The Comic Big Two Isn’t What You Think

Publisher Market Share

Brian Hibbs’ yearly BookScan analysis is always worth reading for the insight it gives into how comics (mostly in the form of graphic novels and collections) sell in the wider book market (even with the caveats that this data doesn’t cover the entire market, only those that choose to report, and the data providers have their own restrictions, even more this year). The 2019 analysis ends with this particular pie chart that I found striking.

Publisher Market Share

The “comic big two” was traditionally DC and Marvel, since the industry was considered, over the past three decades, to be based in the direct market (comic shop retailers). Since the mid-2000s, though, it’s been realized that there are so many more potential audiences and markets and material that can sell surprisingly well.

The comic big two is obviously now Scholastic, with their Graphix line (which publishes both Dog Man and Raina Telgemeier, which are multi-million bestsellers) and their captive market of school book fairs, and Viz Media, the biggest US manga publisher. Together, they’re a third of the market.

Keep that in mind when people complain about the comic market being in danger — it’s not. The traditional young adult (now older) white male customer and their comic shop hangout and their interest in superhero comics may be dying, but there is so much more happening in the bigger world. When you actually make comics for everyone, they sell.

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2 comments

  • As middle-aged fan who came up in the pre-crash crazy ‘90s era of comic shops, I’m actually super-happy that Scholastic is selling as well as it is. It’s nice to see new markets open with young adults. My only hope is that a wider variety of material continues to flourish with readers as they move from young adult fiction into early adulthood themselves…maybe in genres and styles that don’t even exist yet.

    And maybe…just maybe more of the traditional local comic shops should consider stocking the most popular books every once in a while.

  • The young adult market is terrific to see, I agree. And GNs for adults seem to be doing well, although most of the successes are graphic memoirs, I think.

    Bookstores have struggled recently, so at least comic stores have the advantage of a dedicated audience. It’s tough for comic stores, like bookstores, to compete with Amazon and other online discounters when it comes to the best-known books. Comic stores ceded the manga audience to bookstores a long while back, when many retailers didn’t want to learn what was needed to be successful with that format/audience.

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