Marvel and DC Comics might still dominate the market share, but Image's "The Walking Dead" was the #1 title on both the comic book and graphic novel charts for comics retailers in 2012. According to Diamond, "WD" #100 beat Uncanny Avengers #1, Avengers #1, several issues of "Avengers Vs. X-Men," and "Amazing Spider-Man" #700 on their top ten list of best-selling comics for the year. On the graphic novel side, multiple volumes of the zombie title beat out "Batman: Earth One" and the first "New 52" Batman collected harcover edition.
This is all great and hardly surprising at all, as "The Walking Dead" has the full force of a widely popular TV show behind it. But how does Image -- who was #3 on the list of best-selling publishers, right behind Marvel and DC -- get this type of mega-numbers for their other titles such as "Saga"? Does a movie or TV show always have to be necessarily attached to the independent (and by independent, I basically mean any comic outside of the Big Two) comic in question in order to go toe-to-toe with the latest Batman or X-Men event?
But keep in mind: these are the sales rankings for comic specialty shops. The numbers for digital and book sales might paint a completely different picture. Looking right now at Amazon.com's best-sellers in their Comics and Graphic Novels section, for example, one doesn't find a cape or cowl until the early 30s, where such perrenial favorites as "Watchmen" and "The Dark Knight Returns" pop up. Most of the top 20 of that list is dominated by books for teens, such as various volumes of "Diary Of A Wimpy Kid," "Big Nate," and "Dork Diaries." "The Walking Dead" is up there too, as well as other non-superhero fare as "Maus," "Dilbert," and a collection of webcomic "The Oatmeal's" best cat jokes.
So maybe the larger question here isn't how the "indies" are going to compete with the Big Two, but how all these comic publishers are going to to compete with stories about sweetly nerdy kids. Or something like that.