The congrats on the new site (now with BLACK type!) continue to pour in, and we’re thrilled by the support. So when we say we are still digging through the email and links and news tips, we mean we’re still spending a lot of time behind the scenes getting this thing up and running; two days of Toy Fair didn’t help.
So we have a lot of things to comment on, like the the general beatdown on Brian Hibbs and his BookScan analysis by Spurge, Johanna and Eric Reynolds. Hibbs felt so pressed that he had to deliver not one but two responding columns.
Maybe we can just cut to the chase and point out that while Hibbs believes a strong, periodical driven direct market is the safest path for the comics industry (and it is certainly a strong component of such) the idea that it is the only way to sell comics is so patently untrue that maybe no one but Brian Hibbs even believes it any more — in fact, maybe he doesn’t even believe it so much except that Tom Spurgeon and Dirk Deppey think that he does. There are lots of comics publishers who make the majority of their money outside the direct market, and we’re talking REAL HONEST TO GOD COMICS COMPANIES, like Viz and Fantagraphics. Brian does have his little peccadillos though, and Johanna’s stompin’ boots takedown of his manga-avoidance is pretty clear on this point:
His bias against manga is obvious early on, when instead of clearly pointing out that Naruto volumes take 13 of the top 20 slots for the entire year, he wants to talk about how its sales aren’t quite as strong as last year’s because it took a few more volumes to achieve the same immense numbers (“971,119 copies and nearly $7.8 million in dollar sales”). Later on, he uses its success to predict doom for manga as a whole. (“”Naruto” is selling an increasing percentage of manga, as a whole. The category is in trouble, and perhaps it could be characterized as “freefall”.”) Naruto is an amazing success, something to be emulated, not feared.
Likewise, although BookScan numbers are flawed numbers and publishers surely have better internal numbers to tell them what is and isn’t profitable, they are still how publishers peek at the other guys, and represent a stable metric and so, without taking anything as the word of Jehovah, it is informative to see how various books fared in this limited but stable metric. As I said before, my takeaway from this year’s chart is that BONE, NARUTO, and BABY MOUSE are huge success stories and represent a growing market. Others will have a different takeaway. Every year when his column comes out, folks take it as the racetrack for their own particular hobby horse; 2010 is no exception. As usual, most of the commentary has involved Hibbs’ comments and not the actual chart; so it goes.
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.