2023 Comic Book Sales to Comics Shops

None of the three major distributors of comic books to comics shops — Diamond Comic Distributors, Penguin Random House, and Lunar DIstribution — released monthly sales data in 2023. The only resource provided by any of them was Diamond's reorder charts; they are seen at the links further below.

An industrywide indicator that does remain is new release slate size. Publishers express their view of the state of the market in several ways, including the number of releases that they send to the shelves, as well as the formats of those releases.

The above chart looks at everything that Diamond said it shipped in the year, plus all DC items released by Lunar. Most comics besides DC that Lunar distributes — like Image Comics — are offered wholesale by Diamond, so they'd be included in the above count. Likewise, while Marvel, IDW, and Dark Horse are distributed by Penguin Random House, most of those issues are likewise offered by Diamond. So the only thing missing from the above would be anything that Diamond didn't get from Lunar or Penguin Random House.

Before April 2020, the release counts are based on the number of items Diamond said it released each month during the year; Diamond made the decisions about what comics were originals and which were variants, as well as what constituted a comic book and what would be classified as a graphic novel. Following the fragmenting of distribution, Comichron examined the actual shipping lists and sorted "main editions" from variants, as well as comics from graphic novels. The figures are necessarily rough approximations, because judgment calls are involved to keep things consistent with Diamond's previously published data. (Magazine-sized publications, like Mad, aren't counted; it was always classsed in the magazine category.)

In 2023, the number of different comic-book periodical releases sent to market increased by 1% over 2022. It's a continuation, if a slowing, of the rebound from the pandemic-related shutdown of much of the industry in 2020. The number of new releases is still off 11% from 2019.

Marvel's count for the year appears to have increased by a little over one release per week; DC's slates shrank by a little less than that amount. Image nearly reached parity with DC. IDW's slate size grew significantly, while a newcomer, Scout, has in just five years surpassed 200 issues a year, placing seventh among publishers. Antarctic appears to be in ninth, with Archie and Zenescope nearly tied for tenth most prolific among periodical publishers.

Across time, the market saw periodical releases peaking in November, which had five New Comic Book Days — but the levels across time were relatively stable, with the second half of the year seeing 54% of new releases. The month breakdowns are based on when Diamond shipped titles, so it's possible some Penguin Random House issues might have arrived in shops at earlier dates.

The supply of new releases is an inelastic measure, as it takes some time for publishers to react to either an expanding or declining market; it's much harder to start a new series rather than to increase the number of variants or collected editions published, and schedules tend to be set well into the future. The sales decline for periodicals in 2017, for example, wasn't fully reflected by fewer new releases until 2019. But at least in terms of the number of new projects shipped to market in comic-book form, publishers appeared to continue to have faith in the periodical format, with no great revisions upward or downward.

Just looking at what shipped from Diamond and from DC through Lunar, both formats — comics and graphic novels — saw more new editions in release to comics shops during 2023. Meanwhile, the number of variants reached an all-time high, with 2.8 variants for every release.

There are a few cautions with this chart. The variant count is more solid, and includes reprint editions where there's a new cover. But there are many custom-published covers for specific retailers that do not appear in the records. Still, there are plenty: Marvel accounts for about 22% of the number of different variants but is followed close behind by Dynamite at nearly 20%. (Some comics that Diamond shipped have so many variants that the distributor's order codes for them go all the way through the alphabet from versions A to Z — and then ZA to ZZ —  and in one case, starting again with ZZA!.)

The graphic novel counts are much rougher. First, they don't include anything that was not offered by Diamond or Lunar—and our definitions for what constitutes a new graphic novel may not match anyone else's. Diamond's offerings in 2023 in particular were heavy on prose works, "light novels," and art books that were weeded out, as well as a variety of other books whose content could not be determined from their listings — but there's no practical way to catch them all. Finally, the similarity in the graphic novel counts overthe years may be an indicator more of what Diamond logistically chooses to stock; it's a buyer, in a sense, choosing from a larger menu, and it likely only has so many spaces for different SKUs.

Should Diamond or anyone else release official data for 2023, we'll include it here.

— John Jackson Miller


Reorder data from Diamond Comic Distributors for individual months can be found below. Covers for later months depict some of the top advance-reordered books for each month: