Given how lucrative young-adult and middle-grade fiction has become, it’s no surprise DC Comics is embracing those markets with DC Ink and DC Zoom, two imprints launching this fall with books featuring some of the company’s most popular heroes. What’s perhaps more interesting, however, are the authors selected to work on the launch titles: Many are women or people of color, and virtually all of them have experience creating YA and MG fiction.
That’s in stark contrast to initiatives like the New Age of DC Heroes, which critics noted lacked female creators among its primary lineup. Although those women and people of color are not necessarily being incorporated into DC’s core titles, bringing them into the new YA and MG imprints presents an opportunity to lay the foundations for a more diverse future for the publisher, when it comes to representation, while also making lots and lots of money.
DC’s Move Into YA and MG Fiction Is Financially Smart
YA and MG graphic novels sell incredibly well in bookstores. In 2015, Scholastic usurped DC’s spot as the top seller of graphic novels in the book market amid a 25.24-percent growth in sales for the category over the previous year. Fifteen of the 20 top-selling graphic novels that year were aimed at children, with 12 of them created by women. Among those, Raina Telgemeier reigned supreme, selling more than 990,000 copies. Those trends seem to hold true for subsequent years as well.
DC clearly recognizes that YA and MG are lucrative markets. In the announcement for DC Ink and Zoom, DC Entertainment Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee noted, “Two of the recent areas of growth in publishing include graphic novels and books for young readers.” They went on to say that Ink and Zoom’s slate, in conjunction with their chosen creators, offered an opportunity for “major business growth.”
The company has already had a taste of success in those markets with DC Super Hero Girls. DC’s Senior Vice President of Sales John Cunningham noted last year that DC Super Hero Girls: Finals Crisis was the company’s No. 2 book in 2016, based on unite sales, lagging behind only Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s perennial bestseller Batman: The Killing Joke. The numbers for Finals Crisis didn’t even take into account copies purchased through events like Scholastic Book Clubs.
Beyond pure sales, DC has acknowledged the importance of focusing on younger audiences. “Our overall consumer products represent a $6 billion business,” Diane Nelson, president of Warner Bros. Consumer Products and DC Entertainment, told Forbes in 2016. “The DC brand brings in about half of that. We think the DC Super Hero Girls can be bigger than a $1 billion brand.” Nelson’s estimates reflect confidence in the ability of content focused on younger audiences to drive sales outside of the traditional comics market. Embracing YA and MG audiences isn’t just a ploy to increase book sales, it’s a governing business strategy that stands to make DC billions in the long run.
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