Kids’ comics were a vital piece of the comics industry’s nearly 15% overall sales increase in 2012. IDW’s My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #1 stampeded the periodical comics sales charts with an astonishing 90,100 in pre-orders last fall. According to Diamond’s Year-End Sales and Market Share Report for 2012, in spite of its late-in-the-year release, the Hasbro-licensed title came in at #90 in terms of total units sold and #61 in total dollar sales. IDW’s v-p of marketing, Dirk Wood, said that, while exact sell-through numbers to consumers are difficult to determine, My Little Pony “with multiple printings, went well over 100,000 in total unit sales for the first issue.”
The sales success of comics aimed at kids in comic book shops is a huge change from previous years, when they tended to languish at the bottom of the charts. But kids’ comics are one of the fastest growing segments of the comics market right now and show no sign of slowing down.
Earlier in 2012, an original graphic novel for Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Promise Part Two became an instant hit for Dark Horse when it topped the Nielsen BookScan and New York Times Graphic Novel bestseller lists. Kaboom!, Boom! Studios’ kids’ comics imprint had similar success with its flagship title, Adventure Time #1, based on the Cartoon Network hit, which came in at #51 in terms of unit sales and #87 in dollar sales for 2012; the series regularly sells around 20,000 copies per issue.
A primary component to the success of both My Little Pony and Adventure Time has been the talent line-ups—mostly drawn from the indie comics and Web comics worlds. IDW paired up writer Katie Cook, an experienced cartoonist who has drawn Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, with journeyman artist Andy Price (Quantum Leap) for My Little Pony.
Adventure Time boasts a stellar line-up of leading indie cartoonists, such as Ryan North and Meredith Gran, who often bring large followings from their Web comics. According to Boom! editor Shannon Watters, “Some (readers) are coming for Adventure Time; some are coming to see a new, original story from a favorite creator; some don’t even watch the show, they just think the comic is hilarious. We’ve got a really wide swath of readers.” IDW’s Wood sees similar magic at play in the success of My Little Pony, “There’s an obvious appeal to both kids and adults,” he said, adding that “most of your comics fans are a little bit older and most of them are having kids now. When a guy goes into [his comics shop] every week to pick up his comics, there’s nothing he likes better than to pick up something for his son or daughter while he’s there. I think we just hit on something that, for whatever reason, was this perfect sweet spot for that.”
IDW, which saw a jump of nearly a full percentage point in its share of the total comics market from 2011 to 2012, is hoping to hit that same sweet spot again with a recent deal it just made for the comic book licenses to several Cartoon Network properties, including The Powerpuff Girls and Ben 10. Boom! is branching out with a license from Cartoon Network as well. The first issue of the comic for the Emmy-winning Regular Show, which recently shot its 100th episode, debuted at Wondercon in Anaheim, Calif., in March.
And next month the first Adventure Time stand-alone graphic novel, Playing with Fire, will be released by Web cartoonist Danielle Corsetto, creator of the popular Web comic Girls With Slingshots; it will be illustrated by Zack Sterling. The kids’ comics stampede shows no signs of slowing down.