Although movies based on comic book properties have generally done well at the box office (especially those produced by Marvel Studios), the cost of that success has usually come at the expense of the genre itself. As films have grown in popularity, sales of the books that inspire them have generally declined. However, comics now seem to be experiencing something of a resurgence which may be largely a result of the increased diversity that has populated the medium recently.
Still, the comic industry’s newfound success isn’t as simple as it seems. While the industry is by no means dead, the current renaissance owes much of its success to an entirely different genre. Here’s a look at how comics have evolved and reached new levels of success over the past two years, as well as a look at some of the factors that have contributed to this phenomenon.
Comics are more diverse and successful than ever
As pointed out by one Article by KRTV, the comic book industry has seen a substantial increase in sales over the past few years, with 2021 in particular seeing an unexpected jump in monetary success. Japanese “manga” comics that have been widely adapted into anime have led the charge in this trend. Other titles mentioned in the article as highly anticipated were insightful indie books such as Fine: a gender comic and The High Desert: Black. Punk. Nowhere. These books deal with a variety of topics concerning identity and minority issues, as does the much-loved series based on the civil rights movement March it continued to be a huge boon to IDW Publishing.
With comics such as Maus being banned in different school districts, this is likely to drive readers to seek them out even more. This book already made huge strides years ago in expanding the reach of the comics while still being mainstream enough to actually get noticed, and that trend will likely continue. Additionally, many have touted the pandemic and the shutdown of a steady supply of movie releases as reasons why people, especially young audiences, have sought out other forms of entertainment such as comic books.
the comic book store owners also noted the increasing diversity of subject matter in the comics. Noting the wider variety of genres beyond superheroes, Don Myers – the owner of a store in Grand Rapids called The Comic Signal – also believes the success of films with capes and tights is leading viewers to seek also the source material. Highlighting how comics can also be a great tool for getting kids to read, his store has a huge section of comics designed specifically for kids.
While this seems to point to huge gains for the comics industry, it would still be wise to take these upbeat stories with a huge grain of salt. Although the referenced articles attribute the recent success of superhero comic books to their adaptation to the cinema, none of them attribute too much growth to mainstream books.
Manga Isn’t the Comics Industry, But It’s Taking Over
Although recent years have seen big sales for specific superhero comics, such as Todd McFarlane Spawn franchise, the pandemic as a whole has only increased the already dwindling book sales of major publishers. This includes Marvel and DC, as well as the best-known independent publishers like Image, Dark Horse, and IDW Publishing.
The directions no doubt taken by the Big Two – with DC particularly feeling to some that the publishing line is treading creative waters until planned mergers for parent company Warner Bros. are finalized – may partly explain this. Combine that with potentially controversial scenarios and decisions that may or may not have significantly affected the sales of their biggest properties, and it’s obvious that while superheroes are more popular than ever, sales of their American comic books are suffering. It probably has little to do with genre, as superhero blockbusters still draw massive audiences even during the pandemic. Even the great manga sales juggernauts such as my hero academia and One-punch man have their roots in superhero comics.
The manga’s success is perhaps incorrectly claimed as a success for the comics industry as a whole. Although manga are technically Japanese comics, many consider them to be of a different class than the American comics industry – and they are. After all, Japanese publishers don’t watch the sales of books such as Apocalyptic clock, three jokers or the various x-men titles and see it as a victory for themselves. Confusing the two in the West feels more like a softening of the blow for manga overtaking traditional Western comics, with the success of this industry being used to mask just how much better Marvel, DC, and everyone else is. should make. To top it off, the indie books mentioned as big hits in these articles are relatively unknown among many American comic book readers, and they certainly don’t have the mainstream influence of even niche manga. So the comic book industry is at a crossroads. It can continue to artificially inflate its own success, or it can examine why its more traditional products are falling by comparison.
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