Manga, comics or graphic novels from Japan sell better than American comics.

I believe now couldn’t be a better time to be a comic book fan. Whether you’re a hardcore fan or a casual fan, there’s something for you.

To my surprise though, many articles have been written about how comics are now overtaken by manga – comics or graphic novels that originated in Japan. To understand what’s going on on a more fundamental level, I spoke to Larry Harrison, owner of Harrison’s Comics in Salem.

With all the new shows that have been released or come out with their comedy counterparts, I wanted to know if it actually had an impact on sales. ICV2, an online trade magazine that reviews and analyzes sales information regarding comics and geek culture, has released a chart showing the digital and physical sales of comics. He was quoted in an article on comicsbeat.com, explaining how 2020 has been a big year for comics (the chart goes from 2012, which saw sales of $805 million to 2020 at $1.28 billion ).

Harrison said those movies and shows help.

“A lot of people are buying what they have in front of them at this point more than I previously thought,” he said. “They’re buying what’s in the movies, what’s on TV, what they see, and we’re seeing big spikes across the board.”

So, with so many shows and movies coming out, why are comic book sales lagging?

Harrison has spoken a lot about the effects of COVID, telling me that manga series have been put on multiple platforms during the pandemic to provide greater exposure. Manga sales have been increasing for quite some time now. A data chart published on the statista.com website shows the increase in manga sales in the United States from 26% in 2019 to 44% in 2020.

“At one point it was flying away and we couldn’t keep it down. So at some point it overtook our comics,” Harrison said.

“Basically what’s happened with mainstream comics versus manga is that they’re trying to push American comics agendas too much,” he said when discussing the two products.

What he is referring to here, to put it bluntly, is politics, sexual orientation and race. The suggestion is that companies have saturated the market with them.

Harrison talked about a specific scenario where a customer came to pick up a comic book for their child.

“I recommended Spiderman, which has always been a cool book for a young child; it’s Spiderman; it’s simple,” he said. “At the time, the only problem with it was, I didn’t realize it after I forgot the first page, was that it was for a very young child. The first page with Spiderman is (when he is) being congratulated by two guys who just got married.

The customer rejected the book and started looking for something else.

Why is this a problem? Characters like Captain America are well known and evident to have been created in a political climate which is reflected in the initial comic (the cover is Cap. Punching Hitler, released in 1941). It can be summed up in Harrison’s own words.

“I think it was too too fast,” he said.

Harrison said he doesn’t see the inclusion of diverse stories as a long-term harm to comics, but given that it’s a medium that’s been around for so long, “people who start or get into the comic expect the same thing they watched 20 years ago.

Readers just want a place to get away from it all while rooting for their heroes, and whether it’s a comic or manga, they’ll go where the panels feel drawn.