Comic Book Talk The Place to talk about Comics

Industry Rant

Old 08-31-16, 04:24 PM
  #1  
DVD Talk Limited Edition
Thread Starter
 
mrhan's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
Posts: 5,990
Industry Rant

This has been touched on in various threads in the past but still a good read.

http://www.theouthousers.com/index.p...-industry.html
mrhan is offline  
Old 08-31-16, 11:39 PM
  #2  
DVD Talk Hall of Fame
 
B5Erik's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Southern California
Posts: 8,568
Re: Industry Rant

Interesting idea that new comic buyers dwindled after stores like 7-11 no longer carried comics.

That was a great way for kids to get introduced to comics. It's been gone for over 20 years. (Almost 30, really.)

The marketing of comic books has been awful over the last two decades, and the writers and editors have let their egos go unchecked as they constantly tried to reinvent the wheel. After a certain point, with sales dwindling year by year, they felt that they had to top themselves and change everything for shock value in hopes that more people would buy these comics with the shocking changes.

With continuity out the window, marketing in the toilet, and many storylines (and a lot of artwork) flat out sucking, no wonder Comic Books are an endangered species.
B5Erik is offline  
Old 09-01-16, 12:46 AM
  #3  
DVD Talk Hero
 
Josh-da-man's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: The Bible Belt
Posts: 29,923
Re: Industry Rant

Originally Posted by mrhan View Post
This has been touched on in various threads in the past but still a good read.

http://www.theouthousers.com/index.p...-industry.html
And it's mostly bullshit.

Firstly, newstand distribution declined because stores didn't want to carry comic books and distributors didn't want to deal with them. They were low-margin items and took up too much space in the store and effort on the distributors' end to justify their sale in grocery stores and the like.

Secondly, the direct market probably saved comics in the 80s. Selling directly to hobby shops at a steep discount instead of eating returns for a better discount benefitted the publishers. You also saw the rise of alternative comics (everything from Fantagraphics' Loce and Rockets to Vertigo's Sandman) that probably couldn't have happened with newstand sales.

Thirdly, newstand sales are not going to be the salvation of the industry. The magazine industry is getting annihilated with poor sales and competition from the internet. And the publishers would be drowning in returns of unsold copies. That is even if stores wanted to carry them.
Josh-da-man is offline  
Old 09-01-16, 02:11 AM
  #4  
DVD Talk Hall of Fame
 
B5Erik's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Southern California
Posts: 8,568
Re: Industry Rant

Originally Posted by Josh-da-man View Post

Firstly, newstand distribution declined because stores didn't want to carry comic books and distributors didn't want to deal with them. They were low-margin items and took up too much space in the store and effort on the distributors' end to justify their sale in grocery stores and the like.
They weren't low margin. The margin for magazines (and comics) was usually around 40% (I know, because my store stocked magazines). That's not low margin.

Secondly, the direct market probably saved comics in the 80s. Selling directly to hobby shops at a steep discount instead of eating returns for a better discount benefitted the publishers. You also saw the rise of alternative comics (everything from Fantagraphics' Loce and Rockets to Vertigo's Sandman) that probably couldn't have happened with newstand sales.
Alternative comics may have risen, but the mainstream comics have declined steadily for 20 years. Most comic shops closed up years ago, so distribution to consumers has shrunk, making it harder for people to buy comics.

Thirdly, newstand sales are not going to be the salvation of the industry. The magazine industry is getting annihilated with poor sales and competition from the internet. And the publishers would be drowning in returns of unsold copies. That is even if stores wanted to carry them.
Well, how would you introduce mainstream comics to kids these days? If they can't see them, pick them up and look at them, it's out of sight, out of mind. Kids haven't gotten into comics in nearly the numbers that they did in past generations. And it isn't all because of the internet and video games.

Kids never see comics.

They're going to have to do something more than direct marketing to the tiny number of comic shops left in business. There aren't enough of them to reach very many potential new buyers.

And Marvel & DC need to get their act together and put out something more appealing. Rebooting every 5 years and making drastic changes that erase major events of the past isn't helping - it's hurting. No one gets invested in anything (characters, storylines, etc) anymore because they know it isn't going to last.
B5Erik is offline  
Old 09-01-16, 02:23 AM
  #5  
DVD Talk Legend
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Formerly known as Groucho AND Bandoman/Death Moans, Iowa
Posts: 16,503
Re: Industry Rant

Originally Posted by B5Erik View Post
They weren't low margin. The margin for magazines (and comics) was usually around 40% (I know, because my store stocked magazines). That's not low margin.
Maybe low margin is the wrong way to describe it, but since comics were $1 to $1.50 at the time, there wasn't much money to be made per comic. Especially since they took up about the same amount of space as magazines like Rolling Stone, which had a higher cover price.
majorjoe23 is offline  
Old 09-01-16, 10:19 AM
  #6  
DVD Talk Hero
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
Posts: 25,579
Re: Industry Rant

I'll just ramble a bit here since I'm pressed for time but I'll come back to it later.

Comics were lower margin than magazines at the time, and were being phased out. I mean think about all the comics they had to rack and pulp on a weekly basis. Magazines don't care as much since they're like 75% ads and they work on impulse buys and distribution numbers, which is why subscriptions are so cheap.

The comics industry also started catering to the direct market, even before the whole writing for the trade thing was a thing.
http://www.comicsbeat.com/who-killed...comics-market/

As mentioned at the time this article was written, when the new 52 launched DC did a deal with the not yet dead Barnes and Noble to have a full comics rack. I doubt it made a dent. The article in the OP doesn't touch on price, but comics are not an impulse buy at all anymore, even if they still held the interest of kids. If you're going to pay 4 bucks for a comic, are you buying the one that was bent and broken on the newsstand shelf? Way back when , comics were like magazines, disposable entertainment, which is part of the reason why older comics are so rare... Who cared about keeping them in a slab when you could read them, let your friends read them, cut out the mail order forms, etc?

Archie had a sweetheart deal for a long time with the distributor for supermarket checkout space, which is why they stuck around (maybe they still are?) with their digests there. I know I was introduced to a ton of comics via digests back in the day, and that venue is all but gone.
fujishig is offline  
Old 09-01-16, 10:36 AM
  #7  
DVD Talk Platinum Edition
 
rocket1312's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Posts: 3,152
Re: Industry Rant

Originally Posted by Josh-da-man View Post
And it's mostly bullshit.

Firstly, newstand distribution declined because stores didn't want to carry comic books and distributors didn't want to deal with them. They were low-margin items and took up too much space in the store and effort on the distributors' end to justify their sale in grocery stores and the like.

Secondly, the direct market probably saved comics in the 80s. Selling directly to hobby shops at a steep discount instead of eating returns for a better discount benefitted the publishers. You also saw the rise of alternative comics (everything from Fantagraphics' Loce and Rockets to Vertigo's Sandman) that probably couldn't have happened with newstand sales.

Thirdly, newstand sales are not going to be the salvation of the industry. The magazine industry is getting annihilated with poor sales and competition from the internet. And the publishers would be drowning in returns of unsold copies. That is even if stores wanted to carry them.
The article acknowledges that the newsstand ship has sailed. I think it's purpose is more to show just how screwed up the current distribution system really is. I still love comics and will continue to read them in some form or another, but I'm done with the direct market. While I don't agree with everything the article has to say (and I don't understand how taking shots at Brian Bendis's physical appearance helps anything), the idea that I (the paying customer) am somehow at fault for the decline of the industry because I'm not buying comics the "right way" is lunacy.
rocket1312 is online now  
Old 09-01-16, 10:41 AM
  #8  
DVD Talk Limited Edition
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 7,455
Re: Industry Rant

Originally Posted by majorjoe23 View Post
Maybe low margin is the wrong way to describe it, but since comics were $1 to $1.50 at the time, there wasn't much money to be made per comic. Especially since they took up about the same amount of space as magazines like Rolling Stone, which had a higher cover price.
And before that they sold for 10, 12, 15 cents. Yet comics enjoyed a market saturation equal only to candy bars and chewing gum. Besides almost every drug, grocery and convenience store in existence, they were in bus stations, airports, truck stops, restaurants, and hospitals. That is a level of market saturation to kill for. Most kids could get them within walking distance of their house.

Sure, wire spinner racks are considered evil now, people fanning the tops of the books causing creases and all that, but you could put them anywhere. They took no shelf space because they sat in the middle of the floor. And you could move them.

Another consideration is future value. Far less copies survive in high grade condition with newsstand distribution involved. It's flip flopped to NM being the most common rather than the scarcest.

Somewhere along the line comics shifted from a mass market item to a strictly hobbyist/enthusiast item. Imagine having to go to a specific store to buy a Snickers bar.
rw2516 is offline  
Old 09-01-16, 11:20 AM
  #9  
DVD Talk Special Edition
 
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: Los Angeles
Posts: 1,954
Re: Industry Rant

Originally Posted by Josh-da-man View Post
You also saw the rise of alternative comics (everything from Fantagraphics' Loce and Rockets to Vertigo's Sandman) that probably couldn't have happened with newstand sales.
I agree with your point, but I feel obligated to note that Sandman was a DC comic for over half of it's run, as Vertigo wasn't established as an imprint until Sandman #47.
Strapped4Cash is offline  
Old 09-01-16, 11:50 AM
  #10  
DVD Talk Legend
 
Join Date: Feb 2000
Posts: 12,732
Re: Industry Rant

A kid is far less likely to see a comic at 7-11 and drop down $3 to buy than say the $.25 that the comic market was built on. I think skyrocketing prices played far more into their decline than shelf space.
Timber is offline  
Old 09-01-16, 03:25 PM
  #11  
Challenge Guru & Comic Nerd
 
Trevor's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: spiritually, Minnesota
Posts: 33,891
Re: Industry Rant

I always thought that the big two should have loss leader anthology books that they market to grocery and convenience stores. A 40 page $1 comic with a variety of family friendly stories (even reprints) of their flagship characters might lose money, but the long-run benefits of reaching those kids might be worth it.
Trevor is offline  
Old 09-01-16, 04:20 PM
  #12  
DVD Talk Hero
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
Posts: 25,579
Re: Industry Rant

I've said this elsewhere, but price is only part of the problem. A lot of us have anecdotal evidence from buying comics for our kids/nephews/whatever that the kids aren't going to be interested at whatever price.

Walmart does have packs of repackaged comics for cheap:
http://www.bleedingcool.com/2016/03/...arley-quinn-1/

They also used to do bundled together reprints:
http://www.comicsbeat.com/marvel-ret...arance-prices/

Again I doubt either one made a dent. They're getting the characters out there with the various Marvel cartoons (since Disney has their own set of channels) and movies, and DC is approaching the girls market with Superhero girls (although Harley being included in that seems strange) so that's something.

The other issue is that the family friendly stuff is a far cry from their mainstream stuff, so even if you get kids hooked on that, how do you transition them?

One last thing about price: when comics were cheap, creators were being routinely screwed over. One reason why reprints will probably never be as cheap as they once were relatively speaking is that creators will have it written into their contracts that they get paid for it, as they should. There's a story where some old school artists were getting upset with McFarlane and his ilk for putting so many details in the art, because a lot of them (not all) drew things as fast as they could.

Last edited by fujishig; 09-01-16 at 04:25 PM.
fujishig is offline  
Old 09-01-16, 11:21 PM
  #13  
DVD Talk Hero
 
Josh-da-man's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: The Bible Belt
Posts: 29,923
Re: Industry Rant

Originally Posted by Strapped4Cash View Post
I agree with your point, but I feel obligated to note that Sandman was a DC comic for over half of it's run, as Vertigo wasn't established as an imprint until Sandman #47.
When Vertigo began is irrelevent; lots of stuff was grandfathered into the Vertigo imprint.

Those titles thrived in the direct market where a readership base could be cultivated by the hobby shops, which probably would have never happened if Sandman, Hellblazer, V for Vendetta, and the like were shelved in spinner racks with Superman and Spider-Man. Not to mention the whole "mature readers" thing.
Josh-da-man is offline  
Old 09-02-16, 01:42 PM
  #14  
DVD Talk Special Edition
 
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: Los Angeles
Posts: 1,954
Re: Industry Rant

Originally Posted by Josh-da-man View Post
When Vertigo began is irrelevent; lots of stuff was grandfathered into the Vertigo imprint.

Those titles thrived in the direct market where a readership base could be cultivated by the hobby shops, which probably would have never happened if Sandman, Hellblazer, V for Vendetta, and the like were shelved in spinner racks with Superman and Spider-Man. Not to mention the whole "mature readers" thing.
It may be irrelevant to your perspective, but it was, and is, very relevant to mine. Having had to deal with so many pseudo-intellectual hipster d-bags who came in literally with their noses up about "comic" books but they were there for "graphic novels" such as the individual monthly installments of Sandman.

Because those two things were soooooo different.

We went from DC Comics, which already had "mature readers" and those same books you mention, and others, which had already been "cultivated by the hobby shops" (by that do you mean comic book stores?) for years.

DC Comics, where so many things were possible and where people could, and did, sample a myriad of titles in order to find the best that fit them. So we transitioned from that, which already had all the advantages that you mention, to a separatist system all about labels that reinforced people's prejudices and validated discrimination and meant that some readers didn't even try "regular" DC titles that might have appealed to them, while others did the same the other way by avoiding Vertigo's output.

I didn't, and still don't, understand the benefit of promoting closed-mindedness, the ghettoization of readership, hipster d-bags, and people using their fandom of one thing as an excuse for smug meritless intellectualism.
Strapped4Cash is offline  
Old 09-02-16, 03:31 PM
  #15  
DVD Talk Legend
 
PhantomStranger's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: The Phantom Zone
Posts: 20,647
Re: Industry Rant

Stopping newsstand distribution was a business decision that was the right move from a short-term perspective but turned the entire comic book market into a niche product accessible only to hardcore readers. It smacked of a decision made by accountants at the time that had no long-term vision for comic books.

Their presence on newsstands had raised the visibility of comics as a medium to children for decades. The first comics I ever saw as a kid were on spinner racks at local convenience stores.

I've always thought DC and Marvel should provide loss-leaders aimed at children under 10 in high-traffic venues. They've tried various versions of this idea in limited experiments over the years. Sell them at $1 as long as you can.

I'd also blanket the market with licensed videogames aimed at younger ages. Include comics with them. I bet those LEGO games have introduced more potential readers to Marvel and DC than anything else they've done the past three decades.
PhantomStranger is offline  
Old 09-04-16, 11:33 AM
  #16  
DVD Talk Legend
 
Nick Danger's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Albuquerque
Posts: 21,435
Re: Industry Rant

Comics in drug stores are still a print periodical medium. How are magazines and newspapers doing? The magazine store I worked at in the early 1990s is long gone.

People want television and video games.

Sorry, folks, but floppy comics are going the way of the vinyl records.
Nick Danger is offline  
Old 09-04-16, 11:55 AM
  #17  
DVD Talk Legend
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Formerly known as Groucho AND Bandoman/Death Moans, Iowa
Posts: 16,503
Re: Industry Rant

Originally Posted by Nick Danger View Post
Comics in drug stores are still a print periodical medium. How are magazines and newspapers doing? The magazine store I worked at in the early 1990s is long gone.

People want television and video games.

Sorry, folks, but floppy comics are going the way of the vinyl records.
If this analogy worked, floppy comics would be the only growth sector of a dying industry,
majorjoe23 is offline  
Old 09-04-16, 05:31 PM
  #18  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 452
Re: Industry Rant

Originally Posted by majorjoe23 View Post
If this analogy worked, floppy comics would be the only growth sector of a dying industry,
There's no perfect analogy but I think eventually the industry will come down to digital (singles and trades) with the physical goods just being deluxe print editions.
kodave is offline  
Old 09-04-16, 10:27 PM
  #19  
DVD Talk Legend
 
cultshock's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: True North Strong & Free
Posts: 11,123
Re: Industry Rant

I don't know how the problem can be solved, but high prices and no real mainstream distribution is certainly keeping a new audience from discovering comics. But I notice that in Japan, comics still sell very well, and when I'm visiting there I still see them being sold in every convenience store and train station kiosk, big fat books with cheap cover prices. Also, tons of genres, appealing to all demographics. I wonder if US publishers could learn something from them?
cultshock is offline  
Old 09-05-16, 02:33 AM
  #20  
DVD Talk Legend
 
PhantomStranger's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: The Phantom Zone
Posts: 20,647
Re: Industry Rant

Japan is a cultural exception that hasn't been polluted by corporate Western media pushing the digital agenda. I don't think anything media related that happens there can be applied to the United States. Western companies in control of entertainment content want to kill off physical media sooner rather than later.

I did come across a Barnes & Noble location this weekend with a fairly healthy selection of various DC comic books and related magazines aimed at kids in the magazine section. It surprised me because this was a more rural location.

I did notice that Marvel had an Ultimate Spider-Man thing aimed at children for $3.99 in the section. It wasn't really a comic book per se, it included kid activities and coloring sections in a larger but traditional comic book story format. The actual DC issues looked better with their covers, but how would anyone know since they were completely hidden by the divider except for the comic's title?

There was something interesting that caught my eye. Some publisher calling itself Double Take Comics (??) had a whole set of Walking Dead-related comics sold as one bundle alongside the DC issues.. While they didn't interest me, that is something that would interest me with the right material.
PhantomStranger is offline  
Old 09-05-16, 01:08 PM
  #21  
DVD Talk Hero
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
Posts: 25,579
Re: Industry Rant

Some other things about Japan:

The main way of publishing are huge weekly or monthly anthologies printed on very cheap newsprint, and a cutthroat way of managing which titles are in the anthology. Series are carefully manicured by the editors and with their direction artists and their assistants usually kill themselves making deadlines (unless they reach the upper tier of creator, and even then it's not pretty). Polls are taken about the most popular series every installment, and if you dip below the line for consecutive times you'll either change this up or face cancellation.
Because of this, the collections are actually reprints of the anthology material, on better paper but a smaller size and in black and white.

Japan itself is much smaller in size. Distribution costs are much lower. This is similar to why they can have a much better infrastructure for cell phones than the US. The cost of the anthologies are dirt cheap, and the collections relatively cheap for the size. Here, if an independent publisher wants to make a comic about some niche, the distribution costs for a lower print run are insane and the cover price skyrockets.

Japan is also largely a commuter society. I'm not sure about the rest of the US but everyone here drives themselves. Even then I'm sure cell phone games are cutting into manga reading.
fujishig is offline  
Old 09-05-16, 02:20 PM
  #22  
DVD Talk Legend
 
PhantomStranger's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: The Phantom Zone
Posts: 20,647
Re: Industry Rant

I've also heard manga artists can barely pay the bills unless they have a breakout hit that morphs into several other mediums like anime. The industry in Japan is much closer to the business model DC and Marvel had back in the 60s and 70s. Pay the creative talent very little and profit off the greater mass sales.
PhantomStranger is offline  
Old 09-17-16, 12:03 AM
  #23  
DVD Talk Limited Edition
 
Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Sunny Hawaii
Posts: 6,587
Re: Industry Rant

COMIC STORE SALES BLEW THE DOORS OFF IN AUGUST
Up Over 31% vs. Last Year

http://icv2.com/articles/markets/vie...ors-off-august

Sales to comic stores by Diamond Comic Distributors in North America were up a whopping 31.62% over the same month a year ago in August, the company announced today. With DCís Rebirth relaunch driving sales, periodical comics were up 44.58%, while graphic novels were up a more modest 5.53%.

[...]

Diamond noted that it had shipped over 10 million non-promotional comics during August for the first time in nearly 20 years.
TheBang is offline  
Old 09-17-16, 08:20 AM
  #24  
DVD Talk Legend
 
stingermck's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: NC
Posts: 14,778
Re: Industry Rant

People buy good comics. Proof.
stingermck is offline  
Old 09-17-16, 12:33 PM
  #25  
DVD Talk Hero
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
Posts: 25,579
Re: Industry Rant

I feel like a lot of the record sales is ironically what we're complaining about in this thread.

DC seems like the main reason here. Some of that is due to them finally bringing back pre new 52 stuff. Some of it is them relaunching everything with number 1s and making stuff like Batman twice a month. I feel like that's still milking the same audience. Plus these few initial months have a lot of returnability for the DC titles, so retailers are more willing to take a risk, which is good.

The encouraging part to me is that Supergirl Rebirth cracked the top 10. That's good considering the new 52 series was cancelled, and perhaps the tv show is actually bringing in readers.
fujishig is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Archive Advertising Cookie Policy Privacy Statement Terms of Service

Copyright © 2018 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.