The posting of the latest DC sales trends has led to quite an interesting thread at The Engine, as many Vertigo creators and other commiserate on a world of periodical sales hovering at the 10k mark, and waiting for the trade, comics downloading and so on are examined in the harsh light of day.


it’s looking rough out there.

At Vertigo, i watch Exterminators clinging to the 10K mark, sinking slowly, with some of us taking heavier hits than others (American Splendor, ouch!), but it feels like we’re almost all on a downward trend.

i dunno. watching this really gets to me. I believe in the work we’re doing. i think todays comics are some of the most engaging and well-drawn that have been made… but yeah, it feels like we’re all on a sinking ship.

shouldn’t this signal that it’s time to start reconsidering the options and make ready for a big change?

Brian Wood (DMZ) is more sanguine:

seems like this recent crop of books has been getting a ton of press, both within the industry and on the outside, and marketing’s been pretty on the ball from what I can see. I suspect everyone’s tpb sales are doing well. DMZ’s sure are.

Cameron Stewart (THE OTHER SIDE) has his own views:

For THE OTHER SIDE, the marketing people at DC arranged interviews/promotion in the mainstream press, such as the New York Times and The Chicago Tribune.

Our final issue isn’t out yet (next week, fact fans!) but we were promised a trade paperback collection before I’d drawn a single page; in fact Karen Berger even mentioned the trade at the book’s announcement at the NYCC Vertigo Panel last year. I think, in our case at least, the book’s potential greater success in the “mainstream” was recognized from the outset. I would have preferred the book to have been an OGN dropped directly into bookstores, if for no other reason than to more easily capitalize on the newspaper articles when they were published, but I know that the single issues help recoup some of the costs.

Anyway, I’ve been pretty pleased with DC’s treatment of THE OTHER SIDE – it’s plain that they’ve been very supportive of the book and will continue to be after the trade is released.

Dan Curtis Johnson recalls his CHASE with a cool metaphor that we can’t get to work on our Mac:

Have you ever heard a Shepard Scale (or more specifically, a Risset Tone?) It’s an auditory illusion where you manipulate the volume of moving overtones to produce a note that both seems like it’s perpetually falling* and yet somehow stays also right where it was all along. You just fade in new overtones at the top and fade out the ones that are going to the bottom, and the average result is something that is able to exist in complete freefall… forever.

My first pro work, CHASE, took ten issues from fade-in to fade-out; we fell right through 1998. Other books went ahead of us and other books came behind us, but the Scale kept on going and it’s still going today. The ship is sailing exactly the way it has been for years and years.


i, yeah from what I hear is that it’s a balance between monthly and tpb’s. the exterminators hovers at below 10 and I haven’t heard the C word once, in fact I actually think I will make my planned run and tell the entire story. But yeah I’m with Tony, it’s depressing. I think in my limited experience of all this that maybe the market place is just saturated because it’s so small.

Part of the blame maybe that because of the direct marketing and simply the way the business is set up that we have such a limited market. In 2007 having to trek to a comic book store and buy a comic every month is insane, you go to a “book” store and all they have is mixed up collection of 1987 Spawn trades and two dog eared superman books. Jesus we live in a world of itunes and netflix. This is what, a 30 year old plus business model and maybe it’s time to think about changing it.

I never thought that Exterminators was going to sell a million copies, it’s never going to make Oprah’s book club, but the kind of numbers we sell of non super-hero books feels like all fighting for every single reader, every month. Considering that most of the people involved here are pretty much at the top of their game, and what happened?

Wood comes back to say that his career didn’t take off until he moved to the monthly format with DEMO, but wonders how downloading comics affects his sales. Jock, Adi Tantimadh, Scott Bieser, Dirk Deppey and Brian Hibbs all pipe in as well. Steven Goldman points out this gem:

If you’re curious: glancing at a BitTorrent-tracking site, a torrent containing the first 13 issues of DMZ has been fully downloaded 1177 times.

Others mention empirical data that seems to indicate that free samples eventually raise sales…but no one has the answers. But see the next post.


  1. I guess that I am one of those legacy readers that goes to the book store almost every Wednesday and picks up individual issues. Part of it is, that I some stories are so good after the first few issues, I don’t want to wait for the trade, but also some nostalgia from when i was younger the and real excitement of getting new books. Then there are some books that have narratives that I find work much better in the longer formats like Ex Machina. But DMZ and the Exterminators, I have been wrapped up in and I buy then every month.

    I do not download comics that were not made specifically for the web. I don’t like reading them online and I don’t like crappy scans that distort the colors. I have a lot respect for the authors and artists that collaborate to create the books that I love.

  2. Warren Ellis once said the economics of Vertigo books are a lot different than those of other publishers, so even the worst Vertigo books can do well in TPB afterlife.
    This does not mean it stinks any less that Exterminators or DMZ are not reaching as many people as they should.
    Great books and more of you should read them.
    (Full disclosure: I buy DMZ in TPB and Exterminators in floppies)