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  1. #1
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    Default CBR: Tilting at Windmills - Dec 15, 2011

    Brian Hibbs examines the idea that comics can turn the corner and find a greater audience, as well as the problem of "waiting for the trade" from the perspective of retailers and publishers.


    Full article here.

  2. #2
    In the Evil Force of Evil Chiasm's Avatar
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    One thing in the article that really struck true for me is how hard it is to sell comics to people who don't have the luxury of a comic shop near them. I've literally got two shops within 200 miles of me. One of them is a traditional comic shop that has nearly shuttered its doors numerous times in the last ten years and is only staying afloat now thanks to diversifying into things like Magic Cards. But even then its barely making it. The other is a national chain store called Hastings that only recently got into the comic biz and one that if my store is any indication won't be in it more than a few years.

    I grew up 70 miles from any comic store but back then you could buy comics in convenience stores. Many no longer have that luxury and many like me are at severe risk of not having access to comics in the near future except digitally which I'm highly unenthusiastic about. Reading a book on my kindle - yes, reading a comic - no. If a long time comic reader like me isn't going to go hunt digital comics what chance is there for someone who doesn't even know they might like comics as was talked about in the article.

  3. #3
    I like good comics. ScotsScribbler's Avatar
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    Great column again.

    I definitely think a part of the problem is that there aren't enough shops and a investment like the $40mil or even a large fraction of that would be huge for the entire industry, and a better bet than digital.

    The problem with that is that you won't find enough people who are competent, sociable and balanced enough in their tastes to be able to run a successful customer friendly LCS.

    Yes books are cheaper, and recommendations are probably more accurate if limited on Amazon, but you lose being surprised by something new.

    People need places to go on the high street.

    I do not understand why Marvel or DC hasn't snapped you up and made you head of progress or whatever.

    I used to shop at a huge book store, that went out of business because people like me would browse and buy stuff cheaper off Amazon. I always assumed others would pick up the slack for me as I was a broke student but it went bust.

    Even then I was actually paying for stuff off the internet, and it shocks me how few people of any profession or age buy anything anymore, and happily pirate it instead.

    So now, I pay more wherever and whenever I can. It's like supporting a sports team. Some of us would rather watch for free at the pub and contribute nothing. Others are happy to buy the shirt every year, while the biggest fans buy a season ticket and go to the games.

    Comic books is my team and I try to support as many shops as I can, wherever I go.

    I know people who enjoy comics as fairweather fans, but they find that there aren't enough good ones to justify a visit to the LCS. They need to put better products on the shelves.

    I very often have money to spend but there is very little that isn't superhero shit. And I don't buy more often than I do.

  4. #4
    Junior Member MikeCr's Avatar
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    Great stuff Brian.

    My personal feeling is that the "woe is me" narrative of declining circulation is obscuring the awesome untold story of comics in North America: how a dedicated group of aficionados - at all levels: creators, publishers, retailers AND consumers - have kept alive (and commercially viable) a particular delivery vehicle of a particular genre of American storytelling. Along the way they've managed to provide the critical mass to support an entire distribution system that allows an increasingly broad and sophisticated amount of material to piggyback on the core genre/format combination and be championed by a dedicated group of specialists. That's a great thing and should be promoted to the high heavens rather than just begrudgingly accepting that print periodical superhero comics are no longer a mass cultural item like they were 25 (or 50) years ago. Could the direct market and it's core product be healthier? Sure, I don't think anyone disputes that. But the fact that it's alive at all is no small victory compared to the worst imaginable scenarios.

    Quote Originally Posted by ScotsScribbler View Post
    It's like supporting a sports team. Some of us would rather watch for free at the pub and contribute nothing. Others are happy to buy the shirt every year, while the biggest fans buy a season ticket and go to the games.

    Comic books is my team and I try to support as many shops as I can, wherever I go.
    Yeah, but you probably support Kilmarnock don't you?
    Last edited by MikeCr; 12-16-2011 at 07:03 PM.
    ... and yet here I am arguing on the interwebs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeCr View Post
    A dedicated group of aficionados - at all levels: creators, publishers, retailers AND consumers - have kept alive (and commercially viable) a particular delivery vehicle of a particular genre of American storytelling. Along the way they've managed to provide the critical mass to support an entire distribution system that allows an increasingly broad and sophisticated amount of material to piggyback on the core genre/format combination and be championed by a dedicated group of specialists. That's a great thing and should be promoted to the high heavens rather than just begrudgingly accepting that print periodical superhero comics are no longer a mass cultural item like they were 25 (or 50) years ago.
    Thank you, Mike, for saying in 111 words what it apparently took be more than 2000 to not say.

    I should have a t-shirt made up with this on it.

    -B

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    +1 MikeCR

    Comic fans are UNIQUE in their loyalty. Name one content vertical where fans can be counted on to spend as much of their discretionary dollars as they do, week after week. Not sports (real or fantasy), not crafts, not news, not movies, not games ... heck, look at what's happening with Netflix for $8 a month ... that doesn't even cover the price of three titles!

    I've met a few people running digital comics companies. A couple of the founders shocked me when they seemed really seem disconnected from understanding the role of the LCS. Perhaps that's why, time after time, I keep hearing about how much the bigger the comics world would be if (magic) happened, but that's all it is, hocus pocus.

    Now...what's interesting to me is watching the Asian market, which is enormous. Could comics grow to include adaptations of other pop culture, news stories, even instructional manuals? And if so ... what could be the role of the LCS?

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    I just don't share the view of the article. I understand it, and it has a nice focus on how to try to maximize on the current print and distribution model. But I think it is dead wrong.

    Maybe it is because I am a "long lost customer" for DC and Marvel. I read avidly into my early 20s and have, for now going on 20 years, not been a customer.

    Yet, in those 20 years, I spent considerably on movies, novels and gaming industries. I felt like the comic industry decided to ignore me as I matured - I no longer wanted teen or young adult oriented material.

    Add to that the overwhelming number of books each week and the flooding of the "same heroes" over and over - and the rebooting and recycling of stories I already mostly knew from the 70s and 80s?

    Now, even breakout and dynamite work like The Walking Dead reaches me on TV, but not in comic format. I happen to live within a couple of miles of probably 6 comic stores too - but my lifestyle is busy, hectic, and my entertainment I grab when I can and rarely make any trips for just it. Even with movies, I rent via Netflix, I don't go to the theater.

    Yet, I had no problem going to comixology during the new 52 push and buying 4 books to try it out. I liked 3 and suddenly DC is selling me product they didn't before. I took that risk, though - but I refuse to spend $2 for EVERY comic to try out. Would I buy more if they gave me the 1st issue of every series - very, very likely. They MUST replicate the effect of being able to go to the store and actually read the material, in full, before buying. This is a CRITICAL and DEVASTATING error on DC's part. They cut themselves out of a recurring $12 - $20 bucks a month... but that's a guess.

    And I can't believe I'm the only one. I am in range of lots of comic stores, but I don't go. But my belief is that most of the material is not for me anyway (the industry actively discourages mature material - outright banning a good chunk of it and most certainly feeding the perception that comics are for kids).

    If the industry wants to lure be back and retain me, they have a lot to do - from making material FOR me (not for kids) and making it easy to get (NO trips, no muss, no fuss). Until then, I will always see comics as a niche market that I am just not part of. I always wondered why the comic industry did't embrace comic fans as they MAKE MONEY - I mean, it sort of inversely caters to the young and ignores those of us who have jobs, have money, and enjoy the format.

    But, on the plus side, I am dropping $20 - $40 a month on indy titles digitally. That is where the good stuff is, not the big boys. I am starting to catch up on The Walking Dead now via digital delivery. I wish Dark Horse had more digital content, I'd probably double my spend if they did. Zenescape seems like mostly just silly tease material to me though... but maybe I haven't read the right books. I also get the feeling that I will tire of Comixology in general in that it seems they do not carry much more than PG or less titles... again catering to the concept that comics are not for adults.
    Last edited by DarkBrainComics; 12-19-2011 at 12:29 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DarkBrainComics View Post
    And I can't believe I'm the only one. I am in range of lots of comic stores, but I don't go. But my belief is that most of the material is not for me anyway (the industry actively discourages mature material - outright banning a good chunk of it and most certainly feeding the perception that comics are for kids).

    If the industry wants to lure be back and retain me, they have a lot to do - from making material FOR me (not for kids) and making it easy to get (NO trips, no muss, no fuss). Until then, I will always see comics as a niche market that I am just not part of. I always wondered why the comic industry did't embrace comic fans as they MAKE MONEY - I mean, it sort of inversely caters to the young and ignores those of us who have jobs, have money, and enjoy the format.

    But, on the plus side, I am dropping $20 - $40 a month on indy titles digitally. That is where the good stuff is, not the big boys. I am starting to catch up on The Walking Dead now via digital delivery. I wish Dark Horse had more digital content, I'd probably double my spend if they did. Zenescape seems like mostly just silly tease material to me though... but maybe I haven't read the right books. I also get the feeling that I will tire of Comixology in general in that it seems they do not carry much more than PG or less titles... again catering to the concept that comics are not for adults.
    It seems like you have convinced yourself by some really disjointed logic that there are no books being put out that you will enjoy while at the same time pointing out that there are many places where you can go find out whether or not this is true.

    Please do not blame the industry for you apparent laziness and assumptions.

  9. #9

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    There's something here that confuses me. You say that the serialization sells more than the trade, but that the bulk of your sales is in books, not comics.

    This is hurting my brain. Please make my brain to stop hurting please.
    one of the highest principles of America is that we're a nation of people from different backgrounds living in equal dignity and mutual loyalty - Eboo Patel.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul McEnery View Post
    There's something here that confuses me. You say that the serialization sells more than the trade, but that the bulk of your sales is in books, not comics.

    This is hurting my brain. Please make my brain to stop hurting please.
    Sorry, Paul, missed this.

    Serialized comics sell significantly more pieces than collections; collections bring in more dollars for the store, overall.

    Pieces are important however, as they're a measure of number of customers walking through the door who buy a VARIETY of material, and can potentially be sold OTHER things than the thing they know for certain that they want.

    Example: I sell roughly (in a 90 day period) 60 copies of WALKING DEAD, the comic. In that same period, I'll sell roughly 25 copies of most recent reprint collection, as a new item. It will take roughly two years to sell 60 copies of the collection -- and WALKING DEAD is an EXCEPTIONALLY strong selling book series.

    If we look at something weaker... dunno, third tier title like say BIRDS OF PREY -- let's say it's 15 copies of the serialization in the first 90 days, but I'm likely to sell only 2 copies of the trade in that same period. To get to 15 trades sold on BoP it would take, probably, 12-ish years.... and that's assuming that I bothered to keep reordering that 1-turn-a-year book.

    I'd rather have MORE customers buying more cheaper periodicals because it is a healthier feeder creation market for the small handful of collections (as a percentage) that go on to be healthy perennials.

    The amount of money I've made from WATCHMEN, say, is awwwwesome, but only 1 in a thousand books go on to that level at all.

    Does that make your head hurt less?

    -B

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Hibbs View Post
    Pieces are important however, as they're a measure of number of customers walking through the door who buy a VARIETY of material, and can potentially be sold OTHER things than the thing they know for certain that they want.

    ...


    I'd rather have MORE customers buying more cheaper periodicals because it is a healthier feeder creation market for the small handful of collections (as a percentage) that go on to be healthy perennials.
    This is one of my biggest problems with trades in general and the whole movement to stop doing monthlies altogether.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Hibbs View Post
    Example: I sell roughly (in a 90 day period) 60 copies of WALKING DEAD, the comic. In that same period, I'll sell roughly 25 copies of most recent reprint collection, as a new item. It will take roughly two years to sell 60 copies of the collection -- and WALKING DEAD is an EXCEPTIONALLY strong selling book series.

    ...

    Does that make your head hurt less?

    -B
    Okay, that makes sense. Although at the same time, 25 copies of the new book > 60 copies of the comic, so that's a win for the trade.

    2 BoP trades = 15 comics, more or less, too (depending).

    But I take the point about bringing in the customers.
    one of the highest principles of America is that we're a nation of people from different backgrounds living in equal dignity and mutual loyalty - Eboo Patel.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul McEnery View Post
    Okay, that makes sense. Although at the same time, 25 copies of the new book > 60 copies of the comic, so that's a win for the trade.
    Paul, 1 trade of WALKING DEAD = 6 comics... or 360 comics total sold.

    360 comics > 25 books

    -B

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