How has the comic market changed in the last six years? Well, let’s take a Retro Thursday look at 2002 for a comparison. This article ran Dec. 26, 2002, and was a look back at the biggest hits of the 2002 direct market. Note that “Daredevil: The Target,” mentioned as a strongly ordered book in November 2002, has still not been completed. Kevin Smith, the writer of “Daredevil: The Target” did return to comics recently as the writer of “Batman: Cacophony.”
Comics in 2002 showed a strong market for nostalgia books that was showing signs of waning by year’s end.
Popular creators writing and drawing adventures of established characters were popular with comics fans. This was perhaps a reflection of the overall national mood for a return to the familiar.
“Batman: The Ten-Cent Adventure” started the year strongly, selling more than 650,000 copies.
The return of Frank Miller (“Sin City”) to Batman in “The Dark Knight Strikes Again” also was a hot title in early 2002.
The motion picture “Spider-Man” broke box-office records and reminded some readers to follow tales of the Web-slinger in comics shops.
The Kevin Smith-penned “Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil that Men Do” was June’s second most-ordered book, at more than 100,000 copies.
Filmmaker Smith (“Clerks”) also wrote “Daredevil: The Target” No. 1, November’s second-biggest book.
Robots in disguise proved a midyear powerhouse in new comics from DreamWave.
“Transformers” was a 1980s toy line that featured alien robots who could change into vehicles.
Comics based on the toy line hit the No. 1 position four times in 2002, though by year’s end, “Transformers” titles had fallen from the top 10.
Other retro books with strong orders in 2002 were “Battle of the Planets,” “Thundercats,” and “Masters of the Universe.”
Artist Jim Lee (“X-Men,” “Wildcats”) and writer Jeph Loeb (“Smallville” TV series) took over “Batman” with issue No. 608. This sold out of two printings from DC and topped October’s orders.
Marvel Comics finished strong in December, with four of the top five spots going to its “Ultimate” line of comics. The “Ultimates” versus “Ultimate X-Men” crossover, “Ultimate War,” grabbed the No. 1 and No. 2 slots.
Sales of graphic novels, the term for larger collections of comic books, increased throughout the year, with the “manga,” or Japanese comic, “Lone Wolf and Cub” being the most consistent performer. The monthly collections of the samurai epic were the most-ordered graphic novels nine times.
DC Comics had strong showings for two “Justice League” graphic novels – “JLA/JSA: Virtue and Vice” and “JLA: Secret Origins.”
The DC “Vertigo” imprint for mature readers also had a graphic novel hit in “Fables: Legends in Exile,” No. 2 in orders for December. “Fables,” written by Bill Willingham (“Elementals”) features the modern-day predicament of fairy tale characters such as Snow White and Prince Charming.
Sales were determined from ordering charts of Diamond Comics Distributors, North America’s primary comic book wholesaler. Numerical estimates are from www.icv2.com, a Web site aimed at pop culture retailers.
– Matthew Price