Now that we’ve hit 2013 and we’ve had a couple of shipments of comics for the year, it’s time to do a look back at 2012. It was a year of successes and a year of surprises as well. How do we know?

Diamond Distributors, who is the distribution arm for most of the non-indie publishers out there, has provided some insight as to what the top-selling items of 2012 were. It’s interesting to look back at what happened and see if we can understand it in retrospect. So let’s do that and see if we can gather some insight as to what was out there. To that end, we’ll take a look at what Diamond reported as the numbers for this past year.

Note that all commentary here is my own. Although I may be ComicBooked.com’s editor-in-chief, my views are my own, whether you agree, disagree, or think I’m completely nuts. Also note that this post is riddled with statistics. If numbers aren’t your forté, you may not enjoy this post too much. Just letting you know.

All of these numbers account for sales from Diamond Distributor to comic specialty shops. Keep in mind this doesn’t count trades to your local book store or digital sales. If we could account for those numbers, we may see some different trends emerging.

Publishing Numbers

When we look at the publishing numbers, there are 2 values to focus us: Retail Market Share (also known as money spent) and Unit Market Share (otherwise known as what was sold). For the top of each of these lists, they are unsurprising.

RETAIL MARKET SHARE
PUBLISHERSHARE
MARVEL COMICS34.06%
DC ENTERTAINMENT31.94%
IMAGE COMICS7.31%
IDW PUBLISHING5.57%
DARK HORSE COMICS4.81%
DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT3.11%
BOOM! STUDIOS1.53%
EAGLEMOSS PUBLICATIONS LTD1.15%
VIZ MEDIA0.93%
AVATAR PRESS INC0.89%
OTHER NON-TOP 108.70%

Marvel Comics took the number one spot with amount of dollars sold. That comes as no surprise as many of their books are on the higher-end of the scale price-wise, but also include a digital download for many of the books. Additionally, last year was the year of Marvel’s Avengers in movie theatres which, from my observation, caused my local comic shop to have a ton of attention on Avengers-related books. Of the Marvel products, this was also the year of Amazing Spider-Man in movie theatres, even though it was not put out directly by Marvel, but it was also the 50th anniversary of Spider-Man and we saw the end of the long running title on the last comic release day of 2012, Amazing Spider-Man #700. Love it or hate it, the book was a success, and helped drive Marvel to the number 1 spot for dollars with its cover price of $7.99 USD.

So, OK, Marvel won out in terms of dollars. What about the sales numbers, you may ask? (Or, even if you didn’t, you’ll get that answered…)

UNIT MARKET SHARE
PUBLISHERSHARE
MARVEL COMICS37.59%
DC ENTERTAINMENT36.75%
IMAGE COMICS6.60%
IDW PUBLISHING4.36%
DARK HORSE COMICS3.80%
DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT3.00%
BOOM! STUDIOS1.53%
ZENESCOPE ENTERTAINMENT INC0.74%
AVATAR PRESS INC0.73%
ARCHIE COMIC PUBLICATIONS0.69%
OTHER NON-TOP 104.22%

Once again, Marvel takes the lead, but not by much. Marvel had a number of events this past year – including the multi-book crossover of Avengers vs. X-Men and saw many of their books relaunched with new first issues during the Marvel NOW! events, but DC has definitely been going strong with its own events. The Batman family of books has seen 2012 give us the Court of Owls arc which crossed over into most Bat-books (including All-Star Western, which was a nice twist!) and then followed it up with the return of the Joker in the Death of the Family arc currently underway.

Some things maybe you didn’t get from an initial glance at both of these tables: The first 7 publishers in both lists are the same. To be honest, this surprised me. What surprised me more was that I didn’t see Zenescope Entertainment in the top 10 of sales as I see their books in most local shops I go to, but until I read Supurbia I can honestly say I’d never read a title from BOOM! Studios. To be honest, I rarely looked beyond the DC, Marvel, Image and Dark Horse sections, but I’m finding that my likes are expanding. Zenescope, Dynamite, BOOM!… These are all publishers I picked up for the first time in 2012 and I am glad that I did. They may not sell as many books in terms of numbers, but they put out fewer titles and, in many cases, the stories are much more solid! If you have not read them, I highly recommend it!

Top Comics

Can you guess what the top comic of 2012 was? Some of you will be able to. What was actually number 1 was not on my personal guess list, but I did have it in the top 10.

RANKDESCRIPTIONPRICEITEM CODEVENDOR
1WALKING DEAD #100 (MR)$3.99JUN128066-MIMA
2UNCANNY AVENGERS #1$3.99AUG120550-MMAR
3AVENGERS VS X-MEN #1$3.99JAN120629-MMAR
4AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #700$7.99OCT120626-MMAR
5AVENGERS VS X-MEN #2$3.99JAN128269-MMAR
6AVENGERS VS X-MEN #6$3.99APR120579-MMAR
7AVENGERS VS X-MEN #5$3.99APR120572-MMAR
8AVENGERS VS X-MEN #3$3.99JAN128271-MMAR
9AVENGERS VS X-MEN #4$3.99JAN128273-MMAR
10AVENGERS #1$3.99SEP120526-MMAR

OK. Let’s look at this for a second and get some perspective.

The Walking Dead #100 was the number one book of the year. Although I profess to not read all of the individual issues of this title, I do buy the trades, but I was aware that issue #100 was a game-changer. But would I have put it at #1? Probably not, but since The Walking Dead is also one of the most talked about shows on television (or at least on this site) it doesn’t surprise me when I look back on things.

What is interesting is that the rest of the top 10 are all Marvel books. And, except for Amazing Spider-Man #700, they all contain the word “Avengers” within the title. Is this perhaps connected to the movie of the same name being released this year? There is no conclusive evidence of this, but my gut tells me that this is a conclusive “Yes”.  Does it surprise me that only the first half of the Avengers vs. X-Men is listed here? A little – the last half of the story didn’t make the top 10. Interesting. And the fact that Uncanny Avengers #1 is in the number 2 spot, the first book in the Marvel NOW! launches, is also kind of surprising (although with the hubbub made with all of the late night launch parties and what not, I really am not too surprised). What does surprise me, though, is that even though this top 10 has Avengers all over the place, that All-New X-Men is not listed in the top 10, and I am finding that book more enjoyable than both Avengers and Uncanny Avengers right now.

Graphic Novels

To close out the numbers, we’ll take a look at the top 10 graphic novels sold throughout 2012.

RANKDESCRIPTIONPRICEITEM CODEVENDOR
1WALKING DEAD TP VOL 01 DAYS GONE BYE$9.99JUL068351IMA
2WALKING DEAD TP VOL 02 MILES BEHIND US (MR)$14.99SEP088204-MIMA
3BATMAN EARTH ONE HC$22.99MAR120234DC
4WALKING DEAD TP VOL 16 A LARGER WORLD (MR)$14.99APR120487IMA
5WALKING DEAD TP VOL 03 SAFETY BEHIND BARS$14.99NOV082245IMA
6WALKING DEAD TP VOL 17 SOMETHING TO FEAR (MR)$14.99SEP120449IMA
7WALKING DEAD TP VOL 04 HEARTS DESIRE$14.99SEP088205-MIMA
8BATMAN HC VOL 01 THE COURT OF OWLS (N52)$24.99JAN120300DC
9WALKING DEAD TP VOL 15 WE FIND OURSELVES (MR)$14.99OCT110502IMA
10LOEG III CENTURY #3 2009 (MR)$9.95APR121232TOP

On their report, Diamond notes the following:

[quote]For the third year in a row, Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead Volume 1: Days Gone Bye from Image Comics was the year’s best-selling trade paperback to comic book specialty shops, its strong sales fueled by the hit television series on AMC. Overall, Image Comics’ The Walking Dead took six of the top ten spots, and all seventeen volumes of the series ranked among the top 30.[/quote]

So The Walking Dead trampled everything else out there. Literally. And for 3 years running? That says a lot. What’s interesting here, though, is that we see no Marvel books but have 2 DC titles making an appearance, both around Batman: Batman Earth One and Batman Vol. 1 – The Court of Owls – both of which also made it onto the New York Times Bestseller List. Could this also be around the movie hype of the last of the Christopher Nolan Bat-films, The Dark Knight Rises? Again, perhaps, but nothing conclusive. The final book I had to look up (as I had no clue what LOEG meant) – but this is, in fact, a trade of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill.

What I didn’t see was Saga here, although perhaps the trade came out too late to get those sales needed to top the list (and with all of the other trades released in the first half of 2012 if not in previous years, I don’t see how it could have made it this year). Perhaps next year, once it’s been out for a bit and even more word gets around, although my prediction is that we will see Brian Wood’s new Star Wars series from Dark Horse make an appearance, what with the Star Wars hype that will be going on and this new series following the adventures of Luke, Leia, Han et al.

Let’s Ramp Things Up

2012 was an interesting year for sure. It was the first full calendar year since DC did their New 52 universal relaunch; it brought us Marvel NOW! and the end of Amazing Spider-Man; Top Cow did a universal relaunch via their Artifacts title that also bled into Witchblade and The Darkness, but also relaunched Cyber Force (one of Image’s first books, and this was Image Comics’ 20th anniversary). I discovered some interesting stories from other manufacturers – Fly from Zenescope; Masks from Dynamite; and Supurbia from BOOM!. I rediscovered my childhood with IDW’s Transformers: Rage of the Dinobots as well as tickled my sci-fi feet with the Star Trek: The Next Generation / Doctor Who crossover that occurred.

I have once again discovered the wonder that is out there beyond the borders of Marvel and DC. There’s no turning me back. Now the question is: will what I enjoy be the top sales in 2013? Will Marvel still continue to lead the pack, or will someone else head them off at the pass? Will the price point for DC and others be a hindrance going forward? Is there a publisher set to seriously jump the pack and, maybe not take the top spot, but jump ahead enough to make others take notice? Let us know what your thoughts are for 2013 and next year we can all regroup and see how right we were!