Included: Fantastic Four 48-50, the first appearances of Galactus and The Silver Surfer.
My best memory of that era: comics sold for twelve cents. Twelve cents may seem outrageously cheap to you, but in fact, the 12 cent cover price had been considered scandalously high just a few years earlier, in 1962! I remember it well. The top-of-the-line comics had sold for ten cents from more than a quarter of a century, from 1934 to 1961. Dell led the market up when they raised "Walt Disney's Comics and Stories" to 15 cents in 1961, and the super-hero lines went up to 12 cents in early 1962.
That famous Disney comic peaked in 1953, when it was the top seller in the comic world with a circulation of more than three million. By the time it had raised its price to 15 cents, its circulation had already declined to about a million, so it was already dying, but the price increase nailed the coffin. By 1968, although Dell had dropped the price back to 12 cents in order to compete with the super-hero titles, the famous Disney comic had dropped to a tenth of its 1953 circulation, and its circulation was no longer near the top titles in the category. By then the top Disney comic was 34th on the list!
Returning to Leo's specific topic, which is 1966, "Comics and Stories" was still hangin' in there in 14th place, two spots higher than the up-and-coming Spider-Man. Here are the top super hero comics of that year ranked by average circuation:
- Batman DC 898,470
- Superman DC 719,976
- Superboy DC 608,386
- Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane DC 530,808
- Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen DC 523,455
- World's Finest Comics DC 513,201
- Action Comics DC 491,135
- Adventure Comics DC 481,234
- Justice League of America DC 408,219
- Detective Comics DC 404,339
- Metal Men DC 396,506
- Amazing Spider-Man Marvel 340,155
Note that Marvel had not yet begun to loosen DC's grip on the market in 1966. There are 12 Superhero comics on that list, and DC has the top eleven!
The story had changed dramatically by 1969 because Marvel made inroads. That line was hipper than DC's, and more in tune with the concurrent cultural revolution. DC still trod on old, familiar ground, and had really screwed up the signature Batman title.
Here are the 1969 Comic Book Sales Figures
- Superman DC 511,984
- Superboy DC 465,462
- Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane DC 397,346
- Action Comics DC 377,535
- Amazing Spider-Man Marvel 372,352
- World's Finest Comics DC 366,618
- Batman DC 355,782
- Adventure Comics DC 354,123
- Fantastic Four Marvel 340,363
- Thor Marvel 266,368
- Incredible Hulk Marvel 262,472
- Daredevil Marvel 245,422
- Captain America Marvel 243,798
You can see that DC was still hanging on the top slots, but with greatly reduced numbers. Batman had lost 60% of its circulation in just three years. The title was made more campy to match the TV show, and it nosedived after the program went off the air!
Marvel had launched six titles into the top 13 by 1969, and was flooding the market with new titles, thus spreading out the fairly flat circulation of the total category among more titles. DC's individual titles had thus been deflated to the point where the #1 comic in America in 1969 was no longer Superman or Batman, but the dreaded Archie! (The charts here show only the super hero titles.)
Those 1966 and 1969 circulation numbers for individual titles may seem small compared to the three million amassed by Walt Disney's Comics and Stories in 1953, but are still enormous by the standards of today's fragmented market. Here are the top titles in September of this year. They include a variety of price points.
- Blackest Night 3 $3.99 DC 140,667
- Captain America Reborn 3 $3.99 Marvel 108,240
- Batman And Robin 4 $2.99 DC 106,835
- Green Lantern 46 $2.99 DC 103,579
- Wolverine Giant-Size Old Man Logan 1 $4.99 Marvel 93,744
- New Avengers 57 $3.99 Marvel 85,526
- Green Lantern Corps 40 $2.99 DC 83,042
- Dark Avengers 9 $3.99 Marvel 79,662
- Batman 690 $2.99 DC 76,936
- Uncanny X-Men 515 $2.99 Marvel 73,523
- Amazing Spider-Man 606 $2.99 Marvel 70,118
- Ultimate Comics Avengers 2 $3.99 Marvel 68,539
- Thor 603 $3.99 Marvel 65,210
- Amazing Spider-Man 607 $2.99 Marvel 62,517
Fir reference, the venerable Superman title, issue 692, could manage no better than 58th place, with a circulation just below 40,000. Action Comics, issue 881, had numbers almost identical to Superman. If you're sitting at your desk, aspiring to write comics, dreaming of getting to issue 881 of Your Comic, be advised that you won't be around to enjoy it. That works out to 12 per year for more than 73 years!