Hey all! Lately, I’ve been thinking about the future of our beloved comics hobby (or business). When I first was into comics, it was the heyday of the early 1990s. I then took a bunch of time off, and only got back into the game during the past few years. Obviously a ton has changed, but to me, one of the biggest things that’s changed are the collectors.
In the 90s, my friends were into comics. So many younger kids like me were at the shops and events. Now, when I’m at an LCS, the demographics look far different. It’s honestly somewhat rare to see a teenager in the shop. And if so, they are after cards, not comics. And, print runs are down considerably. The million book runs are down to 100,000.
So, what does this mean for the future? We often talk about “long-term holds.” I wonder who’s going to be buying comics in the long-term. Print is drying up. The number of buyers has dropped a ton and the demographics are skewing far older.
I’ve added a poll to see what the CHU demographics are. I’m curious if you’ve all seen similar trends. Maybe what I’m seeing is just regional. Do you all share the same concern that maybe this current boom is just us old people (I’m 45) driving up prices now that we have disposable income, and maybe we’re the last generation of comic collectors? My kids LOVE the MCU. My whole family does. But, they just don’t care about comics.
If comic clubs can become more common so there is the social aspect the industry has a future. Most kids don’t even want a free comic, would rather watch YouTube based on my experiences. Its a lonely world out there, if the $4 price tag opens up more social avenues for people it will have significant value.
Online brings out the worst in people, ratio of dirt bags to good people is the opposite online than in person when it comes to comic collecting (CHU has mostly positive helpful people but most sites feel like tabloids).
I was a homebrewer for years, member of a club that met at a local homebrew supply store. I don’t see comic stores having anything similar.
I am 47 and 11/12ths. I do see younger people, mostly in their 20’s and early 30’s in comic shops and since my LCS has a ton of Manga, they younger ones (teens mostly) seem to gravitate towards them. I do not see print comics going away, but, perhaps the nature of how people buy and read comics will.
Quick story from my weekend comic con set up (my first ever set up).
I had about 3 short boxes of general comics, first appearances, hot books, and such. Some really good books, but cheaper things also.
I had a boy who was 8 years old stop and look through them. He was with his grandmother. For whatever reason, this fellow picked out a copy of Venom#40 (has Mania and Venom on the cover) and he was absolutely fixated on that comic. Like, standing, wide eyed, stupified enamored with it. It was a whopping $5. He was literally holding that comic like it was gold. I asked him if he liked Venom, liked comics, etc, etc…He doesn’t have any comics…his first. No idea who Venom is. It was really a cool moment. No idea why he picked it out. Sounds cheezy but the thing must have sparked something or called to him.
Anyway, gave it to him for free along with a top loader. Kid was grinning like the Cheshire Cat…that is my hope for the future of comics.
I’ve been seeing kids trickle into my LCS more and more, but I think shops can do more to keep them there. My shop is awesome, but I still think it’s geared towards adult buyers (who have the money so I get it). I really think they should become a place for kids to hang out again. Arrange gaming tournaments. Comic trivia with prizes. Put in vending machines. Cool raffles. Pinball machines. An arcade or two. Play comic movies on screens non-stop. There’s so much they can do to bring in kids, and the more time kids spend there the more likely they will be to buy comics when they’re older. Kids today are also very interested in 80s culture and I think shops can tap into that too.
This is what I see most of the time as well. Tuesdays/Wednesdays definitely skew middle-aged but if I visit an LCS on a Saturday, there are often more women and kids. I love to see it, and while they’re usually not shopping for floppies, they are at least there and have characters/properties they like.
I see a chunk of kids getting into comics via things like, “Spidey and his Amazing Friends,” and people my age picking up a comic for the first time because they love the movies and shows. It is interesting to see various folks getting into comics!
I don’t think comics themselves are going anywhere. They’ll dip and grow at various times, but the concept of comics will always be around.
What I am interested in seeing is how/when digital comics become a bigger thing. In other parts of the world mobile comics (like Line) are dominant, but they still have plenty of print options available. The big issue with digital comics here is that there REALLY hasn’t been a push for a digital-first type. Like more animated/motion or things designed to be read one panel at a time on a phone screen. They just take a standard comic layout and put it on a screen. The main problem is it’s a chicken and egg scenario. People aren’t as quick to jump on digital comics in the US because they just aren’t that exciting or well-made to attract non-readers, and companies don’t put effort into a better digital platform because there’s not the audience to justify it. Most of my career before working in comics was in PC and mobile gaming, and it was obvious even before I got into comics that the technological side of the comics industry is way behind the curve for the entertainment sector.
As far as the ages go, comics as they are now are definitely something that appeals to older crowds. These are the results of the last comic customer survey thing I did back in I think mid 2021?
There’s a few reasons for that, I think. The first being that manga is overwhelmingly more popular with younger readers than standard comics. I’d imagine if you did a similar survey for manga readers the results would be inversed. The other reason is that, right now, younger readers are almost always targeted by graphic novels more than periodical issues. There are VERY few all ages comics that release monthly, and even fewer that actually sell decent. The younger people are the more immediate they want their content and pay off, so most of the content geared toward them is graphic novels or novellas.
That’s where I think the industry itself is failing and needs to reexaming itself. Kids are out there who love comics as an artform, whether they’re reading Dogman or Demon Slayer. But no one is focusing on them as part of the standard comic market, and finding ways to get the kids who have grown up now buying Raina Telgemeier or Dav Pilkey books into getting into the single issue format.
Im a fresh 43, and I see people in their 20s and 30s in the shops I visit. Ive seen mother’s buying books for their younger kids. Im also seeing more women (in their 20s, mainly) in the shops digging through bins too.
The Hobby has definitely shrunk from its better years, but I believe their will be a good chunk of us who will sustain the hobby for at least the next 10-15-20 years, aka my exit strategy timeframe. Exit from the hobby, to clarify. Lol.
I’ve noticed this too. I’ve even seen husbands and wives 50+ both dogging through long boxes. “How about this one, George?” As the work together. Lots of couples come into the places I frequent looking at new books too. Fm activity with the significant other.
Many things, more than can be listed, have had their time and have come and gone. I have a penny collection I have kept going, dating back to my great-grandfather and Indian heads, moving through wheats, memorials and the shield. If you aren’t aware, pennies are going to stop being produced in April of 2023. They have become…irrelevant.
I think there will always be a market for a printed comic book, but the desire to have them will continue to lower print runs, and eventually thin the herd until there really won’t be a collectible need for them in masse any longer.
Digital will take over the lion’s share of the storylines, imo. There will still be things to collect, but I think the value of the comic book, in the future, will equate to the price they are sold for and not much more than that. I remember a time when you could find a comic book, but there weren’t stores for them, and they were affordable; meant to be read and discarded. They have become a commodity now, and most kids just want something to look at and read. They don’t care if the cover has a blunted edge or spine ticks. Digital will allow them to look at them and read them, then when they make their own money, might even find a store somewhere where they can find that one issue they read when they were younger.
I read a compelling argument once (I’ll have to hunt it down if it still exists) where the author made really great case on why the penny keeps inflation in check. So yeah, you might not see a big difference but overall I believe the penny keeps things in check but one can also argue now that most people don’t even bother with carrying cash around to purchase things.
It’s funny to think they say they waste money producing pennies but if they stopped producing paper dollar bills and made coins instead for $1, they would save a whole lot more money. That’s where the real waste I think lies when it comes to actual currency.