- Comic book sales hit $2.075 billion in 2021, the industry’s biggest year ever.
- Experts say the rise is due to a number of factors, including certain genres like Japanese manga.
- Industry is on track for an even better 2022, expert says.
There’s never been a better time to be in the comics business.
Comic book sales — including graphic novels, single issues and digital comics — hit $2.075 billion in 2021, a 62% increase over the previous year and a 70% increase over to 2019, according to a report released last week by comic-sales research site Comichron and ICv2, a website that covers the comics industry.
According to the report, comic book sales have been growing steadily since 2017, but last year marked the biggest year in industry history.
“Publishers have increased the sale of comic book content [in 2021] than in any year in the company’s history, even adjusted for inflation,” Comichron founder John Jackson Miller said in the report.
And the industry is set to have an even better 2022. Milton Griepp, the founder of ICv2, told Insider that sales at comic book stores were up through May compared to the same time last year.
Griepp attributes the surge primarily to pandemic-related consumer trends, when people shifted to activities they could do at home. “People were focusing more on their hobbies, especially collecting, so the collecting side of the comic book industry grew, and so did the prices for back issues,” he said. to Insider.
But some genres have helped strengthen the industry.
Manga and children’s comics are massive
Sales of Japanese manga like “Attack on Titan” have increased, Griepp said. Units sold doubled in 2021 compared to 2020, according to previous NPD BookScan data (and that only included bookstores and online retailers that fall under BookScan, and does not include comic book stores or digital sales).
Eric LaGaccia, owner of comic book store Action City Comics in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY, said increased visibility has helped boost manga sales.
He noted that many
stream anime titles adapted from manga storylines, and like mainstream superhero content, consumers seek out the source material.
LaGaccia said children’s graphic novels are also hugely popular because parents see them as a “gateway to reading.”
There’s no better example of the success of children’s comics than author Dav Pilkey’s “Dog Man” books for young readers. Of the five best-selling graphic novels of 2021, according to BookScan’s analysis, four of them are “Dog Man” installments.
All comic book formats across all distribution channels grew last year
The popularity of manga and children’s books has cemented graphic novels as the number one comic book format sold in recent years. They made up $1.47 billion of the $2.075 billion in sales in 2021, while single-issue comics made up $435 million (digital comics made up the rest).
A graphic novel is often exactly what it sounds like – a long-form novel in comic book format. But they can also be collections of single issues (also called periodicals), which are generally more like weekly magazines and are dominated by the superhero genre made popular by Marvel and DC.
Periodicals attract more hardcore fans and fewer casual readers than graphic novels, LaGaccia said.
And graphic novels can be found at many bookstores, including chains like Barnes and Noble, while single issues are mostly sold at comic book stores. Most comic book sales come from online bookstores/retailers for these reasons.
LaGaccia assigned new customers purchasing unique TV and film numbers, particularly from Marvel, which regularly releases Marvel Cinematic Universe content in theaters and on Disney+. He said he had a lot of customers looking for Moon Knight comics after watching the Disney+ series this year.
Every comic book format (graphic novels, single issues, and digital) and every distribution channel (online bookstores/retailers, comic book stores, and digital download) grew in 2021, signaling industry strength.
LaGaccia opened Action City Comics early last year. He said people wondered why he would do it “in the middle of a pandemic”. But comics turned out to be one of the industries to come out stronger than ever.
“A lot of people have rediscovered or discovered new hobbies during the pandemic,” he said. “And also, all the new shows and all the new movies bring people into the store. It was a perfect storm. We get new customers every day.”