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


Monday, December 28, 2009

Flashbacks to the Past: November 2009

by John Jackson Miller

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

November 2008's top seller was Marvel's Ultimatum #1, with first-month orders through Diamond Comic Distributors of approximately 114,200 copies. It was the slowest month of the year, unit-sales wise; Marvel's Secret Invasion had ended the month before. Perhaps bigger news was that comics were more expensive in November 2008 than in any month in history to that point. The average comic book offered in Diamond’s Top 300 comics had a cover price of $3.50, beating the previous record (itself only a month old) by 12 cents.

November marked a number of changes from Diamond in its reporting, as the company began releasing Top 10 lists several days before the larger data rollout; it also began listing the Top 300 Trade Paperbacks for the first time, bringing that list into parity with the comics list. Check out the detailed analysis of the month's sales here — and sales chart here.

November 2004's top-seller was DC's Superman/Batman #13, another of the new Supergirl issues, with first-month orders of nearly 158,000 copies. With Identity Crisis and "Avengers Disassembled" still running, aggregate periodical sales were slightly up over the previous year; trade paperbacks, however, were significantly down (much like November 2009). Check out the sales chart here.

November 1999's top-seller was Image's Tomb Raider #1, ending the ten-month run of Uncanny X-Men in the top slot. Lara Croft's comics debut had first-month preorders through Diamond of more than 189,400 copies.

A different video game, however, was driving most of the new traffic to specialty stores: The Pokémon Trading Card game fad was near its absolute peak. (Personal note: In the middle of the month, Krause Publications, recognizing the craze, purchased Scrye magazine, naming me editor.) Retailer Garrett Anderson, manager of A-F Books of Tinley Park, Illinois, told Comics Retailer magazine that questions about the game had worn him out. "I long for the days when the typical question was something like, 'Who would win in a fight, Flash or The Hulk?" he said. "Still, it's better than 'What's a good comic book to buy that will one day be valuable enough to pay for my kids' college bills?'"

Check out the November 1999 sales chart here.

November 1994 had a consensus top-seller at Diamond and at Capital City Distribution: the deluxe version of Marvel's X-Men #40. Capital's orders were 95,575 copies; overall sales of the issue, including newsstand and subscription copies, were in the mid-300,000s.

Again, the big news story in most comics shops wasn't comics, but Pokémon's trading-card game precursor Magic: The Gathering. The beginning of the end of the initial craze had begun, with the November release of the Fallen Empires expansion — a bomb with most players, and, as the first set with widespread mass-market distribution, the first where supply was sufficient to fill all orders. Retailers who had over-ordered speculating they would only get a small allocation found themselves buried under product. (One, accustomed to receiving only 10% of his Magic orders, ordered 550 display boxes, ten times what he needed — only to receive them all, at a loss to him of tens of thousands of dollars.)

November 1989's top seller was Legends of the Dark Knight #3, with orders of 126,900 copies at Capital City. Overall orders were likely over half a million copies. The buzz had faded somewhat from the speculator summer (first of a series); Capital reported in its magazine that "the fall of 1989 seems to be developing as a period of a 'soft fall landing' for the comics market after extremely robust growth.'"

While Legends had the numbers, more money was definitely brought in by the first Elseworlds title, Gotham by Gaslight. At $3.95, the squarebound title with art by Mike Mignola and P. Craig Russell had orders of nearly 100,000 copies at Capital alone.

Finally, November 1984's top comic book was Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #11, marking eleven straight months with the limited series in the top slot.

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