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Marvel, DC Slug It Out On The 2019 Comics Sales Charts – Forbes

Marvel’s reboot of X-Men helped push it to the top of the direct market sales charts in 2019.
Comic fans love to debate who’d win in a battle between, say, X-Men and the Watchmen. Today Diamond Comics Distributors, the dominant supplier to comic specialty stores, announced the sales figures from 2019, giving at least one answer to that question – though not one likely to settle the argument.
According to Diamond, Marvel dominated the market share for periodicals with a 44.72%-30.74% lead over DC in unit share and a 40.2% to 29.29% lead in dollar share. That roughly echoes 2018’s market share numbers, with a slight uptick in Marvel’s favor. Marvel’s successful reboot of the X-Men franchise over the summer proved to be a gigantic hit, as did the company’s special Marvel #1000 edition commemorating the 80th anniversary of the company’s first comic, Marvel Comics #1 (1939).
The news wasn’t all bad for DC, though. The company’s Detective Comics #1000, priced at $9.99, was the year’s top overall seller, followed by the landmark 300th issue of Todd McFarlane’s Spawn (Image Comics), Marvel’s X-Men #1 and Black Cat #1, and DC’s Deceased #1 rounding out the top five.
DC also shut Marvel out in the top ten of the increasingly-important graphic novel/trade book category. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ perennial best-seller Watchmen topped the charts, with Mister Miracle, Batman: White Knight, Batman: The Killing Joke, and Batman: Damned all placing in the top 10. Image Comics’ Saga, Monstress, Fantasy Heartbreakers, and The Walking Dead also made the list, along with The Umbrella Academy Volume 1 from Dark Horse Comics.
DC’s Mister Miracle was one of the top-selling trade paperbacks in the direct market, 2019
Overall, Image clocked in as the #3 publisher in terms of market share, with about 8% of dollar sales/7.7% unit, followed by IDW Publishing (3.55%/3.3%), Dark Horse (3.2%/2.3%) and Boom!Studios (2.6%/2.42%). Marvel’s gains in 2019 appear to have come more at the expense of Image, whose top-selling The Walking Dead ended mid-year and other sales leader Saga went on hiatus.
The other big consideration with these market numbers is that they only represent sales through the comic store channel, which this year accounted for less than half the total $1.05 billion comic book publishing market for the first time in a very long time. That is, more comic content – in the form of graphic novels and trade books – are being sold by bookstores than by comic shops.
The audience that buys comics through bookstores and digital services is significantly different from the traditional comic store customer base. For one thing, they are not as interested in superheroes, preferring Japanese-style manga and books aimed at younger readers.
That market growth is not captured in the Diamond Comics data, in that bookstores typically order through distributors that accept inventory returns, rather than Diamond’s non-returnable terms geared for specialty stores that maintain an inventory of back issues for collectors. For this reason, Diamond’s sales figures capture the dollars and units sold into the retail channel, but not necessarily sold through to customers. It’s possible that a lot of the books ordered by comic stores are still sitting on shelves or in discount bins – not that it matters to the publishers.
A more complete picture of the comics market would likely show manga juggernaut Viz Media — publishers of My Hero Academia, One Piece, One Punch Man, and literally every best-selling property in the manga/anime top 20 — occupying a position rivaling if not surpassing DC, and giving Marvel a run for its money. But most manga readers don’t shop at comic book stores, so Viz captured only 1.45% of dollars and 0.55% of units (good for #7/#8 in the rankings) according to Diamond.
That goes double for Scholastic, the publisher of Dav Pilkey (Dog Man), Raina Telgemeier (Guts) and other top graphic novels for kids, whose print runs are now counted in the millions, but have zero footprint in superhero-centric comic shops.
Still, the rivalry between Marvel (Disney) and DC (AT&T/WarnerMedia) that now sprawls across every screen started in comics. Winning the market share battle among hardcore readers confers bragging rights, even if it doesn’t mean quite as much as it used to.
Unit Share of comics sold in the direct market, 2019
Dollar share of comics sold in the direct market, 2019.


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