But less than a decade ago, a tectonic shift began — and Marvel and DC had nothing to do with it. Traditional buyers like me had nothing to do with it, either. Indeed, the comics Establishment is only just now starting to play a desperate game of catch-up. That shift was the result of decisions made by librarians, teachers, kids’-book publishers, and people born after the year 2000. Abruptly, the most important sector in the world of sequential art has become graphic novels for young people. Call it the Youth-Comics Explosion. It’s redefining the future of an entire art form.
Although it hasn’t been widely publicized, once you start asking around among people in the know, you find that there’s a total consensus that the explosion is very real. “There’s a huge boom going on, by all means,” says Brian Hibbs, a respected market analyst, columnist, and retailer who owns a pair of stores in San Francisco called Comix Experience. “When you look at BookScan” — Nielsen’s estimates of national sales to bookstores — “the top sellers are pretty much all kid lit, which is pretty fantastic.”
You don’t need to have access to BookScan to see evidence, though. Up until early this year, the New York Times published best-seller lists for comics — and Telgemeier, alone, would regularly have half of all the paperback slots. Executives at Scholastic will tell you that comics fly off the racks at their famed book fairs for young students. According to Milton Griepp of comics-industry analysis site ICv2, aggregated annual comics sales across different kinds of retailers for 2016 revealed that more than half of the top-ten comics franchises were ones aimed at kids. Eva Volin, a librarian based in Alameda, California, told me, “We’re in the middle of a graphic-novel renaissance inasmuch as not only are kids reading comics, but comics are being written for kids.”