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Comic Shops May Not Survive The Book Channel

Business Insider reports:

  • The “book channel” – which includes chain bookstores and online retailers – is projected to surpass comic shops as the the largest channel for comics sales this year.
  • There are two major reasons why this is happening: Graphic novels are growing in popularity primarily through the book channel and children’s comics, which are almost exclusively in the graphic-novel format, are now more popular than superhero comics.
  • The comic industry has operated for decades on a “direct market” business model, which is more skilled in single-issue comics over the graphic novel format.

The “book channel” – which includes chain and independent bookstores, online retailers like Amazon, and the Scholastic Book Fair – is projected to pass comic shops as the largest channel for comic sales in North America this year, industry website ICv2 revealed at a post-New York Comic Con conference last week.

Business Insider’s article on why the comic shops, whose specialty is the single-issue superhero “floppy,” will have to adapt if they are to survive.

 

Community Comments

#1 Kip Williams
October/24/2019
@ 7:44 pm

Also, I’ve never seen a chain book store put a sign in the window that they were in the back, and you’d better not come in unless you’re going to make it worth the storeowner’s while.

To be fair, though, I’ve only seen one place like that, and then only once.

#2 Mike Peterson
October/25/2019
@ 3:31 am

The fact that they differentiate between children’s titles and superhero comics is the key.

At the risk of starting a statement with “In my day,” in my day superhero comics were kids’ comics. We had Richie Rich and Casper, but quickly graduated to Archie and Superman and Batman, and then into the new Marvel brand.

And even when my kids were kids, those darker titles were still accessible to young readers, but they continued to follow an aging fan base at the risk of never developing a new one.

Plus, as Kip notes, the comic shop became an unwelcoming place where you had to be a comics nerd to be spoken to. If the content didn’t welcome new readers, the sellers certainly didn’t, either.

I’m sorry to see the inevitable results of all this,but there’s no reason for anyone to be surprised.

#3 Ignatz
October/25/2019
@ 7:30 am

The dumbest thing the comic industry ever did was take distribution out of stationery stores, where everyone saw them, and into specialty comic shops, where only comic fans saw them.

#4 Charles Brubaker
October/25/2019
@ 8:13 am

Sometimes I wonder if years of saying “comics are no longer just for kids” made certain people start outright dismissing kids comics as trash not worthy of “serious” titles, even though they tend to sell extremely well as this article notes.

And yes, comic book shops being unwelcoming to anyone but hardcore nerds plays a part in this attitude, no doubt.

#5 Mark Stacy
October/25/2019
@ 9:33 am

MY “my day” (originally 1969-74, fading through 1976) was also humor comics like Sad Sack, Archie (thanks, barber shops!), Spooky, Hot Stuff, Flintstones, Popeye, etc. Then graduating to MAD and editorial cartoons (now more than ever!), until I made friends with a comic book fan and saw back issues of Howard the Duck (1980, senior year). That ultimately lead me to independents like Bone, Cerebus and Strangers in Paradise. Never a fan of the superheroes (The Maxx notwithstanding).

Yeah, the “comic books are for kids” cliché wasn’t true since kids were not connecting much with what the medium was offering in modern times. I’m glad to see that problem being largely solved, though I worry the cliché is enforced without overcoming a similar “comics are for nerds” in adult circles.

I’ve been lucky that the comic shops I’ve frequented weren’t unwelcoming like many, though even then the superheroes and self-proclaimed “nerd” and “geek” labels still dominated, just not to the degree where indie readers would be looked down on. The shop here (closed a couple years ago when the owner retired) had a very healthy female fan base – gender being another needless barrier in many places – as well. A nearby place is good like that, too, though I haven’t gotten to there as often anymore.

#6 Kip Williams
October/25/2019
@ 8:48 pm

I managed a comic shop in Colorado from 1975 to 1976, and our place was desperate for business. We did our stock work either while people milled around (as if there were enough customers to mill effectively) or after hours. If I wasn’t in the can or the ‘back room’ (aka big closet), I was pretty much 100% available.

As to the shop I remarked on, I’m pretty sure the guy who put the sign up didn’t care if you knew Deadpool from Little Dot as long as you had money in your hands and were willing to leave it behind.

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