The top 300 comics charts are out for January, and John Jackson Miller has his monthly analysis which reveals that graphic novels were heavily discounted in January, perhaps accounting for part of the fall in sales.

He also points out something very important which I think a lot of people don’t remember – because they weren’t here five years ago. If you think sales are bad now, five years ago, they were AWFUL:

On the other hand, some perspective: Five years ago, January 2011 was the pits. The Top 300 comics sold 4.4 million copies, likely the lowest sum since the 1930s. There were a couple of reasons: it was the bottom of the comics slump pre-DC reboot, but it was also a month where publishers shipped extremely few titles to market. The market ordered more than 2 million more comics this January, and publishers are releasing more, now, too: 719 new comics and graphic novels versus 555 five years ago. That shows a market with more breadth.

And eight titles had six-figure sales this January, led by Walking Dead #150 with orders topping 156,000 copies. Compare that with one title in six figures five years ago, and that at 115,000 copies. Back then, that one book was the only one above 73,000 copies; this January, there were 11. And the 300th place book had sales of 1,291 copies — less than a third of what today’s title at that level sold!

While the 200 piece rise in comics released may eventually prove to be unsustainable, it’s worth looking back on the situation that led to the New 52 relaunch, one of the key elements in bringing in new readers for the overall comics market. The Walking Dead TV show launched in October 2010, another benchmark of the New Era taht has brought in readers in droves. The Marvel Cinematic Universe was just getting underway as well. And graphic novels were getting stronger in both bookstores and comics shops.

It was a perfect storm of factors that led to a rise in sales, but with DC on the brink of another relaunch/reboot/Rebirth, it’s worth recalling the situation that led them to undertake such a bold initiative at a time when sales were “the pits.” And the reaction was clear from retailers and readers alike: people came back and picked up DC comics for the first time. As a sales movie, we went from the pits to big hits.

The launch of the New 52 was accompanied by a six figure marketing campaign that included subway ads, TV ads, and a full frontal assault on the internet media of the time. It would be very hard to pull of now because social media and media in general is way more fragmented. You can never capture lightning like that twice. Will Rebirth be able to ignite a high level of excitement as The New 52 did? Stayed tuned to The Beat for the answer to that and many other questions as 2016 unfolds!


  1. Several things are becoming clear. One is that the guaranteed sales bump from a new #1 isn’t there anymore. After so many reboots and renumbering they’ve finally managed to make a #1 feel like any other issue. Hence the trend for new comics to launch around 20,000 and be in instant cancellation territory by issue 2.

    Also, Vertigo looks dead in the water. Will DC allow titles to bump along at 4000-5000 or just kill them off?

  2. Reading one of my comments at one of my own links above, I’m reminded that January 2011 had an additional strike against it: That was the month that Diamond had switched all publishers so their books would arrive on Tuesday, and a number didn’t meet the logistical demands and their books slid into February. That in part led to how few titles were out.

    That said, the February 2011 figure was only 5.17 million copies, so it’s likely the sales of a January 2011 where everything went right would only have been between 4 and 5 million copies. That still would have been the low point.

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