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Marvel, DC Grow Market Share in Weak Comics Year

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Disney’s Marvel is expected to outshine Warner Bros.’ DC Comics in retail sales both in the comic book and licensed merchandise sectors this year as the comics market continues to battle flattish growth.

Marvel Comics and DC Entertainment nabbed a combined 68.3% share of all comic book and graphic novel sales in 2018, up from 66.4% last year, according to Diamond Comic Distributors. Marvel carried a 38.2% share of the market, compared to 30.0% for DC, thanks to an increase in share for Marvel and flat growth for DC (down 0.03%).

Overall, Diamond reports that sales of comics and graphic novels were down 1.1% for the year, with a 2.0% increase in comic sales not able to offset an 8.2% drop in graphic novel sales. This is actually positive news compared to the previous year, when sales were down 10.1% overall—comic sales were down 10.4% and graphic novels down 9.4% in 2017.

Meanwhile, retail sales of licensed merchandise based on comic book properties reached $1.28 billion in 2017, up 0.5% from the previous year, according to TLL’s Annual Licensing Business Survey.

In that same year of relatively flat overall growth, however, licensed retail sales of merchandise based on the top four comic book-based brands declined by 3% to reach a combined $1.8 billion, per TLL’s $100 MM Entertainment/Character list. Furthermore, preliminary TLL estimates suggest that in 2018, this trend will continue for another 10% dip in licensed retail sales domestically and up to 15% worldwide. In 2016, the top superhero brands grew 15%

The top four superhero brands as ranked by retail sales in the U.S./Canada made up 12.2% of the $100 million list’s total retail sales globally:

  1. Spider-Man (Disney): $1.4 billion in licensed retail sales worldwide in 2017
  2. Marvel Avengers (Disney): $1.2 billion
  3. Batman (Warner Bros.): $1.0 billion
  4. Superman (Warner Bros.): $0.7 billion

In the U.S./Canada, however, the Avengers led the ranking by licensed retail sales:

  1. Marvel Avengers: $537 million
  2. Spider-Man: $477 million
  3. Batman: $472 million
  4. Superman: $323 million

Domestically, Marvel carries 56% of licensed retail sales for the top comic-based properties, while DC is responsible for the remaining 44%—with a difference in share roughly equal to the share the two giants control in comic book and graphic novel sales.

A Closer Look at Comics Sales in 2018

Per Diamond, comic store market shares of three of the remaining publishers were up slightly (Image Comics, BOOM! Studios, and VIZ Media), and shares of the other five were down slightly (IDW Publishing, Dark Horse Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, Titan Comics, Oni Press).

Topping the list of the top ten comic books by units shipped in 2018 was the relaunch of a Superman title—dethroning Batman from the top spot.

  1. Action Comics #1000 (DC Entertainment)
  2. Amazing Spider-Man #800 (Marvel Comics)
  3. Batman #50 (DC Entertainment)
  4. Fantastic Four #1 (Marvel Comics)
  5. Amazing Spider-Man #1 (Marvel Comics)
  6. Return of Wolverine #1 (Marvel Comics)
  7. Venom #1 (Marvel Comics)
  8. Amazing Spider-Man #798 (Marvel Comics)
  9. Batman: Who Laughs #1 (DC Entertainment)
  10. Amazing Spider-Man #799 (Marvel Comics)

Meanwhile, the list of the top graphic novels by units shipped is led by a 1991 title whose sales were driven by the release of Avengers: Infinity War, which drew upon the storyline as part of its source material.

  1. Infinity Gauntlet TP (Marvel Comics)
  2. Saga TP Vol 09   (Image Comics)
  3. Saga TP Vol 01   (Image Comics)
  4. Saga TP Vol 08   (Image Comics)
  5. Action Comics 80 Years of Superman HC (DC Entertainment)
  6. Walking Dead TP Vol 29 Lines We Cross  (Image Comics)
  7. Paper Girls TP Vol 01 (Image Comics)
  8. Batman White Knight TP (DC Entertainment)
  9. Dark Nights Metal Deluxe Ed HC (DC Entertainment)
  10. Monstress TP Vol 01 (Image Comics)

DC recently increased the number of mass market stores selling its comics by 60% with a new program in Target with Funko. The publisher already has a similar program in some 3,000 Walmart stores. The new program puts a DC 100-page custom comic based on Funko’s Primal Age figure line in a Funko endcap featuring the figures.


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