Comic Market Continues to Grow in 2013

Comics continued to grow throughout 2013 but digital growth appears to be slowing considerably according to a new industry report.
Fiona Staples/Image Comics

The comic market as a whole continued to grow in 2013, according to a new industry report, with sales of graphic novels and manga increasing across platforms throughout the year to date. However, the shape of the market changed during the year, as digital growth began to slow for the first time in three years and, against all expectations, the manga market appeared to rebound after years of decline.

According to the ICv2 White Paper into Print and Digital Trends, while the digital format is still undergoing substantial growth, the 25 percent market increase in 2013 is significantly below the 300 percent growth it saw in both 2012 and 2011 (In 2010, the digital market underwent a dramatic tenfold increase) -- although some of that may be attributed to an overall drop in eBook sales as a whole over the year.

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Graphic novel sales as a whole are up 6 percent during the first nine months of the year, with The Walking Dead's continued crossover success pointed to as one of the main drivers of the trend ("Well-written titles" like Marvel's Hawkeye and Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples' Saga are also singled out for praise), but the surprise success story of the year is the renewed interest in manga.

The report describes the turnaround in the manga market as "dramatic," noting that the market has been in decline for years, with last year's results having fallen to the pre-boom levels of 2002. In 2013, however, manga grew faster than the overall graphic novel category due to several factors, including the success of Sailor Moon reissued material and the hit series Attack on Titan.

With the holiday period just beginning, the shape of the year still has time to change -- especially if ComiXology's new gift card program increases digital sales -- but all signs are nonetheless pointing to a healthy and, surprisingly, still-growing comic book industry in 2014. Not bad for an industry that has been proclaiming its own doom for decades now.