Layoffs and restructuring at DC, the growing popularity of digital and print Korean comics, and the return of in-person attendance to New York Comic Con are among the topics covered in the most-read comics stories published by PW in 2021. Starting below, we present the top-15 most-read articles on comics and graphic novels listed in ascending order of popularity.

15. Bechdel’s ‘Secret to Superhuman Strength’ Wins PW’s 2021 Graphic Novel Critics Poll

The Secret to Superhuman Strength (Mariner) by Alison Bechdel lands on the top spot of PW’s annual Graphic Novel Critics Poll, garnering seven votes from a panel of 15 critics. A groundbreaking queer author and a true household name in contemporary comics, Bechdel is best known for her widely acclaimed 2006 graphic family memoir Fun Home.

14. Streaming TV, Films Drive Surge in Graphic Novel Sales

As the number and popularity of such streaming services as Netflix, and Disney+ continue to grow, many of these services have turned to adapting comics and graphic novels, which have gone on to become some of their biggest hit shows. Comics properties that have been adapted range from eccentric indie comics titles–for example, Charles Forsman’s The End of the F****** World on Netflix–to superhero franchise series, among them WandaVision on Disney+ and The Boys on Amazon Prime. All of these shows have led to increased graphic novel sales, but along the way publishers have had to adapt and find new strategies to capitalize on their popularity on streaming media.

13. 2020 Was a Tough Year for Comics Shops

PW’s annual comics retailer survey is an informal and anecdotal report on sales during the previous holiday season, as well as an inquiry into business trends for the coming year. But the pandemic wreaked havoc on the comics shop market and the broader book retailing landscape in 2020, and the retailers who responded to our survey said they spent the past year just struggling to stay afloat. In 2021, on the anniversary of the World Health Organization’s declaration of a global pandemic, we wanted to touch base with the retailers who participated in our 2020 survey. We wanted to hear what they had to do to survive and what they learned about their customers.

12. Brubaker, Yang, Tomine Win Big at 2021 Online Eisner Awards

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’s Pulp (Image), a rousing mashup of classic western and noir genres set in the 1930s, was awarded the 2021 Eisner Award for Best New Graphic Novel during an online version of the awards program held once again during Comic-Con@Home, the online version of San Diego Comic-Con. Simon Hanselmann and Adrian Tomine also won multiple Eisner awards.

11. Libraries Look to Sustain Surge in Graphic Novels

One thing became clear since Covid-19 transformed everyone’s lives: people still love reading, especially when they are stuck at home. And people definitely still love reading graphic novels. Data on reading, book sales, and library checkouts stayed stable or grew over the past year, and graphic novels—especially children’s favorites such as Dav Pilkey’s Dog Man series or the works of Raina Telgemeier—helped people survive and get through these weird and challenging times.

10. 53,000 Fans Flock to Javits for AnimeNYC’s Return

AnimeNYC 2021, an annual event celebrating Asian popular culture, returned after a year’s hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic to the Javits Convention Center, November 19-21. The show attracted more than 53,000 attendees, according to Peter Tatara, v-p of aniime at Leftfield Media, the organizer of AnimeNYC. The 2021 attendance figure represents an impressive increase over the roughly 46,000 fans at the event in 2019.

9. Back in Business: 150,000 Attend New York Comic Con 2021

After a year’s hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, New York Comic Con returned to New York City's Javits Convention Center October 7-10, and welcomed back thousands of fans to the newly expanded center. Citing health and safety protocols, NYCC organizer ReedPop promised reduced capacity at the show and followed through. This year about 150,000 fans attended across the four-day event, compared to about 260,000 fans at the 2019 show, according to the ReedPop event director Kristina Rogers.

8. Tapas Sees Big Gains for Digital Comics

Digital comics delivered via mobile devices are starting to take significant creative and commercial steps forward. Last year Webtoon, owned by Korean tech giant Line, posted dramatic user and revenue growth, driven by large investments in attracting new customers. That was not a fluke: Tapas, a smaller U.S.-based mobile comics startup, has also announced impressive recent growth, along with plans to partner with traditional print publishers like Scholastic.

7. Penguin Random House Will Distribute Marvel Comics to Comics Stores

In a move that will likely transform the distribution of comics periodicals in North America, Penguin Random House Publisher Services reached an agreement with Marvel to distribute its periodical comics and graphic novels to the comics shop market, also known as the direct market. It is an exclusive, worldwide multi-year sales and distribution agreement for Marvel’s comics—including individual issues, trade collections, and graphic novels both newly published and backlist—in the comics shop direct market.

6. Korean Comics Gain Popularity in North America

There’s more to Korean comics than webtoons. While vertical-scroll digital comics have surged in popularity among English speakers since the Netcomics, Webtoon, and Tapas Media platforms started publishing Korean comics in English, the growth in popularity of print manhwa (the Korean term for comics) in North America has been more of a slow burn. While manhwa overall remains a small category in the print comics world, the category is growing in the North American marketplace.

5. Mariko Tamaki Debuts New LGBTQ+ Graphic Novel Imprint

Surely Books, a new Abrams ComicArts LGBTQ+ focused imprint curated by acclaimed comics writer Mariko Tamaki, will release its first graphic novel, Lifetime Passes by writer Terry Blas and artist Claudia Aguirre, in November. The new imprint has also revealed a new set of previously unannounced titles that will be released in 2022 and 2023.

4. 2020 North American Comics Sales Grow to $1.28 Billion

Combined sales of comics periodicals and graphic novels in North America continued to climb in 2020, reaching approximately $1.28 billion, according to a joint estimate by pop culture trade news sites ICv2 and Comichron. The new estimate represents a 6% increase over 2019 combined sales. ICv2 CEO Milton Griepp said that in the face of a global pandemic, lockdowns, and widespread economic dislocation, consumer demand for comics and graphic novels continued to grow.

3. La Borinqueña: A Puerto Rican Superhero for Our Time

In Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez’s comics series La Borinqueña, the eponymous superhero swoops down to Puerto Rico to solve problems that range from guiding lost turtles to rescuing people from a hurricane. Turns out the Puerto Rican superwoman comes to the rescue in real life, too. Miranda-Rodriguez created La Borinqueña five years ago as a superhero who would entertain readers with her superpowered adventures, express Puerto Rican pride, and make more people aware of the island’s economic problems. Just like in the comics, though, there have been unexpected twists.

2. Streaming Anime Lifts Manga Sales

When the pandemic hit last March, manga publishers in North America were left with an uncomfortable choice: should they cut back on their book releases or stick it out and hope that things get better soon? But it turned out that while people were stuck at home, they started reading and buying more manga. And not just a little but a lot more manga.

And, PW's most-read comics story of 2021:

1. DC Comics Leaves Its Legacy Behind

The world’s #2 superhero comics publisher is undergoing a stress test. DC Comics, the venerable publisher of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Watchmen, and dozens of other celebrated superhero characters, looks to be caught in the corporate restructuring taking place at its parent company, AT&T, along with other divisions of WarnerMedia, which the telecom giant acquired in 2019. After several rounds of layoffs and controversial business decisions, comics fans, comics professionals, and retailers are speculating over the future of DC comics.