Is the Comics Industry Collapsing? Let’s Talk About the Hyperbole and DC’s New Initiatives

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During the convention, there was an incident of sorts.  Somebody at a movie site wrote about the comics industry collapsing.  There was a quote mis-attributed to Jim Lee and all sorts of people got upset.  But *something* really was said and we need to talk about it.

This was about the DiDio/Lee co-publisher panel and the reporting on it was a little more scattered than you’d expect for a co-publisher panel.  At the time, it seemed like the various media outlets were more interested in fishing for Watchmen information at the Geoff Johns panel.  But we had our guy Kyle at the co-publisher panel and here are the relevant bullet points from his live blogging:

  • DiDio says there are no variant covers on Dark Matter titles.

  • Every book will be $2.99

  • He says both of these decisions are meant to keep comics from becoming a dying business. They want the books to be affordable, and the reason they put their top artistic talent on these titles is to meet reader needs and not dissuade anyone from purchasing efforts in this line.

  • Giving an impassioned plea, DiDio emphatically states that we have to stop the death of the comic book industry. He hopes DC can lead that charge.

So Dan DiDio is your quotable fellow.  Nobody seems to have the exact quote, but Dan was talking about trying to prevent something bad from happening to comics.

You know who else had something to say about that?  Rob Salkowitz, over at ICV2:

One of the hottest topics in industry conversations I had all weekend was the precarious state of the Direct Market.  At the retailer event on Friday, DC said out loud what a lot of people have been saying in whispers: that the problem of oversupply and gimmickry is about to become a crisis for stretched-thin retailers.  Big players are worried and openly talking about a crash that could cripple the primary distribution channel for periodicals.  Everyone I spoke to was much more optimistic about the book trade, which is great for expanding the audience for comics, but doesn’t solve the problem of getting monthly story installments into the hands of habitual readers.

That’s all pretty consistent messaging, whether or not the word “collapse” was used.  People are starting to admit there’s a problem.  This is a good thing, because it’s a whole lot easier to address a problem after you admit it exists. If you want to focus on the positive, problems tend to grow until it’s too late to stop the bleeding, and I really hope that isn’t the case here, but this does have the feel of a crisis point.

What’s causing the crisis?  For starters, a lot of people are mad at Marvel.  Brian Hibbs did a whole column titled “What the Hell is Wrong With Marvel?”  DiDio’s emphasis on not doing any variant covers and pricing things at $2.99 is as close to a DC executive is going to get to openly taunting Marvel, because just about the only thing Marvel has going for its pocketbook right now are variant covers and a $3.99 cover price… but there’s some buzz that the variants are losing steam and more buzz that the consumer is getting price sensitive.

But here’s the thing: if you strip out those variants DiDio’s dismissing with disdain and throw out the event comics from both companies, you’re left with sales charts that aren’t all that different.  Throw out Batman from DC and Star Wars from Marvel and the two companies’ sales get even closer.

This feeds into what seems to be growing into a serious inventory management problem for a lot of shops.  There just aren’t that many legitimate hit comics any more.  Titles that sell lots of copies each issue and give the retailers a little wiggle room if they get stuck with a couple copies left over of a smaller selling title.

Ongoing (thus theoretically reliable) titles that are cash cows right now?  Well, depending on your definition and the individual shop, you might have one and you might have three.  Batman is mostly still selling over 100K in the DM estimates, which used to be the more commmon definition of a hit.  Walking Dead is hitting in the vicinity of 80K.  Star Wars is selling right around 70K in the DM estimates.  In a different environment, you’re happy to see something selling 70K, but 60-70K might just be the top of the mid-list.  Except both DC and Marvel are having trouble producing non-stunt comics that sell over 60K.  And there are a lot of comics selling under 20K that are going to give many retailers the hard choice of making them in-store subscription-only or risk taking a loss on the title if one or two copies don’t sell.  Without the top list to balance the bottom list, the retailers can effectively be gambling on those low performers and too high a percentage of the market is made up of low performing titles.

A lot of stores, particularly the smaller ones, primarily stock DC and Marvel and emphasize the periodical format.  Maybe Marvel’s catching more heat, but look at the sales charts and you’ll see both companies are failing them as of June.

There’s another problem (for places that aren’t on board with it) that a lot of readers, particularly new ones, are gravitating towards the book format.  Call it a graphic novel, call it a collected edition, either name will do.  Reasons cited include the periodicals being too expensive, too short a read, the desire to read the complete story (and perhaps the complete story without wonder how long the next chapter is delayed).  There can sometimes be a disconnect with DC and Marvel weaving “the story of the universe” in-between titles that doesn’t always help when a book collects a single title, particularly if one or two chapter are part of a cross-over Event.  (This last one can be a self-inflicted wound by the publisher.)

Do the book formats of independent comics perform better relative to DC/Marvel sales because they are cross-over free or because indie-friendly stores are more like to invest inventory in the book format?  I’ve never gotten a definitive answer, so I’ll just leave that one out there as part of the puzzle.

If we go back to January, the retailers were sounding the alarm bells that a lot of them were not in very good fiscal shape.  Now it’s July and it’s not like the sales have gotten better.  Particularly on the monthly books.  I’ve heard little public comment, and when retailers get quiet, it’s a pretty good sign something’s amiss.  What I’ve heard privately is that things were getting worse and now I see Dan talking in this tone and Rob’s account of worried retailers… this is serious.

For the last several years, DC and Marvel have tagged off doing relaunches.  They get some big numbers and then they dwindle down more quickly than management anticipates, because it’s mostly short term thinking and repetition.  Marvel’s repetition of relaunches has been particularly blatant and it has bitten them.  Honestly, it’s been their turn for a reboot for a while now.  If they’d rebooted with some real new direction after Secret Wars, I might not be sitting here typing this.  Instead, they’re doing “Legacy” and lenticular covers and the buzz is not great.

Who’s to blame for all this?  Oh, there’s plenty of blame to go around.

Look at the sales numbers.  DC and Marvel have lost audience in those monthly books.  Full stop.  And DC better make sure Batman comes out twice a month and doesn’t slip into an erratic schedule like Dark Knight 3 or sales are going to be even worse, since that’s the only clear cut hit left.  DC and Marvel are not hitting the Direct Market audience like they used to. While I’m surprised so many people have kept their jobs throughout this tank and relaunch/rinse and repeat cycle, I at least I have an idea how they’ve been doing it: telling corporate folks “I have identified the problem and am taking steps to correct it, behold the next relaunch.”  Several times in a row.  You’d think people would take more care with the primary distribution channel, but that’s where short term thinking takes you.

On the retailer side, a LOT of retailers did not take the opportunity to diversify their customer base and product line.  What’s the hottest thing in comics right now? Young Adult and kids’ comics, particularly in book form.  Women are a growing market.  Books are a growing market.  Some retailers have kept up with their trends, widened the demographic they serve and they’re the ones who are probably going to be all right.

But an awful lot of people are worried, especially about the smaller stores with a tighter niche.

So what’s being done about it?

At Marvel, who knows?  They’re trying some digital-first titles, which aren’t going to do anything to help the DM retailers unless they can sell the collected editions.  “Legacy” / “Generations,” which maybe people start getting excited when it’s on the shelf, but the buzz doesn’t seem to be here now.  And perhaps that strong rumor about a real relaunch in the Spring/Summer is true… assuming there’s a strong Direct Market left by then.  For now, more and fancier variant covers.

What’s DC doing?  Right now it looks like they’re stepping back and thinking strategically about the market for the first time in long time.  Perhaps five years, perhaps more.

For the Direct Market, they’re going to attempt to create a new line around this Metal series and emphasize the artists in that line.  It’s a throwback to the ‘90s (and there are enough ex-Wizard staffers floating around DC to have the 90s on the brain) and it’s a major change in direction from the interchangeable artists that bi-weekly or 18-issues/month schedules at DC and Marvel have caused.  Will it work?  Way, way too early to tell.  The Scott Snyder preludes to the series all this will spin out of seem to be doing decently.  But will anything ongoing sell over 60K or be a legit hit?  Ask me in 6 months.

Then there’s the graphic novel initiative, which you could have read about here before the con started.  What are Kyle’s notes on that?

  • On the other side of that coin, Lee mentions the “evergreen” books that populate their lineup, like Watchmen, Sandman, etc…and with that thought in mind, they have begun to reach out to creators who have one particular story starring their characters, but don’t have the time to be part of the weekly grind.

  • DiDio compares this new “mature readers” line, will be in the Euro-style graphic novel size, “allowing the art to breathe”, as he says.

  • “We realize not one size fits all”, DiDio says, and he states that the success of Rebirth allows them to do that.

This could be a lot of things.  First and foremost, it’s DC acknowledging the book trade is growing.  It gives them a product for people who want the whole story in one place (or at least a more satisfying chunk of a saga than 20 pages that can be read in 5 minutes).  As I said in the preview of this, when you talk about the European album, that’s closer to 3 issues worth of material.  If they can make that format fly, it lets them get titles into bookstores faster than the typical 100-120 page graphic novel and helps the cashflow.  That’s a potential replacement for periodicals if there’s a total meltdown in the Direct Market.

Going into this program with force and traditional name creators (Grant Morrison and Frank Miller have already been highlighted) might be a way to nudge Direct Market retailers who don’t put as much of an emphasis on books to re-evaluate the format.  These are creator names who are going to get BIG orders from the library market and that’s an excellent hedge when starting this kind of an initiative.

Now past that, it depends on what the content is like. This could be an attempt to court the adult readers in a way that Vertigo was in late 80s and early 90s.  It could be a way to court readers who want to opt of crossovers and Events, but still have some Superman and Batman.  (Metal is most definitely going to be having crossovers.) It might be both. It might be altogether random. We don’t know yet.  It will probably be more successful if it’s a legitimate market segmentation with a specific audience in mind.

Again, it’s a new program.  It would seem to have a reason, hopefully multiple reasons to exist.  It’s certainly worth trying, but now they have to execute.  No pressure.

And speaking of market segmentation, DC is also looking to do something with kid’s comics.  Exactly what really isn’t clear because they haven’t even staffed up yet.  The whispers I’m hearing suggest they’re taking their cues from the very successful DC Superhero Girls program and possibly those prose novels, so they may be looking to the kids publishing industry more than the comics industry.  Very interesting if true and a different strategy.

If DC is serious about market segmentation, it’s the most mature move they’ve made in over a decade. Also something that Marvel has not been great at.  And that’s the smirk worthy thing about DC’s publishers, particularly Dan, talking about their new initiatives.  Comics is a copycat business where one guy’s always copying what the other guy is doing.  This is so close to DC looking at Marvel and deciding to do the opposite.

Now, the big question: are comics as an industry going to collapse?  No.  Absolutely not.  What there appears to be danger of is a Direct Market contraction and a wave of stores closing.  Probably not the larger stores, either.  If store closings start happening en masse, and I truly hope that everyone can hold on until the market gets better, there are basically two questions:

Question one: are any of the 250-300 indie friendly stores going out of business? If not, most of the independent publishers won’t see much more than a blip on the radar.  On the other hand, it doesn’t take too many closings to put a serious crimp in periodical sales and necessitate a bigger emphasis on the bookstore market for OGNs or digital serial + print collections.

Question two: Will any contraction have a trickledown effect to cause DC or Marvel to contract their lines?  There are a lot of people that think fewer titles from DC and Marvel would be a big help, actually.  But those are the players who’d likely bear the brunt of sales losses from most closings and we’d have to see how it would affect their bottom lines.  DC appears to be taking steps to diversify their sales channel mix a little more.

If a publisher makes their money primarily in the book channel, they want to keep an eye on what’s going on with Barnes & Nobel and Amazon, but any Direct Market contraction would have minimal if any effect.  Although, if the Direct Market publishers shift more resources to the book market, they’re going to have to keep a closer eye on the risks of that market and they certainly exist.

And it bears repeating: DC may have decided to start thinking strategically again, but at a certain point it will still come down to whether they produce a product their audience is happy with.

Want to learn more about how comics publishing and digital comics work?  Try Todd’s book, Economics of Digital Comics or have a look at his horror detective series on Patreon.

39 COMMENTS

  1. One issue that was pointed to at a panel at SDCC was Diamond not offering and/or taking stock positions on successful diverse and YA books. There are many retailers who just won’t order outside of Diamond and also won’t do targeted advertising to demographics not already shopping at their store. By not doing either they are already missing the next generation of comic readers just like they missed the Manga market.

  2. It would be interesting to understand the impact of Marvel Unlimited.

    £7 a month to have access to everything (well, six months behind ‘live’ but that’s no big deal) means that I never buy single issues, or even trades anymore. Why would I? That’s much less than I was spending previously for a lot more content than I was reading.

    I’m also happier reading single issues in that format, previously I was usually a trade-waiter, but now it feels like waiting a week for the next episode of a show on Netflix or Amazon rather than being ripped off and only getting a tiny chunk of story. If there’s a future where this is the main distribution channel then questions about number of titles or complex cross-over stories become completely different.

    The fact that DC haven’t offered a similar service always confuses me. I’d be on it in a second. Does that means that it’s not actually that successful or are they just cautious of the impact on their book sales?

  3. As much as i love comics, monthly floppies that take 4 – 6 months for a story to play out, and a system designed around going to a specialty shop and pre-ordering things out of a printed catalog weeks in advance for full retail is the farthest thing from being a highly relevant entertainment media format in 2017. I think selling OGN’s and full story volumes, in whatever format that needs to be is the future. We are a binge watch culture now.

    Any industry that does’n’t evolve its products and sales strategies doesn’t survive. The medium is fine, but its the the way its being sold is not.

  4. @Dave – Jim Lee was specifically upset about a movie site’s article about the collapse of the industry. You can check his Twitter for the actual URL. I wasn’t going to perpetuate the clickbait.

  5. This has been a long-time coming but it started when the monthly comic began to be treated as just “Part 1 or 6…or 8…or 24 and you have to buy four other comics to follow the story.”

    You can still tell a really good story in 22 pages. Kirkman’s been doing it for over a decade with WALKING DEAD. But it requires you to make an actual comic book, not some halfwit storyboarding of a TV or movie script.

  6. The big mistake DC made when starting the New 52:
    They took cues from the last restructuring, right before DC’s 50th anniversary.
    Big event, various versions boiled down to one universe, characters reset (kinda sorta).

    BUT… they ignored one big lesson from 25 years ago: DC also experimented with numerous one-off titles like Camelot 3000, Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns.
    These became the backlist for DC’s graphic novel catalog, the evergreen titles which sell predictably.
    During the New 52 era (which has now ended), DC didn’t turn out many done-in-one titles. Earth One barely got printed and promoted, although almost every volume hit the bestseller list.

    Meanwhile, superhero GNs have a short shelf life, as few readers are interested in reading older stories. (Snyder’s Batman is a rare exception.)

    This is inexplicable, as “imaginary stories” have been part of DC’s corporate DNA since the 1950s.
    Has anything further been done with Morrison’s Multiversity schematic?

    So now, DC is trying to correct this, with deluxe titles which can sell overseas as well as domestically.

    Marvel? Marvel doesn’t really have a backlist, even though they have a stronger story structure allowing for alternative versions of their characters (2099, Ultimates, Spider-Gwen…) Marvel’s got more to lose if comics shops collapse. They’re trying to reach a younger audience, but still via single issues.

  7. If comics shops close, and fans migrate to libraries and websites to get comics…
    Does the publisher lose much, or do they gain a better profit by selling direct, even if the price is lower?

    What happens to Diamond?
    Diamond Comics gets hurt with less product to ship, and fewer clients to ship to.
    Diamond Books? That’s always been their weak point… client publishers can move to better distributors, which means fewer sales to bookstores and libraries.

    Will this encourage an evolution of comics shops becoming specialty bookstores?

  8. There seems to be a case being made for a sort of specialty bookstore with an extended periodical section. 60-40/70-30 maybe? And I suppose some of that depends on what actually happens. That’s where the wind appears to be blowing, though.

  9. What it comes down to for me is just a few reasons.
    1) The marvel storylines have turned their heroes into villains and if I want to read a villain centric title I’ll read Bomb Queen. Even if they change them back I’ve lost any respect or affection for the marvel heroes.
    2) I can’t afford comics priced over the 2.99 level and there is no reason for me to do so as the back issue bins are 1.00 or 1.50. All I have to do is be patient.
    3) The comic book store I was going to closed leaving me with only a chain store, Newbury Comics, which barely sells comics at all.
    Until any of this changes I’m just not going to be collecting comics anymore.

  10. One thing that the comic book industry in general needs to also be better at is marketing. They’re not very good at it. Very little of it is around the quality of the comics. Publishers need to push quality comics harder because that’s what readers really want – quality. They don’t want gimmicks (like excess variants, quarterly character deaths, value stamps, lenticular covers, confusing numbering). The problem is that publishers don’t want to spend money to do it, instead relying on word of mouth.

    Word of mouth is hard to do as sometimes it doesn’t ripple out far enough to make a big difference – bouncing around to like-minded people and not really being exposed to anyone new. The last comic to really achieve success from word of mouth in the periodical format was Saga.

    DC have started focusing on quality and the content a bit more. You can see it by talking more about artists and the way they’ve been promoting Mister Miracle.

    Comic stores, especially the smaller ones would struggle with wider marketing too because they are strapped for cash and may not have the no-how. Because of this it is necessary for publishers to get marketing right first and give retailers something that can leverage off.

    The marketing department shouldn’t be where variants are cooked up. They should do real outreach and be finding out what readers really want.

  11. I agree with Torsden

    The New 52 was probably one of the worst decisions DC have ever made in their entire history. Worse than killing off and bringing back Superman.

    I read primarily DC and on occasion Marvel when there were interesting creators on board.
    The DC universe was a rich and vibrant universe full of history where if I felt like reading Noir – I’d have Gotham Central or Catwoman, if I felt like science I’d go for something like the Flash, or for politics and superheroes I had Wonder WOman or EX Machina through the wildstorm line.

    In any case it was the most rich and vibrant place for story telling, but every single crisis or cross over seemed to mess up good storylines.

    Things that were easy to follow – Batman was getting older so Dick Grayson replaced him – I could totally go for – it was exciting and fresh because it was an established universe. It’s easier to follow the history of a character than it is to explain in universe continuity. That shit is insane – a 5 year timeline in which Batman takes on 3 different wards and a son that’s just lunacy.

    Superman was good when he lost his powers post CRISIS, because we could focus on Clark Kent again, Catwoman had a daughter –

    Weird experiments with C-Grade characters in seven soldiers was one of the best experiments I had read ever – and it was all in continuity.

    A lot of my favourite titles didn’t sell well, but ended up doing extremely well in trades – now we have to contend with New 52 – Post Rebirth and it’s hard to unbake the cake.

    I supported stuff like Wonder Woman – because the artwork was brilliant and it was self contained, Batgirl and gotham academy because they were also doing a new thing and trying to appeal to young people during New 52 – but all that stuff could have been done in continuity pre new 52. they just needed the creative team to be there.

    Experimental comics, diversity in characters and story telling is everything I love – it should always have been the status quo they are long term solutions for low sales – everyone is on the same page – if they didn’t pan out it’s just a small part of a larger story but at least they tried something different –

    Get rich quick schemes like restarting a whole universe to temporarily boost sales was so detrimental to the entire brand-

    Characters who learned something who were growing up, becoming more mature that was fine, because young characters would come and replace them and do things differently – those were the stories I wanted to read. Now old characters get younger, fight the same people in re-hashed old popular storylines like in a bad remake of an already great film, you can’t blame people for not wanting to come back every week.

  12. What I still find fascinating is that no publisher will release their “super top-secret” digital sales. The problem with trying to address a brick and mortar problem is that it’s not altogether clear if everyone is still buying their books at a retailer. I definitely do much more of a split between print and digital today.

    Recently the consensus was that digital was driving more readers into the store, but looking at the dwindling sales numbers (which I will agree have been quite alarming in just the last year), there has to be other avenues that people are getting their comics. I don’t know if retailers are privy to all of the sale information (probably not because for some reason, the comic industry likes to be as opaque as possible). I think it would be easier for readers to see the whole picture.

    One thing the constant sloughing of sales reminds me of is from Jim Zub’s blog. This was for his creator-owned work, but I think some of the principles would follow, especially with this writer’s article I’m commenting on stating the book sales are rising. Zub said he noticed that his books would start out hot until about the first trade. Then standard attrition would really set in. However, his trade sales continued at the same pace and in some cases, rose after the release of a new trade. One he got several trades in, he could almost be losing money on singles, but still making off like a bandit in trade sales. This principle is why I find Marvel’s, and DC’s to a lesser extent, decision to ax a book before it even hits its first trade as completely bonkers. DC may be starting to figure it out a bit. I still don’t think a single Rebirth series has been cancelled. Marvel on the other hand has cancelled some great series like Zdarsky’s Star Lord before issue 6 even came out.

    Marvel seems to be rooted in an incredibly archaic model. I applaud DC for actually taking some chances and experimenting. I’m extremely excited for the new Green Lantern Earth 1 OGN. I also look forward to Manapul’s Aquaman (cannot get enough of his art). In conclusion, I feel retailers are fighting with both hands behind their back, one in not getting a complete picture of the market and how they could shore up inefficiencies it has created, and two Marvel in particular is continuing to prop up those inefficiencies.

  13. No one wants to admit it, but all periodicals are dying in paper format. Magazines, newspapers, books, comic books……..they are going the way of vhs/dvd/blu rays and tapes/cds. The future is a digital platform where new comics are $1.29. No kids have $4 for 1 comic book. As we get old and die, so will the current format. Comic books aren’t the only attritional thing, so are the people who read them.

  14. @David, I think DC does not do the Unlimited style service because it would tank the direct market. And Didio has made it apparent that he wants to keep the DM viable. You would certainly not be the only comics reader that would drop all comics and just read digitally borrowed comics from any era. I would love to see more special OGN’s and less pointless series that die in 6 months.

  15. Here’s hoping for a speedy collapse of the direct market. Comics as an art-form no longer requires the big two; publishers of merit like Fantagraphics, D&Q, and Pantheon have long since bypassed the moribund direct market and its shrinking demographic of developmentally stunted manchildren. Marvel and DC exist solely as intellectual property farms for Disney and Time Warner, time to dispense once and for all that they are actual publishers.

  16. I’m so happy to read DC is thinking of market segmentation and expanding fully into new verticals. It took long enough, but finally someone is understanding diversification! I really hope the new stuff finds the right markets!

  17. If DiDio is so against variants, then why do so many of their existing titles have them? Yes, those are freely orderable variants rather than incentive variants, but their reason for existing is still the same: to artificially boost the sales of their periodicals. You can argue about which type of variant is more evil if you wish, but the bottom line as to why those variants exist is essentially the same.

    To not have variants for the titles in a new imprint may have good optics, but it really is only saying that they aren’t going to add to the problem any more than they are already doing each month.

  18. The more I look at things the more it seems DC and Marvel are looking at the DM from very different perspectives.

    Marvel seems to take a trickle-down approach that Marvel’s success is good for the market.

    DC seems to follow an approach based around the idea that the if the market succeeds, DC will too.

    I have no idea what’s going to happen in the future, but I definitely applaud DC for trying to find new approaches to delivering comic content.

  19. its gotta be hard for disney and warner bros exec’s to relate to a market made up of small businesses. the growing dissonance between corporate decisions and mom-and-pop realities has been intense to observe and be a part of. it seems to be eroding a once healthy partnership that’s damaging a comic’s eco-system many of us love.

  20. “The more I look at things the more it seems DC and Marvel are looking at the DM from very different perspectives.

    Marvel seems to take a trickle-down approach that Marvel’s success is good for the market.”

    Quite honestly, from what I can see of what Marvel is doing, they don’t seem to care about the health of the direct market. They just care about how much money they can squeeze out of it.

    For example, the incentive percentage variants (which I’m sure includes the Legacy lenticular variants). Those usually come with a qualifier of “Order the regular cover at 150% of X and these variants are open to buy”. Unlike ratio variants that do sell at higher prices, the percentage variants typically sell for cover price. I just don’t see how ordering restrictions like that which encourage over-ordering benefit majority of retailers and not just Marvel.

    From the customer POV, events and crossovers that kinda forces customers to buy more comic titles than one actually wants is annoying.

    I love Marvel Unlimited and I actually started reading there. The 6-month delay had me stepping foot in a comic store for the first time in forever and buying a select Marvel comic books. However, being forced to buy extra books due to events/xovers just made me go running back to Marvel Unlimited.

  21. Hasn’t the comics industry been collapsing since about 1957?

    The industry has always gone through boom and bust cycles. This time, though, the demise of the pamphlet (or periodical or whatever you choose to call it) might really happen.

    I know people have been predicting this since at least the ’80s. But the combination of ridiculously high prices and a shrinking readership might finally kill it.

    “Except both DC and Marvel are having trouble producing non-stunt comics that sell over 60K. And there are a lot of comics selling under 20K …”

    Forty years ago, publishers instantly canceled any comic that told less than 100k. Even lower-tier comics of that era, such as Daredevil and Iron Man, sold more than 100k every month.

  22. You also have to take into account that a MAJOR comic retailer folded last year. Hastings Entertainment made up for over ~$300k in direct market purchases per month for comics and that is not factoring in variant exclusives, graphic novels and Manga. It will take a lot of independent stores and other larger chains to pick up the slack.

  23. In order for comic stores to survive they must change. They need to become independent graphic novel bookstores. It is time for store owners to put on their big boy pants and throw out the long boxes of unwanted back issues and stop devoting space to floppies that should have been done away with twenty years ago. Comics are not for collecting. Comics are for reading and sharing. The publishers need to stop supporting an obsolete business model run by a bunch of old bald white men (And yes, I am an old bald white guy. But I am an old bald white guy who knows how to change and adapt.)

    We just opened a second location and we only sell graphic novels and Manga. People love it! They like the bookstore vibe. Everyday we are creating new comic fans and trying to steer existing fans away from the sad world of floppies (Which is really easy to do by the way!). It is so much easier to persuade a potential new comic reader into trying a non super-hero graphic novel than it is to get them to read a super-hero floppy.

    As I was writing this, I had to stop and assist a family of four. The daughter wanted to get into Manga, and after finding out more about her other reading habits, I made some suggestions and she walked out with five new manga. Her little brother chose Amulet Vol 1. Their Mom purchased the Princess Mononoke art book from Viz, and Dad walked out with Boy’s Club from Fantagraphics. This was the first time any of them had ever been in a comic store by the way. None of them was even remotely interested in super-heroes or floppies by the way.

    The future of comics is so obvious. It is just that most comic retailers are still stuck in the Nineties and can’t see it. Those shops need to go away so the comics medium can continue to grow and prosper.

    I hate to spoil the party, but Marvel comic are not coming back. DC might just survive if they wise up and concentrate on more sophisticated OGNs and trades, as well as the YA market which is on fire…..

  24. Here is another example. Just a few moments after posting earlier, another couple came in with their daughter who said she had read all of Raina Telgemeier’s books and wanted something similar to read. I pointed out Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol and Brave by Svetlana Chmakova. She ended up purchasing both books, thanked me, and promised to come back soon. Yeah! It really is that kind of market now…..

  25. Monthly periodicals are completely archaic. Why not release monthly full story books by different creative teams, so they can get proper promotion, etc?

    Or go the anthology route on super cheap paper, keep the cost reasonable and introduce new characters and concepts along with your big hitters.

  26. I live in Kalamazoo, MI. We have one comic book store that has been open forever. The owner is a pretty smart cookie in that he is an agent for a bunch of comic book artists and helps them sell their original artwork. That alone can keep the store open, but they go above and beyond that. They have card games, tabletop games, graphic novels, everything to interest just about anyone. They even have a healthy amount of manga. Pretty much the perfect store.
    And here’s why;
    The other day my wife and I were in to get our books. One of our regulars is Aquaman. Great book. Anyway, we got there and issue #26 was gone. An empty spot. Not sure why, I heard it has to do with the artist.
    See, we don’t have a pull list, never have. Sometimes we miss a book and they will take our name and if a second printing happens, we get that. So, now we have a pull list with three titles, Misfit City, Shirtless Bear Fighter and Aquaman. As we were getting ready to leave one of the managers, Bill came up to us with an Aquaman book in hand. He told us they pull one of each DC for him to check out in case he wants to buy them.
    He gave us his copy.
    This and this alone illustrates what makes an amazing comic book store. People on this thread calling for the end of DMs and Comic Book Stores are missing the big picture. Sure, it’s about comic books, but it’s also about being in a place with people who read comic books. Fanfare has customers of all shapes and sizes, no one is left to feel excluded or different.
    We all love comics…or cards…or games.
    Why would anyone wish for this to fail?

  27. Hi Edwin!

    You and I met at your store the other day, we had a great chat. I was the guy from Atlanta. Small world! Really glad to see you here.

    Anyone who happens to be in the San Diego area should visit Rising Sun Comics, it’s a very well curated shop and aesthetically super-pleasing to the eye.

  28. Without the time to read all comments tosee if this was mentioned, but the New52 did have a key success in bringing back lapsed readers. Ultimately it did fail due to too many reasons to list.

    From my own experience in the Phoenix market, many of the stores are reaching out to maintain community support that stretches beyond comics. More noncomic people through the doors can generate the word of mouth needed for the DM to survive past a potential comics’ market hiccup. Best example of this is Brian Hibbs’ stores in SF.

  29. “Comics are not for collecting. Comics are for reading and sharing.”

    I wish more fans understood this. Superhero floppies are currently kept alive by middle-aged men who have entire rooms filled with longboxes. These boxes are filled with comics they haven’t read in decades (or at all), including comics they don’t even like. As I’ve said before, this is hoarding, not collecting. And hoarding is considered a mental disorder.

    Like Edwin, I’m an old bald white guy. But like him, I’ve learned to change and adapt. The future is not superhero floppies from Marvel and DC. It’s absurd to expect people to pay $4 and up for a 22-page pamphlet … a pamphlet that, thanks the the “decompressed” screenplay style of 21st-century comics, probably takes no more than 5 minutes to read. That’s a shorter reading time than the average comic book of the ’60s or ’70s. Only people who are hopelessly addicted to these floppies will continue buying them.

    I’d also like to see more comic shops become like bookstores, instead of the sweaty “man caves” of old. (Tip to retailers: if you want more diverse customers, don’t cover the windows and doors entirely with superhero posters.) The smarter stores are already adopting the bookstore model.

  30. “So, coins and stamps are not for collecting either? Your premise is ridiculous.”

    Long boxes of comics in boards and bags hidden away in a closet never to be read for fear of lowering their grade is ridiculous and the very definition of hoarding.

    Coins and stamps are for collecting. They are way too boring to be of much use for anything else. Comics on the other hand, are pure entertainment made to be enjoyed and shared and discussed or given to your grandchildren.

    Back in the Sixties and Seventies when I was growing up, it was an adventure just to find comics to buy. We would loan our comics to our friends or swap them with each other. I used to put my initials on the covers of my comics so I knew which ones were mine. The thought of collecting them never even occurred to us. They were just for fun. We would spend hours arguing over who was cooler, Batman or Spider-man, or pretending we were our favorite character. Because of the direct market and the collector/speculator mentality today, comics are a mess and on the verge of extinction. Kids for the most part do not even read comics today. That is what collecting comics and the direct market have given us.

    You know what makes my day? Turning a new comic fan on to a graphic novel that they love, and having them return to my shop and thank me for the recommendation and asking for more suggestions. It makes me feel like a little kid again. That is so much more satisfying than flipping a floppy on E-bay that came out last week for a ten dollar profit, or sticking a floppy in a box in my closet never to be read again, or worse yet, never being read at all.

    The only way this medium survives is if the collectors and speculators go away along with the stores that encourage their behavior. The comic store of the future must become a bookstore.

  31. I see nothing wrong with collecting if you limit it to comics you actually LIKE and enjoy reading, and know you’re going to read again. When I was a kid in the ’60s and ’70s, I collected Daredevil and a few other comics I really liked. I would typically read them to rags. When I got tired of them, I stopped collecting them.

    I never tried to collect every comic from Marvel or every comic from DC. I knew guys who did that, and felt a bit sorry for them. Having to store all those comics they didn’t like and, frequently, never got around to reading. These guys missed out on a lot of good movies and other entertainment, because all their disposable income went to buying superhero floppies (and the plastic bags and longboxes they required).

    I currently have one longbox and one shortbox. The rest of my collection is trades, graphic novels and reprint books such as Marvel Essentials. And I’ve limited those to books I reread every couple of years.

  32. I’m so happy to read DC is thinking of market segmentation and expanding fully into new verticals. It took long enough, but finally someone is understanding diversification! I really hope the new stuff finds the right markets!
    The only way this medium survives is if the collectors and speculators go away along with the stores that encourage their behavior. The comic store of the future must become a bookstore.

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