Superheroes Are Saving Stores From the Economic Downturn

In an economy when many businesses are struggling to survive, one is doing quite fine.  Can you guess which one?  Hint, it’s the subject of this blog.  The answer?  That’d be the comic book industry.  And why should this be a shock?  The industry boomed in the Great Depression with many comics of the time being read by millions of people.  And just like in those early days of the industry America today faces economic calamity and war in foreign lands.

In an interview with CNN, Eric Clancy, the curator of the Skirball museum had this to say:

In the 1930s, the American Dream had become a nightmare, and I think comic books and superheroes in particular provided an escapist form of entertainment that allowed the American public to go into a fantasy world where all the ills of the world were righted by these larger-than-life heroes.

It’s very possible we’re seeing a resurgence of sorts as children and adults alike escape reality through their comic books.  They’re able to escape their depressing reality by focusing on the fantastic.  Clancy continued:

I think the comic book superhero came out of a context in which the political, social and economic realties were a little tough and we can certainly relate to those realities now in our own day. I think the resurgence of popularity of superheroes can be attributed to that.

A string of stories seem to all be be echoing the latest boom times for the comic book industry, here, here, here, and here.  The last time we saw a boom like this was during the recession of the late 80’s/early 90’s that also saw a quick collapse after from the bubble of speculators that flooded stores.  Those speculators were convinced comic books would be good long term investments as publishers eager to make a buck pumped out cheap gimmicks to drive purchasing.  This downturn almost took with it a giant in the industry Marvel comics which had to file bankruptcy.  Disney has recently announced their intention of purchasing Marvel for $4 billion showing the strength of today’s industry and the amazing turnaround of Marvel comics. which tracks industry sales says between January and September sales for the industry reached $324.6 million.  It’s estimated this is a 1 percent increase in sales at specialty retailers during the recession.

According to Milton Griepp, the publisher of, a website that covers the industry, more people are reading comics than at any time during the past two decades, yet readership is split among hard-core customers, who spend an average of $1,000 a year or more on comics, and a larger pool of casual consumers, who routinely spend only a few hundred dollars annually.

A man who’s been a part of the industry from the very beginning, Jerry Robinson, the creator of such memorable characters as the Joker, agrees:

I think heroes are back.  I think you can almost chart it.  The times are not so good — we’re looking for heroes.