Sunday, April 14, 2013

Spreadsheet of dismay

Nu, I was having a talk on the way home with The Spectacular Sissy about comic books sales figures. Sissy is not a comic book fan but like all liberally educated folks, she can be interested in anything, and she seemed interested in my description of the shrinking market for traditional comics. So after our carpool ride, I did some quick internet research and came up with the following spreadsheet:

The top selling two comics in 1969 averaged over a half-million copies each month; in February 2013, the top-selling comic moved just over 300,000 copies - and this is a bit of an outlier: I believe it was the JLA flag-for-every-state issue. Even so, the number one comic of February would have come in at number 14 on the 1969 list.

The curve drops even more precipitously after that. February's number two, The Uncanny X-Men at 177K, would have come in at 40, and number three, Batman at 150K would have hit 48.

None of the other top-fifty sellers of February 2013 would have placed on the 1969 list.

I know there are a lot of details to parse in understanding these numbers, with the switch to a direct  market, changed distribution channels, and so on, but it is hard to look at the scope and scale of change and not think that regular monthly comics have become close to irrelevant.

I'd love to hear from someone with a bit more insight on the sales end of things.


  1. I've thought comics were about to die for decades. Instead, they shrink their audience and raise their price, playing to an ever-smaller and richer audience. I'm always amused by writers who still think comics mean something to the general public.

  2. I often use comics as material in my composition classes, and I am lucky if more than one student out of twenty-four has even read a comic.