No one talks much about Wonder Woman in the late 1970s and into the 1980s. After Ms. magazine and the TV show, the comic was just sort of there. Wonder Woman shared her book with Huntress for a while, the editing position was a revolving door, and not much from that era lives on as classic Wonder Woman material apart from a few great Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez covers.
Recently, I came across some interesting sales numbers for this era, via several cool comics dudes: Matt Fraction’s tumblr to Chris Roberson’s tumblr to former Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter’s blog. A few years ago, Shooter posted this sales analysis of DC’s comics released in November 1985:
Crisis on Infinite Earths topped the charts at DC, albeit with numbers that don’t look so huge by today’s standards. However, I believe these are just the newsstand numbers, so there’d be more copies sold through comics shops and subscriptions. Anyway, Crisis on Infinite Earths was big. In November 1985, we would’ve been about 8 or 9 issues in, so it was all getting very exciting. Superman and Tales of the Teen Titans were pretty popular, and oddly enough books like Hawkman and Fury of Firestorm were doing solid numbers (not so much these days though). Poor Batman was in the middle of the pack, outsold by the team book Batman and the Outsiders. Hey, remember when they tried to bring that back a little while ago? It had Cassandra Cain in it!
Anyway, as we move down to the bottom of the list, there we see Wonder Woman. The lowest print run of all of DC’s titles (84,500), and the lowest sales (19,300). By November 1985, the current version of the series wasn’t long for the world, and it ended very soon after. You can see why. These are terrible numbers.
Poor sales weren’t anything new for Wonder Woman. The book was tanking in the 1960s, which led to the mod revamp. That was a huge mess, but it got Wonder Woman on the cover of Ms. and she became a huge icon after that. But her sales had petered out dramatically a decade later, and it sounds like they’d been bad for a while. In his introduction to the first collected volume of his Wonder Woman run, George Perez talks about how the book had been a perennial poor seller and no big name creators wanted to go near it. The last issue of the first volume of Wonder Woman had a cover date of February 1986, and it took a full year for DC to decide what to do with the character.
Luckily, we ended up with George Perez and a book that revitalized Wonder Woman and set the standard for years to come. Sales in the 1990s and through the 2000s have never been massive, with only sporadic, short term jumps for new creative teams, but at least Wonder Woman hasn’t hit the bottom of DC’s charts since 1985. The current run looks to be settling into the upper middle of the New 52 pack, and while we’d all love it to be higher, at least it’s not getting beat by a Blue Devil book.