The World Has Already Changed LinkBlogging: Women, Collectibility, Miniseries, and Gary Groth

The End of Collectibility

A comic retailer who reads the ICv2 site writes in to say that comic sales are down because comics are no longer collectible. Customers paying ever-higher prices can’t console themselves with the thought that they could always sell their books and get back what they paid, or even more (although few ever would — it used to be a convenient way to tamp down the guilt and assuage the wife, though). Readers who want to catch up on a story now don’t have to pay escalating back-issue prices; they can download or buy the collection cheaply. As he says,

I started selling comic books professionally in 1991 by setting up at shows and then opened my store in 1993. For most of those years the saying had been, “I collect comics.” Or the question was, “do you collect comics?” “What comics do you collect?” I never hear this anymore. Now it’s what comics do you read? … now, knowing that you probably will not be able to get 25% of your initial investment back out of what you just bought makes that person think twice about where they spend that extra income.

He dreamed of curating a collection and eventually making a profit. The books were “worth something” if you kept them nice. Now, demand for back issues has disappeared.

What he says is all true. However, it’s a good thing. Those attitudes used to fuel the hobby, but treating periodicals as disposable and books as the long-lasting format shows that comics have become a medium, not fodder for a trading post.

Of Course, Women Make Comics… Just Not Boys’ Superheroes

Heidi sums up the status of women working in comics today in answer to those concerned about the ridiculously low number of female creative names on the DC relaunch titles. Women are award winners, journalists, graphic novelists, webcartoonists…

Did you know that the two most important graphic novels of the last decade were by women? Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. … 11 out of 50, one out of five bestselling graphic novels last year was by a woman. … as the bookstore market has risen, it seems the only area where women aren’t working regularly are superhero comics. … If everyone who was expressing an interest in increasing the number of women in comics would actually HIRE one of the scores of talented women professionals out there, we’d not only be a lot further along the road to equality — we’d be getting a lot of good comics.

I don’t have much to add here, other than to say it’s a great summation that reminds us of how small a part of comics superheroes have become. If you’re looking for more great comics by women, check out that list.

Green Lantern Not a Success

ICv2 also has the weekend box office estimates, which show that Green Lantern came in #1, but with under $53 million. That’s less than X-Men: First Class, which cost a heck of a lot less to make! Warner reportedly was expecting $55-65 million, so this has to be disappointing, especially since the film didn’t cross over. The audience was predominantly older males, the traditional superhero comic audience. Looks like a big-budget comic film is no longer guaranteed to fill seats.

However, it did result in this humor piece, which I found amusing, basically because it features everyone calling Hal Jordan an asshole. Which, if these descriptions are to be believed, the movie thinks so as well.

Gary Groth Speaks!

Gary Groth talks with CBR about Fantagraphics, comic strip collections, and how the industry has changed. I’m pulling out key, eye-opening quotes here because I admire Groth’s willingness to tell it like it is, but there’s more at the link:

By and large, nobody publishes alternative comic books anymore. The reason is fairly obvious; since the reader knows it’s going to be collected in a graphic novel, there’s very little reason for them to buy a twenty-four page comic of something he’s going to get a year or two down the line as a graphic novel, and in the way it probably ought to be published anyway, collected in a single work.

… the book buyer at Borders was apparently obsessed with manga and bought almost exclusively manga. Of course it would have been nice to have been sold in Borders for all those years, but we weren’t. Trying to be sold in Borders was like beating our heads against a brick wall, so when they went under, we didn’t suffer at all.

After we published Peanuts, the gigantic Calvin and Hobbes book came out, and The Far Side. Suddenly, reprints of comic strips that you never would have expected to have achieved any remote success seem to have flooded bookstores. I can’t quite figure it out. I mean, obviously Peanuts was successful because it’s Peanuts. It’s one of the most successful strips in the history of the world. Why Rip Kirby would come out, I haven’t the slightest goddamn idea. Why would somebody buy a Rip Kirby collection now as opposed to ten years ago when it would have been completely impossible to imagine that? I really don’t know.

We get a box of comics from DC every so often and I’ll look through it. Stylistically, the work kind of repels me. It’s too frenetic and manga-influenced. I’m way too old for that stuff.

Why Would I Buy a Miniseries Any More?

See that first Groth quote up there? Keep that in mind when you find out that SLG Publishing will only be making the last issue of The Royal Historian of Oz available digitally or in the collected edition. That’s one way to sell more books, but it stinks if you’ve already bought the first four issues. I don’t know why anyone buys comic miniseries any more — if it’s good, there will be a book, usually with extras; if it’s not, then hey, you saved the money. More to the point, I know why releasing miniseries is attractive to creators and publishers — you can fund the print and creative costs as you go — but I suspect benefits are rapidly declining and they will soon go extinct.

13 Responses to “The World Has Already Changed LinkBlogging: Women, Collectibility, Miniseries, and Gary Groth”

  1. Ray Cornwall Says:

    …I’m buying Rip Kirby, but that’s because I’ve been turned onto it by Dave Sim’s Glamourpuss.

    Oh yeah, I read Glamourpuss too. And I like it. Something’s wrong with me, I swear…

  2. Ralf Haring Says:

    “What comics do you read” being construed as a negative? The mind boggles.

    The only alternative comics I buy as single issues anymore are ones that come out so infrequently the cost is really inconsequential. I do it really just because I want to support the work in any form. I looked over the past year of orders and I bought Berlin, Age of Bronze, and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I don’t think I even read the Berlin issues, just set them aside and wait for the collection. The only other single issues I’ve bought in the past year are a few #1s from Marvel/DC to see if I should keep an eye out for the collection and a few miniseries by creators I especially liked (Jim Cheung, Jonathan Hickman). The vast majority of my comics purchases shifted away from single issues long, long ago.

  3. Eric Rupe Says:

    One of the more interesting points that I though Groth brought up in his interview is the fact the Fantagraphics sells very well designed comics that are worth the higher price to buy in print, which is a great counter-point I rarely seen when discussing digital comics. I know I’ve personally been buying more hardcovers from some publishers recently because I know they will be worth the added money. That said, I don’t really see how you can make the single issue really attractive in the you can with a hardcover but it’s kind of sad that I don’t think any publishers have even entertained the idea of making their single issues more attractive in ways other than sabotaging or undermining other formats.

    I’ll buy the occasional miniseries in single issue format if it’s less than five issues long and something I really want to read because I find three to four issue minis tend to make for bad collections both in size and price.

  4. Johanna Says:

    Ray, you beat me to the joke about being willing to admit you read it!

    Ralf, I have similar motivations, that of supporting the work. The last miniseries I bought, earlier this year, I still haven’t started reading. It would have made more sense to have waited for the collection, I guess. Inconsistency, c’est moi.

    Eric, great point, thanks for calling that out. It’s true, well-designed books that are a pleasure to hold still have a market.

  5. James Schee Says:

    Odd… I may have been weird about comics growing up then as if an issue was significantly higher than cover price I wouldn’t get it. Which means lost sales, the collection saved a lot of series for me and now with digital I can try anything I want.

    I do sell my books though, once every 3 months or so I load up everything I won’t be reading again, and take them to a used book store and get a little something back.

    I am a little surprised at just how much bad publicity the GL movie has gotten. It isn’t really different than any other typical summer action flick. There’s even a sort of comedic charm to some of the silliness at its heart(its a movie with a bunch of weird looking aliens, that glow.. there’s a bit of silliness to that) and I actually wouldn’t mind reading about this version of Hal Jordan.

    Maybe its just the way Reynolds played him, but despite some stupid actions, I liked him. (and I say that as someone who thought they’d never be able to read a Hal story without thinking of run-ins with extreme Hal fans in the past)

    I don’t do minis either, just seems kind of pointless. Maybe if digital versions of them could be priced in ways where sampling was cost effective.

    Ralf, they still make Age of Bronze issues? I don’t preorder so haven’t seen an issue in… woo years.. maybe even half a decade.

  6. David Oakes Says:

    “If you’re looking for more great comics by women, check out that list.”

    The talent’s there, but I just don’t feel any desire to see them play with unlikeable toys. I wish them well, but I’m not a customer for those books.

  7. Johanna Says:

    Yes, David, I know what you’re doing, but if you look at that incredibly diverse list of styles and subjects and can’t find SOMEthing you’re interested in, the problem is you.

  8. Suzene Says:

    I still buy mini series and a few monthlies, but my reasons have a lot in common with Ralf’s above — with a couple of exceptions, I tend to do it if it’s a creative team (or, very occasionally, a character) I adore so much that I want to give them the extra support by double dipping.

  9. William George Says:

    “What comics do you collect?” I never hear this anymore.

    My first act as a power mad despot will be to set fire to every last longbox, plastic bag, and backing board in the world.

    Then I would force the collectors to give all their comics and toys to every single child with a runny nose.

  10. Ralf Haring Says:

    “My first act as a power mad despot will be to set fire to every last longbox, plastic bag, and backing board in the world.”

    So you support slabbing, then? :-P

  11. Grant Says:

    My comic book collection, over the years, has been whittled down to just two long boxes from roughly 30. Much of it has to do with changing taste in what I like or just lack of interest but a big part is the amount of trades, collections, masterworks, archives, omnibus’.

    “..Just not Boys Superheroes”

    Oh boy, didn’t you learn your lesson several years ago with that whole “gender identification” bruhaha between you and ragnell? I mean, it was a totally awesome bruhaha, perhaps one of the best I’ve ever read, and I agreed with you 100%. Maybe you lucked out and they didn’t see it. ;)

    Oh, yeah, Green Lantern was terrible. Very disappointed.

  12. Johanna Says:

    I said “boys’ superheroes” because I was also thinking of the contrast with such fun comics as Faith Erin Hicks’ Superhero Girl. There are superheroes for more than just boys — but these days, DC doesn’t have many of them.

  13. SLG Goes Digital-Only for Serialization — The End of the Indy Comic Book Issue? » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] have some of the issues, and no one’s disappointed when the last few issues of the series are only available in the collection. In that link, I speculated that the comic miniseries was going to soon go extinct, and this looks […]




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