Marvel Comics No Longer Available Through Bookstores, Newsstands

But really, does it matter that Marvel single issues aren’t available in bookstores or newsstands? Marvel customers either shop at a dedicated comic shop or in bookstores for collected editions (although they’ve traditionally had tons of problems in that market). From the PW article linked above:

[Marvel senior v-p of book sales David] Gabriel confirmed that Marvel’s single-issue comics program to bookstores has been ended. He said that Marvel ended newsstand sales of print comics “about two years ago,” and the single-issue program at BAM and B&N “ended almost three months ago to no fanfare or notice from the comics industry.” Gabriel said “the business in the direct market [the comics shop market] is a much stronger model and try as we might, we have not been able to make the comics newsstand model work for years, I don’t think anyone has.”

Bit of snark, there, with the quote about no fanfare, right? Tom Spurgeon has great analysis:

Those are terrible items to sell in bookstores and convenience stores. They cost a lot for the perceived value, particularly for a casual reader. They’re confusingly titled and numbered … There’s no reason to think there’s a natural audience for these items in convenience and grocery stores from people buying toothpaste and diet strawberry jelly, and the Marvel folks at least have never invested in classic impulse-buying space near the front of such stores nor, at least never for very long, in any format suited for those spaces. Bookstore readers might seem a natural audience for serial comic books but in a bookstore you have other problems: anyone inclined to notice a rack of awesome-looking funnybooks is probably aware of a nearby business that carries more books more effectively for the hardcore consumer, and they are probably physically near a ton of publications with a better perceived value including a fairly active trade paperbacks section right in that store. It’s hard to compete with cheaper, better everything.

He goes on to suggest that the newsstand impulse buyer has been replaced by the digital surfer, a reasonable assumption.

11 Responses to “Marvel Comics No Longer Available Through Bookstores, Newsstands”

  1. Bytowner Says:

    This still seems…counterproductive.

  2. ~chris Says:

    My first comic book was Amazing Spider-Man #196, purchased for me by my older sister at a newsstand; Marvel has received a lot of my money since. I understand that today’s market is vastly different than in 1979, but how many people will get their very first comic at a comic shop if they never enter a comic shop? I hope Marvel has considered the “loss leader” aspect of newsstand comics in their analysis.

  3. Johanna Says:

    Kids often don’t get their first comic through purchase — they go to a Free Comic Book Day event or check out one of the many age-appropriate graphic novels through their library or school or are given a comic to read by a loved one. Or, nowadays, they do an internet search and find a digital edition. Then, as they learn more about the new wondrous world of comic reading, they find a local specialty store.

  4. jdh417 Says:

    This is a bad venue to express this thought, but digital media does not have much of a perceived monetary value. That is to say, most think it should either be free or cheap. So, while floppies may not be priced well to perceived value, digital comics are going to have the same problem, if they’re priced about the same, and they have no collectible value.

  5. James Schee Says:

    I bought my first comics at a local grocery store. My mom would plop me down at the magazine rack to go through the comics, and I could get 4 or 5 to bring home,while she picked up what she needed without me under foot. My first X-Men book was the last part of the story where Madeline Pryor died. (the first time)

    Before digital, it was easier for me to stop by the book chain store to look for the recent Marvel or DC title. Because the shops in my area had stopped carrying every series of the various lines, except for pull customers.

  6. Johanna Says:

    jdh, although this may apply more to other types of media companies (such as music and movies), in general, they have long hated the used market, since they want every sale to give them $$. For that reason, they like digital, which has no resale ability. I agree with you, though, that digital should be priced cheaper than print, partially because consumers have fewer rights when it comes to that format.

    James, that’s horrible to hear, that some local comic stores don’t allow for any browsing customers. That’s a way of preventing sales growth.

  7. Jim Perreault Says:

    I was at my local book store this past Christmas, and I don’t think I noticed the lack of a comic book section (which used to be next to the graphic novel and before the manga section).

    Perviously, I had noted that it was only media titles: Muppets from Boom; Simpsons; and Superman, Batman, and Justice League from DC. What was notable was the small number of Marvel titles: mostly Spiderman and the Hulk.

    I’ll have to stop by to see if I missed it, or if it is truly gone.

    As for supermarkets, I do find a lot of Marvel merchandise at the front of the store ; it’s just not comics. It is kid’s books and coloring books and the like. The marketing department is very effective at hooking in kids ; it just does not translate to comic books.


  8. James Schee Says:

    Yeah I knew my time with the shops in my area was finally over, when I couldn’t even browse the DC and Marvel lines.

  9. Jer Says:

    I can’t bemoan the loss of comics on the newsstand too much, since so many magazine publishers are giving up on newsstands and converting their publications to digital ones. Marvel and DC haven’t been good at the magazine publishing game since the 1960s (or the early 1970s to be charitable) and have only hung in there where they did because of inertia.

    They really don’t want to be publishing magazines – hell some days I’m not even sure that they want to be publishing individual comics for the direct market anymore. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if within a decade DC Entertainment doesn’t just license out the comics publishing arm of their Superhero and Vertigo media mini-empires off to Dark Horse or Dynamite or IDW or something to cut costs.

  10. Chad Says:

    The snark is particularly misplaced, as the newsstands he refers to leaving three months ago are, in many cases, still stocked with Marvel Comics, just out-of-date ones. But who expects a newsstand to be up to date on its comics these days?

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