Robot 6

Quote of the day | 2010’s bestsellers and half-full glasses

“Fun fact! NINE of the TOP TEN graphic novels in 2010 were creator-owned books! Walking Dead, Kick-Ass and Scott Pilgrim among them.”

Savage Dragon cartoonist Erik Larsen, speaking the truth. Of course, the flip side of this is that NINE of the TOP TEN graphic novels in 2010 had major Hollywood properties to thank for much of their notoriety, Walking Dead, Kick-Ass, and Scott Pilgrim among them. (The tenth was a Superman book that got over with mass audiences largely on the strength of a fortuitous press comparison to Twilight.) I don’t mean to short-change the success of Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard, Mark Millar, John Romita Jr., and Bryan Lee O’Malley, but proponents of creator ownership and creators’ rights probably ought not break out the MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner just yet.



It’s a big bucket of win for those titles and creators. Yes, their comics were big sellers this past year because of their translation in other media, but that leads to the biggest reason to celebrate this tally. Those titles made the jump to a varying degree of critically and financially successful tv shows/movies. Creator-owned comic properties. I don’t see a down-side at all.

Sean T. Collins

January 10, 2011 at 4:09 pm

I’m not saying there’s a downside, I’m just saying that personally, I was a lot more excited over the past few years when The Walking Dead dominated the graphic-novel charts or defied all conventional wisdom by BUILDING sales on individual issues month after month simply because it was an awesome comic, not because there was a TV show.

Yeah, even though I didn’t keep up with The Walking Dead I always applauded it for doing well, but I kinda rolled my eyes the other day when I say a whole row of Walking Dead tpb in the bookstore. I hardly saw it at all before hand, but now that it has a tv show it deserves to be ordered more. Still, good on Robert Kirkman and the others on this list for their success.

Had to beat people over the head regarding the same rationale right here three days ago, pre-Larsen’s quote:

Also consider that 8 of the top 10 spots were taken by volumes of the same two properties, which makes sense if someone is buying chapter 1 of a series and wants to read the rest as well.

If being a “major Hollywood property” were the major determinant of graphic novel success, where’s Iron Man? Where’s Red? Both did much, MUCH better at the box office than Kick-Ass or Scott Pilgrim did.

Where’s that “one must have” Iron Man graphic novel? Heck, I didn’t even SEE any volumes of RED in the bookstore.

Sean T. Collins

January 10, 2011 at 6:47 pm

A pretty good guide for when Hollywood properties will boost sales of the comics from which they are adapted goes like this:

1) The adaptation should be of a comic of finite length — either a standalone graphic novel or a short series in graphic-novel format.

2) The adaptation should be recognizably of a piece with the material from which it is adapted — the title, storyline, and tone should be pretty clearly similar or the same.

3) The adaptation should be of a property that the general audience isn’t already aware of as a comic — i.e. not something that’s obviously a comic-book superhero or humor franchise.

Add them all together and you’ve pretty much got the explanation for why movie/TV versions boosted sales for Hellboy, 300, Watchmen, Sin City, Ghost World, American Splendor, Scott Pilgrim, Kick-Ass, and The Walking Dead, while movie/TV versions almost never boost sales for the big-name Big Two superheroes. Now, there are exceptions, but they usually adhere to two of the three guidelines — eg. The Dark Knight is drawn from a famous comic-book property that has about a billion books to choose from, but DC was smart enough to position a finite number of titles as the go-to “source material” for the movie in terms of tone (and title!) if not a one-to-one plot correspondence (The Dark Knight Returns, Joker, Year One, Arkham Asylum).

So no, Iron Man doesn’t boost sales, because it’s obviously comic-booky and thus there’s no “oh, hey, I had no idea this sort of thing existed, I gotta go check this out” factor, and because there are a million Iron Man books to choose from and thus nothing gets the obvious boost. And no, Red didn’t boost sales, because the movie had so little to do with the look, tone, and plot of the comic. (I’d also imagine WildStorm’s woes made it hard for DC to get much marketing mojo behind it.)

@Jason Green – Joe H’s sarcasm answers your question. Iron Man is too distributed; there isn’t one single Iron Man produced property / (read: graphic novel) that every Joe Non-Comic-Reader would go to the shop to impulse buy after seeing the film. The funds instead get distributed when one person buys the latest issue of Iron Man, someone else buys an Avengers with Iron Man in it, and someone else buys 3 Iron Man back issues, and others buy some Iron Man action figures.

When you consider Kick Ass, Walking Dead and Scott Pilgrim, there much FEWER licensed properties (read: really only comic book trade paperbacks when you come down to it) for the consumer dollars to focus on, vs. a mainstream property like Iron Man.

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