For several months now people have told me that I should blog. I wasn’t sure whether they meant it as a compliment or some type of insult. Who knows? Who cares? The only certain thing is...“I gots me some opinions!” Better than that, my opinions are always RIGHT!
I have been in the Comic Book retail business for over 16 years! Believe me, I've seen it all. I was here for the rise and fall of Image (yes, I consider them fallen). I survived Marvel’s attempt to take over comic distribution with their Heroes World debacle (thank God Perlman’s gone). My store barely scraped by when Wizards of The Coast released Fallen Empires (several stores went bankrupt).I even made the huge bucks with the Pokemon craze. Never will there be anything like it again.
The past few years have been rough for the comic industry. Many thought that our life support plug had been pulled, and we were beginning a long and painful death. Year after year, comic sales were down. Many of the fans quit reading comics all together. Many woke up and realized that they were raped by the industry in the 90’s.
Many of the comic faithful decided to just start buying trade paperbacks. Why not? You could buy them immediately after a story arc ended. Other readers discovered eBay. You can always find some idiot who is selling stuff for less than he paid for it (even before the fees).
Out of desperation, comic stores began evolving into “gaming stores.” Unfortunately, this only made the comic fan feel less respected. Now they had to wait in a line of Pokemon brats buying ten cent common cards. A few more loyalist quit reading.
Over the past few years games have begun loosing steam. Yu-Gi-Oh and Magic sales are way down. This was due in part to distributors selling product online under fake names. Also, quite a few gamers were switching to online games.
As usual, panic and lack of sales have caused stores to close their doors. The few that remained (mine included), began moving to smaller stores and cutting back quite a bit on gaming space. It is hard to justify paying extra rent when customers are buying their stuff online and want to use you for the free space.
TodayIn the middle of the carnage along comes Infinite Crisis and Civil War. Could it be that comics are back? Sales are up, and long lost readers are back. Great art has finally been combined with great WRITING. Things are looking good.
How long will it last? Is this just a fluke? I hope not. And I have a few ideas on how to keep it strong. And by the way, my opinions are always right.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
FOR A STRONG COMIC INDUSTRY
1. Publishers: Thou Shalt keep the focus on great writing.
With the increase in sales, please don't go crazy with all the alternate cover bullshit. Yeah we’re making extra money, but don’t go to crazy. This resurrects our evil nemesis, SPECULATOR MAN.
I always want to choke the guy who walks in and says, "Oh, I don't read comics, I collect them." Thanks buddy. It's guys like you who screwed up comics in the 90's. How many copies of Death of Superman do you have? Got any early Image stuff?
2. Publishers: Thou shalt limit the gimmick crossovers.
We all love the universe changing events. But let’s keep them to big stories. Once a fan realizes that you are only trying to sell more books they feel screwed. God, didn’t we all feel screwed in the old Infinity Gauntlet days? Or Deathmate….echh!
The awesome thing about Civil War and Crisis is that you don’t have to read every tie in comic. However, if you do choose to read them you get a bigger picture. And you realize that there is a lot of awesome books these days.
3. Writers: Thou shalt remember continuity and keep it holy.
Dammit, if Spider-Man transmogrifying (love that word) into an actual spider in Spectacular; he needs to be an arachnid in Amazing! It drives us crazy! At the very least give us a blurb in regards to timeline.
4. Writers: Thou shalt commit to adults with trees.
Okay, I know the tree thing is lame.
Thank God the publishers have finally realized that only adults read comics. If a kid gets $5.00 for allowance, he is renting a video game (or maybe buying crystal meth).
We as an industry need to duplicate the marketing of video games. America now understands that it is adults who play Xbox and PlayStation.
Side note: Writers, as a personal request, don't get too wordy; I like to finish a comic in one sitting on the toilet. My motto: “One crap…one comic.” Thanks.
5. Readers: Thou shalt honour your local comic shop.
Why in the world are you buying your trade paperback at Borders? It is available in your comic shop on the same day, and for the same price. Technically even cheaper if you count that $5.00 latte.
Worse than the trades—why in hell are you buying Spank-Me Boy #1 at Kroger??? Come on! Your comic shop is barely making money as it is. Not to mention that they just might have a comic called Spank-Me Boy. I remember a few years back when one of my pull guys got a copy of Leather Boy #1. But I digress (oops, that is Peter David’s line).
6. Readers: Thou shalt not covet discounts.
Support the store that gives you the best service and has the most choices. People aren’t in the comic business for the money. We are in it because we love comics! Most of us would make more money if we managed a Blockbuster or asked you if you wanted fries with that instead of boards.
Let’s say you’re someone who reads 20 comics a month and you go to a shop that gives you 10% off. Based on the now standard $2.99 a copy, you’re saving $6.oo. That’s only $1.50 a week. Not that big a deal. But multiply that by 1oo customers and your comic shop owner may not have to eat Alpo.
7. Wannabe Fan Boys: Thou shalt not bear false witness against other creators.
In other words, Quit bitching! I am sick of hearing how you would have done it better. If you can “do it better,” then do it for Christ’s sake! Maybe you are not being kept down by the Man. Maybe you just suck! Self publish, put your stuff online or do something! That being said, be sure to check my blog every few days where I will break this rule repeatedly.
8. Store Owners: Thou shalt not kill thyself.
QUIT BEGGING FOR BUSINESS. You are committing suicide if you are giving heavy discounts! You will never sell as much as Wal-Mart. You will never make your money in volume.
Let me try to hit this home. First, let’s assume you have mastered the art of ordering. You sell out of everything you order perfectly. Second, let’s assume your comic discount is 50%.
Next, figure out what percentage of your operating income is spent on rent, payroll, taxes, utilities, and all the other crap. If you have all that under control, it is almost impossible that it would be less than 40%. So if you’re perfect, you got 10% left!
What discount do you offer your customers,10%, 20%? Do you give free boards with your comics? You’re losing money! I would love to discuss this further. If you’re interested, let me know?
9. Store Owners: Thou shalt have no other loves above your first.
Did you really get into this business to babysit Yu-Gi-Oh kids? Do you like spending all that money on disinfecting your game room from the gamer funk? If you love gaming, great! If not, stop the madness.
10. All of Us: We shalt allow others besides Diamond.
Diamond Comics Distributor is a monopoly, plain and simple. This is NEVER good. Much of the chaos in our industry is a direct result of Darth Geppi’s Empire. Let's unite the rebel alliance!
There... problems solved. Obey these commandments and the comic industry will last forever!
Let me hear from you. I welcome all discussion. Feel free to comment or ask questions. I will try not to be so verbose in the future.
Do you own a comic book store? Do you want to? Drop some comments or questions.