Explosive growth in the popularity of manga; librarians organize to fight censorship; and the impact of the book format on comics publishing were among the most-read stories on comics and graphic novels published by PW in 2022. Below, we present PW’s top-15 most-read articles on comics.
In a groundbreaking addition to the Penguin Classics series—long noted for enshrining superlative works of literature—the venerable line is including classic superhero comics for the first time with the publication of the first three volumes of the Penguin Classics Marvel Collection, The Amazing Spider-Man, Black Panther, and Captain America. The titles were released June 14.
At the beginning of 2021, the comics retail sector was surrounded by uncertainty. Shops reported they were “struggling to stay afloat,” per PW’s retailer survey published in the first quarter of last year. As the year progressed, store owners adjusted on the fly to meet various challenges and limitations to business operations.
No matter what we call comics—be it comix, comic books, cartoons, webcomics, and so on—they are also books. The transition of North American comics publishing from the traditional monthly comic book format to an emphasis on books has also influenced American comics storytelling commercially and artistically. Over the past 25 years or so, the book format and the book trade have had a tremendous impact on the popularity, sales reach, and diversity of comics material of all kinds published in the U.S. market. From the PW@150 anniversary issue.
In his first collection of short fiction, Illuminations: Stories, out now from Bloomsbury Publishing, legendary comics writer Alan Moore offers nine stories ranging from his earliest short prose to the 2021 novella, "What We Can Know About Thunderman," a scathing fictional dissection of the American comic book industry.
Layoffs and uncertainty continue to plague the Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group (OLFPG). After laying off publisher James Lucas Jones and v-p of creative and business development Charlie Chu at the end of June, the independent comics publisher implemented a new round of dismissals on July 13, laying off senior v-p of sales and marketing Alex Segura, sales manager Henry Barajas, senior editor Amanda Meadows, and editor Jasmine Amiri.
Riding their recent surge in popularity, creators and publishers of middle-grade and YA graphic novels had a strong presence at Comic-Con in San Diego. HarperAlley, HarperCollins’s young readers graphic novel imprint, sponsored the Eisner Awards, and Scholastic, whose Graphix line dominates the middle-grade graphic novel market, had a large and well-stocked booth.
The dominant presence of manga and anime-related exhibitors at this year’s New York Comic Con, held October 6-9 at the Javits Center, was a big change from the years before the pandemic. Upon entering New York Comic Con 2022, the overall impression was that manga, anime and Japanese pop culture are now overwhelmingly embraced by American fans and have claimed their place in North American popular culture
Many of the new comics publishers hitting the scene over the past few years seem to be fighting over the same audience: genre fans who have outgrown superheroes but not superhero-style comics storytelling. Z2 Comics, an independent graphic novel publisher that evolved into its current business model in 2019, is forging a different path to market while sticking closely to the aesthetics that hardcore comics fans know and love.
New York Comic Con returned to the Javits Center October 6-9 at full strength for 2022. The event drew 200,000 attendees, according to ReedPop, the show organizer. The show floor was crammed with enthusiastic fans of media and with cosplayers, who enjoyed elaborate displays from mostly manga and toy companies.
It might have been hard to tell because of the mask requirement, but there were a lot of smiles at the 2022 San Diego Comic-Con, held July 21-24, which returned to an in-person event for the first time in three years. Though somewhat subdued, the 2022 version of the show provided a welcome opportunity for publishers and media companies to reconnect with fans and colleagues, even if it took place in the shadow of the latest Covid surge.
Sales of graphic novels—especially manga—have boomed during the pandemic, as have their readership in libraries. Despite lockdowns and supply chain issues, comics remains one of the most popular categories in library lending over the past decade. But now comics have become the focal point of increasingly strident battles over what material should be carried in schools and even public libraries. Challenges and attempted and actual book removals at libraries across the United States have surged.
Barry Windsor-Smith’s Monsters (Fantagraphics), an epic, gorgeously illustrated work of horror, social trauma, and violence, was named Best New Graphic Novel during the 2022 Will Eisner Comic Awards ceremony, presented as an in-person event for the first time in three years at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con.
Black Sands Entertainment, an African American–owned comics publisher, webcomics app, and media venture, has agreed to an initial offer of $500,000 for a 30% stake in the company from comedian and actor Kevin Hart. The offer played out on an entertaining, tension-filled episode of Shark Tank, the ABC TV investment reality show, on January 7
After Heavy Metal first appeared in the U.S. in 1977, the illustrated science fiction magazine quickly stamped its imprint on American popular culture in the form of its gleaming chrome-plated logo. Originally founded in France as Metal Hurlant, the renamed U.S. version, from the publishers of the National Lampoon, offered a mix of sophisticated Euro-comics by such legendary European artists as Enki Bilal, Philippe Druillet, Milo Manara, and the great Moebius.
And PW’s Most-read comics story of 2022 is:
One of the big publishing success stories—and perhaps one of the industry’s biggest surprises—of the past two years is how well manga is selling in North America. Words like “explosive growth” and “unprecedented” are now commonly used to describe the manga marketplace. Driven by such strong tailwinds, manga publishers are looking to a possible post-pandemic consumer market with more readers hungry for even more titles, more channels for print and digital distribution, and still more types of stories, not just from Japan but from South Korea and China as well—indeed, more of everything that has made manga such a popular category of late.