Total year sales charts for 2021 are coming out all over, and the consensus is: it was a great year, in bookstore, in comics shops, for graphic novels, for comic books. Online. Out of line. Everywhere.
We reported last week on the overall 65% increase of sales of graphic novels according to Bookscan, and on Diamond’s year-end charts. Now Comichron’s John Jackson Miller has done the heavy lifting on parsing Diamond’s total charts, along with projections from DC and PRH, and the results are strong. He projects that 2021 Direct Market comic shop sales were up 36% to $600 million, with comics periodicals up nearly 50%.
Despite these headwinds, the comics industry roared during the year, with Direct Market sales of comic books and graphic novels projected at around $600 million, when our projections for DC and Random House are added to the Diamond total. It’s an overall increase of around $160 million, or 36%, over 2020, and an increase of around $75 million, or 14%, over the prepandemic year of 2019.
Comic books were a large part of it, with unit sales of comic books up a projected 12% versus 2019 to at least 94 million copies overall; that’s the highest figure since 2016. It’s an increase of more than 30 million copies over 2020, which had dramatically fewer new releases due to the pandemic: that’s a boost of more than 49%.
Comic-book dollar sales were around $420 million, a 16% increase over the prepandemic year of 2019 and a whopping 53% increase over 2020, which had many fewer new comics releases. The comic-book total is higher than any in unadjusted dollars since the early 1990s.
He also tweeted some useful graphics:
Rankings are fun, but here's the important stuff. Based on Diamond's Top 4000 comics and Top 4000 graphic novels, 2021 was a huge year for comics shops — up 36% to $600 million — and specifically for comic books, which sold nearly 50% more copies.
More at https://t.co/Qu2RFhPZ1V pic.twitter.com/LsEc7sCQTw
— Comichron.com (@comichron) February 7, 2022
Even Diamond did ok: although overall sales were down from 2019, as they would be losing the top two publishers, they were down (by my calculation from Miller’s figures) 14.6%, which is less than you would have guessed. But the Top 1000 Non-DC-books sold 9% more than they did in 2019. As they retained about 35% of their Marvel sales for shops that didn’t want to risk PRH’s problematic boxes.
Diamond’s sales charts separated different editions of House of Slaughter #1 and BRZRKR – when it’s all combined it was pretty much a dead heat between King Spawn #1 and House of Slaughter #1 for top periodical of the year.
Diamond also released Top 4000 charts for graphic novels and comics periodicals, as well as top 25 for other categories. I’ll post those later in a cleaned up format.
This does ask the question: will we ever see sales charts from Lunar which distributes DC and other publishers, and Penguin Random House which distributes Marvel and (soon) IDW? So far as I’ve heard thus far, the answer is no. Which makes the One Direct Market Sales Chart to Rule Them All something we may never see the like of again.
In the meantime, ICv2 does run a monthly sales chart to consumers based on about 100 stores that use the ComicHub ordering system. It’s not huge, but it’s a metric.
While we’re rounding up sales chart info, it seems that John Mayo, who used to do charts for CBR, retired when all hell broke loose. He hasn’t written a column since 2020, but apparently he still podcasts. So Milton Griepp and John Jackson Miller are our north stars.
I know people think comic book journalists are the ones obssessed with sales charts, but publishers secretly love them as well – when it gives them bragging rights. Diamond’s halting the release of monthly charts during a large part of the pandemic was very frustrating to publishers like Boom and Image who were having tons of sales successes – hence the constant barrage of “Something something goes back to print!” press releases that filled my in box during this period. It’s likely that Diamond’s remaining publishers wanted to see their books at the top, which helped motivate Diamond to start releasing sales information again.
DC Comics has had a rough couple of years, and to say that the current corporate management is secretive is putting it mildly. In some ways by going with Lunar, they’ve gone into hiding with what’s selling and what isn’t. Success there is purely anecdotal now – although I’d hazard a guess that Batman is still their top selling franchise.
Comics – graphic novels, manga, periodicals – doing great during the Pandemic is an encouraging story that has many reasons – strong product, people learning to do things better during lockdowns, increased media presence. I don’t really want to spend the rest of my life refuteing ComicsAnon’s claims that “comics (however they define it at that moment) are dying” but it’s simply not true. This is a golden age. Enjoy it.