Comicbook confidential
July 21, 2015 12:11 PM   Subscribe

The State of Comic Book Retail - David Harper's latest comics industry survey shows bricks and mortar comic stores to be in a surprising period of opportunity and change. But are there now too many comics?
posted by Artw (11 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
The proper answer to anyone who states there are too many comic these days is of course, "Go back to Yancy Street ya yahoo!"
posted by triage_lazarus at 1:05 PM on July 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

I am gratified of course that this doesn't seem to be the case.
posted by triage_lazarus at 1:07 PM on July 21, 2015

I don't know...that's kinda like asking are there too many books? In the end, the good ones will sell, and the not-so-good ones will be forgotten. It's always good to have lots of choices, unless the majority are so good that you want them all, but can't afford them all. Then there would be a problem. But I don't see that happening.
posted by Quasimike at 1:17 PM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

As a reader I edge against that problem, for a retailer it would be a bigger concern.
posted by Artw at 1:33 PM on July 21, 2015

This is super-neat, and will be fun to dig into! Hopefully some MeFite retailers can weigh in.

In the end, the good ones will sell, and the not-so-good ones will be forgotten.

A glut like the 1990s one mentioned in the second link ultimately isn't great for anyone. Marvel at that time was doing its utmost to take up as much finite retail space from DC, Image, Valiant, Dark Horse, etc., and pumping out a lot of shit basically just to fill shelves (To be fair, most everyone was pumping out a lot of shit in the nineties). When the collector's market crashed, a lot of retailers were left holding a lot of non-sellable, non-returnable product, much of which can be found today stinking up the quarter bins of the stores that managed to survive. To a degree you could say, "Well, those retailers shouldn't have ordered so much or known their customer base better," but between incentives offered by the publishers ("Order 50 copies of Turok#0 and receive a special numbered Collector's Edition Chromium Cover Turok #0!") and that fact that a #1 issue of anything would sell (#2, #3, not so much), retailers were sort of between a rock and a hard place in a very weird market that the publishers did their utmost to wring as much money out of, regardless of whether or not it was sustainable.*

Obviously the speculation market ain't what it used to be, and thank god doesn't seem to be the driving force behind this resurgence, but that's still a huge volume of product for retailers to deal with.

*Note: I am not a comics retailer, businessperson, or historian, but I think I mostly got that right.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 2:41 PM on July 21, 2015 [6 favorites]

There are too many comics being published now for anyone to read them all. That does not mean there are too many comics; there have been too many books for anyone to keep up with them for a while, and games (board and video), tv, and movies are in a similar state. We are drowning in Content.

Personally I feel like the continuing fixation on SINGLE ISSUES! is a bad thing. The industry is still built around pumping those out. And if a book sells badly in that mode, then the likelihood of seeing a trade paperback collection is low. But reading stories that span more than about three issues is a pain in the ass; you have to get to the comic shop, pick up the new issue, and remember what the hell happened last time. And then when the trade does finally come out, your wallet will mutter about buying the whole thing again unless you're missing like half of the issues. And then you have to figure out what to do with those issues. Keep them? Sell them? Give them away?

(And as a creator I put my money where my mouth is; I only produce thick volumes.)
posted by egypturnash at 4:12 PM on July 21, 2015 [5 favorites]

While I like comics stores, it's been a long time since I frequented one. It seems a little weird to link the state of the current comics industry to brick and mortar stores. I would honestly think the writing's on the wall by now: Within a few years, comics are going to be almost exclusively digital plus mail order on paper for larger TPBs and collections and such. Just look at how much of the market ebooks has taken from paper, and comics are in most aspects even more suitable for digital delivery and reading than ebooks.

I didn't sign up for Comixology until recently, but I find myself spending a lot more money on comics now than I have in years, and hopefully (though I'm skeptical about this) the lack of overhead for printing and physical distribution makes more money get back to creators, and makes it more viable to create more interesting, not quite so mainstream work.

The main reason for going to comics stores used to be to get recommendations or to just browse and pick up stuff you thought looked interesting, and they're nice for that, but online communities and forums fill that niche nicely, plus the instant gratification of digital comics is hard to beat.

I'll miss comics stores, but mostly out of nostalgia. I think comics are probably going to better off without them. I do hope TPBs and large hardcover collections and such will continue to be available, though (I assume they will), so that if there's something I particularly like, I can get a nice physical copy to keep around.

(You can argue about monopolization and Comixology being owned by Amazon and such separately, though, and that's worth talking about, but it's not an argument for brick and mortar comics stores.)
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:39 AM on July 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh, and yeah, egypturnash, I totally agree. I would personally read a lot more comics if they came out more as complete stories and not as a crapload of single issues. Although I see why that would be economically more risky for publishers and so on, of course.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:40 AM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am in the process of canceling most of my subscriptions to single issues and only buying trades. It's slow going. I'll find myself canceling four or five, then subbing to something new from one of my favorite authors I just HAVE TO HAVE in single issues.

For awhile there, I felt like there were too many comics and there was a strong pull to try the first issue of anything new. I think it was a combination of not wanting to miss anything, and also wanting to support the industry and knowing pre-orders were the best way to do that.
posted by mean cheez at 6:06 AM on July 22, 2015

I have not set foot in a comics book store since I discovered TFAW and Comixology. One for the hard copies, and one for the immediate gratification. A number of books actually work much better for me on-screen, especially with the Guided View™ tech of Comixology.
posted by bouvin at 6:49 AM on July 22, 2015

But reading stories that span more than about three issues is a pain in the ass; you have to get to the comic shop, pick up the new issue, and remember what the hell happened last time.

There's an increasing trend of having a recap page at the front of each issue. It also serves to further distinguish floppies from TPBs.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:35 AM on July 22, 2015

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