Diamond Comics Distributors is the exclusive distributor of print comics to specialty comics shops, so their monthly numbers give a pretty good picture of the print comics market.
That market is dominated by Marvel and DC, but that dominance slipped a bit this month as both publishers had less than a 30% market share (in terms of dollars). This isn’t the first time that has happened—and in fact, DC had less than a 30% market share for much of 2013, but that’s because it was elbowed out by Marvel, which had almost 40% in March. For the two publishers combined to go below 60% of the market is much more unusual.
It’s tempting to attribute this to the strength of Image, the third-largest publisher, which has two solid hits with The Walking Dead and Saga, plus a suite of other well-regarded series. However, Image’s market share has fluctuated quite a bit this year, reaching a high of 9% in April, and it was actually a bit less than that, 8.67%, in November. IDW, the fourth largest publisher, also fluctuates but generally stays in the 6-7% range.
Looking down the chart to the other small publishers, though, a pattern seems to emerge: As a group, they are doing better. Dark Horse has been taking a steadily larger share all year, going from 4.55% in January to 6.55% in November. Dynamite, Eaglemoss, and Valiant are each taking a bit more of the pie, and Viz had a bumper month in November, with a 1.19% share, somewhat larger than usual.
While we don’t have comparable numbers for digital comics sales, I do track the digital comics best sellers each week, and Image has been a greater presence lately on comiXology (which is the digital distributor that most closely mirrors the direct comics market). Two weeks ago, DC was bumped off the top ten list entirely, as Marvel had six titles and Image had four.
Overall, year-to-date comics sales in brick-and-mortar stores are up by 11% and graphic novel sales are up by 5% compared to this time last year. This has been quite consistent over the past year or so: Despite speculation that digital comics sales would hurt brick-and-mortar comics stores, print and digital sales have gone up in tandem.
In terms of what’s selling, Batman #25 was the number one monthly comic in November, followed by Harley Quinn #0. Both are from DC. The top-selling Marvel comic was Amazing X-Men #1, in the number three slot. The two publishers each placed five comics on the top ten list, squeezing out Image and the other independents entirely. That means all those incremental sales that are squeezing out Marvel and DC are coming from lower down on the list.