The year 1953 was the height of comics in the United States. Children that year bought 1 billion new comics — that’s just over 30 comics per school-aged child. Most comics sold at 10 cents a copy, had a first run of around 500,000 copies, and would end up in the hands of five to eight different children per copy. Want to take a guess at how that compares to the top-selling children’s book that year? Black Stallion Returns was the top-selling book in 1953, and it sold only 60,000 copies.
Yet the American comics industry as we know it today — and that includes all types of graphic novels and comics and manga — sold only 80 million new comics in 2012. That’s fewer comics sold than in a single month of 1953.
This rise and fall of comics in the United States was the topic of an outstanding talk by Carol L. Tilley on Saturday, January 26 at the ALA Midwinter meeting. She delved into the reasons for the decline in comics readership, the state of the comics industry today, and the relationship between librarians and comics over the years.