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July comics sales: Flashbacks to the past

Sunday, August 23, 2009

And now let's continue our look at what came before July 2009 — when Captain America Reborn #1 topped the charts with approximately 193,000 copies ordered by comics shops through Diamond...

July 2008's top seller was Marvel's Secret Invasion #4, with first-month orders of approximately 175,400 copies in the direct market, just slightly less than the previous issue. Check out the sales chart here.

July 2004's top-seller was Superman/Batman #11, eclipsing other strong contenders including Avengers #500 and Identity Crisis #2. Superman/Batman had final orders through Diamond in July of 143,720 copies. Check out the sales chart here.

July 1999's top-seller was Uncanny X-Men #372, with preorders of approximately 123,200 copies in the direct market. It was another disappointing summer month for the direct market, hoping to claw back from its worst slump then or now. It says something about the relative health of the industry today that comics shops ordered more copies of the Top 300 comics last month than ten years ago — at a dollar value 42% greater! Check out the sales chart here.

Although it's not the title that topped the charts in July 1994, Zero Hour: Crisis in Time was the most memorable phenomenon of the month. DC's five weekly issues of Zero Hour took sixth through tenth place at Diamond. What was the #1 book of the month? There was a split decision between the two major distributors, with X-Men #36 topping the charts at Capital City Distribution and Spawn #23 edging it out at Diamond. With its enhanced cover, the "Phalanx Covenant" X-Men #36 sold for $2.95, a dollar more than the Spawn issue — and it's certainly likely that when newsstand and subscriptions are figured in, X-Men had more copies in circulation. Capital City alone sold 125,550 copies of the issue, and total sales across all channels were probably closer to half a million copies.

But July 1994 was a "lackluster" month overall, to use the term in Capital's report. Internal Correspondence, speculating on why sales were off in what was supposed to be the peak order month for the year, put the blame on proliferation of titles, lack of quality titles, and cover prices. "Have comics simply priced themselves out of competition with other forms of entertainment?" asked Capital co-owner John Davis. "In the past, fans could afford to buy all of a publisher's releases each month. Given the current $2 to $2.50 price of most comics, that is no longer possible." (Demonstrating it's not a new debate at all — though to be exact, while Capital did figure a $2.51 average price for products in July 1994, that's not a weighted average. The top 50 comics had an average price of $1.90.)

July 1989's top seller at Capital City was Batman #439, concluding Marv Wolfman's "Batman Year Three." It was all Batman all the time in that first full month after the release of Tim Burton Batman film; the top four were another issue of Batman and two issues of Detective Comics. Capital City's preorders on the issue were 108,800 copies, and the true total is at least in the neighborhood of half a million.

Finally, July 1984's top comic book, both at Capital and most probably everywhere else, was Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #7, continuing the year-long mega-cross-over. Next month would come the new Spider-costume...


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