Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Are Sales Better or Worse for Comics

So many people are saying comics are in this great upswing in sales and I disagree. While overall sales maybe up from a few year ago, sales are still significantly down from only ten years ago. So if your sales are down and the overall population is increasing this is not a good trend. It reminds me of people who say gas prices are cheap, from a few months back they are correct, but from a year or so ago, not at all.

I just have had this feeling for awhile that we are becoming too much of a cult and I want our beloved art form to continue to thrive. Trades and such maybe the comic of tomorrow, but if the monthlies ever die I will be greatly sadden. Of course if the up trend continues I will happily be wrong.

In order to see if my gut feeling was right I checked sales from September 1996 to September 2001 to September 2006 (using Diamond sales figures) for the top 20 c0mics I discovered that in 1996 the top 20 books combined had sales of 3,639,500 in 2001 1,633,600. A drop of 55% from 1996 (which was not a high water mark for comics). By 2006 the number was 2,221,200 which is an increase from 2001 of 36%, but a decline from 1996 of 39%.

Also to choose the 10th best seller the percentages hold the same. In 1996 Spectacular Spider-Man sold 165,400, in 2001 JLA #58 sold 74,300, a drop of 55%. In 2006 Wolverine #46 sold 107,900 an increase of 45% from 2001, but a drop of 35% from 1996.

It was also interesting that in 1996 DC had zero titles in the top 20 and 11 or the 20 were X-Men related titles.

So is the current sales a boom or just an echo before it begins to fade away.


  1. The experts will tell you that comic sales, like the weather, goes in cycles. Yes, we have pulled out of the nosedive that we were headed in 5 years ago. No, comics have not reached the sales levels of the mid-90's, the beginning of the end of the glut. Comic sales are up, but with a price increase right around the corner putting comics over $3 for the first time ever, we are poised for a drop-off again that will take us lower than we were in 2000. Add to that lots of fans, like myself, who look at the racks and see largely nothing but crap for sale these days with the few books I enjoy getting delayed for months and months cuz of prima donna artists who think they're God's gift and you will see that we are on the verge of a comic book depression. It'll be interesting to see what Marvel and DC can pull off now that the bump Civil War and Infinite Crisis gave them has almost disappeared.

  2. Jeff - It is a very interesting point to see what Marvel will do after Civil War and DC will do after 52. Take away those titles and the sales are really depressed. Still even with those bumps that is a huge decline.

  3. I think one of the problems with trying to raise comic book sales is that, although the population is increasing, the literacy level is steadily dropping, thanks to an education system that can teach children how to put on a condom, but can't teach them how to read properly.

    The other problem is manga - manga has an enormous variety of genres available. Comedy, drama, romance, action, fantasy, sci-fi... and manga stories do not go on forever, constantly needing re-writes to keep characters from 50 years ago current. Once a series is over, it's over, and the author goes on to something else. (Not to mention, with manga you've only got to wait for the next trade, no monthly issues of only a few pages each to collect.)

    This is a much better approach than what they've done with American comics.

  4. Arielle - LOL - loved the condom vs reading comment - too true.

    I agree that Manga is replacing US comics. I really believe that keeping the same people under the masks leads to this staleness of US comics. Bruce Wayne and Peter Parker are great characters, but in comics their stories should be over.

    At a Borders one day I saw a group of kids sitting on the floor reading manga books off the racks and no one had a US comic in their hand.

  5. When I was in kindergarten, we learned how to tie our shoes, count to 10 and say our ABC's. Now they learn how to put on a condom, speak spanish and surf the internet for porn. My how the world has changed. Wonder where common sense has gone...