Earlier in the week, we told you about Challengers Comics having a slow 2017 and selling $21K less of Marvel single issuesTilting at Windmills columnist Brian Hibbs has now weighed in on how his two stores in San Francisco did in 2017 and it’s a similar tale.

Brian’s stores have very different customers and sales patterns.  The original Comix Experience opened in 1989 and is a very indie-centric shop.  It’s also leans towards being more of a bookstore with 61% of sales coming from books (tpbs/graphic novels/etc) and 37% coming from single issues.  At this store, sales were down by 8.5% in 2017.  Books dropped by 1.8% (in dollars) and single issues by 15.5%.

What happened here?

Marvel was our biggest drop at over $14k, spread reasonably equally between book and comics formats (because if your frontlist is pants, it’s hard to have a real backlist), but DC was also down by nearly $13k, though they were concentrated a bit more in book format losses (all of the “New 52” backlist essentially turned into garbage in 2017, and “Rebirth” backlist is, so far, slow off the blocks, possibly because of the bi-weekly release strategy overgenerating SKUs while “Vertigo” continued its fairly massive decline as well, since, like with Marvel, there is little  frontlist any longer); But also, Image, despite the book list dominance, was also down by almost $9k – they’ve found themselves completely unable to launch a new periodical in pretty much the entirety of 2017 which also hurts driving a backlist.

Pubs that were up?  The biggest gain was with Nobrow ($2500 up, thanks to both NIGHTLIGHTS and PANTHEON), but we also significantly grew Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly, Black Mask, Boom!, Viz and Kodansha strong enough to mention.

Marvel tanking is practically a given, but that’s two retailers citing a decline in Image sales, even if Saga and Monstress are huge sellers for them.  This is also not the first time I’ve heard a retailer say the New 52 tpb sales got shredded by Rebirth, either.

Comix Experience Outpost was purchased more recently and is a little closer to what’s thought of as a “typical” Direct Market store:  61% of sales are new single issue comics, 21% are book format comics and 8% of sales are back issues.  Sales were down by 4.5% at this store.

What happened?

Outpost is super periodical oriented, so this might be a good place to change over to the “comics” conversation – Outpost is more than 60% new comics, which is enormous, and here you can see the real impact of Marvel Shitting the Bed in 2017 – Marvel is down by about $22k, while DC is up by 1%. DC’s had a real actual hits in METAL and DOOMSDAY CLOCK at Outpost (they did WELL at Divisadero, but they KICKED ASS at Outpost) which offset a lot of the bottoming out of “Rebirth”.  Image is also down by about 9%, IDW by 7%, Dark Horse by 4%, but we got big growths from Valiant (132%), Aftershock and Titan (both up by about 65%), Black Mask (by 41%) and Boom! (by 13%).  Also, though not at all comics, Funko is up by more than 200%, though I am also starting to really worry about having too much stock there….

And here we have another report of Marvel being the big problem, despite a slight uptick from DC and a handful of smaller indie publishers having significant growth.

Brian cites kids’ comics as the growing trend as his flagship store and notes that Walking Dead‘s tpb sales are all but disappearing from his top 100 list.

All-in-all, the percentages are slightly different, but the narrative remains the same with a second nationally known retailer weighing in.

We’re left waiting for Marvel to announce their relaunch/reboot and pondering more data about Image declines.

Want to learn more about how comics publishing and digital comics work?  Try Todd’s book, Economics of Digital Comics



  1. A theory: Cost of living is going up everywhere, while pay is stagnating and/or going down. This is more apparent in cities. Hobbies like comics are the first things to get cut from entertainment spending when you’re tight on cash.

    As far as Image…i think they’ve completely lost their edge and the market is starting to yawn a bit. Sooo many of the books look and feel the same, despite having different creators and story hooks. There really is an Image “look” that’s starting to blend in with big 2 house styles. They used to be punk and outsider, and now they’re doing highly polished, mainstream studio albums.

  2. “Cost of living is going up everywhere, while pay is stagnating and/or going down.”

    Unless you’re a Wall Street banker or a corporate executive. Then you’re wealthier than ever.

  3. “Unless you’re a Wall Street banker or a corporate executive. Then you’re wealthier than ever.”

    Oh, please… just stop with this left wing nonsense.

    Anyway, around my parts (the mid-west), the money is not an issue. The content is the issue. Many, many estranged Marvel readers want to come back again but they continue to see no reason to. Still the same boring/unfamiliar replacement characters. To many of the same name/duplicated superheroes. Sub-par creative teams. Over-priced first issues and bloated “anniversary” issues. Constant renumbering (and now ones that make no sense). Over-hyped events.

  4. Hey “Dennis”:
    Since you are so quick to call statements “nonsense”, I think you should provide supporting data for your statement. After all, your statement currently carries no more weight than “George”‘s.
    Please reveal the data to support your statement that Marvel’s sales problems in The Mid-West are caused by content not pricing.

  5. I recommend dropping comics and getting into Wall Street. I understand that Wall Street is booming right now.

  6. I would think “content evidence” is obvious considering the universal complaints from fans and retailers. Nonsense is obvious also, isn’t complaining about bankers and Wall Street so 10 years ago. Seems to me a somewhat noticeable pattern is just repeating…every 20 years, the comic market tanks and needs a reset. Mid to late 50s comics tanked, 70s same, mid to late 90s almost lost the direct market, 2016 (August 2016 to be precise for my store) tanking sales that continue. What’s weird is that this decline, and the 90s crash, happened at a time when the real economy begins to boom. I wonder if fans decide to cut their purchases in comics as they begin to spend on real “life” purchase. Babies, homes, new cars, all become considerations for 20-30 year old fans. In a booming real economy, these considerations accelerate faster than normal. Considering the great recession kept a lot of 20-30 year old fans from many of these big ticket decisions, we may be experiencing a multiplied effect of people feeling comfortable enough to make babies and buy houses etc. A surprising number of my customers bought houses in the last year 1/2. So many that I actually took note of it. Money and budgets get tight fast when people decide to pull the trigger on these big life decisions The disappointment in content of late could just be making it easier for collectors/readers to move on. Amazon and streaming content aren’t exactly helpful either.

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