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Thread: The comic book industry and direct market fate

  1. #1
    Liberty, justice, peace. The All American's Avatar
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    The comic book industry and direct market fate

    What do you think will happen to the comic book direct market, comic book stores, backissue prices, artists, creators, and the industry in general?

    I've been having this conversation with a good fellow orger for years, but the lockdown/shutdown of the economy in the wake of the pandemic seems to have put this on an accelerated tailspin. Now compounded by DC Comics pulling out of its long-term relationship with Diamond Comic Distributors, it doesn't seem likely that most comic book stores will survive much longer.

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    Heroic Warrior Iluvart's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The All American View Post
    What do you think will happen to the comic book direct market, comic book stores, backissue prices, artists, creators, and the industry in general?

    I've been having this conversation with a good fellow orger for years, but the lockdown/shutdown of the economy in the wake of the pandemic seems to have put this on an accelerated tailspin. Now compounded by DC Comics pulling out of its long-term relationship with Diamond Comic Distributors, it doesn't seem likely that most comic book stores will survive much longer.
    I haven't been buying comics for at least a year ... mainly due to lack of storage space, but also because to the best of my knowledge, there are only two stores in the entire city that I live in which still sells comics (one being a "proper" comic store, and the other being a large bookstore that carries a big selection of graphic novels).

    There used to be a comic store close to where I work, and a couple downtown, but they've all closed last year. I think there will always be a market for people to read physical comics, but I think some of that audience is shifting to reading electronic copies. Personally I prefer physical comics. The market for comics is already quite competitive I think ..... so in general there is probably going to be less output as the industry adjusts to a smaller market, and back issue prices could go up.

    That's just my guess.

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    It's amazing to me how the comics industry couldn't quite figure out how to capitalize on the fact that super hero movies have been the biggest thing going for the last several years.

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    Life is good Dice's Avatar
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    With everything else going digital it seems like that would be the simple answer. But it's not.


    I don't know how to draw interest towards comics anymore unless it's animated or live action. Kids just aren't interested in the actual books. I also think many don't appreciate artwork as much because of the abundance of availability. Over-saturation leads to boredom in even the most interesting of things.

    I'm sad for comics but I just don't know what they can do to turn the tide.
    "To a great mind, nothing is little."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dice View Post
    With everything else going digital it seems like that would be the simple answer. But it's not.


    I don't know how to draw interest towards comics anymore unless it's animated or live action. Kids just aren't interested in the actual books. I also think many don't appreciate artwork as much because of the abundance of availability. Over-saturation leads to boredom in even the most interesting of things.

    I'm sad for comics but I just don't know what they can do to turn the tide.
    Gone the way of the buggy whip, I'm afraid. Sad because I have sooooooo many happy memories attached to the wonderful and wondrous comic books of my 1950s childhood. We never cared how long we had to wait in Pete's Barber Shop because Pete always had a four-foot mountain of well-read comic books for us kids to read. Our minds reeled with the amazing stories and characters and I think comic books are one of the great unheralded creative factors that resulted in many of us making our first halting steps into the entertainment industry. At least I know it was so for me...

    As for digital, it's like Stan Lee said (and I paraphrase) when asked about eBooks -- "They're nice, but kind of like internet porn: nothing beats holding it in your hands."

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    Most comic book stores around here tell me their 'real money' comes from Magic cards and tournaments anyway. There will always be a market for the games, cards, rpgs, tpb, back issues, statues, toys and everything else. I'm sure they'll be fine.

    Besides, what's stopping them from getting their DC books from whoever DC is distributing them with now? Shouldn't be THAT big of a deal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by phantom1592 View Post
    Most comic book stores around here tell me their 'real money' comes from Magic cards and tournaments anyway. There will always be a market for the games, cards, rpgs, tpb, back issues, statues, toys and everything else. I'm sure they'll be fine.

    Besides, what's stopping them from getting their DC books from whoever DC is distributing them with now? Shouldn't be THAT big of a deal.
    I hope you're right. I'd hate to see these passionate entrepreneurs go by the wayside.

    I've appeared at two local comic book shops for signings in recent years and I was amazed at the turnout. I'm sure you're right about the importance of tournaments. It seems game playing, in various forms, is a big draw. I'm also sure it's been impacted by the pandemic, but hopefully it's coming back. Both shops have large inventories of fantastic statues. The shops seem to be a really nice gathering place for all sorts of people. I like the vibe. (Does anyone say 'vibe' anymore? )

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    Liberty, justice, peace. The All American's Avatar
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    Chuck Rozanski, owner of Mile High Comics in Colorado, has been very blunt in his assessment on the future. Very interesting reads:


    https://www.milehighcomics.com/newsl...1520email.html
    In particular, I repeated my belief that all high overhead comics shops in America are doomed, as the future output of new comics is highly unlikely to ever replicate that which we have experienced in the recent past. As I see it, store owners who are paying huge sums in rent for mall and/or popular strip center locations are especially at risk, as there is no way that cost can ever be recovered in light of our current social distancing requirements. Some stores will stagger on for a while, but they are essentially zombie stores that voraciously eat working capital, with no chance of future life.

    On a more positive note, I do see tremendous upside potential in collectibles stores, with those owners who find large amounts of cheap space benefitting the most. With 10,000-15,000 retail stores (of all kinds) projected to close during 2020, there has never been a better time to either negotiate a very low lease rate, or even to buy a place. Social and economic turmoil is most unfortunate in many ways, but the resulting tumult does create a plethora of unique opportunities for those with courage and adroitness. I am very curious to see just how many of the current comics retailers mange to morph their businesses into comics retailing 2.0....

    https://www.milehighcomics.com/newsl...0920email.html
    Sadly, I am not the only one to have observed that this abandonment of Diamond by DC will have potentially catastrophic effect on the 2,000+ smaller companies that comprise the "Direct Market." With the pandemic having cost so many of those stores many weeks of lost revenues, and no substantial new comics publications on the short term horizon, the future is looking very grim for them, indeed.

    On the flip side, more justifications for DC's decision are emerging. Questions of Diamond's current solvency are foremost, but that was almost a given in light of the fact that Diamond put all of their vendors on payment plans when they first shut down their operations. Even prior to those concerns, however, DC was apparently not pleased with Diamond's service, and/or the responsiveness of their staff. That pretty much mirrors comments from the retailer side of things, where some people are absolutely vitriolic in their condemnations of Diamond.

    https://www.milehighcomics.com/newsl...1520email.html
    In the meantime, the litany of comic book store death notices has become a crescendo, with more permanent closings being announced every day. With DC having now royally screwed everything up for the new comics biz, very little incentive remains for most stores to reopen. One publisher projected to us that they believe that 90%+ of all Direct Market comics shops will fold over the next 90-180 days. That's just terrible, as it means that our 40-year old Direct Market is effectively dead. Thank you, DC Comics, for putting a bullet in our brain. Your malice will not be forgotten.

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    Heroic Warrior wyldman11's Avatar
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    The pandemic is just speeding up what was already happening.

    The world is going more and more digital, action figure collecting is being replaced by gacha games when you think about it.

    I can't blame DC for moving on, yeah it will speed the process up even more. But at the same time maybe AT&T, warner, DC, can put efforts into finding new ways to get comics to people.

    Of course single player video games and movie technology aren't helping the situation, people in general have always wanted to be shown or told something over reading it.
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    Heroic Warrior Drakken's Avatar
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    For the past couple of years I've only been buying printed comics of certain titles that I want to have as printed copies. Most everything else has been digital. The main reason is space. I have a ton of comics as it is and don't have the space.
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  11. #11
    Liberty, justice, peace. The All American's Avatar
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    Since I last posted, it sounds like some comics and stores have thrived, while others have not. It hasn't been apocalyptic as once feared.

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/robsalk...h=6a5ca121c9c9

    Mile High Comics owner Chuck Rozanski has noticed increased sales on back issues with collectors stuck at home and wanting to complete their collection. Comic book reading is also very conducive to being at home. https://www.milehighcomics.com/newsl...1221email.html


    So comic book collecting orgers, how are your local comic retailers doing? Have you been buying or reading more comics the last year?

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    Quote Originally Posted by The All American View Post
    Since I last posted, it sounds like some comics and stores have thrived, while others have not. It hasn't been apocalyptic as once feared.

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/robsalk...h=6a5ca121c9c9

    Mile High Comics owner Chuck Rozanski has noticed increased sales on back issues with collectors stuck at home and wanting to complete their collection. Comic book reading is also very conducive to being at home. https://www.milehighcomics.com/newsl...1221email.html


    So comic book collecting orgers, how are your local comic retailers doing? Have you been buying or reading more comics the last year?
    I don't know if this directly relates to the conversation per se, but I got out of the single issue comic game altogether somewhat recently and only buy omnibus/hardcovers style collections and occasionally a tpb. I've probably spent more money since making the switch, but I see that plummeting once I get most of the old runs I want.

    I generally lost interest in superhero comics around the mid-to-late 2000s, and was only buying G.I. Joe, Transformers, Jem (while it lasted), TMNT, and the occasional misc. title in recent years. As much as I love and appreciate Hama, his RAH book is pretty much unreadable now; I wasn't interested in a Transformers universe reboot; and I couldn't really justify ONLY getting TMNT. I'm just going to wait for the TMNT hardcovers to catch up to where I dropped (which should be the next one they announce, I think).

    We haven't had a reliable local comic shop in my area since I was in college (15+ years ago), so all my comic shopping is online and has been for a long time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The All American View Post
    Since I last posted, it sounds like some comics and stores have thrived, while others have not. It hasn't been apocalyptic as once feared.

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/robsalk...h=6a5ca121c9c9

    Mile High Comics owner Chuck Rozanski has noticed increased sales on back issues with collectors stuck at home and wanting to complete their collection. Comic book reading is also very conducive to being at home. https://www.milehighcomics.com/newsl...1221email.html


    So comic book collecting orgers, how are your local comic retailers doing? Have you been buying or reading more comics the last year?

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    Heroic Warrior Granamyr's Helmet's Avatar
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    My local shop seemed to be doing OK up to the pandemic, but I haven't been in since then and am concerned how much the lack of foot traffic may be impacting them.

    Prior to that they still had a good blend of pull service customers, good sales on related hot products like Funko Pops, acquiring higher dollar vintage collections and having a clientele they could tap when stuff like that came in, hosting the card events, etc.

    I'm a bit of a grumpy old person these days with the comic book industry...I hate all the variant covers and everyone trying to get a slabbed graded "instant collectible". There's a cartoony look to a lot of the art that just isn't my thing either...I grew up with George Perez as the standard for super-heroes and miss that style. Again, my age showing.

    I hung in there until about the early 2000's (started reading in the late 70's, got big into collecting in the 80's) but it's more miss than hit for me in the years since then. Still sorry to see the shops struggling even though the decline seems inevitable, something extra special about having a place like that to go and shop, talk, hang out.

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    Heroic Warrior King Kahn's Avatar
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    What happened to records and record stores will happen to comics.

    They will become niche retailers. You’ll get far far smaller print runs and higher issue costs.

    But comics will now come out in digital monthly and then collected in trades.

    Comics won’t ever die, just how we get them will change.

    Ok is are already 3.99 an issue. No one new is buying these.

    New readers may buy trades but not single issues.

    We’ll see more monthly subscription based ideas and platforms.

    I haven’t bought a physical monthly comic in nearly 15 years. I barely buy trades. I read everything digitally.

    When a nice hardcover collected edition comes out I’ll buy that but I’m done with monthlies just like I don’t watch most shows week to week. I wait for a season so I can binge.
    Last edited by King Kahn; January 22, 2021 at 09:08pm.
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    Heroic Warrior Night Stalker's Avatar
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    Comics have been on life support since 1995. The industry has done nothing to bring in new readers and has actively discouraged lifelong readers from remaining customers. The largest publisher (Marvel) has not turned a profit in 20 years from their print division, and are kept alive more as a concession to their licensing and media divisions.

    At a time when most Americans were at home looking for reading material, comic sales tanked even further for new issues. People were buying comics alright; they just weren't manufactured in this century. They wanted comics that were written well and were entertaining, and with very few exceptions, there's nothing like that for sale today. Almost everything printed by the Big Three today is overpriced political snark shoveled out by nihilistic Twitter edgelords who tell anyone that criticizes their work to go commit suicide because the book was written for someone else.

    What I think will happen, unless a few brave fools try to right course, is that digital sales will replace monthly print. Series that sell well digitally will get a 6-issue collected TPB every six months. Other than that, anything on tomorrow's shelves will be collections of older material from back when the industry had a soul (ie, the only material people bother buying in print anymore.)

    I'm a lifelong comics fan. We've been begging the publishers for 20 years to clean up house so we can continue buying their books. The publishers doubled down on their gamble, and now there's barely any readers left and barely any books worth buying. We all lost.
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    I stopped collecting comics a while back now. I was a big x-men fan and collected anything with an X in title. But over the last few years I have been displeased with the constant start reinvention end new title start over again. I still read digitally at a certain free site. I feel like the x-men comics suffered during the time fox owned the movie rights and marvel has the rights back they seem to be just trying things out to see what will work for when they start the movies. Like I said I read at a free site and probably read a broader range of comics. Maybe I will start up when something hooks me in again but for the time being I wonít be visiting my local store

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    Heroic Warrior A Dalek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Night Stalker View Post
    Comics have been on life support since 1995. The industry has done nothing to bring in new readers and has actively discouraged lifelong readers from remaining customers. The largest publisher (Marvel) has not turned a profit in 20 years from their print division, and are kept alive more as a concession to their licensing and media divisions.

    At a time when most Americans were at home looking for reading material, comic sales tanked even further for new issues. People were buying comics alright; they just weren't manufactured in this century. They wanted comics that were written well and were entertaining, and with very few exceptions, there's nothing like that for sale today. Almost everything printed by the Big Three today is overpriced political snark shoveled out by nihilistic Twitter edgelords who tell anyone that criticizes their work to go commit suicide because the book was written for someone else.

    What I think will happen, unless a few brave fools try to right course, is that digital sales will replace monthly print. Series that sell well digitally will get a 6-issue collected TPB every six months. Other than that, anything on tomorrow's shelves will be collections of older material from back when the industry had a soul (ie, the only material people bother buying in print anymore.)

    I'm a lifelong comics fan. We've been begging the publishers for 20 years to clean up house so we can continue buying their books. The publishers doubled down on their gamble, and now there's barely any readers left and barely any books worth buying. We all lost.
    I think the big problem is the overload of event comics that have been around since the 2000's. Event comics were a fairly frequent thing before, but they tended to be relatively inconsequential and a pretty limited intrusion on the comics not directly involved in them.

    But from the 2000's onwards every event comic was this massive months long event, that would "change the Marvel/DC Universe forever" and there is no escape from them since every comic has there storylines hijacked by event tie ins to the event for months on end. You can't just enjoy the characters individual stories anymore.

    As Linkara put it, "it's good to shake up the status quo every now and again, but there actualy needs to be a status quo to shake up". Audiences are given no chance to get used to the state of things before the next big game changing event comes along.

    The worst part is they actualy do have a blue print on how to do this right in front of them, as the MCU has succeeded by having a tangible impact from the big events, without them completely dominating and dragging down everyone's individual stories and were infrequent enough for you to get used to things.

    But instead if taking lessons from that, they focus on superficial scapegoats. They redesign everyone to look like discount versions of their movie counterparts in a vain attempt to bring in the films fans. They assume not enough diversity is problem and then when trying to put in more diversity centric characters dosn't work they blame the problem on too much diversity. And in the face of all of this they keep doubling down on event comics (the very thing that is the cause of the problem in the first place).

    When they happen on something that is a success, they try to repeat the success over and over again while only superficially copying what made that thing work, while also overexposing the original source of the idea to the point of damaging it's popularity. Case in point Kamal Khan/Ms Marvel, to this day I believe Marvel still can't rap there heads around why she is the only diversity centric character of their's that people actualy like, or why all their attempts to repeat her success failed.

    They shouldn't abandon the shared universe concept or big events, nut until they learn to scale it back, things will never improve in the comic world.

  19. #19
    The First Avenger Megalodon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The All American View Post
    Chuck Rozanski, owner of Mile High Comics in Colorado, has been very blunt in his assessment on the future. Very interesting reads:


    https://www.milehighcomics.com/newsl...1520email.html



    https://www.milehighcomics.com/newsl...0920email.html



    https://www.milehighcomics.com/newsl...1520email.html
    Yes that guy should know... He's going to one of the one's affected because of his MASSIVE inventory to go along with his MASSIVE over priced books....

  20. #20
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    This is so sad. True, I'm afraid, but sad nonetheless. Kind of like Muhammad Ali staying in the fight game well past his prime...

    Quote Originally Posted by Night Stalker View Post
    Comics have been on life support since 1995. The industry has done nothing to bring in new readers and has actively discouraged lifelong readers from remaining customers. The largest publisher (Marvel) has not turned a profit in 20 years from their print division, and are kept alive more as a concession to their licensing and media divisions.

    At a time when most Americans were at home looking for reading material, comic sales tanked even further for new issues. People were buying comics alright; they just weren't manufactured in this century. They wanted comics that were written well and were entertaining, and with very few exceptions, there's nothing like that for sale today. Almost everything printed by the Big Three today is overpriced political snark shoveled out by nihilistic Twitter edgelords who tell anyone that criticizes their work to go commit suicide because the book was written for someone else.

    What I think will happen, unless a few brave fools try to right course, is that digital sales will replace monthly print. Series that sell well digitally will get a 6-issue collected TPB every six months. Other than that, anything on tomorrow's shelves will be collections of older material from back when the industry had a soul (ie, the only material people bother buying in print anymore.)

    I'm a lifelong comics fan. We've been begging the publishers for 20 years to clean up house so we can continue buying their books. The publishers doubled down on their gamble, and now there's barely any readers left and barely any books worth buying. We all lost.

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    Heroic Warrior Granamyr's Helmet's Avatar
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    I think these points are all excellent, the impacts of all the "events" and reboots, cinematic influences, etc.

    Another thought came to me, as I personally view "comic books" as largely traditional Marvel/DC fare, and the bigger indies producing similar content. As I look at my kids, they are definitely part of the "manga generation". And they seem to really have fun collecting, reading...and not getting as bogged down with all the aforementioned baggage mainstream superhero comics seem to have.

    Distribution-wise, I think the impacts are similar with the trend there also going towards digital. But in terms of a compelling product that does well sales-wise and pulls in younger readers, feels like manga has stepped more into that role.

    As I think way back in comic book history, it reminds me a bit of when super-hero comics went out of fashion after WWII until rebounding in the Silver Age. Or from a distribution standpoint, how the industry seemed on its last legs in the late 70's (remember the "DC Implosion"?) as the newsstand model was failing and it made the successful shift to direct market which gave us the wonderful comic book shops that are now waning as digital is poised as the successor.
    Last edited by Granamyr's Helmet; January 23, 2021 at 02:12pm.

  22. #22
    Heroic Warrior King Kahn's Avatar
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    It doesn't help that Marvel/DC are bereft of ideas.

    Because every character is a potential IP used for other media things will never change. They cannibalize the readers with line wide event that "change things forever" but then go back to status quo because characters like spider-man have to be evergreen and never change.

    Neither company has really had any big/good character changes since the mid 90s. Everything now is rehashed or built upon characters or events created in the 90s or earlier.

    I barely read anything from the big two anymore for that very reason and it is why I say comics will always live on, just not the glut from marvel/dc.
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Night Stalker View Post
    Comics have been on life support since 1995. The industry has done nothing to bring in new readers and has actively discouraged lifelong readers from remaining customers. The largest publisher (Marvel) has not turned a profit in 20 years from their print division, and are kept alive more as a concession to their licensing and media divisions.

    At a time when most Americans were at home looking for reading material, comic sales tanked even further for new issues. People were buying comics alright; they just weren't manufactured in this century. They wanted comics that were written well and were entertaining, and with very few exceptions, there's nothing like that for sale today. Almost everything printed by the Big Three today is overpriced political snark shoveled out by nihilistic Twitter edgelords who tell anyone that criticizes their work to go commit suicide because the book was written for someone else.

    What I think will happen, unless a few brave fools try to right course, is that digital sales will replace monthly print. Series that sell well digitally will get a 6-issue collected TPB every six months. Other than that, anything on tomorrow's shelves will be collections of older material from back when the industry had a soul (ie, the only material people bother buying in print anymore.)

    I'm a lifelong comics fan. We've been begging the publishers for 20 years to clean up house so we can continue buying their books. The publishers doubled down on their gamble, and now there's barely any readers left and barely any books worth buying. We all lost.
    Well said and on point.

    Many of the comic shops in NYC have closed. The ones that remain have an ever increasing toy/collectible section and an ever shrinking comic section. Even Midtown Comics (Times Square) is putting Funko Pops in the lower floor which was just books up until recently.

    I think it’s an important point to make that we may all be referring to something different when we say comics. Forbes may say that comics are doing well but are using a broad definition with that. When I say comics, I am referring to US superhero’s floppies from Marvel, DC, Dark Horse IDW, etc. And DC and Marvel are only still publishing because of Daddy’s money. They wouldn’t be able to support themselves right now if they were not owned by larger entities. IDW is losing millions each year. It is always wise for a company to broaden their customer base but never that the expense of legacy fans, especially when the new audience that your chasing is more interested in cosplayed than actually buying your product. DC and Marvel are making comics for people who don’t by comics at the expense of those who have hundreds of dollars worth of pull boxes each month. As I am hearing from my local NYC shops, back issues are the only market to make money in right now. I’m happy that shop owners have found a way to feed their families but will how long will the back issues market keep them afloat.

    I don’t see much future in American comics. I’ve been reading them since I was 8. My father was a printer who created the physical plates from the live art work for the King Features syndicate back when comics where still made that way. He knew Gil Kane, Jim Davis, and Charles Schulz. It is a medium that has been part of my life from before I could walk. The state of the industry makes me very sad.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Dcr4 View Post
    It's amazing to me how the comics industry couldn't quite figure out how to capitalize on the fact that super hero movies have been the biggest thing going for the last several years.
    Yeah that is a great point. Iíd wager itís because when kids see the movie and then see a comic in a local store, the characters no long resemble what they saw in the movie and/or are not even the same person.
    Last edited by MJOLNIR; January 23, 2021 at 02:55pm.

  24. #24
    Heroic Warrior Amentep's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Granamyr's Helmet View Post
    Or from a distribution standpoint, how the industry seemed on its last legs in the late 70's (remember the "DC Implosion"?) as the newsstand model was failing and it made the successful shift to direct market which gave us the wonderful comic book shops that are now waning as digital is poised as the successor.
    I'd argue the shift wasn't successful. Its just delayed the doom. Moving to the direct market ensured that the generational churn of readers that kept readership high because new readers came in constantly even as others grew out of the readership. Plus the comics for younger readers didn't survive the transition because the direct market was for adults. Ditto horror, war and western comics.

    I'm not convinced digital is really a solution; unless the main comic producers seriously cut output and overhead.

    Anyhow, I still read comics. Store seems to be doing okay.

  25. #25
    Heroic Warrior King Kahn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dcr4 View Post
    It's amazing to me how the comics industry couldn't quite figure out how to capitalize on the fact that super hero movies have been the biggest thing going for the last several years.
    One problem is what do people, who get excited from seeing a captain America or Batman movie go and read?

    Thereís literal 1000s of issues and stories to choose from, and depending on who you ask, you get different ďiconicĒ story recommendations.

    Itís daunting for a new reader as to where to start.

    My wife, not a comic nerd sheís more anime and other things, for instance just sort of stopped trying.

    She likes a beginning middle and end to stories and comics just sort of go on and on and on. So itís daunting.


    Whereas a movie like watchmen you can say go read watchmen. And then hey if you like that then read X,Y,and Z.

    Itís why movies based directly on books bring in more readers since the correlation is more direct. Do you like the new dune then here are the books.

    The comic industry hasnít, or because of such a huge catalog, canít do it.
    cogito ergo doleo

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