A post from the old Marvel blog looking back at some Direct Sales market sales figures from 1984.
Talking about this month’s rankings at the beginning of the week, and excavating through the crank file yesterday put me in a mind to share the attached document with everybody, just by way of compare and contrast. What you see at the left is the sales rankings for Marvel books for April 1984.
These figures, however, are only for the direct market, which was still largely in its infancy during this period. In 1984, most Marvel books were still sold through what was then called Newsstand channels, everything from candy stores to 7-11s, on a returnable basis, just like any other magazines. So these numbers represent only a fraction of the total sales for these titles in these months–and the rankings don’t even necessarily represent how well a given book was doing overall (because there were some titles that were extremely popular on the Newsstand, but which weren’t real favorites of the more rarefied clientele who frequented comic book specialty shops.)
Nevertheless, it’s an interesting snapshot as to how things were performing in the early days of the direct market. The numbers for SECRET WARS, for example, far outstrip everything else (in a manner that’s held true today for event books like CIVIL WAR.) It’s also very interesting to me that, at least in the direct market, ALPHA FLIGHT was outselling both AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and FANTASTIC FOUR a year in–this despite the fact that both AF and FF were being done by John Byrne at the time.
Generally, things seem to be looking good for Marvel in the direct market in April 1984, as a majority of the titles being published, especially what we think of as the “core” Marvel books, are mostly posting increases. And the lowest-selling mainstream Marvel title on the list, POWER MAN AND IRON FIST, would run for another two years or so–and then was canceled not because it wasn’t making money, but because the feeling was that the resources that went into producing that title could be used to produce some other book which would make even more money.
If nothing else, it’s very clear from this document how much of a savior the direct market was for the comic book industry–an industry that looked as though it might be breathing its last towards the end of the 1970s, as the returns from Newsstand channels dwindled.