June 1989 Comic Book Sales to Comics Shops
Estimated Comics Preordered by North American Comics Shops
Based on Reports from Diamond Comic Distributors
These figures are for Diamond. Click to see Capital City Distribution's sales charts.
June 1989 proved to be one of most important months in modern comics industry history — one that provided an emphatic answer to what has since become a perennial question: "Has a movie ever helped comics sales?"
The Batman TV show in 1966 had temporarily made the comic-book series of that name the top seller in the business, but the show had relatively little sales impact beyond that. By contrast, the movie in 1989 — and the nimble response of a comics retail industry that had prepared well for it — helped to kick off the record-setting comics boom of the early 1990s. More lastingly, it helped to put the character's comics in the top sales echelon for a generation, supercharging a sales improvement begun earlier in the decade with Frank Miller's work.
The night of Thursday, June 22, 1989 saw the release of the first Batman feature film directed by Tim Burton — and its $42.7 million opening weekend made it a pop-culture phenomenon. It spawned immediate and multiple repeat viewings by many filmgoers (including your Comichron.com founder, a few of whose ticket stubs appear at left) — and a tidal wave of related merchandise in mass-market venues. It still wasn't enough: people even stole Batman cardboard standees from Taco Bell, which had lucked out by landing a fast-food tie-in license that larger chains had apparently passed on.
But while Batman-logo items would be ubiquitous in shops of all kinds several weeks after the film's release (including record stores, thanks to separate soundtracks from Prince and Danny Elfman), comics retailers disproportionately benefited from the film early on thanks to a strong buildup of product beforehand in the Direct Market. Diamond Comic Distributors' Previews #118 (April 1989, for June-shipping material) dedicated a five-page special section just to Batman merchandise. A lot of it had existed previously and so was connected only to the character, but a significant amount was movie-related.
Retailers ordered deeply on DC's Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told trade paperback; Topps' Batman movie card set and movie magazine; a 1990 movie calendar; action figures; replica movie Batmobile and Batwing toys and die-cast miniatures; various T-shirts and movie posters which wouldn't circulate in the mass market for some time; and, of course, the Batman Official Movie Adaptation comic from DC, which shipped in both $2.50 (Standard) and $4.95 (Prestige) editions.
The cheaper Standard Edition appears to have sold more copies, but that's an illusion. The Prestige Edition also shipped in a 25-copy prepack display for $124, and while it does not appear in Diamond's Top 100 below, it was the #7 dollar item overall at Diamond in the month — and known totals from its rival Capital City Distribution (whose more detailed charts for the month are here) demonstrate the prepack's sales would have been more than enough to put the Prestige Edition ahead of the Standard one.
We know from Diamond's dollar sales rankings, further, that the standard version of the Batman movie adaptation alone appears to have almost exactly matched Uncanny X-Men for dollars earned.
And then there was the main Batman title itself, which along with Detective Comics and the Superman titles were the last remaining comics in the industry still priced at 75¢. In this era, Diamond did not report indexed sales, so there's no way to know how much any one issue sold more than another. But Capital stated in its June report that the preorders for issues #436 and #437 of the regular Batman comics series — then running the "Year 3" storyline biweekly — had vaulted past perennial top-seller Uncanny X-Men, moving one-and-a-half times as many copies as the latest issues of that series. Capital sold more than 110,000 copies of each of the two Batman issues; Diamond's totals would have been higher, and overall sales plus newsstand would likely have been at least in the half-million copy neighborhood. (Unusually even for 1989, Uncanny X-Men #250 did not mark its milestone number with a double-sized issue; it was embedded within the title's biweekly summer run.)
So comics retailers had been well aware of the Batman film and its prospects long before the national advertising campaign began in late May — which itself was a relatively early publicity launch for movies in that era. A few weeks out from release, Capital reported, "The merchandise is shipping in huge quantities and demand still appears to be building faster than the supply... Still no sign of where this is going to top out."
As it turned out, the Direct Market, which had seen distributor failures in the late 1980s following the collapse of the "Black and White Glut" (an explosion of independent titles published in black-and-white) turned the summer of 1989 into a period of revival. Batmania launched in earnest what would become the comics boom of the early 1990s. The first new Batman comics series launched in the wake of the Batman film's success, September's Legends of the Dark Knight #1, would even feature the first major variant-cover marketing scheme, one of the hallmarks of that boom. (The more determinative factor of the frenzy, however — too-easy credit for retailers wanting to open stores — can't be laid at the Batcave's door.)
The raw version of the chart below was published in the May 26, 1989 Diamond Dialogue. It was still a newsletter, at that point; only issue names and prices appeared. We've added publishers and ship dates, and have integrated dollar rankings that appeared in a different table. Diamond did not report market shares in this era, but we can see that apart from Batman items, Marvel took every spot in Diamond's Top 20. It also took 38 of the top 50 slots. Dark Horse had a strong launch with the first issue of its sequel to the original Aliens miniseries.
As the chart below reports preorders, some of the comics ranked did not come out in June 1989, or at all. The Punisher hardcover in the chart was intended to reunite the Steven Grant/Mike Zeck team from the original miniseries; it had already been canceled once by this ranking, and even though it was the top dollar item of the month, it does not appear to have been released then or later. The Punisher movie wouldn't release for another year, so its adaptation would also be delayed. And Swamp Thing #89, ranked 98th below, wouldn't come out for months after the editorial upheaval surrounding the intended depiction of Jesus Christ in #88 of that title.
The 13th-place Havok and Wolverine: Meltdown #4, meanwhile, was a resolicitation of an issue originally scheduled for earlier in the year.
The dates shown below are the dates the comics shipped from the printer, according to Diamond Previews #118 (June 1989) and subsequently reported in Amazing Heroes #166-167 (June 1 and June 15, 1989). The dates are all Tuesdays, which corresponds to when the printer Ronald's released its comics, despite the fact that World Color Press wasn't releasing its books until 12:01 a.m. on Thursdays, according to Capital's Milton Griepp. Diamond's catalog seems to have grouped everything together under the earlier day, regardless of which printer a comic came from, whereas Capital's Advance Comics uniformly announced dates that were two days later. (Its dates appeared in Amazing Heroes #168 (July 1, 1989) Comics Buyer's Guide and Comic Shop News.) Not all books below necessarily hit stands in this calendar month, and specific on-sale dates were rarely announced in advance for smaller publishers' titles as they could seldom guarantee printer times.
Further, in this era, distributor catalog dates for all publishers did not synch up exactly with the calendar month, so Diamond's June charts include two week's worth of DC comics from July — and are missing the first two weeks' comics, which appeared in Diamond's May charts. This would continue until March 1995, when DC would realign its solicitations with the Direct Market's calendar month (that chart only included three weeks of DC sales). Because Diamond did not report indexed sales, there is no way to know where those comics would have landed in this month's chart.
Click to skip to the Top Graphic Novels for the month.
—John Jackson Miller
This list includes all items on Diamond's Top 100 chart, plus items that appeared in Diamond's dollar sales table.
Items marked (resolicited) were offered in an earlier month but never shipped; disregard any previously reported figure, as earlier orders were canceled when the books were resolicited.
Distributor charts are regional commodity reports, not measures of a work's total reach. Read our FAQ.
The links lead to current listings for each issue on eBay. You can also find the books at your comics shop.
|13||3||Havok & Wolverine: Meltdown||4||$3.50||06/13/89||Marvel|
|14||10||New Mutants Annual||9||$2.00||06/13/89||Marvel|
|15||22||Punisher War Journal||9||$1.50||06/13/89||Marvel|
|18||14||Web of Spider-Man Annual||5||$2.00||06/27/89||Marvel|
|20||34||Avengers West Coast||49||$1.00||06/06/89||Marvel|
|21||35||Justice League Europe||5||$1.00||06/27/89||DC|
|25||42||Justice League America||29||$1.00||06/13/89||DC|
|26||19||Aliens II||1||$2.25||06/30/89||Dark Horse|
|30||29||Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.||2||$1.50||06/20/89||Marvel|
|31||16||Batman Movie Adaption||Standard||$2.50||06/20/89||DC|
|33||48||Web of Spider-Man||55||$1.00||06/13/89||Marvel|
|35||29||Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe 1989 Update||4||$1.50||06/13/89||Marvel|
|43||36||Marc Spector: Moon Knight||5||$1.50||06/27/89||Marvel|
|47||55||Marvel Comics Presents||31||$1.25||06/27/89||Marvel|
|48||23||Batman Official Movie Souvenir Magazine||$2.95||Topps|
|49||57||Marvel Comics Presents||30||$1.25||06/13/89||Marvel|
|50||73||Hawk and Dove||3||$1.00||06/20/89||DC|
|55||n.a.||Adventures of Superman||457||$0.75||06/27/89||DC|
|58||8||Batman Movie Adaption||Prestige||$4.95||06/20/89||DC|
|62||24||New Titans Annual||5||$3.50||06/13/89||DC|
|66||62||Doctor Strange Sorceror Supreme||8||$1.50||06/27/89||Marvel|
|68||50||Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles||22||$1.75||06/13/89||Mirage|
|71||59||Legion of Super-Heroes||63||$1.75||06/20/89||DC|
|74||75||Saga of the Sub-Mariner||12||$1.50||06/20/89||Marvel|
|75||77||Cloak & Dagger||7||$1.50||06/27/89||Marvel|
|77||n.a.||Groo the Wanderer||56||$1.00||06/13/89||Marvel|
|78||78||Advanced Dungeons & Dragons||9||$1.50||07/06/89||DC|
|82||1||Punisher Hardcover GN||$16.95||06/08/89||Marvel|
|91||n.a.||Firestorm, the Nuclear Man||88||$1.00||06/13/89||DC|
|93||2||Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told||$15.95||06/27/89||DC|
|94||46||Swamp Thing Annual||5||$2.95||07/13/89||DC|
|99||n.a.||Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade||1||$1.00||06/06/89||Marvel|
|100||n.a.||G.I. Joe Special Missions||26||$1.00||06/06/89||Marvel|
|n.a.||64||Lone Wolf and Cub||26||$2.95||First|
|n.a.||68||Appleseed Book Two||5||$2.75||Eclipse|
|n.a.||71||Lum: Uresei Yatsura||2||$2.95||Viz|
|n.a.||80||Fist of the North Star||3||$2.95||Viz|
June 1989 Graphic Novel Sales to Comics Shops
Estimated Graphic Novels and Trade Paperbacks Preordered by North American Comics Shops Based on Reports from Diamond Comic Distributors
Diamond released no Graphic Novel list in this month; this chart amalgamates relevant reported data.
The links lead to details about each title on Amazon. You can also find the books at your comics shop.
Diamond did not publish graphic novel charts in this era, but it did include better-selling graphic novels in its overall dollar rankings. The list below is cobbled from those charts and is ranked by dollars and not units.
The top graphic novel in those charts, the above-mentioned Punisher, never came out.
|Units||Dollars||Trade Paperback title||Price||Publisher||Est. units|
|n/a||1||Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told||$15.95||DC||n.a.|
|n/a||2||Doctor Doom/Doctor Strange: Triumph and Torment HC||$17.95||Marvel||n.a.|
|n/a||3||Fantastic Four: The Trial of Galactus||$12.95||Marvel||n.a.|
|n/a||4||Carl Barks Library Vol. 5||$110.00||Gladstone||n.a.|
|n/a||5||Art of Walt Simonson||$19.95||DC||n.a.|
|n/a||6||Shell Shock (TMNT)||$12.95||Mirage||n.a.|
|n/a||7||Gladstone Album Deluxe HC Set||$150.00||Gladstone||n.a.|
|n/a||8||Daredevil: Love and War||$7.95||Marvel||n.a.|