Yesterday this tweet from Spirit of Retailing award winner Packrat Comics was going around:
— Packrat Comics (@Packrat_Comics) January 10, 2017
with a cosign from Atlas comics
We couldn't have said it any better. pic.twitter.com/faPdRAuRcT
— Atlas Comics (@AtlasComics) January 11, 2017
“Pull lists” are really a symptom of the Diamond Previews system though. as customers who fear they won’t get in on Wednesday in time for the scrum, reserve books on a monthly basis, which retail shops keep on reserve for them until…some day. It is a hallowed tradition of the comic shops system.
But the threat of customers not picking up the comics they signed on to order is a very real one, as I learned at my very first comic s shop back in the day during a Black September (there were many – when kids went back to school comics sales dipped in the pre DM days) – a price increase left me unable to pick up all my comics and all the other customers doing the same thing left the store reeling.
Since Packrat called out another website (no love for the Beat *sob*) there was a lively discussion there in the comments about how shops deal with this. Certainly sometimes customers have life crises and the books the ask the shop to order then set aside shouldn’t be tossed back on the shelves if they’re left for a week. Various 2 week warnings and 4 week terminations are discussed. What do you say Beat readers? Is the pull list system the true cancer in the comics shop ecosystem?
• The pull list tweets came out of the current #boostyourlcs hashtag and movement coined by Boom! head Ross Richie as a way to help stores get through the low January retail period. The idea is for everyone to go buy a trade paperback to give a little boost to store sales. While this grassroots activism/consumerism was met with enthusiasm by some, it was also criticized as part of the “readers have to save comics” system that absolves publishers and creators of blame in problems.
The idea was criticized by a creator no less, namely PvP’s Scott Kurtz, someone we haven’t linked to in a while, maybe because the blunt flame wars that webcomics creators were once known for have become the way everyone on the internet converses. Anyway Kurtz’s piece was called, in typically reserved fashion, “Team Comics My Ass“
For years publishers have been pushing this whole “team comics” concept. We all have to do whatever we can to support the retailers because they keep our industry afloat. When I was publishing PvP through Image, Eric Stephenson warned me about debuting a new book at San Diego Comicon before it could be in stores. Retailers would get pissed. That’s right. My publisher was pushing me to put the wellbeing of retailers ahead of my own ability to cover costs and make a living. Because team comics.
Diamond is a virtual monopoly and Marvel and DC are owned by conglomerates who view comic books as a necessary evil to keep their IP current. Meanwhile my facebook and twitter feeds are full of creators working all day and night with little to no sleep to keep up with their schedules and I’m seeing a lot of sickness, strokes, heart attacks, you name it.
I follow a lot of creators on social media and most of the ones who work at the big two publishers are tweeting about starting a pot of coffee at 10pm to start “the night shift.” No wonder everyone is getting sick. And there’s no union, benefits or decent pay for the creators making all this stuff. None of these companies are ever going to worry about your health. They’re just going to expect 22 pages a month no matter what. Because that’s what keeps the industry alive. Because Team Comics.
Kurtz endorses the “creator owned/publish on the web” model at the end – but you know this isn’t a one size fits all business. Some people need a page rate; not everyone who needs one is going to get one though.
Anyway, although relying on readers to “save comics” may seem like denying market forces their due – if you publish shitty books or run a shitty store you pay the price – the Pull List Menace is also worth pointing out as something that readers do have control over.
BRIAN K VAUGHAN RULES UPDATE
§ Speaking of readers, a couple of shops have published their 2016 best sellers lists. We should be getting Diamond’s list this Friday, but here’s Challengers Comics in Chicago’s periodical top ten:
1.Black Panther #1
2.DC Universe Rebirth #1
3.Black Panther #2
4.Civil War II #1
5.Batman Rebirth #1
And the GN top ten. Both lists go down to 100 so please check out the links for all the information.
1.Paper Girls TP VOL 01
2.Saga TP VOL 06
3.Saga TP VOL 01
4.Bitch Planet TP VOL 01
5.Wonder Woman the True Amazon HC
6.Saga TP VOL 05
7.Kaijumax TP VOL 01
8.Vision TP VOL 01
9.Monstress TP VOL 01
10.Batman the Killing Joke Special Edition HC
Challengers is a modern, influential indie friendly store and they have a podcast about all of this and more. I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet but I will.
§ Our own Brian Hibbs at the Comix Experience chain in SF also has his traditional bestsellers list. (For those asking, he’s taking January off from his column to work on his annual Bookscan report.) Brian also has some comment on the year overall:
2016 was another fine year for Comix Experience – sales were up by 1.7% in the main store, and by an excellent 11.7% at Outpost. I attribute our growth mostly to my superlative staff (Douglas, Emma, Sienna and Asia at the main store, and Nathan, Cameron, and Julie at Outpost) – and we’ve had our best year ever at both locations.
However, the year pretty much died in the last quarter – a lot of the drop coming from much weaker periodical sales.
The two stores are VERY different from one another with different tones and tenors. The main store is very much a book store that specializes in comics material: 57% of our sales came from book-format comics this year, while 39% came from new periodical comics (usually stapled, usually 32 pages). 1.5% of sales are back issues, 1.5% is supplies, and the last 1% is everything else: Magazines, Toys, Apparel, Buttons, whatever. Comix Experience is less about the characters (Batman and Spider-Man, et al.) and much more focused on the creators that bring those characters to life. As a creator-driven store, our sales reflect that passion, as you will see below.
Once again the lists go down to 100, but here’s the GN top ten for the main store:
1 MONSTRESS TP VOL 01
2 SAGA TP VOL 06
3 RAINA TELGEMEIER GHOSTS GN
4 PAPER GIRLS TP VOL 01
5 SAGA TP VOL 05
6 SAGA TP VOL 01
7 DAN CLOWES PATIENCE HC
8 SAGA TP VOL 04
9 BITCH PLANET TP VOL 01 EXTRAORDINARY MACHINE
10 SAGA TP VOL 02
And the periodicals
1 BLACK PANTHER #1
2 BLACK PANTHER #2
3 DC UNIVERSE REBIRTH #1 first print
4 SAGA #33
5 SNOTGIRL #1
6 SAGA #36
7 BLACK PANTHER #3
9 SAGA #34
10 SAGA #37
It’s BKV’s world, we just make pull lists in it.
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.