By Todd Allen
Over at Publisher’s Weekly, I was writing about how Marvel has trouble keeping their books in print and had some retailers tell me how Marvel’s sales suffer for it. Now with Diamond’s 2011 year-end sales charts coming out, WOW, do things look odd.
Of course, a comic shop doesn’t have to order graphic novels from Diamond. A lot of them are now ordering from book distributors like Baker & Taylor. You’d see Hark! A Vagrant in Diamond’s top 500 books and Habibi much higher than #240 if all of the DM were buying their graphic novels through Diamond.
Marvel’s best selling title was Kick-Ass! at #49. Yes, there were 48 graphic novels that sold better through Diamond than anything Marvel put out in 2011. Does that startle you? Here’s a list of Marvel’s Top 20 Sellers and their 2011 rank for Diamond:
|Marvel Rank||Diamond Rank||
|1.||49||KICK-ASS TP (MR)|
|2.||54||WOLVERINE OLD MAN LOGAN TP|
|3.||64||CIVIL WAR TP|
|4.||71||CASTLE PREM HC RICHARD CASTLES DEADLY STORM|
|5.||75||NEMESIS PREM HC (MR)|
|6.||87||UNCANNY X-FORCE TP VOL 01 APOCALYPSE SOLUTION|
|7.||106||DARK TOWER GUNSLINGER JOURNEY BEGINS PREM HC|
|8.||113||X-MEN SECOND COMING TP|
|9.||116||INCOGNITO TP VOL 02 BAD INFLUENCES (MR)|
|10.||135||TAKIO GN HC|
|11.||152||DEADPOOL TP VOL 05 WHAT HAPPENED IN VEGAS|
|12.||155||OZ WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ TP|
|13.||170||DARK TOWER GUNSLINGER LITTLE SISTERS OF ELURIA PREM HC|
|14.||171||FANTASTIC FOUR BY JONATHAN HICKMAN TP VOL 03|
|15.||181||INVINCIBLE IRON MAN TP VOL 04 STARK DISASSEMBLED|
|16.||186||THOR BY J MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI TP VOL 01|
|17.||193||CRIMINAL TP VOL 06 LAST OF INNOCENT (MR)|
|18||198||DEADPOOL CLASSIC TP VOL 04|
|19.||213||CASANOVA TP LUXURIA VOL 01 (MR)|
|20||218||FF BY JONATHAN HICKMAN PREM HC VOL 01|
What do we really have here?
An Icon title by Millar, followed by a 2010 release by Millar (that’s something of a one-off “What If” book), followed by a 2006 release also by Millar (and again a one-off, not part of a continuing series). Then Castle, a licensed original graphic novel. By now we’re down to #71 overall. Then Nemesis, another Icon title by Millar. Finally, Marvel’s 6th bestselling book, #87 overall is the first volume of Uncanny X-Force and we finally have a collection of an ongoing Marvel universe title charting.
Contrast that with Marvel’s sales in monthly comics and it’s a stark difference.
What’s the composition of Marvel’s top 20 graphic novel titles?
Icon = 6
Licensed = 4
Marvel Universe = 10
Half of Marvel’s top 10 books aren’t in the Marvel Universe. Of those 616 titles, 2 are Deadpool and 2 are Jonathon Hickman’s Fantastic Four run. Did you have Deadpool pegged as one of Marvel’s most important graphic novel properties? Me either, but it appears to be up there.
Similarly, the Ultimate comics line, which used to be a big seller, first charts all the way down at #21 for Marvel / #220 for Diamond with the second volume of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man.
Are the traditional book distributors moving a lot more Marvel books than I think they are? How different are Marvel’s graphic novel readers from their monthly readers? Is the prominence of the Icon titles in Marvel’s Diamond rankings indicative of a different reader demographic or indicative of the Icon books being kept in print, as opposed to Marvel’s tendency to let volumes fall out of availability?
I don’t have concrete answers to those questions (though I look forward to the annual leaking of the BookScan report and getting a better handle on Marvel’s bookstore fortunes). All I know is, Marvel’s taking a back seat to all sorts of publishers, when it comes to graphic novels. Dark Horse, DC, Dynamite, Image, Legendary, Oni and Top Shelf all had at least one title that sold better through Diamond than anything than Marvel. That just seems a little odd.
Todd Allen wears a lot of hats. At various times he’s been (alphabetically), a bouncer, college professor, humor columnist, Internet producer and an NBA/WNBA Beat Writer, among other things. He’s the author of Economics of Digital Comics. You should probably read it.