Tim Burton‘s Batman movie came out 30 years ago this weekend, so we’ve just posted the June 1989 sales charts for both Diamond Comic Distributors and Capital City Distribution. See what was selling by clicking the links:
Capital was the second largest distributor, with 1,200 accounts at the time; its exact sales are known, due to its founders providing me with many records when it closed in 1996. Overall circulations would be about 4-5 times higher than what are seen in the Capital table.
These are now the earliest Direct Market charts on the site; reporting from this era is complicated by the existence of multiple distributors, with varying levels of sales reporting. But all bet heavily on Batman, offering multiple pages of related goods in their catalogs.
Diamond’s charts don’t have order indexes in that era, but we see that the regular Batman title leaps past Uncanny X-Men to the #1 slot. Shades of 1966, when the Batman TV show briefly propelled the DC series into the top position.
A big earner in comics shops associated with Batman was the adaptation, which released to distributors in a $4.95 “prestige” format June 20, 1989 from Ronald’s Printing, and a $2.50 standard version June 22 from World Color Press. Distributors also sold a 25-copy prepack unit.
The top graphic novel for the month was Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told, which sold 11,650 units just through Capital alone. No distributor ran separate tables for graphic novels back then, but we’ve created them by pulling them from the existing comics and dollar-ranking charts.
Readers of modern charts will see some peculiarities. Preorders were being reported, so books are listed that never came out, such as a June 1989 Punisher original graphic novel. Others came out later: after Dolph Lundgren‘s Punisher movie was yanked from the 1989 schedule, the comic adaptation limped out in 1990.
We’ve included the shipping dates from the distributor catalogs, which introduce even more oddities. Diamond listed mostly Tuesdays, which was when Ronald’s released comics, whether Ronald’s printed them or not; Capital went with Thursdays, when World Color released them.
And DC in the 1980s and early 1990s, perhaps due to a holdover from the newsstand era, ran solicitations in the distributor catalogs that straddled into the next month, so May’s catalog has part of June in it. It would realign its schedule in March 1995.
Only Capital City published market shares back then, but you’ll find them eerily similar to those from today:
JUNE 1989 UNIT SHARES
Dark Horse 2%
MAY 2019 UNIT SHARES (just Top 300, so we exclude Year of the Villain #1)
Dark Horse 2%
For the 20th anniversary, I wrote about the specific circumstances under which a comics movie can help comics sales — and Batman 1989 is one of the key examples. It found comics shops well-stocked, giving them a head-start on a mass market that’d soon be gripped with Batmania. It helped kick off the early 1990s comics boom — and solidified Batman’s position in the top echelon of comics sales, where it remains today. Read more about it on the charts pages!
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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