“The market for who is buying comics is changing, and it is changing for the wider and the better. The eight year old who is inhaling Dav Pilkey in 2020 is going to be the comics-literate adult of 2033 (or whatever), which is going to change what comics readers in the ‘30s will want or expect from comics… Ignore this at your deadliest of perils: the future is always shaped by the present.”
I’ve enjoyed Hibbs’ industry analysis a lot over the years, from his Savage Critic days to his current run at The Beat, and if you like data as much as I do, you’re going to love his long, deep dive into NPD sales data for comics in 2020. From spotlighting key differences between regular bookstores and the direct market, to digging into what’s driving manga trends and how DC isn’t even close to being one of the Big Two by any reasonable definition, it’s a must-read.
Unfortunately, despite being full of insights, it’s still only a part of a much bigger picture that needs to be painted to truly understand the size of the overall comics market. Imagine being able to analyze a dataset that includes NPD + direct market print sales, online retailer + publisher direct digital sales, and library sales + circulation in print and digital formats?
Savvy publishers can (and some do) piece a lot of it together themselves, but no one has the full picture. That was my dream scenario when I was running the Panorama Project, but it’s unlikely to ever happen because the industry willpower simply isn’t there to push for it and make it happen.
But rest assured, comics is a huge, influential part of the publishing industry (and media overall), far bigger than most people realize. Total comics and graphic novel sales to consumers in the U.S. and Canada were approximately $1.28 billion in 2020
, a 6% increase over sales in 2019, and that doesn’t include sales to libraries, nor does it encompass the wild, evolving world of webcomics.