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More than 147,000 comic book and graphic novel circulation figures online!
Welcome to Comichron, a resource for comic book circulation data and other information gathered by
John Jackson Miller and other pop culture archaeologists interested in comics history.

 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top comics of the year -- for 1992, 1993, and 1994!

by John Jackson Miller


It's the week for end-of-year lists — but as Diamond Comics Distributors won't release its December sales figures until later next week, the comics year isn't over. (It's probable that Avengers #1 will be the top seller for the year, but we'll see.) So instead I present not one, but three end-of-year lists — from 1992, 1993, and 1994, representing the peak of the speculator market and beginning of the crash.

Earlier this year, The Comics Chronicles added individual months from 1995, getting us past the period when Marvel's titles were not available from other distributors and, thus, not included in sales charts. (Read more about that "lost year.") That allows us to move back into the boom times of the early 1990s; 1993 saw the highest dollar sales (and, I believe, quite possibly the highest unit sales) in the history of the American comic book industry. It also shows, at a glance, one of the reasons that Marvel bought its own distribution company.

1992 was the first year that I can find in which Diamond published end-of-year rankings. The Top 300, as well as the Top 50 Trade Paperbacks (many of which are actually just pricier comics) can be seen here. Not surprisingly, Superman #75 was the top seller for the year both at Diamond and at Capital; the "Death of Superman" issue released in November 1992, leading to the single-highest dollar volume day in comics sales history. The year also saw the founding of Image and the release of Spawn #1, although in market shares, Image was still being counted as part of Malibu. Only Capital published dollar shares that year:

1992
Marvel • 45.76%
DC • 20.91%
Malibu (including Image) • 8.55%
Dark Horse • 5.55%
Valiant • 4.11%


Now, by 1993, as the market moved upward to its "Return of Superman" peak in April (when a monumental 48 million comic books shipped), the dollar shares at Capital had completely changed:


1993

Marvel • 33.43%
DC • 19.00%
Image • 14.79%
Valiant • 9.35%
Malibu •  3.52%
Dark Horse • 3.36%


Suddenly, we had the "Big Six" — and whereas in 1992, the Malibu/Image/Valiant/Dark Horse grouping accounted for 18% of dollar sales, in just a year it was up to 31%, most of it coming out of Marvel's hide. In Diamond's year-end rankings for 1993, the top Marvel book came in 14th place!


Again, the market peaked in 1993, so by 1994 —which started off horribly, with a thousand of the approximately 11,000 stores shuttering in January alone — the pie began to seriously shrink. Marvel's dollar share continued to shrink, as well. So while Marvel's purchase of Heroes World later in the year to distribute its own was certainly a shock to the system, some of the motives are apparent. Marvel had contributed to the creation of a market with historically low barriers to entry — most anyone who wanted to publish a comic book could do so (and was doing so, with as many as 600 titles a month coming out in this period). By running its own distributor, it wouldn't be subsidizing potential rivals. It could well be argued that the low barriers to entry helped all publishers, Marvel included — but looking at the scale of the market share loss above, we do get a sense of the circumstances that were surrounding the decision. (Marvel also bought Malibu in 1994, so the Big Six became the Big Five at that point.)


While Capital and Diamond each published end-of-year Top Sellers lists, I've only published Diamond's so far — although in all three cases, the distributors disagree on the top title for the year. Capital actually ranked Superman #75 in fourth for 1992, putting Spider-Man #26 in the top slot; but I'm guessing overall, Diamond's probably got the right top seller. Diamond ranks more copies sold of the cheaper Return-of-Superman book Action #687 by the end of 1993, but with the variants, I'd guess that Capital's top title, Adventures of Superman #500, is the better bet for top seller of the year. And in 1994, Diamond's report doesn't make much sense, placing Violator #1 as the top title — a book that didn't make the top 20 for the year at Capital. (Diamond also listed Codename: Stryke Force #1 at #3, which failed to make Capital's top 200 for the year.) Capital listed Generation X #1 as its top issue; my bet would be that the true top issue marketwide was more likely Spawn/Batman, the #2 book at both distributors.

The new pages for 1992-94 also include the covers for the #1 title each month from Diamond and Capital; the actual ranking pages for those months will appear here later. We do see some disagreement here again from time to time between the Diamond and Capital charts, mainly over Spawn, which appears to have done slightly better at Diamond.

Also, a graphic navigation grid has been added to the Yearly Comics Sales page, giving access to all of the annual pages. The end-of-year Diamond lists from later years are waiting to be uploaded, but I wanted to get these early years up first. My thanks to T.M. Haley for help entering the data!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

November sales actually up, though prices were too

by John Jackson Miller

November was the second month for which Diamond published percentage change information for its overall comics and trade paperback sales — and a number of kinks are still being worked out of the process. Many (but not all) are on my end, as you'll read — and as such, it took about three weeks in all for me to publish the sales charts and estimates for November 2010.

Running and re-running my calculations on the Top 300s, I became increasingly convinced that Diamond had transposed the columns for units and dollars in its table when it reported those percentage changes in November. As released, the table showed comic units down 5% and dollars down 10% year-to-year— which I realized was probably impossible, given that the average cover price of comics ordered jumped to its highest level in history in November. Diamond's Dan Manser confirmed to me yesterday that the columns had, indeed, been accidentally transposed; I have made the corrections everywhere those figures appear on the site.

The Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye (v. 1)The table is extremely complicated, so it's not a hard mistake to make at all; I realized today that I had flip-flopped unit and dollar market shares last month, myself — although just on the website, not in my calculations. (That has also been corrected.) Ultimately, the revision is very much good news because it means that overall dollar orders for comic books and trade paperbacks were actually up by less than a percent — as opposed to down the originally reported 8%, which was really the case for units. Trade paperback sales, helped by Walking Dead, were sufficient to recover the ground lost by comics in dollars.

But let's get back to the cover price matter, which is pretty significant. The average title in the Top 300 cost $3.78, which is a record, but it's really the weighted price that's the big mover. The average comic book retailers ordered in the Top 300 cost $3.69, which breaks the old record by 11¢! The median and most common prices were $3.99, and we can see the following breakdown within the chart:

104 titles at $2.99
14 titles at $3.50
154 titles at $3.99
12 titles at $4.99

That's right: more than half the titles in the Top 300 cost $3.99, for the first time ever. Pricing strategies are changing at the major publishers, but they haven't changed yet.

The aggregate totals are here:

TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES
November 2010: 5.48 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: -11%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -15%
Versus 10 years ago this month: -4%
YEAR TO DATE: 63.64 million copies, -7% vs. 2009, -9% vs. 2005, unchanged vs. 2000

ALL COMICS UNIT SALES
November 2010 versus one year ago this month: -10.2%
YEAR TO DATE: -5.79%

---

TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES
November 2010: $20.24 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -6%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +4%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +31%
YEAR TO DATE: $225.39 million, -4% vs. 2009, +12% vs. 2005, +29% vs. 2000

ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES
November 2010 versus one year ago this month: -4.86%
YEAR TO DATE: -4.64%

---

TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
November 2010: $7.2 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +18%
Versus 5 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: -1%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: +87%
YEAR TO DATE: $69.79 million, -4% vs. 2009

ALL TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
November 2010 versus one year ago this month: +11.7%
YEAR TO DATE: -3.22%

---

TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
November 2010: $27.44 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -1%
Versus 5 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: +3%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +18%
YEAR TO DATE: $295.13 million, -4% vs. 2009

ALL COMICS AND TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
November 2010 versus one year ago this month: +0.24%
YEAR TO DATE: -4.18%

---

OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)
November 2010: approximately $35.8 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +2%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +11%
YEAR TO DATE: $382.13 million, -3% vs. 2009

Now, in last month's report and a later revision, I attempted to use the new percentage change figures (which were in their correct columns in October) to figure out what lay in the long tails for comics and graphic novels. With a second month to look at — Diamond also provides month-to-month percentage changes — I was able to look more closely at my model's performance in projecting these overall totals. I've determined that while it's something I may look at year-end, and next year once I get some more baselines, there are too many sources of error involved for a reliable reading.

As readers may know, the Overall Diamond Sales calculation I have computed for eight years here uses the Diamond Market Shares in conjunction with the known complete sales of one or more publishers. (Here's a primer on the calculation.) But there are a couple of problems. Diamond's percentage changes are for comics and trade paperbacks, but its market shares include magazine publishers. Between Wizard, Titan, Eaglemoss, and others, there's usually about 1-2% of the "Overall Diamond Sales" in dollars that you won't find in the Comics Plus Graphic Novels category. This is part of the reason that you'll see, above, that Diamond said all comics and graphic novels were off 4.18% year-to-date, while my Overall total loss is closer to 3%.

But it's not the only reason. Since these are year-to-year comparisons, they're only as good as the data being compared — and if there's a margin of error in the current month's Overall dollar figure, there's also one in the total for the same month in 2009. So that's an additional reason the percentage changes don't square up perfectly.

Finally — and this is pretty complicated indeed — Diamond bases its Dollar Market Share table on wholesale dollar sales: what the publishers actually realized from the sales, not the total cover price of everything. This controls for variations that occur when certain promotions boost the number of items sold, but not the dollar value. Every month, some merchandise goes through the system at a fraction of their usual prices — how much varies by the publisher, and what promotions they have running. Those sales will show up in the unit market shares, but won't make a dent in the dollar shares. A $20 trade sold to a retailer for a dollar will be counted as a dollar.

The problem is that while a wholesale dollar value can be calculated for the market with reasonable certainty — this month, it's $15.22 million — we can't know for sure what the wholesale rate is for the market, because it's different for every publisher, and it's different for them every month. One publisher I see full data from receives 42.5% of cover price on average, but that figure ranges up or down two or three points every month depending on the mix of titles offered and promotions going on. Multiply that times every publisher — some of which have different discount platforms — and you see that the full retail value can't be figured exactly in any given month from available data: only approximated. My Overall full retail value calculation of $35.8 million this month is what you'd get if the $15.22 million wholesale were 42.5% of the whole pie, but the size of the wedge might be slightly different. I use a rolling average of monthly discount rates, but there will always be some bumps.

Unfortunately, the figure here known to the greatest degree — total wholesale dollars — is a tough one to report, for that reason. Most people understand industry sales as encompassing every dollar made through a comic book's sale: the publisher's share, the distributor's share, and the retailer's share. The cover price. Describing industry performance through wholesale dollars is probably better suited for a business-to-business publication: most of the rest of us are more interested in how big the total pie really is.

But while I've reported these approximate Overall totals in the past and will continue doing so, there's just a few too many variables involved to apply them to the percentage changes on a monthly basis. We have a pretty good ballpark guess at what's in the long tail as it is; I'm not confident that running the additional algebra every month will improve the guess by much. So I've backed out the projections for Overall Comics and Overall Trade Paperback unit and dollar sales from the October page — and in future, will be running the Diamond percentage changes without attempting to nail down what each sector's size is. The Top 300 calculations will, of course, continue, as will the Overall calculation. Just understand their changes each month will differ slightly from the Diamond changes; they're reporting on different groupings of product, and doing so with different margins of error.

That's it. There are now more than 75,000 sales figures and rankings here on the site!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Flashback Friday: NYT on "Heroes Reborn"

by John Jackson Miller

No time for a longer flashback today, but with the New York Times moving much content back behind a paywall in January, now is probably a good time to search for any of those comics articles you'd like to see before the change.

I was amused to find an interview with me from September 1996, back when Marvel was launching "Heroes Reborn": the story mentioned that I was "compiling the industry's first long-term data base." (Actually, September 1996 was the first month that I had published monthly estimates for the industry, so I really was just getting started!) At any rate, there are some interesting numbers in there about Marvel's business at the time — just a few months before it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Flashback Friday: Xander in Lost Universe

by John Jackson Miller


A brief flashback today on a title that had a brief run: Gene Roddenberry's Xander in Lost Universe, a part of the Tekno-Comix line from 1995. A part of Big Entertainment, Tekno-Comix was a short-lived attempt to build series around the names and concepts of celebrities ranging from Leonard Nimoy to John Jakes.

It was the largest major new publisher launch to come in the downturn of the mid-1990s, and involved a million-dollar advertising and promotional blitz. The first issues of its flagship titles, appearing in November 1994, actually placed 24th and 25th at Diamond Comic Distributors — but the curiosity factor soon faded, and by March 1995, those titles were out of the Top 60.

The concepts of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, who had died in 1991, appeared at Tekno early in 1995 in the seven-issue series, Gene Roddenberry's Lost Universe. The follow-up series, Xander in Lost Universe ran longer, with nine issues (including a zero issue).

As part of the overall effort to walk the major-publisher walk, Tekno gave its titles newsstand distribution and sold subscriptions during its brief run. That resulted in a single Statement of Ownership for Xander, appearing here. But the filing, appearing in #4, came much too soon in its run for the numbers to mean much of anything: unless Xander was considered the same series as the preceding Lost Universe title for subscription and accounting purposes (a definite possibility), the publisher would not have had a complete picture of returns from the newsstand. In any event, the higher sales on the first issue (or, rather, the zero issue) of Xander would have greatly distorted average sales.

The title did not survive to a second filing, so what we see here is what we get. Click to see more Title Spotlights!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Amazon gives Bookscan data access to authors

by John Jackson Miller

BookScan, the A.C. Nielsen service that tracks book sales using point-of-purchase information in thousands of bookstores — plus online sales from Amazon — has now made its sales data available through Amazon. If you're the book's author, that is. As the Los Angeles Times also reports, Amazon has added a Sales Data tab to the dashboards of Amazon Author Central accounts, providing geographical breakdowns of sales.


Sample of Amazon's geographical breakdown for a title
As an Amazon author, I took a test drive. First of all, a main page aggregates all an authors' sales over a four-week period, allowing you to see which of your books sold the most copies. Maps show the geographical breakdowns of sales — only the continental United States is depicted.

In the drilldowns, there are per-title sales by week, with four-week tracks that can be viewed by title or format, such as paperback and hardcover. Amazon Ranking History is also included, showing a book's ranking at Amazon over time. (To see how far back the tracking went, I checked on one of my older books; the three major graphics provided appear here, minus identifying detail.)

Sample of Amazon's Bookscan four-week copy counts for a title
Graphic novels and trade paperbacks are included for tracking. The Times report says that "BookScan's sales tallies do not currently include sales of e-books, for the Kindle or other devices," Amazon says, but I was able to view the Ranking History for my own e-books across time. So while Kindle numbers aren't provided, you do see the tracking. The "all available" track goes back six months for Kindle items; a little more than a year on books.

BookScan combines sales reported by participating retailers, including Borders and Walden, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, Target, and Buy.Com. Some retailers do not participate, including Wal-Mart and Sam's Club. As such, it amounts to what Nielsen says is 75% of book sales in the United States. Diamond's sales through comics shops are not included.

Sample of Amazon's Rank History track for a title
Now, the trick with Amazon Author Central is that while it initially populates your list of titles based upon Amazon's records of author names, the search engine is not infallible; some of my own books are there, some not. It is up to the author to submit corrections to the list — a painless process, you just visit your book's page on Amazon and copy the item number. Those corrections are reviewed at Amazon, so you can't just create an account and track anybody's books.

The four-week track means it's more of a system designed to provide creators snapshots, as opposed to their own accounting system; you'd have to record the numbers every week. As yet, it's only a graphical interface; you can't pull down a table or Excel chart. Presumably that is a possibility for the future.

Still, this is a major innovation and one that will be very useful to many creators. Amazon gives an creator or author credit in its system not just to writers of graphic novels, but also to artists, so presumably, those creators would be eligible to apply for Amazon Author Central accounts as well.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Diamond November comics sales down, trades up

by John Jackson Miller


Diamond Comic Distributors has released its initial sales report for November 2010, a month in which it appears that dollar sales on collected editions including TV-boosted Walking Dead jumped nearly 12%, while comics dollar sales dropped nearly 5%. Combined dollar sales were slightly up, by less than 1%. Last November was boosted in part by the ring promotion DC did for Blackest Night, so it was a pretty strong month to be comparing against; comics sales were up 12% in dollars that month versus November 2008.

The Walking Dead Volume 13Batman: The Return scored the top spot for DC, which accounted for eight of the top ten comic books. (The list can be seen here.) Walking Dead Vol. 13 led the top collections list, which included a repeat appearance for last month's chart-topper, Superman: Earth One. It continues to look like a challenging year for comics, one in which the bright spots really stand out.

Diamond releases the new market performance information in a grid that includes a lot of data, which I have sought to simplify by separating things out here. (12/28 update: Diamond initially transposed unit and dollar reports; all have been corrected here):

Total comics unit sales:
Versus 1 year ago this month: -10.2%
Year to date: -5.79%

Total comics dollar sales:
Versus 1 year ago this month: -4.86%
Year to date: -4.64%

Total trade paperback and graphic novel unit sales:
Versus 1 year ago this month: +14.84%
Year to date: -4.35%

Total trade paperback and graphic novel dollar sales:
Versus 1 year ago this month: +11.70%
Year to date: -3.22%

Total comic, trade paperback and graphic novel unit sales:
Versus 1 year ago this month: -8.28%
Year to date: -5.66%

Total comic, trade paperback and graphic novel dollar sales:
Versus 1 year ago this month: +0.24%
Year to date: -4.18%

I'm still in the process of revising and refining the estimate for Overall sales in October, which would thus impact the estimates of how much of the market fell outside the Top 300 charts. It looks that while the market may have moved as much product as my estimates expected, the discount rate increased, meaning publishers took in less money for them — and as the Diamond market shares on which the Overall sales are based on wholesale dollar revenues, the Overall total for the month is lower than I initially projected. The change won't mean much to the year-to-date totals, but it does impact the other projections. I expect that as we continue to work with the new Diamond figures, it'll become easier to see when discounting has come into play.

There are now 191 months of Diamond data online at The Comics Chronicles; check them out from the beginning of our posted data, here. And don't miss our Flashback Friday piece, today delving into the sales of Vampirella in the 1970s.

Flashback Friday: Vampi and Spidey, a tale of two 'zines

by John Jackson Miller and Joyce Greenholdt

We've added two magazines to our Title Spotlight section this week, but apart from their physical sizes and the fact that there are comics inside, they don't have a thing in common but the staples.

Warren Publishing released the first issue of Vampirella in 1969. Like its sister publications, Creepy and Eerie, it was a black-and-white horror anthology aimed at an older audience. Unlike Uncle Creepy and Cousin Eerie, Vampirella usually starred in the main story of each issue as well as hosted the other features.

Sales figures for the magazine weren't published until 1974, but for six of the nine years in which Warren published circulation statements, Vampirella's average paid circulation stayed above 90,000 copies per issue. In its final three years, sales dropped steadily each year. However, looking at the sell-through numbers, the title consistently stayed above 55% throughout, much better than the "print three to sell one" newsstand model of the time for comics.

Warren's Vampirella lasted for 112 issues, ending shortly before the company declared bankruptcy. Harris Publications acquired the company's assets and later published Vampirella #113, reprinting earlier stories, as well as a number of Vampirella comics series and mini-series. Dynamite Entertainment acquired the rights to Vampirella earlier this year and has announced plans to release hard- and softcover collections of both the Warren and Harris materials.

Moving into the 1990s, Marvel's Spider-Man Magazine came out of the company's partnership with and eventual acquisition of children's publisher Welsh Publishing. The magazine was aimed at younger readers and contained, in addition to comics stories featuring Spider-Man and the X-Men, a variety of other features, including jokes and puzzles. Other titles, inlcuding one combining National Football League coverage and comics, came out of the Welsh partnership.

The sole circulation statement for the short-lived series (only about 10 issues made it to the newsstand) would have been released before much sales data could have been accumulated, but the numbers it shows are troubling, particularly the sell-through figure of 24.9%. Since Spider-Man Magazine wouldn't have had much of any sales through the Direct Market comics shops, whatever the newsstand sales were would be about all it had.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

October 2010 Flashbacks: X-Factor #1, Infinite Crisis #1, and more

by John Jackson Miller

Following the report on comics orders for October 2010, here's a look back at what was going on in previous years...

October 2009's top seller was DC's Blackest Night #4, with first-month orders of 136,100 copies copies. By the end of the year, it would have orders of more than 140,200 copies, making it the eighth-best-selling comic book of 2009.  Blackest Night helped DC take the top six slots on the chart for what was likely the first time since 1968. But it was a down month overall. There was a particularly steep drop of 30% in dollar orders for the Top 100 Trade Paperbacks; DC had Watchmen and a heavily ordered Joker hardcover in  October 2008. Comparatives were tough on the comics side, too, with issues of Secret Invasion and Final Crisis topping the charts in the previous year. Check out the detailed analysis of the month's sales here — and sales chart here. 


October 2005's top-seller was huge: DC's Infinite Crisis #1 moved nearly a quarter million copies in its first month. Reorder months that also charted would put its total higher than 270,000 copies, making it the 10th best-selling comic book of the 2000s. (See the whole list here.) The month was up 4% in overall dollars over the same month in 2004. Check out the sales chart for October 2005 here.

October 2000's top-seller in preorders was Marvel's Uncanny X-Men #387, with Diamond preorders of 113,700 copies; it didn't make the Top 300 list for the decade. But, again, while reorders weren't reported at the time, the release with the most momentum was certainly Ultimate Spider-Man. Issue #2's preorders were 47,000 copies, putting it in 18th place, but reorders certainly would have placed it higher, had they been reported. The title didn't really begin to move in initial orders until December. Otherwise, it was a pretty blah month, with no major launches. Check out the sales chart here.

  October 1995 finally brings us to the end of Capital City Distribution's unit sales reports, which had begun more than a decade earlier. While it had ceased to distribute Marvel comics after July 1995 due to Heroes World's exclusive and DC comics after September 1995 due to Diamond's exclusive, Capital City polled its retailers in July, August, September, and October on what they'd sold. In October, it found X-Men Vol. 2, #47 at the top of the list; the title very likely outsold the top-seller at Diamond, Spawn #37. Check out Diamond's sales charts for October 1995.

Capital sold 50,150 copies of Spawn #37, a large drop from when Capital was a full-line distributor: Image had been announced as a Diamond exclusive by this point, and retailers were already placing orders with Diamond for Image's December-shipping titles in October. Dark Horse went exclusive with Diamond as of November-shipping titles. In its November retail publication, Capital City replaced its unit sales table with a dollar sales table that included all of its products, not just comics.

All Diamond charts from 1995 and early 1996 have been added to the website; read more about it here.

October 1990's top seller at Diamond and Capital City was Todd McFarlane's Spider-Man #5. Marvel sold 587,500 copies of the issue through all channels, including 507,400 copies in the Direct Market (including 143,400 through Capital).

October 1985's top seller at Capital City was Marvel's X-Factor #1, with orders of 77,800 copies through Capital; overall sales were likely north of 400,000 copies. Secret Wars II crossovers were also continuing to appear in many Marvel titles; Uncanny X-Men #232 was one, ranking as the second-place title. Crisis on Infinite Earths, nearing its conclusion, saw its 11th issue place fourth. The big buzz of the month, though, was that John Byrne — the force behind X-Factor #1 — would be taking over Superman in 1986; the reboot ultimately made a huge difference to Superman's sales.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Lost Year: Exclusivity War months from 1995-1996 now online

by John Jackson Miller
In place of this week's Flashback Friday, a much more expansive look back on the past. With the help of T.M. Haley, I'm pleased to announce the expansion of monthly sales rankings into a tumultuous stretch of history: 1995 and 1996, the period of the Exclusivity Wars in the comic-book Direct Market.

I've written in more detail about the period before. When Marvel took its direct market comics distribution to its own distributor, Heroes World, in July 1995, it was no longer possible to look at a single distributor's rankings to see a real top-seller list. This posed a problem for anyone tracking on the outside, because Heroes World did not publish unit sales charts the way that Diamond Comic Distributors and its top competitor, Capital City Distribution did. This remains a problem — while I have nearly enough data to create unified charts, I feel it's important to get some of the materials I do have online now.

So what we have now is a bifurcated track for individual months: pages before September 1996 come in two flavors, Diamond and Capital. All rankings for Diamond have been added back to January 1995, so we now have complete coverage of the period when retailers had to have both a Diamond and a Heroes World account to carry Marvel and DC. I also have online the Capital City rankings for January 1995, so you can see the difference. For Capital, I have the actual number of copies that Capital sold, from files rescued from the distributor after it ceased operations; for Diamond, I just have an estimate of what the order index number may amount to. I expect to refine those estimates and unify the charts at a later date.

As you can see, the Capital list is much longer than the Diamond list; Capital published close to a Top 600 list at the time. For that reason — and also because its market share was smaller — I expect that the other nine Capital monthly tables from 1995 will take longer to get online, whereas I expect to have February through August 1995 online for Diamond relatively soon. There are no Capital unit sales records from after October 1995; thereafter, it only reported dollar sales for the few publishers it could still carry.

On that score, it is worthwhile to note that, because of the fact that not everything was available from all publishers, you shouldn't judge much from the individual distributors' lists. The Diamond lists have no Marvel books at all, obviously — but they also over- and under-represent at times the performances of some publishers. Diamond captured all the sales of DC, for example, in months where a retailer could still order its competitors' titles from other distributors. A quick thumbnail sketch of what was available from whom in what ship months:

July 1995
• Marvel only available from Heroes World, beginning this month.
• DC only available from Diamond and Capital City, beginning this month.

September 1995
DC only available from Diamond, beginning this month.

November 1995
Dark Horse only available from Diamond, beginning this month.
Broadway only available from Diamond, beginning this month.
Coppervale only available from Capital, beginning this month.

December 1995
Image only available from Diamond, beginning this month.
Acclaim only available from Diamond, beginning this month.
Gemstone only available from Diamond, beginning this month.
Wizard only available from Diamond, beginning this month.
Kitchen Sink only available from Capital, beginning this month.

January 1996
Crusade only available from Diamond, beginning this month.
London Night only available from Diamond, beginning this month.
Viz only available from Capital, beginning this month.

March 1996
Sirius only available from Diamond, beginning this month.
Chaos only available from Diamond, beginning this month.

May 1996
Viz backlist returns to Diamond.

June 1996
Archie only available from Diamond, beginning this month.

July 26, 1996
• Diamond buys Capital. Viz and other publishers return to Diamond.

February 7, 1997• Marvel announces the signing of a service agreement with Diamond and the intent to fold Heroes World

April 1997
Marvel returns to Diamond. Heroes World folds.

That's all the major moves that I can find records for, but there were almost certainly more; the announcements came like drumbeats. I recall joking at my San Diego panel in 1996 that "I hadn't seen so many college kids signing contracts since the NBA draft." Perhaps an inadvisable comment, given the publisher and distributor speakers present — but it certainly was a frenzy, and as you can see, the tempo of events quickly went against Capital, following the San Diego 1995 announcements that Image, Dark Horse, and Acclaim were going exclusive with Diamond.

Capital wrapped up Kitchen Sink, Viz, and James Owen's Coppervale, but there weren't many players left; Fantagraphics, much courted, held out. Other publishers simply signed agreements saying they'd continue selling to a particular distributor; Diamond touted a few of those "supply agreements" in its magazine. (Capital also got a comics-market exclusive with TSR, the game company, but that firm was having troubles of its own; Wizards of the Coast bought it on April 10, 1997.) I'd actually forgotten Archie picked a side, but it was all but over by then.

As to the performance of the comics industry in the period, there is not much good to say. Diamond owner Steve Geppi said in the summer of 1995 he believed there were 6,400 comics shops; that was down from 11,000 at the beginning of 1994, and it would drop closer to 4,500 by the end of 1996. Credit, easy to get in the boom days of multiple distributors, tightened considerably, as both Diamond and Capital spent 1995 shrinking their extensive warehouse and trucking networks. (Heroes World, meanwhile, was fighting to get up to speed as a national distributor for Marvel — which it never really succeeded at, hence the return to Diamond.)


On the product side, the audience for super-hero comics continued to shrink as 1995 went on — with bright spots in the dead quarters of 1995 and 1996 coming from two then-novel events: "Age of Apocalypse" in early 1995 and "DC Versus Marvel/Marvel Versus DC" and Amalgam in the winter of 1995-96. But the latter suggests just how complicated keeping track of sales in this era is: retailers could only order DC Versus Marvel #1 and #4 and half the Amalgam books from Diamond. The other half required a Heroes World account. And because DC solicited the Amalgam week separately in order to preserve the surprise, its sales from the last week of February 1996 are counted with March. Whew!

So, again — it's a complicated time to write about, and there's more work to be done to get a complete picture. Don't assume because the 1996 grid shows a bunch of Spawn issues at #1 that it was the top-seller for the year; I suspect Uncanny X-Men still outsold it. But this is a big step forward in developing the archives, bringing it to a full 15 years of monthly reports. And more to come...

UPDATE: The remaining Diamond months from 1995 have been added, so the entire year is now online here.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Flashback Friday: Back in time with Rip Hunter

by John Jackson Miller and Joyce Greenholdt


Within a year or so of Jack Kirby's Challengers of the Unknown getting their own title in 1958, DC Comics introduced several new teams of non-super-powered adventurers: Cave Carson, Rip Hunter, and the Sea Devils. The latter two got their own titles in the early '60s, though neither of them matched the Challengers' success.

Rip Hunter, Time Master was published bimonthly from 1961 to 1965, running a total of 29 issues. The series was a relatively consistent seller (click to see the circulation reports), but never managed to achieve the same levels of sales success as its predecessor.

Still, in a comic-book universe, a man with a time machine is simply too useful to abandon, and Rip Hunter has since appeared in a multitude of DC titles, including Challengers of the Unknown, Action Comics, and Crisis on Infinite Earths, as well as many other post-Crisis stories hinging on time travel. Rip even starred in his own eight-issue mini-series, Time Masters, in 1990 and is currently searching the timestream for Bruce Wayne in the six-issue Time Masters: Vanishing Point mini-series.



Tuesday, November 16, 2010

X-Men #1, One Piece, and world records

by John Jackson Miller, with special thanks to T.M. Haley    Bookmark and Share

Guinness World Records 2011One of the events you may have missed from Comic-Con International in 2010 was that the Guinness Book of World Records added Marvel Comics to its latest edition for publishing the best-selling comic book of all time: X-Men Vol. 2, #1, with its five variant covers in 1991. A ceremony was held at the event, with writer Chris Claremont in attendance. (Marvel has a video interview with the Guinness editor here.)

The ranking of X-Men Vol. 2, #1 has been mentioned by me many times, here on the site and in my previous work for Comics Buyer's Guide. The 8.1 million copy figure could even have come to their attention from one of my past reports, for all I know; I drew it from Marvel's internal 1991 records, myself. Here are the breakdowns for how the issue sold:
 
ISSUE Direct Market Newsstand TOTAL
1A 1,512,000 43,000 1,555,000
1B 1,739,500 43,000 1,782,500
1C 1,437,000 43,000 1,480,000
1D 1,371,900 43,000 1,414,900
1E 1,954,100 0 1,954,100
TOTAL #1 8,014,500 172,000 8,186,500

Within the direct market sales, Capital City Distribution's sales of each edition ranged from 424,800 copies, for the Beast cover, to 332,800 copies for the Magneto cover: its overall sales were 1,874,100 copies, or 23.3% of all direct market sales. (There were a dozen different distributors selling to comics shops then). Note that there were no newsstand sales of the fifth cover. The newsstand draws of the issue in general are far lower than the normal newsstand/direct market breakdowns seen in 1991; it's apparent that the newsstand didn't read the same demand for the new title that comics retailers did. The overall newsstand draws are about 60% above what Uncanny X-Men's were at the time; I'm guessing that title was used as an ordering guide.

All five versions of the issue (whose four covers combined to make the single image represented in the fifth, double gatefold cover edition) released in consecutive weeks of August 1991. There were also no subscription sales reported, as it was a brand new title. There is no American rival to X-Men #1 for this title; there are comic books in the 3-4 million copy range (like X-Force #1, only two months old when the "adjectiveless" X-Men title launched), but I know of nothing with numbers like these. (The reprinted issue has been collected here.)


Guinness would seem to be defining a comic book as a periodical magazine, as opposed to any other delivery system which contains comics content. That's certainly in line with how the term has always been used in this country: Watchmen #1 is a comic book. Watchmen is a collected edition — and it is also a graphic novel. One is on sale for a month. The other is on sale forever. This is a key distinction, when it comes to making sure we're making apples-to-apples comparisons — and it is important when considering comparisons with international top-sellers such as One Piece and Asterix editions.

Frequent mention is made in the trade press of the sales records of the Japanese manga series One Piece, which are spectacular indeed: Anime News Network reports that Eiichiro Oda's latest edition, One Piece Vol. 60, sold more than 2 million copies in its first week of sales this month out of a record first printing of 3.4 million copies. All the volumes of the series have sales of more than 200 million copies combined.

Those sales, however, are for the tankouban, the Japanese equivalent of the American collected edition or graphic novel. Like most American comics that are eventually collected, One Piece appears first in a magazine — although a magazine much different in size from American comic books. One Piece is published serialized in the anthology magazine Shonen Jump, one of several "phone-book magazines" (other examples include Nakayoski, Margaret, and Asuka) collecting chapters of various ongoing works. Bulky and cheaply printed, these magazines tend to be viewed as more disposable, making tankouban more desirable. The Weekly Shonen Jump does sell in the millions of copies, but seems to have peaked in the mid-1990s, with the peak sales for a single issue being 6.53 million copies in 1995.

I would tend to regard the "phone books" as a distinct delivery system from the traditional American comic-book-held-together-by-staples; they are, in many senses, books on their own. There have been American anthology monthlies — indeed, comics began as anthologies — but most topped out at 80 pages, and few have been seen in recent decades. But it is proper to say that Shonen Jump provides a somewhat closer comparison to X-Men Vol. 2, #1 than One Piece does — and there, X-Men #1 holds the edge.

On the other hand, any given One Piece tankouban is more appropriately compared to sales of Watchmen and similar collected editions. According to Brian Hibbs, Watchmen sold 424,814 copies of its softcover collection in 2009 through just those stores that report to Nielsen's Bookscan; while its all-time sales are higher still, it's probably safe to assume that with One Piece's first printings so monumental, there are individual tankouban in those 60 volumes that have outsold it over time.

I think the takeaway is that One Piece, as a tankouban, stands a good chance to be the international record-holder when it comes to bound-edition bookshelf comics (without undertaking an exhaustive survey of all European and Japanese comics, I can't go farther than that), while X-Men Vol. 2, #1 very likely holds the worldwide title when it comes to periodical newsrack comics with staples.

An interesting question is how comparisons can be made series-wide. If individual tankouban can't be compared to individual comic books, how does One Piece as a 200-million-copy selling series stack up against other series historically? Or its sales of 14.7 million copies, series-wide, in 2009?


It's difficult to say. You could certainly make the case that the weekly Shonen Jump over its lifespan has sold more copies; of course, since One Piece is in many issues of Shonen Jump, you'd wonder if it should be counted twice. There are also extremely long-running British weeklies whose sales over time would be considerable; there are other European titles you'd want to look at, too. But just comparing with series with a single star, we know that Superman sold in the 15-20 million range annually in the 1950s, and had sales in just the 1960-1986 years of more than 110 million copies. All told, from 1939 to present, the title is almost certainly north of 200 million copies, if not 300 million — not counting all reprints of that material. And that's where it gets  pretty easy to get off into the weeds, trying to decide what should be counted. Foreign editions? Many Disney comics which began in the high-circulation 1940s and 1950s would be in the running. Heck, if we enlarge the comics definition, Mad was definitely having 25-30 million copy years for a while there in the heyday.

An interesting, endlessly debatable topic for discussion — and the nice part is that is it reminds us of the potential reach of comics as a medium. To a degree, anyway: a huge portion of those X-Men comics were purchased not by readers, but speculators: one I'm aware of bought 5,000 copies, not realizing it would be the least scarce comic book of all time. I have 25 copies in my own collection, and I only bought one — I have no idea where the others came from!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Flashback Friday: Metal Men from the Silver Age

by John Jackson Miller and Joyce Greenholdt

This week's Title Spotlight is shining on DC Comics' Metal Men series from the '60s. The Metal Men were created for a last-minute filler feature in Showcase #37-40 in 1962, and the characters proved popular enough for DC to give them their own bimonthly series the following year. Click to see the circulation reports for the title!

For the first few years, the average circulation on Metal Men climbed steadily, peaking in 1966. The fact that DC released circulation figures for Metal Men starting in 1964 is notable by itself; the company printed many of its circulation statements without any sales figures from 1963-65.

After 1966, sales declined sharply until the series went on hiatus at the end of 1969. The title resurfaced for three reprint issues (Metal Men #42-44) in 1973. The series returned one more time in 1976 with new stories and art by Walt Simonson, lasting until early 1979. No circulation statements were published for these periods.

Since then, the Metal Men starred in a four-issue mini-series in 1993 and have made guest appearances in several other DC titles.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What's really going on with the over-300 crowd?

by John Jackson Miller    Bookmark and Share

Having had some time to digest the numbers from Diamond's wave of October data — and prompted by the helpful findings of an analysis by ICV2 — I've taken another look to see what the additional data means when it comes to those comics ranking beneath 300th place.

As ICV2 notes, the new Diamond data reports that year-to-date dollar sales of comic books are off  4.82%; and our own tracking of the Top 300s each month finds dollar sales off 4.08%. And yet, as discussed earlier here, unit sales for comics at the bottom of the list are at historically high levels.
These facts may seem in conflict, but it's perfectly possible for both to be the case, for specific reasons.

First, let's dig a little more into what's suggested by Diamond's new statistics. Working backward from our "Overall" industry total for the year to date, we find overall comics sales totaling a projected $238.6 million — which would be down from $250.19 million, following Diamond's reported 4.82% drop. We know from our totals that the chunk outside the Top 300 amounts to $33.45 million, or about 14% of overall comics sales. The outside-300 chunk in 2009 to date would come to $36.38 million, or about 14.5% of overall comics sales. The rate of decrease in the chunk is higher than that for the Top 300, around 8.1%; that's enough to cause the gap we see between Top 300 and overall comics dollar sales.

So, yes, so far in 2010, the comics outside 300th place are under-performing last year in dollars. In units, the effect also appears: the bubbling-under books represent about 14% of all comics sold, with fewer units sold in the after-300 books.

At the same time, we have the phenomenon that the lower-tier comics are selling in greater numbers. The list of 300th place books appears here, but we can see the following averages right away:


Average number of copies sold by 300th place item:
2010 YTD: 3,293 copies
2009 YTD: 3,051 copies
2009 (full year): 2,931 copies
2008: 2,931 copies
2007: 2,069 copies
2006: 1,796 copies
2005: 1,427 copies
2004: 1,238 copies
2003: 1,407 copies
2002: 1,040 copies

So the books at the bottom of the list are selling more than they had been, although not a great deal more than they had in 2009 or 2008 (which happen to work out to identical totals). The differences over a several-year-period are enormous, but much less so very recently.That gentle increase in units at the bottom over the last year, thus, isn't a very big one to have to negate to go into negative territory year-to-year.  

So why might the comics near 300th place be selling more units, while those beneath the table are selling less in aggregate? As mentioned before here, the proliferation of titles from Marvel and the increasing chart presence of middle-tier players IDW, Dynamite, and Boom are one reason the bottom of the Top 300 is showing higher volumes. (To clarify my earlier post, I wasn't characterizing how the market shares or sales of those publishers have changed in the past year; rather, I was observing that these "Next Three" publishers after Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and Image are placing more entries and unit volume on the Top 300 list than we saw for most of the 2000s. After Crossgen's collapse, we often only had Devil's Due and occasionally Aspen logging more than 100,000 units in the Top 300, and that was on fewer titles.) So part of the changed trendline appears to come from this deeper bench.

As to why the comics below 300th place are not doing as well year-to-year despite these higher totals, we may look to a couple of possibilities. Much of the volume beneath 300th place is likely reordered titles; if reorders are off by a larger amount than new comics orders are off, this is where it would show up. The fact that we haven't had many mega-hits certainly has some impact in this regard.

Also, in 2009, Diamond began raising its benchmarks for carrying publications, so it is possible that, while we're seeing better per-title performance at the bottom of the Top 300 list, that list likely doesn't extend as beyond it as it once did. We may well run out of new titles slightly earlier in the table than we once did.

So, yes, looking 2010-to-2009, the "long tail" in comics, while adding sales to the total, isn't improving the picture for periodical dollars. (It is having positive effects in trade paperback dollars, meanwhile.) On the other hand, when we extend the comparisons earlier than 2008, it does still appear likely that the Top 300 today is capturing less of the overall picture than it did a few years ago. Top 300 units are down 8% from 2005, while Top 300 comics dollars are up 13%. But when the average 300th place book in 2010 is selling more than twice as many copies as the item ranked in the same position in 2005, it becomes very likely that today's "bubbling-under" chunk counts for more than it did five years earlier. Diamond only published one-year comparisons, so we can't tell how much more — but the comics beneath 300th place probably didn't account for anywhere near 14% of all comics sales then, like they do now.

Monday, November 8, 2010

October 2010 comics data reveals much about industry

by John Jackson Miller    Bookmark and Share

A week ago, I posted an analysis of Diamond Comic Distributors' Top 300 Comics list for September — and my assertion that the number of lower-ranking comics constituted sales of increasing importance. I had also observed throughout the year that my "Overall Comics Sales" model, which integrates complete publisher sales data with Diamond's market shares to find total Direct Market orders for everything, frequently found the market performing slightly better than some of the narrower categories indicated.

Two years ago, Diamond increased the number of trade paperbacks it reported on from 100 to 300. On Friday, Diamond again added to our understanding of the comics industry by releasing, for the first time, comparative sales statistics which described how its overall comic-book unit and dollar sales and overall trade paperback unit and dollar sales compared from month to month and year to year. These figures have been incorporated into my estimates for the direct market for October 2010, now online.

The new Diamond measures provide specific percentage increases and decreases for the categories, so they're especially helpful; we now know what's going on outside the Top 300s. Perhaps more importantly, Diamond's new information gives us something that we haven't had from Diamond since 2001. Diamond used to publish what part of its sales came from comic books as compared to what came from trade paperbacks and other categories; that product breakdown data is republished here, beginning with September 1996. Diamond stopped publishing the category breakdowns around the time it switched to running final orders, in early 2003, so it became impossible to know how overall trade sales related to overall comics sales.

But we do now know the monthly year-to-year and year-to-date changes in orders for comic books, for trade paperbacks, and for the two categories together. And with some rusty algebra, that allows us to see the sizes of the comic book and trade paperback categories, relative to each other. October 2010 overall comics dollar sales are off 1.7% versus last October, but trades are up 13.04% — and comics plus trades together are up 2.77%. That means that comics sales are 69.6% of the total, versus 30.4% for trades. If the comics share were larger or smaller, it wouldn't add up. This method finds a similar year-to-date breakdown: 69.23% of comics-and-trade dollars came from comics, versus 30.77% coming from trades. Put another way, this year Diamond has grossed from comics 2.25 times what it's grossed from trade paperbacks.

This is a useful statistic to have — and it lines up interestingly with October 2002, when Diamond made 78% of its comics-and-trade money from comics, versus 22% from trades. We've gone from comics being three-and-a-half times the size of the trade market to just two-and-a-quarter times its size, in just eight years. But let's talk now about the size of those markets. Which we can, now — by applying the new ratios to the "Overall Sales" model used here at The Comics Chronicles. Using the new category breakdowns, we're able to roughly estimate that the roughly $35 million in Direct Market orders in October breaks down to about $24 million for comic books, and $11 million for trade paperbacks.

That means that the "long tail" in comics amounts to between $3-4 million this month; applying the average weighted cover price, that's close to a million more comic books falling outside the Top 300. That's higher than even I would have expected, but remember that the table includes reorders, now, and so basically all of September's and August's Top 300 chart items are still there, selling copies, out of sight on the current month's table. Historically, a rate of 8% is an often-cited figure for typical reorders; that, plus new comics not reaching the Top 300, could easily make up the unseen balance.

And this, in the Top 300 for October, is a case where the bubbling-under books made a difference: the Top 300 comics alone were off 7% and 3% respectively in units and dollars, but including all comics, those drops shrink to 5.26% and 1.7%. Year-to-date comics units improve by a percentage point over the narrower category with the extra data; year-to-date comics dollars actually get worse, by less than a point. On the trade paperbacks side, October was already a good month compared to a weaker month last year; looking at the entire long tail, as Diamond does, shows us that trades as a category are only off 4.56% year-to-date, versus the 6% that the Top 300 trades are off year-to-date.

The aggregate figures:

TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES
October 2010: 5.79 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: -7%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -6%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +3%
YEAR TO DATE: 58.16 million copies, -7% vs. 2009, -8% vs. 2005, unchanged% vs. 2000

ALL COMICS UNIT SALES (reported by Diamond)
October 2010: -5.26% (projected total: 6.8 million copies)
YEAR TO DATE: -6.05% (projected total: 67.8 million copies)

TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES
October 2010: $20.82 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -3%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -15%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +30%
YEAR TO DATE: $205.15 million, -4% vs. 2009, +13% vs. 2005, +29% vs. 2000

ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES (reported by Diamond)
October 2010: -1.7% (projected total: $24.5 million)
YEAR TO DATE: -4.82% (projected total: $238.6 million)

TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK & GRAPHIC NOVEL DOLLAR SALES
October 2010: $7.11 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +20%
Versus 5 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: +24%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: +89%
YEAR TO DATE: $62.59 million, -6% vs. 2009

ALL TRADE PAPERBACK & GN DOLLAR SALES (reported by Diamond)
October 2010: +13.04% (projected total: $10.68 million)
YEAR TO DATE: -4.56% (projected total: $106.06 million)

TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
October 2010: $27.94 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +2%
Versus 5 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: +16%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +29%
YEAR TO DATE: $267.69 million, -4% vs. 2009

ALL COMICS & TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES (reported by Diamond)
October 2010: $35.13 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +2.77%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +21%
YEAR TO DATE: $344.71 million, -4.74% vs. 2009

As we're integrating the Diamond ratios into the Overall Sales model, those numbers will be subject to change; those figures refine as more publisher data comes in during the month. That means that the projected totals for comics units, comics dollars, and trade paperback dollars are also subject to change. One thing that will change every month is the ratio coming from comics versus what's coming from trades — although I expect the figures will be similar.

You'll note that I'm not reporting Diamond's month-to-month sales, which compared October to September; that's a category which doesn't add much, ultimately, given how the calendar creates month-to-month volatility. It can still be seen at Diamond's site. I am also not reporting unit sales of trade paperbacks, which vary wildly because the cover prices vary so much. For the curious, Diamond appears to have sold 12.4 times as many comic books in October as it sold trade paperbacks; this would be consistent with the revenue breakdowns, reflecting the fact that the average trade paperback costs four to five times what the average comic book does. It also suggests that Diamond moved about half a million trade paperbacks this month, nearly half the volume of which was outside the Top 300.

As to October itself, it's another month with no title topping 100,000 copies — Uncanny X-Force #1 led the market at 95,600 copies. Marvel had 13 fewer entries in the Top 300; DC had more than 100 entries placing. The average comic book in Diamond’s Top 300 cost $3.72, a new record for the comic-book industry by more than a dime. The average Top 300 comic book that retailers ordered from Diamond cost $3.59. The median comic book price in Diamond’s Top 300 was $3.99, and the most common cover price on Diamond’s list was $3.99.

This has been a lot of data to digest, and I suspect it will be easy to transpose some numbers here and there — so I caution that there may be some corrections in this and future reports. The Flashbacks for October are coming soon — and don't miss our new Flashback Friday feature.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Flashback Friday: Marvel travels to 2099

by John Jackson Miller and Joyce Greenholdt  Bookmark and Share

We've added several new titles to the Title Spotlights section today, and we're hoping to make some regular updates to the section in the future. This week we added circulation statements for a number of titles for Marvel Comics' 2099 imprint from the 1990s. The imprint re-imagined the origins of several popular Marvel characters in a dark future setting. The line launched with Spider-Man 2099 in November 1992, followed by Ravage 2099 (a completely new super-hero created by Stan Lee), Doom 2099, and Punisher 2099 in successive months.

All four 2099 saw impressive first-issue sales, with Spider-Man 2099 leading the pack with sales of 300,000 copies through Capital City Distribution alone. The 2099 titles remained popular enough that Marvel followed up with several more. X-Men 2099 #1 was released in late 1993 and followed a new band of mutants and rebels fighting the power of the Mega-Corps. Sales of the first issue didn't reach Spider-Man 2099's heights, but like Punisher 2099, the issue sold more than 200,000 copies just through Capital City. X-Men 2099 also went to a second printing and had a 15,000-copy Gold edition sold exclusively through Diamond Comics Distributors.

By May 1994, when Ghost Rider 2099 made its debut, the imprint was losing ground. This title's first issue sold less than 75,000 copies through Capital City, with both a regular and a collector variant available. Ghost Rider went cyberpunk in the future, with the main character's consciousness being downloaded into a robot body. The series went to 25 issues, and was the last of the 2099 titles to run more than a year before being canceled.

The comics industry collapsed in the mid-1990s, which certainly affected the 2099 imprint as a whole. All the ongoing 2099 titles were canceled in 1995 and 1996, and were briefly replaced by a single eight-issue series, 2099: World of Tomorrow, which ran through April 1997 and featured surviving characters from across the 2099 line. The 2099: Manifest Destiny one-shot concluded the line in March 1998, although various Marvel titles have revisted the world since then. Most recently, the Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions video game released in September 2010 includes the Spider-Man of 2099.
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