ICv2 and Comichron have released their joint statement analyzing 2020 comics sales for the year past, and although it may seem shocking, 2020 was the biggest year ever for comics and graphic novels. Despite shutdowns, lockdowns, store closures, remote working, a a global pandemic and the upheaval of everything in our lives, comics improved upon previous years of growth, fueled by an increase in kids’ comics sales, a manga boom as more anime aired on streaming services, the surge in collectibles and increased digital availability.
2020 comics sales were up 6% over 2019, coming in at $1.28 billion, according to a new joint estimate by ICv2‘s Milton Griepp and Comichron‘s John Jackson Miller. These numbers measure sales to consumers in the US and Canada. The increase came from online sales, big box retailers and digital sales, even in the face of a sharp decline in sales in brick-and-mortar comics shops and book stores.
Digital download comics sales also soared in 2020, up to $120 million from $90 million in 2019, a 33% increase. This came after years of flat digital sales, but obviously, a pandemic got people turning to different ways to read comics.
Graphic novel sales were up 9.1%, while periodical sales declined 19.7%.
The charts don’t break out kids comics and manga sales; hopefully Griepp will deliver his “White Paper” at some point in 2021 so we can get a better look at the growth in those channels.
The growth came despite an unprecedented year of setbacks:
“The challenges of retailing in the pandemic had profound impacts on the market, including the acceleration of trends that have been in place for years,” Griepp said of the 2020 estimates. “The book channel increased its share dramatically vs. comic stores, and graphic novels increased their share vs. periodical comics, while digital sales were turbocharged.”
Sales of kids’ graphic novels in mass merchants and online drove graphic novel sales early, and as the pandemic went on (and anime streaming grew), manga sales took off. In the comic store channel, the seven-week shutdown by Diamond Comic Distributors and subsequent publisher cutbacks in periodical releases were a drag on sales, even as demand surged in the second half of the year.
“The comic periodical market was ahead for the year before the pandemic struck, and the result of production cutbacks was that 30% fewer new comic books were released by the major publishers in 2020,” Miller said. “The fact that new comics sales were down by only 20% suggests that retailers did well with what they were able to get.”
More charts and graphs:
Because of the upheaval in comics distribution — DC leaving Diamond, and Diamond ceasing to put out overall sales charts — Miller and Griepp had to use new methods to compile the chart, using point-of-sale information from ComicHub which they used to build a sales model; because NPD BookScan also uses ComicHub data, they also changed how they use BookScan data.
A couple of other trends from looking at previous reports:
• Back-issue sales were way up as housebound fans sent collectible sales soaring. This helped offset some of the lack of new product to some degree.
• Comic funding on Kickstarter was up 60% in 2020, helping fuel growth in the “Other” category, which also includes what remains of newsstand sales; this category was up 40%.
Graphic novel sales swelled as online retailers and mass market outlets never closed. Diamond’s shutdown and publisher cutbacks meant 30% fewer new comic books were released — yet new comics sales were off by much less, so comic shops made the most of the new issues they did get.
The late-year surge in comics sales coincided with an explosion in aftermarket activity, as collectors shifted convention dollars to comic books. Our figures don’t include markup, but a big portion of that revenue did wind up in comics shops, helping to supplement their earnings.
In sum: comics showed signs of strength — and resilience — in a historically challenging year.
A bit more context on the smaller new comics slate sizes: DC and Marvel were off 30% in 2020, marketwide closer to 27%. DC started to shrink its offerings in 2018, but Marvel and others basically took every free rack space. DC was ramping back up a bit when the pandemic happened. pic.twitter.com/rNQ3sTwvLX
— Comichron.com (@comichron) June 29, 2021
The replies to these tweets are full of what I assume must be Cmicsgters who keep asking if they can get the numbers MINUS kids comics and manga, so as to prove that comics aside from the comics that are doing really great, are not doing great, I guess? But actually they are.
TL;DR — comics are not dying. They are thriving.
If you would like to make your own charts and graphs, you can use the data from the eight previous reports: The first six reports were for 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 sales. ICV2 and Comichron also previously collaborated on revised estimates for 2011 and 2012.
More archived sales chart information here.