by BK Munn
U.S. retailer Brian Hibbs has posted his annual report on the Bookscan numbers for comics and as usual it’s a fascinating read, as Hibbs crunches the numbers and compares them with past years. The big news is how a cluster of bestselling women cartoonists have really come to dominate book sales, but there is a ton of other interesting data to be pulled from his post. As Hibbs notes, it’s not a perfect list, but it’s the closest we are going to get to a big picture, in the sense of an idea of the actual numbers of books sold through bookstores and online retailers. You should read the whole thing. For the purposes of Sequential, dedicated as we are to covering news about specifically Canadian comics, there are lots of little tidbits on the list. By squinting real hard at the 750 titles Hibbs shares, we can compile an All-Canadian Bestselling Graphic Novel List. Outside of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Seconds, there are no Canadian books in the top 100. In fact, as near as I can tell, there are only 15 Canadian books on the entire list of 750, but I still think it’s worth a look.
As usual when I compile lists like these, I don’t include comics illustrated by Canadians but written by someone else. There would be bigger numbers if I noted Saga, written by Brian K. Vaughan but illustrated by Fiona Staples. All told, Vaughan’s books account for $2,079,475.60 in sales on Hibb’s list. I hope Staples is getting a fair share of that in royalties but regardless of her percentage and artistic contribution, it’s still I think essentially a Brian K. Vaughan joint, isn’t it? In these situations, I usually ask myself, “would this book exist in any form without the Canadian’s participation?” Maybe I’m wrong. Dunno. Ditto for Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky, the first volume of which sold 14020 copies on the list. It seems like a collaboration but Fraction is clearly labelled as writer and I didn’t see Zdarsky’s name mentioned when the series was recently optioned by Hollywood. Should it be characterized as a “Canadian comic?” Lastly, Toronto’s Francis Manupal is the writer AND artist of something called The Flash Vol.2: Rogues Revolution (7130 copies) but the Flash was apparently created by DC/Warner Brothers? Plus, the story is a continuation of a series started by another writer (Geoff Johns, I think).
That being said, there are still quite a few Canucks on the list. Bryan Lee O’Malley is the one to beat here, as usual. He has most of the spots in terms of both number of books and dollar amount (that boxset sells for over $50). Altogether, O’Malley’s books sold $1,862,308.35 in 2014 –and that number doesn’t include comic book stores.
This highlights a major point of Hibbs’ post: how few cartoonists actual make good money at this. As Hibbs noted, “only a small number of creators drive the majority of the business in comics (and books in general, I think); and conversely, this probably means that most comics aren’t actually significantly profitable any given year.”
Anyway, here is the list. The parenthetical number is the amount of copies sold.
1. Seconds, Bryan Lee O’Malley (26103)
2. Scott Pilgrim 1, Bryan Lee O’Malley (7769)
3. In Real Life, Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang (5667)
4. This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki (5650)
5. Scott Pilgrim 1 Colour, Bryan Lee O’Malley (5284)
6. Scott Pilgrim 2, Bryan Lee O’Malley (4905)
7. Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Boxset, Bryan Lee O’Malley (4324)
8. Through the Woods, Emily Carroll (3523)
9. Scott Pilgrim 2 Colour, Bryan Lee O’Malley (3445)
10. Scott Pilgrim 6, Bryan Lee O’Malley (3305)
11. Scott Pilgrim 3 Colour, Bryan Lee O’Malley (3282)
12. Scott Pilgrim 4, Bryan Lee O’Malley (3213)
13. Scott Pilgrim 5, Bryan Lee O’Malley (3148)
14. Trillium, Jeff Lemire (3080)
15. Hark! A Vagrant, Kate Beaton (2928)