After a very quiet opening salvo to 2024 in Comics Disassembled, this week’s look at ten things I liked or didn’t like from the week of comics comes through — and then some. Let’s get to it.
1. Graphic Novel Sales, Dipping (From a High!)
There’s two ways you can take the news that adult graphic novel sales – which includes manga, for those interested – were down 22.4% in 2023 from 2022, per Circana BookScan (via Publisher’s Weekly and then The Beat). There’s the whole “the sky is falling!” approach that has been oh so de la mode for the last while. That’s one option. It’s not the one I’d recommend. The other is that graphic novels in the book market are coming off a pair of outrageously successful years in 2021 and 2022, meaning adult graphic novel sales did drop, but from an incredibly high point.
Case in point. While Brian Hibbs’ analysis of 2022’s graphic novel numbers from BookScan at The Beat is for all age groups, so it isn’t just the adult graphic novel market, sales of GNs in the book market were up 68.25% and 1.02% in 2021 and 2022 respectively, at least in terms of units. In fact, for graphic novel sales to get back to where units sold were in 2019, the last pre-pandemic year, sales would need to be slashed by around 50%. By my math, 22.4% is considerably short of that number, even if we are, once again, talking about total graphic novel sales versus adult graphic novel sales.
That’s a long way to say that, yes, 22.4% is a drop, and it’s not ideal because obviously we want sales to go up and up and up forever. But no, it isn’t the comic apocalypse, and we’re still talking about a number of units moving that almost certainly towers over years that weren’t under the influence of the pandemic boom. That’s pretty good! It won’t be if that continues to trend downwards precipitously in 2024 and beyond, but that’s for later. I’m sure we’ll look under the hood once again later this year when Hibbs crunches 2023’s numbers even further, but I’m calling this “fine, not catastrophic.”
2. So Long, Best Journalism Eisner, We Hardly Knew Ye
In a very real way, I personally do not care that the Eisner Awards – the comic Oscars to some, and arguably the preeminent awards for the comic medium – have removed Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism as a category for the 2024 iteration of the awards, as Popverse pointed out this week. The truth is, I stopped submitting SKTCHD years ago for a number of reasons. So, from a personal meaning standpoint, my life has not changed in the slightest. An award I did not submit for is no longer taking submissions for what I do. That’s a clean break for me.
And yet, I still feel a sense of loss about that award going away. While sites and publications can still apparently submit their work in the Best Comics-Related Book category – which, sure, that makes sense, please read my book, SKTCHD dot com – the Eisner Awards doing this just further reinforces the belief that the work being done in the comics journalism space is simply not worth supporting. You can see that in the response on social media. It was met with a mix of “man, this super sucks” by journalists and “see, I told you comic sites are bad” by a bevy of individuals on social media, including some creators. Which is unfortunate, because yes, it does suck, but no, not all comic sites are bad.
As the internet has splintered and the biggest sites began to chase bigger game in the form of comic movies and easier prey for traffic generation, the idea that comics journalism efforts are uniformly lacking has taken hold. And while the sites everyone used to go may have weakened considerably, others have been doing solid work and keeping the form alive despite there being practically no support for what they do. There’s an old adage of you get what you pay for, but there’s also an idea of you get what you see in the world, and plenty of people who lament the state of comic sites rarely look beyond the wasteland that is CBR for proof of that. Because the once biggest site in comics is like that, no quality comics journalism is done anymore, no ifs, ands, or buts, or so some to think as they lament a single listicle. And through the abandonment of the Periodical/Journalism category, the Eisner Awards have given everyone who believes that all the backing they need to lock in those feelings and let the world know how right they’ve been all along. That’s a bummer.
While this may not affect me, because I wouldn’t be submitting my site for this award anyways, I still recognize it as a shame, and one that will do no one in the space any good in the short or long-term. The truth is, the comic journalists and people behind the varying sites are the collective Rodney Dangerfield of the world of comics: they get no respect, even if they often deserve otherwise.
But as this news emphasizes, not everyone agrees with that sentiment.