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2019’s Comic Book Sales Prove The Strength Of Marvel & DC

Diamond’s official comic book sales prove the strength of both Marvel and DC. Diamond Publishing has released the last batch of official sales figures from 2019. The December stats mean it’s now possible to cast a critical eye over the last year, and assess what’s worked for the top comic book publishers.

As always, it’s necessary to treat these figures with care. They reflect retailer preorders; retailers have to predict sales, and order appropriately. There are no official stats reflecting whether the books actually sold. Still, Diamond give the best look possible at the current state of the comic book industry. Here’s the 2019 market share by publisher:

  • Marvel Comics: 40.20 percent market share
  • DC Comics: 29.29 percent market share
  • Image Comics: 8.04 percent market share

Both Marvel and DC will be happy with the detailed figures, which show that their current strategies are proving successful. So let’s explore these details…

March 2019 saw the release of Detective Comics #1,000 – a gigantic 96-page special edition. It’s no surprise seeing this anniversary issue was the top seller of 2019; it was actually a record breaker, with initial retail orders exceeding 526,000 copies. By the end of April, Detective Comics #1,000 had become the second best-seller of the 21st century to date. It was exceeded by only 2015’s Star Wars #1, proving the strength of the Batman brand. Looking at the monthly figures, Tom King’s Batman has been a strong seller month by month, one of the most successful DC comics of 2019. Here’s how the full top 10 look:

  • Detective Comics #1,000 (DC Comics)
  • Spawn #300 (Image Comics)
  • X-Men #1 (Marvel Comics)
  • Black Cat #1 (Marvel Comics)
  • DCeased #1 (DC Comics)
  • Absolute Carnage #1 (Marvel Comics)
  • Marvel Comics #1,000 (Marvel Comics)
  • House of X #1 (Marvel Comics)
  • Powers of X #1 (Marvel Comics)
  • War of Realms #1 (Marvel Comics)

The top 10 list proves that the X-Men relaunch has been a huge success for Marvel. The publisher had essentially left the X-Men franchise treading water for the last two years, awaiting the arrival of superstar comic book writer Jonathan Hickman. It all kicked off in May, with the House of X and Powers of X miniseries. The first issues of both appear in the top 10. More pleasingly, Hickman’s X-Men #1 performed even better. Bearing in mind these are retailer preorders, that’s pretty remarkable. It suggests retailers believed interest had grown in the X-Men books, and that this was worth ordering even more copies.

Comic book readers frequently complain about the number of events and relaunches. But the top 10 comic book sales prove that these strategies work. There’s clearly a demand for (good) events, as demonstrated by the success of DCeased #1, Absolute Carnage #1, and War of Realms #1. It’s actually a little surprising to see War of Realms #1 so low in the rankings, given the popularity of Thor and the fact it’s the end of a years-long arc by writer Jason Aaron. But that perhaps reflects more on the amount of competition this year than anything else. The most notable of the top 10 is Black Cat #1. This particular success story is directly linked to Marvel’s variant cover initiative, because the publisher released literally dozens of variants, including a Walmart exclusive.

Marvel may dominate in terms of monthly sales, but the graphic novels are another story. The top 10 here are:

  • Watchmen (DC Comics)
  • Saga Volume 1 (Image Comics)
  • Umbrella Academy Volume 1: Apocalypse Suite (Image Comics)
  • Monstress Volume 1 (Image Comics)
  • Mister Miracle (DC Comics)
  • Die Volume 1: Fantasy Heartbreaker (Image Comics)
  • Batman: White Knight (DC Comics)
  • The Walking Dead Volume 31 (Image Comics)
  • Batman: The Killing Joke (DC Comics)
  • Batman: Damned (DC Comics)

Marvel Comics is entirely absent from this list, which is dominated by both DC Comics and Image. DC has begun to focus on the graphic novel market, particularly with its Black Label, and that’s paying dividends. Meanwhile, notice that well-timed re-releases of both Watchmen and The Umbrella Academy prove that graphic novels can benefit from a popular TV series or film adaptation. Meanwhile, Image’s other creator-owned titles are also major high-performers in graphic novel format.

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