This is a particularly loaded edition of Comics Disassembled, so let’s get looking at the eleven – not ten! – things I liked or didn’t like from the week of comics, led by twin pillars of good news for the broader comic industry.
1. Graphic Novel Sales, Officially Way Up!
When I last covered this topic, I made the mistake of believing the number I was looking at was for all graphic novels. In reality, it was just for adult graphic novels, so shouts to Mark Tweedale for pointing that out. The full number for the graphic novel segment in the broader book market NPD Bookscan tracks was not out then. It is now, and it is spectacular.
Graphic novels as a whole were up 65% in 2021 from 2020, a staggering level of growth especially coming off a strong year thanks to pandemic-related purchases/boredom (the article at The Beat suggests that 2020 to 2019 growth was 100%, but as someone notes in the comments, previous articles on The Beat suggests that to be untrue). This will not surprise you in the slightest, but manga was the primary driver of that, with 17 of the 21 million units of growth coming from manga alone, a positively insane number (that’s 171.1% growth, for those interested in percentages). It wasn’t alone, though. Basically every genre saw lift, with Crime & Mystery, Fantasy and LGBTQ+ coming in second, third and fourth place for growth. Even superheroes – poor superheroes! – grew by 2.3%.
In fact, of the genres within adult graphic novels in specific, only three saw downturns in this market: General (whatever that means), Contemporary Women, and Anthologies. That’s not bad! Similarly, the only category to see drop off in the overall graphic novel space was another “general” type category with “Other.” Tough times for those publishing titles that fall are unable to fit into effectively any genre, I guess, and good times for the rest, with Adult Fiction and Juvenile Fiction leading the way.
You should read the report in full. The team over at The Beat did a good job covering it, and a feather in their cap for getting the nitty gritty details from the NPD Bookscan as an item to drop on the site. That’s a big one.
2. Comic Shop Sales, Officially Way Up!
Graphic novels and the book market weren’t alone, though! While that side was up 65%, the direct market – per John Jackson Miller on Twitter – was up a paltry 36% year-over-year, with comics (meaning the floppy format, not including trades and graphic novels) being up around 50% over 2020 as well. Now, an important thing to remember is because of the lack of transparency on orders from Lunar and Penguin Random House, these numbers are estimates to an even more significant degree than usual. But in my conversations with people who tend to know these things, if they’re off, it’s typically on the short side, so 36% feels like a floor to me as much as anything.
And that’s without manga being as significant of a factor here!
You don’t need to be a genius to realize that up is good, especially when the number is as significant as that. There are an array of factors driving that, including the continued enthusiasm for this kind of material during the pandemic, the larger collector market, an increase in total releases that might nearly match the overall lift, and assorted other elements. But up is up, and up, again, is good. Thrilled to see this level of success, especially on a broader scale, as it matches what I’ve seen and heard on a more micro scale.