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

 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The complete sales history of Wonder Woman according to postal records, 1960-1987

by John Jackson Miller

Wonder Woman arrives in theaters this week, seventy-five years after she got her own comic book — and Comichron commemorates that moment with the publication (all in one place for the first time anywhere!) of the complete postal record sales history for both Wonder Woman titles for which DC filed Statements of Ownership, Management, and Circulation with the United States Postal Service. Click to see the postal filings for Wonder Woman Vol. 1, which run from 1960 (when circulation figures started being required) to 1984, and for Wonder Woman Vol. 2, which got just one year in before DC stopped filing reports.

Created by William Moulton Marston in All Star Comics #8, Wonder Woman got her own series in 1942 with #1— a title that would run for more than four decades. The title's first postal circulation data appears in 1960, when the book was shipping eight issues a year; 210,000 copies of each issue sold on average. That number makes it a lower-tier superhero book at DC in 1960, but a mid-range seller for the industry overall.


The title's circulation remained steady through the early 1960s, but suffered in the second half of the decade as DC cut its frequency to bimonthly. Sales improved slightly heading into the middle of the 1970s, with an ABC Wonder Woman TV movie starring Cathy Lee Crosby appearing in 1974. The successor television series, starring Lynda Carter, ran on ABC and then CBS from 1975 to 1979 and coincided with DC making the title monthly.

Initially, the doubling of frequency appears to have harmed sales, coming as it did during the greatest inflationary decade in comics history; it took until 1979 for the title to recover, eventually getting back to where it was in 1971 (but now selling twice as many copies annually). As with Batman, Archie, The Incredible Hulk, and other series that had seen boosts due to television shows, however, sales trailed off following small-screen cancellation. By the final year of the postal data available for the series, 1984, the title was down to 52,145 copies a month.

The mid-1980s, however, were a growth period for comics in the burgeoning Direct Market, and DC, coming off Crisis on Infinite Earths, embarked on a wave of relaunches and renumberings. Wonder Woman left shelves at the end of 1985, returning with a new #1 at the end of 1986. 

Drawn by George Pérez, the new title immediately improved on where its predecessor had left off, with average monthly sales for the first year reaching six figures for the first time since 1979, just after the CBS TV show era ended. It continued for nearly two decades before seeing its next relaunch in 2006.

After a third renumbering in 2006, the title briefly returned to its original legacy numbering, fusing the three titles — before ending again in the DC "New 52" relaunch of 2011. A fifth relaunch came as part of DC Rebirth in 2016.

Alas, we only have postal data for 1987, because DC changed how it shipped comics to subscribers in 1988, ending its need to file reports. But direct-market only information on the title can be found in our monthly reports.

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 site.

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2 comments:

Unknown said...

It's interesting to see her sales going up and down before completely disappearing post 1987. Out of curiosity, how can we make the comic book market of today actually have the issues increase in sales and not decrease?

John Jackson Miller said...

Sales have been increasing for several years, as we show here: http://www.comichron.com/yearlycomicssales.html

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