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Top Ten Comics Business Events of 2013

Based on Impact

Published: 01/06/2014 02:11am
This is our list of the most important events in the comics business in 2012.  We based that ranking on the impact on the economics of the business.  We started doing this kind of year-end list last year (see "Top Ten Comics Business Events of 2012").  Let us know your thoughts on our list for 2013!

We also covered the top business events of 2013 in the games biz (see "Top Ten Hobby Games Business Events of 2013").

1. Growth in all three channels
Sales of comics and graphic novels will end the year up in all three major channels:  comic stores, the book channel, and digital.  The big positive move was in the book channel, where it looks like graphic nove sales will end the year up for the first time since 2008, according to the ICv2 White Paper presented at this year’s ICv2 Conference (see "Digital Growth Slowing as Graphic Novels, Manga Turning Around").  Digital growth, while slowing, is still robust.  And in comic stores, which have been driving the market over the past few years, sales are up 9.33% after 11 months (see "Comic Market Up 3.39% in November").

2. Geek media hits a new high
The Walking Dead hit new highs in both ratings and in sales of the comics and graphic novels in 2013, one of the biggest sales phenomena of recent decades.  But that was only one aspect of an incredible year for comic-based media projects.  Elsewhere in television, Arrow was doing well with a spin-off planned, and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. came out with gangbuster ratings ("'S.H.I.E.L.D.' Blows through 22 Million"), although they fell for later episodes.

In film, Iron Man 3 was the #1 film of the year, with over $400 million in domestic ticket sales; and Man of Steel was #5.  And list goes on:  Thor: The Dark World was #12, and The Wolverine was #21.  A total of 12 comic-based films went into wide release in North America in 2013, a record. 

3. Creator heirs lose in court
Federal district and appeals courts ruled against the heirs of creative founders of the Marvel and DC universes in 2013 (see "Appeals Court Rules Against Kirby Heirs" and "Superman Creators Lose on Appeal"), and although litigation will probably continue, the legal momentum is now on the side of the publishers after a long haul.  This has huge implications for the future exploitations of the works and the publishers’ costs, or lack of them. 

4. DC leaving New York
DC’s announcement that it plans to move its publishing headquarters to Burbank in 2015 is the clearest sign yet that the creative and business center of the comics business is inexorably moving to Hollywood.  It marks the end of an era for comics in New York (see "Quesada: DC Leaving NYC 'Breaks My Heart'").

5. Comic shows on rapid growth curve
Comic conventions big and small had a great year in 2013.  At the high end, New York Comic Con, occupying the entire Javits Convention Center in New York, has now matched San Diego Comic-Con in attendance (see "NYCC as Big as San Diego Comic-Con").  And regional shows are exploding, with even the modest Denver Comic Convention turning away thousands of attendees (see "6,000 Fans Turned Away from Denver Comic Convention").  Wizard announced that it is rapidly increasing the number of shows it promotes in 2014 (see "Wizard Nearly Doubling").
 
6. Creators chafe at Big Two editorial control
There were what appeared to us to be an unusually high number of public tiffs between creators and Big Two editors over control issues in 2013, leading one departing DC creator to say "DC is in the toilet right now" (see "DC Creator Relations Hit New Low").  DC’s co-publishers argued that there was nothing out of the ordinary in the amount of conflict (see "Interview with Didio and Lee, Part 2"), but another high profile departure followed (see "Creative Team Leaving Batwoman"). 

7. Amazon's influence grows
The nation’s largest online retailer continued to expand its comics footprint in 2013, with a steadily increasing share of graphic novel sales.  But its most dramatic move was vertically, as it began publishing digital comics to be collected into print editions (see "Amazon Enters Comic Book Publishing").

8. Gender issues come to fore
The increasingly vocal calls for more gender equality in comics were manifested in a variety of ways in 2013, including discussions of bad behavior toward cosplaying females at conventions (see "Separate or Integrate:  How Can Geekdom's Minorities Preserve Safe Spaces at Conventions?"), broader discussions of harassment and sexism at comic publishers; and in other media, calls for higher visibility for female characters in comic-based movies (which may have been one reason Wonder Woman was added to the next DC movie, see "Wonder Woman Cast for 'Batman vs. Superman'"); and criticism of the Marvel Live! arena shows for a lack of female characters (see "Marvel Live! Gets its Women").

9. Biggest book chain in turmoil
Barnes & Noble, the largest brick and mortar retailer of graphic novels, had a tough year in 2013, with over $200 million in losses across two quarters (see "Nook Dragging Down Barnes & Noble" and "B&N Reverses Course Will Continue with Nook"), a departing CEO, and an SEC investigation and shareholder lawsuits after an earnings restatement (see "Sharks Circling Barnes & Noble").  Its bookstores remain profitable, but their sales are declining, and the Nook is bleeding profusely.
 
10. New issues with sexual content
Retailers, including digital retailers, ran into issues around Image comic titles Saga (see "Sexual Content Poses Challenges for Comic Retailers") and Sex Criminals in 2013.  These are perhaps the highest profile titles with such issues since the release of Alan Moore’s Lost Girls in 2007.  And demonstrating the stakes, a Missouri man was sentenced to three years in prison without parole for possession of comics deemed to be obscene (see "Comics Possession Gets Three Years").
 
 
Cryptozoic's Response to WotC
And Lawsuit Update
Charges that WotC is trying to eliminate a competitor through litigation.