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


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

December 2009: Flashbacks to the Past

by John Jackson Miller and T.M. Haley

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

December 2008's top seller was Marvel's Secret Invasion #8, ending the series with orders through Diamond Comic Distributors of approximately 152,408 copies. Unit sales for December 2008 were up versus December 2007, but this boost was not enough to push 2008's year-end unit sales numbers past 2007's. Overall comics, trade paperback, and dollar sales were up slightly for the year.

Check out the detailed analysis of the month's sales here — and sales chart here.

December 2004's top-seller was Marvel's New Avengers #1 with first-month Diamond orders of over 240,700 copies. The title's launch capped a year of changes within the Avengers titles, including "Avengers Disassembled," and contributed to a 6% growth in overall comics, magazine, and trade paperback sales over the previous year. Trade paperbacks saw a large boost in their sales numbers from the prior year, with growth of 29%. Check out the sales chart here.

December 1999's top-seller was Marvel's X-Men #97, with orders through Diamond of more than 117,400 copies, topping both Uncanny X-Men #377 and the previous month's number one, Tomb Raider.

Sales of Diamond's top-selling trade paperbacks were up a whopping 102% in December, thanks largely to the JLA Earth 2 hardcover; at $24.95, it saw first-month orders of more than 22,000 copies. Strong trade paperback sales kept December from posting a sales deficit, as comic sales were down 6%. Still, 1999 was slightly down overall for the year.

Check out the December 1999 sales chart here.

December 1994 once again had a consensus top-seller at Diamond and at Capital City Distribution: Marvel's X-Men: Alpha #1 (actually, X-Men #A), launching the "Age of Apocalypse" storyline that led the industry in the first quarter of 1995. During the storyline — a definitive example of an "icebreaker" event crafted to enliven sales in the usually slow "dead quarter" — the regular X-Men titles went away for four months, to be replaced by series in a variant timeline. (Amazing X-Men replaced X-Men, Astonishing X-Men replaced Uncanny X-Men, and so on.)

Capital's orders for the $3.95  X-Men: Alpha amounted to 127,225 copies, putting overall sales in the 400,000-copy range. Alpha's acetate cover, incidentally, makes it one of the most difficult comics to photograph!

December 1989's top seller was Legends of the Dark Knight #4, with orders of 125,500 copies at Capital City and overall sales likely north of half a million copies. It was the end of a strong year of recovery for the industry following the black-and-white comics glut and crash a couple of years earlier.

Finally, December 1984's top comic book was Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #12, ending the series with twelve consecutive months in the number one slot.

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