The year may change but the song remains. While American superhero comic book publishers have been busy shooting themselves in the foot over and over for the past five years, manga has grown into a sales monster. 2023 was no different. Manga continues to obliterate American superhero comics in an alarming fashion. Given the low quality of writing and bizarre editorial decisions at Marvel Comics and DC Comics, none of this is a surprise.
The Cirana BooksScan Top 20 Adult Graphic Novels sales chart for 2023 was dominated by manga titles. There were only two non-manga titles in the Top 20 Adult Graphic Novels sales chart. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin HC and The Mysteries HC by Bill Watterson. The remaining 18 graphic novels in the Top 20 Adult Graphic Novels were manga titles from Viz Media and Kodansha.
In the Circana BooksScan Top 20 Superhero Graphic Novels chart the first title from either DC Comics or Marvel Comics was Watchmen at the number 3 spot which sold 23,757 units. DC Comics had a total of twelve titles in the Top 20 Superhero Graphic Novels chart.
Those twelve DC Comics titles included five titles from the 1980s including Watchmen, Watchmen: The Deluxe Edition, Batman: Year One, Batman: The Killing Joke, and V for Vendetta. Another three titles were from the 1990s including The Sandman Book One, Sandman Book Two, and Batman: The Long Halloween. This means that eight of DC Comics’ twelve titles were from comics that are 25 years old or older.
Only four of DC Comics’ twelve titles came within the past six years including The Batman Who Laughs, Batman ’89 HC, Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, and Blue Beetle: Graduation Day. Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow and Blue Beetle: Graduation Day sold less than 10,000 units apiece for all of 2023. That is awful.
This is a damning indictment of what DC Comics has been producing in the past five to ten years. The fact that DC Comics has to rely on comic books from the 1980s and 1990s to power their sales in the Top 20 Superhero Graphic Novels chart should be embarrassing. This emphasizes how there is a large disconnect between what readers want from DC Comics and what DC Comics is actually delivering. How this can be continually ignored by DC Comics executives and editors is beyond me.
Marvel Comics only had two titles in the Top 20 Superhero Graphic Novels chart. Spider-Punk: Battle of the Banned sold only 12,481 units in 2023. Spider-Man: Miles Morales Vol. 1 sold just 8,873 units in 2023. Penguin Classics had two Marvel Comics properties in the Top 20 Superhero Graphic Novels chart. The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man HC, both reprinting classic Stan Lee tales, both sold in the 9,000 unit range for 2023. All of these 2023 sales numbers for Marvel Comics are awful.
Like DC Comics, Marvel Comics should be embarrassed. These are damning numbers. There is no reason why the largest American superhero publisher should be humiliated by manga sales in the United States in this fashion. Marvel Comics, like DC Comics, has suffered from poor leadership and questionable editorial decisions that have produced comics that are not clicking with their consumer base.
The Top 20 Manga Graphic Novels chart was dominated by Viz Media which had 18 titles in the chart. Kodansha Comics and Dark Horse Comics had one title apiece. The best-selling manga volume was Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba Vol. 1 which moved an amazing 148,468 units. Sales did not drop below the 100,000 unit mark until the number 7 spot where Chainsaw Man Vol. 12 sold 99,231 units.
The number one manga title in 2023, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba Vol. 1 sold six times more units than the best-selling DC Comics title for 2023. Watchmen. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba Vol. 1 sold twelve times more units than the best-selling Marvel Comics title for 2023, Spider-Punk: Battle of the Banned. That is shocking.
Even more dramatic is that the manga title in the number 20 spot on the Top 20 Manga chart, Jujutsu Kaisen Vol. 18 sold 64,577 units. That is almost three times more units than the best-selling DC Comics title for 2023. That is five times more units than the best-selling Marvel Comics title for 2023.
The gap between manga and American superhero comics is massive. The best-selling DC Comics and Marvel Comics titles are not even remotely close to the number 20-selling manga title. This should be embarrassing for Marvel Comics and DC Comics. The “Big Two” are getting completely pantsed by manga on a regular basis.
Whether Marvel Comics and DC Comics want to admit it or not they have a very real problem. There is something rotten inside of both companies and it is causing them to crumble and get blown away manga in their own backyard. Right now leadership at Marvel Comics and DC Comics are nothing more than Nero fiddling while Rome burns. As a long-time superhero comics fan, I can only hope that at some point the executives at DC Comics and Marvel Comics wake up and make some moves to save this industry before it is too late.