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Tilting at Windmills #200: BookScan 2011

Brian Hibbs

It is now up at Comic Book Resources — 15,103 words long!

Read it, absorb it, let me know what you think.


26 Responses to “ Tilting at Windmills #200: BookScan 2011 ”

  1. Thanks, as always, for processing all of that.

    Sounds like a surprisingly good year if you discount the manga and consider the Watchmen related decrease an explainable anomaly.

    Man, I hope not too many people are experiencing comics for the first time through the TWILIGHT “manga”, because I took a look at that thing and it almost put me off comics for good.

    So, SUPERMAN EARTH ONE with the combined direct market and Bookscan reported numbers is above 50,000 sold. I was expecting a bit more based on DC’s decision to move the sequel up in the production schedule, but still solid numbers. Be curious to see if it can sustain sales like JOKER did, and how the sequel does.

    Always good to see BONE sustaining solid numbers, especially knowing this doesn’t even include the book’s primary markets. Just saw the colour hardcover of the first three books, didn’t even know that was coming out, very attractive.

    Based on the pile of them I saw in a bookstore a few weeks ago, a lot of those 100K copies of TROUBLEMAKER that Dark Horse printed are collecting dust in bookstores.

  2. Thanks very much for that, Mr. Hibbs.

    I think I’m beginning to see the differences between the bookstore market and the DM.

    As a publisher if I wanted to make money in the bookstore market I’d make comics aimed at kids, avoid excessive expansion of the property to avoid title-blindness in shoppers, make the price difference between H/Bs and TPBs enough to ensure strong sales on both formats and also bear in mind that a TV/Movie tie-in can reap massive rewards in the short term.

    While in the DM I would deny the very existence of children, flood the market with titles, charge as much as I could regardless of format and pray for a TV/Movie tie-in which would reap massive rewards in the short term, though mostly through merchandise rather than comics.

    (Please note that any errors in the preceding are due to my own comprehension failures and not to Mr. Hibbs’ ever-illuminating and generous analyses.)

    Thanks again!

  3. This is your best BookScan column so far.

    But what I really want to know is if this site is ever going to review comics again.

  4. And I mean not just from you.

  5. Why would you want reviews when you can enjoy two people in love with the sound of their voices talking for hours upon hours?

  6. Podcasts aren’t to everyones tastes. That’s cool. But that doesn’t give anyone licence to be even remotely insulting towards anyone else about it.

    And while I’m sure everyone would love more written reviews (who doesn’t love more free content?), I’m also sure that no one who posts to this site really owes anyone who reads it a damn thing. Especially if they’re not getting paid for those posts (they aren’t, right?).

    But this is the internet and entitlement is the name of the game. So carry on embodying that ideal, sirs. Someone’s got to, right?

    P.S. Loved the BookScan analysis, Brian. I’m glad there’s someone willing to take the time to wade through that insane thicket of numbers to try to get at something like a clear picture of the market. Excellent job, sir.

  7. “But that doesn’t give anyone licence to be even remotely insulting towards anyone else about it.”

    So, this is the first time you’ve ever ventured onto the internet?


  8. Course it isn’t. That’s why I tossed in the “entitlement is the name of the game” bit.

    Carry on, sir.

  9. “That’s why I tossed in the “entitlement is the name of the game” bit.”

    And when a site that started out as a place for comic reviews turns into place with no reviews and then turns into an advertisement for somebody’s podcast, folks are entitled to make fun of that.


  10. Well, obviously, we disagree about that.

    The site was never a paid reviews site with employed bloggers. It was a side project done for its own sake (as far as I know anyway) and a good deal of the folks who used to blog here now have paid blogging gigs elsewhere. There’s nothing stopping you from going elsewhere to read their writing.

    You should be happy with that fact that they ever felt the need to do this thing at all. Or you can poke fun and jeeringly clamor for more free stuff. Whichever works for you.

  11. What Terrence said. Jeezumcrow!

  12. Mr. Hibbs –

    Sooooo, sooooo, sorry to hijack your comments thread. I have instapapered the bookscan piece and it will be my companion on the beach as I flee Ohio for a short but deserved week.


    At one point I was in the crowd clamoring for more writing here. Now I take Terrence’s view by and large. Let it be what it is and for what it’s not go…seek…find.

    Something is always the beginning of something else’s end, you know. How long have you done the same job, day after day, year after year?

    It…GETS…B O R I N G!!!!

    Michael, let me quote you:

    “From 2006 to 2008, I had written reviews for a website, and apparently someone has linked and quoted those reviews on several wikipedia pages. What’s more, considering I never looked back at those reviews after writing them, I rather like them: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Densha_Otoko_%28film%29

    Sometimes I miss writing reviews, or reviewing things in general. Part of me wants to get back into it, but I don’t really have a text outlet for it (that is, I don’t write for a review website). I could write them here, but not enough people would read them. I want to integrate them into youtube videos somehow, but I usually have A LOT to say, and I’m concerned about fitting the reviews into five minutes or less.”

    You, yourself, have changed formats on your blog from text pieces to a LOT of youtubery. It isn’t my cup of tea but ya know, more power to you for trying something new and enjoying a level of success. I don’t know much about youtube but your Korean rap video garnered 36,000+ views, (1.3 million views for your 161 videos) so that’s something to be proud of. Nobody comments on your blog but I’m sure it’s read despite your above stated doubts. (click on Michael’s name to view his efforts)

    But listen, you basically said “Screw reviewing. I don’t even care about what I’ve written up to a point. I’m abandoning the written review because I don’t have an outlet for it that pays me a sum commensurate with the level of effort necessary to produce said written work.”

    It’s preposterous on the face of things to mock / beg / cajole for something you yourself have abandoned as a tired medium and one you only pine for in an abstract “Those were the days…” kind of way.

    Keep searching for what makes you happy, man. But I’m telling you – Why put digs in on people who are looking for formats and changes to make their own lives more enjoyable? You did it yourself to great success. Think more – laugh more…edit yourself into Eagles parodies of Kim Jong Il! That ought to teach that son of a bitch for starving his own people, Right?

    F#ck it! It’s the internet. Seek and ye shall be served.

  13. “But listen, you basically said “Screw reviewing.””

    I don’t blame you for quoting me. I linked to my site, and you obviously took the time to read through it, which I appreciate.

    I do think you’re an asshat for assuming you know why I stopped writing reviews for Manga Life. It was 100% political, and I’ll leave it at that.

    Are people allowed to criticize something they’re not paying for? OF COURSE THEY ARE. If people aren’t allowed to criticize something they’re not paying for, why should they be allowed to praise it either? Everyone has an opinion and is entitled to it.

    And if a reviews site turns into a shameless advertisement for a podcast that ought to get its own website, it’s fair for people to say, “Yeah, uh, what happened to the reviews?”

  14. Michael,

    “I do think you’re an asshat for assuming you know why I stopped writing reviews for Manga Life. It was 100% political, and I’ll leave it at that.”

    First, I can only go with what you’ve given me. Your post was vague in that regard and by the wishy-washy nature of your following sentences I assumed, wrongly, that you didn’t really care about writing reviews except in that “Ah what a beautiful sunset,” way I described. I mean, if you were really passionate about writing for manga life you’d get off the fence and submit writing samples and not stop until you get what you want out of life. But, okay, my bad.

    Secondly, your motivations, personal experiences, ‘feelings’ mean nothing to me. You are a soulless automaton whose only purpose in life FROM MY POINT OF VIEW was to crank out reviews for Manga Life. Remember when Michael used to write reviews? Yeah, that was awesome. Whatever happened to him? Oh, he does parodies of Hanson in 2011? Niiiice. ‘It was political’ how political can you get reviewing manga? Ammiright? Whatever.

    (Puts on Gervais voice)

    Do you see what I did there? I criticized you…haha and this is really quite clever…I did it in the same way you criticize this site. So…take that.

    End unnecessary sarcasm.

    Go look at the front page of this site. It says Savage Critics. It gives you the scale. It doesn’t say – this is a page devoted to thinking about, analyzing, and dispensing criticism of the comic book art form in the preferred style of Michael Aaronson. It says critic but who says “criticism” can only be applied with written reviews of comic books? On top of that, honestly, it’s a cool logo and people can be lazy so even though the site has mutated from its original goal coding is a bitch and Brian’s got a business to run.

    Brian and Jeff have a relationship that goes back at least to Fanboy Rampage so pardon a couple old friends for sticking together regardless of format.

    So, look, I don’t speak for anyone but myself when I say you go ahead and talk about what you’re entitled to. You talk about wanting reviews. This page – what it is now – is not for you. And when you troll up in here and play Debbie Downer with your one liner bullshit about “Remember when…” it will continually make me VISIBLY sad for you that you just don’t get it. Other people are not YOURS to command.

    I have literally lowered myself and I am embarrassed but there it is.

    Also, I saved the instant rimshot page and any time you put the line up about reviews I will be there to give you the “price is wrong” .wav file.

    Entitlement goes both ways, yes?

    Just had to call me an asshat, didn’t you? I just kept telling myself, “Aw, it’s not worth it. Just let him say whatever he wants.” But you know…it was totally worth it.

  15. I’ve mentioned the paucity of reviews before, and I do realize it’s a personal issue. It’s free, it’s a hobby, it’s something no one gets paid for…

    But there is a flipside. Brian Hibbs is a respected retailer who does tremendous service to the direct market. This site was a destination site that kept his name out there for readers that aren’t in San Francisco and who aren’t retailers. For the more casual reader, when they go to Comic Book Resources and see ‘Tilting at Windmills,’ they have an idea of who that is.

    This site essentially works as a low level way to keep Mr. Hibbs’s name out in common play. If the reason for visiting the site disappears, then it’s going to damage that reputation with the average reader–at least in my opinion.

    I’d think that traffic has dropped sharply to this site over the last two years. Of course, I only have my own experience to draw on. In my case, the site has gone from a destination, ‘check it in the morning’ site to a ‘check it on the weekends, if I think about it’ site.

    I’m not demanding reviews. Not in the least. It doesn’t do any damage to me at all if no reviews show up here. I’ll just stop visiting. It’s a bit disappointed, but only because I’ve been reading Mr. Hibbs’s reviews since Compuserve circa ’92, and I regard his opinions as a reviewer who is very close to my own perceptions.

    So, no, I’m not going to rage about the lack of reviews. I’m not going to storm about and complain. I have zero sense of entitlement that he review for me NOW. Trust me, I’ve got a two year old, and I know how time consuing a more than full time job, a wife and a young one can be.

    I just think that a resource that put Brian Hibbs out there for broad fandom is being wasted.

  16. “I can only go with what you’ve given me.”

    I didn’t give you shit – because you never asked. You just made up the answer you wanted, as you continue to do.

    You can drop this pathetic argument about “entitlement,” or whatever you imagine that word is supposed to mean in this context. I am taking what this site is and comparing it not only to what it used to be, but to what it still claims to be on that big logo up top. Nothing more and nothing less.

    Opinions. Learn to deal with them.

  17. http://instantrimshot.com/index.php?sound=priceiswrong&play=true

  18. I’d probably enjoy the podcasts more if I could hear them. Since I’m deaf, I can’t join everybody’s opinions on what’s being said. A text version of the conversation would be immensely helpful in this situation, and would make visiting this site worthwhile again. (At least for me)

  19. D. Eric

    It’s an interesting point you make about broader fandom, well taken. Hibbs has a presence on ICV2 and the big dog that is CBR but ’tis true that this site can be seen as a “hometown” of sorts.

    But, to everything there is a season. I check in now to get the podcast and see the “arriving” column. Which, oddly, was how I found the site initially.

    I searched for “new comic releases” or something like that and SC was in the top four or five on google. By the time I got here most of the critics were not participating anyway so I always chuckled a little bit when somebody would pine for reviews but at this point it’s old and tired and done only for some trolling sense of smug “I was here when it was good” arrogance. I hasten to add, so I assume or ‘make-up’ according to Michael but after all, it’s my OPINION so I am ENTITLED. (Also according to Michael for those keeping score at home)

    At one point I thought, “At this stage in my life I like writing a bit about comics here and there, maybe I could help out.” Nothing came of it and the names stay on the right side of the page, frozen as a memory of what, apparently, once was.

    Well, what you see from Hibbs and Graeme and Jeff is what this site is in the now. Maybe somebody should do a re-design or whatever but it’s not like it’s some lightning rod priority for anyone. Oh, right, except the gang who just can’t accept that change happens and yadda yadda.

    And look, it’s not like Michael was ranting or anything it’s just that as a regular visitor to this site in the present tense his and others snide, dismissive opinions have the cumulative effect of Chinese water torture.

    drip (Remember When)

    drip (This Site)

    drip (Had Reviews?)


    The point is well made about when the reason for visiting the site goes away – the problem is Hibbs was / is dependent on others to provide him content. Those people like Hyacinth, Joe, Diana, whoever wander off and there is NOTHING to be done about it. New Blood, I say, is needed if you want written reviews but as you say, life comes along and takes your time.

    Have an excellent day, D. My virtual best to you and yours.

  20. Meanwhile, on the subject at hand.

    Now’s the time of year when I really, really miss Dirk Deppey @ the Journalista for the annual back-and-forth where he savages your critique for not analyzing information you don’t actually have.

    And holy crap!!! Tom Spurgeon links to the annual Bookscan report without picking a fight???


    (However, I will grant his position that Hibbs has responded to his critics and has produced a better and more bullet-proof piece than he ever has. I think there has been less sturm und drang on this year’s results because Hibbs’ comprehensive analysis and measured comments don’t really invite controversy: all one can do is nod sagely as the data sinks in.)

    Really, really interesting results for a whole buncha reasons. One of which is the apparent knee-capping of the old meme that “manga is the new mainstream.” Really interesting to contemplate whether this is a generational shift, the slow fade of a pop trend — or, something I wonder, is it a natural result of the depletion of the low-hanging fruit? The sudden onslaught of manga brought a huge rush of the best-known & most popular franchises… I wonder if part of the slow fade has been the fact that the big publishers burned through manga’s “greatest hits” of the last couple decades within a few years and now some of the “newer” titles would be considered the lesser-lights and also-rans even in their native countries. I don’t know enough about the genre/format to know if that has any merit of truth… Or if it’s less that the demand has died down but that the younger / more tech-savvy target market is getting their fix via online scans.

    reasons, in that it shakes up a lot of long-term questions & as

  21. Excellent work as always, Mr. Hibbs. Since I haven’t seen Pilkey’s “Kung fu Cavemen” work, I have to ask – what seperates it from his “Captain Underpants” series? Or did you take “Captain Underpants” into account in your previous BookScans? I’m really curious, since “Kung Fu Cavemen” weighs in so heavily in the overall analysis – and where the line can be drawn from “children’s book” to “children’s comic.”

    Again, I haven’t had a chance to flip through the latter, and my knowledge of Captain Underpants comes from when it was a big seller at the bookstore I worked at six years ago. In other words, if the answer’s inherently obvious, please forgive my ignorance.

    Thanks for posting the New Arrivals list (always good to know what’s hitting the pul bag this week, and if I have to set aside some extra cash because an Essential is coming out), thanks for hosting the podcast (gives me something to listen to when I’m doing the dishes), and thanks for keeping the site going, even if content has been less than easy to come by lately. I still check it every day, just to see what’s up.

  22. “You should be happy with that fact that they ever felt the need to do this thing at all. Or you can poke fun and jeeringly clamor for more free stuff. Whichever works for you.”

    Do you realize this sort of suck up trolling is just as irritating to read as the very stuff you’re complaining about?

    Neither Hibbs nor anyone else who posts here owes me or anyone else a review. But considering the snark and derison this site has (usually deservedly) dished out over the years, I think it can take a little back.


  23. I can answer VoodooBen’s question, since my eleven-year-old son has the books in question. While CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS books are prose with illustrations and a few pages of comics in them, OOK & GLUK KUNG FU CAVEMEN is all comics. The jokey premise of OOK & GLUK KUNG FU CAVEMEN (like its predecessor SUPER DIAPER BABY) is that it’s a homemade comic book written and drawn by George Beard and Harold Hutchins, the two main characters from CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS books.

  24. SKFK – Thanks! That makes a lot more sense now.

  25. Wow, 22 replies and like 3 about the subject at hand, the awesome BookScan column. Manga is still hanging in there after the initial sales spike. Not bad. Really, the victory is by all the creator owned work.

  26. Any word on how L&R is doing in book format? That’s the only thing I usually look for in these columns….

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