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  1. #1
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    Default CBR: Tilting at Windmills - May 20, 2011

    Brian Hibbs is back with a look at how the combination of an economic depression combined with the Big Two publishers' over-production and poor scheduling is slowly strangling the life from the Direct Market.


    Full article here.

  2. #2

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    I'm not a retailer. I'm barely hanging on as a "few comics a month just for the sake of the art" reader.

    And this coming from a guy who used to spend an easy 60 a month when the books were a buck a piece. I have also worked in the publishing side of things a while back too. Right when the giant speculation boom started collapsing. So, I've seen it from both sides.

    My point? A few of them. Number one is I can see your point on trades. Trade waiting is another way of saying "I'll forget about it and never buy this book again." Honestly. There are many titles I thought I would trade wait for. And you know what trumps trade waiting? Half price or quarter sales at conventions. You can pick up a whole years worth of reading for pennies.

    Number two? I would realistically spend $2.99 on comics if they were still exciting. They aren't. The art is (with exceptions) cardboard and boring. The editorial strangle hold is so apparent on mainstream titles you might as well be watching TV. I used to see the X-Men change costumes and locations and all of that so often...and that was FUN. Seeing Cyclops in the same garb for three years is not. Seeing Magneto join the team AGAIN is not. Seeing third string artists draw top line books is NOT.

    When is the last time we saw a Lee or a Silvestri? Seriously? You can't tell me they aren't out there. Are Marvel and DC just not paying enough to get new artists away from gaming and what not? Because that's what we need. Fresh. New. Exciting.

    Maybe my tastes are a little old school. But NOTHING on the market right now is anywhere close to that. That just AMAZING feeling that Uncanny had during it's heyday.

    Just my opinion.

  3. #3
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    Default

    Not really comic related as much, but on the book store front...

    i've worked part-time at one for years...and there's always the concern by our customer base that we're gonna close...
    this same base comes in and buys a $1 coffee with free refills and sits and reads books, magazines and newspapers for free, never really buying much...
    papers and mags, once they've been read by someone are rarely purchased by someone else because they end up being tattered typically after one page through...

    then they sit and complain we might close and blame everyone but themselves...

    it's their choice and our mistake i guess for letting them, i just wish people understood completely the problem...

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by drinkblatzbeer View Post
    ...there's always the concern by our customer base that we're gonna close...this same base comes in and buys a $1 coffee with free refills and sits and reads books, magazines and newspapers for free, never really buying much...
    This makes me think of the people who ask me "Well why don't you have a sofa or chairs in here?"

    And I always say "Well, because I'd rather have, y'know, another rack full of product I can sell ya' -- a sofa can't pay the rent!"


    -B

  5. #5
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    Two points-

    1. I agree that the stop-start scheduling that the publishers use has to end. It is ridiculous.
    2. The trade-waiting game. I get the feeling that both Marvel and DC have this weird "step-child" vibe with their TPB and HCs. What I mean is that both publishers seem to have upped the output on these items but not the promotion. I keep steady track of the TPBs and HCs I want and I pull them when Previews comes out. But I think I'm a rarity for this. Just like Marvel and DC go to CBR and Newsarama to hype their newest monthly book, why can't they hype a worthwhile TPB or HC that'll get released in a few days? Just a thought

    But I do agree, trade waiting does make you forget the hype and the motivation to get those books. I vastly prefer trades. I'm completely done with singles. Pump out less material, up the quality and include the promotion.

  6. #6

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    Marvel's output right now reminds me (unfortunately) of the 18/24 months before they first went public. Put anything and everything out that can be put on 32 pages of paper and sling it at the wall. They've even taken to pulling out all the inventory material they've been sitting on for years and slapping that together.

    After they went public they nearly collapsed.

  7. #7
    Elder Member Blade X's Avatar
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    I work at a comic book store and I have to say that I agree with every single thing that Brian has said in this column. The Big 2 are flooding the market with unnecessary books that either (a) don't/won't sell or (b) are redundant (featuring the same over exposed 12 characters or knockoff versions of existing characters).
    Last edited by Blade X; 05-20-2011 at 11:31 AM.

  8. #8
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    Default Trade waiting

    When Iron Man 2.0 was announced I was interested in buying it. When Amazon had the trade for pre-order long before issue #1 was even out I decided I would just trade wait. Then I quickly realized I had a long list of collected editions I wanted to read before Iron Man 2.0. So I concluded I didn't really need to read it at all.

  9. #9
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    "It kills me, it literally kills me as I watch publisher after publisher, time and time again, walk up to their customers and say to their face, 'Please stop buying my comics!'."

    You have literally died time after time? You can make your money back by selling your life rights - because that is *incredible*!

  10. #10
    Senior Member Kid Kyoto's Avatar
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    This column is always a pleasure to read.

    I switched to trades ages ago, when I do pick up the rare single issue it goes right to Goodwill when I'm done. I haven't opened the old long boxes in ages.

    Amazon has made trade-waiting a breeze, I might add something to my cart months early and then order it when it comes out, usually after I've seen reviews.

    Of course none of this is good for comic shops.

    The biggest and best of them like Midtown in NYC I can browse in and find things I never knew existed or wanted to look at before ordering, but most of the ones in my area (Washington DC) are small and unevenly stocked. Anything they have I either don't want or already ordered.
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  11. #11
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    Default What if Marvel's really being smart...

    I'd LOVE Brian's thoughts on this theory I have.

    Like everyone else, I used to think that Marvel's behavior was insane: Publishing MORE material into a down market? WTF?

    But, what if Marvel decided that (a) the population of customers they could access via the DM couldn't easily be grown, (b) that the DM is dying and will basically cease to exist [With the exception of big stores in large markets] in the next few years and (c) that digital was the only way to really grow the overall number of customers in the market.

    I don't think any of those are silly assumptions to make about the system. Sure there are wrinkles to them, but I certainly haven't seen any evidence that those things aren't true.

    If Marvel accepted those, what they're doing makes complete sense. Publish more and force the other publishers to keep up if they want to maintain their market share in a fixed or declining market. Marvel already seems to have more fans as evidenced by their ability to be able to publish more books that sell (even at low levels) than DC can. If Marvel adds another marginal book, and it sells 20K copies, they can do that more profitably than Dark Horse can add another marginal book that will sell 5K copies.

    Eventually what you'd see is a competitor like Dark Horse reduce staff and the size of their publication line. And, that's pretty much what happened a few weeks ago. So, Marvel fills that void left by a few Dark Horse books with more marginal titles that sell 15K and, again, the other publishers have to keep up.

    Of course, as Brian's article points out, this behavior is DEADLY for the DM, but what if Marvel has decided that there isn't anything they can really do to save the DM? And, if Marvel reduced their publishing output to be more DM friendly, DC and other publishers would exploit that vacuum to grow their market share.

    Then, when the only DM shops we have left are the big, nationally known LCSs in places like NYC, SF, etc. Marvel can approach digital without worrying about how day/date sales affect the DM....because the DM is dead in most parts of the country.

    Sure, this kills the DM, but if this happened, Marvel would enter the digital age with a larger share and would be better positioned to "win" the digital game and they're already ahead of the other publishers in terms of digital strategy: their app is on all the "top app lists", they have more digital apps, they have those regular 99 cent sales, etc.

    Again, this is all speculation, but this scenario certainly makes all kinds of business sense to me. I'd love Brian to tell me I'm crazy. :)
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  12. #12
    Elder Member Blade X's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Elliott View Post
    Marvel's output right now reminds me (unfortunately) of the 18/24 months before they first went public. Put anything and everything out that can be put on 32 pages of paper and sling it at the wall. They've even taken to pulling out all the inventory material they've been sitting on for years and slapping that together.

    After they went public they nearly collapsed.
    This is just a theory (as well as a bit of "mind reading") on my part, but I think that a possible reason why Marvel has increased the number of books that they publish is because they are trying to keep the Mouse out of the House. In other words, Marvel (the publishing division) is trying to keep their profits high enough by putting out as much product as possible with both a higher and lower price point in order to keep Disney (a) happy (b) from taking a closer look at and sticking their noses into the publishing division and/or (c) shutting down the publishing division.

  13. #13
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    I don't think Marvel is actually trying to flood the market in order to bust their competitors. I don't think its naive or incorrect to say that Marvel knows the more diverse the market is, the larger the customer base will be and that means more potential customers for Marvel. So I don't think Marvel wants to bust other publishers who fill in the genres and niches that Marvel ignores or is not able to compete in.

    Besides all the "bluster" that Marvel puts out about being better then DC, at the end of the day the industry is one big neighborhood in my opinion, and you actually don't want to see your neighbors lose their home due to a foreclosure.

    Its clear Marvel is trying to sell as much product as possible and they think they're doing it the right way. I get that they are trying to catch any potential movie customers with all of their Cap and Thor material but why not just reprint some really good old material instead of flooding the market with new stuff that may not be that good. There's plenty of old material that even hardcore readers haven't picked up.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blade X View Post
    This is just a theory (as well as a bit of "mind reading") on my part, but I think that a possible reason why Marvel has increased the number of books that they publish is because they are trying to keep the Mouse out of the House. In other words, Marvel (the publishing division) is trying to keep their profits high enough by putting out as much product as possible with both a higher and lower price point in order to keep Disney (a) happy (b) from taking a closer look at and sticking their noses into the publishing division and/or (c) shutting down the publishing division.
    That's a possibility but I think Marvel and Disney know that publishing is just peanuts at the end of the day. Its all about licensing. And unless Marvel publishing is losing a ton of money, they'll get ignored. Marvel just needs to keep the brands alive and produce material that can later be adapted to other more profitable formats.

  15. #15
    Elder Member Blade X's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Axelca22 View Post
    When Iron Man 2.0 was announced I was interested in buying it. When Amazon had the trade for pre-order long before issue #1 was even out I decided I would just trade wait. Then I quickly realized I had a long list of collected editions I wanted to read before Iron Man 2.0. So I concluded I didn't really need to read it at all.
    IRON MAN 2.0 is a perfect example of an unnecessary spinoff book featuring a redundant/knockoff character that can't sustain and/or support his own solo comic. Not to mention the fact that the book sucks and is boring as hell.

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