Comics Circulation History Timeline

Helpful dates in comics circulation study

Larger things are planned for this section in future, but here are a few handy dates in looking at comics circulation figures, particularly as they relate to distribution:

  • May 1934: The first monthly comic book, Famous Funnies, publishes its first issue. By 1937, the title would be audited by the Audit Bureau of Circulation, which tracked its circulation in order to better inform the advertising industry. Many comics would be audited thereafter. 

  • 1960: Comic book postal Statements of Ownership begin to report circulation figures. Previous statements had included no figures.

  • April 5, 1980: Capital City Distribution incorporates in Madison, Wis.

  • Feb. 1, 1982: Steve Geppi founds Diamond Comic Distributors. 

  • 1984: Capital City Distribution begins publishing indexed preorder figures in its Internal Correspondence newsletter. Diamond Comic Distributors would follow much later, in its Diamond Dialogue magazine.

  • 1987: DC comics stops sending subscription copies Second Class, so it stops printing circulation figures.

  • 1988: Diamond purchases Bud Plant Inc., a major West Coast distributor, giving it a national reach for the first time and making it the largest Direct Market distributor. Its Previews catalog launches later in the year.

  • Sept. 18, 1992: Diamond announces the acquisition of Titan Distributors, the United Kingdom's largest comics distributor.

  • May 29, 1994: After Marvel breaks ties with regional distributor Comics Unlimited following that distributor's public criticism of Marvel's mail order "Marvel Mart" circular, Diamond acquires the assets and liabilities of Comics Unlimited.

  • Aug. 1, 1995: Marvel begins exclusively distributing comics to comics shops through its own distributor, Heroes World Distribution. Heroes World stops running sales charts in its catalogs.

  • July 1996: Diamond Comic Distributors absorbs Capital City Distribution. Its reports now covered most of the non-Marvel comics shop sales.

  • April 1997: Marvel folded Heroes World and returned its sales to Diamond. Diamond's sales reports thereafter covered most of the comics ordered by comics shops.

  • January 1998: Diamond begins reporting preorders for its top Trade Paperbacks as a separate category.

  • May 27, 1999: DC resigns from the Audit Bureau of Circulation and switches to its rival auditing firm BPA.

  • February 2003: Beginning with this month, Diamond shifted to reporting Final Orders from comics shops, rather than preorder figures.

  • 2012: Marvel stops running Statements of Ownership, leaving only Archie and Mad to publish them.

  • 2014: DC resigns from the BPA auditing firm, ending its audit bureau statements.

  • 2016: Archie runs its last Statements of Ownership, leaving only Mad.

  • April 17, 2020: During a pause in the shipment of new comics by Diamond in response to the Coronavirus pandemic in North America, DC adds two new distributors, Lunar Distribution and UCS Comic Distributors, formed by mail-order retailers DBCS and Midtown Comics respectively.

  • June 5, 2020: DC breaks ties with Diamond, forcing retailers to use either Lunar or UCS for comics and Random House for books.

  • March 25, 2021:Marvel announces plans to move its comics and graphic novel distribution for comics shops to Random House starting in October.

A work in progress. Select Marvel moments can be found here.

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