Blah Blah Blog – The World According To 1984

A post from the old Marvel blog looking back at some Direct Sales market sales figures from 1984.

The World According To 1984

April 28, 2007 | 1:00 AM | By Tom_Brevoort | In General

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.

More later.

Tom B

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4 thoughts on “Blah Blah Blog – The World According To 1984

  1. Thanks for reposting this. I have the Capital City charts for this month, but they weren’t yet indexing the figures — that would start in October 1984 (as seen at https://www.comichron.com/pix/faq/October1984IC.jpg), and my internal data rescued from the ruins of Capital begins in 1985. Other data suggest that this 1984 was right about when AMAZING SPIDER-MAN’s direct sales would have passed its newsstand sales, though newsstand would still (except for special issues) be above 100,000 copies until the start of 1987.

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  2. It’s so funny to see that Micronauts #59 (near the end of the original series’ run) outsells much of the current comic books. I was so heartbroken when that and ROM ended…

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  3. For a rough comparison with the Avg Circulation from the Statement of Ownership numbers, you get the following (Avg of the 2 monthly DM numbers vs Circ):

    Secret Wars – no Circ numbers
    Uncanny X-Men (378,135) – 57%
    New Mutants (307,895) – 49%
    Alpha Flight – no Circ numbers
    Amazing Spider-Man (261,064) – 45%
    Fantastic Four (268,568) – 44%
    Thor (171,290) – 70%
    Power Pack – no Circ numbers
    Avengers (241,463) – 37%
    Marvel Age – Direct Only
    Alien Legion – Direct Only
    Peter Parker: Spectacular Sp-M (180,498) – 42%
    Thing (218,911) – 35%
    Daredevil – (233,580) – 33%
    Quest Probe – no Circ numbers
    Rom (162,090) – 43%
    Marvel Team-Up – no Circ numbers
    Iron Man (177,659) – 38%
    Dr. Strange (121,574) – 55%\
    Dreadstar – Direct Only
    Defenders (133,723) – 46%
    What If – no Circ numbers
    Micronauts – no Circ numbers
    GI Joe A Real American Hero (183,466) – 29%
    Amazing High Adventure – Direct Only
    Captain America (148,659) – 33%
    Incredible Hulk (196,567) – 23%
    Conan The Barbarian (205,751) – 20%
    Star Wars (179,917) – 23%
    Tarzan of The Apes – no Circ numbers
    Dazzler – no Circ numbers
    Ka-Zar The Savage – Direct Only
    Kull The Conqueror – no Circ numbers
    Coyote – Direct Only
    Powerman and Iron Fist (115,734) – 30%
    Further Adventures of Indiana Jones – no Circ numbers
    Savage Sword of Conan (133,689) – 20%
    Marvel Tales Starring Spider-Man (110681) – 19%
    U.S. 1 – no Circ numbers

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