Home Publishers DC Flashback: in 1988 D.C. discovered ad sales

Flashback: in 1988 D.C. discovered ad sales


We were doing our usual Google news search last night and noticed you can now look back in time. A quick search on DC Comics came up with this story from the New York Times talking about D.C. Comics In New Push To Sell Space:

IT’S been a traumatic year at D.C.

First (bam!) Robin, the Boy Wonder, was killed in an explosion. Then (omigosh!) Superman suffered an identity crisis. Now (golly!) D.C. says it will accept national advertising in a previously pristine line of its comic books.

This article is a goldmine for historians.

The decision to open a second line of books, the D.C. Group, to advertisers was based on a reader survey that the company commissioned a year ago from Mark Clements, a leading magazine researcher.

The survey showed that the 1.5 million readers of this group’s 25 titles, which include ”Swamp Thing,” ”Hellblazer” and ”Dr. Fate,” were, on average, 24 years old, with college educations and household incomes of $38,000, and spent $40 to $60 a month on comic books.

More significant was their ”psychographic profile,” detailing their likes and dislikes. It showed, said Jenette Kahn, D.C.’s president and publisher, that the readers were ”high-tech fiends.” At a time when 3 percent of American households had compact disk players, for example, 38 percent of the D.C. Group’s readers owned them.


Their sophistication is a response to the dramatic change in the distribution of comic books in the last decade. The corner candy stores, which once sold virtually all comic books, have closed. The convenience-store chains that took their place discouraged browsing by children.

To fill the demand for comic books, specialty stores opened, and 3,000 of them now account for about 65 percent of distribution. Because these stores are often in malls and strip shopping centers on highways, they draw an older customer. The comic-book publishers decided to create titles that reflect the new readers’ worldliness, and, voila, a new advertising medium was born.

The hook for the article is the hiring of D.C.’s first advertising director, one Tom Ballou. Reading the quotes from Jenette Kahn and Paul Levitz (then executive VP) with a bit of hindsight, it’s easy to see the excitement over the perceived artistic and business growth. It was not long after WATCHMEN and DARK KNIGHT, two radical successes that are still being mined. Who knows what else we’ll find in the Google wayback machine?

  1. Superman #400, which came out in 1984, is probably the greatest anniversary issue ever published. It deserves a hardcover reprint with a portfolio of the pinups.
    Even more interesting are the editorial columns from Giordano, Kahn, and the roving reporters.
    The full text and graphics of the New York Times are available online via the New York Public Library. Those without access can still use the Times as an online index, as most major libraries have the Times on microfilm.

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