Comics Creators

Random comics-related things


Thanks for those suggestions guys.

In other news, ep 3 of me and my buddys podcast, (G.I. Joe comic re-read) dropped today. It should be available on your podacst player of choice and I’ll provide a link to itunes as well.


You ever read Jonen Vasquez’ Jonny the Homicidal Maniac books? They’re very nineties, but back then I thought they were hilarious.


Some of the books Marvel published in the mid-90s are laughable, but I don’t think that’s the same as being funny.


I think it’s due to the distribution model, there used to be loads of them but by around the early 1990s became a couple and then just one in Diamond who publish their chart that people can extrapolate estimates of sales from.

The comics themselves used to have to annually publish a ‘postmaster’ statement in the 1980s which had detailed sales and distribution numbers but it’s probably a bit hard to compile as you’d have to track down which issues each year had them and manually match the numbers into a chart. So the data is there but not easy to consolidate.


Those statements were also good guides to when a book was approaching cancellation. I remember back in the pre-bust 90s that if a title was showing under 70,000 units, it was a goner. Ah, the good old days! :smiley:


It’s almost as if switching to primarily support the direct market, and then 80% of direct market shops closing in a single year caused a massive amount of damage to the industry.


I believe @RonnieM has warned against posting crackpot conspiracy theories.


Just ones from Cracked. :wink:


They make for interesting stats when I do come across them. Just having grabbed a stack of about 70 random issues from my shelf there were 4 that included the statement.

February 1994 - Incredible Hulk #414 - during the Peter David and Gary Frank run - the net press run (average no. of copies printed during preceding 12 months) was 351,692. The most recent issue’s print run was 301,200. For chronological context, the ad on the back is for the Acclaim Dual turbo controller - wireless controllers for SNES and Sega Genesis. No house ads of note - other Marvel titles on sale that month include X-Men 2099, Morbius, and Ectokid.

July 1995 - X-Force #44, the Jeph Loeb and Adam Pollina run - 12 month average 523,375, most recent 421,100. Back cover ad for MTV animation trading cards from Fleer, featuring The Head, the Maxx, and Beavis and Butthead. Inner cover ad for a mail-away Wolverine/Night-Man comic (issue #0). Inner back cover is an ad for Fleer Batman Forever trading cards.

November 1996 - X-Man #21, Terry Kavanagh and Roger Cruz, 266,696, 280,763. Back cover is an ad for the Fox TV show Sliders. Inner cover an ad for Nights into dreams, a Sega Saturn game. Other titles promoted on the Bullpen page include the Elektra series with art from Mike Deodato and Starlord reprint “megazine”, and there’s a house ad for the then new Deadpool series from Joe Kelly and Ed McGuinness. The last few pages are promo previews of “Timeslip” ( which I don’t remember ever seeing, or having heard mention of since - “a new series offering the chance to see how original Marvel characters would look if first designed by today’s hot creators” (being Guy Davis, John Paul Lean, and John K. Snyder III).

November 1998 -Peter Parker Spider-Man #97, Howard Mackie and JRjr, 202,975, 175,300. Back page ad is a “Got milk?” featuring Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy. Inner cover (fold-out) ad is for ABC’s Saturday Morning cartoons - Doug, Pepperann, and Recess. There’s an ad for a Small Soldiers CD-ROM game, and the Bullpens page mentions concurrent releases J2 (the alternate future series following Juggernaut’s son), and X-Men Chromium Classics: The Death of Phoenix (a reprint series where the story would be repackaged behind a new chromium cover - I don’t recall these either).


One thing you’ll notice, especially before the direct market became a significant factor is how much wastage there was in that system. There’s one 80s Uncanny X-Men where I counted around 20% of the printed copies were returned or destroyed unread.

It’s why despite the huge fall in overall distribution numbers Marvel in the era you mention lost money and in 2008 made $48m profit from just publishing.

I always feel the real error they had was in not following what Panini have done in Europe. Target the mainstream market by reprinting material in magazine format. One of the problems news vendors had was the low cover prices and therefore low margin so making an 80-100 page comic for a higher price solves that. The reprint content means all your creator costs are already covered so you can hit a cheaper price point per page.

Marvel had a quickly aborted attempt in the early 2000s and DC are trying now with Walmart but they’ve done that with a gap of many years were people got out of the habit of buying comics for themselves of their kids.


I’m just surprised that X-Force at that point was still selling (or “selling”) half a million copies per month.


Me too, even at 20% below the print run actually being sold and read that’s a huge number. We tend to focus on those huge launch numbers under Liefeld, McFarlane, Lee etc but that it maintained nearly half a million 3 or 4 years later is notable.


Having reread X-Force recently from the Liefeld run up to a round about this point, I really don’t get why there would have been significant buzz.

Nicieza had wrapped up his time with these characters and moved on, and Jeph Loeb was trying to take the book in a different direction (not sure if it was him or Lobdell who decided that it was about time for a graduate, so Cannonball was officially made an X-Man) but it was quite muddled, and after the relative flashy “Image-esque” art stylings of Capullo and Tony Daniel, we have the relatively weird look of Adam Pollina’s pencils.

I’m curious about this, and kind of enjoying flicking through paper comics for the first time in ages - here are some more:

March 1992, Uncanny X-Men #286, Lobdell, Lee, Portacio. 12 month average 601,254, most recent issue 735,600. Just before the Image explosion.

March 1993, What if…? #47, early, pre-fame (?) Busiek, 270,308, 253,000. “What if Magneto took over the USA? (Part 2)”, so that 253,000 is presumably for Busiek’s part one.

March 1993 - X-Force #20, Nicieza, Capullo, 936,633, 720,500. That 12 month period includes some of the Liefeld run.

March 1995 - Spectacular Spidey #222, DeFalco, Sal Buscema, Bill Sienciewicz, 232,567, 294,000. Clone saga still being played out.

November 1998 - Avengers #10, Busiek and Perez. 236,730, 213,500. Very surprising as I thought this was a really popular run, the big re-reboot after the mixed results of the Heroes Reborn experiment - these are lower sales than Busiek’s “What if…?” issue five years earlier! (Would it be gauche to tag Kurt in this to ask?)

November 1998, X-Men 81, Joe Kelly and Adam Kubert. 367,725, 315,600 (I was pretty checked out of X-Men at this point; Marrow is on the team, Colossus is back, and it all seems a bit directionless).

For a direct comparison, 3 issues of the same title:

April 1991, X-Factor #65, Claremont, Lee, Portacio - 405,483, 398,609

March 1993, X-Factor #88, Peter David, Joe Quesada - 565,983, 442,900

July 1995, X-Factor #112, John Francis Moore and Jeff Matsuda - 409,458, 322,300


By most recent issue, do you mean 2018?


In the postmaster notices, most recent issue referred to the issue that came out just prior to print of the issue with the notice.


Ah, I thought he was saying the issue that just came out last month. I was pretty sure current comics didn’t hit those numbers anymore.


With a few exceptions they don’t.

Interestingly it isn’t all about distribution though. If you look at the postmaster entries for Uncanny X-Men during the Claremont/Byrne era (thanks omnibus for printing the letters pages) the paid sales are around 110-130,000. Even Byrne himself said the sales only regularly hit way higher than that after he’d left and moved onto FF in the 1980s when Shooter got Marvel over the seventies slump.

Comics in that era Andrew is looking at were just more popular, even if a big fall was coming.


Ya, those distribution numbers count for advertising though which used to be a bigger part of the consideration when comics were more on the threeway model that most magazines are.

Digital comics don’t have ads. So I never see them anymore. Do physical comics still have much in the way of outside (non-house) ads?


Yes very true but even the distributed numbers are much lower than the ones seen in the 80s and especially that early 90s period. Uncanny was up to 600-700k by the mid 80s.

I only mention it really because there’s an easy narrative of general sales decline with US comics but it is far more variable than that. Heroes in Crisis is getting roughly the same number of readers as Uncanny X-Men #125. The numbers Andrew is quoting are higher than the Stan Lee era Marvel postmaster numbers in the 1960s.


I think it’s more that prior to the crash, the average midlist sales were better rather than the big hits sold better. If you’re selling an average of 2 copies per shop of Pig-Knuckle Man, and you have 2,000 shops to sell in, then you sell 4,000 copies. But if you have 10,000 shops to sell in, you’re selling 20,000 copies.