Star Wars, will also become the first-ever million-selling periodical comic book sold exclusively through direct market channels without the aid of newsstands.
Marvel Comics began a move out of the newsstand market in 2012 and finished it near the end of 2013, according to SVP of Sales David Gabriel, who was quizzed on the issue last year after Barnes and Noble employees in Manhattan revealed that they were removing Marvel from their periodical displays.
The series, which takes place between the events of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back and features all of the major characters from the film, is due in stores January 14, 2015. It is written by Jason Aaron, with artwork by John Cassaday. While Marvel handled the official adaptations of the original Star Wars trilogy and had a successful Star Wars series around the time of their theatrical release, 2015 will be the first time in decades that the publisher has handled the Star Wars license.
For years, that license had been in the hands of Dark Horse Comics, who contributed to the "Expanded Universe" that also included video games and prose novels. The rights reverted to Marvel as a result of Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm. Disney also owns Marvel. Star Wars was one of a number of titles set in the world of the famous science fiction franchise announced at Comic Con International: San Diego this summer, including solo titles for Darth Vader and Princess Leia.
The aforementioned Expanded Universe has been rendered non-canonical in the run-up to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Aaron and Cassaday's Star Wars will essentially launch a new one altogether, drawing from the seven feature films (the original trilogy, the prequels and the animated Clone Wars movie) as well as Clone Wars and Rebels.
As a franchise, Star Wars is back to breaking records even outside of comics: The teaser trailer for The Force Awakens beat out Avengers: Age of Ultron and Jurassic World in first-week downloads.
Marvel has most of the best-selling comics of the 21st Century, including The Amazing Spider-Man #583, which guest-starred then-new President Barack Obama, and The Amazing Spider-Man #1, the extra-sized relaunch that spun out of Superior Spider-Man.
According to a report by Comichron (which is admittedly about a year old, from the look of it), fewer than fifty comics have sold more than 200,000 copies since the turn of the Century, fewer than twenty have sold over 300,000 and only those Amazing Spider-Man issues have sold better than 500,000. Star Wars #1 will be at least 400,000 copies above the next-best seller in the modern age.
As a point of comparison, Dark Horse Comics recently launched a Star Wars #1 as well. The issue was the first time in more than a decade that Lucasfilm had allowed the comics to explore stories set featuring the main cast of the movies and taking place between the films of the original trilogy. That issue, according to its writer Brian Wood, sold "nearly" 100,000 copies.
The last time a mainstream American comic book sold 1 million issues, it was Batman #500, which saw the introduction of Jean-Paul Valley as the new Batman following Bruce Wayne's injuries in the best-selling Knightfall storyline. That was in 1993.
A number of manga titles have been reported to have sales in the hundreds of thousands or even a million, but since a negligible amount of those sales come from comic book specialty stores, they are typically not as easily measured using direct market devices.
When approached for this story, Marvel had no comment.