The Walking Dead season 5 premier was watched by 17.3 million viewers this last Sunday. The Flash premiered to 6.42 million viewers. Arrow season 3 was watched by 2.81 million viewers. Guardians of the Galaxy made $326 million at the US box office and Captain America The Winter Soldier scored $259 million. So if there are so many people who are watching television shows and movies based on comic books why do they not buy the comic books that they are based on? Recently New York Comic Con reportedly had 151,000 attendees and San Diego Comic Con has 130,000 and while there is debate about the presence of actual comic books at each of the shows there is no doubt that people are interested in projects based on comic books.
The bigger question that I think is not being asked is why are these huge numbers of viewers not buying the actual comics that they are based on. While I understand that a lot of the general public is very content with just the media version of the properties one would think that it would certainly be a higher percentage than less than 1%.
Here are the current sales numbers for the comics in question. Note: these are supplied sales figures from Diamond Comics for physical copies sold. There are currently no sales figures for digital versions or other outlets that may sell the product. The date is the latest month sales figures.
The Walking Dead (7/14) 72,908 comics VS 17.3 million viewers
Guardians of the Galaxy (8/14) 60,657 comic VS $326 million box office
The Flash (8/14) 37,109 comic VS 6.42 million viewers
Green Arrow (8/14) 22,927 comics VS 2.81 million viewers
Captain America (8/14) 30,927 comics VS $259 million box office
In the case of the comics that are television shows the figures represent in most cases 1/2 of 1% of viewers to the shows. In the case of the movies the percentage would be even smaller because the best guess on attendance figures would probably be in the 30 million range. So if people love these shows and films based on comics why don’t they buy the comic books. In the case of The Walking Dead I would give it maybe a 2 to 3 percent bump because of the huge sales of the trade versions of the series. A lot of non comic fans find it hard to buy the monthly books and are more comfortable in buying collections. In the case of the others I doubt that collection would even get them to 1% of the audience.
So that still leaves the question why? It could be that most comic book shops are not the most inviting places for people to go. While there are a lot of great comic shops out there and there have been great strides in making stores look better than they used to, there are still issues. I would say that the number one issue is customer service at a comic shop. Let’s be honest most comic store owners are previous comic book fans and on average do not have a lot of business experience. While there are a lot of great stores out there that do a wonderful job with new comic book customers, there are just as many if not more that tend to be like the Comic Book Guy on the Simpsons. There continues to be problems for females that go to comic book shops and feel uncomfortable by the atmosphere or the employees. One of the other big problems is that most employees are paid very little to work at a comic shop and so they lack little incentive to care on how to handle new customers and to get them to come back. Once again not every comic shop has these problems and there are a lot of good stores out there that do a lot of things right. But for a non regular comic book buyer a bad experience will leave them with a bad taste in their mouth and think that all comic shops are the same.
I have been a comic book fan for as long as I can remember so going to a comic book shop every week is in my DNA. I review new comics on the site every week and yet a lot of the times they are some of the least viewed articles that I post. I still post them because I want to help readers to the books that they might otherwise miss or avoid the ones that are a waste of money. The comic industry does try to get the general public to go to comic shops with the biggest being Free Comic Book Day every year in May. And while that does get people in the door for one day a year, how do you get them in the other 364 days?
One thing that I do is a lot of times I give friends and relatives trade collections of books that I think they would like. While they usually like them I find that they don’t follow-up on their own to buy more. Even with Amazon carrying most trades and collections and super easy to buy it still is not doing the trick. But sadly there are no real answers to the questions. Will the comic book industry always be a niche market that serves up ideas to Hollywood and marginally improve sales? I hope that someday that the comic market in the United States would be more accepted like in Japan and European countries that consider comic books as works of art instead of books for kids and geeks.
I am curious what your thoughts are on the story. Hit the comments to let me know what you think.