Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

Home > Letters to CR

Nat Gertler on Alan David Doane on Small Town Comic Shops
posted August 23, 2005

Nat Gertler
Via The Internet

Obviously, Alan David Doane hates the comics industry. His wishes of death for it and resorting to cussin' make that clear. But it doesn't justify his making up stuff, as he appears to do.

When he claims "People /are/ buying comics in huge numbers, but the 'industry grits its teeth and closes its eyes and redefines 'comics' so that Frank Miller and Jim Lee or Brian Bendis and whoever is drawing House of M can falsely claim their comics are best-sellers" he neither provides a pointer to where anyone has redefined "comics" in the wake of manga's entry (I suspect he's thinking of the icv2 figures, which are clearly specified in their articles as "the number sold to North American comic shops by Diamond Comic Distributors"). Nor, more importantly, does he point to any reliable figures on comics that are outselling these. One presumes that he is discussing manga, but while manga has high cumulative sales, it is hard to point to individual books with larger sales through trackable means. Perhaps one good source to get a sense of scale is the Brian Hibbs analysis of BookScan numbers, which cover most of the US bookstore outlets. This analysis can be found at

Some of those manga are selling well on the scale of trade paperbacks. But even the yearwide best-seller on the list was 48,000 copies over the course of the year (admittedly, 2003; it may be higher for 2004). Manga does have other sales outlets, just as there are sales outlets for The Adventures of Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder which are not tracked by the Diamond numbers. But it would take some hard evidence to get me to believe that any one manga volume sold more copies in North America in July (and that's how best-sellers are generally measured, within a time period) than the hundreds of thousands that TAofBandRtheBW sold that month... much less the "five times" as much that Mr. Doane alludes to.

(For another way to look at the numbers: manga sales were roughly $10 million per month last year, according to ICV2 estimates. With prices generally within a couple bucks of $10, that should be under 1.5 million books sold per month. With the wide variety of bookd available, it seems unlikely that any one volume made up more than 10% of those sales in a given month. For reference, the number one most-ordered pamphlet in the direct market in June through Diamond sold less than one-thirtieth of the total orders of the top 300 pamphlets that month - referencing the Comics And Games Retailers numbers.)

Doane hates the comics industry, but then many folks hate that which they do not understand.