NY Times on Luxury Comics

What a bizarre headline! The Comic Book Is Back, in Luxe Coffee-Table Form starts out talking about “high-end, high-priced editions” — Marvel Omnibuses, DC Absolutes, DC Omnibuses — but goes on to cover collected editions in general.

While the sales of single-issue copies are down from the boom years of the early 1990s, the comic business as a whole has been rebounding, fueled partly by the demand for high-end collections by an aging audience nostalgic for the comics of its youth.

“The publishers are doing this because the market exists now,” said Kuo-Yu Liang, a vice president for Diamond Comic Distributors, the largest distributor of English-language comics in the world. “It reflects the demographics of the consumer, who is both older and more affluent.”

This Diamond VP goes on to say that he realized the potential after Sin City sold well in bookstores in 2005. It took that long?!?

Eric Stephenson of Image says that collected edition sales doubled from 2005 to 2006 and doubled again this year. That’s the most concrete information in the piece, and the most eye-opening.

8 Responses to “NY Times on Luxury Comics”

  1. John Says:

    Yeah, I saw this and was very happy at the news. By the time I’m on my death bed, periodical style comics will be gone, gone, gone . . . it’s been in the wind since the first Archie Digest, for god’s sake.

    When I was doing comics – early 90s – the common wisdom among indies and self publishers was that your regular title was just a way of slowly putting together a collection to solicit – that was where the real attention, sales, and longevity was going to come from – and an opportunity to break out of the comics store ghetto. If Diamond has just figured this out after more than a decade, then it clues me in to the correctness of my suspicion that those in charge of the biggest distributor were not the sharpest tacks on the corkboard.

  2. Ali Kokmen Says:

    Ku-Yuo Liang doesn’t need me to defend him, but I will say that he is a very smart guy, and indeed one of the sharper tacks in the corkboard that is today’s comics business. I’d be inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt here. It’s probably not necessary to read too too much between the lines in the article–which likely glosses over some nuance and depth that we in the comics community would normally like.

    But in fairness, the article is not just about how everyday graphic novels are selling well in the bookstore market, but how graphic novels with-really-high-price-points are selling in the bookstore market, which aren’t quite the same thing.

    Plus, to nitpick, Diamond wasn’t really involved with selling to the traditional bookstore market before late 2001. While they were surely aware of some book market phenomena happening with graphic novels, it strikes me as a bit unfair to consider “more than a decade” as the timeframe Diamond should be held to for deep experience with the bookstore market.

    But, in full disclosure, I’ve known Ku-Yuo Liang for years, and I work in the traditional book industry, so my opinion ain’t unbiased either.

  3. Johanna Says:

    True enough. I should remember that newspaper quotes are often chosen for zippiness and/or supporting whatever point the writer wants to make, not necessarily accuracy. And yes, the distinction between regular collections and “luxury” comics seems to be something aimed at by the article (although I think they muddle it badly). Luxury… every time I hear that I think of comics covered in fur. But that leads to leather, which leads to Avatar fetish comics, blech.

  4. John Says:

    Technically, the quotes drive the point that a writer wants to make snd the story is built from them – a reporter only has to work with what he or she is given. I can’t even begin to count the times someone told me or another reporter something that they later said they never said and you misquoted them . . . even though you have them on tape, saying the exact thing they didn’t remember.

    People tend to not speak precisely and that doesn’t change much when speaking with reporters. Also, while reporters have their beats, you also need to write about things you have no knowledge up and you have to learn about quickly through research and, yep, interviews.

    Not that I mean to defend big media . . . and I have known some crooked reporters in my time, as well as some real morons.

  5. Johanna Says:

    I was thinking more of being asked questions like “Don’t you agree that …” which anyone who’s been interviewed more than a couple of times has experienced. Reporting’s a tough job, as you’ve reminded me, though, and I don’t envy those who do it.

  6. John Says:

    Yeah, I see what you mean – it’s actually an interesting psychological interaction you bring up. I would usually ask “Do you think that . . .” and then add “Or is that not the case at all?” and give them an out because what I find is that people tend to defer politely and diplomatically to their interviewers, which does give rise to some odd statements that contradict themselves within the same sentence!

    My own personal style of interviewing is very conversational and I don’t prepare questions – it creates a casual atmosphere that really gives the interviewee a chance to go with their own trains of thought, improvise a little, and sometimes really get inside them a little bit because they let their guard down and a chance for the interviewer to learn something unexpected and change the course of the interview according to the interviewee’s lead (hard to do in email interviews, sadly).

    I have found way too many reporters prepare questions that they don’t veer from which leads to EXACTLY the sort of thing you’re talking about – writers should remember that their job in profiling someone or something is to express the interviewee, not the reporter.

  7. Johanna Says:

    What great advice! You should teach a course. Email interviews are way easy, of course, but I agree with yo that conversation is preferable. And more enjoyable for everyone, hopefully.

  8. John Says:

    That’s very nice of you to say – I’ll keep my advice open source though! We all benefit from better interviews!

    I suppose there are two reasons I interview that way and those who don’t, don’t (at least in my experience) – one, I wasn’t educated as a journalist, I’m just a writer who was educated in film, so the joy is in speaking to people and discovering their story rather than reading off a questionaire, if you get my meaning.

    The other is that I have been on the other side of the table so many times and I found that the best articles were always the ones that I enjoyed conversing with the writer – which is pretty obvious, because if all you’re doing is responding to a list, if there’s no genuine give a take, then of course it’s no fun.

    And then there are the people you interview who just aren’t talkers. Those are painful to endure.

    A good interview is like a dance, I suppose . . . but then there are so many kinds of dances, aren’t there? It is kind of presumptuous of me to poo poo the ones I don’t do!

    Regardless, interviewing is its own talent, I suppose.

    Anyhow, this is far off track of the original post! Apologies!




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