A Summary of France's Comics Market and the Future of China's Comics Market

topFrom the Chinese Anime and Comics portal Southcn comes an article analyzing France's comics market, the article goes on to look at China's own market for comics, and compares it to its European counterparts.

A Summary of France's Comic Book Market

Abstract: France's comic book market is one of the most important comic book markets in the world, with 4,313 different comic book titles (including reprints) and around 77 magazines dealing specifically with comic books published in 2007. Last year also saw comic book sales of over 40 million there, totalling around 400 million Euros. Of 2007's 3,313 new works published in France, 253 were Chinese comic books. If China were to try to expand their portion of France's comic book market they would meet with a few cultural barriers; crucially because the work of Chinese artists differs greatly from the three mainstream comic books styles of Europe, Japan, and the US, and it is hard for many vendors to categorise them. Although all readers approve of the high-quality artwork and originality of Chinese comics, many feel that the storylines are inferior to their Japanese or European counterparts.

1. Overview of the market

France's comic book market is possibly one of the most important comic book markets in the world (alongside Japan and the US). The market in France can produce around 4,000 exciting titles (new and old) every year (in 2007 there were 4,313 titles, which works out to about twelve new releases each day).

In 2007, 254 publishing houses (all privately run) embarked on this market to varying degrees;, some published one or two titles, while others would publish as many as 500. Overall, over 40 million comic books were sold, with total sales that year of around 400 million Euros.

Ever since comic books first appeared in France back in the thirties, the market for them has never dried up, especially in the last ten years. This is clear just from looking at the number of titles now available. In 2000, there were 1,137 titles published; 227 of these were Japanese, 558 titles were from the main comic book companies, 236 were independent comics, and 116 were Chinese comics. In 2007, of the 3,313 new titles, 1,428 were from Asia, 1,018 were from the big companies, 613 were independents, and 253 were Chinese. Evidently, Asian comics, and more specifically Japanese manga, have the fastest- expanding market, currently making up over 40% of France's comic book market.

There are about 77 different magazines that deal specifically with comics,; however, some of these are very short lived (only a few weeks).

What we still haven't thought to include in this examination is the final element of the comic book market, the large amount of websites devoted to comics, especially Japanese manga. The young readership of this kind of comic book is relatively high, using mobile phones every day to connect to the internet and get comics transmitted directly into their hands.

2. Bestsellers

What are the bestsellers among the comic book titles? Obviously, the two biggest names are Asterix and Titeuf, with both series having sales exceeding 1.5 million, each time they appear on the charts, they have a new title.

For example, the bestsellers of 2007 were:

  1. The last two parts of Van Hamme's "XIII", One part drawn by Giraud, and the other drawn by Vance (550,000 copies)
  2. Van Hamme and Francq's "Largo Winch" (455,000 copies)
  3. Tome and Janry's "Le petit Spirou" (415,000 copies)
  4. "Astérix et ses amis" by various writers (400,000 copies)
  5. Midam's "Kid Paddle" (380,000 copies)
  6. Verron's "Boule et Bill"(350,000 copies)
  7. "Le Chat" by Geluck (320,000 copies)
  8. Arleston and Tarquin's "Lanfeust des étoiles" (300,000 copies)
  9. Sente and Rosinski's "Thorgal" (250,000 copies)
  10. Bilal's "Quatre?" (240,000 copies)

This shows the strength of France's comic book market. As you may have noticed, in the top ten bestselling comic books list there isn't a single Japanese title,; the closest is the extremely popular series "Naruto", which sold 220,000 copies. What is most important to focus on it that, there are only nine manga series that enjoy over 50% of the sales of the French titles listed above.

3. Chinese comics (manhua)

Having only landed in the French comic book market recently, Chinese comics are just starting to gather momentum (although we should also consider several Hong Kong comics which have already been around since the nineties).

At the time of this writing, only the following publishing companies deal specifically deal with Chinese comics in France:

  • XiaoPan, who publish the major comic book series; they currently have 60 titles out.
  • Casterman, who publish around 10 titles (including works by Yao Feila, Zhang Xiaoyu and Yao Wei)
  • Dargaud
  • Kana, who mostly publish Yao Feila's material
  • Delcourt, publishers of works by Jean-David Morvan and Marazano ( as well as works by JianYi, Wang Peng and the Scottish resident Yishan Li)
  • Doki Doki, publisher of the Hong Kong artist Li Zhiqing's 'The Art of War' (winner of the International Manga Award last year in Japan)

If China is to expand its share of the French Comic Book market, it could face the following obstacles:

  • France's comic book market can be roughly divided into three categories: European style comics, Japanese manga and American comics. The work of Chinese artists is different from all three of these, or in some cases contains elements of all three. So at first glance, a comic book vendor would be hard-pressed to categorise or find a place for them. Even though Chinese comic production is abundant (remember, every year there are 4,000 comics released), enthusiastic readership and marketing of these books are somewhat lacking.
  • France's current comic book market is mainly dominated by a few large companies with the financial capacity to carry out large scale promotion of their comics; the bestselling titles are usually the big names.
  • Although readers widely recognise the unique character and high quality of the artwork in Chinese comics, they may also feel that the stories let the work down, being less impressive than their Japanese and European counterparts. After all, a high- quality comic book must have both a high standard of artwork and an excellent story.

What can be done?

First of all, we should be making appearances at conventions and festivals in Europe. In 2008, we held exhibitions in England, France, and Germany to get the message across to European readers that Chinese comics exist and have something special to offer.

Next, we should be putting on a few events of our own. In June 2008, we released our collaborative work 'Beijing Story', and through a competition on the website, we got 22,000 hits.

We should also cooperate and collaborate with European and American publishing companies. Chinese comic artist "Benjamin" has already been published in seven European countries.

Finally, we should work to connect Chinese artists with European artists, and help them to collaborate on stories and exchange ideas.

It is with these criteria in mind that Xiaopan has been fortunate to receive generous assistance and support from the Beijing Total Vision Culture Spreads Co., LTD from day one, and I would like to express my gratitude to them for their highly effective contributions.

4. The future of comics?

For a long time now, the European market has been the biggest consumer of comic books, and it looks to remain that way for some time. Chinese comics, still in their youth, have much to gain from expanding their share of this market. With the outstanding amount of Chinese talent, we are sure to see many international bestsellers coming out of China in the future.

It's just a matter of time... and hard work!

Original Article
Written by XiaoPan
Translated by Lance Pursey
Proofread by Matthew Brady

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A grain of salt

It seems rather clear that this summary of the French market is mainly a summary of the annual report published by the ACBD (Association of Bande Dessinée Critics and Journalists), which was translated on ComiPress a while ago. (see here)

The summary throws in a couple of mistranslations, namely the mix-up of print-runs and actual sales. The ACBD report doesn't include any actual sales data, considering that it's usually released mid-December, while sales data from either GfK or IPSOS are published right before the Angouleme Festival in late January.

Of course, based on those mistranslations, the conclusions are definitely off: to wit, "in the top ten bestselling comic books list there isn't a single Japanese title" is a wrong assumption, as the actual sales show that volume 27 and 28 ranked respectively #5 and #6 in 2007 with around 130,000 copies sold. I can only recommend the analysis I've published on du9 for an actual, data-based look on the French market.

... volume 27 and 28 of the

... volume 27 and 28 of the Naruto series, that is.

May lead cattles to water but can't make them drink stinky piss

Chinese comics are piss, end of story. The craftsmanship is excellent, top notch in fact, but there's no personality in the character designs and originality in the art. Most importantly, the story remains at grade school level. It's 99% kung fu... the lurid and shitty kind at that. Not only is there no originality, that's a given, there's also no variety in terms of content or graphical design (compare to the huge variety you get in sports and martial arts genre in manga). All the male characters seem to spend 3 hours on the hair before posing for each frame, and to my even greater anguish, there's no sexual appeal in any female character even when they are drawn pretty. WTF? I grew up reading the shit in the 70s and 80s but gave it up by about 16. Over the next 25 years I would occasionally look at it, but the industry hasn't grown an inch in terms of genre, style, or story. And with the kind of Orwellian pressure coming down from the stinking PRC government, I doubt Chinese comics will be ruffling the censors' feather any time soon. They haven't done it in the past when the times were good, and I doubt they would do it now with this dog of a worst kind of capitalist government overlooking their shoulder. Unless the Chinese change their approach and entertain in the possibility of comics art, trying to hock off their crap to the European market or other parts of the world is akin to showing off the big ugly wart festering on their ass. Go ahead, world, laugh. It's that pathetic.

comment on lum4ever's comment

You're 100 % right about Chinese comics... and French are not stupid, in 2008 the number of chinese comics released collapsed, as well as the corean ones... I must say japanese are the greatest.