Diamond Comic Distributors, the largest comic book distribution company in the world and the benchmark by which the market is judged, has released the rankings for Trade Paperback sales in January, showing a huge win for independent comics publisher Image Comics.
Of the Top 10 Trade Paperbacks, Image landed seven spots, including four of the top five. The only non-Image book in the top five was the hardcover collection of The Death of Wolverine from Marvel Comics, which won the top spot, followed by Kirkman and Azaceta’s Outcast, the fourth volume of Vaughan and Staples Saga, the second volume of Remender and Scalera’s Black Science, and the first volume of Saga.
Saga was the clear-cut audience favorite, as it returned from it’s hiatus with a new issue and a new trade volume, which prompted buyers to snap up all of the existing trades in an attempt to get up to speed as the series resumed. All four volumes landed in the top ten, marking a big month for the Eisner-winning breakout title. While full numbers on January single-issue sales won’t be released until next month’s Previews hits stores, it shouldn’t be surprising to see Saga do very well, even if it didn’t break the top ten.
Unsurprisingly, the first volume of Kirkman’s The Walking Dead continued to lock down a place in the top ten, as the series continued it’s remarkable run, with the latest issue once again landing in the top ten individual titles for the month. Not a month has gone by in more than a decade when The Walking Dead hasn’t nailed down a top trade spot. As the only independent title in a top ten which featured a startling seven books from Marvel Comics, The Walking Dead has become Image’s single strongest market presence.
In individual issue sales, Marvel was the undisputed winner. The slew of new first issues, combined with the overwhelming presence of Star Wars and it’s million-plus issues sold gave the company a massive lead in dollar share for the month. Marvel sales made up over fifty percent of all comics sold in January, with DC coming in at only twenty-seven percent and Image a distant third at eight percent.
These numbers clearly indicate that, while independent comics may be doing as well as they ever have in terms of audience perception, readership, and quality, their real strength is the bookshelf. Readers snap up these dense, complex stories as quickly as they can once there’s enough of them for a trade, but few (with The Walking Dead being a notable exception) have the devoted audience to help them contend on a month-to-month basis.