In spite of all the gloom and doom you get from looking at sales charts, in reality the comics business is holding its own, mostly due to the perseverance and savvy of retailers such as those polled by Ada Price in this long piece for PW. The bottom line: Although times are tough, by being cautious, stores are staying healthy:
Despite the slow pace of economic recovery, owners and managers of comics shops contacted for our annual, informal survey of comics retailers said they are generally optimistic about the comics market, citing a good holiday season and healthier sales in January and February, in particular for kids comics. But the retailers also emphasized caution, citing the need to adjust to new consumer buying patterns and said they were closely monitoring costs; being highly selective about inventory and emphasized the need to continually hold events that will bring consumers into their stores.
Although being selective seems like a codeword for Big Two comics, this isn’t always the case:
“Quality sells,” Thornton emphasized, “there’s a flash in the pan, [we can] sell Blackest Night for three weeks, [but over] a year I can’t depend on it; Darwyn Cooke [I can] sell for two to three years.” Neal also mentioned Drawyn Cooke’s new Parker adaptation (published by IDW) and said the latest adaptation of the classic noir prose series did particularly well for them. Ayers and Dominquez both said Dark Horse’s Axe Cop sold well for them, with Dominquez adding he “sold hundreds of those.” Creator owned indie comics are doing well for Ayers, he said, because they “don’t have decades of continuity to jump into,” like many classic superhero comics. Dominquez also pointed to “classic American reprints”—the trend towards high quality collections of classic comics from the past—as doing “fantastic” for them, and pointed out Craig Yoe’s much admired collections (among them, The Complete Milt Gross). Neal also noted, “Fantagraphics’s variety of classic comics stuff, we do well with Peanuts and Popeye,” and he expects the new Fantagraphics’s Mickey Mouse will sell well. Gladstone said they have recently done well with Batman Inc. and the return of Bruce Wayne. Haaland said Batman Inc. “would be a hit if it came out on a regular schedule.”
It’s an excellent piece (if I do say so myself as the co-editor of PWCW) that should be read closely.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.