Friday, February 6, 2009

How to murder an industry

I've already kinda ranted about this before, but it seems like something worth ranting about considering it's becoming more relevant every week.

Ringing up customers the past few days and ouch, those $3.99 books from Marvel are just killing everybody. If you were a more of a DC person, you only had one to deal with one FC: Legion of 3 Worlds. Hell, you even got a $1.00 book. For Marvel people though, only 6 or 7 of the normal titles were $2.99 while there were over 14 at $3.99.

So now more than ever, I feel like there are some oddball marketing shenanigans going on. Seriously, it's not that complicated. Marvel, you are trying to hook people into new titles such as:
Agents of Atlas
Secret Warriors
Black Panther relaunch
X-Men Bishop: A Random Waste of Your Time and Dollar
and whatever the hell else came out this week.

But you are charging people up the wazoo.

Now look over at DC. The Mighty, By Tomasi and Snejbjerg, is a brand new title. And look it's just $2.99! Sadly, now these days I have to consider $2.99 as 'just $2.99!'. But you get the idea. Any friggin idiot can get the idea. I sold out of Secret Warriors and Agents of Atlas, but honestly we didn't order super high shelf numbers because we have no confidence these days without strong pre-orders. I ordered relatively high for the Mighty considering it has no relation to any DC mainstream project, but I did that because I like Tomasi and actually did have confidence I could push them. Plus, $2.99. If I lose out, it's not as hard as say any of the $3.99 books we have to swallow.

So the question is if I can see this, and really, I'm not all too bright sometimes, why is it still happening? Is there some additional cost to the publisher I am missing? Is someone just not paying attention? Is it just greed?

The talks I've had with other employees keep on leading me to the idea that maybe, just maybe, Marvel is purposely trying to murder the single issue market. And I think I can understand the why. Many people are saying that online comics will be the future, and if it's popular enough it will just be printed as a TPB. That way, they can get into the bookstores as well. And if you look at the pricing practices going on in HCs and TPBs, I can understand that could be highly lucrative. Seriously, some of these Marvel HCs coming out are $25 for 4 friggin issues. DC is also guilty of this. Only people who buy just from bookstores might make the mistake of thinking that's a good deal. If they don't know the industry to any degree and don't even shop around to compare prices, then it's as simple as just putting something under there nose and chargin' them anything you want.

I don't want to see single issues go away. Lots of people don't. I think it's a weak argument that they are similar to newspaper in that you can just go online or watch tv for the news. Yah, but you rarely go back and reread or collect a newspaper. To attempt to do away with single issues is kind of a crime to me. I'm not that much of a collector any more, but there are so many readers who are. Disregarding that aspect, I just like to be able to grab a single issue and hold it. My eyes can't take a computer screen for the amount of time I might want to read a pile of comics. And I hate the idea of reading a comic on a small thing like an Iphone or whatever. I don't even have a cellphone dudes. I'm almost 27 and I feel like and old grouch. But seriously, someone tried to show me what that would be like and I hated it.

Then look at the economic situation. Here in Seattle, it's really really really starting to hurt. Just thinking about how many Microsoft employees are losing their jobs makes me nervous. Hell, bus fare went up this month and I'm seriously having to prioritize my budget due to that alone. That's like $15 a month minimum that now has to be pulled back from, guess what, probably comics. A hefty amount of customers are already trimming the fat from their subscriptions. But people want to buy comics. They want an escape. The industry needs to give them an excuse to do it. Oh hey, this book is only $2.50? Hell yeah, I can reason that over this $3.99 super glossy but supershort comic.

What I would like to see is someone in the industry really try to take advantage of this price swing. Find a way to cut your costs, and publish at only $2.50 or less. But it needs to be someone big. It can't just be like Radical or Boom!. And sorry IDW, unless you guys shape up you are going to be feeling the crunch. $3.99 across the board? Are you serious?

To make an actual impression and to create a trend, it has to be someone with a substantial presence. Dark Horse, Image, and DC are really the only companies I can see making this work. Top Cow gave it a try sorta by announcing it will not go past $2.99. And I'm sorry, I don't mean to come down on them, but really. You have Darkness and Witchblade. That is sadly not the chunk of the industry sales pie chart I am worrying about.

Take into account the current restrictions Diamond has placed on sales:

Already, creators are feeling the crunch.

Now take into account that actual competition is working on the distribution scene, slowly but it's there:

Now is the time. A publisher has to step up, and really push things in a new economic direction. It will be a risk. It will take time. But if nothing happens to change the current pace, I am really actually afraid for comics as a whole.

Then again, I'm just some guy managing a comic store. There's a whole crapload of stuff I most likely am not taking into account. And if anyone can pass along any info to educate me, that would be great. But from the ground level, it really feels like guerrilla warfare just to get comics into the hands of people who just want to enjoy them. Working behind enemy lines with little to no help here, guys. DON'T CUT OFF THE SUPPLY LINE.

1 comment:

wiec? said...

aww crap did i just erase my comment before i sent it.
let's try it again.

nice post! i too have had scale back my pull list lately. part of it is cause of money the other part is quality (or lack there of). i went from 15 pulls to 10 to now 8. i just had to trim the fat. too many titles are going no where. not every issue has to be earth shattering but it would help if something happened sometimes.

if comics go digital i'm done. you can't look at alex ross artwork on yer phone. and i spend enough time in front of my computer. sitting on my bed with a stack of comics (a new trade or just a plain old book) on a lazy sunday is heaven for some people. namely me. digital sort of works for music (take a look at that industry. in the toilet city.) but comics need to stay on paper.