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John Jackson Miller and other pop culture archaeologists interested in comics history.

 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Why entries for some comics are split in the Diamond ranking charts

by John Jackson Miller

Comichron has had a presence on Twitter for a long time, and occasionally there I field questions about the datasets here on the site. Yesterday's sales report for April generated a number due to the fact that, as noted, Batman #21 and Flash #21 saw their sales figures divided up into two entries each, owing to the fact that both issues had a lenticular cover variant priced at a dollar higher.

Owing to the bifurcation, Batman and Flash ended up being the second-and-fifth place comics of the month in unit terms, rather than first and second, which they would have been with identical cover prices. This led to a number of articles, including the one I'm reacting to here:

...and those inclined can follow my Twitter response thread here.


http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?icep_ff3=9&pub=5575293798&toolid=10001&campid=5338078900&customid=&icep_uq=batman+21+lenticular&icep_sellerId=&icep_ex_kw=&icep_sortBy=12&icep_catId=&icep_minPrice=&icep_maxPrice=&ipn=psmain&icep_vectorid=229466&kwid=902099&mtid=824&kw=lg
In summary for the Twitter-impaired, the practice goes back a long way. In the early days of variants, each version tended to get its own line item in the charts published by Capital City Distribution and Diamond Comic Distributors; nothing was combined. The reason was simple: then, as now, the distributor chart isn't a scoreboard. The purpose isn't to say what's #1, but rather how shops ordered titles relative to other titles. So it was that in 1991, every cover of X-Men Vol. 2, #1 got its own listing in the tables. (It's hard to believe, but there was a possibility that the best-selling comic book of all time might not have topped the charts, had another of that era's blockbuster books happened along that month.) Multiple listings for titles — especially for "deluxe" versus newsstand editions offered to the Direct Market — were a common sight.

By the 2000s, however, printing advances made it easier to do micro-runs of variants, and the number of them exploded. It became impossible to break them out and still fit all the important issues into the charts in Diamond Dialogue magazine, where the tables ran until the title ceased publication at the end of 2008. Diamond chose to merge identically priced variants and second and later printings in the rankings because almost all had the same (or no) cover price, and where there was a variant price, it was often quite different, like a $9.99 "platinum edition," which really didn't belong in the same grouping of copies.


http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?icep_ff3=9&pub=5575293798&toolid=10001&campid=5338078900&customid=&icep_uq=flash+21+lenticular&icep_sellerId=&icep_ex_kw=&icep_sortBy=12&icep_catId=&icep_minPrice=&icep_maxPrice=&ipn=psmain&icep_vectorid=229466&kwid=902099&mtid=824&kw=lgHaving the differently priced books broken out separately is generally a good thing, both for analysts — who have an easier time making sense of how many dollars an issue brought in — and for collectors, who are served by knowing how many lenticular covers, say, are out in the wild relative to the number of regular versions. So in general, it's been a good compromise by Diamond, which sought a balance between the merging everything (which would serve the "sports fans" who care about what book's in first place) and what serves its retailers (which is more detail on what, specifically, has been ordered).

Comichron, of course, will publish whatever is released — but after years of doing this I do believe there's a sweet spot between publishing too much detail each month and too little; Diamond's current method seems to inhabit that spot well. That said, since we publish more than one kind of table at Comichron, we have the ability to merge items when the type of report calls for it. So while — as with DC's Combo Packs in 2011 — we preserve Diamond's chart order in our monthly tables, in the tables that really are about "who's first," like our Top Comics of the 21st Century page, you'll see us merge issues that are otherwise identical except for their covers, regardless of cover price.

Comichron founder 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 novels including Star Wars: Kenobi, Overdraft: The Orion OffensiveStar Wars: A New Dawn, and the Star Trek: Prey trilogy. Read more about them at his fiction siteBe sure to follow Comichron on Twitter and Facebook.
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