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Rise in popularity of graphic novels and manga helps local comic shop soar to new heights

Posted at 7:14 PM, Feb 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-27 00:41:01-05

Graphic novel and comic book sales are on the rise, more than doubling in 2021.

That's helping book stores and comic shops like Heroes and Villains on Broadway soar to new heights.

Heroes and Villains has been part of the Tucson comic landscape for nearly two decades and offers three storefronts: comics, vinyl records, and gaming.

Comic side manager Malcolm Russell-Nelson says comics have "just different types of storytelling". And despite big blockbuster hits like "Spiderman: No Way Home" which released toward the end of last year, Russell-Nelson says it's not just those movies and TV shows driving the growth.

"These characters that kind of branch off of those worlds. It just gets you deeper into it. I think people come for the storytelling, really. Come for the experience. Just something that you wouldn't be able to see on a screen."

At the same time, Japanese comics called manga, collected into paper and hardback editions, are seeing a big boom in sales as well. More than 24 million individual volumes sold last year, up 171% from 2020. Part of that is the popularity of anime series that have become mainstream American hits like "Demon Slayer" and "My Hero Academia". As anime becomes more popular than ever before in the west, more people are turning to the manga for their favorite franchises and series.

And with the growth in manga, Heroes and Villains has expanded its selection to twice what it was just a couple months ago. The store has also started to sell anime-related items like statues and figures of the characters.

Longtime customers like Joseph Martin say even inside these colorful comic book worlds, superhero stories can be relatable.

"In life, you know, we're strong as we can be, but sometimes we have things that we can't accomplish, so we need help from our friends and so forth. And so that's the same thing with the comics."

Another customer, Chris Bell, is getting his two kids involved.

"I love that this has become so popular," Bell says, " that I can share it with them. Like, when I was growing up as a kid, this wasn't popular. I loved it but it was hard to find these things. They were small, tiny stores that you had to go track down. Nowadays, they can thrive. They can do well. It's just nice.

Much like Superman or a member of the Joestar family, it seems comics and manga sales will be going strong, and continue to delight fans young and old for years to come.
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