Where will Obama issue rank in Spider-title history?

The Diamond January 2009 sales data will be along next week, and Amazing Spider-Man #583 will almost certainly be #1 for the month — as some retailers have said, the Barack Obama inauguration day issue helped put what is usually a slow month overall into positive territory. Its role in the present day aside, it will be interesting to see where the issue ranks in the circulation history of Marvel’s flagship title overall.

For a look at what’s out there, I’ve posted the information from the Amazing Spider-Man postal circulation statements I have in the database in the Title Spotlight section. I haven’t got a lot in that section yet, and as you can see, the Amazing Spider-Man data is partial. I have all the Statements before 2006; it’s just a matter of getting the subscription numbers and print runs added in as time allows. If someone has clean scans of the 2007 and 2008 forms (along with the issue numbers and cover dates they’re printed in), wing them my way at the address on the page; I know I can lay my hands on the issues, but my newest comics are awaiting sorting and shelving, and you often have to go through several issues at once to find the forms (or confirm that they do not exist).

Anyway, we see the high-water mark is in that post-McFarlane Mark Bagley-era stretch during the boom in 1993, with 593,442 copies sold across all channels, direct market, subs, and newsstand. Now, that’s an average; there were individual issues with higher totals. Amazing Spider-Man #375, within that year, was the 30th Anniversary Special with a metallic ink cover; sources put direct market sales of that at 914,300 copies (not counting newsstand or subs!). Capital City’s orders on that $3.95 book — yes, $3.95 in 1993 — alone were 208,200 copies. I am inclined to believe that issue was the top-seller for the title ever.

That’s for Amazing; the top-selling Spider-Man comic of all time would be the Todd McFarlane “adjectiveless” Spider-Man #1. That issue in its bagged and unbagged forms, according to Marvel, had sales of 3,286,000 copies, the vast majority of them in the direct market. That places it in the Top 5 for modern-era comics; don’t ask me to sort the list right now, but figure X-Men Vol. 2, #1 is on top.

Instead of looking for the Obama issue to match those lofty heights, we might look to a nearer contemporary history-related issue for a comparison: Amazing Spider-Man Vol. #2, #36, the black-covered 9/11 issue. It’s hard to say its sales exactly, because that was in the preorder-era for the Diamond charts — and at the time orders were taken, 9/11 hadn’t even happened yet. Preorders were 92,800 copies — and since Diamond was not putting reordered titles on the charts, we didn’t see what the numbers finally were once reorders came in. My guess is sales might have doubled over that, but not much more — because the yearly average in the Statement of Ownership for 2002 (which the issue would have been considered under) goes up, but only by about 10,000 copies.

As to #538? I would guess the current issue will top that 2001 performance; the relative state of the retail base is stronger, and the issue got more national press. Stay tuned…

Update: And a couple of hours later, at the good old comics shop, I located the Statement in the 2008 issue; it’s been added to the data. 2006 and 2007 are still needed — though as I note, a cursory search found nothing in 2006. It is unusual seeing the 2008 report, being for the three-issue-a-month period; it’s the only $81 subscription rate in the whole database!

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