Comics are proving impervious to the sales problems endemic to the publishing business. While publishing overall showed slipping sales revenue from 2014 to 2015, the comics’ periodical, book format comics, and graphic novel market has been going strong in the United States. According to a joint report by Comichron and trade news site ICv2, the 2015 market was worth more than a billion dollars. That represents a 10 percent increase in sales since 2014.
Graphic novels jumped the most in sales revenue, showing 23 percent year-over-year growth. Sales of print comics also took a leap, growing by 13 percent. Only digital comics saw a drop in sales, showing a 10 percent decline in sales from 2014 to 2015.
Even though Americans appear to be reading fewer novels and works of non-fiction, they are clearly grabbing hold of the comics’ trend. Several aspects of the comics’ experience are attracting them.
Comics Crossing Age Lines
Comics aren’t just for children anymore. Whereas kids and teens were once considered the backbone of the comic-buying world, the popularity of comics has crossed over into the adult arena. Some of those comics’ fans are the original readers, all grown up but still interested in the world of superheroes. Others appreciate the richness of the graphics and the contribution of the art to the story line.
Comics are also easier than print books for readers to consume. Adults who have difficulty focusing or comprehending complicated story lines often prefer comics, where the sequentially shown scenes allow for easy understanding of the story. The format of comics tends to be compelling, moving the reader’s eyes along from frame to frame.
Furthermore, the pictorial scenes in comics usually conjure up a visceral reaction in readers, making them feel strongly engaged in the stories. Adults who are worn out by their daily grind appreciate the escape into fantasy provided by comic book reading.
Drop in Digital Comics’ Sales
Following six consecutive years of annual growth in digital comics’ sales, the industry experienced a surprising drop in 2015. Granted, all ebook sales showed a similar dip, but the comics market seemed more resilient, given its devoted fan base.
One explanation for the change is the saturated market in digital devices and a waning market of new comics’ customers seeking digital content. The long-term customers have already bought the comics they want, and new customers just aren’t appearing.
Nonetheless, the comics’ market as a whole continues to grow. One proof of its popularity: women, who long seemed resistant to comics’ lure, have joined the party. At last year’s New York Comic Con, the iconic comic convention, 30 percent of new customers were female.