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Comic Books Are Not Dead – They Are Changing And Thriving – CBR – Comic Book Resources

Comic book sales have recently reached an all-time high, but there may be more to the success of the industry than initially meets the eye.
Although the movies based on comic book properties have typically performed well at the box office (particularly those produced by Marvel Studios), the cost of said success has generally come at the expense of the genre itself. As the movies gain popularity, sales of the books that serve as their inspiration has typically suffered a decline. However, comic books now appear to be experiencing a resurgence of sorts that may largely be the result of the increased diversity that has recently populated the medium.
Still, the newfound success of the comic book industry isn’t as cut and dry at it may seem. While the industry is in no way dead, the current renaissance owes much of its success an entirely different genre. Here is a closer look at how comic books have evolved and achieved new levels of success over the course of the last couple of years, as well as a look at the factors that have contributed to this phenomenon.
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As pointed out in a KRTV article, the comic book industry has experienced a substantial increase in sales over the course of the past few years, with 2021 in particular seeing an unexpected jump in monetary success. Leading the charge in this trend has been Japanese “manga” comics that have largely been adapted into anime cartoons. Other titles mentioned in the article as being highly anticipated were insightful independent books such as Fine: A Comic About Gender and The High Desert: Black. Punk. Nowhere. These books deal with various topics concerning identity and minority issues, much like the highly lauded Civil Rights Movement-based series March that’s continued to be a huge boon for IDW Publishing.
With comic books such as Maus being banned in different school districts, this is likely to drive readers to seek them out even more. That book already made huge strides years ago by expanding the scope of comic books while still being mainstream enough to actually be noticed, and this trend will likely continue. Also, many have touted the pandemic and the shuttering of a steady supply of movie releases as reasons for why people, particularly younger audiences, have sought other forms of entertainment such as comic books.
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The owners of comic book stores have also noted the growing diversity of subject matter in comic books. Noting the broader variety of genres beyond superheroes, Don Myers – the owner of a store in Grand Rapids called The Comic Signal – also believes that the success of movies with capes and tights leads to viewers seeking out the source material as well. Pointing out how comics can also be a great tool for getting kids on board with reading, his store boasts a huge section comics that are specifically made for kids.
While this seems to all point to huge gains for the comic book industry, it would still be wise take these optimistic stories with a huge grain of salt. Although the referenced articles attributed the recent success of superhero comics to their adaptation into films, neither of them attribute overly substantial growth to the mainstream books.
Although the past few years have seen big sales for specific superhero comics, such as Todd McFarlane’s Spawn franchise, the pandemic as a whole has only heightened the already dwindling sales of books from major publishers. This includes Marvel and DC, as well as the more well-known independent publishers like Image, Dark Horse, and IDW Publishing.
The arguably rudderless directions taken at the Big Two — with DC especially feeling to some as if the publishing line is treading creative water until the mergers planned for parent company Warner Bros. are finalized — can explain some of this. Combine that with potentially controversial storylines and decisions that may or may not have drastically affected sales for their biggest properties, and it’s obvious why, despite superheroes being more popular than ever, sales of their American comics are suffering. This likely has little to do with the genre, as big time superhero blockbusters still draw massive audiences even during the pandemic. Even major manga sales juggernauts such as My Hero Academia and One-Punch Man have their roots in superhero comics.
The success of manga is perhaps erroneously claimed as a success for the comic book industry as a whole. Although manga are technically Japanese comic books, many consider them in a different class than the American comic book industry – and they are. After all, Japanese publishers do not look at the sales of books such as Doomsday Clock, Three Jokers or the various X-Men titles and see it as a win for themselves. Conflating the two in the West instead feels like a softening of the blow for manga overtaking traditional Western comic books, with that industry’s success used to gloss over how much better Marvel, DC and all of the others should be doing. To top it off, the indie books mentioned as being big successes in these articles are relatively unknown among many American comic book readers, and they certainly don’t have the mainstream clout of even niche manga. Thus, the comic book industry is at a crossroads. It can continue to artificially pump up its own success, or it can look at why its more traditional products are plummeting downhill in comparison.
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Timothy Blake Donohoo is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where he majored in Communication and minored in Creative Writing. A professional freelance writer and marketing expert, he’s written marketing copy and retail listings for companies such as Viatek. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, playing video games, watching documentaries and catching up on the latest Vaporwave and Electro-Swing musical releases.


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