The State of The Industry is… surprisingly strong:
All together, we’d be looking at around $715 million for all North American comics and graphic novels: up about $35 million from 2011. And that growth is all in the comics shop market, which offset losses in the mass market. In 2011, the comics shop market was about 60% of the overall market for print sales; in 2012, it was closer to two thirds… For what I think may be the first time in years, the Direct Market’s graphic novel dollar orders exceeded the value of the Bookscan orders (but not the entire mass market). I attribute it at least in part to the huge traffic in Walking Dead trades: comics shops ordered at least 74,000 copies of the first volume in 2012, versus 38,000 copies through Bookscan’s retailers. That’s a big difference.
That’s John Jackson Miller, continuing to crunch numbers and make sense of the comic book industry in a way that few others manage. A lot of people are pointing to this data and calling it a return to 1990s levels of success, but Miller offers a strong counter-argument to that way of thinking:
The most frequently cited figure for sales in 1993, the market’s all-time peak, is $850 million. That amounts to an inflation-adjusted $1.35 million, nearly double the size of the current market. This should not surprise us, given the fact there were 12 distributors and nearly four times as many comics shops as exist today. But even the $1.35 billion is an imperfect analog, though, because comics have increased in price since the mid-1990s faster than the CPI rate. The average comic book retailers ordered in January 1995 cost $2.20; now it’s $3.58. That’s 20 cents higher than what the CPI calculator says it should be. So 1993′s comics-inflation-adjusted figure could be even higher!
The best way to take inflation completely out of the picture is to forget dollars and focus on units. We just don’t tend to do that when trade paperbacks and hardcovers are in the mix, because their pricing varies so much. We know that in 2012 we’re selling way fewer comics than in the early 1990s, and way more graphic novels (and, obviously, digital versions); the net being that we’re still quite a lot behind the early 1990s in adjusted dollars.
Even so: $715 million is better than the industry has been for a long time. Here’s hoping the upwards trend continues.