Comic Books Are More Popular Now Than They've Been in 20 Years

Green Arrow: Rebirth #1 was a surprise megahit for DC Comics last month.
Green Arrow: Rebirth #1 was a surprise megahit for DC Comics last month.

We already knew that the comics industry, helped along by a steady stream of related blockbuster movies, had entered a bit of a new golden age but things just keep looking up. According to new reports, the last time comic book sales were this high was way back in December 1997.


Comics-industry writer and number-cruncher John Jackson Miller, who writes the Comichron blog, announces that “dollar orders of comics and graphic novels in June were at their highest level in more than 20 years, $58.59 million in a five-week month.” (The only available system for determining sales, The Washington Post points out, is imperfect, since it tracks orders by retailers rather than actual sales to readers. Still, it’s hard to argue with “highest level” and the demand that implies.)

Two books in particular sold a quarter million copies in June, Miller reports: Marvel’s Civil War II #1 and DC’s Batman #1, both of which are obviously tied to hugely successful superhero movie franchises. The Post also notes that while comic books are more tied into popular culture than ever before, they’re also more accessible, too, thanks to digital platforms like comiXology. And the popularity of the genre has also lured in talents who might not have otherwise considered it—like the Post’s example, National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose take on Black Panther was met with widespread acclaim.

Will it all last? Well, that remains to be seen. However, it’s increasingly clear that it’s a pretty good time to bea comics fan—or to become one for the first time.

io9 News Editor, here since 2016. Previously SF Bay Guardian newspaper (RIP), SFSU (MA, Cinema Studies), member of the SF Bay Area Film Critics Circle, big fan of horror, metal, and verrry small dogs.



There’s also the unfortunate fact that the numbers for digital sales aren’t released, so they could be higher, too. It has been revealed that some books get a high number of digital sales, higher than even their physical sales.

The sales of comic books in America is fucking weird, though. Here’s the thing: there is only one distribution company, Diamond. There used to be more, but due to Marvel fucking up in the ‘90s (long story), they all went out of business except Diamond. And while back in the newsstand days, newsstands could return any unsold books, comic book stores can’t return any unsold books — anything unsold eventually goes into the dollar bin. So comic book stores are notoriously frugal (especially after the bubble burst in the ‘90s) and often under order books they don’t know will sell — which then means that once they run out, they have to order more, which means the comic company has to print more. Which means a book like Ms. Marvel, which became inordinately popular, got seven printings of its first issue.