DC’s announcement of four 100-page Comics Giant anthologies to be sold exclusively at 3000 Walmart stores around the nation sure did cause a lot of talk yesterday, It even reached us on the floor of the annual American LIbrary Association meeting, where worries about newsstand sales anc sell through are normally as far away as Mars.
ON THE ONE HAND it finally FINALLy scratches that itch that wants to have comics back on “newsstands” where kids can get hooked on them. I’m old enough to have bought my Marvel comics in 7-11s (and at the horrible Foodtown out on Route 22 in White House, NJ). While the Foodtown was, objectively, an awful place to buy comics, I will allow that the hazy childhood memories of racing there to find the new issues of X-men is a powerful one, and that kind of nostalgia fuels many a dream of getting comics out in “public” again.
For non-AARP aged readers, this is actually nostalgia for a PREVIOUS generation’s comics buying:
These were the kind of comic books my dad bought when he was a kid. I remember seeing his small collection at Grandpa’s house when I was little. I thought they were so cool and they probably helped sparked my later interest in comics. I gotta get these! https://t.co/87qvpC2TwF
— A.J. Roberts (@A_J_Roberts) June 23, 2018
While I’m not sure some of the teams on the new material are that youth-friendly, with it’s big logo and popular lead characters, this is clearly a line aimed at new readers, something that everyone in the industry says they want.
The exclusive material in each 100 page giant amounts to only 12 pages an issues – a trifling matter really. I’m sure DC expected comics shop retailers to be annoyed at this, but quickly reassured by the idea of reaching new readers and prominently featuring the comic Shop Locator number in each 100 page issue.
Well, I’m told that retailers were more than a little annoyed on private retailer forums. End of the world might be closer to the reaction. Dan DiDio even had to make an emergency live 15 minute video presentation answering questions about the line.
And peppy pro boosters on twitter were quickly answering critics along with accepting plaudits.
Giving WalMart exclusive content is not a way to help specialty retailers that backed DC through thick and thin. It’s a gross deal you shouldn’t be proud of. Reprints in WalMart are fine; exclusive top-flight creator content for monopoly corps is wrong
— Jefferson Budweiser McNuggets Jr. (@JasonRussell1) June 23, 2018
As well each book has a comic shop locator as well so people trying these new books can find out where comic shops are located. Simple and smart and big picture more people reading comics.
— Jimmy Palmiotti (@jpalmiotti) June 23, 2018
Then there was Larry’s Comic, one of the more controversial retailers out there, and one representing the darkest reaction to the new product:
Of course bottom dwellers are retweeting support for the @DCComics / Walmart deal. They blame the LCS for their shortcomings. It’s not that their book is unremarkable. It’s that we failed them & greener pastures await. pic.twitter.com/EP2T6lCLD1
— LarrysComics.net (@LarrysComics) June 22, 2018
I’m actually going to work my ass off to cannibalize sales of any lower tier creator supporting the @DCComics / Walmart deal.
I need the top creators. Bottom creators. No. #comicmarket pic.twitter.com/R6EmZBpSSs
— LarrysComics.net (@LarrysComics) June 22, 2018
Good old industry solidarity! Nothing vengeful there.
Setting aside the major problems with Walmart as a company, there’s also the matter of just where these books will be seen.
I only go to the Walmart in Augusta, ME once every three years or so, so I’m hardly an expert, but once again, I’m told that graphic novels are usually sold in the book section but floppy comics are sold in the “trading card” section – a throwback to the view of comics as a collectible.
In fact an Elite Beat Operative stopped by their local Wal-Mart and found a small cardboard dump located in the trading card section selling DC comics, including the current DC Showcase anthology, a previous attempt at selling packaged reprints to Wal-Mart.
I’ll have some more thoughts about this after I return from ALA, but one of the first things that springs to mind over the retailer outrage is that as outraged as they are over not having these 48 pages a month, they already have – effectively – 100’s of exclusive products to sell every month! Comics periodicals are practically direct market exclusives now, and the tons of variant covers are not available anywhere else. Is this not enough????!!!!!
Honest to god, you people, 48 pages a month that you can’t sell is not going to kill your business.
By the same token, I don’t think a little cardboard dump in the back of Wal-mart is going to SAVE comics either. Comics don’t need saving. if you were at ALA talking to librarians you’d know that. But anyway, the more channels you’re in, the better. These 100 page giants are not going to kill the direct sales market, and they might just give a few kids that magic that hooks them for life.
We’re always asking publishers to do somethign to get more readers. At least DC is trying SOMETHING. You come up with a better idea!
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.