By Brian Hibbs

Some of you may remember that I purchased a second store, Comix Experience Outpost, somewhat recently. The previous owner decided almost overnight that they were going to close – and do it fast; he actually posted to Facebook that he was closing at the end of that week, so I got myself on the bus and headed over there to see what the story was. By the end of that conversation, I was in talks to purchase. (No one wants to see comic stores close!)

And now, five years later, our lease is almost up and I have to figure out whether or not to keep it open.

Backstory, first, though! Our original Divisadero St. location (coming up on thirty years in business next year!) is very much more like a book store in layout and presentation and function, where almost 2/3rds of sales are of book-format comics, which allows me to do things like our two 200+ member Graphic Novel of the Month Clubs. By contrast, Outpost, stays stubbornly a periodical-driven store, where roughly 2/3rds of their business is basic comic books. We’re constantly trying to drive book sales up in that location, and while we’ve gotten it up to almost a quarter of sales, it won’t go any higher.

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That’s fine, each store is going to have its own clientele, its own zone, and I really think that comic book stores, in particular, thrive from being different from one another – but it does mean that how I feel about comics, and the traditional Direct Market, changes when I rotate my perspective between the two locations.

Outpost also has some real limitations in its current location that I am clear-eyed about. While it is in a “commercial strip”, most of those businesses are services not retail – multiple dentists, several beauticians, etc, so no real crossover or synergy. Very very little other retail, either. There’s virtually no walk-by (though it has crazy good free parking, which in San Francisco can’t be understated). And while it is on a very busy driving street, we’re right near the apex of a minor bend in the road that, when coupled to the giant street trees in front means we’re essentially invisible to cars driving one direction.

On the other hand: cheap rent (by San Francisco standards)

Outpost does “fine” – I make a tiny profit from running it every year, but nothing one would get excited by on its own. The main store is what pays my way in life.

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I could move Outpost, certainly. Nine or so blocks away on the same street is a much bigger commercial district, with far more retail (though still not really a ton), but with less easy parking. But rent would increase a ton, with a big “???” on if sales would increase for sure to offset it.

A lot of that is in the stubborn periodicals-driven nature of Outpost – will that change in a fundamental way with a nine block move? I’d hope so, but I’m not actually certain how baked it is into the actual neighborhood itself.

Because here’s the nut of this: while I am utterly bullish on the medium of comics, I am exceedingly bearish on the near-term future of the periodical market. Because when it comes down to it, I really no longer trust my largest suppliers. The biggest publishers are all travelling in the wrong directions in their periodical business in my estimation.

The fact of the matter is that Marvel, DC, and Image are the majority of sales in the Direct Market – more than ¾ of the dollars come from those three, and this is nearly as true in my book-oriented main store as it is for the periodical-oriented Outpost. But, historically, when one of those publishers is going in the wrong direction, the other two are trying to pull things in the right one. I don’t think that’s happening in 2018 at all, and I especially worry for 2019 and 2020 as corporate interests that control Marvel and DC aren’t showing any external signs that they’re going to do anything but double-down on the kinds of cash-grabbing short-term gain strategies that put us in this place to begin with.

With Marvel my opinion probably shouldn’t be any surprise – I have written extensively about what I see as the problems at Marvel – but let’s try to summarize cleanly here: Marvel’s publishing and marketing plans are far more about trying to get people to buy extensions and add ons, than on the core product itself. Whether that is through variant covers (Fantastic Four #1 has a staggering 25 non-exclusive covers), or title-packing of storylines (“Spider-Geddon” has at least seven distinct series or one-shots attached to it; “Return of Wolverine” has at least eighteen different comics stretching the story released before Logan even “returns”, etc.)

I strongly think this is an extraordinarily dangerous way to sell periodicals because it is systematically putting a greater pressure on a few people to support sales – those twenty-five Fantastic Four #1 covers are each $5.99! – and while it apparently led to initial orders of over 300k, I think that we all know that by issue #5, Fantastic Four isn’t going to be selling over 50k max (and I suspect it will be a lot closer to 35k)

pq_TAW-270-2.pngTo me, as a working retailer, while the money from this kind of stunt-driven publishing strategy can be alright, what I’m actually looking for is Marvel turning their general current peak of 50k readers into 60k or 70k or 80k or 100k or more – these are world-known characters who have millions of fans, so it’s kind of preposterous to me that the average ongoing Marvel comic gets outsold by Saga or Oblivion Song (even nationally!) – no matter just how good those comics may be. It’s much much healthier in the mid- and long-term to have more customers buying, rather than trying to treat your static and/or shrinking customer base as ATM machines.

There’s also a really pernicious problem resurging in comics of the return of speculators, and the way that impacts and changes the ways retailers purchase and rack books. Though, more accurately, I think, is that it is an influx of arbitrageurs who are looking for the quick in-and-out flip from whatever is “hot” this week, rather than speculators who were holding on to quantities for weeks or months. Arbitrage is, in many ways, more grinding on the gears of ordering and Direct Market commerce, because it is far less predictable or counterable. At the end of the day, however, it’s probably trivially easy to corner the local market on specific books because initial order quantities are so low, as are overprints on those print runs – for under $500, I’m fairly confident that an arbitrageur could buy 100% of the rack copies of almost any comic book released in the city of San Francisco.

Fantastic Four #1Comic Con Exclusive CR: Marvel Entertainment
Fantastic Four #1 Comic Con Exclusive CR: Marvel Entertainment

Virtually all of Marvel’s sale tactics directly play into the hands of the arbitragers, empowering them and enriching them. Certainly stores could (and some DO) react by getting more involved in flipping tactics themselves, but any even modest student of history should recognize that such tactics nearly destroyed the entire comics industry not just once, but twice, between the b&w Bust of ’87 (or there abouts) and the color comics Speculation bubble of the 90s. And when I see retailers collectively buying 300k+ copies of the first issue of a book that is going to settle down to about an eighth of that, well it makes me think of history and how those who don’t learn it are doomed to repeat it.

However, it seems to me that retailers today, unlike in ’87 and ’93, are even more poorly capitalized, and way over-leveraged in terms of risk and reward, and that if we do have another Seismic shift, it is almost certainly going to have a much larger impact on most Direct Market retailers than it did the last two times. This is a giant red blinking warning sign that it appears to me that Marvel is not only ignoring, but is also putting their foot on the gas pedal even harder.

Then there’s the actions of the parent company, where Disney is licensing out the production of comics material to more and more other publishers; this hardly seems the sign of a company firmly dedicated to the growth and expansion of their audience, and more like one that’s trying to maximize profit for the moment with little regard towards a sustainable future.

So from my point of view, Marvel appears to be very happy to trade breadth of customer base in exchange for depth of purchase. That’s the opposite of everything I know succeeds from thirty years of retailing, and isn’t leading us any place that is healthy.

If it was only Marvel, well, we’d be miserable, but we could probably work around it, but DC is also heading in what I think are the wrong directions. While DC’s midlist is similarly in tatters, at least DC has the relative luxury of a few “prestige” books running at any given moment. But of course it is the midlist that keeps stores alive month-in and month-out.

DC, of course, has also taken several thoroughly confounding actions, like the exclusive-to-Walmart product featuring new, strongly Direct Market-desired material (Walmart customers have never heard of Tom King or Brian Michael Bendis – DM customers value those creators dearly) or the weird way they slow-walked taking returns on the (clearly) mis-solicited Batman #50; how on earth did it take two weeks to make that decision?? It isn’t even that either one of those things are industry-breaking, but they are moves that really make it appear that decades of established policies are no longer real or meaningful or solid. However, it wasn’t as though Adventures of Superman #500 was industry breaking in and of itself in 1993, but it was absolutely a key straw for the collapse.

As the historical number two publisher, DC has always had to try harder to get even a fraction of the respect that Marvel gets from the Direct Market retailer, so watching traditional bedrock principles (Like “All Markets should have access to the same material” or “If we mis-solict a book, it is always returnable. Always.”) crumble slowly away is wildly disconcerting to this observer. When you couple that with what appears to be an increasing amount of “Marvel-style” tactics (like the hated-by-retailers weekly-comic-without-returnability or what appears to be an increasing push for variant covers), it becomes harder to trust DC is looking out for us in the way they spent decades building.

And this is with DC being owned by a movie company, which (ostensibly) understands creative work, and audience building. What happens when AT&T takes over? That’s as a screwed up, rapacious, claw-every-penny-you-can kind of company as virtually any you’re likely to find here in the middle of Late Stage Capitalism. The pressure to maximize revenue is likely going to be immense.

And then there is Image, the living epitome of “throw stuff at the wall and see if anything sticks”. In the last three years, my point-of-sale says there have been one hundred and seventy-eight new issue #1s from Image (no, I didn’t remove Variant covers), and just nine of those have sold to our definition of “hit” status (fifty or more copies sold) – about 1 in 20.

pq_TAW-270-3.pngAnd while that’s not necessarily a poor ratio in and of itself (DC is 16 out of 295 in the same time; Marvel is 22 out of 400), the difference is a Marvel or DC title usually has an easily definable audience (ex: “people who like the DC universe”) that gives it an additional commercial boost and a fairly predictable range within which order. That is to say, there isn’t much of a frame of reference in which to order comics that don’t have a lot of/any reference to one another – a really shitty Marvel comic will sell at least five copies because of the Marvel name/connection. A really shitty Image comic might sell five copies, or it might sell 1, or it might sell none, because there’s not any real “brand awareness”. This makes it a real random crapshoot to order Image books.

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And of course, because they are all creator-owned, even if you succeed in building an audience from hand-selling and passion, you have no idea what the production schedule might be – once promising series like Bitch Planet have sowed the seeds of their own sales irrelevance through the basic sin of not producing more work in a timely fashion, or we run risks like losing our single best-selling periodical for an entire year, like we’re about to with Saga. And fair enough that they want to take a break, but at least with Batman, you know it will still be published every month without fail, right? Brian K Vaughan & Fiona Staples don’t owe me anything, but losing that triple digit seller is going to be a huge financial hit on the bottom line.

Either way, Image is only very very rarely a thing to Depend On. And being able to depend on your partners is what keeps a store regularly paying its bills, its staff, its rent and power and water and everything else that goes into keeping to doors open.

At my main store we’ve been able to build a dependable base by the steady (if occasionally frustrating) turn of the graphic novel, but Outpost resists the book format. If periodicals “went away”, my main store would be “fine” (not exactly) – but Outpost would be 100% doomed. It isn’t that I think periodicals are “going away”, but I also don’t anticipate much other than a continuing slow leak in audience size for what we’ve always taken as the traditional market of periodicals (superhero comics from Marvel and DC) specifically because the publishers don’t appear to be interested in doing what it would take to grow their audiences for the long-term.

Certainly, current publishing tactics aren’t working especially well – I barely make a profit at Outpost today, and since I suspect Marvel and DC will continue to chase away readers through over-production and other reader-unfriendly methods, it’s hard to muster the will to sign another multi-year lease without faith in those suppliers to change their behaviors.

I’ve got about a month before I have to make my final decision. This is a decision which would not be hard at my main store – the book market is “dependable” and stable and generally pretty predictable; but the future feels much more hazy for any store where the majority of commerce comes from traditional periodical sources.


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.

35 COMMENTS

  1. When I stopped working at a comics store in 2010, I predicted periodicals had 10 years left. I think we’re on track to meet that target, more or less.

  2. Hibbs: …because the publishers don’t appear to be interested in doing what it would take to grow their audiences for the long-term.

    So, despite what they may say, Marvel and DC both view the periodical format and market as being in long-term, terminal decline and are operating accordingly.

  3. I’m all on board with most of what you’re putting out there – my only quibble is with where cause and effect lie. True, Marvel and DC are now beholden to the ever important corporate quarterly earnings now and arrived there without long term growth practices in place – so they were losing before they had a chance to win.

    The simple fact is, Marvel and DC are reacting to what the direct market (and other markets) inputs as data. The industry, like you said, has always been quick to make that fast dollar than invest in long term solutions, and that feedback loop has become deadly and terminal. What I see from Marvel and DC now are desperate looks at sustaining the current market until they can (hopefully) help build the next one.

  4. Brandon, you’re clearly correct that Marvel and DC are responding to retailer buying habits (not mine, but….) — making the situation worse; but I firmly believe you can’t have a chicken unless you first have an egg :)

    -B

  5. Oh, and I’ll agree that they caused this by firing the first salvo. But so many of us retailers are so quick to jump on board with the tactics – thus proving them successful. The inputs NEED to be different from our industry. But honestly? I don’t think we’re a market of growth and haven’t been for a long time. The direct market for the most part, caters to the converted, when we should be converting. The short term solutions come about because we aren’t great at reaching out, and tend to look in way more than we should.

  6. David Gabriel clearly runs the show at Marvel, because it’s hard to see editorial sealing their own fate by coming up with the strategies like seven spin off books to each minor crossover. It’sdepressing as hell as he seems to see regular comic fans as rubes set to be fleeced for as long as he can keep the con running.

    The outsourcing thing has got to be truly scary for anyone working under Cebulski – Its been an obvious threat since the “unfinished business”/”Heroes Reborn” deal in the 90s And the financial incentive of getting rid of all that administrative overhead in exchange for a reliable licensing fee is only going to get bigger for the Disney beancounters as the company’s policies continue to shrink the market.

  7. “exclusive-to-Walmart product featuring new, strongly Direct Market-desired material (Walmart customers have never heard of Tom King or Brian Michael Bendis – DM customers value those creators dearly”

    I would bet cash money that the reason for that is the distributor.

    In order to get into Wal-Mart, DC had to go through a third party, the vendor who stocks the collectibles stuff at Wal-Mart. So it’s likely that they had to give the vendor something, well, collectible as an incentive to stock them.

    (That said, I think DC is making a lot of right moves generally, audience building wise, at least compared to every one else.)

  8. The outsourcing makes sense to me. Marvel is owned by Disney, but the comic production is more or less it’s own operation. They aren’t being given extra resources by being a part of Disney, and so they focus on their own brand, for the most part, unless there is a compelling monetary reason to do otherwise.

  9. To me the problems are price, the reader unfreindly tactics you mentioned and a new one: realization that I don’t have to go for first run. I’ve been picking up Future Quest in the dollar bin at Newbury Comics and while I like the story there is no way I could have afforded (then or now) to gamble 3.99 on it. I knew then that it was a blip on the radar and would fade quickly and then I’d be able to afford it. DC has rebooted too many times for me to care about characters who will change soon anyway and marvel embracing of fascism with Captain Marvel and ends-justify-the-means with most of their other characters leaves me feeling out in the cold as far as they go. When he was made the writer of Spider-Man, Dan Scott went out of his way take shot after shot at readers, so even though the FF is one of my all time favorite titles I won’t touch what he writes (and he by the way once told me not to read his stuff anyway).
    On the other hand I subscribe to Knights of the Dinner Table and would pay the 5.99 price tag on it. The characters do grow and change, they are sophisticated and the title itself is full of extras.
    Bottom line is that it’s not worth it to buy new comics. Not for me anyway. The stories are padded, the characterization inconsistent and I can’t afford them.

  10. I think it makes sense for Disney to license out some books because Marvel is not good at making and marketing them, like the Artist’s Editions books. It looks like you already make up your mind to close Outpost. I didn’t read any positive reason to keep the store.

  11. Surely the issue here is less to do with periodicals than it is to do with brick and mortar in general. Periodicals will obviously go the same way as fiction serialized in The Strand; and while crime fiction publishers may have enjoyed getting a Georges Simenon book 3 times a year, that’s not standard either. I can’t help but feel that some Jane Jacobs styled city planning is a key component, but even then, the idea of regular monthly content doesn’t really fit anyone’s consumer profile any more. If anything, a new Marvel movie every three months makes me not particularly care (whereas a new Oliver Assayas movie might make me care).

    I dunno. Just chucking in two cents, I guess.

  12. The main focus of this particular column seems to be whether or not to move or close the store. I would hate to see a comic book store close. If you are making a small profit at the current location and the parking is great I would stay there and stay open. Moving seems to be a bad idea with an increase in rent and limitations to parking that would kill the store altogether. In the end, the choice is yours. I personally buy my books in periodical form rarely in book form unless the speculators come and clean the shelf of all issues. (Grrrrr!) One last thing; you say that your current strip has many businesses that all have a waiting area of some kind. Maybe take a few books that would just end up in the quarter bin and put a big sticker on the back of them advertising your store and give them to the other businesses for free. And then every other month or so, do it again. One of my favorite things is word of mouth.

  13. Move Outpost to the other location with more retail presence to see if that jars things enough/catches some of that sweet, sweet Infinity War-gravy train to maybe get it poised to deal with the challenges upcoming for the periodical market?

    A change is as good as a rest? Seriously, don’t ask me.

    Comics died when candy bar advertisers pulled out.

    Joking aside, tough call. Do you update somewhere to see what you decide Brian?

  14. Brian,

    First time (I think). Long time. I always enjoy your column.

    What’s the expected length of the upcoming lease? Any chance you could renew one year at a time? Just thinking from a fan’s perspective (without any skin in the game). As most would, it’s never fun to see a store close.

  15. Keep up the tough fight of comics retailing! I’d hate to see any fans of comics lose their store. That said, that’s me as a fan of comics. Maybe the economics of even staying open at the current location aren’t good, so that’s definitely a concern. Also, thanks for explaining the practices of arbitragers so simply. I had never read of the distinction in practices between them and long term speculators. Honestly, I hate that arbitragers snatch up every new #1 to throw on eBay. It destroys any potential new reader market (the local store bookshelf) and ties up the new comics in a higher cost market for only people who know where to go (specific searches on ebay). And I think it places an extreme burden on me to pre-order every comic book out of fear that there may be no shelf copies after Wednesday. Essentially as a regular reader, I have to speculate on which books the speculators will snatch up.

  16. Interesting column as usual, Brian. I’m sorry to hear your situation is what it is. Non-returnability continues to be the goose that laid the golden eggs from the publisher perspective, especially for the big 2. If, as you state, every store with a Diamond account knows that it can sell at least five copies of everything Marvel publishes, then it’s likely that every store will order ten copies of everything Marvel publishes so it will have a few copies for the rack. Multiply those numbers by five, ten or twenty for a first issue of ANY series and it becomes clear why David Gabriel does what he does. Content is almost an afterthought since, as long as retailers have to order based upon perceived interest, there is absolutely zero risk in publishing. Marvel can simply cancel and reboot any series before it can become unprofitable. It’s easy and fair to criticize Gabriel for his short-term tactics, but without them we’d probably see a Marvel-implosion a la Marvel in the late 50s or DC in the late 70s when a large percentage of the staff was cut and many monthly titles were cancelled. It may well be that Gabriel’s choice is between either doing what’s good for the long-term health of the industry or keeping his friends gainfully employed. If that’s the case, then I’d probably do the exact same thing if I were him.

    And if retailers ever take a stand and decide not to order massive quantities of a new first issue from the big 2, then its perceived scarcity gets the attention of the arbitrageurs (who don’t read anything except the print runs). They step in and give it a second life on ebay, scooping up and slabbing every available copy of a comic that nobody wants to read. And if a retailer happens to have unsold copies of what the arbitrageurs suddenly deem to be of value, they are chastised for selling it for a penny over the cover price even though, thanks to non-returnability, it is their property and they should be able to sell it for market price. The actions of the arbitrageurs then make retailers wary of under-ordering the big 2’s next first issue on the Previews order form even when your gut tells you that nobody will want to buy it.

    Good luck with your decision because it sure sounds like a tough one either way.

  17. I’m not sure it will let me link here, so if the article doesn’t attach Google “Politico Denver Post”. It’s a good article relevant to all print industries. The author outlines some of the economic incentives for publishers to run something into the ground if it’s long-term outlook isn’t rosy. Don’t think for a second Disney or some other corporation wouldn’t do this to comic books as a medium they use. They can deploy the intellectual property rights in more profitable areas without sustaining the comic books themselves. Best case scenario for Marvel characters might be licensing.

    https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/05/13/denver-post-profits-newspaper-industry-218360

  18. Great article, Brian – thanks.

    For me, I’d add Marvel’s “keep away” pricing to the list of their self-destructive, short-term tactics. Perfect example is the new Fantastic Four. I’d be interested in buying a well-done monthly FF book for $4 a month, but Marvel habitually jacks up the price of their first issues – in this case to $6 – which is well beyond what I’m willing to pay – for any issue, let alone a new series. (Yes yes I know – there were extra pages I didn’t want or ask for)

    It’s like they don’t care about building a regular readership as long as they get a one-off revenue spike. Too many examples of this in recent years – with #1s and anniversary/renumbering stunts. it makes a buyer cautious of committing to any series.

  19. Great column as always. If your fate rests solely in Marvel and DC changing their ways and being more long term thinkers, you should close it. Even if they could, that ship has sailed. I think things like the underperformance of Man Of steel (with the lack of variants) prove they can’t go back even if they wanted to.

    I haven’t had any respect for either of those publishers for many years but, Image on the other hand, man that’s a disappointment to me. They have jumped on the variant bandwagon (seriously, Walking Dead needs blind variants???) and launch like 8 books a month that immediately nosedive. I used to view a creator being published at Image as a quality “stamp of approval” but no longer.

    I also hate to see any shop close but I’d bail.

  20. Mark, you’re here every week to say you can’t afford to buy comics anymore. I suggest you check on your public library and see if they have a graphic novels section. And seek out the sites that have free public domain comics from the past.

    I get the impression that, like a lot of fans, you want to keep reading Marvel and DC superhero periodicals, but want them to be like they were when you were a kid — that is, before Marvel “embraced fascism.” And before they became ridiculously expensive.

  21. Bill, I have the comics I read as a kid, I can read them when I wish. I still have all of them. I can recognize the bad stories then as I recognize them now. The main difference being the price and the tone. I could always stomach a few bad stories and art when they were .25 cents, there didn’t have to be a lot of care and planning and you really didn’t have to make sure to follow ten titles to get one story. I can get the graphics novels from the library, but if the stories aren’t very good anyway…
    Look at the character situations in the big two. Right now the Inhuman’s are being slaughtered due to marketing failure. Captain America took over the entire country and outed himself as HYDRA’s chief agent, putting the Red Skull to shame in the process, now that’s done marvel is running away from that storyline as fast as they can, I’ve only heard it dealt with in Cap’s own comic. Suddenly Ross isn’t the Red Hulk anymore and no one remembers that? At DC can you really tell me what DC continuity is right now and whether or not Catwoman has a daughter or remembers what Zatanna and the rest did to her, or even that they did it to her? For that matter are the amazon’s still kill crazed harpies who spent centuries raping and killing men and selling their male children for weapons? Did anything at all come from Lois outing Superman’s secret identity?
    I don’t want comics to be what they were, but I do want them to be a lot better than they are and right now I see more marketing and merchandizing than stories. The FF weren’t brought back because of the story potential they have, they were brought back due to movie rights. As I mentioned the Inhuman’s aren’t being killed because the story is interesting, they are being killed because they failed to take the place of the X-men. I want stories, not stunts, not marketing surveyed and focus group tested concept stories that will advance the corporate bottom line, but stories with a little heart and a little skill and a full, honest effort from the writer and artist. Right now I’m not seeing much of that from marvel or dc. Oh and I would like them to be affordable as well.

  22. I grew up as a Marvel Zombie and it says something when I buy around 10 books a week and last week only two of them were Marvel. Captain America is my favorite super hero and I’m not buying the new book because it is just awful. It shouldn’t be this hard to write good, entertaining stories, should it?

  23. “DC, of course, has also taken several thoroughly confounding actions, like the exclusive-to-Walmart product featuring new, strongly Direct Market-desired material (Walmart customers have never heard of Tom King or Brian Michael Bendis – DM customers value those creators dearly)”

    The purpose of the Walmart initiative was to introduce the comics (and creators) to new readers, people beyond the longtime superhero addicts in the DM. I don’t understand why retailers are so offended by that.

    New readers! Horrors!

  24. Mark, I’d say it’s time for you to find a new hobby. The content of Marvel and DC is NOT going to revert to being like it was in the “good old days.” And they’re certainly not going to drop their prices to a quarter. I’d suggest you look beyond current superhero pamphlets — and graphic novels featuring superheroes — and explore other kinds of comics.

    That’s what I did in the late ’90s, when I burned out on Marvel and DC. By that point, the comics were no longer aimed at me. They were aimed at Gen X’ers who wanted violent, ruthless anti-heroes — “badasses,” as these readers approvingly called them. I found a whole world of comics, new and old, that didn’t glorify badasses. I don’t feel I’m missing anything when I’m in a comic shop and see rows of ugly, overpriced superhero floppies.

  25. In many ways selling graphic novels is easier than selling periodicals. You order Watchmen, sell Watchmen, reorder Watchmen. Rinse, wash, repeat. Graphic novels have a sizeable profit margin, a small shelf profile, and it is easy to discount excess or undesired inventory. Periodicals are a lot harder. Like selling ice cream without any refrigeration. Fickle customer base, short shelf life, damage prone. It sounds to me that you prefer the graphic novel format, have been at your profession for a long time, and maybe just don’t have the patience or the ulcer medication for the grind of selling floppies anymore even though you’re still profiting. If you were the only game in town there might be more of a sense of obligation about remaining open, but being in the Bay Area, someone else can sell your periodicals if you no longer really want to.

  26. I hear that a lot Bill, in essence it’s time for me to shut up and go away. But I won’t. On the other hand since I can’t afford comics anymore I don’t think you can call it a hobby. In many ways I’m the person who’s missing form the comic book stores, the one who can make a slight difference in the sales figures. There are a lot like me and many have found new hobbies, but like me would come back if the reason was good enough. All those readers that were driven away by marvels storylines and DC constant reboots are the ones who aren’t there to make the difference in the sales figures. I’m the reader who might come back if there were a reason, but that reason is not multiple number 1 issues and stunts masquerading as stories. I don’t long so much for the good old days as much as I demand the present day get a lot better before I spend money.

  27. “In many ways selling graphic novels is easier than selling periodicals. You order Watchmen, sell Watchmen, reorder Watchmen. Rinse, wash, repeat.”

    I think Hibbs has said this more than once, but not all graphic novels are Watchmen. Most GNs – most books, come to that – don’t have much more of a shelf life than periodicals do.

  28. “Most GNs – most books, come to that – don’t have much more of a shelf life than periodicals do.”

    That’s especially true of Marvel. I recently went to a comic shop and tried to order a copy of “Elektra: Assassin” (one of the most acclaimed GNs of the ’80s) only to find it was out of print. Thanks, Marvel!

    I know “E:A” was originally published as a miniseries, and I could track down the individual issues — if I wanted to pay a small fortune and acquire more floppies, which I don’t.

  29. Heh, it was literally even linked in the body of the column itself: http://www.comicsbeat.com/tilting-at-windmills-255-the-long-and-diminishing-tail-of-graphic-novel-series/

    @George “The purpose of the Walmart initiative was to introduce the comics (and creators) to new readers, people beyond the longtime superhero addicts in the DM. I don’t understand why retailers are so offended by that. New readers! Horrors!”

    One more try: for “new readers”, ANY creator is new. There’s not even any reason to especially think that new readers are able (yet) to differentiate between creators (I know it took me several years of reading to even understand who did what and how and why) — so it’s pretty darn clear that the INTENT of “DM faves” writing NEW material for Wally world is to get DM customers moving channels. THAT is what we’re “offended” by. *NOT* “new readers” (seriously?), but the attempt to poach existing ones.

    -B

  30. “what I’m actually looking for is Marvel turning their general current peak of 50k readers into 60k or 70k or 80k or 100k or more –”

    In the ’80s, Marvel canceled any book that sold less than 125K. Good thing Marvel has movies and merchandising to offset their crappy comic book sales.

  31. You pretty much echoed my own experience. After 22 1/2 years, I closed The Comix Gallery. While I love comics, there just wasn’t enough quality product coming in from the big two to keep people reading much past that initial “discovery” phase. While I kept a pretty good indie selection, they make up only 25-30% of sales. While we could handle either Marvel or DC going through a difficult editorial phase, when both are publishing uninventive, dull stuff, and it’s hard to see much potential. This has been going on for at least a couple of years now, and it seems as though the media divisions have left the comics in a severe fallow period. I closed shop at the end of June, and the only regret I have is that I was about half a dozen years short of retirement. Good luck, and I hope you find a way. You’ve always been one of the reasoned voices here and at the CBIA, and if anyone can do it, you can.

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