ICv2 and Comichron announced the results of a joint analysis of comics and graphic novels sales in North America that showed a huge 62% increase over 2020. Now, this was to be expected given that the pandemic created numerous issues for the market in 2020. While this was interesting news, what I was waiting for was more detailed information concerning which of the four categories of comics and graphic novels were driving that increase. The four main categories of Graphic Novels are Manga, Kids, Author, and Superhero. Well, wait no longer, because ICv2 rolled out their numbers to show how each category grew in 2021.
As always, ICv2’s analysis of graphic novel content types uses data based on sales tracked at point-of-sale by the ComicHub system at over 100 stores. That data is then used to build a model of sales for the entire comic store channel using comparisons developed during periods in which ComicHub and Diamond Comic Distributors reporting of the total market overlapped.
The book channel portion of the analysis was based on data provided by NPD BookScan. NPD BookScan collects weekly point-of-sale data on print books from over 16,000 locations including e-tailers, chains, mass merchandisers, independent bookstores, and more. NPD BookScan covers approximately 85% of the overall U.S. trade print book market. And since NPD began incorporating ComicHub data into its reports in 2020, ICv2’s analysis accounts for the ComicHub portion when estimating the size of the book channel.
As you can see from the chart, Manga rules the Graphic Novels market share and it is not even close. In 2021, Manga accounted for a whopping 43% of the market. The Kids category took second place with a respectable 27% of the market. Superhero graphic novels, which include Marvel Comics and DC Comics, took third place with just 16% of the market. This barely beat out the Author graphic novels category which took last place with 15% of the market.
This should come as no surprise. The increased sales of the Comics and Graphic Novels market in 2021 has come largely on the backs of Manga and Kids titles. It should be alarming to both Marvel Comics and DC Comics that they have ceded so much of the market to their competitors. But, this is great news for everyone else. Manga continues to remain unchallenged as the most popular form of comics in North America. But, what is great to see is that the Kids category is doing well, too. This is important since maintaining the interest of the younger demographic is vital to sustained growth for the industry.
I would expect to see the Manga category’s share of the market expand even more in 2022. Manga publishers seem to be intent on releasing even more manga titles in North America in 2022. Plus, we have so many big anime series coming out in the latter half of 2022. This should certainly help to further fuel the American demand for manga.
The Kids category continues to impress with a solid market share. Now, I know much of the Kids category’s success comes down to the incredible success of anything with Dan Pilkey’s name on it. And, wow, how amazing is Pilkey’s sales success? But, there are some other solid franchises in the Kids category. I am glad that there are authors who are still squarely targeting the kids demographic. Especially since it seems that Marvel Comics and DC Comics have largely abandoned this demographic.
Now, I know that the Authors category came in last place. But, it was barely a last-place finish as they almost broke past the Superhero category. There are good reasons to be bullish about the Authors category. And that is because of the information in the next chart. The outlook looks even better for Manga, Kids, and Author graphic novels when you look at the percentage of growth in 2021 compared to 2020. Unfortunately, Superhero graphic novels do not have as rosy of an outlook.
Again, Manga took first place as the fastest-growing category in the Graphic Novels market. Manga grew 134% over 2021. That is simply stunning. We continue to see popular anime boosting the sales of manga in general. That is sure to continue in 2022 as well. It appears that there is no end to the American public’s desire for Manga.
Author graphic novels category took second place as it grew 45% over 2021. This just shows how insanely popular the Manga category has become. The gap between first and second place is massive. Still, this is great news for the Author category. I believe much of what is fueling this growth in the Authors category is the stunning rise of webtoons. Collected volumes of webtoons like Solo Leveling and Lore Olympus are driving this growth. Honestly, collected volumes of webtoons, in general, seem to be getting more and more popular. While the Author category came in last place in terms of market share, the fact that it is in second place in terms of growth shows that the Author category has legs and has a serious shot at surpassing the Superhero category in market share in 2022. Personally, with the popularity of various webtoons, I am expecting the Author category to zip past the Superhero category in 2022.
Kids graphic novels category took third place as it grew 37% over 2021. The Kids category does not have the legs to threaten Manga for first place in market share in 2022. But, the Kids category should remain strong enough to retain its second-place market share spot in 2022.
Superhero graphic novels came in last place as the slowest growing category as it only grew by 25% in 2021. Much of that is getting back to pre-pandemic sales levels. Also, from following the monthly sales charts, we know that the majority of the volumes sold in the Superhero category are from 10-30 years ago. It looks like there is a very real chance that the Superhero category will have the smallest market share in 2022 based on the faster growth of Author graphic novels.
None of this is terribly surprising when you follow the monthly sales numbers for the Graphic Novels market. However, even I was not expecting such an eye-popping growth number from the Manga category. That is just amazing. It is great to see the Manga category continuing to grow. This will only encourage Japanese manga publishers to focus more and more on the North American market. This should lead to us getting even more manga titles and a continued push for simultaneous manga releases in the North American market along with the Japanese market. There is so much for manga fans to be excited about in 2022!
This is all so remarkable. I am old enough to remember when the Superhero category ruled the Graphic Novel market with an iron fist. I honestly thought that Marvel Comics and DC Comics would always reign supreme. Times change and the longer you stick around this planet the more likely you are to get surprised. I never would have imagined that the Superhero category would collapse in this fashion.
Of course, the song remains the same for Marvel Comics and DC Comics. The once-feared Big Two do not scare anyone anymore. These two publishers are now reigning over a crumbling empire as they are rapidly approaching being the smallest category in the Graphic Novels market. It is up to Marvel Comics and DC Comics to figure out why they are no longer as popular with consumers as they once were. Then Marvel Comics and DC Comics need to be smart enough to make plenty of changes.