|The Direct Market saved Superman’s world.|
Jim Shooter, former editor in chief at Marvel, has embarked on his blog on a discussion of the history of the distribution business for comics, delving into such fun buts of minutiae as affadavit returns. (See Chuck Rozanski’s piece on the Mile High II collection, a batch of millions of comics in perfect shape that had been fraudulently reported as affidavit returns, here.) And as in past installments of Jim’s must-read blog, he’s included some internal documents.
This time, he’s included a Marvel analysis of DC’s sales through the newsstands, based on Warner Publisher Services projections. Follow the link above to see the document, but it posits figures for the November 1985 cover-dated issues.
Now, we know a number of things already about, for example, the November 1985 issue of Superman — issue #413. The average paid annual circulation for the year was 96,787 copies, from a print run of 270,577. Cut out subscription sales, and the figure is 96,686 copies. The average issue that year saw returns of 168,906 copies. These figures all come from the Statement of Ownership. We also know that Capital City sold 9,000 copies of that issue to comics shops, from my own copies of Cap City’s records.
Shooter’s document adds more facts. The internal analysis Marvel had from Warner projects that Superman #413 would have sent 186,800 copies to the newsstand, for which 59,900 copies were sold. If that figure is correct, the direct market sales would have been around 36,800 copies — making the Capital City share of the issue’s sales in the direct market about 24%.
This all presumes that the 1985 Statement is the right one to look at. It might not be, because #413, on sale in August and early September, would have been right on the cusp of being in the next year’s Statement. The sales figures for 1986 are just about the same — but the difference is on the print run. DC printed 30,000 fewer copies of Superman (or actually, as it became, Adventures of Superman) on average in the 1986 reporting period. That, interestingly, matches up with the cover letter in the Marvel memo, which states that DC’s newsstand draws had dropped by an average of 20,000 copies per title in 1985. You would see that reflected in the 1986 print runs — and Supes, having a larger print run than most, would see a larger cut. The 1986 Statement seems to square up better with the number of copies returned, too.
Comichron founder John Jackson Miller has tracked the comics industry for more than 25 years, including a decade editing the industry’s retail trade magazine; he is the author of several guides to comics, as well as more than a hundred comic books for various franchises.
He is the author of novels including Star Wars: Kenobi, Star Wars: A New Dawn, Star Trek: Discovery – The Enterprise War, and his latest release, Star Trek: Discovery – Die Standing. Read more about them at his fiction site.
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