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New TILTING up

Brian Hibbs

Good morning, internet! You know, I think Spurgeon just did a big disservice to Tucker by reducing 10k words (!) to “Tucker Stone: Various”! Foo! On the other hand, his defense of Alan Moore was the most right on commentary I’ve read this morning, so I guess it balances out…

(Has anyone noticed that Spurge actually sorts his links by character count? Sure, it makes it look a lot more readable, but mein gott that’s some OCD-ish-ness right there!)

Anyway, the newest TILTING AT WINDMILLS is up at CBR, go read it.

I think I might have touched a nerve this time, because it already has 20 replies on CBR (that’s rare, even after a week), and most of them are from people with under 5 previous posts….

Interested in your thoughts, as always.

-B

71 Responses to “ New TILTING up ”

  1. Okay, I don’t have access to my comics but I just checked marvel.wikia.com. It looks like Marvel was publishing about 50 books a month in 1989, including graphic novels, sub-imprints and whatnot.

    Mike

  2. It certainly is a daunting time for retailers, with all these titles and our customers only able to support a fraction of them. I myself look at the titles that actively move here and the odd ones that are good enough in quality to push. That gives the big two about 40-50 per month, and the rest are racked by interest/quality. A lot of times, we’ll follow something like Shadowland for a bit, then gradually decreasing the amount of titles till we get the ones that we actually turn over. It takes a lot of inventory monitoring, a lot of reading comics & criticism on the net to find new stuff that we may have missed, but there’s a lot of books Marvel & DC publish that I just won’t try out anymore. The $3.99 price point hasn’t really hurt books that deliver the goods, but the economy is probably the biggest reason for the decrease in sales. Many are unemployed and underemployed, and the rest are very, very selective on what their discretionary dollars are spent on.

  3. “No, you said they’re “soulless sell-outs or back-stabbers.” Who’s said that? Who are you quoting?”

    That’s what Moore says.
    Not those words, but that’s the impression he’s giving.

    “That’s not how I read it, or how Brian read it, or how Tom read it, so speak for yourself.”

    I am speaking for myself.
    You, Brian and Tom can read it however you want – he sounds like a paranoid convinced the world is against him and everyone is horrible except for him.
    Why do I think he sounds that way?
    Because he sounds like people I’ve met who go on like that.

    (Please, don’t keep exaggerating, claiming I’m putting up Strawmen, or speaking for anyone other than myself. It’s silly).

    “I read from it that a good friend and collaborator bothered him on behalf of a company he’s made it clear for the last decade or two he wants nothing to do with. Business can easily come between a friendship, or at least permanently taint it. You’ve never experienced this? If not, I envy your choice of career.”

    So Dave Gibbons is an agent of DC, not just a guy trying to make a buck for himself (which I see nothing wrong with), David Lloyd can’t be spoken to because he didn’t ring Alan thanking him for money – I can’t believe he told Gibbons he had to on the day he got it – and what did Steve Bisette do again?
    He gave an interview.

    Alan’s a great writer – a genius of the medium, no question – but that interview reads like a stoned persons rant.

    He’s hooked on DC saying he’d be ‘quietly complacent’, convinced – with no evidence he mentions – that DC tried to leverage his friends dying brother against him – well, they did it through Warner Books, but it was SO DC punishing, not just Warner books canceling the novelization – that they inexplicably offered him back the rights to Watchmen in exchange for more Watchmen, then tried to buy it from him, that Watchmen is a bigger and safer franchise than Batman, that there’s no talent in American comics… even a late royalty cheque is seen as the sign of evil machinations – not just that there was a screw up in accounting (which if you’ve had any kind of career, you’d know happens).

    Sorry, but that sounds to me, like a Stoner whose upset – probably justifiably – but is now seeing evil patterns all around them.

  4. Let’s take the side argument about Alan Moore somewhere else, please.

    (Edited, after the deletions: Because I say so, Michael)

    -B

  5. “These products just don’t seem to be aimed at anybody really.”

    Indeed. Something like Shadowland seems to be marketed as, “If you like Daredevil, if you liked Marvel Knights from 10 years ago, if you liked that 1994 Daredevil crossover, you might like this.” But that just raises more questions.

    Who reads Daredevil and why do they like it?

    Who liked Marvel Knights from 10 years ago or that 1994 Daredevil crossover and are they still reading comics today?

    And more broadly, who are the current batch of comic book readers?

    Why do they read comics?

    What do they have in common that other potential comics readers might have?

    The question isn’t why people should like comics, but why do current readers like comics, and why isn’t their interest broader throughout the English-speaking world? (I know that people read comics, and American comics, everywhere, but since the main publishers of American comics are English-speaking Americans, their main target audience is English-speaking Americans).

  6. I’m surprised the August numbers haven’t led to more comments.

  7. Me too!

    -B

  8. I don’t know if I am falling into some trap my failure to correctly read the tone of the written word has led me to spring but…

    The August numbers will probably be dismissed as the result of no Big Ticket Titles shipping that month. Or naughty pixies.But certainly not Greed Fatigue (it’s like Event Fatigue but about prices…oh, you got that did you, Marvel.)

    I’m trying to process what these August figures are telling me, as I am not economically minded, but, to risk stating the obvious, it seems like copies sold were down (which would be expected given price rises) but more importantly dollars sales were down (which suggests less money is being spent on comics rather than the same money on less comics). I don’t know, I’m not going to be the first to start running for the exits but it should spark some lively discussion. Maybe.

  9. “As I see it, Marvel and DC have abrogated their role as gardeners, so maybe it becomes up to the individual store owner to cut that kudzu.”

    Well I’m sorry but it is and has always been your job and the job of any shop owners.
    What shop owner expect his providers to tell him what he should sell?
    Why most comicshops look like a Marvel/DC warehouse?

  10. All I can do is speak from personal experience, and all I can provide is anecdotal evidence from someone who has been a rabid comic book lover since I was a kid in the 1960’s. Last year, I used to religiously visit my local comic shop every Wednesday. I would buy anywhere from 7-10 comic books a week.

    Within the past year I have made one trip a month to my LCS and am lucky to buy a total of 5 comic books a month.

    Ladies and gentlemen, I have lost faith. God is dead.

  11. JM Ringuet:

    “What shop owner expect his providers to tell him what he should sell?”

    I think you have a misunderstanding of how the market work. The forces that make a DM retailer wish to stock a full line have, for the entire history of the DM, have been driven by the CONSUMER, not the publishers.

    Think of it this way: if you walk into a video store you have a reasonable expectation, that you’ll be able to rent, say, any film released by Miramax. Same thing here.

    What I’m specifically considering is no longer racking certain books that have SOME sales, in order to reduce clutter.

    And, actually, I started pulling that trigger this week. I usually sell 1-2 rack copies of BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL (on like 3 subs, off the top of my head) — well, I cut that one back to subs-only on this week’s FOC. 2-3 other books like it too. I could have cut (as I recall) another 5 more, but I think I’m going for a slower phase in, and see what happens.

    “Why most comicshops look like a Marvel/DC warehouse?”

    I suppose you’d have to ask them. Mine doesn’t.

    -B

  12. Hmm I get your point but I can’t relate to it.

    I would never walk into a video store and expect to be able to rent any film from Miramax. I know Miramax (which is not the case with most movie viewers I would think), but there are a lot of Miramax movies I don’t know about and wouldn’t be interested in.
    When I walk in the video store I expect to find cool movies that interest me, probably all the latest releases of course, well known classics, movies with directors and actors I recognized and probably a handful of movies I have never heard about but I want to check out.

    Seriously I don’t think there is anybody out there who would expect or want to find all the Miramax releases in a video store. That’s not the way video store customers think.

    And that’s my point really: it seems that comic shop managers think mainly about publishers (DC/M) and characters when they buy their stock, and that seems to be very specific to the comic business. I don’t think video store owners, bookstore owners, or any other store owners think in that way.
    To me there is an incredible psychological dependency between comicshops and the big 2.
    And I don’t think the big 2 will be always faithful to their cheerleaders.

    And of course I could be wrong.

  13. I get what you’re getting at, Brian, but your analogy isn’t that strong because comics doesn’t work like other media in that who ONLY watches Universal movies, buys Random House books or purchases Kill Rock Star albums the way some comics customers only buy DC or Marvel.

    And while I definitely understand your desire to reduce clutter, pulling a book that still sales off the racks seems like it could be cutting your nose off to spite your face. I mean, what if the two persons who buy BATMAN CON off the rack start going elsewhere because they can never find it at your store, taking their other purchases with them? Yes, the person could become a sub but when I worked at a comic shop I knew two regulars who didn’t want to becomes subs simply because they liked getting the comics off the racks.

  14. You have to admit, Brian, these fantasy customers are a lot more fickle than your real ones.

  15. I’m kind of amazed that you order rack copies of everything. I would think that it would be part of the retailers job to separate the wheat from the chaff.

    There is absolutely no reason to have fifteen (or whatever) Thor books out per month, so you should absolutely pick the best of the bunch and push those. By all means let people special order whatever they want, but don’t clutter up the shelves with a bunch of crap!

  16. @Ralf Haring: that’s right! I think what customers should get from a comicshop is guidance rather than unlimited choice in only 2 flavors.

  17. JM:

    “Seriously I don’t think there is anybody out there who would expect or want to find all the Miramax releases in a video store. That’s not the way video store customers think. ”

    The point isn’t “Miramax” — think of it more broadly. The comparison I’m trying to make is “professional well known studio” as opposed to, dunno, “fly by night unknown one”

    I’ve not carried 100% of Marvel or DC’s output for nigh on half a decade, FWIW.

    ****

    DanielT:

    “And while I definitely understand your desire to reduce clutter, pulling a book that still sales off the racks seems like it could be cutting your nose off to spite your face. I mean, what if the two persons who buy BATMAN CON off the rack start going elsewhere because they can never find it at your store, taking their other purchases with them?”

    It is, certainly, a theoretical risk, but one, I think, that has less of a downside than, y’know, the majority of my customers being able to find the comics they actually are interested in. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” or something…

    ******

    Tom Spurgeon:

    You win the discussion. You can pick up your trophy at Kurt Busiek’s house…

    -B

  18. Brian, now that I’ve thought about it some I think you’re doing the right thing. It would be one thing if Marvel and DC were putting out 200 masterpieces of art each month (or even just fun, readable comics). But since they’re only interested in pushing product right now it is time to fight back against them.

  19. On a different but related note, have you ever thought having ComicsPRO set up a section on their website where retailers could report sell-through of titles on a monthly basis? I think that would give us all a somewhat better picture of how the market sits if enough shops would participate.

  20. It is pretty expensive to do it in a way that satisfies anti-trust considerations — that is to say, ComicsPRO is still primarily volunteer-run, data collection is a big time-sink, and one member can NOT have direct access to any other member’s data, necessitating outside companies.

    It’s really something that will probably need to come from Diamond. Interestingly enough, the DID have a year-ish long run of collecting sell-0through in the 80s, but they stopped, I think, because it was SO labor-intensive (largely pre-computer, you understand), and because the resulting reports ended up getting terribly depressing (lots of stuff with 60%- sell-through… it was right in the middle of the first crash, as I recall — John Jackson Miller might remember more specific details…)

    -B

  21. […] a company’s output than a handful of titles. There’s almost an encounter group in the followup comments, as others share their similar […]

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