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October 2009: Flashbacks to the past

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Following the report on comics orders for October 2009, here's a look back at what was going on in previous years...

October 2008's top seller was Marvel's Secret Invasion #7, with first-month orders of approximately 154,600 copies in the direct market, slightly fewer than the previous issue. The midlist pushed deep this month, with the 300th place comic book selling more than 4,000 copies — resulting in what was then the best month to date in the Diamond Exclusive Era for Overall Sales, Top 300 Comics Dollar Sales, and Top Comics Plus Top Trades. The average cost per comic book in the Top 300 also set a record high. Check out the sales chart here.

October 2004's top-seller was Identity Crisis #5, with first-month orders of more than 125,500 copies. Initial orders for the Top 300 Comics were actually off more in October 2004 than they were in October 2009; a 20% drop. One part of it was that no issue of Avengers came out; Marvel had released two in September and would release two in November. Check out the sales chart here.

October 1999's top-seller was Uncanny X-Men #375, a $2.99 special issue with preorders of approximately 114,900 copies in the direct market. This ended a ten-month run for Uncanny as the top title; a stretch in which nothing else major was really going on. The big news of the month, though, was the Sandman: The Dream Hunters hardcover, which had preorders of more than 18,000 copies at $29.95, one of the earlier graphic novel releases to top the half-million dollar mark at full retail in preorders. Check out the October 1999 sales chart here.

October 1994 had a split decision atop the comics charts. Capital's list had the deluxe version of X-Men #39 in first, with Spawn #19 and #20 in second and third; Diamond's list had a complete reversal of the three positions, with Spawn #20 selling 5% more copies than the identically priced X-Men issue. Newsstand draws and for X-Men were likely higher, and it had subscription sales in the mix as well, so it likely gets the nod. Capital's orders for X-Men #39 were 94,850 copies; overall sales of the issue, including newsstand and subscription copies, were in the mid-300,000s.

Interestingly, in October 1994, the fastest-moving thing in most comics shops was not comics at all, but Magic: The Gathering, which was at the peak of its initial wave of popularity with recently released Legends display boxes going for four times suggested retail price.

October 1989's top seller at Capital City Distribution was Legends of the Dark Knight #2, edging out Batman #442, which cost fifty cents less and featured the first appearance of the Tim Drake Robin. It's probable that including newwstand sales and subscriptions, that regular Batman issue might have nosed into first; Capital's Legends #2 sales were 155,650 copies, while Batman #442 had Capital orders of 152,450 copies. It's a fair bet that with the newsstand bias toward less-expensive and ongoing titles (and the fact that Batman took at least a couple thousand subscribers into 1989), that issue may have been the true #1 book marketwide. Orders overall for the two issues overall were likely in the 600,000-copy neighborbood.

It's notable that the trade paperback was already beginning to make a market impact; the cover feature of the October 1989 Capital City Internal Correspondence magazine dealt with the increasing backlist. "We're reordering books in quantities I never thought possible," said Capital co-founder John Davis.

Finally, October 1984's top comic book was Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #10, marking ten straight months with the limited series in the top slot. The third-place title may have actually been the second-place title in dollar volume: DC's Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe #1.

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