Financially, 2008 was a rough year for many. Banks needed a bail out, the auto industry threatened to shut down unless they got one too. Mega chains like Circuit City filed bankruptcy. And families had to trim their wallets. But, if you believe a January 10th USA Today article, the comic book industry did just fine.
The article’s writer, David Colton, quotes the CEO of Diamond Comics Distributors as saying that the graphic novel category actually “grew by 5%” compared to last year’s numbers. The main reason for the growth according to Colton was the success of films like The Dark Knight and Iron Man.
When it comes to his source for his ideas concerning the overall strength of the comic book industry, the journalist uses sales figures from Diamond Comics Distributors. According to the distributor’s figures, “Marvel Comics’ Secret Invasion #1 was the best-selling comic book of 2008. The eight-issue miniseries about the takeover of superheroes by shape-shifting Skrulls took the first six spots [of the top ten best selling comics of 2008].” Colton claims that “Diamond did not release actual sales figures, but best-selling comic books (priced at $2.99 or $3.99) normally sell more than 100,000 copies.” That’s great for Marvel, but what did that mean for the comics industry as a whole? The answer is left unclear.
One factor that shows that 2008 may not have been such a great year for many in the comic book industry is the struggles faced by many popular comic book shops. The LA Daily News reports that some stores such as Earth-2 comics have experienced up to a 20 percent drop in revenue (in the year leading up to its Black Friday supersale). And on January 2nd of this year, according to South Bay BizWaves, a popular comic book store in Torrance, CA, called Third Planet Comics & Games, announced it would close “after about 13 years in business.”
The recession is hurting everyone. Life-long fans are having to sell their beloved collections to make ends meet. Even comic readers, who normally would spend $30 a week on comics, are checking out free comic books from their local library. Currently, stores like Earth-2 are trying creative ways to attract its customers back, like giving reminder calls for upcoming releases or having huge clearance sales. But, as more stores continue to close and face hard times, it will become apparent that even super heroes are vulnerable to a recession.