Driven by growth in the book channel—where a young audience is discovering a more diverse selection of content—the North American comics and graphic novel market grew by 5% in 2016, according to a new joint-estimate by comic book sales repository Comichron and industry source ICv2.
Total comics and graphic novel sales in the US and Canada reached US$1.1 billion in 2016, an increase of US$55 million versus 2015. Graphic novels accounted for the biggest piece of the pie at US$590 million, followed by comic books at US$405 million and digital comics at US$90 million. (Print figures are based on the full retail price of books sold into the market, and do not account for discounting or markups. Digital sales do not include subscription or “all you can read” services.)
Looking at where comics and graphic novels are sold, graphic novels in the book channel saw the only growth in 2016, up 16% to US$405 million, after 23% growth in 2015 and 16% in 2014. Sales of comics and graphic novels in comic stores, through download-to-own digital channels, and in newsstands, meanwhile, remained flat.
While Comichron doesn’t separate its analysis by age group, the industry has a history of early fandom, and writers are increasingly looking to reach a broader, young audience. In fact, Dark Horse Comics recently published kid-friendly Angel Catbird, the first-ever graphic novel superhero adventure series authored by Canadian literary icon Margaret Atwood.
Popular British YouTube star Ali-A is also getting into mix, having signed a one-book deal in February with OP Talent giving Penguin Random House’s children’s divisions worldwide rights to his first middle-grade graphic novel, Game On! (pictured).
In terms of attracting a younger girls demo, Random House Children’s Books recently published Final Crisis, the first original graphic novel featuring the DC Super Hero Girls property from Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment.
As for new kids TV series based on graphic novels, Radical Sheep’s animated comedy Fangbone! (Disney XD US, Family CHRGD Canada), Technicolor’s The Deep (Netflix US, ABC Me Australia, and others), and Cottonwood’s Squish (Gulli France, Russia and Africa) are among a growing crop of adaptations.
On the flipside, L.A.-based publisher BOOM! Studios has found success creating comic book and graphic novel versions of hit Cartoon Network series including Adventure Time, Steven Universe and Over the Garden Wall. Children’s publishing powerhouse Scholastic, for its part, launched a contest last July giving first-time graphic novel writers a chance to be published by the company’s kid- and teen-friendly imprint Graphix.