Millennials, can’t live with ’em, can’t get a vanilla soy macchiatto without ’em. Among the many charges levied against these lazy, disengaged kids is that they ever grow up and read too many comic books. BUT IS THAT TRUE? Commentator Kevin Drum—who I normally adore—does some back of the envelope calculations and concludes that only 2% of millennials are comics readers. For the numerically inclines out there (translation: Torsten) here are his envelope calculations:
1. Diamond Comic Distributors sold about 84 million comics in 2013. Diamond is damn near a monopoly, but it’s not a total monopoly, and that number is only for the top 300 titles anyway. So let’s round up to 100 million.
2. That’s about 8 million per month. Some comic fans buy two or three titles a month, others buy 20 or 30. A horseback guess suggests that the average fan buys 5-10 per month.
3. That’s maybe 1.5 million regular fans, give or take. If we figure that two-thirds are Millennials, that’s a million readers.
4. The total size of the Millennial generation is 70 million. But let’s be generous and assume that no one cares if teenagers and college kids are still reading comics. Counting only those over 22, the adult Millennial population is about 48 million.
5. So that means about 2 percent of adult Millennials are regular comic book readers. (If you just browse through your roomie’s stash sporadically without actually buying comics, you don’t count.)
As back of the envelope stuff goes, this feels…pretty accurate. There are a bunch of comics distro sources not included in even the rough diamond estimate, but even that would only boost it to 3%.
However, my own extremely solipsistic personal observations indicate that even if people in their 20s and 30s don’t purchase so many comics, they sure know about them. Does a single copy of Ghost World or Hyperbole and a Half purchased count as being a comics reader?
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.