Thursday, April 2, 2009

Comic book distress

A long-time Bay Area comics-shop owner -- I've known several of them pretty well for, oh, probably a decade or longer -- was in a casually candid mood this week. The most inside revelation: He has been dealing with sales declines in the 30 percent range as the economy has tanked. And he said other comic-store owners are telling him they're more or less in the same boat.

That's not to say every store is under stress. There may be a lot of variation based on unemployment rates in the immediate vicinity of each shop. Located in Silicon Valley with customers who tend to be young high-tech workers at firms undergoing lots of downsizing? That won't be good.

Most interesting to me: The guy I talked to has felt direct impact from the lousy material the major publishers have been putting out. Marvel's despicable "Brand New Day'' Spider-Man story line led to a stream of lost sales. DC's incoherent "Final Crisis'' series changed habits: Some customers stopped showing up with regularity on new comics day each week (and that includes me).

Comic books are the seed product that bred generations of fans for the high-quality comics movies that now are flourishing. "The Dark Knight'' (the best, I think), "Iron Man" and "Watchmen'' are all recent and extraordinary examples. To have the core product -- print storytelling of a fabulously imaginative nature -- be floundering so badly is frustrating and sad.

"Thor," said this comics retailer, "try that.'' OK, when I happen to be near a shop.


  1. ahhh, mainstream comic publishers have no one to blame but themselves. i was an uber-fan, spent $75 a month and just stopped buying them two years ago. imagine what the casual fan must feel. i don't think the people that create comics now even like comics. they just see it as a stepping stone to film or games or television. now there are companies like platinum that only publish comics as licensing vehicles.

  2. As of February, when I moved back to the U.S. I've officially "gone to the trade."

    I know my comics aren't going to make me rich in my old age, but I still can't help bagging, boarding, and filing them away in those long white boxes. I am so sick of all that, especially having to cart those damn white boxes all over the world.

    Besides, the stories are just easier to read in the trade. And if I want to read them again later: there they are on the shelf, as opposed to the taboo practice of searching through boxes to dig them out and then un-bagging them.