We’ve often commented that a scientifically conducted reader survey of comics readership — age, sex, race, income — would be a very useful thing, especially now that there are more comics than ever, all with smaller readerships. Maybe it would show how that whole forty-year-old virgin thing is going. Well according to this press release, maybe they are now 65-year-old virgins. Simba Information has released the second edition of its ”Overview of the U.S. Comic Book and Graphic Novel Market” report and used the finding that 1 in 4 comics reader is over the age of 65 as their attention-grabbing headline.

The burgeoning market for comics has been driven recently by a series of successful film adaptations, most notably Warner Bros.’ ”The Dark Knight”, which stands as one of the highest-grossing films of all time. Yet, as ”Overview of the U.S. Comic Book and Graphic Novel Market 2009-2010” clearly shows, the industry remains misunderstood at best.

“Despite notable efforts from many in the industry, comics and graphic novels continue to be repeatedly mislabeled as just another children’s book category,” said Warren Pawlowski, online publishing manager for Simba Information and an analyst within the company’s Trade Books Group. “With nearly a quarter of the comic reading audience beyond the age of retirement, there is a misconception that needs to be corrected.”

Well now, we know you are all scratching your heads at that. Are a quarter of all comics readers REALLY stopping at the Androids Dungeon on their way to the Country Kitchen buffet? Unfortunately, it will cost you a mere $1295 to read the whole report, and we don’t know too many people who are going to do that. Perhaps if every Beat reader contributed a dollar we could start a fund. As Esther Inglis-Arkell points out in her own commentary, the idea that comics are for kids isn’t one that’s native to the industry, (cf. Skottie Young et al), so this report is obviously aimed at people who don’t know much about the comics biz but are dying to sink a lot of money into finding out so they can get their share of that pot ‘o’ comics gold. A commenter at Comics Alliance suggests that the report confused comic STRIP readers with comic BOOK readers, which is the only thing that makes any sense; surely Torsten will stop by in five minutes with his own theory.

It does suggest that an entire readership is being under-served. Perhaps some enterprising comics publisher should look up that Matlock comic book license, for instance.

At any rate, as we wrote last year, actual valid information would give us something to argue about for hours, perhaps even days.

BTW we couldn’t even find a picture of a geezer reading a comic book, but we did find this famous photo of then NYC mayor Fiorello LaGuardia reading the Sunday funnies on the radio to entertain the children who once read comics. He would be really old if he were still alive so hopefully this counts.


  1. I guess this explains why DC will never kill off the Golden Age Flash, Green lantern and Wildcat. The people who read those characters as kids are still buying those lousy books.

  2. I bet DC’s regretting that they killed off Pa Kent now. Just imagine: “Superman’s Pa.” Criss-crossing America in an RV outfitted by STAR Labs, helping other elderly folks to get those damn kids off their lawn.

    But seriously, if this report is anywhere close to accurate, it proves just how completely out of touch the management of both DC and Marvel are.

  3. This has GOT to be about comic STRIPS, not comic books/graphic novels. My LCS has a very large and divere customer base, but I can’t recall ever seeing anyone there that even remotely looked over 55 or 60.

  4. 1) Fiorello read the comics over the radio because the newspaper delivery unions were on strike. (Search YouTube for the audio.) He also had the NYPD protect the staff of Captain America from the various Nazi Bunds.


    He would be about 60 in that photo.

    He also stars as the hero of his own comic book, “La Guardia’s War Against Hitler”, produced by Neal Adams, Disney Educational Productions, and the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies. (His sister survived the Ravensbrück concentration camp.)

    He also founded the High School of Music & Art, which currently bears his name in Lincoln Center, and which has many famous comics alumni (Will Elder, Dean Haspiel, Al Jaffee, Harvey Kurtzman, Josh Neufeld).

    (Gee… He kind of outshines Obama on the comics fandom index, eh?)

    He’s considered one of the greatest American mayors, and his style of governing seems to have influenced Mayor Bloomberg.

    2) No new theory, I concur with the “comic strip” hypothesis. Newspaper readers are aging as well, as today’s youth find other, more immediate sources for news.

    I do wonder about the methodology, was the sample varied and representative of all age groups and demographics from a variety ? Could the comics community have some college students survey the general public at no-cost?

    Of course, I’ve gotten my mother to read Maus, Berlin, and Persepolis, but I’ve also gotten her grandkids to read comics as well (Supergirl, Magic Trixie, Spidey Super Stories) so it balances. My father has been reading comics since he was a kid in dustbowl Iowa.

    3) Hell yeah we want to market comics to senior citizens! Ever hear of the S.K.I. Club? That stands for “Spending the Kids’ Inheritance”. They’ve got disposable income, leisure time, love to read, and have a pretty good social network of friends. AND… they’ve probably got grandkids to spoil. Imagine all those senior citizens hanging out at the Barnes & Noble Starbucks in the morning, looking at the kids section, and wondering which book to buy for their grandkid. And then they ask a bookseller…

    4) The movie tie-in is a factor. While we’ll never see a $500 million title, “major motion pictures” do move books, regardless of the quality or success of the adaptation (Bonfire of the Vanities, Time in the Love of Cholera, I Am Legend). Graphic novel tie-ins usually have a longer shelf-life, continuing to sell long after the movie has dropped off the DVD bestseller lists. (300, Wanted, Watchmen…)

    5) I don’t care about how old someone is. I care about their reading level, and what they like to read (or watch). Give me that information, and I can recommend a good graphic novel or comicbook or comicstrip collection to just about anyone.

  5. If those numbers include all the people 65 and older that still make comics, work in comics, work in comics shops and work in book stores that sell comics and therefore still read comics (and the funnies in the newspaper), then yeah, sure, I bet there are a lot of people 65 and older reading comics. I see a lot of old timers behind the tables at comics conventions. Probably not 25% but there are plenty of them.

    I hope this means we get to start seeing more erectile dysfunction ads in our funnybooks.

  6. I 100% believe this. The client base at the majority of the shops I’ve gone to is old.

    BTW – People 65 and older don’t necessarily look like the stereotypical crazy old person. They look like adults, but with a few more grey hairs and a few more wrinkles. They’re not hobbling around with canes and walkers yelling about kids on lawns; they’re going to work.

  7. I don’t believe the finding, but the photo is totally worth it.

    I wrote a “Wolverine’s Midlife Crisis” special* last year, but it seemed like suicide to market it that way. Maybe not!


  8. This seems a bit dubious to me, and I suspect that (as someone commented earlier) this includes strips as well as comic books.

    The comic book reader is getting older, and not as many new young readers are replacing them, but I suspect that after 45-50, readership begins to tail off significantly.

    That’s not to say that I don’t know of people in their 50s and 60s who read comics — because I do — but they also tend to be buying older books (Gold/Silver) and eschewing the newer releases.

  9. Simba has done this study before and it would be interesting to see the results from previous years. While I celebrate people of all ages reading comics – I HIGHLY down their findings this year.

    What’s sad is that the media will pick up on this nonsense and run with it.

  10. @Rich Johnston:

    “What’s sad is that the media will pick up on this nonsense and run with it.”

    Honestly? Let them. It doesn’t change anything. Xamie still made maybe the best comic ever this year; Kevin Huizenga is still making awesome comics; Jeff Smith is still a master. Saying the readership’s age is x instead of y doesn’t change the people making the comics. If anything, it can be used as an excuse to go find new readers.

  11. I have read the report, as it’s amazing what your library website provides free access to as a student.

    And the report, oddly, does not clearly state how it defines ‘comic’, nor does it clearly state the exact phrasing of the questions used to gather the Demo splits on comic readers.

    I strongly suspect that the 65+ crowd counted newspaper comic strips under their comic book reading habits.

  12. Not sure why the research is being disputed since they say clearly in the press release that they delved into what they call the “three major segments within the comic industry—comic books, graphic novels and manga.” They also mention analysis of publishers and sales, not syndicates and subscription fees.

    Also, 13% of the US population is over 65, 25% are under 18, and the rest are in the middle, making 18-64 the majority. That seems to agree with our assumptions of comics readership (18-50-something being the majority of readership as well as the whole population).

  13. Jesse-

    The statement you are referring to is specifically in regards to sales data.

    If you read the report, the ‘Do you read comics?’ question was supposedly from a large national survey, it’s not immediately clear if it was administered by mail, online, or phone. But as I’ve worked in Market Research for the past 5 years, my educated guess is they bought the data from a large mail survey company.

    Oddly, they do not include the exact phrasing of the question, which leads me to strongly suspect that respondents self identified what they felt a ‘comic’ was. And I would bet dollars to donuts those 65+ types are including newspaper comics.

  14. AD —

    Are the following questions (meaning after “Do you read comics?”) more specific? As you know since you’re in the industry, market research questionnaires are extremely detailed and they’re full of double blinds to weed out bad/irrelevant respondents.

    When we use market research I’m always amazed at how the final pool of respondents are somehow exactly, to the tee, the demographic we’re looking for.

  15. I’m 56. Comics have been a big part of my life since I learned to read at the age of 4. Instead of crying “it can’t be true!” that older people read more comicsthan other groups, as some here seem to be doing, why not invest that energy into getting younger people into reading comics, or just plain into reading?
    I do agree with many of the other posters that methodology is at issue. If the survey were conducted by land line, for example, the results would be skewed by the fact that many people under 30 no longer see land lines as a necessity.

  16. as someone who has just turned a half century young, i can tell you from personal experience that i still read and collect comics of all kinds. not as much as i used to, but the reason for that has more to do with the high price of comics and the utter crap that’s coming out these days in many (but not all) books. will i still be collecting in say ten or fifteen years? it’s hard to say. it really depends on the direction creators go with characters that i dig and once all comics end up online (and we all know it’s just a matter of time before that happens), that’ll probably be the end of collecting weekly books and following the continuing stories of characters x,y,&z ,which would be fine. there will still be tons of graphic novels and trades to catch up on. but i guess i could turn the question back to you young whippersnappers. how many of you will continue to read comics after reaching the age of say 45, or 50, 55 or 65 and beyond? or do you feel only young folk should be reading comics? that once you turn a certain senior age , one should stop reading comics. before you answer, consider: i once met a guy in his seventies that had every issue of superman, from action comics #1 to the “death of superman”. he started collecting as a kid and he showed no signs of slowing down. thats the thing about comics,if you’re a true fan, you’re a fan for life. thanks for letting me rant.

  17. Uh… let me ask this question:
    How are comic STRIPS different than comic BOOKS?

    (Yeah, I know the whole history, how Walt Kelly and the NCS stabbed the comic book publishers in the back at the Senate hearing. How, until recently, comic strip collections and comic book collections were shelved in different sections of the bookstore, how libraries treated the two differently… But aside from length and area, don’t they use similar storytelling techniques?)

    One of my favorite comic strip collections, the first Simon & Schuster collection of Pogo by Walt Kelly, is actually a graphic novel, as the panels have been rearranged to tell clear stories. Just like Superman’s first story was composed of panels rearranged from the failed comic strip submission.

    So you’ve got a lot of senior citizens reading comic strips. Lots of kids and adults as well. Why hasn’t the comic book industry tried to market titles to those readers? Will Eisner proved SEVENTY years ago that comic books could be successful in a newspaper.

    I think the story isn’t faulty sampling, but the fact that a forgotten segment of readers has reminded us that they read comics, just not the comics that WE consider comics.

    But then, a lot of people once thought people wouldn’t read black-and-white comicbooks (even when The Far Side was on the New York Times bestseller list), or that girls didn’t read comics, or that people wouldn’t read comics “backwards”… and then Pokemon comes along and saves the entire industry from inbreeding.

  18. Yeah – I just hit 54 a few weeks ago and I’m still buying – more collections in hardcovers these days than actual comics – but my bill averages about 60 to 75 bucks a week. But that’s the problem the business is having – they have to try to find a way to bring in a much younger audience, keeping them interested so they keep reading until they’re 60 plus while still keeping us “oldies” spending money on the stuff ’till we drop dead! :)

  19. Even if one assumes that Simmons’ market researchers undercounted the number of YA and middle-aged men who buy comic books and thus inflated the percentages for other types of readers, the information is still useful. Publishers are less concerned, or should be, with the “Wednesday crowd” than they are with trying to reach mainstream readers. Recall, for example, that 80 percent of Bookswim.com’s customers are women, many of whom read comics. If senior citizens are numerous enough to show up on Simmons’ survey, they’re worth trying to reach.


  20. I worked in a comic shop for 15 years and I’m about 99% certain I never sold comics to anyone over 65 who wasn’t buying them for someone else

  21. Don’t mock the 65 year old virgin. He’s just waiting for that one special girl. And he’s going to move out of his parents basement when he gets his goals in order.

  22. Ahem. I’m like Diana Green, been reading comics for about 50 years. And, like Diana, I’m a woman. I do feel as though I’m on the older edge of the comics buyers in my town; every time I go to my two shops, I’m the oldest person there. I don’t know if my parents would count themselves as comics readers, but whenever they visit us, they both end up reading from my vast collection – and they’re in their late-70s (Dad) and early 80s (Mom). Even my mother-in-law (mid-80s) read some manga on her last visit!

  23. Like most others, I’m guessing they included comic strips in their calculations. An interesting fact I’d like to see would be how many young people read comics. (Like, kids, not 20-something hipsters.)

    I was talking to a sales rep for IDW and they’re reprinting classic old Dick Tracy, Terry and the Pirates and suchlike. He said “How can we distribute these books to retirement homes?” Seemed like a stroke of genius to me.

    But in the main, I think most seniors don’t consider comics to be “reading”. Comics are for kids, in the seniors’ minds, no matter how many “Biff! Bang! Pow! Comics Aren’t For Kids!” hackwork articles may claim differently.

  24. Very surprising finding. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone over 65 in a comic book shop, at the GN section in Barnes & Noble. I have seen a few over 65-ers “try” some GNs in the library where I’m employed. Hard to believe I’ve been not seeing these readers for 30 years or so, though.

  25. Whether it’s books or strips, there’s an ugly demographic point: half of that 25%, 12.5% of the current audience for comic books and/or strips, will be blind or dead in a decade.

    And I have to wonder how the industry plan to replace them.

  26. I’m 64 and still reading comic books. I plan to keep reading them as long as I’m alive. I’m having fun reading them too.