We all know about caped crusaders and do-gooders with superpowers. Some of them have watched over us as action figures when we were toddlers and little kids. We’ve seen them in cartoons, played them in video games, watched them in movies (now more than ever), and most importantly, we read about their, often intergalactic, adventures in comic books.
Starting out on the last pages of newspapers, comic books have since matured into a legitimate art form. To pay homage to their legacy, here are some of the most interesting comic book industry statistics we could find.
Top Manga and Comic Book Stats and Facts
- The best-selling comic of all time sold more than 8 million copies.
- Wolverine is the best-known Canadian superhero.
- In 2018, the Weekly Shonen Jump magazine had an average print circulation of 1.74 million.
- An average anime watcher/manga reader was between 25 and 29 years old in 2018.
- Men account for 63% of all comic book and graphic novel purchases in books stores.
- The Manga Mee app has a million downloads and half as many unique monthly users.
- Manga graphic novel sales have risen by 31.8% in Canada between 2013 and 2017.
- The 2020 graphic novel sales statistics for North America show a 40% upswing.
- Batman Three Jokers’ first issue was the best-selling graphic novel in North America in 2020.
- Around 16.2 million printed adult graphic novels were sold in North America in 2020.
Manga, Comic Book, and Graphic Novel Fun Facts
Let’s learn a bit more about some of the most intriguing comic book trivia to kick things off.
The Best-Selling Comic Books of All Time
1. The best-selling comic of all time managed to sell more than 8 million copies.
Now also an immensely popular film franchise, the first issue of the X-Men remains the world’s highest-selling comic book with 8,186,500 copies sold in 1991. It’s the best-selling comic book by a long shot since it sold nearly eight times more than the second-best.
2. The first issue of Superman is the most expensive comic book of all time.
Before jumping into the latest comic book industry trends, it’s worth mentioning a few exciting facts. For instance, did you know that a mint condition copy of Action Comics #1 portraying the first appearance of Superman, the “granddad” of all superheroes, sold for US$3.2 million?
3. Wolverine is the best-known Canadian superhero.
Even though coming from a US publisher and created by American authors, Logan Howlett A.K.A. Wolverine from the X-Men is probably the most popular Canadian superhero, followed by Wade Wilson, more widely known as Deadpool.
4. Captain Canuck is the “most-Canadian” superhero ever.
Hiding his identity behind the Tom Evans alter ego, Captain Canuck didn’t really leave a huge mark in the Canadian comic book industry statistics, however, he still became a cult figure for being the “most-Canadian” superhero.
Created in 1975 by cartoonist Ron Leishman and artist/writer Richard Comely, Tom was a secret agent living in the future (1993) in Canada, which was the most powerful country in the world in the comic’s universe.
5. Todd McFarlane, the man behind the Spawn comic books is Canadian.
(University of Alberta)
Born in Calgary, the artist and writer responsible for the popular dark superhero has also worked as an artist for Marvel on the Amazing Spider-Man comic books. McFarlane is also one of the co-founders of the Image Comics publishing house, known for allowing the artists they published to keep the rights to their work and creations.
Manga and Comic Book Readership Demographics
Who reads comics the most? How big of a role does this industry have in the millennial spending statistics? Let’s find out.
6. More than half of all US citizens (54%) aged between 19 and 29 read DC Comics.
The numbers are similar for the 30 to 44-year-old group, with 56% of respondents claiming they enjoy this publisher’s comics, but they start dropping off when we get into the older age groups, with only 20% of people older than 65 showing interest in these comics.
7. The average print circulation for Weekly Shonen Jump was 1.74 million in 2018.
(Anime News Network)
Shueisha publisher’s comprehensive Media Guide 2019 revealed some pretty neat manga statistics. For starters, their website and app, Shonen Jump+ has around 2.4 million active users every week. Apart from that, their weekly magazine of the same name in digital format gets around 2.4 million page views per month, and around 880,000 unique visitors.
8. Shueisha’s Shonen Jump has by far the largest circulation among its publications.
(Anime News Network)
Manga industry statistics boast rather huge numbers, and Shonen Jump’s circulation can attest to that. However, within Sheuisha’s own publications, it’s the only magazine to reach a circulation of almost 2 million copies (1.74 million).
Their next publication in line is V Jump, with an average circulation of 187,500 copies, while the third is Saikyō Jump with a circulation of 150,000 copies.
9. The average age of anime watchers/manga readers in 2018 was between 25 and 29 years old.
When taking a look at manga demographics, you’ll instantly notice that the genre is more popular with younger crowds.
Even this 3-year-old Game FAQs survey can attest to that. With 41.58%, people between 25 and 29 were the largest age group in the survey, followed by 28.71% of 18–25 year-olds. Lastly, the third most populous group was the 30–35 age group with 17.82%.
10. In bookstores, 63% of all comic book and graphic novel purchases are made by men.
However, when talking about dedicated comic store sales, these comic book readership statistics lean even more towards a predominantly male audience, with 72% of purchases made by male customers, mainly between the ages of 30 and 50.
11. The Manga Mee app mainly targets women and has a million downloads and half a million unique monthly users.
(Anime News Network)
Apart from that, the publisher’s largest female-targeted magazine, named Ribon, has an average circulation of 145,000, followed by Bessatsu Margaret with equally impressive numbers (131,000).
12. Shueisha’s Ribon is mostly read by girls in upper elementary school.
(Anime News Network)
More precisely, these Japanese manga demographics show that 66.6% of readers are attending upper elementary school, 17.2% lower elementary, 11.4% are in middle school, and only 3.3% are in high school or older.
13. Among Shueisha’s female-targeted publications, Office YOU has the most mature audience.
(Anime News Network)
Lastly, when talking about the demographic statistics of manga, it’s worth mentioning that this publication’s readers are on average 45 years old or above (71% of them). Apart from that, around 27% of them are office workers, 17% hold down part-time jobs, while 32% are housewives.
When you think about it, these numbers nicely showcase just how diverse the readers are, shattering the stereotypical “comic books are for kids” approach.
Manga Graphic Novel Sales Statistics & Facts
Let’s see how sales are doing in the industry, how the overall market is doing, what are the largest driving forces behind sales, and so on. Some have stated that comic books are a dying art form. In a sense, they are lagging behind, but let’s look at the numbers to see what’s really happening, shall we?
14. Batman Three Jokers’ first issue was the best-selling graphic novel in North America last year.
When assessing the comic book sales statistics for 2020, we can see that this was the most successful graphic novel of the year, with the lowest sales numbers estimates hovering around 190,000 sold copies.
15. Marvel is the leading comic book publisher, holding over 40% of the overall market.
Without commenting on the overall comic book market size, Marvel is the undisputed leader of the industry when it comes to comic store sales. Next in terms of market share is Detective Comics or DC, with a market share of 29.23%, while third place goes to Image Comics, with a bit more than 8%.
16. Overall, manga graphic novel sales have risen by 31.8% in Canada between 2013 and 2017.
Even more exciting facts about manga are the percentage increases observed in certain sub-genres. For instance, the Erotica & Hentai genre increased by a whopping 6,046%. The second sub-genre, Sports, also managed to record an impressive 229% growth, as did Nonfiction, with a respectable 105%.
17. The North American comic book market’s highest value was in 2019 with US$1.21 billion.
(Comics Beat, Forbes)
Ever since then, comic book sales statistics have shown less impressive figures. On the other hand, the previous year (2018) saw a grand shift in the industry, when, for the first time ever, manga managed to outsell comics in the North American market, the birthplace of comic books and superheroes.
18. Graphic novel sales in 2020 were up by around 40% in North America.
Even though comics and graphic novels aren’t doing as well as manga publications, a few graphic novel trends are helping drive sales within the industry. More specifically, trends like better racial representation, an ever-widening story palette, a more critical tone on politics, and a growing LQBTQ audience all managed to improve overall sales statistics.
19. Comic book heroes are more popular now on the big screen than in comic books.
(Los Angeles Times)
When taking a closer look at the overall comic book industry statistics for Canada, the United States, or even globally, it’s important to note a certain discrepancy when it comes to superhero media. For instance, Disney made roughly US$3.6 billion with Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther in 2018. Apart from that, that year, heroes were featured in 10 different live-action series and 5 animated franchises.
Meanwhile, both DC and Marvel comics were down by more than 10% in terms of single-issue comic book sales in 2017. It should be noted that the latest toy industry statistics are also indicative of a similar disbalance.
Canadian Graphic Novel Fun Facts
Lastly, how about some Canada-related comic book trivia? Did you know that Superman and Iron Man are, in a sense, half-Canadian?
20. Around 16.2 million printed adult graphic novels were sold in North America in 2020.
According to the report from the NPD Group (publishing tracking service), this segment of the North American book industry managed to grow by 29.1% in comparison to the previous year.
Among the top-sellers of the graphic novel market in 2020 were titles such as The Boy, The Mole, The Fox, and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy, My Hero Academia Volume 1 by Kohei Horikoshi, and Strange Planet by Nathan W. Pyle.
21. The Assassin’s Creed graphic novels were inspired by the video game of the same name, created by Canadians.
(Ubisoft Montreal) (Titan Comics) (PCGamesn)
The first title of the series launched in 2007, and since then managed to cultivate a massive following and more than ten main game titles.
One of the more interesting graphic novel facts is that, even though almost 42% of all Canadian households have a gaming console, only a few avid comic fans know that the game was actually created by the subsidiary firm of the French Ubisoft development company, Ubisoft Montreal.
The Assassin’s Creed comics themselves are printed in the UK, by Titan Comics, which pays perfect homage to the game’s/novel’s international and diverse character.
Oh, and by the way, AC is one of the largest video game franchises with more than 140 million copies sold since 2007.
22. Canadian comic book writer Todd McFarlane has been the target of several lawsuits.
Not really comic book and graphic novel statistics but a good fun fact nonetheless. As the Canadian author liked to name his characters after real people, the reception of his work wasn’t always smooth.
While the Spawn property became the subject of several lawsuits, the most notable was when professional hockey player Tony Twist sued the writer for US$15 million in 2004 because McFarlane named a mobster character after him. In the end, McFarlane ended up settling the case by paying US$5 million.
23. Canadian writers dominate the comic book industry right now.
(University of Alberta)
Again, not necessarily graphic novel statistics, but we have to mention the gurus like Nathan Fairbairn, John Byrne, and Todd McFarlane. They not only created some of the most notable characters in comic book history, but also contributed to some of the most canonized storylines ever (such as the X-Men).
24. There’s another Iron Man, and he’s Canadian.
As a matter of fact, this Iron Man is more like Superman, with superhuman strength allowing him to perform giant leaps. Vernon Miller’s superhero was actually the first Canadian superhero, debuting in March 1941, way before manga trends became prominent in the West.
25. The first Canadian female superhero is older than the first American female caped crusader.
(University of Alberta)
Nelvana of the Northern Lights actually predates DC Comics’ Wonder Woman by two months, debuting in August 1941. Apart from being the first female superhero in North America, she’s also the first national female superhero in Canada, because she’s an Inuit demigoddess.
26. Joe Shuster, the man behind the first-ever superhero, was also Canadian.
(Joe Shuster Awards) (Project Gutenberg)
Can graphic novel facts get any more exciting than this? Together with writer Jerry Siegel, the Toronto-born artist gave the world Superman in 1938. The name was actually first carried by a telepathic villain, but after this character was poorly received by the readers, Shuster scrapped it and created the hero we know today.
27. With Koyama Press shuttering in mid-2021, the future of independent Canadian comic book writers will become uncertain.
Opened in 2007, the Toronto-based Koyama Press always played a significant role with independent publishers and artists alike, even though the press produces around a dozen books per year (with works nominated for the Slate’s Cartoonist Studio Prize and the L.A. Times Book Prize, and winning Shuster Award for Outstanding Comic Book Publisher).
Koyama Press helped to shape graphic novel publisher statistics in terms of sales, distribution, and writer volume for around a decade and a half. The announced loss of the publisher will be devastating to the independent comic book scene, which has to adapt to the demanding nature of the medium.
Even though the age of superheroes clearly isn’t over, their stories in print seem to conjure up less and less interest. As you can clearly see, the Canadian, North American and even the global comic book market in 2020 and in 2021 saw better times.
Thanks to movies and video games, the world of superheroes is probably more popular than ever, however, the comic books these heroes call home are being outsold by a more grounded, more everyday-oriented medium—Japanese, and Japanese-inspired manga.
Will this lead to the death of the North American comic book genre as we know it? Probably not. When you take a closer look at it, superheroes are almost around a century old, and they probably still have a few good runs in them.
How much is the comic book industry worth?
The peak of the industry’s worth can be identified as 2019 when the North American market totalled US$1.21 billion.
According to data for the years before, the total value of this market was US$1.09 billion in the US and Canada in 2018, which was only a modest rise compared to 2017’s $1.01 billion. Industry experts state that the entire industry reached a tipping point in 2018, as that was the first time that Japanese manga managed to outsell superhero stories in North America.
(Forbes) (Comics Beat)
How big is the comic industry?
The latest research suggests that in 2020, the global market was worth around US$3.86 billion. Experts also forecast that its value will reach USD 4.68 billion by 2026 with a compound annual growth rate of 3.3%.
What is the rarest comic book?
In terms of rarity, a few sources list the DC’s New Adventure #26 (featuring Captain Jim of the Texas Rangers) as the rarest comic book of all time, as only nine copies are believed to still exist.
On the other hand, in terms of collector’s and monetary value, the holy grail of comics, also coming from DC, is the Action Comics #1. Seeing how this was where Superman’s debut story was published, it’s perhaps not that surprising to learn that one of the copies sold for a massive US$3.2 million.
(Rarest) (Wealthy Gorilla)
What is the highest-selling comic book of all time?
With 8,186,500 copies sold since 1991, the debuting issue of Marvel’s X-Men remains the highest-selling comic book of all time with nearly eight times more copies sold than the second entry on the list (Star Wars #1, with 1,073,000 copies sold).
Are mangas more popular than comics?
Manga and Japanese-inspired graphic novels managed to outsell classic superhero comics in 2018, and have been a strong presence in the market ever since.
While they can also include grandiose events and global-scale, sometimes galaxy-wide catastrophes, manga storylines are often more grounded, focusing more on everyday situations, and aiming at answering “simpler” questions to younger readers, like those dealing with relationships, friendships, the importance of dedication and hard work, etc.
How many copies does the average graphic novel sell?
According to expert estimates, when not looking at the heavy-hitting titles from major distributors, but truly the average figures, a run-of-the-mill graphic novel would typically sell around 600 copies a year.
How much is the manga industry worth?
In 2018, Japan’s entire manga market was worth around US$3.96 billion without ad revenue and money from freemium and paid applications. Other sources quote that global market size is close to a whopping US$14 billion.
How big is the manga industry?
In Japan alone, manga makes up 40% of all the published books and magazines. However, an argument could be made that we should also look beyond Japan when discussing the manga market, since both China and South Korea have their own versions of these comics—Manhua in China and Manhwa in South Korea.
Do manga sell more than comics?
Data from 2018 suggests that yes, manga are selling better than comics. More precisely, according to Bookscan research, kid-oriented comics account for around 41% of bookstore sell-through in North America while manga make up 28%. On the other hand, superhero comic book industry statistics can’t boast such impressive numbers, since this kind of content accounts for less than 10%.
- Anime News Network
- BookNet Canada
- Comics Beat
- Comics Beat
- Game FAQs
- Games Radar
- Joe Shuster Awards
- Los Angeles Times
- Mental Floss
- Project Gutenberg
- QY Research
- Screen Rant
- Titan Comics
- Ubisoft Montreal
- University of Alberta
- Washington Post
- Wealthy Gorilla