September 1989 Comic Book Sales to Comics Shops
Estimated Comics Preordered by North American Comics Shops
Based on Reports from Diamond Comic Distributors
September had a reputation as a sales-killer of a month in previous years of the 1980s, particularly in 1986's "Black September"; it was a familiar enough phenomenon that Diamond Comic Distributors owner Steve Geppi wrote retailers in August 1989 cautioning them to "not accept the thought that sales may go soft when school reopens." The market did indeed weaken, but not by as much as feared: Capital City Distribution's retailer magazine called it "Gray September," a "soft landing" after robust growth in the summer. "There are more customers spending money in comics shops than there were six months or a year ago," Milton Griepp wrote, and that fact definitely helped.
The theatrical run of Batman was finally winding down by September 1989, but Batmania in comics shops was still going, in part because retailers were only then receiving comics ordered after the movie's June release. "A Lonely Place of Dying" continued in the main Batman title, keeping the book's sales ahead of Uncanny X-Men. But it was a different Batman comic book in the July-for-September distributor catalogs that would — inadvertantly! — change the future of comics.
Keeping to its pre-1995 month-overlapping solicitation practices, DC solicited in the July-for-September catalogs the October 10 launch of Legends of the Dark Knight #1, the first new Batman title in years (although it wouldn't actually have "Batman" in the title until issue #37). Aimed at more mature readers, the comic was on slicker paper and priced at $1.50, well above the regular series.
Preorders were colossal — so high that Paul Levitz and DC's sales staff grew concerned that retailers wouldn't be able to sell all the copies they had ordered. Looking for a way to add some value to the release, they directed the printer, Ronald's, to divide the print run into four and add wraparound covers to each grouping featuring a bat image in four different pastel colors: teal, pink, orange, and yellow. (The books all appear to have been released for the same day, Oct. 10, unlike the 1991 X-Men #1 which had its variants ship in consecutive weeks.) It worked: Capital reported that DC sold out of its reorder copy stock in less than a week.
So it was that the most successful single-issue comic book release of the 1980s, with preorders over 750,000 copies in the Direct Market alone, also was one of the first major variants — although, again, the four-cover element came along after all the orders were already in. (Nothing was mentioned about it in Previews, naturally.) But ultimately, the comic book provided a template for more deliberate variant cover programs to follow, ones which were marketed well in advance to target collectors.
The other major release of the month was also a Batman product — and it, too, had significant future impact. Priced at $24.95, Batman: Arkham Asylum — solicited in the catalogs for September but apparently not out until October 3 — had more than twice the dollar volume of Legends #1, meaning that both the highest-circulation comic book and the highest dollar product for any single month in the 1980s were both solicited in the July-for-September catalog. The book showed clearly what an original graphic novel could potentially earn.
So September 1989's comics orders had two different lessons: That some consumers would try to collect all versions of a comic, no matter how minor their differences; and that there was an appetite for quality hardcover releases. Both lessons were still impacting the industry decades later.
The raw version of the chart below was published in the August 28, 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 yet report market shares.
Diamond combined all four Legends of the Dark Knight variants into one entry, a practice it would later follow with identically priced comics variants (but not all, as in the case of 1991's X-Men Vol. 2, #1).
Diamond did not have a separate graphic novel category yet, but Arkham Asylum and two other graphic novels appeared in its comics list, and we were able to pull a number of additional graphic novels from its dollar rankings to build a separate chart.
The dates shown below are the dates the comics shipped from the printer, according to Diamond Previews #121 (July-for-September 1989) and subsequently reported in Amazing Heroes. Diamond reported almost all dates as Tuesdays, which corresponded to when the printer Ronald's released its comics — but World Color Press wasn't releasing its books until 12:01 a.m. on Thursdays, and Diamond's catalog seems to have grouped everything together under the earlier day, regardless of which printer a comic came from. (Capital's Advance Comics uniformly announced dates that were two days later. Its dates appeared in Comics Buyer's Guide and Comic Shop News.) We've adjusted the dates on the comics known to have come from World Color Press to Thursday. 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 August charts include two week's worth of DC comics from September — and are missing the first two weeks' comics, which appeared in Diamond's June 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.
|1||1||Legends of the Dark Knight||1||$1.50||10/10/89||DC|
|11||9||Punisher War Journal||12||$1.50||09/26/89||Marvel|
|16||28||Justice League Europe||8||$1.00||10/05/89||DC|
|17||29||Avengers West Coast||52||$1.00||09/07/89||Marvel|
|18||30||Justice League America||32||$1.00||09/14/89||DC|
|22||37||Web of Spider-Man||58||$1.00||09/07/89||Marvel|
|23||14||Legion of Super-Heroes||1||$1.75||09/12/89||DC|
|24||19||Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Update||7||$1.50||09/14/89||Marvel|
|28||23||Marc Spector Moon Knight||8||$1.50||09/26/89||Marvel|
|30||n.a.||Batman: Arkham Asylum HC||$24.95||DC|
|32||26||Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D||5||$1.50||09/19/89||Marvel|
|35||51||Damage Control II||1||$1.00||09/28/89||Marvel|
|36||15||Aliens II||4||$2.25||Dark Horse|
|37||5||X-Men: Days of Future Past||$3.95||09/12/89||Marvel|
|41||45||Marvel Comics Presents||36||$1.25||09/07/89||Marvel|
|42||48||Marvel Comics Presents||37||$1.25||09/21/89||Marvel|
|44||n.a.||Adventures of Superman||460||$0.75||09/28/89||DC|
|47||39||Doctor Strange Sorceror Supreme||11||$1.50||09/26/89||Marvel|
|48||40||Star Trek: The Next Generation||2||$1.50||09/26/89||DC|
|57||47||Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles||25||$1.75||Mirage|
|58||n.a.||Hawk and Dove||6||$1.00||09/21/89||DC|
|59||43||Dark Horse Presents||35||$1.95||Dark Horse|
|61||n.a.||G.I. Joe A Real American Hero||94||$1.00||09/21/89||Marvel|
|64||n.a.||Groo the Wanderer||59||$1.00||09/14/89||Marvel|
|68||n.a.||Firestorm the Nuclear Man||91||$1.00||09/14/89||DC|
|72||70||Advanced Dungeons & Dragons||1||$1.50||10/03/89||DC|
|77||56||Rock 'n' Roll Comics||5||$1.95||Revolutionary|
|83||n.a.||Conan the Barbarian||226||$1.00||09/21/89||Marvel|
|86||52||Wild Dog Special||1||$2.50||10/05/89||DC|
|91||n.a.||Power of the Atom||18||$1.00||09/28/89||DC|
|98||42||Batman: The Killing Joke||$3.50||DC|
|99||64||Savage Sword of Conan||167||$2.25||09/12/89||Marvel|
|100||n.a.||Tales of the Dark Knight||$17.95||Bantam|
|n.a.||55||Lone Wolf and Cub||29||$2.95||09/01/89||First|
|n.a.||59||Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind Part I||$2.95||09/26/89||Viz|
|n.a.||60||Appleseed Book Three||2||$2.75||09/26/89||Eclipse|
September 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 — except for the top three books, which appeared in Diamond's comics list. Arkham Asylum didn't come out until October, but Diamond included it in its rankings because of how DC's solicitation calendar was set up. Some of the items included below, like the Gerber Photo Journal, weren't graphic novels but rather books about comics.
|Units||Dollars||Trade Paperback title||Price||Publisher|
|1||1||Batman: Arkham Asylum HC||$24.95||DC|
|3||3||Tales of the Dark Knight||$17.95||Bantam|
|n.a.||4||Marvel Masterworks: Avengers||$29.95||Marvel|
|n.a.||5||Photo Journal Guide to Comic Books HC||$145.00||Gerber|
|n.a.||6||Calvin and Hobbes Lazy Sunday Book||$9.95||Andrews McMeel|
|n.a.||7||Batman: The Dark Knight Returns||$12.95||DC|
|n.a.||8||Legion of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga||$17.95||DC|
|n.a.||9||Conan: The Skull of Set||$8.95||Marvel|
|n.a.||10||Roger Rabbit: Resurrection of Doom||$8.95||Marvel|
|n.a.||11||Amazing Spider-Man: Alien Costume||$10.95||Marvel|
|n.a.||12||Lt. Blueberry Vol. 2: Ballad for a Coffin||$14.95||Marvel|
|n.a.||13||Power of Iron Man||$8.95||Marvel|
|n.a.||14||Mai the Psychic Girl Vol. 4||$16.95||Viz|
|n.a.||15||Comic Book in America: Illustrated History||$29.95||Taylor|
|n.a.||16||Bloom County: Night of the Mary Kay Commandos||$7.95||Little Brown|