Answering Six Key Questions About the Volume of Comics in the Market, Through the Power of Charts!

Early on in the days of SKTCHD 1.0, I took a deep dive look into a question that had been vexing me for some time: were there too many comics being published in the direct market? Within that article, I explored the limited data we had available to us at that time – the volume of releases per publisher and overall is only readily available to us going back to July of 2013, and this article published in June of 2015 – and consulted with industry pundits and comic shops to try and answer that question. Eventually, I decided that no, there were not too many comics, and perhaps that very idea was an impossibility.

Here’s where I say something I probably shouldn’t: I was wrong.

In the years since, it has become apparent that the volume of comics being released were problematic, as they can put comic shops in a bind, can make it more difficult for individual titles to survive, 20, and can create diminishing returns on a per title basis. We’ve even seen publishers themselves admit that this had become a problem, as houses like BOOM! Studios and even DC Comics have publicly revealed reductions of their publishing lines.

In the almost four years that have passed, a lot has changed in terms of recognition of the problem, to the point I’d say it’s generally agreed upon that the single issue side of the direct market is overproducing. That idea is set. There are too many comics being produced, and publishers have at least said that they’re adjusting accordingly.

Over that time, though, we’ve also been able to gather a whole lot more data in terms of the volume of comics being produced, who is producing them, and what impact that’s having. And naturally, with more data comes more questions. Those are what I want to address today. Let’s look at some of that data and dig into questions that stem from that core idea of “there are too many comics,” looking at how many comics are actually being produced, how that has shifted, how publishers are reacting, and how that could be impacting the market on a per release basis, all of which are framed against a list of key questions.

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  1. The idea of opportunity cost both for shops and consumers is very much real here.

  2. The idea of opportunity cost both for shops and consumers is very much real here.

  3. Meaning only comic shops, so the book market and digital do not appear within this data.

  4. Also, quick shout out to John Jackson Miller of Comichron, who does a heck of a service to comes in putting that site together.

  5. Or perhaps even worse, depending on the chart.

  6. Which apparently means a period of four months!

  7. ComicsPRO is a trade association for comic book retailers, and the Annual Meeting is typically attended by all of the biggest comic shops you can find. I attended it once. I mostly sat on my laptop outside of meetings because I wasn’t allowed in and then drank gin & tonics with creators and retailers afterwards. It was pretty nice!

  8. So, for an example, if there were 500 total comic releases in 2013 and Marvel released 50 of them, that number would have shown up as 10% on the chart.

  9. It’s worth noting the total orders number includes reorders for previous releases, so it’s a bit noisy, even if it’s roughly accurate. If anything, this makes the order numbers look better than they should.

  10. There is obviously a relationship between releases and orders, as the shape of chart movements largely match, even if their intensity doesn’t.

  11. One other important note here: While I’ve heard from people who should know that the number of comic shops opening and closing over the past couple years has been closer to level than the catastrophe we often hear of, established shops closing and being replaced by stores without a dedicated audience could easily play a part in this downturn of orders as well.

  12. Even if there is a lot of fluctuation.

  13. “Milestone.”

  14. The term graphic novel includes trade paperbacks and other collections when it comes to market reports.

  15. And we’ve already seen traditionally direct market publishers focusing more on that format, as DC, Image and BOOM! have shifted titles and resources in that direction.

  16. One note: it does not appear the increase in graphic novel releases has led to an increase in revenue from the top GNs in the direct market. Quite the opposite even. Maybe we’ll look at this more in a later feature.

  17. Or, the percentage of the total comics and graphic novels ordered these two publishers comprised.

  18. Let’s be fair, though: it’s very me to find space for one more chart.

  19. You could try and connect qualitative factors into this as well, but that’s an impossible measure to track. Plus, I run a website, not a terrible YouTube channel.

  20. The idea of opportunity cost both for shops and consumers is very much real here.