There was cause for pessimism in the comics industry just two months ago, when leading analyst John Jackson Miller reported that sales were down compared to last year across an array of indicators. But, Thor be praised, Miller had some very good news today: June 2016 was the best month for comics sales since December 1997. There’s no industry-wide tally of actual purchases by consumers, so the leading indicator is estimated units purchased by retailers from publishers. Within that metric, June’s top 300 comics accounted for 8.53 million copies ordered — the most since December 1997’s 8.99 million — with $34.13 million in orders for those top 300 comics. That means we’re still not at the insane levels of the early ‘90s, when comics were enveloped in a speculation bubble, but it’s still remarkable to see this kind of turnaround from a grim spring.
However, we shouldn’t expect those numbers to hold for July, necessarily. The driving forces for the June boom were first issues of a few series: Marvel’s Civil War II No. 1 and DC’s Batman No. 1, which saw estimated orders of 381,737 copies and 280,360 copies, respectively. On top of that, DC had first issues in nine of the top 15 comics of the month. Historically, almost without fail, first issues vastly outsell subsequent ones, after the thrill of the debut is over and readers can decide whether or not they like the new direction the series is taking. Indeed, Civil War II also released its second issue in June, and saw 131,957 fewer orders than the debut. Nevertheless, there have been first-issue-heavy months in the past 20 years, and none have reached these heights, so publishers and distributors have to be grinning a little wider today.