There were plenty of exciting, funny, and just plain spectacular comics to read in 2014—almost too many for ordinary mortals to get through. With everyone compiling their best-of and must-read lists for 2014, what’s the bigger picture for comic books at the end of 2014 and beyond?
Sales were way up
Everywhere you looked in 2014, an entertainment industry was in trouble. It seemed like no one was paying for music downloads (let alone CDs), buying books, or going to the movies. So you might think comic book sales would be suffering too. But you would be wrong.
Comic books are enjoying boom times. Estimated sales through North America’s top comics distributor were just short of half a billion dollars. July 2014 was the biggest month for comic sales in recorded history (which, to be fair, only dates back to 1997) with North American sales exceeding $53 million. That record was broken in October 2014, when sales ran up to $56 million. And the numbers don’t just reflect a shift to digital—print sales are also rising.
What’s behind the trend? One factor is the popularity of movies based on comic books—the biggest comic of July was Rocket Raccoon, a Guardians of the Galaxy spinoff. So even as memorable comic book characters are getting people to the movies, great movies are introducing people to comic books.
Not only that, but the audience for comic books is more diverse than ever before, and comic book publishers big and small are learning to cater to them. Which leads us to the fact that …
2014 was the year of the female reader
Comics are increasingly popular with female readers, and 2014 has been declared the year that feminism conquered comic book culture. Whether or not that’s premature, it is clear that 2014 was a great year for compelling female lead characters.
BOOM! Studios debuted Lumberjanes, about five teenage girls crushing monsters at summer camp. DC took us to a Gotham City prep school in Gotham Academy. Ms Marvel was rebooted in 2014 with its superhero as a Muslim, Pakistani-American teenage girl, a move that has been very successful. And the new She-Hulk has also been well-received, in which Jennifer Walters tries to balance being an attorney, being a superhero, and having green skin. The response to these comics would have been hard to imagine even a few years ago.
Comic book movies got bigger and bigger
Comic book movies have been going strong for years. But 2014 showed us how big they’ve become—and how much bigger they might get. Earlier this year Marvel became the most successful franchise in movie history, surpassing Harry Potter. In October, both Marvel and DC announced schedules of movies that will keep audiences entertained until 2020. Marvel’s chief says its movies are being planned out to 2028.
Some of the details are sketchy (Unannounced Female Character Spider-Man Movie, anyone?), and not everyone is thrilled, but audiences show no signs of losing interest.
So what does 2015 hold? None of these trends show any sign of slowing down. There will be more movies—many more movies. The increasing diversity of comics’ audience will soon be reflected by the first lead superhero of color, and both DC and Marvel will have films starring female leads in the next few years. And these trends are likely to feed back into strong comic book sales.
Oh, and Biowars will be back, as well.
Here’s hoping 2015 is even better for comics than 2014. Happy new year!