Number Crunching: The top 20 comics of 2018 by sales estimates


Miniseries, relaunches, and anniversaries topped the comic book charts in 2018. Find out which of them are the twenty bestselling comics of the past year.

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It’s been some time (a very long time, in fact) since we’ve looked at comic book sales here at Bam Smack Pow! Yet with a new year comes new beginnings, new perspectives, and fresh outlooks. Thus, with the return of “Number Crunching,” it’s a look back at the bestselling comics of 2018.

When going over this list, it’s likely some will not be as surprised over which titles made it into the top 20. Other titles, however, will be very much a surprise. There are also those one would think would place higher only to be outperformed by close margins. Then there are those comics which, despite having issues placing high in the charts didn’t quite take advantage of its initial success.

As always, these figures are based on sales from dealer orders and not over-the-counter (as according to Comichron, ICv2, and Diamond Distributors). Likewise, “QTY” symbolizes it’s rank based the number of comics ordered, while “$” represents its rank based on how much money the comic made from orders.

However, instead of starting with number one and working down to number twenty, this list is presented in reverse order. Likewise, depending on the comic in question, we’ll see where the comic started at the beginning of the year compared to where it ended at year’s end.

Thus, the countdown for the top 20 comics of 2018 begins with…

Number 20

"20(QTY) — 31($) — Heroes In Crisis No. 1 (DC) — September 2018 — 150,609End of the Year (November 2018):Heroes in Crisis No. 3 (DC) — 85,970"

Commentary: Coming in at 20th place is the first issue of DC Comics’ newest event miniseries, a superhero murder mystery from Tom King, the current writer on Batman. The first issue of Heroes in Crisis also edged out some high-profile relaunches, including Avengers No. 1 and Tony Stark: Iron Man No. 1 from Marvel, and DC’s own Superman No. 1.

Yet in two months time, and despite issue No. 3 still ranking in the top 10 for November 2018, sales estimates for Heroes in Crisis dropped by 43 percent. It’s possible this could show reader response towards the series, particularly with how the first issue killed off fan favorites Roy Harper and the original Wally West. Whether the reasons, it looks as though the remaining issues of Heroes in Crisis won’t make the Top 20 for 2019.

Number 18   

"18(QTY) — 132($) The Magic Order No. 1 (Image) — May 2018 —  158,425End of the Year (October 2018):The Magic Order No. 4 (Image) — 27,959"

Commentary: Here’s another first issue for a miniseries which started off with extraordinarily high sales estimates. That it was also an independent comic from Image made these figures even more extraordinary. Then again, The Magic Order was also the latest offering from the controversial superstar comic book writer Mark Millar, and the first digital comic offered on Netflix. This was a series which not only targeted comic book geeks but also mainstream audiences.

However, Bleeding Cool‘s Rich Johnson cited another possible reason for the first issue’s high estimates: bulk orders offered at a discount rate.  Given the massive percentage difference between issue No. 1 and No. 4, it seems as though it’s a theory which holds some weight.

Number 15

"15(QTY) — 19($) — Captain America Vol. 9 No. 1 (Marvel) — July 2018 –172,142Start of the Year (January 2018):Captain America No. 697 (Marvel) — 37,030End of the Year (December 2018):Captain America Vol. 9 No. 6 (Marvel) — 44,626"

Commentary: Steve Rogers became so tarnished as a character in the wake of Secret Empire a revitalization wasn’t just necessary, it was essential. First, Marvel assigned comics veteran, Mark Waid to pen the series as part of their “Marvel Legacy” relaunch, leading towards Captain America No. 700. The estimates weren’t exactly stellar and ultimately diminished over time.

Then in July, as of part of the “Fresh Start” initiative, Marvel relaunched Captain America with a brand new “first issue.” This time, they assigned Ta-Nehisi Coates, who not only wrote comics like Black Panther, but “real books” like the National Book Award-winning Between the World and Me.  Such prestige (and the fact the comic was a relaunch) is what likely propelled Captain America No. 1 into the 3rd highest selling comic for July 2018. Even so, the estimates for the comic have still drastically diminished over time.

Numbers 19, 17, and 14

"14(QTY) — 15($) — Doomsday Clock No. 3 (DC) — January 2018 — 175,93217(QTY) — 16($) — Doomsday Clock No. 4 (DC) — March 2018 — 162,25319(QTY) — 18($) — Doomsday Clock No. 5 (DC) — May 2018 — 156,235End of the Year (December 2018):Doomsday Clock No. 8 (DC) — 124,725"

Commentary: Over the course of 2018 DC Comic’s crossover between Watchmen and the DC Universe garnered a notorious reputation, not for its content, but for its delays. What was originally intended as a monthly series suddenly came out every two months. In the case of Doomsday Clock No. 8 (the last issue for 2018), it was delayed by three months, which also pushed the release date for Doomsday Clock No. 9 to February of 2019. Little wonder then the estimates are decreasing by about ten thousand for each issue.

Despite the delays, however, Doomsday Clock continues placing within the monthly Top 10 with six-figure estimate totals. At least the series is consistent in that regard.

Number 13

"13(QTY) — 7($) — Uncanny X-Men Vol. 5 No. 1 — November 2018 — 187,108End of the Year (December 2018):Uncanny X-Men Vol. 5 No. 7 — 50,735"

Commentary: The return and relaunch of one Marvel’s most popular titles would, of course, make it the top comic for the month of November and one the top titles of 2018. The X-Men fan community remains very large, driven by a desire to see their beloved mutants rise to prominence over again (a prominence, they would argue, Marvel deliberately sabotaged simply because 20th Century Fox used to have full control over the film and television rights).

What made this latest volume of Uncanny X-Men different was that it was also a weekly series. This means even with low dealer orders, the combined totals from the new Uncanny X-Men would are potentially more than if it were still a monthly. Hence why within the same month, the estimates for issues No. 2 and 3 took sharp drops. As it stands, the difference between the estimate totals for Uncanny X-Men No. 1 and Uncanny X-Men No. 7 is more than seventy percent.  It will be interesting to see whether such a strategy still holds for the title in 2019.

Numbers 16 and 12

"12(QTY) — 11($) — Dark Nights: Metal No. 6 (DC) — March 2018 — 190,87016(QTY) — 22($) — Dark Nights: Metal No. 5 (DC) — January 2018 — 166,950"

Commentary: Despite ending during the first quarter of 2018, no other event-based miniseries from DC Comics has surpassed Dark Nights: Metal during the year. After all, it was a Batman-centric story which was a culmination of Scott Synder’s run on Batman (and some of Grant Morrison’s), which also lead towards a revamping of the Justice League. It also launched the heavily promoted, but far less successful, “Dark Matter” line, later changed to “New Age of DC Heroes.”

Perhaps another reason readers gravitated more towards Dark Nights: Metal. Despite its outlandish premise and abundance of tie-ins, it still had high stakes, fast pacing, and felt as though things were happening. In other words, it was event-driven storytelling done right. As for that Justice League revamp…

Number 11

"11(QTY) — 17($) — Justice League Vol. 4 No. 1 (DC) — June 2018 — 203,492Start of the Year (January 2018):Justice League Vol. 3 No. 37 (DC) — 45,313End of the Year (December 2018):Justice League Vol. 4 No. 14 (DC) — 62,640"

Commentary: Justice League Vol. 4 No. 1 success didn’t amount to having a popular writer in the form of Scott Synder scripting another relaunch of one DC Comic’s signature properties. Just as the Justice League No. 1 from the New 52 visually reflected DC’s creative direction, so too did the new Justice League No. 1. Whereas the New 52 pandered towards non-comic book readers weaned on Marvel Studios films, DC Universe is all about keeping loyal readers around with nostalgia. Having the Justice League’s latest roster (with the addition of Aquaman and Cyborg) almost identical to the lineup from Justice League: The Animated Series isn’t an accident.

Of course, the estimates aren’t nearly as large compared with the initial relaunch. At the same time, however, both issues of the series at year’s end still remained among the top 20 comics during the month of December 2018. Still, if DC wants this title to be their flagship comic again, they might want to spice things up a bit for 2019.

Number 9

"9(QTY) — 8($) — The Batman Who Laughs Vol. 2 No. 1 — December 2018 — 226,073"

Commentary: In hindsight, the Batman Who Laughs from Dark Nights: Metal was clearly designed to be the breakout villain from that crossover. After all, he’s a Jokerized version of the Dark Knight from a parallel universe, a literal manifestation of everything Bruce Wayne fears about himself. Naturally, Batman fans ate this up. Combine this with the character’s return in Justice League and the first issue with multiple variants, and The Batman Who Laughs No. 1 became the top comic for December 2018.

The question moving forward is will the next five issues also have six-figure estimates? While it’s doubtful the remaining installments of this miniseries will also have estimates over 200K, it’s possible it will still do very well. Reviews for issue No. 1 and issue No. 2 have been overwhelmingly positive, which could prompt potential readers still on the fence to go out and buy extra copies and the remaining four issues.

Number 7

"7(QTY) — 9($) — Venom Vol. 4 No. 1 (Marvel) — May 2018 — 248,669Start of the Year (January 2018):Venom No. 160 (Marvel) — 37,487End of the Year (December 2018):Venom Vol. 4 No. 9 (Marvel) — 64,271"

Commentary: 2018 was a successful year for the alien, brain-eating Spider-Man villain just in time for the character’s 30th anniversary. Despite negative critical reviews, the live-action Venom movie became the sixth highest grossing film of 2018. Moreover, Venom’s solo comic book series was undergoing a resurgence. After languishing post-Marvel Legacy, the series relaunched under the creative team of Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman, becoming the second best-selling comic in May of 2018.

As the year went on, the sales estimates for Venom did take a sharp decline. However, at year’s end, they’re also seventy percent higher compared to where they were in January 2018. This could be attributed to the title relaunch, but also readers having a positive response to the shift in creative direction. While the estimates will likely fall below 60K during 2019, it could still be considering successful if it can stay within the top 20 to 30.

Number 6

"6(QTY) — 6($) — Return of Wolverine No. 1 (Marvel) — September 2018 — 269,757End of the Year (November 2018):16(QTY) — 20($) — Return of Wolverine No. 3 (Marvel) — 61,487"

Commentary: Comic book fans often complain about death in comics because they (rightfully) cite it as nothing more than a publicity stunt. Whenever a character dies, orders and sales for the comic featuring said character’s death skyrocket. Likewise, when a character comes back from the dead, the orders and sales for the comic featuring said resurrection also skyrocket. Wolverine was no exception. Even though Marvel kept him dead for four years, there was always a sense Marvel would someday bring him back (especially once the news broke that Disney and Fox had struck a deal).

One thing to notice, however, is just how quickly the estimates for Return of Wolverine declined. Comic book miniseries, on average, do not keep up the same high numbers all the way through. Return of Wolverine No. 1 also had the benefit of having over forty different covers which lead to increased dealer orders. There’s also something else to consider. Maybe, after readers saw how Logan came back from the dead, they just shrugged their shoulders and moved on. That or they’re waiting for his return to the X-Men in Uncanny X-Men No. 12.

Number 4

"4(QTY) — 4($) — Fantastic Four Vol. 6 No. 1 (Marvel) — August 2018 — 381,689End of the Year (December 2018):Fantastic Four Vol. 6 No. 5 (Marvel) — 79,111"

Commentary: During the time of and after Fantastic Four‘s cancellation, Marvel gave all sorts of reasons for why they were no longer publishing Marvel’s First Family, including low sales. Business savvy fans knew better: the real reason was because 20th Century Fox owned the film rights to Fantastic Four and Marvel didn’t. Thus, it’s no surprise that when Disney, the company that owns Marvel, started negotiating a deal with Fox to buy back their IPs, Marvel started bringing the FF back and–surprise, surprise!–sales for Fantastic Four No.1 went through the roof.

What also helped boost sales of Fantastic Four‘s relaunch–aside from an excessive amount of variant covers–was also, ironically, the title’s absence. There’s an old saying that you don’t know what you really have until you lose it, i.e. we take for granted the things which makes us happy. That’s how it was with comic book fans and the Fantastic Four. Having taken the series for granted when it was around, they welcomed it back with open arms.

Number 3

"3(QTY) — 3($) — Batman Vol. 3 No. 50 (DC) — July 2018 — 412,541Start of the Year (January 2018):Batman Vol. 3 No. 38 — 98,440End of the Year (December 2018):Batman Vol. 3 No. 61 — 89,556"

Commentary: Aside from killing off a character, comic book weddings are also guaranteed sales boons. That’s especially true when said nuptials involve a long-standing romantic couple. Hence Batman No. 50, the promised wedding between the Caped Crusader and Catwoman that DC Comics and writer Tom King hyped and promoted for an entire year. And why wouldn’t fans buy the issue? Along with Superman and Lois Lane and Spider-Man and MJ, Batman and Catwoman are one of the most popular comic book couples ever. It was about time they tied the knot, they said.

Only there was no wedding. When readers picked up Batman No. 50, they found out Catwoman left Batman at the altar. Naturally, readers and retailers felt conned. At least DC allowed Batman No. 50 to be returned, but looks as though the damage was already done. What once regularly pulled in between high 90K and over 100K every issue, Batman, by the end of 2018, is now below 80K in estimates. Even though it still continues on as DC Comic’s top seller, it does seem it took a hit from the wedding that wasn’t.

Numbers 10, 8, 5, and 2

"2(QTY) — 2($) — Amazing Spider-Man No. 800 (Marvel) — May 2018 — 439,4655(QTY) — 5($) — Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 5 No. 1 (Marvel) — July 2018 — 298,2548(QTY) — 10($) — Amazing Spider-Man No. 798 (Marvel) — April 2018 — 242,35810(QTY) — 13($) — Amazing Spider-Man No. 799 (Marvel) — April 2018 — 206,033Start of the Year (January 2018):16(QTY) — 22($) — Amazing Spider-Man No. 794 (Marvel) — 51,412End of the Year (December 2018):Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 5 No. 12 (Marvel) — 76,282"

Commentary: Despite having a divisive run on The Amazing Spider-Man, writer Dan Slott seems to have had the last laugh in 2018. Aside from writing the highly successful Fantastic Four relaunch with Fantastic Four No. 1, his last story arc for ASM was likewise a huge success.  It also happened to coincide with the 800th issue of the series. Along with over forty variants and Batman No. 50’s returnability, Amazing Spider-Man No. 800 become the second-highest selling comic of 2018.

In addition, Amazing Spider-Man also underwent a relaunch with Nick Spencer at the helm. The (fifth) Amazing Spider-Man No. 1 also topped the charts nearly reaching 300K in sales estimates. By year’s end, a title which was dangerously close to falling below 50K now sits comfortably in the mid 70K range and back in the Top 10. All-in-all, a very successful year for Spidey.

Number 1

"1(QTY) — 1($) — Action Comics No. 1000 (DC) — April 2018 —  504,243Start of the Year (January 2018):33(QTY) — 53($) — Action Comics No. 995 (DC) — 41,987End of the Year (November 2018):30(QTY) — 30($) — Action Comics No. 1005 (DC) — 49,601"

Commentary: Of course, the anniversary issue of Action Comics, which also celebrated Superman’s 80th Anniversary, would be the number one comic of the year. Not only was it the number one comic in April of 2018, it also was the 23rd bestselling comic the following month. At over half-a-million copies, it’s also likely that Action Comics No. 1000 is the bestselling comic of the decade.

There’s a bit of a sour note, though. By year’s end, estimates for Action Comics seem to have fallen back near to where it was before. This would suggest that sales for Action Comics No. 1000 was fueled less by fans of the Man of Steel and more by comic book collectors and would-be speculators. It was less about the content and more about the history of the occasion. Nevertheless, it’s still a remarkable achievement for the world’s first and now longest running superhero.

Next. Number Crunching: The top 20 comics by sales estimates for July 2018. dark

Now that you’ve seen which comics were the top sellers of 2018, what are your thoughts? Do you believe they’re deserving of their success? Did one of your favorites make it? If not, what do you think the creators or publishers have to do to turn things around? Also, what are some of your predictions for comics in 2019, including which ones will be in the top 20 for January of 2019?