• Despite a 12-percent gain in December, which bolstered the fourth quarter, sales of periodical comics in the direct market were still down 3 percent for the year. According to ICv2.com, the December increase was due largely to the return of titles such as Final Crisis and Secret Invasion, whose absence in November led to a 11-percent loss.
Sales of the Top 100 graphic novels were up 4 percent in December and for 2008. Brisk sales of Watchmen pushed graphic-novel sales for the second half of the year up 7 percent.
• Rich Johnston reports that Top Cow Productions has laid off Mel Caylo, vice president-sales and marketing, and Rob Levin, vice president-editorial. [Lying in the Gutters]
• Charts guru John Jackson Miller wonders whether all the long lines for The Amazing Spider-Man #583 — that’s the heavily promoted issue featuring Barack Obama — will lift direct-market sales for January, a notoriously tough month for comics. [The Comichron]
• Blogger Louis Holt casts a wider net, asking whether Obama’s appearance in countless titles, from IDW’s Presidential Material to Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon to Rob Liefeld’s Youngblood, can give the comics industry a boost. [ComicBook.com]
• The Los Angeles Times links together a series of comics-related financial items — most of which have been reported in previous installments of “Food or Comics,” and elsewhere — to create some sort of snapshot of an industry beaten down by the economy: store closings, layoffs at Devil’s Due, the cancellation of Wizard’s Texas convention. Tom Spurgeon criticizes the article for a number of reasons, including its shoe-horning of events probably unrelated to the recession. Just as Wizard Entertainment’s problems began well before the economic nosedive, so, too, did Virgin Comics’.
There’s one bit of news to be gleaned from the article, though: At the end, there’s mention that a customer has bought Third Planet Comics & Games in Torrance, Calif., which closed on Jan. 5. The store will reopen with a smaller staff and “stricter standards for ordering.” [The Los Angeles Times]
Update: CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland, who was quoted by The Los Angeles Times, responds to the article in the comments below.