Monday, July 14, 2014
by John Jackson Miller
Life With Archie #36, according to CBR reports today.
"Wein's Law" — named for Len Wein, the writer who coined it — famously holds that "no one in comics is ever dead unless you can see the body, and usually not even then." Comics "deaths" are usually temporary in nature and often done as a publicity stunt, and they have often been greatly successful in gaining attention. The November 1992 "Death of Superman" resulted in a reported $30 million day in comics shops, the most money ever made in the business in a single day; and more recently, the death (also temporary) of Captain America led to the comic book where it happened becoming the best-selling issue of 2007.
Afterlife With Archie, the title which in June gave Archie — and his eponymous publishing house — its first ever appearance at the top of the graphic novel bestseller list. (See the just-released June estimates here.) As noted in our reports of that event, the main Archie title itself was no stranger to the top of the comic book charts, once upon a time; after many years of collecting, I am pleased to present the complete circulation record of the main Archie title, as reported in statements filed with the United States Postal Service. Click to see the grid of circulation statements.
The main Archie title began in Winter 1942 and has been published without interruption ever since; its frequency has changed over the years, increasing or decreasing to reflect market situations, but it has never been renumbered. (That makes it the longest-running ongoing North American title never to be renumbered, a good honor to have.) It has been sold by second-class or periodical-class subscription for most of that time, and as such, has had to file Statements of Ownership, Management, and Circulation, which it prints in the comic book in the early part of each year. Where DC and, more recently, Marvel have stopped printing the forms, Archie continues to do so, and so Archie represents one of the few titles for which an unbroken track of reports from 1960 exist.
the animated TV series from Filmation, which ran during the 1968-69 season on CBS; by 1969, when the song "Sugar, Sugar" released by a band called The Archies reached #1 on the Billboard pop charts, Archie, too, surpassed Superman and Batman to become the #1 title in comics.
It remained at #1 through 1973, based on Comichron's collection of circulation statements; finally, in 1974, The Amazing Spider-Man and Superman both passed it. During the distribution tumult of the 1970s, Archie began focusing more on digests — a market it had helped to create through its work with the Comics Magazine Association of America to establish grocery store counter dumps; as such, in 1977, the same year that Archie fell out of the top 10, its sales were surpassed by Archie Comics Digest. Betty and Veronica surpassed Archie's sales in 1980.
So the major differences between the title and other comics make it less reflective than most books of the history of circulation in the intervening years; as noted, it's not even a great bellwether for the publisher itself, where digests, digital, and other formats are an ever-larger part of the business. (Archie sold well over 2 million digests last year, judging from the other postal statements.) [7/15 addition:] Further, the title is increasingly less tied to the flagging fortunes of the newsstand market: comics shops accounted for about four out of every nine copies that visited a cash register in 2013. The main title's sales in comics shops have increased during the last decade: this June's #656 had orders of 4,063 copies, versus 3,097 copies for #549, exactly ten years earlier.
But all told, more than 85 million copies of the main Archie title were sold between 1960 and 2013, making it one of the comics you're most likely to find on the secondary market. Archie lives — in our reality, anyway!
Look here tomorrow for the release of the long-awaited 2013 end-of-year data, including the direct market, outside channels, and digital, the product of our first-ever joint analysis with ICV2.
John Jackson Miller has tracked the comics industry for more than 20 years, including a decade editing the industry's retail trade magazine; he is the author of several guides to comics, as well as more than a hundred comic books for various franchises. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Star Wars: Kenobi and the upcoming hardcover Star Wars: A New Dawn. Visit his fiction site at http://www.farawaypress.com. And be sure to follow Comichron on Twitter and Facebook!