Many Comic Book Fans Have a 'Secret Identity': Captain Big-Spender

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES 2012 Warner Bros film with  Christian Bale as Batman

Superheroes. Zombies. Archvillains. Vigilantes. A pop-culture resurgence may have made it cool to love the stuff of comic books now, but when it comes to admitting how much time and cash we spend on this classic form of geekery, a lot of fans are still keeping their affairs covert.

In a recent survey of its readership, digital comic book retailer comiXology found that 4 out of 10 customers hide what they spend on downloads of comic books and graphic novels from their significant other. And 10 percent say they'd be "killed" if certain people found out about their spending.

These same offenders reported to comiXology that they tend to catch up on their favorite stories under the cloak of night.

For his part, comiXology co-founder and CEO David Steinberger says he's gratified to see readers get their fill of comics, even if they have to hide their habit from those who still harbor a "negative bias" against comics.

"If they have to hide it to avoid marital spats, I support that [laughs]. There is a whole new generation -- what I call the fan generation -- who, thankfully for this industry, don't have any such feelings. The future looks bright," Steinberger said in an emailed statement.

Stealth Spending Adds Up

So how many cheaters are we talking about here? A few thousand?

Try millions.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%Since opening its digital store in 2009, comiXology has sold more than 200 million downloads -- of which 100 million were sold just in the last year. The average comiXology reader spends $100 a year, while 1 in 4 spend at least $400. One unnamed reader has already spent a staggering $63,129, comiXology says.

And the spending doesn't stop there. Print sales of the top 300 comic book titles were up 11 percent year to date through September, according to tracking site The Comics Chronicles. Meanwhile, comiXology says that 20 percent of last quarter's new customers were new to the medium, having bought their first comic book digitally. More than 60 percent of those shoppers are now buying print issues from local comics shops.

Another Way to Invest in Your Obsession

Public companies are benefiting from the increased interest in comic book characters.

Notably, Walt Disney (DIS), and its comic book publishing subsidiary, Marvel Entertainment, is enjoying the fruits of box office hits such as "Marvel's The Avengers" and "Iron Man 3," which have combined to produce more than $2.7 billion in theater ticket sales over the past two years. The studio also has a TV hit in "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."

"The Walking Dead," too, is a cross-over hit from comic-book land. Image Comics' hit series has been adapted into cable's top-rated TV drama and is a huge moneymaker for AMC Networks (AMCX), which produces and distributes the show via its flagship channel.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. Does your significant other know what you spend on your hobby, comics or otherwise? Do you budget for your purchases? Tell us your story in the comments box below.

Motley Fool contributor Tim Beyers owned shares of Walt Disney at the time of publication. Find him on Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. The Motley Fool recommends AMC Networks and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney.

Originally published