Blah Blah Blog – The Numbers of Yesteryear

Another post from my old Marvel blog, this one looking at some slightly older sales figures than what we saw yesterday.

The Numbers of Yesteryear

July 21, 2008 | 1:00 AM | By Tom_Brevoort | In General

It seems like, more and more often now that the internet has diminished the dividing line between the average fan and the behind-the-curtain business aspects of the world of comics, every reader is incredibly interested in the sales numbers. Not a day seems to go by without me receiving an e-mail of some sort from a fan, bolstering his points using the rough sales data he’s collected online.

Now, first off, that sales information is rarely if ever 100% accurate, and it only accounts for the direct market and not any other revenue stream that might exist. But in a much larger global sense, I don’t know how much the average fan should really be worried about the overall numbers (outside of on those occasions when the sales on a beloved title slip to the point of cancellation.) But the sales numbers aren’t really anything that affects the lives of the readers directly, and those of us whose lives they do affect directly have a much better idea of the overall picture, of Marvel’s corporate goals and initiatives, and financial reasons for doing something we might be doing. In other words, throwing sales information (incomplete sales information at that) at us isn’t likely to sway anybody on a particular course of action.

That all having been said, let’s look at some hopefully-interesting information from days gone by.

Below I’ve dug out some sales data from July 1998, ten years ago. This was right at the tail end of the Heroes Reborn experiment, and just before Marvel Knights, so none of those titles are accounted for. As you can see, for the most part, the field is about the same–we’ve got more better-selling titles today, but not that many (and some of them are among the titles that were part of the aforementioned publishing initiatives.) Also, bear in mind that, yet again, this information only covers the Direct Market. Still, it’s rather amazing that the top three titles were selling practically twice as well as the next books in the queve. Our midlist is in much healthier shape these days.

Title July98

Unc. X-Men 137282
X-Men 131487
Wolverine 102160
Hulk 63968
Generation X 63450
Amazing Spidey 62869
X-Force 60876
X-Factor 59615
Peter Parker 58781
X-Man 57708
Spec. Spidey 56942
Cable 55510
Sensational Spi. 54122
Excalibur 47222
Thunderbolts 46220
Deadpool 40184
Alpha Flight 39725
Quicksilver 35003
What If 33368
Spidey Unltd. 33167
Heroes For Hire 28337
Silver Surfer 28160
Daredevil 25459
Ka-Zar 25130
Maverick 22799
Conan 14807
Marvel Advent. 6496
Spidey Manga 5765

It’s also a pretty telling look at just what books we were putting out a decade ago.

More later.

Tom B

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2 thoughts on “Blah Blah Blog – The Numbers of Yesteryear

  1. Big drop of 29,000 between the top 3 X-titles and the highest non-x book. I’m sure it’s annoying being pestered by fans, who, as said, “bolster their arguments with sales figures”. Those #’s should be more important to the professionals. It does impact their lives more. But even some sports fans follow how much $$$$$ some athletes make. Not exactly the same thing, no, but it’s beyond just enjoying the entertainment. Maybe it’s like what a team’s winning record is? Again, not exact, but when a team is losing more games than winning, “fans” want somebody cut, benched, or fired.

    We have “some” vestments in the characters and books we like. Most of my favorite series were never real chart toppers, but were often well received by what little media covers comics, and by other professionals. And weak sales made me fear their cancellations, which always came true. Acrcudi & Eng Huat’s “Doom Patrol”. Brubaker & Stewart’s “Deadenders”. Simonson’s “Orion”. Aaron & Guerra’s “Scalped”. And it’s also cool to see books I do like, sell well. It means I could enjoy those series longer. But most of those end when the creators responsible decide to move on. Ennis’s MAX “Punisher”. Anything Morrisson starts and then finishes.

    Maybe it’s like music sales charts. When a really bad single is # 1, it makes me shake my head and doubt my fellow humans. 😉 But high sales can be an affirmation. I didn’t like most of DC’s “New 52”. But I did pick up the first year of Capullo & Snyder’s “Batman”, and Reis & Johns’ “Aquaman”. And it was cool to see Batman in the top spot, and Aquaman outselling Spidey & the X-Books. UNHEARD of. Not so cool for you, I’m sure, Tom…

    I also wasn’t a fan of certain DC upper management’s policies, or the overall quality of my favorite characters’ (or most characters’) books, even BEFORE the New 52. And I couldn’t understand, after a decade of low sales, and a market share gap in the double digits, why those policies and the management itself were allowed to continue. The New 52 “stayed” any “executions”.

    Comics are entertainment. I don’t want to see anyone homeless or uninsured just because I don’t like their decision making about my favorite diversion. But when diversions become passions, we want to see them done as well as possible. Woe unto those who fail us… 😉 But like you’ve said, if a book isn’t selling, the writers & artists are eventually shown the door. It’s a business.


  2. Hulk being the next best selling book beyond x-titles is interesting, as that was right around when Peter David was being shown the door on the book (as the story goes folks upstairs wanted Hulk smash, he did not). Wonder if that was his last issue-giving it a bump up in sales?- or is that what the book doing monthly (generally speaking)?


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