It’s no secret that the digital age has taken its toll at every category of the print publication industry.
Newspapers have fallen victim to the internet and its plethora of social media websites that are used as news/information sharing platforms. In 2016, the U.S. daily newspaper had its 28th consecutive year of decline, according to a June 1 Pew Research report. Former brick-and-mortar bookstore giant Borders closed its last store in September 2011.
While newspapers have found new life with digital subscriptions and independent bookstores have seen a resurgence; comic book stores, from my view, still face an uncertain future.
Diamond Comic Distributors–which has an exclusive distribution deals with the top comic book publishers, such as DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Image Comics, Dark Horse Comics, and IDW Publishing–shipped about 10.26 million comic books to North American shops in August 2016, which equals more than $57 million worth of comic books ordered by stores and retailers. The last time Diamond hit that number December 1996, according to comic book sales analyst by Comichron.
Numbers like those may seem like a good times are ahead, but that was a few months after the start of the DC Rebirth initiative. The publisher’s entire comic book line relaunch sparked new life in its sales, but how much longer can the industry sustain itself after sales inevitably dip after the initial spike?
Comic books may not seem too expensive. The current median price is $3.99 per issue, but when there are numerous series an individual is interested in reading and the gluttony of crossovers and events that disrupt ongoing stories, it can become overwhelming and trigger severe damages to one’s wallet.
Nowadays, with the crowded entertainment field competing for consumers’ all-mighty dollar, people need to prioritize themselves. There’s streaming services, such as Netflix and Hulu, and the costly monthly cellphone bill. Add that with the addition of comic book movies making box office records, people might not see a value in a $3.99 20-page comic book that’ll only attribute about 10 minutes of entertainment.
I love comic books, they have brought an abundance of joy and excitement, as well as anger and frustration to my life. I want to see this industry succeed, thrive, and continue for future generations to take part in its emotional roller coaster. However, I’m not an old grump who will be oblivious to changing times and complain that it’s not like the good-old-days anymore.
How long the comic book industry can survive definitely can’t be measured given the speed of technology upgrades and revisions the landscape we live in. I don’t see the physical sales making it out of the 21st century, but its characters will continue to thrive in the other avenues like movies, TV shows, and video games.
What are your thoughts about the future of the survival of the comic book industry?
Written by Eric Bradach
Photos by Eric Bradach