Over the last 10 years, Dynamite Entertainment, IDW Publishing and BOOM! Studios have done what few mid-size comic book publishers have been able to do: survive.
The trio put out a wide range of series owned by their creators, but key to their success has been licensing well-known media properties — everything from "Transformers" to "Game of Thrones," "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" to "Sons of Anarchy." In a North American comic book market estimated to be at least $800 million, independent titles draw in fresh audiences, excite old fan bases hungry for new stories and underwrite the companies' original series.
The publishers have proved successful at identifying licensed characters that would move about 5,000 or 10,000 issues per month in comic book stores, said Jonathan Jackson Miller, a writer who analyzes comic book sales.
To be sure, sales can exceed that range, but they generally fly below the level that comics titans Marvel and DC target. Selling through bookstores, book fairs, mainstream retailers, and digital storefronts has allowed smaller, more nimble publishers to sell tens of thousands more copies beyond the comic shop, publishers and experts said.