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Spurge leads us to Comichron a site at which polymath (and CBG publisher) John Jackson Miller collates old sales figures of comics from postal statements and the like, as well as historical distributor records. The site will reward many hours of fruitful browsing, but we’ll give you some highlights. Just at random, lets look at the best selling comics for, oh say…1968.

1) Superman DC 636,400
2) Archie Archie 566,587
3) Batman DC 533,450
4) Superboy DC 532,135
5) World’s Finest Comics DC 480,115
6) Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane DC 461,725
7) Superman Family DC 460,560
8) Action Comics DC 423,000
9) Betty and Veronica Archie 419,544
10) Adventure Comics DC 411,200

11) Tarzan Gold Key 384,450
12) Amazing Spider-Man Marvel 373,303
13) Laugh Comics Archie 347,178
14) Archie’s Pal Jughead Archie 345,269
15) Fantastic Four Marvel 344,865
16) Archie’s Joke Book Archie 339,066
17) Archie and Me Archie 333,212
18) Justice League of America DC 315,500
19) Detective Comics DC 309,850
20) Thor Marvel 295,371

Oh, Mark Millar!

Here’s the Diamond/Heroes World figures for September 1996:

1 Fantastic Four (Vol. 2) 1 $2.95 Marvel 314,000
2 Iron Man (Vol. 2) 1 $2.95 Marvel 277,500
3 Avengers (Vol. 2) 1 $2.95 Marvel 276,700
4 Captain America (Vol. 2) 1 $2.95 Marvel 274,100
5 Uncanny X-Men 338 $1.95 Marvel 203,700
6 X-Men 58 $1.95 Marvel 203,100
7 Wolverine 107 $1.95 Marvel 184,300
8 X.S.E. 1 $1.95 Marvel 172,300
9 Incredible Hulk 447 $1.50 Marvel 170,000
10 Spectacular Spider-Man 240 $1.50 Marvel 165,400

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Now let’s jump ahead to September 1999 :

1 Uncanny X-Men 374 $1.99 Marvel 110,700
2 X-Men 94 $2.99 Marvel 108,500
3 JLA 35 $1.99 DC 83,400
4 Spawn 90 $1.95 Image 82,700
5 Avengers 22 $1.99 Marvel 81,100
6 Wolverine 144 $1.99 Marvel 76,600
7 Daredevil 9 (Res) $2.50 Marvel 73,700
8 Earth X 8 $2.99 Marvel 71,800
9 Astonishing X-Men 3 $2.50 Marvel 71,600
10 X-Men Children of the Atom 1 $2.99 Marvel 64,800

HOLY SHIT!!!!!!!! No wonder everyone was depressed. But we made it, guys…WE MADE IT TO THE LIGHT.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Um, this is sort of an apples and oranges comparison. In 1968 the distribution method was exactly the same as it is currently for Vogue or Time Magazine – A print run percentage of 100 will actually sell 30 to 35 percent – If you read these numbers with an understanding of this then that Superman book that distributed 636K, really sold somewhere in the neighborhood of 212K. The retailer then tore off the front cover from 424 Thousand copies, marked them as credit for the next batch of Superman comics to arrive in the stores the following month and then illicitly sold them or gave them to Barber shops or libraries accross the country, which is where a lot of people, me included, first got a lot of their comic book exposure. I understand that the speculator market first got it’s legs based on the illegal grabbing of that 65% of unsold comics, where speculators turned around and sold them at comic book cons for a profit.
    It really makes 1996 look like a great year (coming off of the big explosion in salesfrom 1986 through 1992), although everyone knows that by the turn of the century we’d all reached a nadir in sales.
    -Scott Koblish

  2. Actually, those are not print runs, but the Total Paid Circulations listed there, meaning returns were deducted already. I have the print runs as well for many, but not all, of those titles; I’ll be looking for a way to incorporate more data into the site eventually, but for now the idea was to start getting the top sellers lists up.

    Thanks for the link, Heidi. I’m fully freelance these days, as noted over on my fiction site, http://www.farawaypress.com. The Comics Chronicles site is a way to keep my hobby interest in comics rolling, and get some needed info out there at the same time.

    –John Jackson Miller

  3. So what is the “Superman Family” doing in a list of comics from 1968? “Superman Family” didn’t begin until January of 1974. Maybe it should be “Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen?”

  4. I’m a little surprised about seeing Thor above the Avengers and other books that I would figure would be a little more popular.

  5. Thor was reliable, well-executed and had a fantasy edge to it that other superhero comics didn’t. Even when I was a kid, there were kids that only read Conan and Thor.

  6. Jim, “Superman Family” is the name of the file I started the title’s record under — meaning the first form I found for the title was in “Superman Family.” So there’s a little clean-up work to be done when I run the reports — I caught all the Marvel titles that split, but I imagine there are others I missed. “Archie’s Madhouse,” when we get to that, is a particular headache of name changes.

    Any corrections like that you find that need to be made, please post in the blog or forum over there and I’ll get it taken care of. Thanks!

  7. Correction made — can’t believe I missed that one.

    Regarding Thor, I would also suggest that since Journey Into Mystery was a longer-running title than the other Marvel horror titles that morphed, it may have been racked in more places.

  8. Wow! In 1968, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and Thor were Marvel’s top-selling books!?!

    I betcha Archie books still outsell many of the books from the Big 2.

  9. It’s also a bit misleading to be using Sept. 1996 for comparison purposes. That was the first month that Heroes Reborn launched, so sales on the top 4 books were much higher on those issues than they would have been just a couple months before.