Superhero Comic Reader Stats

When I worked at DC Comics in the mid-90s, I had access to reader studies they’d commissioned. Before I get to the data, here are the caveats.

1. These figures date from 1995. A lot has changed since then. They’d done previous studies in 1990 and 1992, and based on survey ads they’ve run in their comics since then, I believe they’ve done at least two since then. I would love to know what they said, but I doubt I’ll have access to more current figures any time soon (unless a handy anonymous source wanders by).

2. I think these studies were done in order to have information to demonstrate to potential advertisers in order to convince them to spend money. That’s based on titles like “studying the lifestyle and purchasing habits of affluent, highly educated young men”. They were trying to pitch their products as reaching an audience that’s known as being hard to target effectively with advertising. So science likely took second place to marketing.

3. This was all based on under 1000 answered questionnaires out of 3200 inserted in comics. The incentive to answer the packet was a free copy of Zero Hour #0 autographed by the editor (my hubby) KC Carlson.

So, on to the study. The introduction pitched the DC comic line as intended for an educated, mature audience… primarily young men brought up in affluent households, highly educated and beginning their professional/managerial careers. That suggests they have lots of income to spend on hobbies like comics and products like games, audio/visual equipment, and cars (some of the mentioned target products). That beginning thing is also considered important to advertisers, since it means companies have a chance to establish brand loyalty.

Customers buy an average of nearly 50 comic books a month.

DC’s single-issue audience was more than 5.2 million. (I believe this incorporated a significant pass-along multiplier of at least three people assumed to read each comic.)

92% of DC readers were male.

80% of them were ages 18-39, with a median age of almost 29.

Just over 70% attended college.

Just over 60% were single (never married).

37% spent $100 or more on comics in a month.

The average time spent reading one typical comic was 45 minutes. That’s the one that gets me — I knew I was a fast reader, but four times as fast?

There was also a comparison to the previous studies, which shows that male readers were always over 90% of the audience, that the audience was getting older, and as they aged, they were less likely to live with their parents and more likely to live with a spouse or partner.

One comment

  • I admire that you’re so open about the caveats and flaws of using this sort of data.

    I’m not sure what it proves though. Especially as even 3200 seems like an exceedingly small sample of superhero comic readers. Where were they sent? Which stores? (I know the comic book shop in my hometown does indeed see smaller female traffic than the shop where I go to school, for example, so if more surveys were sent there than to MY comic book shop, that would definitely skew the data). For that matter, which comics were they inserted in? Peter David’s Supergirl would have a considerably different response percentage, I’d imagine, than say Beau Smith’s Warrior.

    Not to mention that considering more than 2000 surveys were unaccounted for, there’s no telling who got them. I know I have never filled out a consumer survey on anything I’ve bought, though I’ve encountered a few.

    Honestly, while these stats are really interesting to read, they seem far too prone to sampling error to be remotely useful for either argument or counter-argument.

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