What do the sales of the Watchmen trade paperback tell us about the size of the comic book marketplace and the general audience appeal of comic book properties?
First, that not a lot of people buy comic books and that "general interest" in graphic novels, while growing, isn't that vast.
Second, "general interest" increases significantly when a movie is in production.
I know, I know, you think I'm full of it and am exaggerating how desperate times are in the world of comic book sales. Before I share the statistics on the sales of the Watchmen trade paperback, let's have a look at the sales numbers of the top ten comic books in October 2007. I'd show you November's numbers, but those won't be available for a few weeks. According the ICV2, who are a retailer news service, here's how many copies the best selling books in October fared.
- NEW AVENGERS #35 sold 111,481 copies
- FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN #24 sold 110,405 copies (you thought maybe I was going #10 to #1? No such luck.)
- JUSTICE LEAGUE O/AMERICA #14 sold 101,763 copies
- MIGHTY AVENGERS #5 sold 99,544 copies (yes, there is a difference between New and Mighty Avengers.)
- JUSTICE SOCIETY O/AMERICA #10 sold 99,424 copies
- X-MEN MESSIAH COMPLEX ONE SHOT sold 98,958 copies (which sold out the print run)
- BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER #7 sold 94,144 copies
- MARVEL ZOMBIES 2 #1 (Of 5) sold 92,587 copies
- UNCANNY X-MEN #491 sold 85,638 copies
- WOLVERINE #58 sold 83,810 copies
"What, no BATMAN, you ask?" The best selling title featuring the Dark Knight, BATMAN #670, sold 76,890 and DETECTIVE COMICS #837 sold 51,363. Before you think I am continuing my ongoing "doom and gloom of the comic book industry" series and using these to show that comics won't be around for much longer, I am not. The numbers are actually surprisingly good, given the modern marketplace, much better than in prior years. I even find it a pleasant surprise that BUFFY is in the top 10 and selling so well. Why? Honestly, because I believe that a lot of those buying Joss Whedon's Buffy Season 8 series weren't existing comic customers. I believe he has brought new buyers into the medium. That makes me happy.
That doesn't mean that Zack Snyder's movie representation, in the upcoming Watchmen film, of a comic shop in the Watchmen movie isn't accurate.
Look at it, that's a pretty accurate image of your typical comic shop. Most of them don't look like the Secret Headquarters, but don't get me started on just how cottage and specialized your industry has to be to foster a store like Secret Headquarters. It looks like a Victorian Men's Club and caters to a similar clientèle.
That brings us back to the sales of the Watchmen trade paperback. Just how good were they in 2007? They were very good. According to ICV2 the book will have sold 95,000 copies, by year's end, during 2007. This is up from 22,000 copies in 2001, a significant increase indeed. Watchmen is one of the most acclaimed comic book miniseries (miniseries, not graphic novel dammit!) of all time. I may be one of the few who don't think it is the greatest series ever, don't get me wrong I think it is very good, but I agree that it is one of the most important series ever. TIME magazine praised the book, for goodness sake.
22k without a movie...95k with a movie in production. Do you see what I mean? To be fair 96k isn't exactly an awesome number, but that only makes my point regarding how niche comic sales are, but it is a significant one. Buying comics can see like a lonely hobby at times, and I'm not sure how long it will survive in the long run, but it is a hobby I have enjoyed for over twenty years.