Tilting at Windmills #269: Wal-Mart, Content and ALA

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By Brian Hibbs

[Editor’s note: this column was written before the controversy over Batman #50 hit.]

Sorry for the break between columns – BookScan really kills me for writing for a while! I’m pretty eager to tell you about My Visit To the ALA (American Library Association), but there’s some recent Hot topics that have come up that I think should be addressed first – especially the news that DC is creating four exclusive 100-page anthologies for Walmart

What’s funny is that Heidi and I were having a drink in the bar of the hotel we were both at for ALA, and I was saying how I thought what the market desperately needed was a return to the kind of anthology comics packages of our childhoods, though I was specifically telling her that I thought Scholastic could sell several hundred thousand copies a month of kids-comics anthology anchored by 8-12 pages of Raina Telegemeir or Kazu Kabuishi, and serializing the other comics they publish.

More or less like “Disney Adventures” (which we’ll all remember that Heidi edited, right?) – just without the prose material. I think the market desire is there as kid’s comics rise in the manner that they are.

Heidi and I say goodnight, and 10 minutes later I get a text from Ace saying “Haw someone is announcing a similar product to what you were just talking about tomorrow!”

tiltpw73-1.pngI’m relatively bullish on the notion of recreating the periodical feeder system for comics – I think that the more types of different packages and the more places to sell them, the better for the market it will be, and that even if they’re not aimed directly at Direct Market comic stores, we can’t help but benefit from wider variety and distribution. I triple-especially think that the more kids comics that sell, the better we’re setting up the next ten years of comics sales when those kids grow up to be adults who are literate and energized about the form.

On the other hand, I also strongly believe that equal access to material and a level playing field is also deeply critical to the health of the marketplace – exclusive access and exclusive products are virtually always a bad idea because the split markets into “haves” and “have nots”, creating market confusion and fractures, and, almost always, making the “little guy” the loser. And unlike what she seems to think in Heidi’s follow-up on this topic,

So, I absolutely think that there’s a giant breakdown in, at least, the optics of the Walmart deal with how it relates to the Direct Market.

WALMART_TTMONTHLY_01_COMIC_TRIM_CV_REV2

I think central to any discussion of newsstands and mass market sales of comics has to be that those market segments absolutely abandoned comics. Some young people today seem to feel that Marvel and DC walked away from the newsstands, but the reality is the newsstands (and mass) walked away from comics, especially as the once mom-and-pop pharmacies of America got bought out by mega-corporations, consolidated, and then largely replaced in many communities by the “big box” store. Accountants took over, and profit-by-square-foot became the sole metric – and in those metrics a rack of sunglasses took the same footprint as a rack of comics and generated larger and more consistent profits. This is simply historical fact.

The Direct Market provided a lifeline for comics right at the moment that the horrible cultural impact and dumbing-down of content in the United States that the senate hearings of 1954 and the subsequent creation of the self-censoring Comics Code Authority was starting to finally wear off. The 1980s saw a (relative) explosion of (relatively) sophisticated, smart comics that were also commercial hits, right when the mass market audience and shelf-space for comics was faltering.

I would strongly argue that the Direct Market kept the artform of comics itself alive and (relatively) thriving over the last thirty-plus years, and that it was in all ways developments in the DM itself that were what allowed bookstores to grow interest in the category, starting largely with Manga, and how that directly led to the growth of the middle reader category into the powerhouse it is at the moment.

I give you the history lesson so that you understand that the DM retailer’s passions, and commitment to the category in the face of most fiscal wisdoms, are exactly why a) DC is even here today to make this deal with Walmart, and b) why we as a class tend to think we deserve a little loyalty.

When DC released the press release, it threw a hand grenade into retailer’s perceptions. I have brethren who are the calmest, nicest, most rah-rah Team Comics people you could ever meet, who were suddenly full-feral, “why is my most-trusted partner suddenly trying to put me put of business????” Seriously, I’m not talking about the usual vocal and juvenile bomb-thrower retailers here – I’m talking about sober and stable pillars of their community (who I don’t want to name for fear of embarrassing them)

Why are they feeling this? Because DC is putting two of their top writers on to twelve-part serializations for these new publications, and that (equally importantly) the Direct Market has deeply uncertain commercial access to in the entirely unspecified future.

I haven’t seen any retailers react negatively towards the notion of a reprint-focused cheap-comics package for Mass Market, in and of itself. Historically we ask for access to order such things, but equally historically the market generally only orders a bare token number of copies of such a product. We aren’t losing out from that kind of product because we can’t sell that kind of product any more than the DM was able to succeed with, say, Archie digests.

But I think it’s fair to question the reasoning for having new material in this package. To the muggle, the civilian, the lay reader, all content is new. Distinctions in the press releases about these books between “New 52” and “Rebirth” and “The New Age of Heroes” is all babble and nonsense to the muggle, and as a direct corollary, there’s little-to-no reason to think that they are going to be able to tell a difference between the new material and the reprints in these packages.

Who does care about new material? The enthusiast, the regular reader, the direct market customer. “Our” customer base, which we have built and created and nurtured for decades in many cases, in other words.

Yes, of course, no one is “entitled” to a customer – it is reasonable for retailers to understand that they have to compete for business, but I think it is also reasonable to expect that competition will be fair and not weighted too far in one direction or the other. By putting top creators on new material exclusive to a mass market retailer like Walmart just feels like an open play for “our” customer. Customer budgets are not infinite, and dollars spent in one channel are likely to remove dollars from another.

I particularly think that because this project seems unlikely to me to actually create new Direct Market readers. First and foremost because Walmart has been trying to sell comic magazines to Walmart customers for years, to very little success. This seems inherent to the combination of Walmart’s store layouts, the natural tendency of the Walmart customer to be a “value” customer, and the lack of store training and maintenance on the category. None of these things are likely to change especially with this new initiative, so it’s hard to see how the results change either.

Even if you take the most possible rosy prediction of customer creation, I think that selling someone a 100-pages-for-$5 package as an intro to a 22-pages-for-$4 package essentially is incredibly unlikely to work as a conversion device.

At the end of the day, most of the DM retailer’s concern could have been solved by simple messaging – having a clear and direct “they might be getting it first, but you’ll have it in a commercial package no later than _____” would have solved the angst for the majority of retailers, I think – but the optics of this move with the lack of any real information makes it feel like an attempt at a pivot, rather than an all-market-serving initiative.

DC has nearly always been the #2 publisher in the DM, and I would strongly argue that the reason that they’re not the distant #2 is primarily because they spent decades trying to build good will in the DM, carefully, brick by brick, piece by piece. To watch them sweep that good will away so quickly and broadly for an initiative that almost certainly isn’t going to grow their overall business by the amount of faith that they’ve just lost from the DM retailer strikes me as… well, let’s call it short-sighted.

(Honest to God, there are days I think that the move to Burbank caused DC to lose any ability to channel any of its Institutional Memory – of which there are still many long-time employees there who should possess it in the comics departments – and not only of the comics industry, but of things like how exclusive music tracks on CDs at mass stores like Walmart and Best Buy harmed independent record stores, being one of the reasons that caused that section to crash and take physical sales down with it. Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it)

And I think what concerns me the most is that if this is how they handle things when their principle is an entertainment company, what’s going to happen when AT&T (very very much not an entertainment company in it’s bones) takes over control?

To make this a little more specific and personal, as many of you know, I bought a second store five years ago – one that is very much a periodical store. It’s profitable, albeit slightly, though extremely borderline in terms of how much work I have to put in to keep it rolling. The lease is almost up and I am thinking strongly about how worth it it will be to lock myself into another five years there – I don’t have this concern with my primary, book-format-oriented store (at least as much), but I’m very much thinking that my top three periodical suppliers have been doing a really poor job at their basic core competencies for the last two-plus years, absolutely unable to stop the gutting of their midlists. So, it is moves like this one from DC that make me much more likely to shut the second store down at the end of the year, because I’m losing faith in my partners.

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On the brighter side of the world, I felt extremely rejuvenated coming back from the American Library Association annual conference in New Orleans this week. It was the first time that I’ve attended such a gathering, and it was genuinely exciting to be around a group of people who eat live and breathe books, nearly for the sake of books themselves.

As Heidi noted, ALA was as big, if not bigger than, the majority of comic book conventions – the floor felt about 20% (?) bigger than San Diego’s floor, and the print version of the program book, with its hundreds of hours of Professional Development programs was the size of a small city’s phone book.

Although in shape and form ALA looked a whole lot like a comics convention, in most ways, I’d call the ALA the polar inversion. Let’s list some of the reasons:

  1. The focus is on actual book content, not marketing plans, or pop culture, or selling movies or whatever.
  2. The attendance was probably 70% female.
  3. Very few attendees had purchasing powers – they’re mostly going to go home and advocate for things to the buyers, so the tone of the floor was entirely different: all about content and not commerce.
  4. Virtually everyone there was eager to learn more about things that they did not know, not wanting to just swim in the same seas they do back home.
  5. Panels and seminars were about things like shelving and categorization and community standards and other “big picture” concerns, not wallowing in minutiae like comic panels tend to be.

tiltpw73-2.pngMore than anything else, I left NOLA thinking that of all of the aspects of government, libraries are the sole part that functions pretty much exactly as it is supposed to for the benefit of all citizens: librarians seem lock step in unison in sharing concerns about things like access for all people equally, of free speech and free expression, of bringing people up, of building community and bringing citizens together, of inclusion and making sure all voices are heard. I’d have to say that I felt better about democracy itself after hanging around librarians for three days.

I mean, it was great to hear Michelle Obama speak (she’s really an inspiring person), but I was somehow more impressed by the as-loud roaring standing ovations that the librarians gave their peers as the ALA president announced the names the org was honoring this year for things like access and equality.

The DM retailer could learn a lot from an event like this – the sheer number and variety of programming tracks really blew me away, and I want to start pushing for more “Professional Development” among our ranks. We’ve got to step up our game. I also think there should be more forums where DM retailers and Librarians can meet and support each other because so many of our concerns are the same, and where they are different we still can strongly learn from each other.

It’s funny, although they have so much more community penetration, and that they “give away free” for the same exact things we sell, I’ve never ever thought of libraries as any kind of threat to business, or a problem in the way I view an Amazon, Walmart or Gamestop – probably because libraries inherently want to expand the number of people who read, and we’re not competing for a dollar.

Libraries grow the pie, as far as I am concerned, and I was really glad to see so many DM-oriented publishers reaching out to them in such a strong way because I think there’s a really positive loop that can help grow the DM as well in that by exposing people who’d otherwise never encounter them to the medium itself.

And it’s all helped by the fact that librarians are some of the nicest, most straight-forward, and helpful people that you could hope to meet – seeing their growing understanding of the comics medium blossom fills me with so much hope and enthusiasm for the future of comics, and all of our places within it.


Brian Hibbs has owned and operated Comix Experience in San Francisco since 1989, was a founding member of the Board of Directors of ComicsPRO, has sat on the Board of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and has been an Eisner Award judge. Feel free to e-mail him with any comments. You can purchase two collections of the first Tilting at Windmills (originally serialized in Comics Retailer magazine) published by IDW Publishing, as well as find an archive of pre-CBR installments right here. Brian is also available to consult for your publishing or retailing program.

25 COMMENTS

  1. It is ABSOLUTELY a play for our readers. As you’ve noted, past attempts didn’t work. What better way to keep comics in a mass market than trying to ensure a base sales level, which would increase the print run and reach?

  2. Brian is absolutely right. Walmart shoppers are value buyers. They value oxycodone and bullets and don’t value college degrees.

  3. I’ve sometimes pondered – what could the publishers have done in the 80s to stay in the mass market? Would converting everything to thick, 100-page all-new material anthologies have enabled them to put a price tag on the item that would have satisfied the desired profit margins?

  4. To be honest though, how much does the Wal-Mart deal really impact stores like yours apart from the PR side of it. What dollar value of business would you have access to of it these anthology reprint series were available to the direct market? As a fairly heavy print comic reader myself, I would never buy that type of product. It’s horribly inefficient for the cost just to get up to 12 pages of new (but out-of-continuity) material even from hot talent. Look at other out of continuity (the recent Adventures of Superman, etc.) material. It seems like none of that ever does well. It’s not going to attract new readers into comic stores if you have one of these anthology books on your shelf. And as an experienced retailer, you’re not going to point new customers to anthology reprint/out-of-continuity stuff. You’re going to sell them the latest and greatest Batman or Spider-Man that brings them back next month, or a timeless classic trade paperback collection. So in the end, all the quibbling is over the fact that direct market retailers for don’t have the ability to sell horribly inefficient, unnecessary comic anthologies to a handful of collectors and speculators that buy every shiny #1. Presumably DC has worked out a deal with Wal-Mart that guarantees at least 14 issues of the titles with 12 part series in them. Can any comic shop today guarantee they’d order 14 issues of such pointless material over the span of a year or more? If the material is any good, I’ll happily buy a trade paperback of the new stuff in 2019 or 2020, but there’s no sense in new getting hot and bothered over it in June 2018. If my comic store fails in the next 12 months, it’s not going to be because Wal-Mart is selling 100 page giants. It would be due to much larger market forces or poor decision making up and down the comics line.

  5. I think if publishers (and we’re pretty much talking about DC & Marvel here) had done Magazines (as in Time Magazine format, but probably cheaper paper) but with a grouping of comics
    EG Avengers with an Avengers, Captain America, Thor, Iron Man and other stories.
    Spider-Man likely would have been popular enough for his own dedicated magazine but they’d perhaps put in a Black Cat story or other characters. Same for X-Men.
    A Fantastic Four mag would likely have to be more space focused with Silver Surfer, GOTG and whatever else they can put in (likely would not have been their best selling magazine)
    A Defenders Magazine with Dr. Strange, Hulk, and an assortment of characters focusing more on off beat stuff.
    A ‘Marvel Street’ magazine with Daredevil, Power Man and Iron First, Cloak and Dagger, Punisher, etc..

    I’m not so sure this would have carried them to today (maybe – if they had generous advertisers), but it likely would have carried them to the early 00s at least.

  6. I don’t think this is something for comics retailers to worry about. Yes, it’s a slight play for your readers, but obviously not to steal them outright… it’s not like DC is shifting all its distro to WalMart, and WalMart is not going to start carrying the monthly comics you sell. They just wanted that bump in sales that they’ll get from having existing collectors come in and buy copies as well. It’s hard to believe that they’re trying to do anything with this (it’s probably a loss leader) other than to expose new people to DC comics… they’re just hedging their bets a bit. In a year’s time there will be a collection of these stories published mainly if not exclusively for the direct market, and if you start pushing for it now maybe that collection could feature some exclusive content of its own. You WILL eventually profit from these stories.

  7. To everyone wondering if anthologies at a higher price point would have helped the Big Two survive on the newsstand: I believe that was the whole goal of DC’s Dollar Comics in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s. I don’t think it worked.

  8. Hey Brian, It was great to finally meet you in person at the ALA show in New Orleans. Your words about these amazing librarians are spot on. I agree with you on the idea of professional development for retailers. It’s time for that to start happening. I gave a workshop on Library/DM partnerships at the Diamond Retailer Summit in Las Vegas several years ago and was met with a full room of guys who were really quite angry about the mention of working with libraries. I was quick to figure out that they’d not approached a library for ten years prior to that. So the market has changed and more librarians are looking to work with comic shops. And as you saw in New Orleans, they are in the thousands.

  9. Out of curiosity I went to the aisle they keep the comics yesterday at Walmart. That aisle is the most jumbled mass of pop culture crap. Always in a constant state of chaos. There was one Batman left and the back was bent badly. There were two Superman’s and that was it. I don’t see how this has any impact whatsoever for local comic book shops. The original material holds zero interest for me personally so, I might pick up a Batman for my twin grand daughters who love Batman, but that would be the extent of my purchase.

  10. Those who think exclusive content isn’t a big deal because we’ll eventually get it in a different format, I (and the majority of my brethren) have long observations that you are wrong. Book-only material of superhero comics never, ever, sells as well as serializations of the same material. I would expect a $20 HC of Bendis BATMAN to sell something under 40% in a year of what the same material serialized as comics (in a relatively concurrent fashion) would sell in a month. And then we’d STILL sell books on top of it.

    -B

  11. @Glenn Simpson Copied Japan and done very cheap 250+page black and white anthologies. I’ve travelled to over 30 countries in my life and Japan is the only one where even today you see people reading phone book sized comics while waiting for a bus or on a train.

    It’s a lot of content for little money so perfect for kids who have only a little money and cheap enough for adults to buy and throw books after a single train journey without even reading the whole thing.

  12. And I think what concerns me the most is that if this is how they handle things when their principle is an entertainment company, what’s going to happen when AT&T (very very much not an entertainment company in it’s bones) takes over control?

    My money’s on the comics side being sold, shut down or spun-off while AT&T keeps permanent licences for live action and animated works in perpetuity.

  13. Wow. I’m so sorry Francis D’avignone had to venture outside his bubble and mix with us “Flyover Country Bumpkins” to get his comic book on. Of course I wouldn’t even begin to know where to look for either of the items Francis thinks all of us out here use in Walmart…or anywhere else for that matter but whatever. Glad Francis was able to make themselves feel superior for a bit…

  14. Mr. Hibbs, I do respect the business you do as a comic retailer and your insight on that side of the industry. As a reader with no monetary stake in the game, I see it as a false alternative. You assume that DC would have ever serialized this material without a Wal-Mart check in their bank account. The new stories (even if well told) are 12 pages each month, and necessarily aren’t going to be in continuity. If DC had the intention and confidence to sell a Batman run by Bendis, they would make it count in continuity and market the heck out of it. If Bendis tells his SECOND Batman run in regular monthly comics, you and all the direct market will sell boatloads of issues regardless of any issue ever sold by Wal-Mart in July 2018. The argument is that you are basically wishing you had the sweet speculator dollar that you get each and every month on every other comic title. There is this assumption that Wal-Mart is going to steal regular monthly comic readers, but they are really a different audience. Every time retailer exclusive covers are sold, you miss out on thousands of dollars in sales you have no access to sell. Us regular readers will be in your shop every week, regardless of whatever exclusives are available at Wal-Mart, on eBay, at Comic Con, or from a Kickstarter. I just don’t get the outrage and fear over this. If you want to grow your business, you are the business owner with a regular product, and you have the opportunity and responsibility to grow your market. DC and Marvel are never going to bring random public into your store with reprints, anthologies, exclusive covers, #1s, etc.

  15. Francis D’avignone says ‘Brian is absolutely right. Walmart shoppers are value buyers. They value oxycodone and bullets and don’t value college degrees.’

    Don’t be an idiot. Walmart shoppers are a wide ranging group of gold including many who have and value college degrees. In many parts of the country, a well-stocked Wal-Mart can be the only access to a number of needed goods at a reasonable price. And their selection is often amazingly good.

    Comics are by no means their strong suit but I expect that they may be the only place comics are available except for possibly a Book- A-Million. Now if you want to concerned about a threat to a local comics store, there’s your better bet. My local one has a deep selection of new Marvel, DC and Image titles, plus thousands of back issues. Not to mention one of the best GN selections I’ve seen anywhere.

  16. I debased myself by driving (in my Prius, so it’s okay) to the nearest Wallmart (not near at all, i’m pleased to say) to see what these comics were all about. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get in the store because two morbidly obese teens on “mobility” scooters had both tried to get in the store’s doors at the same time and their girth was such that they got stuck and prevented access to the store. Then I drove (again, in my Prius so it’s okay to drive) to the NEXT nearest Wallmart. Again, as chance would have it, I was not able to get into that store, because a meth addict had stabbed a Percocet addict to death in the doorway and the doorway was now a roped-off police investigation area. I wanted to go to a third store but I realized my Blue Apron deliver was scheduled to come to my chateau and I didn’t want my salmon or organic cauliflower to wilt in the summer heat so I was forced to drive home (in my Prius).

  17. Bendis, King and Derington are the three main reasons I have any DC comics on my LCS pull list at all right now, but here in Canada Walmart isn’t even making the half-assed effort to roll these things out that you’re getting in the U.S. — in fact, we aren’t getting them at all. No word on whether this is a Walmart decision or a DC decision, thought I suspect the former, because why would DC consciously make the idiotic decision to shrink their customer base while attempting to enlarge their customer base? Meanwhile, the comic shop I frequent would love to make these things available to customers who Walmart can’t be bothered to sell them to. Luckily we can buy them at quadruple cover price (plus shipping) from scalpers on Ebay who have been cleaning out your Walmart’s displays for that very purpose in order to resell them internationally, a problem which will inevitably make it even harder for Americans to find these books in the card section of their local Walmart, too.

    Bad as all that is, worse is the attempt to apply the 100-page Giant format to reprinting recent comics, that rarely feature one-and-done stories. The push to get DC comics into book stores via trades collecting 5-part, decompressed narratives that, by and large, don’t merit a single 22 page issue, thus results in an anthology full of stories that won’t conclude for five or six issues, but which even customers of U.S. Walmarts are likely to be able to collect every issue of because most stores’ stocks are being snapped up for internet sales.

    Why didn’t DC simply get Archie to start packaging digests for them like Marvel did? Or, better yet, the bigger-than-a-digest/smaller-than-a-comic 200, 500 and 1000 page reprint paperbacks that Archie has been doing of their own stuff for the past few years, and which would be so much better suited to reprinting the decompressed five issue stories we are now stuck with? It would have gotten DC into Walmarts, Canadian customers wouldn’t be getting screwed, and American customers would be able to locate the damned things in the book section rather than the card section — or even locate them at all, which is going to be less and less easy to do as re-sellers snap up complete displays full on day of release.

    What a cluster-fuck.

  18. @Glenn Simpson As someone who turned 11 in 1980, I can personally attest that a) I loved the anthology books (Dollar Comics) to the point that I read them until the covers fell off, and b) that was the gateway into my local comics shops. Couldn’t get enough of any anthology I could find, even reprint books like Batman from the ’30s to the ’70s.

    What drove me to the LCS was the asterik – every time there was an explanation of, say, parallel worlds, there would be an asterik like “* As first seen in Flash #123.” There we no reprints of Flash #123 anywhere. The only way to read that story was go to the LCS and save up enough money to buy it.

    I think the Wal-Mart books are a great experiment – there’s not a lot for DC to lose – and maybe they’ll drive kids to want more. I hope they do. I do not think that the kids or their parents are buying these for a story by Brian Michael Bendis, they are buying them for Batman. Putting star talent on new material in these books is a waste, but if it works, everyone wins.

  19. I agree with Austin, the Wal-Mart books are a great experiment. Similarly, while getting my doctorate in sociology (at Yale, I know, not the best of the Ivy Leagues but I’m only human), I conducted an experiment of my own in Wal-Mart. It was designed to test the ability of people to resist temptation. My team and I drove (in my Prius) to the closest Wal-Mart (thankfully very far away, I cannot see it from the veranda on my chataeu). We left a bottle of Percocet in the middle of an aisle, fully labeled with both the name of the patient and the name and phone number of the pharmacy that filled the prescription. We wanted to see how many Wal-mart customers would try to return it to either the owner or the pharmacy and how many would not even notice it. What we didn’t account for was that every customer would attempt to swallow the contents of the bottle. Several threw themselves on the ground and started using nearby “Minions” themed merchandise to fight each other for the bottle. Several Wal-mart customers didn’t even try to open the bottle, they simply swallowed it whole, trusting their prodigious digestive sytems to burn through the plastic and release the treasured Percocet in time. One customer did this, saw my team and I recording on our APPLE IPADS and said to us “U HAF MORE GIF ME MORE PERCONCETS ME HAF CHRONIC PAIN FROM BACKYARD WRESTLING” and we had to flee to the safety of my Prius to avoid his buttery wrath.

  20. I don’t understand why the WalMart books have exclusive content. The buyer they’re aimed at doesn’t care if it’s all reprints or not.

    I worked in AT&T corporate for 6 years. They’re evil. Nothing good will come of the merger for the comics side.

    I really enjoyed the ALA write-up. Librarians are the best!

  21. Francis: You forgot to mention that you were drinking chardonnay, listening to NPR and wearing a pussy hat while this was going on.

  22. In the olden days, 100-page giants had a solid 7 or 8 complete stories inside each issue, with beginning, middle and end. Today, in regular comics, you’re lucky if you have one complete story every year and it costs you close to $50 to keep up. How is that seriously sustainable? They should sell essentials in cinemas every time there is a new marvel or DC movie coming out. Even the Japanese or the European business model for comics would be way better than this.
    Why don’t publishers hold on from paying writers and artists until each story is actually concluded :D That might help with f@cking decompression.

  23. These comics wound up on eBay – there are precious few new readers being gained if any. Its a re-packaged product being sold to the same market that DC already is serving, don’t kid yourself. These aren’t going to put retailers out of business nor is it going to make Walmart or DC rich and any addition to the comic buying public will be a fraction of a percentage point if that. After all the years of the DM and all the accrued data the publishers have you would think they could come up with a better (or any) algorithm for print runs, let alone have an understanding of the market. The 30K # to Walmart could have easily been double – will they print more of future editions and then those die on the racks? And for today’s comics – Why so many 2nd & 3rd and sometimes 4th printings of issues? Publishers blame the DM but why wouldn’t the publisher print another 5K or so to take a chance on something they believe in and make more $ on re-orders? How can a MAJOR publisher possibly NOT have a reasonable understanding of their products sales potential to forecast their #’s to deliver to corporate (I mean we are talking Disney & Warner Bros here) for earning estimates? Missing a target either way is BAD for budgeting, and I’m sure the parent company’s have interest in accurate forecasting..

    And what are creators seeing on these Walmart books? If they sell in the 30-40K range do the creators of the new material see royalties? Are the people who’s work is in the reprints seeing anything as far as pay? Would they see royalties? I would think adding 30K additional copies to the original sales number might trigger royalty payments if that were to be taken as a whole.

    Are the Walmart comics returnable? What is WalMart seeing profitwise off them? I mean if its 40% that’s $2 per book X 5 copies of each X 4 titles so $40 profit to WalMart for reach release.

    Many questions – but what is the benefit?

  24. Has the “experiment” been a success sales-wise (dollar or unit?)?
    Was money made? If so, was it enough that DC would want to extend the line to more titles or longer runs of the existing ones?
    Was this a foot-in-the door attempt?
    Other questions come to mind but most are based on assumptions and missing information (not Brian’s doing just probably not available yet)
    Thanks Brian for the unique perspective.

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