Wednesday, July 6, 2022

How Comic Books Can Recover from Declining Sales

So another MCU movie is out and you can’t be more excited. Well, we all know of the superheroes we see on the big screen, but what about the origins of those characters? Well, this might shock you, but many of those superheroes first appeared in comic books (shocking, we know). While it might not be news to some that superheroes first got their start in comic books, it might be alarming that the medium has been experiencing a rapid sales decline in recent years. But why is this happening? And what can be done to fix this problem? Well, that’s what we’re here to answer.

Comic books have been around in their modern format since 1933. They were mainly popular among kids and young adults. Throughout the decades, the medium grew (as well as the age of the audience). Many adults would read collect, and invest in comic books, and the medium would peak in sales during the 1990s with individual books like Spawn and X-Men reaching print runs in the millions (a feat that has never since been accomplished). Comic books would experience a crash in the late-90s but would come back with the support of Hollywood. Today comics are popular to collect, but new books aren’t selling like they used to, despite billion-dollar movies. Sales continue to decline and the medium is in danger. How can this be possible? How can superhero movies do so well, while new comics struggle?

This can be attributed to several factors. One is that print media isn’t as popular anymore. Many popular magazines have stopped print publications and have switched to digital format. Comic books have followed suit, but there are still some that prefer that feel of holding a comic in your hand while reading it (we’re one of them). The problem is that physical comic books cost $3.99 and many people would rather read a pirated version for free on the internet (although some sign up for the DC and Marvel digital services). There is also the competition of Japanese manga that appeals more to a younger audience, while western comic books tend to attract an older audience (effectively splitting the potential readers).

Now for the million-dollar question; how can comic books recover from declining sales? There are already events such as Free Comic Books Day and Halloween Comic Fest to help encourage new readers, but what else can be done? Well, the answer has a few parts.

First, comic books need more cross-appeal. What this means is that books need to appeal to people who are fans of other media. A good example was when Marvel did the hip-hop variant covers a few years ago. Many fans of the hip-hop genre were drawn to these covers, which led these books to sell well upon release and on the aftermarket.

DC also did a great crossover between Fornite and Batman, which had a downloadable code for a Harley Quinn Fortnite skin. We saw new fans of comic books appear in front of our eyes through their method. Kids who were into Fortnite bought these books and some read and enjoyed them. This was a great attempt at bringing in a younger audience. Comic book companies need more of this cross-appeal with things like video games (which is a medium that just keeps growing). One idea the piggyback on the Fortnite crossover, would be to have more video game DLC when a new game comes out. What this means is when a new superhero video game is released (ex: the upcoming Gotham Knights game), a good idea would be to add a new downloadable costume (ex: an alternate Nightwing costume) that is only available through the purchase of certain comics.

Comic book adaptations of video games have always done well, and we haven’t see too many in the past few years. Fans of games like Last of Us and Resident Evil would love additional content in the form of comic books to add to the lore of their favorite games.

Another method to help bring in new readers (which would help declining sales) would be to write stories that appeal to younger audiences. You can take examples from anime and manga for this one. Marvel did a good job with Strange Academy which mimicked My Hero Academia in a sense. There are plenty of other ideas that can be lifted from manga and anime, which can effectively bring in younger readers who can become lifelong comic fans.

Or how about this idea? A crossover of comic book and anime properties? Who wouldn’t want to see a Justice League/Dragon Ball Z comic book published by DC, which has Superman go up against Goku in the fan fight we’ve all dreamt of? That would get fans talking about comics again.

You don’t have to look far for ideas on how to help comics recover from low sales. Just look around and see what’s popular today and try to incorporate that into your books. It may sound like a major task, but some of it has already been done. Companies like DC and Marvel just need to look at these successes and continue to implement them into their books. We would love to see comics grow and a younger audience take to reading and collecting the books. However, unless something is done, then we might see the end of new comics as we know them.


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