Support Shawn's writng with a donation

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Sad State of Affairs in the Comic Book Industry.

Reading more about the DC Comics relaunch the more I realize how out-of-touch people in the comic book industry are. People in the comic book industry seem like they’ve been going around in circles repeating the same mistakes which caused the industry to collapse in 1993. And they’re in such denial about the problems plaguing the business that it seems like they have no chance of breaking free of the vicious cycle, waking up and joining the rest of us in the real world.

Reading about DC’ Comics’ plan for new targeting new readers has me shaking my head. Their idea of younger readers are 18-24 year olds.


The average age of a comic book reader today is over 35. But the geniuses in the comic book industry think 18-24 year olds are the group of younger readers who will reverse close to two decades of slumping sales.


18-24 are the age ranges where people start growing OUT of comics and into reading novels. So the influx of new readers to the medium would be neglible to the older readers who are leaving. Worse, in a few years, the average reader age shoots back up to the over 35 demographic.

The comic book industry needs to understand that the younger readers they need to be targeting are tweens and teens in the 7-18 age range. Ages 7 and 8 are where most small children start independent reading. It’s a time where they buy the books they want to read with the disposable income given to them by parents and grandparents. Money that’s currently being spent on songs on itunes, apps, games, game tokens, Tv shows, and ebooks. Kids aged 7-18 represent a group of younger buyers ten to twenty million strong who could possibly reverse two decades of slumping comic book sales and create a new customer base over the next fifteen to twenty years.

Other media companies understand how big this demographic group is and are targeting their entertainment products towards this younger audience. Disney and Nickelodeon understand tweens and teens ages 8-18 are where the most money are and that’s why most of their sitcoms are targeted towards youngsters in this age range. They’ve made billions from licensing products from their shows like Hannah Montana, True Jackson VP and That’s So Raven while the comic book industry continues to lose thousands of readers a month.

It’s also why publishers of YA literature like Scholastic and spend so much time stocking their shelves with books targeted towards 7-14 year olds. Harry Potter and Twilight have millions of readers anticipating the next book or the next movie while the comic book industry continues to lose thousands readers a month.

And it’s also why WWE continues to have millions of fans all over the world. Pro wrestling targets kids ages7-18 and the industry moves billions of dollars in merchandise, pay-per-views, and millions of young viewers who are growing up with the product while the comic book industry continues to lose thousands of readers a month.

But the geniuses in Comic Book industry now think 18-24 year olds are where the money is. Brilliant.

What makes these demographic plans absurd is the fact that there’s been a huge baby boom going on in the United States since 2000. There’s currently a growing audience of younger readers in elementary school ready to read on its own. And those kids would be eager to choose comic books if they were presented to them.

But the geniuses in Comic Book industry now think 18-24 year olds are where the money is.

Seriously, if people in the comic book industry were smart, they’d be targeting the 8-18 demographic in the hopes of building a customer base that will stay with them for a decade or more, not 18-24 year olds that will outgrow the medium in a year or two.

Then there’s DC’s comics plan to launch 52 titles in September and more after that.


Wasn’t publishing hundreds of titles what collapsed the comic book industry in 1993? Back then Marvel had close to 175 titles, DC had close to 70 or so titles, Archie comics had over 35 titles, Image Comics had over 20-25 titles, and the now defunct Valiant Comics had a dozen or so titles on the shelf next to those. There were so many comic books clogging the shelves the market became saturated with product.

Hasn’t anyone in the comic book industry taken a look at their own history? More importantly haven’t they taken a look at the U.S. real estate market in Nevada and California recently?

Those real estate pros followed the same crazy business practices of comic book publishers and saturated the market with properties. That flood of product caused the entire U.S. housing market to collapse.

When there’s too much product available at one given time on the supply side it decreases demand for said product. That drives down prices. Worse, it drives down the value of said product to nothing. Basic economics.

Right now there is no market for comics because there is no demand for comic books. Adding large quantities of books to the supply chain doesn’t increase demand for them.

Almost twenty years after the collapse of the comic book industry the approach to business continues to follow the same vicious cycle while the rest of the world has moved on.

And while the comic book industry continues to target older readers with hundreds of brand new titles, it still refuses to deal with the distribution issues that have kept comics out of the hands of readers for close to two decades. None of these relaunches, new costumes or new number one issues matter because customers can’t find the product at a retailer that’s NOT a comic book shop or a bookstore.

Comic book publishers just can’t wrap their heads around the fact that when their products aren’t on the shelves of national and regional retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, CVS, Rite aid or a Mom and pop store where readers aged seven and up frequent no one will be able to buy them. More importantly, if comics aren’t on these retailer shelves where customers can SEE them, no one will KNOW about them or CARE about them.

Insanity is doing the exact same thing and expecting a different result.

And I feel many who work in the comic book industry have lost their minds.

Most businesses understand that if something isn’t working, they stop doing what they were doing and try a different approach. Moreover, they study the approaches that other industries are doing and try to apply some of those strategies to their business.

But for most in the comic book industry their idea of a new approach is an event like a death of a major character, a new costume, a new logo, or a new number one issue.

These are same things comic publishers have been doing for close to twenty years. The same things that drove away an audience for a generation.

But with each new effort delusional people in the comic book industry actually believe things will change for the better.

Unfortunately, the publishers in the comic book industry don’t understand that comic books are still all being sold in the same venues to the same audience of older readers. Moreover, they continue to be distributed in the same venues to the same audience of older readers.

So how are the comic books going to reach the new readers if they’re sold in the same places?

No one has figured out the answer to this question in the comic book industry.

And I don’t think they ever will because everyone is in their own world. Denial is a way of life among people in the comic book industry. Everyone from the fans to the writers, artists, and editors are refusing to see the truth about how bad things are.

If the comic book industry wants to return to profitability, the people in the industry from editors to artists, to writers and even comic fans are going to have to WAKE UP and LOOK at their industry the way the REAL WORLD sees it. Until everyone can face those harsh realities regarding the sad state of affairs regarding the approach to business within comic book industry then nothing is going to reverse the decline of comic book sales.

Can the comic book industry turn it around? I believe so. It just takes a different approach to business.

In the Next blog I’ll detail my plan for turning around the comic book industry.


  1. Shawn,

    You have brought up several interesting points in resurrecting the Comic Book industry in a positive direction with your comprehensive plan.

    I do find it ironic that Hollywood still relies on the comic book genre for their film projects.

    I guess they (Hollywood/the Comic Book Industry) forgot how they are interdependent (are connected) of each other.

    With the recent slew of comic book like films would fair better at the box office if both groups realized this. Instead of being hit and miss. I understand some films of this genre have done better than others.

    That could also have to do with marketing, release dates, production/other film quality etc.

    I sincerely hope you are able to bring this to fruition. Contact those groups or sectors with your idea/plan.

    I think society has forgot that comic books are a vital part of our society not just for fun, fantasy or propaganda.

    Best of luck...I am looking forward to seeing more news about this.

    Liz Isaacs
    Lotus Writing & Communications
    SEE my URLs:

  2. Meant to post in the other article. Comments still are applicable. Great article.

  3. As a former comic shop owner, reader, and fan you have stated what I have being telling people for years.

    The way I fell in love with comics was at the local grocery store while mom was shopping. It was that exposure to my heroes that gave me the love of comics that I still have today.

    For years I have said that the comic companies should produce a low cost comic marketed to younger audiences. They could still maintain titles for the older fans, but the idea of being available only at selective stores was never a good idea.

  4. The comics code single handedly almost crippled the industey i have been reading comics since i was 4 i am now 23 and i have rooms filled w nboxes upon boxes at my house.. as a fan i yhink its rediculous to dumb down these books whemost of the readers are older them.selves. there are select issues of spiderman and barious other titles directed twords children. but i would hate for my monthly bopks which i spend aproxately 300 a month on get dumbed down and turned into titalating cartoons for children.

  5. Yeah, comics during the Code era sucked. Spider-Man vs the Goblin, FF vs Doom, Flash's rogues gallery, Adam Warlock vs. Thanos, the Korvac saga. All that stuff was terrible. It only got good when they threw in more nudies and exploding heads. Yeah, right.