Khepri Comics is a web-based comics seller that’s been around for over a decade, offering a lot of indie books but specializing in work by Brian Wood, Cliff Chiang, Becky Cloonan, and other “new mainstream” creators. Over the years, owner Brian Scot Johnson has built a strong relationship with these creators by promoting their work via special sales and so on. By partnering with Khepri, these creators — who, in addition to their distinctive work, have well-defined fanbases which they maintain via web interaction — would be able to, say, offer a blog preview of their small press work with a link to Khepri and know that consumers would be able to purchase a copy.
However, according to a blog post, business has not been booming for Khepri:
Gross ‘summer’ revenue for KHEPRI was down 43% versus 2009, and down 58% versus 2008. ‘Summer’ being defined as June, July, SDCC, and August combined. Sorry — one more summer of decline, and KHEPRI is done.
We contacted Brian and asked if he meant what he said and how much the general bad economy was affecting his business. He wrote back:
Yes – I’m dead serious in what I blogged, and that’s why I posted it. Web retail has never been easy for me, a self-described misanthrope and luddite. And at the end of the day, I do run Khepri.COM, not Khepri.ORG – this isn’t charity work I’m performing. As my only employee, I’ll throw no-one under the bus but myself. Sure, the economy is crap. Undoubtedly, downloading (legal or otherwise) must takes its toll. But excuses won’t pay the bills. So I’ll redouble my efforts and see what the next twelve months bring.
Look, I’ve been selling comics since 1994, been running Khepri.com since 1998, and been doing Comic-Con International since 2001. So I’ve seen some things; rode some highs, weathered some lows. But my reality is this: I’m just one guy, as Mom and Pop as you get – and yeah, Mom deserves a new pair of shoes and Pop needs to see a chiropractor. It’s tough sledding out there competing with Amazon’s free shipping, Hastings’ new impetus, Mile High’s incredible selection, Midtown’s dogged advertising, and on and on. At the same time, Marvel is now Disney, DC is Time Warner, Comic-Con International is now Hollywood, and only Big Business is Too Big To Fail. It may be sluggish yet, but the future is now – this is the new comics industry, this is the new global economy. Where, exactly, do I fit in?
Khepri was definitely viewed as the way forward when it was launched as the way for independent creators in the “Warren Ellis self determination mold” to provide a direct link to customers when bricks and mortar wouldn’t carry their work. Where indeed does a Khepri fit in? Amazon makes virtually everything with an ISBN available instantaneously. Small press fans seem to want to purchase their work directly from the cartoonists in the convention environment, and distributors like Sparkplug and Secret Acres.
Despite all the hopes, ultra small press distributors are having the same ups and downs as everyone else — on a micro scale. Bodega is on hiatus. Buenaventura is no more. On the other hand, AdHouse has a new distribution program and seems to be doing well. U.S.S. Catastrophe went away and came back. The stakes are small and people come and go.
Khepri is more of an anomaly, serving the middle ground publishers who are too genre for a TCAF but too small for the front of Diamond. These readers are perhaps not as dedicated as the other two extremes.
On the other hand, googling for Khepri found few recent mentions or promotion. It’s a fast moving world and we all need to stay agile. When we aren’t…the herd moves on.