I've changed the title of this thread from "Comic Book Sales Trends in 2016" because I keep coming back to it.
My friendly neighborhood comics shop, Fantom Comics of Washington, DC, breaks down what sold at the store in 2016. This information, of course, applies only to the one store, but it's still interesting reading: "2016 In Review – A Comic Book Shop Talks Comic Book Sales Trends"
Alexandra Kitty said:
I don't think it will help at all. You don't need the books when you have the movies and the shows along with the video games. DC and Marvel have rebooted their wares so many times to the point they have done everything with those characters imaginable.
You have A-listers who openly praise and push comics. You have shows like the Big Bang Theory that have really pushed comics to an unprecedented level. You have movies breaking records -- and if all of that can't ignite the books, there is a reason for it.
I see it with kids. Until a couple of years ago, I would give my old comics and graphic novels to kids and teens and they would voraciously read it and then get hooked. Now, they don't even look at it. It's all about smart phones and tablets that wire the brain differently that clashes with how you invest and enjoy the structure of a comic book.
It is an absolute shame. Comics were the rare and under appreciated hybrid of art and pop literature. I could have a horrible day, but re-reading a Justice League comic for the one thousandth time was enough. There is a real disconnect out there, and its climate is hostile to the paper version of superhero storytelling -- at least, for now...
I agree completely, Alex. I've been reading comics since 1965, and they have never been popular in my neck of the woods. And it didn't matter what happened -- TV shows like Batman and Incredible Hulk, movies like Superman: The Movie and others -- it never did anything for the comics I was reading. Nobody else started reading comics in my neighborhood because of other media adapting them. And when something like Batman or Superman: The Movie came out, I'd read everything -- TV Guide! TIME! Newsweek! __ looking for a sea change in the opinion by the Big Boys to my favorite medium. Alas, I was always disappointed.
And when you look that sales now -- which I couldn't do as a lad -- they back up my anecdotal experience and your thesis. Movies and TV didn't boost sales back then, and they don't now.
Worse, the shorthand in popular media until the 21st century (X-Men debuted in 2000) for showing that a character was stupid or mentally challenged was to show them reading a comic book. Gomer Pyle ("Shazam, Sgt. Carter!") on the Gomer Pyle Show, Goober on Andy Griffith Show, Radar on M*A*S*H, etc.
That was the popular idea, and I don't think it's changed. People go to movies based on comics, but their opinions of comics hasn't changed. I don't think it ever will. Especially now that print is dying.
The only thing I see that's new (since 1965!) is that the new DC streaming service will include DC comics with the DC-derived anime, TV shows and movies.
I don't know if that will get more people to read comics, but it is the only way I see that might work. Maybe the stoned kids of the future will watch something on DC Access and then read a comic book or two after the show is over and before they pass out And that will be enough to pay the depressed wages that make comics happen.
But they will be electronic comics. I don't think that anything will save print.
Bleeding Cool sound the alarm with this: "DC Comics Selling Almost Half as Many Comics a Month As It Used To"
In 2018, DC Comics published fewer titles every month in comic stores than Marvel. But in December they dropped to the lowest level, 52 single issues and 37 collections, compared to Marvel’s 90 single issues and 38 collections. When it comes to single issues, Marvel published almost twice as many as DC in December. At the beginning of the year, January 2017, DC Comics published 89 single issues, more than Marvel’s 86.
Interesting reading from Comics Beat: "Retailer Brian Hibbs Has a 10-Point Plan for the Comics Industry"
He makes points we've heard before, including selling to the established customers and not going after new readers. But he drops examples of how it's gotten out of hand:
Comics Beat wrote:
Want a clear and current example of Marvel’s preposterous “flood the zone” strategy? “War of the Realms” is supposed to be their major Q2 project in 2019, but in the first month alone they’re asking us to buy into TWO issues of the series being released with no sales data, as well as FOUR different tie-in-mini-series. All six of these comics (which are built around a six issue storyline) will require final orders from us before we’ve sold a single comic to an actual reader. Is there anyone in this room thinks that this is good? That this is sustainable? That this will sell more comics to more readers? That this will sell any copies to people who aren’t already on board Marvel’s periodicals already?
I say to you: we do not need plans or programs that are aimed at selling more comics to the same customers – they really can’t afford and don’t want any more titles to buy – our focus as an industry should be on making our periodical releases more attractive to more new readers, and to grow our base, not simply exploit the existing one.
By the same token, the SKU explosion has expanded out past just number of series, but also into the number of covers and variants we offer on those comics. In January 2019, I counted a staggering fifty-nine percent of the SKUs offered were variants and alternate covers! FIFTY. NINE. PERCENT. This is, in no way, a healthy state of affairs, and it exists at every level of the market: from the top at Marvel, where the aforementioned “War of the Realms” had seventeen different covers on the first issue at initial solicitation, and they’ve also added another eight more at FOC (after, of course, we’ve presold our sets and such) – all of this on a SIX DOLLAR comic. A customer who actually wanted all 25 copies of that one single release would be asked to spend nearly $150. On a single issue of a single comic. This is not a tenable or rational place for us to be as buyers of non-returnable goods – even at a wholesale price of like $68 is far too insane for us to any risk. This is predatory behavior on the behalf of the largest publisher.
From Newsarama: "DC Co-Publisher Expresses Frustration with Popular Fascimilie Editions"
That would be Dan DiDio, who was on the "Meet the DC Publishers" panel at Comic-Con International: San Diego on Thursday. DiDio asked the audience who reads the facscimilies, and then:
“We do these Facsimile Editions where we reprint older issues of comics including all the old ads and stuff…and in some cases these are selling more than the new comics with these characters. People are more interested in buying the stories from 30 or 40 years ago than the contemporary stories, and that’s a failure on us," he explained.
Jude Terror in Bleeding Cool writes a pretty strong rebuttal: "Report: Dan Didio Mad People Are Buying the Facsimile Editions DC Publishes"
Jude Terror for Bleeding Cool wrote:
At least Didio recognizes that people being more interested in stories from 30 or 40 years ago is DC’s own fault, though there are a lot of reasons why people might prefer reprints of older comics. For one thing, modern decompression techniques, which space out events that could have occurred in a single comic into 5 or 6 issue story arcs, combined with price increases that exceed the rate of inflation, simply make modern comics less valuable in terms of pure story portion per dollar spent.
Additionally, many of these classic comics represent the original versions of stories that comic book publishers like Marvel and DC have spent decades rehashing over and over with watered down, nostalgia-fueled callbacks, rather than, as Didio says, “pushing the boundaries and finding new stories to tell.” These are problems not with DC alone, but with their biggest competitor, Marvel, as well.
And let’s not even get into the constant need for reboots, #1 issue relaunches, super-mega-crossover events, and variant cover gimmicks that make collecting and reading comics more confusing and frustrating for potential readers, in addition to the high barrier of entry due to cost and limited availability in specialty shops.
Where can I get these DC Facsimile Editions they're talking about? I've never seen any. I have seen the Marvel $1 reprints and load up on those.
I think if DC is finding readers buying more of the $1 reprints than the modern stories with those characters, there's a lesson for them that they ought to pay heed to.
I think the DC books are set to start coming out next month through all the usual channels.
As for DiDio's comments, I can see why he would find it alarming that some reprints are outselling some new comics. But There probably needs to be more data as to why it's happening. I suspect that a lot of it could have to do with piracy. Many younger readers aren't paying for digital comics and probably don't care about owning a physical copy. Some older readers probably still like the feel of a physical object they can hold on to and/or collect and they and I can see why they would be interested in a "remastered" version of some of these books.
Some of what is in that Bleeding Cool I've been saying for a while now. The bang for your buck in comic books is seriously out of whack. We get less story each issue and it costs more than it was previously. That is why a few times a year I will go through my LCS' $1 and $2 boxes, because I will get more story at a much cheaper price.
I know I've cut back a lot on new titles because modern comics just don't provide enough value at $3.99 per issue. And specials at $7.99, $8.99 and $9.99? I don't even give those a glance.
But reprints with glossy paper and modern coloring, that give me a full story -- not one-sixth of one, or a sidebar to the Infinite Final Identity Crisis at Zero Hour on the Convergence of the New 52 on the Brightest Day after the Darkest Night -- for a dollar? I'll take all I can get.
I'd probably snap up these Dollar Comics too... at least, if it's not material I already have. But in most cases -- considering my 40-year readership of DC comics -- it is.
Thanks for the link, Clark. It's a very clear-eyed look at the question.
Here are several DC comics being solicited with acetate overlay covers. A troubling call-back to when Marvel was flooding the market with fancy covers and almost circling the drain.