of superheroes is just around the corner, change is coming!” claptrap looks even more like premature, chicken little nonsense than before.

    Also…how is Buffy not a superhero? I guess the cast of Heroes aren’t superheroes either because there were no costumes? And I guess Unbreakable wasn’t a movie about superheroes either. Hmmm. Oh well, I’ve already proved my point. No need to spike the ball. You can have Buffy in your column with the Ya and the Yo and the Ye and all the other manga stuff.

  6. So self-contained stories are dead??? Wow, I better jump on the Joseph Campbell/Sprawling Long-form-story band wagon before its too late(FYI,this comment is drenched in sarcasm)

  7. Thrilled to see X’ed Out top the besttseller list. It would probably rank higher if the Scholastic and Wal Mart numbers were included ;)

    Seriously a terrific book and I can’t wait for tge next one!

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