Comic Business LinkBlogging

Quote of the day, from Marc-Oliver Frisch:

Why not cancel the Superman books that don’t, in fact, have Superman in them, and try coming up with a marketing strategy that doesn’t ignore the content of what you’re peddling?

He’s commenting on how Paul Cornell, the new writer of Action Comics, would like to write Superman but won’t be able to since the character is not in the title during Cornell’s first story arc. Sad but typical.

Let’s look at some stories about the comic business that made me think this week.

Price, Quality, and Value

Market Day cover
Market Day
Buy this book

First, Brian Hibbs reviews Market Day, the new hardcover by James Sturm from Drawn & Quarterly. While he loved the material, he found the package lacking in value:

I have lots of terrific praise for this, and plenty of glowing adjectives, as a work of creation, but when we get to the “letter grade”, I can only barely muster a GOOD. Why? The price. $21.95. For what I counted to be 88 story pages. …

Now, to be certain, I’d rather spend 15 minutes with this than 95% of the output of Marvel comics — and there’s no doubt in my mind that this will stick with me far longer than virtually anything else I’ve read this month, but “value” is an important concept in retail sales, and unless you’re a trust-fund comics patron, this was a pretty mediocre value based on cover price.

I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks about such things these days. My graphic novel library is pretty well stocked, and I’d like to find time to reread some of those I own. There’s a high bar to get over for a new title to become part of my “permanent collection”, and one of the things I consider is whether I’m going to feel like something is overpriced the next time I look at it.

On the other hand, you can currently get the book for under $15 at Amazon, under $13 if you’re willing to buy used (and that includes the mandatory $4 shipping). Mr. Hibbs, as a noted direct market retailer, probably doesn’t like me mentioning that, but the fact is, some publishers these days price to take discounts into account.

How ironic, that this discussion all took place around a book called Market Day.

A Really Bad Breakup

Checker Books, which pulled all its material from Diamond while making all kinds of allegations of incompetence on the part of the distribution company, has now released an open letter reiterating its complaints in much more detail.

I have no idea whether their assertions regarding Diamond being about to go under are valid or likely or not. Honestly, the first thing I thought while reading this was, “do they know that this could probably open them up to libel charges?” I mean, attacking the guy who owns the company because one of his houses was foreclosed on? The second was, “if this is the way they behave when severing a business relationship, even if they’re right, I bet Diamond is glad to be rid of them.”

I admit, I didn’t read the entire letter because it was much too long. I did notice this, though: “Our website will soon contain the information regarding re-scheduled projects and when, where and how retailers can get them.” That would be a pleasant change, Checker having an updated website. Currently, their “What’s New” page is showing information from 2004 and 2005. File this under yet another example of how not to conduct your business in public.

DC: Clinging to the Customer of the Past

From the Newsarama blog (link no longer available) comes commentary on DC’s apparent desire to try and force customers back to periodical buying when many of them have switched to collections, “waiting for the trade”. I know the traditional comic shop retailer prefers the recurring, weekly customer as a more reliable cash cow, but the recent raise in prices for comic issues to $4 a pop is only the latest reason that collections are a much preferable format. An excellent response to DC’s periodical emphasis from writer Russ Burlingame:

DC needs to focus its energies on shifting the focus to periodicals seems a little dated and more than a touch naïve. Do they really think that they can manage the way their customers choose to enjoy their product, sheerly by force of will? Let’s ask the music industry how well that’s worked out for them in the last decade or so. …

[T]he phrase “shifting the focus back to periodicals,” along with the phrases “The Return of Barry Allen” and “Fear of a Black Firestorm” suggest to me a company which has ceased trying to court new, young customers and has resigned itself to the conclusion that their target demographic is Geoff Johns and James Robinson: white, immersed in pop culture, young in the corporate sense but quickly aging in the biological, and decades behind what’s new and cool when it comes to their personal tastes.

I admit, I can be described the same way these days, but at least I’m not demanding the company cater to me and me alone. If they don’t put out product I’m interested in (and lately, they haven’t), then I don’t buy from them. Instead, I spend my money on the many other comic choices now available to me.

Kick-Ass Dooms the Adult Superhero

Heidi sums up industry reaction in the light of Kick-Ass’s disappointing opening. It’s being considered another example of how internet buzz doesn’t translate into real customer money, as well as a sign that (combined with Watchmen‘s performance, poorer than expected) R-rated superhero movies are not a good idea. It will be very interesting to see how The Losers does (opening this weekend), but then again, that’s not an explicitly comic book movie, instead highlighting its action themes, and it’s only PG-13.

Let’s End on Some Lighter Notes

Kate Beaton makes her own Aquaman comics in her own unique style. The grumpy, bearded, harpoon hand version looks wonderful!

ABC’s hypocritical decision to ban large lady lingerie from running during Dancing With the Stars is mocked at NPR’s blog through use of many silly shots from the show.


10 Responses to “Comic Business LinkBlogging”

  1. James Schee Says:

    I wonder how much he’ll get to use Superman after that arc too, with JMS coming on board Superman.

    That is a ridiculous cover price to page count ratio for Sturm’s book. Yet I’m glad you answered the question that popped to mind. (wonder how much it is on Amazon?)

    I found it funny recently that in a panel where Didio and co. were touting the importance of the periodicals. When he was asked if there would be more Wednesday Comics, Didio answered that it would depend on how the collection did.

    I haven’t been to a con in a LONG time. One thing that struck me when looking at recent pictures from DC con panels was how OLD everyone in the audience is.

    Honestly with the way DC structures their stories, I’m not sure that collections are good bets for them anyway. Everything is so tied together that I wonder what you could collect.

    DC ignoring the digital market is more the killer to me.

  2. Johanna Says:

    Didio’s giving out conflicting information? What a surprise. Good point about the interconnected stories making it difficult for the bookstore market.

  3. Hsifeng Says:

    Brian Hibbs Says:

    “…and unless you’re a trust-fund comics patron…”

    I have a library card for a regional library network that welcomes books in all formats and welcomes purchase recommendations from patrons. Does having all that count as me being a trust-fund comics patron?

    Johanna Says:

    “…My graphic novel library is pretty well stocked, and I’d like to find time to reread some of those I own. There’s a high bar to get over for a new title to become part of my ‘permanent collection’…”

    Likewise, my apartment library is stuffed and I’d like to want to reread something if I’m going to own a copy. Sometimes a new title doesn’t become part of my permanent collection until after I’ve borrowed and reread it several times. That’s a high bar to get over. OTOH, I have a much lower bar for asking my local library to buy a new title for me to try that I can’t already find in its catalogs. ;)

  4. Jer Says:

    [T]he phrase “shifting the focus back to periodicals,” along with the phrases “The Return of Barry Allen” and “Fear of a Black Firestorm” suggest to me a company which has ceased trying to court new, young customers and has resigned itself to the conclusion that their target demographic is Geoff Johns and James Robinson: white, immersed in pop culture, young in the corporate sense but quickly aging in the biological, and decades behind what’s new and cool when it comes to their personal tastes.

    Or, as I’ve been pointing out for a few years now, they’ve given up on comics as a business model. They’ll keep publishing them as long as they are making more money than they’re losing, but they “know” that the real money is in animation, movies, toys, and video games and other licensing and that “kids” don’t want to read comics. Archie comics is an example of a company that sees periodical comics as a revenue stream. They clearly still think the magazine market is important. Compare what they do with what Marvel and DC do and you can see exactly what both of those companies (but especially DC) really think about the long-term future of monthly comics as entertainment.

    After decades of telling everyone “comics aren’t just for kids” apparently the message has sunk in everywhere.

  5. Tommy Raiko Says:

    With regard to that Checker open letter, I’m amused by this line in it:

    “As a publishing company it has been a rule of thumb policy by Checker that; when the owner of your distribution company has his house repo’d(sic) by the bank it is time to move on.”

    Which makes me wonder how many of the company’s previous distributors’ owners have had their houses foreclosed upon. I’d imagine quite a few for this to be one of Checker’s rules of thumb…

  6. Johanna Says:

    Great reminder of a wonderful resource, Hsifeng. I’ve had the pleasure as well of having my library buy comics I wasn’t sure I wanted to own. (They were books with wide potential appeal.)

    Jer, I think in the case of DC, we’re perhaps seeing fallout from the Entertainment transition and greater oversight. I know under Paul Levitz, the company was focused on comics first, but times have changed.

  7. Chris G. Says:

    So I was right to tell myself not to get excited about Paul Cornell on Action Comics. Good to know. Also, the phrase “orange lantern” is intrinsically funny, but not in a good way.

  8. Hsifeng Says:

    “Great reminder of a wonderful resource, Hsifeng…”

    Thanks! :)

    Johanna Says:

    “…I’ve had the pleasure as well of having my library buy comics I wasn’t sure I wanted to own. (They were books with wide potential appeal.)…”

    Don’t be afraid to recommend titles with narrow potential appeal as well, and leave it up to the librarians to decide whether the potential appeal is too narrow for their borrowing public. For example, when my local library buys a book anyone with a library card for any library in its regional network and/or its nearly-statewide network can request it online and borrow it too. That’s over a million people, so “narrow potential appeal” could still add up to a whole bunch of borrowers. ;)

  9. Johanna Says:

    I just didn’t want to sound too selfish, making someone else buy something I wouldn’t. :)

  10. Hsifeng Says:

    Johanna Says:

    “I just didn’t want to sound too selfish, making someone else buy something I wouldn’t. :)”

    Yeah, but

    (a) it’s ultimately up to the librarians to decide which suggested titles to add to their collections and which ones to not add (for reasons like redundancy, too-narrowly focused, OOP with high used-copy price tags, etc. – that’s why online library catalogs call this function “Suggest a Purchase” instead of “Order a Purchase” ;) ) so you wouldn’t be making someone else buy something you wouldn’t

    (b) don’t you chip in for the local and/or state taxes that fund your library that would buy your suggestion?

    (c) wouldn’t you be sharing the copy with anyone and everyone else who uses that library and wants to check it out?

    :)




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