lockeandkey.jpgIDW president Ted Adams is always engaging and as candid as any comics CEO might be, so when ICv2 catches up with him for a state of the industry interview, it’s always good. And Adams confirms, the state of the industry is good.

There are a lot of really good books out.  What I like about the market today is that it’s not a speculator-driven market.  We don’t have any books that are selling a million copies; we have lots of books that are selling reasonable amounts of copies.  The books are good, and that’s bringing people into stores and causing people to find them on their various reading devices.

The interview runs in threw parts:
Part One, Part Two, Part Three

In Part Three, Adams is asked when the sky is going to fall, and I think his answer is worth quoting at length:

With the market doing so well for almost two years and ever expanding media attention to our industry, do you see any risks?
I think about that a lot, and I mentioned before the reason I think our market is stable right now is that it’s not speculator-driven.  There’s some of that with variant covers and with, not so much us, but with some of our bigger competitors where you buy a certain number of books and you get this super rare cover that you can throw on eBay for $100, or whatever it is.  But that’s not what’s driving the business.

It’s not like those of us who lived through the 90s and we saw that crazy speculator boom where consumers were buying hundreds of copies of individual comics and retailers opening up all over the place–people who had no business opening up shops were opening up shops.  That was never sustainable.  In the short run, some people got really rich out of it so yay for them, but in the long run that was never going to work.  Whereas what we see today is not that explosive growth; we’re seeing nice, steady, solid growth, not speculator-driven; we’re not seeing thousands of new stores opening up by people who don’t know how to run stores.

So I don’t see any of those warning signals that we saw before.  It’s not to say that there’s maybe something I’m missing, but it doesn’t feel as risky as the last time comics were having the success that we’re seeing today.

So the biggest risk might be bad comics?

Yeah, that’s true.  We all need to keep on our game, but I also think there’s enough diversity in the marketplace that even if one of us stumbles and one of us starts putting out lousy comics, there’s a good mix.  If you look at the bestseller list, particularly for graphic novels, that’s not being driven exclusively by superheroes and hasn’t been for a long time.  There’s a really nice diversity out there so if you look at the big five publishers, the premier publishers with Diamond, I think if one of us stumbles the other four will be strong.  I think it will be unlikely that we’ll head back to the days where mediocre comics were being way over-purchased by speculators.


  1. I agree with him that the apparent absence of significant speculator participation in the comics market is healthy. I also agree that the current sales may be sustainable. What I have wondered about for years though, is the volume of the top ten comics. Absent a number one issue or some milestone release, the numbers of the top ten have not grown appreciably over the last fifteen years.

    When this is considered in light of overall population growth and the rise of comic book based films I have to wonder how healthy the industry really is.

  2. The top ten is not necessary if overall sales are growing for everyone.

    Diversity does that. I started collecting in 1984, via newsstands, when it was mostly DC and Marvel, and maybe 50 titles from each. I bought maybe ten titles a month. Then I discovered the local comics shop, and the number of titles doubled! Soon I was selecting which titles to buy each week on my limited budget, and postponing Marvel titles to next week…and then it became next month…and then I stopped reading those titles, because I found more interesting stories like Concrete and Beanworld and Neil the Horse.

    DC is selling a million copies of digital comics a month (compared to 2+ million paper copies via the Top 300).

    Libraries are buying graphic novels, but those sales aren’t tabulated.

    Graphic novels are hitting the Top 100 (of all books sold) on BN.com and Amazon, and some have hit #1.

    Vader’s Little Princess was on sale at Target!

    And then there are the attendance spikes at comic cons across the country this year! Denver! Toronto! Calgary!

    Are we back to pre-Code levels? I like to think so.

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