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#459978 - 03/01/01 10:39 AM Top comics drop below 100,000
wrtiii Offline
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Registered: 07/28/00
Posts: 32
Loc: Ithaca, NY USA
WAY below. According to the ICV2 article, only 11 titles are above 50,000.

Of course, this represents only WHOLESALE sales, sales by the distributor to retail outlets. My question to those who are (still) comics retailers: What is the sellthrough? What percentage of these comics are actually being eaten by the retailers?

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#459979 - 03/01/01 10:50 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
NatGertler Offline
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Registered: 07/10/99
Posts: 4618
Yes, it's only the wholesale sales.... but it's also only the direct market, and it's only initial preorders. Retailers seem to be ever more dependent on later orders. For example, Green Arrow #1 overprinted substantially above the initial orders... but that entire overprint was wiped out by the advance reorders (reorders taken before the comic is released.)

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#459980 - 03/01/01 10:53 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
cincinnatus Offline
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Registered: 11/02/00
Posts: 963
Loc: Cincinnati
I know it's not necessarily the New York Times, but Fandom/Newsarama reported (via Kevin Smith) that sales on Green Arrow #1 were actually above 100,000. If I recall the article, the initial run was 83,000, and DC overprinted by 18,000--an overprint which was entirely sold out on advance reorders.

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#459981 - 03/01/01 11:01 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Chris Juricich Offline
Member

Registered: 09/19/99
Posts: 721
Loc: Berkeley, CA USA
It certainly isn't surprising, I don't doubt Milton Griepp's analysis-- he's one smart cookie according to the CW-- but I don't find it alarming, really.

DC is thick in the licensing and merchandising department of Warner/AOL so I'm not worried about those characters or properties. Marvel and Dark Horse? Who knows? The pantheon of 3500 characters that Marvel owns has at least some potential to them or future investors... possibly.

What I think is happening, though, is that its a natural development of the industry. I'm not blaming the majors for the failure, per se, but I just think its the times and the culture, really. Comics have had their day and I'm resigned to it. Only the strongest retailers will survive, and in my own SF Bay Area, there only seem to be the tough retailers left alive. Lee's reports success at his two stores and the staff at Comic Relief have indicated sales and or profit increases so these two disparate approaches to retailing comics seem healthy and alive.

But there are fewer stores.

And I, who was once a target demographic of the comics companies, now at 47, have fallen to that, what? 3% of males at that age still reading comics, if that? I am buying less, though, and passing more and more on books. Oddly, even if theyr'e in the bargain box, I'm picky even then.

I'm redefining myself as the guy who used to collect comics rather than the guy who does collect comics. I just read what I enjoy or hope to... for as long as I can, anyway.
_________________________
Chris Juricich
Berkeley, CA

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#459982 - 03/01/01 12:28 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Kim Thompson Offline
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Registered: 11/29/05
Posts: 0
In the last five years, sales on our top alternative titles such as ACME, BLACK HOLE, and EIGHTBALL have remained rock steady, on the other hand. (And, of course, LOVE AND ROCKETS has restored the Hernandez Brothers to their mid-'90s level too.) So either it's two totally different audiences, or sales of these alternatives are rising even as the general audience is shrinking, for a stalemate of sorts.

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#459983 - 03/01/01 01:16 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
JeffMason Offline
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Registered: 08/07/00
Posts: 591
Loc: Gainesville, Florida, USA
The only true drop in real sales in our books came when all of the exclusive distributorship stuff happened and Capitol City Distribution got sucked up by Diamond Comics Distribution (and when I decided not to publish anything for a year as well). We had marginal losses when Andromeda, Multibooks, Styx, and some newsstand and zine distributors (Fine Print, etc) went away, but the closing of those outlets were replaced by the opening of other distribution channels such as FM International, Cold Cut, etc.

Perhaps it is because we aren't really working for "market share" of the existing comic book market, but rather working for "market presence". Selling 5,000 of a title, for me, is wildly successful. Because I have almost no overhead, our bottom line is quite attainable.

I do, of course, absolutely root for the continuing viability of Diamond Comics as a profitable business because they really do help me meet that bottom line without me having to do a whole heck of a lot of work I would have to do otherwise.

Jeff Mason
_________________________
Jeff Mason - Publisher
Alternative Comics

Web: http://www.indyworld.com/altcomics
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#459984 - 03/01/01 02:07 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Chris Knowles Offline
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Registered: 01/23/99
Posts: 875
Loc: USA
First of all, I don't understand Rick's motivation in being so sensationalistic about this article. The numbers reported X-Men below 100 K in January, so the headline has no news value. I read the article and saw their numbers and I don't believe them. There is no documentation or corroboration for the sources of their numbers and it seems awfully early to make this kind of judgement.

Secondly, Just at a glance I saw that Lucifer, a title I follow was at 14K, a 2K dropoff from February and this made me instantly suspicious about the numbers, especially since it is a title that has been trending up.


Thirdly, these pre-order numbers are suspicious to begin with, especially when a book like Green Arrow #1, which pre-ordered at 68K ended up over 100 K and is sold out at the distributor level. Again, Rick's source for this dubious announcement didnt source their numbers, and since they are significantly lower than Michael Burns February numbers, I'd suggest we wait for some corroboration.

Is Splash becoming the Drudge Report of Comics? I'd respectfully suggest to Rick that he spent a little more time researching his stories before he spreads what I believe to be faulty information that can impact negatively on Industry morale.

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#459985 - 03/01/01 02:34 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
ATKokmen Offline
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Registered: 05/22/00
Posts: 1170
Loc: New York, NY
While I'd certainly not argue that the traditional comics industry is in any way a model of health, it bears repeating that sales reports that only reflect data from initial pre-orders (i.e. that can not incorporate data from advance reorders, reorders, or newsstand sales) are intrinsically incomplete and, therefore, of debatable worth.

Moreover, the numbers from these other sources may well become increasingly significant, as more and more retailers make subsequent orders after their initial pre-order. (In general terms, it's certainly a trend in retailing to see purchasers order material in lesser quantities but more often. Which is why "just-in-time" inventory is such a buzzword all along the pipeline nowadays.)

So while any look at these initial pre-order numbers can rightly be looked on as discouraging, analyses that cannot take into account subsequent orders are fundamentally suspect or, at the least, should be regarded with an awareness of their intrinsic bias.


[This message has been edited by ATKokmen (edited 03-01-2001).]
_________________________
"[T]hough goodness without knowledge is weak and feeble, yet knowledge without goodness is dangerous, and that both united form the noblest character, and lay the surest foundation of usefulness to mankind." --John Phillips

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#459986 - 03/01/01 02:46 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Rick Veitch Administrator Offline
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Registered: 11/23/98
Posts: 3531
Loc: Vermont, USA
Chris,
Just click the link over to ICv2 to get a clear explanation of how they came to their conclusions. The short version is they extrapolated from numbers they were certain of against the Diamond Top 100 to get their numbers. This is a time-honored method that no one has been doing regularly since that guy at Antarctic Press gave it up a few years ago. I'm happy we have people like Milton and Tom with the knowledge and connections to start providing this intelligence again. It is unfortunate that it must be done ad hoc by interested parties in the news media, but its the best we are going to get in the Diamond/Exclusives oligarchy.

The Diamond preorder list is sort of like the Top 40 list in music. With comics branching out into the bookstores as graphic novel sales climb, these 32 page pamphlets mean less and less to the business. But there is a psychological connection we, who have lived in the Direct Sales Market, have to this stuff, and a pail of cold water in our faces from these numbers might not be pleasent, but it might be a good thing.

And the SPLASH sensationalistic? I'm crushed!

------------------
Rick Veitch
Invites You To Read THE DAILY RARE BIT FIENDS
updated every day along with news of the world's most popular artform!
THE COMICON.COM DAILY SPLASHis always refreshing!
www.comicon.com/splash
_________________________
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#459987 - 03/01/01 02:54 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Walt Stone Offline
Member

Registered: 01/01/01
Posts: 496
Loc: Katy, Tx
Kim, a while back I used to take a look at the numbers generated, and there is a pronounced difference in the sales decline curves based on how much sales a book (or groups of books) have.

Generally speaking, the sales charts can be broken down into three groups. The TOP of the chart, the MIDDLE, and the BOTTOM. Each grouping of book sales seem to have similar decline curves once most of the noise is removed from the stats.

Where to put the labels of Top Middle and Bottom has changed over time. It shouldn't be done based on a certain number - more on how many above and how many below - once the "special" issues are taken out. I used to take out all issues with numbers less than iss#5, and all reissues I could identify.

The Top 25 or so sellers were consistant, and those that changed rankings from month to month within that group stood out quickly. Very few of those, but once those (relative) positions were averaged over time, anyone could see the real movers and shakers.

And the real duds.

The core numbers... again, taking out all issues less than 5, and adding up the remaining monthly books all of them sold... well, that was a health monitor of sorts. Again, I did it by groups, because there WAS a difference.

The TOP sellers' decline curve was steeper. No question about it. Percentage wise... even seeing through the higher signal to noise ratio present (crossovers, books iss# divisible by 25, etc)

The lower selling books had a separate curve, to be sure. Often bucking the trend of the more heavily sold books. At the time I speculated on advertising, as well as editorial changes and the like for the rapid changes of the top sellers, and even the middle sellers.
Well, I've quit doing all of that.
The conclusion was clear. Then and now.

If the sky falls so slowly that nobody notices, it doesn't mean the sky didn't fall.
Those of very short stature would certainly be the last ones to know, however.

Kim, your published books might very well be positioned for survival of any upcoming collapse of comic publishing.

May not happen at all, mind you. The last three months haven't really indicated the severity that was mentioned in the article, so I think the downturn that all the dept. stores saw around Dec. is just NOW being felt by the rest of the Diamond PreOrders. So, it may not happen at all, and this is all just news story hype.

But if the TOP of the charts continue to fall, more stores that specialize in selling those will follow. Stands to reason. As long as the small publishers aren't selling the bulk of their books through those stores... (subscription model, specialty stores and all that) I suppose the small ones might be just fine.

Walt Stone

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#459988 - 03/01/01 03:13 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Jeff Zugale Offline
Member

Registered: 12/06/98
Posts: 1806
Loc: Los Angeles, CA, USA
I'm sorry about popping in with an aside that may not be relevant, but something struck me as odd:

Quote:
The pantheon of 3500 characters that Marvel owns has at least some potential to them or future investors... possibly.


And the way Marvel and other companies clutch their licensable character properties clearly shows they consider them to be valuable assets. However, is that a smart thing to think? Are these characters, even the most popular, truly valuable in the long term as cultural icons? 30 years from now, is Superman or Spiderman still going to be relevant?

To illustrate my thoughts, let's look at a few valuable fictional characters, cultural icons from the past, if you will.

The Lone Ranger: much like Superman in spirit (if not in superpower), he was a masked man (secret identity) who rode around the American West on his big white horse righting wrongs and defending the innocent. He was, for a while, a figure as compelling as Superman (IMO) -- and was even something of a contemporary with the Man of Steel. However, is the Lone Ranger still as valuable a property as he once was (bless Clayton Moore's heart regardless)? Do we see Lone Ranger movies? Comics? Merchandising? No. While he's a great character, he's no longer as relevant in our culture, and no longer strikes the same chord with people. Westerns ain't what they used to be, and Gower Gulch is more likely to contain Klingons than cowboys these days. Certainly there's not enough left of his prestige to sustain continuing stories centered on him, in whatever media.

Or how about Little Orphan Annie? Now, I know that there's still a strip 'toon, and there have been movies and musicals and all that... but is Annie still a massively valuable licensable property? She was one of the most popular characters in America for a while, maybe a decade... but can she still fire the imaginations and engage the attentions of people today? Not so much.

What about Sherlock Holmes? Yes, great big character, everyone knows who he is. There have been a number of movies (even one by Spielberg as I recall) and recent television stories produced in England -- where he is MOST DEFINITELY a cultural icon -- that are successful. However, even with the success of the "Young Sherlock Holmes" movie, did it spawn off three sequels, dozens of merchandising efforts, a major toy line, SatAm cartoon, comic books? No. Sherlock Holmes, as wonderful and engaging a character as he is, is not so culturally relevant here in America. Great dude, but not someone that's going to produce a sustainable widespread revenue stream in the new millenium.

Do we see continuing stories -- and I'm talking monthly comics etc. -- about Davy Crockett, or Paul Bunyan, or other distinctly American folk heroes, real or mythical

So is it really smart to consider these characters "valuable asset" for the future, when their relevance is going to decrease over time? Haven't some of them already exceeded their "design life"? Okay, Batman and Superman are wildly successful if you look at them in this light, having runs of popularity of 40 or 50 years -- they are the American "Sherlock Holmeses," perhaps. They are the quintessential superheroes, with all others really being variations on their themes, yes?

Of course there will always be an audience for them; I still love a good Sherlock Holmes episode, and I'm sure there are people out there who love Westerns too (Butch & Sundance come to mind). But as cultural relevance wanes, such "pantheons" of characters simply become less valuable. As superhero comics fade, which they eventually will -- just like Westerns and Greek morality plays, etc, -- they're not going to retain their value.

And out of those 3500 characters, how many could be turned into cultural icons? Good question. The answer may be: none.

Again, sorry for the aside, but I think it's part of the "value" of comics question.

------------------
Jeff Zugale
Pagan City Comics
www.pagancity.com
_________________________
Jeff Zugale www.jeffzugale.com/
My "Just A Bit Off..." webcomic

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#459989 - 03/01/01 03:43 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Chris Knowles Offline
Member

Registered: 01/23/99
Posts: 875
Loc: USA
Quote:
Originally posted by Rick Veitch:
Chris,
Just click the link over to ICv2 to get a clear explanation of how they came to their conclusions. The short version is they extrapolated from numbers they were certain of against the Diamond Top 100 to get their numbers. This is a time-honored method that no one has been doing regularly since that guy at Antarctic Press gave it up a few years ago. I'm happy we have people like Milton and Tom with the knowledge and connections to start providing this intelligence again. It is unfortunate that it must be done ad hoc by interested parties in the news media, but its the best we are going to get in the Diamond/Exclusives oligarchy.


No, you're wrong, Rick. The monthly Top 200 has been posted regularly on rec.arts.comics.misc by Michael Burns for at least a year now and no one has challenged his estimates. And his numbers are totally inconsistent with Griepp's numbers. And no less than Warren Ellis has complained that even Burns' numbers are low.

Compare for yourself- with apologies to Burns- here are his Feb #'s compare with Griepp's numbers- go to the site listed in Rick's article for the full list- and Griepp's numbers are at least a couple thousand lower across the board. I would guess that he didn't have complete information.

Rick, I'm not 100% sure, but I think you're source is wrong and I think your Splash headline is reckless and irresponsible, as well as potentially untrue.

estimated #
# Title Publisher sold (1000's)

1 Uncanny X-Men #391 Marvel 104.1 7,2%
2 X-Men #111 Marvel 101.3 1,7%
3 Ultimate X-Men #3 Marvel 88.7 13,4%
4 Ultimate Marvel:Spi.&Wolv. #1Marvel 96.9
5 BattleChasers #8 DC 88.6
6 Green Arrow #1 DC 86.4
7 Wolverine #161 Marvel 74.8 1,4%
8 JLA #51 DC 74.0 - 3,5%
9 Avengers #39 Marvel 66.7 - 0,2%
10 Ultimate Spider-Man #6 Marvel 58.4 -13,7%
11 Spawn #107 Image 62.7 1,5%
12 Rising Stars #14 Image 52.8 4,5%
13 Fantastic Four #40 Marvel 52.6 2,9%
14 Universe X #7 Marvel 49.7 0,6%
15 Amazing Spider-Man #28 Marvel 49.4 1,9%
16 Peter Parker, Spider-Man #28 Marvel 46.2 2,0%
17 Batman #588 DC 43.6 - 5,6%
18 Thor #34 Marvel 43.3 1,6%
19 Superman #167 DC 42.6 -15,8%
20 Tomb Raider #12 Image 42.5 - 1,6%
21 Aphrodite IX #3 Image 42.3
22 Detective Comics #755 DC 41.8 - 5,6%
23 Midnight Nation #5 Image 41.4 - 2,1%
24 X-men Forever #4 Marvel 41.4 - 2,4%
25 Iron Man #39 Marvel 41.3 0%
26 Captain America #40 Marvel 41.2 1,7%
27 Defenders #2 Marvel 41.1 - 7,0%
28 X-Force #113 Marvel 40.7 0%
29 BatGirl #13 DC 40.2 - 4,1%
30 Daredevil/Spider-Man #4 Marvel 39.5 0%
31 Action Comics #776 DC 39.1 7,0%
32 Mutant X #30 Marvel 39.1 1,3%
33 JSA #21 DC 39.1 3,4%
34 Nightwing #54 DC 38.3 - 6,8%
35 Hulk Smash #2 Marvel 38.3 - 2,3%
36 Cable #90 Marvel 38.0 3,3%
37 Thunderbolts #49 Marvel 37.9 1,9%
38 Adventures of Superman #589 DC 37.9 9,2%
39 No Honour #1 Image 37.7
40 Superman: Man Steel #111 DC 37.5 9,0%
41 Incredible Hulk #25 Marvel 37.5 5,0%
42 Generation X #74 Marvel 37.3 0%
43 Green Lantern #135 DC 36.7 3,6%
44 Monarchy #1 DC 36.3
45 Harley Quinn #5 DC 36.1 - 4,3%
46 Batman: Gotham Knights #13 DC 36.1 - 8,6%
47 Spider-Man: Lifeline #1 Marvel 35.6
48 X-Men: Blink #3 Marvel 35.2 0%
49 Batman Legends Dark Kn #140 DC 34.8 3,9%
50 Marvel Knights #10 Marvel 34.1 0,9%
51 Crimson #24 Image 34.0 2,4%
52 Spider-Man: Lifeline #2 Marvel 33.7 - 5,6%
53 X-Man #74 Marvel 33.3 - 1,0%
54 Spectre #2 DC 33.2 -13,8%
55 Gambit/Bishop: Sons Atom #3 Marvel 32.2 - 1,5%
56 Gambit/Bishop: Sons Atom #4 Marvel 31.9 - 2,4%
57 Top Ten #11 (Res) DC 31.6
58 Titans #26 DC 31.4 - 3,1%
59 Darkness #38 Image 30.2 0,7%
60 Flash #171 DC 29.9 0,7%
61 Excalibur: Sword of Power #3 Marvel 29.4 6,5%
62 X-Men: Hidden Years #17 Marvel 28.8 0,3%
63 Robin #87 DC 28.5 -15,2%
64 MindHunter #3 DHC 28.4 -19,5%
65 Young Justice #30 DC 27.4 2,6%
66 Wonder Woman #167 DC 27.2 11,5%
67 Spidergirl #31 Marvel 25.8 0,8%
68 Birds of Prey #28 DC 25.8 -16,8%
69 Batman: Hollywood Knights #1 DC 25.7
70 Captain Marvel #16 Marvel 25.3 0,8%
71 Deadpool #51 Marvel 25.1 - 1,2%
72 Promethea #13 DC 24.9 - 1,5%
73 Catwoman #90 DC 24.9 -20,9%
74 Hellspawn #7 Image 24.4 - 3,2%
75 Steampunk #7 (Res) DC 24.2 -22,2%
76 Star Wars #27 DHC 23.9 2,6%
77 Fantastic Four: Big Town #4 Marvel 23.6 0,9%
78 SuperBoy´s Legion #1 DC 23.4
79 Gen 13 #62 DC 23.3 - 1,7%
80 Starman #76 DC 23.2 0,9%
81 Superman: Pres. Luthor SecF#1DC 22.4
82 Supergirl #55 DC 22.4 1,8%
83 Mystic #9 CrossGen 22.3 9,9%
84 F4: World Great. Magazine #3 Marvel 21.9 - 9,5%
85 CrossGen Chronicles #2 CrossGen 21.3
86 Black Panther #29 Marvel 21.0 2,9%
87 The First #4 CrossGen 21.0 - 0,5%
88 Sam and Twitch #19 Image 20.6 0,5%
89 Legion Lost #12 DC 20.5 4,6%
90 WildCATS v.2 #20 DC 20.2 4,7%
91 Spawn The Dark Ages #24 Image 20.1 2,0%
92 Scion #9 CrossGen 19.8
93 Legends of DC Universe #39 DC 19.7
94 Silke #2 DHC 19.7 -34,7%
95 Hitman #60 DC 19.5 8,3%
96 Hellblazer #159 DC 19.4 2,6%
97 Buffy, Vampire Slayer #30 DHC 19.3
98 Butcher Knight #3 (Res) Image 19.3 - 5,4%
99 Superboy #85 DC 19.2 7,9%
100 Transmetropolitan #43 DC 19.2 5,2%


Some others down the charts:

101 Azrael #75 DC 17.3 7,5%
109 Martian Manhunter #29 DC 17.4 1,2%
110 Savage Dragon #84 Image 17.4 0,6%
112 Lucifer #11 DC 16.1 1,9%
118 Orion #11 DC 15.1 0,6%
121 Impulse #71 DC 14.8 2,1%
127 Hourman #25 DC 13.9 3,7%
129 Outlaw Nation #6 DC 13.8 - 2,8%
135 Swamp Thing #12 DC 12.8 1,6%
137 Dreaming #59 DC 12.8 3,




[This message has been edited by Chris Knowles (edited 03-01-2001).]

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#459990 - 03/01/01 03:53 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
NatGertler Offline
Member

Registered: 07/10/99
Posts: 4618
Just because some characters are of less value than once they were does not mean that all characters will lose all their value, or even that some characters will not gain value. Mickey Mouse may not have much in the way of new cartoons being produced, but if you don't think Mickey is valuable, take a careful walk around a toy store sometime. Little Orphan Annie may not be the hottest thing in the comic strips for decades, but that didn't stop it from being huge in the theaters in the '70's, from hitting the big screen in the '80's, or from doing powerful numbers as a telefilm in the 1990's. A character like Tarzan seems to regularly fade in and out of presence. The 1970s Lord Of The Rings obsession seems to have died down... but here come 3 expensive films! 70-year-old characters like Conan, even century-old characters like Hercules can go through upswings and downswings.
Sherlock Holmes keeps coming back, whether it's in very respectful adaptation (such as the Jeremy Brett series), active anachronism (1999's animated series Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century) or simply as blatant inspiration (1998's film Zero Effect.) Will there ever be a big hit again? I'd bet on it.
Are some of the Marvel characters at their peak value? Probably. Could some be reenergized? Probably.

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#459991 - 03/01/01 03:56 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Stephen R Bissette Offline
Member

Registered: 11/27/98
Posts: 939
Loc: wilmington, VT USA
Interesting thread.

Sales reports in ALL media are dubious by nature, with all reported figures -- boxoffice, CD and record sales, books, internet traffic -- being shaped and distorted by all manner of factors, some peculiar to their respective venues. I take it we're still looking at direct market (firm preorder numbers only) figures here; the vagaries of newsstand (with the necessary and probably damn-near-impossible-to-assess-in-a-reasonable-time-frame factor of returns) not withstanding, the picture is still a sobering one.

Also, such collective sales figures are rarely monitored (or their relative merits measured) by uninvolved parties sans their own agendas and axes to grind. I think it's fair to say Rick is offering a succinct summary of available information -- and that ongoing scrutiny of that information, its nature and gathering, assessment, and reporting is necessary, too.

[An aside: In the video trade, we're currently struggling with an increasing monopolization of distribution and attempted consolidations of studio and chain (i.e., Blockbuster, etc.) power (sound familiar? IT SHOULD). Thus, in the same week, video retailers can be told that Universal (currently in the position DC once was: the only major studio to attempt to force exclusivity of distribution on retailers, in the wake of WB becoming the sole dist. of their product -- a'la Marvel in the mid-'90s) has "made their numbers" with February product -- despite the fact they had to resolicit that product after failure to "make their numbers" in January in the face of independent retailers refusing to buy through the designated distributor, AND Blockbuster refusing to carry key February titles due to failure to complete negotiations for their new contract.

Clearly, someone is lying... but reliable "numbers" are not forthcoming. Universal is putting the best face on it they can, but no one trusts their claims at this juncture, given reliable information from other sources and the evidence of subsequent announcements and actions AFTER negotiations with Blockbuster were successfully completed a little over a week ago. With Universal and their exclusive rental product dist. Ingram the only sources for the real info, and neither trustworthy any longer as a source of such info, we'll probably never know... but reasonable speculation is already being bandied about.]

I have to wonder how reliable ANY publisher or Diamond reports are or will be as the comics market continues to shrink... though it's good to hear Fantagraphics is hanging in there; the fact they're still in the game sans licensing titles supports Kim's post above. Here's hoping the earthquake doesn't cause any meaningful damage to their operations!

[This message has been edited by Stephen R Bissette (edited 03-01-2001).]

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#459992 - 03/01/01 04:01 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
ATKokmen Offline
Member

Registered: 05/22/00
Posts: 1170
Loc: New York, NY
Quote:
Originally posted by Jeff Zugale:
the way Marvel and other companies clutch their licensable character properties clearly shows they consider them to be valuable assets. However, is that a smart thing to think? Are these characters, even the most popular, truly valuable in the long term as cultural icons?


Long term? Maybe not. But maybe so in the near-to-reasonably-forseeable future, which is the time frame of most concern to most properties' owners.

You're quite right that things change, that the culture evolves, that the things people like today aren't the necessarily the things people will like tomorrow. But the point is that Marvel's stable of characters is an asset; it's just that how that asset is valued may be subject to interpretation.
_________________________
"[T]hough goodness without knowledge is weak and feeble, yet knowledge without goodness is dangerous, and that both united form the noblest character, and lay the surest foundation of usefulness to mankind." --John Phillips

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#459993 - 03/01/01 04:01 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
gene phillips Offline
Member

Registered: 09/30/99
Posts: 5910
Loc: Houston, TX
Jeff: I think you're probably right in saying that isn't some indefinite "iconic value" possessed by all superheroes, and I would also doubt they can survive the downfall of the industry.

However,if I understood the gist of the "3500" statement, it was directed mostly at what was going on right now. Right now, with the success of the X-MEN movie, the many characters of Marvel are theoretically valuable for potential future marketing-- even the ones we don't think of as superstars. Certainly no one thought of Marvel's Blade character as a superstar, but he too turned a profit. (Someday I'd like to read some insider-scoop on why the property was adapted at all: I would've thought it an easy concept for Hollywood to rip off, as some people allege "Forever Knight" did from TOD's "Hannibal King.")

In the longer view of things, too, keep in mind that the same fate may overtake a lot of characters that fit the mold of the "highbrow," the "alternatives," or whatever. There are a lot of books on dusty shelves that, while they may be considered a lasting contribution to literature, are rarely if ever read outside academia. And a number of the figures that are apparently striving for canonical literary status may meet the same fate. In fifty years, assuming there remains some sort of audience for alternative comics, will it remember who David Boring was? Or will he be as tossed aside for some new character, even as young thrillseekers no longer thrill to "Hi Yo Silver?"

I just want to make that much clear: there's a high attrition rate in both "real literature" and "genre literature" as far as lasting fame and/or readership goes.

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#459994 - 03/01/01 04:12 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Stephen R Bissette Offline
Member

Registered: 11/27/98
Posts: 939
Loc: wilmington, VT USA
Okay, Chris and Rick --

How about some discussion about the REAL SOURCES of these numbers being bandied about? We're a long way from the old Capital/Diamond pie charts and comparison of same; is all info funneled through Diamond now, and if so, how reliable can it be?

Short of someone offering intensive scrutiny of individual royalty reports MONTHS later (hmm, is this where Warren Ellis comes in, arguing about the validity of some of those posted?) compared with reported sales or estimates figures of months past, how reliable are ANY of these sales charts and numbers -- and on what basis, Chris, do you argue for the validity of one existing system over another?

No slight intended, but saying one set of figures have been "posted regularly... for at least a year now and no one has challenged his estimates" doesn't verify their validity; what SOURCES are being drawn from to tally these sales figures? Is there any competent check of those figures possible in the current environment (save, as noted above, comparison months later of royalty reports and publishers' statements against previously reported estimates)? How could anyone challenge ANY published or posted estimates without reliable information from reliable sources to work with?

No attitude from this corner, I'm genuinely curious. Sans a competitive environment -- something other than a single distributor reporting sales figures -- are ANY timely estimates reliable any longer?

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#459995 - 03/01/01 04:59 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Chris Knowles Offline
Member

Registered: 01/23/99
Posts: 875
Loc: USA
Quote:
Originally posted by Stephen R Bissette:

Short of someone offering intensive scrutiny of individual royalty reports MONTHS later (hmm, is this where Warren Ellis comes in, arguing about the validity of some of those posted?) compared with reported sales or estimates figures of months past, how reliable are ANY of these sales charts and numbers -- and on what basis, Chris, do you argue for the validity of one existing system over another?

No slight intended, but saying one set of figures have been "posted regularly... for at least a year now and no one has challenged his estimates" doesn't verify their validity; what SOURCES are being drawn from to tally these sales figures? Is there any competent check of those figures possible in the current environment (save, as noted above, comparison months later of royalty reports and publishers' statements against previously reported estimates)? How could anyone challenge ANY published or posted estimates without reliable information from reliable sources to work with?


My question to you, Steve (and Rick), is how reliable can analysis of Diamond's numbers be from a former rival? I don't know any more than the next guy but when this former competitor's numbers are radically different from the numbers posted a month before from an independent observer that sends a red flag up with me. I'm not casting aspersions, since I have no idea whose numbers are accurate, but my personal judgement is based on the source.

I know a lot of folks have a beef with Diamond and the Direct market system as it stands, but if we barrage the remaining readership with negative propaganda about sales, who's to say that they won't just find another hobby? People's livelihoods are at stake here- you may hate Marvel or DC or Diamond but they pay people's wages and help them support their families, especially in these perilous economic times.


There's too many people who want to talk down the present system, but where are they going to go if they succeed? Where's the viable alternative to the Direct Market? Anybody who really cares about the Industry should do what Warren Ellis is doing- helping to bolster the Direct Market, not talk it down, especially when it's the only game in town at the moment. If my income was reliant on Comics I'd be pretty pissed at the kind of irresponsible headline we see on today's Splash. Does Rick think that consumer confidence doesn't apply to the Direct Market?

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#459996 - 03/01/01 05:56 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Tom Spurgeon Offline
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Registered: 12/24/98
Posts: 1095
Loc: WCW Special Forces
Wasn't he working for Diamond? Man, I've got to keep up.

If we're worried about consumer confidence, I'd like to remind people that those comics your mom threw away could be worth THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure either set of numbers says "Comics sales are poopy" if you view them within certain contexts.

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#459997 - 03/01/01 06:10 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Rick Veitch Administrator Offline
Member

Registered: 11/23/98
Posts: 3531
Loc: Vermont, USA
Chris,
The top selling Diamond preorder at 104,000 in February deserves the same headline as the top selling Diamond pre-order of 98,000 in March: "COMICS SALES TANK!" Doesn't matter who's doing the estimate.

You're blowing your own argument by trying to paint ICv2 as a nefarious ex-Diamond competitor. A quick read of the ICv2 site will show you that Milton and Tom are working closely with Diamond. They've had four terrificaly informative interviews with all Diamond's top people, except Geppi, since they went live (and Tom Flinn used to work for Diamond). If you really believe Milton is cooking his estimate to damage Diamond you are nuts.

If you wish to read a news site that provides "propaganda" for comics in the face of the economic reality, there are any number of them out there to choose from.

And the headline is accurate. If numbers don't improve for April, it'll be: "COMICS SALES TANK AGAIN!"

------------------
Rick Veitch
Invites You To Read THE DAILY RARE BIT FIENDS
updated every day along with news of the world's most popular artform!
THE COMICON.COM DAILY SPLASHis always refreshing!
www.comicon.com/splash
_________________________
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#459998 - 03/01/01 06:14 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
toddfrye Offline
Member

Registered: 03/29/99
Posts: 244
Loc: Harrogate TN USA
Commenting briefly on the question of whether Marvel's characters may be popular 30 years from now - (just to argue with Jeff) -

I think some of them very well could be popular 20 or 30 years from now, or longer - it's not at all outside the realm of possibility. Superman and Spider-Man, which (who?) were immediately mentioned, represent their companies' greatest intellectual assets and, rather than becoming irrelevant and unpopular as time goes on, seem to be holding on pretty well. After all, Superman's been around since 1938; a feature film is being planned, he's still one of the most popular comic characters, and the background and basic situation of the character are virtually unchanged.

Spider-Man, too, though 'only' going back to about 1962, is still very popular today, with a feature film cast (and in the can, I think), several different comic titles, and other venues that keep the character popular and in the public eye. And, again, though the details change (marriage to MJ, death of Aunt May), the setup remains the same (or is at least retconned to do so).

Tarzan goes all the way back to 1912 or thereabouts, but he's still immensely popular - just a few years ago the world's largest animation studio released a feature starring him. He continues to appear in comics, merchandise, etc., etc.

The odds are against a character being popular for decades, to be sure, but DC and Marvel are in the front with many of their properties.
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#459999 - 03/01/01 06:26 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Broken Shakespeare Offline
Member

Registered: 07/06/00
Posts: 43
Loc: Maysville, Kentucky
Well Chris, I can just as easily qusetion the numbers Mike publishes. It January, Mike listed Ultimate X-Men #2 as 88,700 issues with a decline of 25% from the previous month. Now the list you posted shows Ultimate X-Men #3 as 88,700 issues, with an increase of 13.4% from the previous month. Maybe you're better at math than I am, but how is 88,700 an 13.4% increase compared to 88,700. Mike's number often contain many errors and don't accurately reflect actual sales quantities (and ICv2's numbers could as well).

If you do a full comparison of the list, you'll see that on some comics the ICv2 list show an increase in sales from Feb. to Mar. when compared to Mike's Feb. list. Other comics show a decline.

A 2k swing on a marginal title like Lucifer doesn't mean anything. It definately isn't a reflection of inaccurate numbers as you seem to claim. It just means that out of all the comic shops in America, every other shop decided to pre-order one fewer issue because it isn't selling as well. Abra-Cadabra, you 2k fewer issues pre-ordered.

Sorry Chris, I think you're way off in left field. Come back when you have Mike's March numbers. Then you can compare apples to apples, not apples to oranges.

And people say that only looking at these pre-order numbers is deceiving, but that is a deception in itself. One, the retail market does count for some additional sales, but it is only on a select few comics (Batman, Superman, Spiderman, X-Men, etc.). You don't see many (if any) retail outlets selling Lady Death, Powers, 100 Bullets, etc. So retail sales only effect the total sales of maybe 5-10% of the books that are listed in Diamond's Top 300.

Two, adding reorders also doesn't help that much for the typical book. The majority of the books on the Top 300 are lucky if they even get reorders equal to 10% of their initial preorders. Every month you may have a few "hot" books that get reorders in the neighborhood of 20% of pre-orders. Then once a year you might get a book that even gets more than 20%, but those books are few and far between and in no way are indicative of the rest of the books being published. So again, for 95% or more of the Top 300 comics, they can expect to see a reorder rate of 10 of pre-orders or less each month.

Add 10% to the pre-order numbers for your average title and the numbers still suck hard. Heck add 30% to the top 10 selling comics and the numbers still suck when compared to the same numbers five or ten years ago.

Face it. Given the current direction of the industry, comic books are going the way of Communism. The big establishment falls, leaving a fragmented industry where small factions fight it out for control. Meanwhile, the rest of the world looses interest and stops paying attention anymore.

------------------
Broken Shakespeare
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#460000 - 03/01/01 06:37 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Chris Knowles Offline
Member

Registered: 01/23/99
Posts: 875
Loc: USA
Quote:
Originally posted by Rick Veitch:
Chris,
The top selling Diamond preorder at 104,000 in February deserves the same headline as the top selling Diamond pre-order of 98,000 in March: "COMICS SALES TANK!" Doesn't matter who's doing the estimate.

You're blowing your own argument by trying to paint ICv2 as a nefarious ex-Diamond competitor. A quick read of the ICv2 site will show you that Milton and Tom are working closely with Diamond. They've had four terrificaly informative interviews with all Diamond's top people, except Geppi, since they went live (and Tom Flinn used to work for Diamond). If you really believe Milton is cooking his estimate to damage Diamond you are nuts.



My speculation on Griepp was just that- speculation and skepticism pertaining to source. The main thesis your article was that sales were tanking becuase Xmen was selling under 100K, a fact that has not been established to my satisfaction. But, if they were working so closely with Diamond why didn't they get their numbers directly from them? Since their numbers don't jibe with numbers we've been seeing, why should accept them at face value? I don't know Milton Griepp, know little of him- I was just pointing out facts. As I said before, I wasn't trying to cast aspersions. I miss Capital City- wish they were back. But I have serious questions about the information he supplied.

And what "good things" come about from wallowing in bad news about the market? With people working hard to help the Industry recover, what good does an article based on questionable sales stats do for anyone? The most specious aspect of the article was the 1991 comparisons. I used to work in a comic store (that later became a chain) that would buy an entire longbox of Xmen to put away on speculation. There used to be people who would buy multiple copies of hot books. By quoting inflated pre-order figures from the height of the speculation boom you might make dramatic copy, but it doesn't tell the truth about what's really going on in the stores.

You know, George Bush thought he was being clever by talking down the economy in order to help get his programs through Congress, but last month's consumer confidence index was the lowest it has been in 5 years, and now he may face a full-blown recession. I think talking down the Direct Market could have a similar effect. The whole Industry needs to be rebuilt, and maybe feel-good propaganda isn't desirable, but neither is feel-bad propaganda.

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#460001 - 03/01/01 08:38 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Rick Veitch Administrator Offline
Member

Registered: 11/23/98
Posts: 3531
Loc: Vermont, USA
Chris,
No one can publish Diamond's numbers because Diamond doesn't release them to the public.

The main thesis of my article was that sales are lousy not because they dipped under 100k, but because they are lousy. Sure, the 100k mark has psychological significance, but lousy is lousy.

Quote:
And what "good things" come about from wallowing in bad news about the market? With people working hard to help the Industry recover, what good does an article based on questionable sales stats do for anyone?


If you want to fix your old car, first you have to recognize its broken, then figure out which parts are shot and that need replacing. If you drive down the road singing cheerleader songs about how wonderful the car is, it won't be long before you're left high and dry. Face it, Chris, for two decades the world of comics has been filled with pr people blowing sunshine up butts about how great and vibrant the mainstream comics scene is and guess what? It's not so great and vibrant right now. It's in the midst of one of the worst downturns in its history. If it wants to survive, it needs to be rethought and retooled and the people on both ends of the spectrum deserve an unflinching and honest picture of the situation.

Quote:
The most specious aspect of the article was the 1991 comparisons. I used to work in a comic store (that later became a chain) that would buy an entire longbox of Xmen to put away on speculation. There used to be people who would buy multiple copies of hot books. By quoting inflated pre-order figures from the height of the speculation boom you might make dramatic copy, but it doesn't tell the truth about what's really going on in the stores.


1991 wasn't the height of the boom, Chris. April of 93 was. Let's not forget that the same pr guys I mentioned above spent the late 80's and early 90's pushing quick buck collectibility when they should have been building a real readership to last the ages. Now note that Milton follows his "specious" comparison by demonstarting how they had to raise the price of comics 95% over inflation to compensate for loss of profits after the crash in collectibility. These brilliant guys deserve our support, right?

------------------
Rick Veitch
Invites You To Read THE DAILY RARE BIT FIENDS
updated every day along with news of the world's most popular artform!
THE COMICON.COM DAILY SPLASHis always refreshing!
www.comicon.com/splash
_________________________
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#460002 - 03/01/01 09:34 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Chris Juricich Offline
Member

Registered: 09/19/99
Posts: 721
Loc: Berkeley, CA USA
I think Tom Spurgeon hit the nail on the head here-- comics sales are tanking, whether you think the figures are from Diamond or some guy from Milpitas with a monthly website. The numbers are different? Are they both positive? Probably not.

That the alternatives/independents sales according to Kim T are still rock-solid is a positive indication, primarily as that area is where the most dynamic and exciting comics work is truly being done.

If DC or Marvel 'tanked' into bankruptcy, I could really care only a little. Comics are currently in their most exciting phase ever, despite the fact that the business is not adjusting well to the economic times.
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#460003 - 03/01/01 09:51 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Broken Shakespeare Offline
Member

Registered: 07/06/00
Posts: 43
Loc: Maysville, Kentucky
Your naive at best if you think that George Bush is in anyway responsible for this economic downturn. The economic slide started last November when Clinton was in office (and it wasn't is fault, even though he probably could have put some pressure on Greenspan, or pressured Gore into concession instead of drawing out the election battle). By the time Bush took the office, the slide had built up so much momentum that there wasn't anything he could do to stop it.

Now back to the regularly scheduled program.

------------------
Broken Shakespeare
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Broken Shakespeare

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#460004 - 03/01/01 10:08 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Chris Ekman Offline
Member

Registered: 03/07/00
Posts: 266
Loc: Barre, MA, US
Chris Knowles wrote:

Quote:
I know a lot of folks have a beef with Diamond and the Direct market system as it stands, but if we barrage the remaining readership with negative propaganda about sales, who's to say that they won't just find another hobby?


Um. How on earth would Splash drive people from comics? It's read exclusively, I should imagine, by industry professionals and avid fans who closely follow industry news. These people already know sales suck. Nobody is going to jump out of a window just because someone quantified how badly sales suck.

The comics industry is awful at making accurate sales numbers available. Sales is such an obsession in other media that I can pick up any Sunday paper and find out precisely what the top 10 movies, books and TV shows were, and probably how much they grossed. But in comics, these numbers- which you'd think would be absolutely vital for retailers, when they're faced with the monthly 600-page catalog and have to guess what demand is- these numbers are kept shrouded in mystery. And that's just for pamphlets- graphic novel sales are an utter enigma.

So let's not cry foul when somebody actually tries to distill some facts from the confusion, ok?

(Funny you should mention Warren "Old Bastard" Ellis, who in his Come In Alone column at Comic Book Resources was often as negative as one can get, and attacked for it by people who prefer happytalk...)

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#460005 - 03/01/01 11:15 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
brent Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/14/06
Posts: 11
Instead of talking pre-orders or any such nonsense like that, let's talk about actual SALES! Hey, anyone got figures on how comics are selling in total? This number would of course include comics sold at Price Choppers, Kinney Drugs, B+N, and Borders.

Anyone?

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#460006 - 03/02/01 03:24 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
UncommonCon Offline
Member

Registered: 05/23/00
Posts: 119
Loc: Dallas, TX USA
Hey Chris K.,

You're really barking up the wrong tree trying to talk down Greipp. Even when he WAS a competitor of Diamond, he did so with aplomb and professionalism. He is a seasoned and educated professional and has shown over and over and over that he has nothing but the best interests of the industry at heart. If you have not, I sincerely suggest you take a look at his site.

As to how he got his numbers, I'll give you the short version. Diamond does NOT release their numbers, but they do release a comparitive chart. Basically, they take some issue and mark it with a value of 1, then they compare each other issue to it. For example, let's say Batman sold 50,000 and it was chosen as the "base" issue and given a value of 1. Then, if Superman sold 75,000, this would have a value of 1.5. If Batgirl sold 25,000, then it would have a value of .5. Diamond ostensibly does it to help fledgling retailers figure out their numbers. (For example, if you think you could sell 10 copies of Batman, then you might think you could sell 15 copies of Superman and 5 copies of Batgirl.) However, I have to admit that I never bought that explanation, and still do not. As a retailer I NEVER found those numbers to be of any use, except to help people figure out the initial pre-orders of the comic books.

So, if you have the total sales from one issue on the list (like you got them from the publisher or creator), then you could easily extrapolate the sales of the rest. This means that, yes, all the publishers have a pretty good idea of what their competitors sell. But, in Griepp's case, he mentioned that he got his base value from Kevin Smitt (if I recall correctly, somebody, anyway) and extrapolated from there. If I know Milton, he probably got several other hard numbers to check his extrapolations.

If this is how your guy on the usenet does it, then the discrepency can probably attributed to minor errors in their base numbers (that is, if your source says they sold 45,000 of their book, when they were really rounding up from 44,699, then that could put your numbers off a bit).

Brent, If you are talking about how many copies the customers actually buy, as opposed to how many the publishers sell, I can say pretty much categorically that there is NO way you can get actual sales numbers. You might be able to get close, but not with better than 10%-20% error. Why?

The main thing is that you would have to get the sell-through percentage of all 3000 comic book shops left in America. That is, if you order 100 copies of a book and sell 85, your sell-through percentage is 85%. Then you ALSO have to get that from every single mass market retailer (K&B, Walgreens, Wal-Mart, etc). Some specialty retailers do not even track those numbers very well. And, pretty much all of those mass marketers will absolutely not release their numbers. So, given that, there is almost no way to get real numbers.

Plus, of course, there is the problem of how long do you track it. For example, you order 100 copies, you sell 70 in the first week, 10 in the second, 5 in the third, 1 in the fourth, then the next issue comes in and you take the previous one down, so your sell-through right now is 86%. But, a couple of weeks later, some new folks move into the neighborhood and come in and buy 2 more out of the back-issue boxes. That means your sell-through is now 88%. Still relevent? Then, three months later, you have your Labor Day sale and blow out 5 more copies at 50% off. So, technically your sell-through is now 93%. Still relevent? Even though some were sold at 50% off. Two years later, you have an inventory clearance sale and blow 6 more out at a mere $.25 each. So, after two-and-a-half years, you achieved a sell-through of 99%. Of course, who gives a damn at that point? Especially since some of those went at a significant discount. Would they have sold otherwise? Who knows?

So, anyway, you see the problem.

(Wow, did that go on a little too long?? Sorry about sucking up all the space, Rick.)

$.015 (that's $.02 at 75% sell-through),


------------------
James Echols
Festival Producer - UncommonCon, www.uncommoncon.com
Business Coach - Uncommon Solutions
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james@uncommoncon.com
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#460007 - 03/02/01 06:23 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
jack Offline
Member

Registered: 11/11/99
Posts: 12596
Loc: Just south of NYC
I was amazed to see some books had gone back up over 100K to begin with!!!

Remember, print runs of 40 to 60 K are still not so uncommon for a mainstream book.

Talk about reversing the binoculars on an issue.

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#460008 - 03/02/01 10:09 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Walt Stone Offline
Member

Registered: 01/01/01
Posts: 496
Loc: Katy, Tx
Chris K. said:
Quote:
My speculation on Griepp was just that- speculation and skepticism pertaining to source. The main thesis your article was that sales were tanking becuase Xmen was selling under 100K, a fact that has not been established to my satisfaction.
I'm just curious at what point you will understand that the 100K threshold is truly broken? If not now, maybe later on this year when numbers are another 5% lower?

Let's bring this thread back up in November, shall we? (Save for the odd special/crossover)That should put the top seller around 93K or so, according to the standard decline averaged out (as I see it). Even most reorders and probably low side error correction combined wouldn't add enough to a 93K number and get it over the 100K mark.

If, however, the market has truly turned, we'll probably a solid bottom and that "near 100K" number will remain static, and perhaps show improvement, getting around 4 books over the 100K mark in Oct/Nov as reported by the hardworking folks like M Burns.

Walt Stone

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#460009 - 03/02/01 11:20 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Chris Knowles Offline
Member

Registered: 01/23/99
Posts: 875
Loc: USA
Quote:
Originally posted by Rick Veitch:
Chris,
If you want to fix your old car, first you have to recognize its broken, then figure out which parts are shot and that need replacing. If you drive down the road singing cheerleader songs about how wonderful the car is, it won't be long before you're left high and dry.


This is a poor analogy. The Comics Industry is not a machine, it is a social organism comprised of people with intellect and emotions. Look at the Industry at present as a sick patient that all good-hearted people here would like to see recover. No responsible physician would seek to shock this patient into health by barraging him with bad news about his condition. A caring and well-intentioned doctor (or loved one of the patient, for that matter) would encourage the patient when improvements are made and help cushion the blow when bad news arises. The ultimate agenda would be to help the patient back to health, not depress him to death so you can fuck the poor guy's wife.

Quote:
Originally posted by Rick Veitch:
Face it, Chris, for two decades the world of comics has been filled with pr people blowing sunshine up butts about how great and vibrant the mainstream comics scene is and guess what? It's not so great and vibrant right now. It's in the midst of one of the worst downturns in its history. If it wants to survive, it needs to be rethought and retooled and the people on both ends of the spectrum deserve an unflinching and honest picture of the situation.


Well, before you can rethink and retool, first the Industry has to regain viability. Back to the patient analogy, you don't burden a seriously ill patient with a vigorous excercise program and crash diet. You work to bring the patient back to at least an ambulatory state before you start him on that crash diet.

And I disagree very strongly with your claim about all that sunny PR. Maybe you hear that from company flacks, but certainly not in the non-Wizard press or on the Net. On the contrary, I would say that large chunks of Fandom, especially the more influential corners of it have been in the grips of a poisonous and intractable Loser mentality. There's almost an addictive quality to the negativity, sour grapes and pessimism you see, especially on these message boards. Too much of Fandom acts like the eternal kid-who got-picked-last-in-gym-class and seems to almost savor every bit of bad news. When someone comes along and says "Cheer Up, it ain't so bad" a line forms almost immediately to strike them down.

My agenda in my recent posts here has been two-fold- A. to counter the relentess negativism by pointing out that the problems in the Industry are not unique - that overall Publishing is weak and Comics in fact are stronger than other sectors in book and magazine publishing and B. Comics Culture is worthy of preservation. Some folks might want to see Diamond or Marvel destroyed forever, but like them or not, they are the financial cornerstones of the present industry. If you don't like them, build viable alternatives, but seeking to tear them down is the equivalent of shitting in your own bed for someone whose livelihood or sphere of interest is in the Comics Industry.

I would venture to say that we're all pretty savvy folks here on comicon. I don't think that anyone here is in the dark about the problems the Industry currently faces. But maybe once in awhile, it would be nice to see some good news about the market on Splash.

Quote:
Originally posted by Rick Veitch:
1991 wasn't the height of the boom, Chris. April of 93 was. Let's not forget that the same pr guys I mentioned above spent the late 80's and early 90's pushing quick buck collectibility when they should have been building a real readership to last the ages. Now note that Milton follows his "specious" comparison by demonstarting how they had to raise the price of comics 95% over inflation to compensate for loss of profits after the crash in collectibility. These brilliant guys deserve our support, right?


Well, since I was the guy who started a monster thread about the low value-for-money aspect of current comics pricing, I'm not going to argue. But I was convinced by folks like Jim Hanley that the pricing structure is a necessary evil at the present moment. I have agitated for new formats that are more cost-efficient for the consumer, and I hope they come to pass, but I think that most people are doing what they can to survive, and that early-90's profiteering is long dead. Again, I think it would be in everyone's interest who cares about the long-term fate of the Comics Industry to do what they can to help get out of the present quagmire and then we can debate the future. I've seen what pessimism and negativity can do to a subculture and I'd hate to see Comics fall into that trap.

Chris Knowles
Team Comics Cheeleading Squad
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#460010 - 03/02/01 12:03 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Robert Boyd Offline
Member

Registered: 12/09/99
Posts: 82
Loc: Milford, CT, USA
Walt Stone wrote: "Let's bring this thread back up in November, shall we? (Save for the odd special/crossover)That should put the top seller around 93K or so, according to the standard decline averaged out (as I see it). Even most reorders and probably low side error correction combined wouldn't add enough to a 93K number and get it over the 100K mark.

"If, however, the market has truly turned, we'll probably a solid bottom and that 'near 100K' number will remain static, and perhaps show improvement, getting around 4 books over the 100K mark in Oct/Nov as reported by the hardworking folks like M Burns."

The sales of the top comics on the Diamond 300 list don't have to rise for there to be an improvement in the comics publishing market. There are many alternate scenarios that still allow for a total rise in dollars sold without the numbers of the top comics necessarily rising on that list. For instance, if there is a rise among many middle-ranked and bottom-ranked comics, that could offset a decline of the top-ranked comics. Furthermore, there could be a rise in sales in formats or markets not listed in the top 300. For instance, if Ultimate Marvel magazine takes off and is wildly successful on the newsstand, that won't register with the Diamond top 300 list. Likewise, increased sales of trade books (whether in the book trade of the direct market) don't show up on Diamond's top 300 list. This is significant, because without naming titles, I can tell you that the trade paperbacks sold to the book trade of certain comics franchises outsell the comic book editions of those franchises (going by internal sales numbers at LPC Group versus the numbers from the ICv2 site). Which is pretty amazing when you think about it.

I don't want to overstate this; there are still a lot more comic books sold than graphic novels, whether you measure it by units or by dollars. Nonetheless, we know that comic books are trending down while graphic novels are trending up--which makes the Diamond top 300 list a less-important indicator of the health of the comics publishing business that it was, say, five years ago.

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#460011 - 03/02/01 02:38 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Walt Stone Offline
Member

Registered: 01/01/01
Posts: 496
Loc: Katy, Tx
Quote:

The sales of the top comics on the Diamond 300 list don't have to rise for there to be an improvement in the comics publishing market. There are many alternate scenarios that still allow for a total rise in dollars sold without the numbers of the top comics necessarily rising on that list. For instance, if there is a rise among many middle-ranked and bottom-ranked comics, that could offset a decline of the top-ranked comics. Furthermore, there could be a rise in sales in formats or markets not listed in the top 300.


The short answer to that second scenario is, no. Supergirl won't be doubling it's reader base anytime soon. The only ones in the Middle group that might turn things around are titles that once held sway, like Spawn.

I don't know, but I do suspect, that sales for the top 25 comics drive about 40-50% of the profits off of just the new comics in many shops. With some shops that number is significantly higher. Books below 100 in the Diamond sales charts drive about 15-20% of the profits. Indy friendly shops might see a different breakdown.

I can't see how books that have basically no advertisements can affect any one store's bottom line. At least not the bulk of them, anyway. After all, the stores first have to order more before they can sell more, right? Books in the middle jump based on buzz (change in editorial/creative team) and on advertising.

Let's see DC do an "Ultimate" Supergirl and see exactly how THAT fares in the market. That's pretty much what the DC 1 Million was though, wasn't it?

Basically I've maintained that no matter what, the top 25 comics drive the lifeblood of the rest of the comic book market. With the precipitous decline of those top sellers, stability is added at the price of lower total profits. In other words, if you can make a living off of selling comics at these new lower sales numbers, you'll be just fine.

But the top 25 get the most advertising, and that is what drives new foot traffic, and that is what might help out the lower selling comics.

Walt Stone

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#460012 - 03/02/01 03:09 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Rick Veitch Administrator Offline
Member

Registered: 11/23/98
Posts: 3531
Loc: Vermont, USA
Chris,
Since you've chosen the metaphor of the "seriously ill patient", I guess that means you agree that the market is also "seriously ill". The disagreement comes over how to approach that.

IMHO the way to approach it is honestly.

------------------
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#460013 - 03/02/01 05:22 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Chris Knowles Offline
Member

Registered: 01/23/99
Posts: 875
Loc: USA
Quote:
Originally posted by Rick Veitch:
Chris,
Since you've chosen the metaphor of the "seriously ill patient", I guess that means you agree that the market is also "seriously ill". The disagreement comes over how to approach that.

IMHO the way to approach it is honestly.



Well, I see the "patient" as having stabilized and on the mend. No one can argue that the Industry took a nosedive over the past 6 years, but I think there's been a lot of progress to change bad old habits. There are plenty of positive indicators to cheer-a new Marvel EIC who cares about comics and subsequently a noticable uptick in quality control in Marvel's line (we're seeing more a more books from Marvel that you don't need a secret decoder ring to read), Marvel's publishing revenue on the rebound (look for the X books to jump up in April), relative stability in sales as a whole (especially on the more quality material), 12% rise in GN and TPB sales, recent positive notice from mainstream media, a slowing rate of retail outlet closures, renewed interest in Comics material from Hollywood, and what I think is a unprecendented amount of excellent material coming from the ground-level and alternative imprints, continuing presence and proliferation of quality fan sites (such as this one) and healthy activity on message boards.

All of these indicators I have cited are in direct contradistinction to the situation even a year ago. I'm not going to quibble with your antipathy for Marvel, AOL/TW and Diamond, et al- this is your site, after all- but I simply think in your zeal to rail against them you may be doing harm to the morale of this very small community. I too would like to see viable alternatives to the status quo and I definitely share your enthusiasms for some of the potential means of direct distribution via the Net and whatnot- but we're not there yet and we may not be there for awhile. Like it or not, we're stuck with the present system for the time being, and a lot of people we both care about are dependent on that system to feed their families and pay their mortgages. I'd like to see another distributor as an alternative to Diamond but I'm not sure if present sales levels justify one. I don't think there'll be any one way for comics to grow and I don't think that the present system necessarily is preventing alternative systems from happening. But I do think that we should allow what I believe is the beginnings of a recovery to take root before we start agitating for alternatives.

The reason I found your Splash headline to be so damaging is that first of all, it's not really news and I'm not sure it's entirely accurate. Second of all, it may not be telling the whole story- I'd rely more on overall dollar amounts to make a judgement particularly since the periodicals are not the only game in town anymore and lastly, there are a lot of well-intentioned people working their asses off to turn things around and that kind of "Drudge Report" negativity doesn't do anything for their morale. It's gotten to the point that kind of bad news gores everyone's ox. It used to be kind of a wicked fun for fans to watch people like Rob Liefeld lose their shirts, but I think the Industry has trimmed all the fat it can stand. We're getting to the bone here.

Maybe this is your underground, counterculture roots showing, Rick, but I don't necessarily believe in Things have-to-Get-Worse-before-they-can-get-better philosphy when it comes to comics. If we're not careful, the whole shebang could just fade away. If the lifers don't work to keep the water out of the raft, no one else will.

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#460014 - 03/02/01 05:37 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Fin Fang Foom Offline
Member

Registered: 02/02/01
Posts: 154
Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Knowles:
Thirdly, these pre-order numbers are suspicious to begin with, especially when a book like Green Arrow #1, which pre-ordered at 68K ended up over 100 K and is sold out at the distributor level. Again, Rick's source for this dubious announcement didnt source their numbers, and since they are significantly lower than Michael Burns February numbers, I'd suggest we wait for some corroboration.

Is Splash becoming the Drudge Report of Comics? I'd respectfully suggest to Rick that he spent a little more time researching his stories before he spreads what I believe to be faulty information that can impact negatively on Industry morale.


What else /can/ Rick do in the way of research? Circulation figures are a closely-guarded secret, and this information is not widely disseminated among staff, freelancers, and assorted hangers-on (regardless of what they might say). And especially not Internet muck-rakers!

You're not going to find corroboration. The best you can do in this situation is rely on the experts for an accurate estimation. Speaking as someone who has occasional access to sales figures (for one particular company), I'd be willing to bet that ICv2's numbers are probably on target.

And even if estimates as high as 100K copies of GREEN ARROW #1 (after reorders) were accurate, that plateau might as well be pointless. Assuming the series is unusually successful, regular sales for the ongoing series will probably settle in the 50K-60K range by the fourth or fifth issue (if established trends are followed). Even if you disagree with this estimate, there's little reason for optimism.

There's nothing to be gained by burying your head in the sand. I'm all for anything that brings information like this out into the open.

[This message has been edited by Fin Fang Foom (edited 03-02-2001).]

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#460015 - 03/02/01 06:02 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Kim Thompson Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/29/05
Posts: 0
Okay. I don't have the February Diamond listings, but I have the January ones.

LOVE AND ROCKETS VOL. II #1 sold 10,066 copies from Diamond. Its index is 18.44. This means each index point represents 546 sales (which means BATMAN is at 54,600, of course), which in turn yields the following hard figures (assuming the index is correct) of only three titles, all X-Men, selling over 100,000:

X-MEN #110: ca. 117,000 sales
UNCANNY X-MEN #390 ca. 114,000 sales
ULTIMATE X-MEN #2 ca. 104,000 sales

The next one, WOLVERINE, drops under the 100,000 sales mark.

Best-selling non-X-MEN title:
AVENGERS #38 (78,000)

Best-selling non-Marvel title:
SPAWN #106 (72,500)

Best-selling DC title:
SUPERMAN #166 (60,000)

Best-selling title that's not DC, Marvel, or Image:
WITCHBLADE ALIENS DARKNESS PREDATOR MINDHUNTER #2 (whatever the hell that is): 41,000

Best-selling title that's not DC, Marvel, or Image and isn't some weird amalgam of stuff:
STAR WARS QUI GON AND OBI WAN #1: 38,500

Best-selling Dark Horse comic that's not a TV/movie derivation (STAR WARS, BUFFY) or the freakishly successful SILKE #1: SPYBOY #15: 15,000

Best-selling comic by a beloved cartoonist whose audience in MAD magazine numbers in the millions: SERGIO ARAGONES ACTIONS SPEAK... #1: 11,000

For those who think readable, kid-friendly comics featuring popular characters are the answer: SUPERMAN ADVENTURES #53: 11,000

For those who think that well-written Alan Moore comics will save the industry: TOM STRONG #12: 34,000. (Steve and Rick, remember when Image wanted to cancel 1963 because sales of 100,000 were just too ridiculously low to even bother with?)

A random collection of comics that are selling under 20,000: SAVAGE DRAGON, ZERO GIRL, 100 BULLETS, ORION, SIMPSONS COMICS, FUTURAMA, BATMAN GOTHAM ADVENTURES...

Incidentally, I haven't totally given away LOVE AND ROCKETS' sales here because we (unlike Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse) are not exclusive with Diamond. The true figure for LR is around 11,000-11,500. In other words, better than SUPERMAN ADVENTURES, more than half as much as THE SIMPSONS, and more than a third as much as TOM STRONG.

I may be mistaken, but these look like the worst sales figures ever recorded for the big-company titles.

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#460016 - 03/02/01 06:23 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
jack Offline
Member

Registered: 11/11/99
Posts: 12596
Loc: Just south of NYC
I think Kim is pretty accurate with his sales figures. Just reaffirms my feeling about sales in general.

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#460017 - 03/02/01 07:15 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Chris Knowles Offline
Member

Registered: 01/23/99
Posts: 875
Loc: USA
Quote:
Originally posted by Fin Fang Foom:

There's nothing to be gained by burying your head in the sand. I'm all for anything that brings information like this out into the open


Well, I've been following the sales charts every month for at least five years now and I would say that we still some downward trends, there has been some stabilzation overall. And I still suspect we will find out that Griepp's estimates are way low.

But, I wonder- what's the point? It's none of my business, really. It's proprietary information, which is probably why Diamond refuses to release the numbers to begin with. And what does it matter to me as a reader? Does the quality of the comic have anything to do with its sales? Look what happened to the movies since they started releasing weekend grosses- I wish I had a dime for everytime I heard some idiot making their decision on whether to go see a movie based solely on his analysis of the weekend gross- I could open up my own national chain of comic stores and end the slide single-handedly.

Have movies gotten better since they started releasing weekend grosses? No, they've gotten insanely worse. Why? Because this obsession with grosses has made everyone very cautious and or greedy, neither condition being conducive to the creation of great art.

I see idiots in newsgroups arguing the merits of a TV show based solely on ratings. "Well, Temptation Island got a better rating than Masterpiece Theatre, therefore it's the better show." Maybe not quite that bad, but you get the idea. This is the result of Mogul-thinking on the general public.

And it was an obsession with sales that got Comics into this mess to begin with. It was the out-of-control greed of the Chromium Gang that turned comics into a pyramid scheme based solely on who could manipulate the rubes well enough to get a huge pre-order. The fruits of this thinking bankrupted, what, 5000 stores? Good work, boys.

Finally, the real problem with the Comics Market lies outside the Market itself- the problem is the rapidly growing rate of functional illiteracy in this country. Do some digging- you think Comics have it bad?- look at magazine publishing. Comics is an oasis of stability compared to the bloodbath out there on the newstands. Look at book publishing - 99% of the working authors out there would cut their gentials off to move 60,000 units a year, never mind a month.

I am absolutely dumb-founded by the incessant negativity I see on these boards. It's even worse than the tcj.com boards! I don't know- I've had enough experience in other media to see comics as a bloody oasis. Grass is greener- sour grapes- I'm at a loss for cliches, but I still say we should be talking the Industry up, not down. Pessimists call themselves realists- I call them Defeatists.

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#460018 - 03/02/01 08:08 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Tom Spurgeon Offline
Member

Registered: 12/24/98
Posts: 1095
Loc: WCW Special Forces
In many cases, I call them publishers and cartoonists.

Linking sales figures and being money-obsessed is incredibly shaky rhetorical ground, and kind of insulting when lobbied in the general direction of someone like Kim Thompson, a highly intelligent, highly employable man who in terms of major lifestyle choice has given up on the fortunes to be made in corporate America to forge his own voice publishing comics.

No, there is no correlation between publishing the money amounts made by movies and quality film. But accurate reporting on the film business has made things better in a lot of ways for film fans, by giving an economic impetus to non-mainstream fare that it would never have otherwise. Those of us old enough to remember doing so may romanticize driving 75 miles for a midnight show of a foreign film, but that's an experience clouded by nostalgia.

Pimping those numbers and reporting on them are two very different things. Forty people read a message board and receive sobering news. Comics sales go down. Over a hundred thousand people read Wizard slobbering over the best-selling comics as if they're the hottest things going and experienced by the same numbers of poeple who watch TV and go to the movies. Comics sales go down. Do you really think there's a causative relationship?

You can call the forty people on the message board pessimists, which might be true, but at least they're not deluded into thinking they can wish bad sales away. It's not an obsession with accurate sales figure that led to any of Marvel's more avoidable problems; it was an unquantifiable and overly-positive estimation of the lasting appeal of their comics line and character stable.

Believe me, as a writer who works in various media I'm as pleased with the 19 people who saw the opening night of my first play as I am with the 4,200,815 people that have access to my comic strip. The fact that those are accurate numbers doesn't really change anything I feel about it other than that I have accurate numbers.

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#460019 - 03/02/01 08:14 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Pat ONeill Offline
Member

Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 3064
Loc: PA, USA
Kim's figures for the DM may be accurate, but he leaves out several factors on some titles (and makes a major error on another):

The major error first--MAD hasn't sold in the millions in a couple of decades. Its current circulation is more likely in the same 100-150,000 range as X-Men.

The left-out factors--all indications are that Superman and Superman Adventures have significant sales in the newsstand system. Certainly Superman's DM sales account for no more than 80% of its total circulation (and perhaps less than that). Even using the 80% rule of thumb, that puts Superman #166 at something like 75,000 (maybe higher). The Adventures line (accoridng to the knowledgeable) may actually have a larger percentage of its circulation outside the comics shops (just as the Archie line does).
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#460020 - 03/02/01 08:20 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
NatGertler Offline
Member

Registered: 07/10/99
Posts: 4618
Quote:
And even if estimates as high as 100K copies of GREEN ARROW #1 (after reorders) were accurate,
And the Green Arrow doesn't stop there. The estimate I've seen on the first printing are over 100K, and that was all with advanced reorders up to the time of printing. They are going back to press for a second printing. This may well be one that returns to press several times... with the outside publicity that it is getting and the strong possibility that it will attract people who are not already part of the comic shop crowd, I'm not sure we can project the usual trajectory for it (and we should be very wary of using the preorder figures for the first few issues; obviously, demand that is surfacing now is not going to be fully reflected in orders placed last month.)
Having said that: I suspect that the biggest civilian impact of this book will be with a TPB collection at the end of the run. Smith's prior works were issued by companies that are not as good at creating a mass market TPB.
Quote:
Incidentally, I haven't totally given away LOVE AND ROCKETS' sales here because we (unlike Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse) are not exclusive with Diamond. The true figure for LR is around 11,000-11,500. In other words, better than SUPERMAN ADVENTURES, more than half as much as THE SIMPSONS, and more than a third as much as TOM STRONG.
Sure.... if you ignore the fact that Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse are not actually exclusive with Diamond either, but also circulate many of their comics outside of the direct market. And that's not even counting reorders (which I expect and hope will serve L&R well).
I notice you don't list Archie titles, for example. You probably kick their ass in the DM... but if you got their real sales figures, including the ones in the Wal-Marts and Food-4-Lesses, you'd find yours quickly dwarfed.

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#460021 - 03/02/01 08:23 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Mark Evanier Offline
Member

Registered: 04/06/99
Posts: 382
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
As yet another soul who works in many venues, I'd like to say I agree with Mssrs. Spurgeon and Thompson and others who say the business IS in trouble and that we can't begin to solve its problems without a solid jolt of Reality.

I am not convinced that things have stabilized at all. For more than a year now, I keep hearing wishful thinkers say, when one month's orders aren't quite as dreadful as the previous, "We've touched bottom! The pendulum is swinging back! We're on the rebound!" Then the following month's sales come in lower than either.

Yes, we are now seeing the worst sales ever in the history of major publishers. And they're even worse when one takes into account how popular some of those properties are in other venues. Given the success of the X-MEN movie, for instance, the comic book should soaring. A staggering number of potential comic fans paid eight bucks or so to see the movie. Another staggering number of them are plunking down twenty bucks or upwards for the DVD or VHS release. About eleven of them went out and bought an X-MEN comic book.

Come to think of it, it really doesn't matter if the sales figures we're hearing are spot-on accurate. Even if they're 50% too low, sales are still dreadful.
_________________________
Mark Evanier's daily weblog is at http://www.newsfromme.com and his not-daily weblog is at http://www.POVonline.com.

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#460022 - 03/02/01 09:17 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Fin Fang Foom Offline
Member

Registered: 02/02/01
Posts: 154
Quote:
Originally posted by NatGertler:
And the Green Arrow doesn't stop there. The estimate I've seen on the first printing are over 100K, and that was all with advanced reorders up to the time of printing. They are going back to press for a second printing.


I expect those estimates are very, /very/ far from accurate.

Even with the traditional higher-than-usual orders on a first issue, plenty of promotion, /and/ Kevin Smith's cult following in the Direct Market, I just don't see the retail community selling through 100,000 copies and then ordering more.

In fact, I wonder if the sequel to THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS (scheduled in stores for 2001, but just barely) will manage 100K in orders; I'm not sure the infrastructure of the direct market that made that (and more!) possible in the mid-1980s still exists.

[This message has been edited by Fin Fang Foom (edited 03-02-2001).]

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#460023 - 03/02/01 09:33 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Chris Knowles Offline
Member

Registered: 01/23/99
Posts: 875
Loc: USA
When I was growing up I had to be very careful about complaining. The look one would often get when they complained was withering, and basically said: "What are you going to do about it?" It was a strange ethic, probably particular to my little corner of New England, but it stuck with me. If you were going to bitch but do nothing, no one wanted to hear it. I saw fights start because someone would bitch about something completely trivial, like the weather or something. I think there's a taste of this in Good Will Hunting- the most accurate portrayal of Boston street culture ever committed to film- but don't quote me on that.

Comic sales are bad. So what? What are you going to do about it? Complain? What does that do, besides spread more negativity? I think the whining and hand-wringing makes the situation worse. Let's not talk about what we would do if we were in charge-let's talk about what you personally can do to improve the situation now. Who the hell wants to be involved in a subculture filled with such whining? Be a positive force for the artform you care about. If the lifers here on Comicon can't be positively motivated, why would you expect some neophyte to be? I think there's a lot to be positive about in comics-more now than any time I can remember. Certainly now more than any time on the 90's.

Face it, this is a terrible time for culture and a bad time for literacy. Accept it and move forward. The infinite soul-less void of Mass culture just makes me appreciate the good work certain people are doing in comics all the more.

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#460024 - 03/02/01 10:07 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Joe Field Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/26/00
Posts: 5
Loc: Concord, CA
This thread is creating a good dialogue.

My opinions:
1) Comic sales are so far down because the number of stores that sell comics are way down. At one time, maybe 35 years ago, comics were available for sale at more than 100,000 outlets. Now that number, including comic book shops *and* the newsstand market, is probably under 10,000.

2) Comics aren't created the same way anymore. Comics' creators aren't the slaves to deadlines they once were (cuts both ways). Less regular accessibility mean fewer chances to pick up new readers.

3) Comics price increases have far outstripped inflation in the last ten years, making this a medium that is becoming too pricey for much of the intended audience.

4) Maybe the most cogent point for this discussion: The sales numbers we're crying about are first quarter numbers. Publishers stink at delivering sufficient product in the first quarter because that is when more stores are likely to close. Publishers also think comics' retail works under the same model as other mass market retail: hold back in the first quarter with tight inventory, make your strongest product introductions in the late second quarter for summer sales...and hold the reast off 'til the holidays. We have roughly the same number of store visitors in February that we do in November, yet we have nowhere near the same level and quality of product.

5) The titles at the top of the list *should* be falling in sales: the X-books are vamping until new creative teams are intro'd in the 2nd quarter. Ultimate X hasn't been available for re-orders so why should retailers up their numbers for a product that the publisher isn't showing any faith in? Spawn's last gasp as a comic was #100, with 5 gimmick covers at a hugely inflated price. Todd had kept his audience by hodling the line on cover price for 8 years...then WHAM! Hope the toys keep selling, though... And who knew that Green Arrow would sell numbers above DC's top selling JLA (and sell those numbers faster, too)? I'm just glad there's going to be a second print quickly on this one...

Joe Field
Flying Colors Comics & Other Cool Stuff
Concord, CA

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#460025 - 03/03/01 01:15 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Tom Spurgeon Offline
Member

Registered: 12/24/98
Posts: 1095
Loc: WCW Special Forces
Who's complaining? Who's whining? Who's hand-wringing? I'm dispassionately looking at a range of numbers and dispensing sobering advice, based on past examples. If Marvel executives had listened to the similarly sober advice coming from people in their own company back in 1994, they would have a better business infrastructure today. That isn't a complaint; that's an observation.

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#460026 - 03/03/01 02:01 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Chris Knowles Offline
Member

Registered: 01/23/99
Posts: 875
Loc: USA
Quote:
Originally posted by Tom Spurgeon:
If Marvel executives had listened to the similarly sober advice coming from people in their own company back in 1994, they would have a better business infrastructure today. That isn't a complaint; that's an observation.


Well, I have some good news for you, Tom- Bob Harras, Ron Perelman, Tom DeFalco, Terry Stewart, Joseph Calabrese- they're all gone. The entire executive apparatus at Marvel is totally changed- none of the "Marvelution" guys are left. It's a totally different company now, and I think the new guard are doing a lot to rectify past mistakes. Like them or not, Marvel is still the driving force in the direct market and the change in attitude there is cause for hope. Without Marvel, no direct market- and that means no ACME, no Safe Area Gorzade, no Love and Rockets. There isn't a single title that can survive without direct market income.

What's past is past- let's think about today.

PS Reminding a cancer patient they have cancer doesn't make them better. Nor does telling them it's their own damn fault they cancer. And not all cancer is terminal.

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#460027 - 03/03/01 02:56 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Tom Spurgeon Offline
Member

Registered: 12/24/98
Posts: 1095
Loc: WCW Special Forces
Chris, I know how the comics market works. And thank you for that update on Marvel personnel changes. My goodness! What happened to Stan, Flo and Artie?

If the new gang succeeds at Marvel, it will be because they are more realistic about the difficulties that face their company and more successful when it comes to implementing solutions. Smart, sober moves can already seen in their dedication to putting together a more respectable trade paperback program and hiring top talent instead of rewarding in-house loyalty. They may be rabid optimists, and their optimism may be personally sustaining, but optimism alone isn't going to cut it. Why? Because it's frankly impossible to be more optimistic than Marvel was in the mid-'90s when they believed their characters were as popular as Disney's and that this popularity would sustain them while they used a regional distributor to dole out their product and bought subsidiary companies at over-inflated prices.

That's not living in the past; that's learning from it.

The great thing is if analyzing numbers turns you off, you can just avoid it. Comics' readership may be smaller than it use to be, but it's not so small any majority is represented here. The only people here are industry wonks. I don't read film box office figures or Variety's theater by theater breakdown of Broadway revenues. But I'm happy that information exists for the people who use it, and I don't perceive analysis of same to be "negativity".

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#460028 - 03/03/01 03:18 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
ChrisW Online   content
Member

Registered: 11/25/00
Posts: 10034
Loc: Lincoln, Nebraska USA
Chris, if we weren't lifers we wouldn't be here. I like your enthusiasm, but there's nothing we here on the comicon.com message boards can do on the comicon.com message boards to help comics, and cheering up the bad news won't help.
There are silver linings, but the clouds probably won't pass for a while.
So what do we do instead? We buy comics we like, the retailers try to sell comics and find new customers, creators try to make good comics that can one day find an audience. How many people who are in, or just enjoy, this field have a back project of some sort, maybe a one-shot or graphic novel, that they work on little by little, maybe a panel or two a week. Even Marvel Comics is actively trying to overrule 60 years worth of hideous practices. I've never seen any public statement from anybody at Diamond indicating they were pleased to be in a position that any other company in any other industry would love [but then, I don't get out much]. We know the business sucks, we're here because we love comics, and honestly facing the bad news will do a better job giving us the incentive to turn things around than the alternative.
It's not a rosy scenario, but that's life. And, in my opinion, what we've got is a much stronger, much more rewarding, much more long-term dream to follow.
And, when we congregate as we do on comicon.com, we bitch, gossip, insult, try to sell or promote things, whatever. For my part, I like asking questions and learning things from comic-folk. Information does change hands, some people probably make some money here, but by and large, if we were here to advance Team Comics, it would most likely be with our new web comics or sites. You seem to be suited to be the cheerleader here, God love you for that, and if you're blonde, sexy and slutty, you got my vote.
_________________________
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"I think ChrisW is the funniest man in entertainment still alive..."
-- the perceptive Tom Spurgeon

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#460029 - 03/03/01 03:25 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Kim Thompson Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/29/05
Posts: 0
I would be astonished if the figure Pat cites for MAD is accurate (I still see it on every goddamn newsstand in the country), but I have to plead ignorance until someone more knowledgeable comes along.

Yes, I understand that mainstream comics are also sold on newsstands, but we don't have those figures, do we? The point is that --pay close attention, now-- if DIRECT SALES figures, which we can be pretty sure are relatively accurate, have plummeted, this means that SALES IN GENERAL have plummeted unless newsstand sales have skyrocketed at the same time, which no one would dare to suggest. If X-MEN sales have gone from 150,000 to 100,000, arguing that they "really" sell 125,000 when you count in newsstand sales is entirely besides the point since the rejoinder to that is, well, that means they used to sell 180,000!

Incidentally, I'm dubious about the conventional wisdom that without the infrastructure of Marvel-and-DC-driven comics shops alternative comics would be dead. Underground comics did fine for a number of years --selling in quantities that dwarf LOVE AND ROCKETS or HATE at their peaks-- in a system of stores that was entirely independent of comics shops (which basically didn't exist then) or traditional newsstands. A collapse of the mainstream and resultant Direct-Market Holocaust might in the short-term wipe out most if not all of the publishers (I don't think Fantagraphics could survive it), but my guess is that comics would sprout again in a different context, and perhaps a better one. Mind you, this is not a sequence of events I'd want to witness!

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#460030 - 03/03/01 05:09 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Chris Knowles Offline
Member

Registered: 01/23/99
Posts: 875
Loc: USA
Quote:
Originally posted by ChrisW:
For my part, I like asking questions and learning things from comic-folk. Information does change hands, some people probably make some money here, but by and large, if we were here to advance Team Comics, it would most likely be with our new web comics or sites. You seem to be suited to be the cheerleader here, God love you for that, and if you're blonde, sexy and slutty, you got my vote.


Being the cheerleader is a strange position for a person like me who spent most of the 90's in a deep depression. I would literally go into Jim Hanley's every day on my lunch break and stare at all the Liefeldian rubbish cluttering up the stands and walk back out in a daze praying for it all to just, please God, just go away.

I mean it when I say that I believe that Comics are the last bastion of the kind of creative values that I once took for granted. I get the same vibe coming from the good work being done today as I did from say an old Wire or Bauhaus record, or from a movie like Repo Man or Liquid Sky, or from one of Martin Amis's early novels. That feeling of manic unfettered creativity- that sort of dayglo popadelic rush that used to characterize alt. and youth culture, but was extinguished by the moneymen.

And I'll tell you, I outgrew Marvel comics a long time ago, but I'll confess I picked up a couple of the new X and Spidey titles the other day, just to see if there was any of that old spark left for me. Unfortunately there wasn't, but at least the books were competently done. I don't think I'd ever seen an Adam Kubert book that didn't read like a downtown Boston roadmap until I read the new Ultimate Xmen. Well, I didn't actually read it, but you know what I mean.

The last time I had a stack of Marvel comics in my hands I was given them by a friend before I got on the subway. By the time I got off the subway I threw the entire stack in the garbage and literally felt nauseous. That was little over a year ago. From nauseating garbage to solid competentcy in a year is slay-the-fatted-calf-time to me.

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#460031 - 03/03/01 06:04 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Matthewwave Offline
Member

Registered: 06/04/00
Posts: 4993
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
"PS Reminding a cancer patient they have cancer doesn't make them better. Nor does telling them it's their own damn fault they cancer. And not all cancer is terminal."

If the lung cancer patient is still smoking, reminding them they have cancer may indeed help. If the cancer patient is stubbornly refusing to leave Three Mile Island or unwittingly running into a cloud of Agent Orange, reminding them they have cancer may indeed help. If there is treatment available and the cancer victim won't take it, reminding them they have cancer may indeed one day dog them into doing so.

Given what others have said about Marvel's publishing practices here, do I have to annotate *this* analogy?

Matthew

[This message has been edited by Matthewwave (edited 03-03-2001).]

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#460032 - 03/03/01 06:24 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Ken Rothstein Offline
Member

Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 519
Loc: NY, NY USA
Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Knowles:

Comic sales are bad. So what? What are you going to do about it? Complain? What does that do, besides spread more negativity? I think the whining and hand-wringing makes the situation worse. Let's not talk about what we would do if we were in charge-let's talk about what you personally can do to improve the situation now.



I have to disagree with this and your overall point that we should not discuss the bad and only play up the good.

The truth of the matter is, that there is just about nothing a fan can do to help comics save organizing a hostile takeover of the comics companies and then rebuilding their sales philosophy.

Now, as far as this site reporting on bad numbers, good for this site. The comic industry is littered with editors and comics professionals who would abandon comics for movies at the drop of a hat. They have no reason to change the system since a senior editor at DC (for example) will still draw his six figure income, 401K and related perks no matter how lousy his books are and how often they get cancelled. No, the only thing that will save comics is for the sales to tank ever and ever lower to the point where all the people who have nothing to gain by increased sales are fired. Only them will people be brought in with incentives to find new ways to sell and make comics.

In film and TV, when a studio exec presides over a few bombs, he is eventually fired. And DC's and Diamond's executives?

Kim Thompson, in an effort to make a false point, referred to dismal sales for SUPERMAN ADVENTURES as a refutation of the theory that the future lies with children. But Kim Thompson is himself ignoring the hard truth that the very system he participates in, the direct market, bears full responsibility for the lack of child readers. Further, by offering direct market figures as proof of anything save "The direct market will be the death of comics yet" is championing this life sapping system and perpetuating the slow decline of your typical comic book. It has allowed Fantagraphics and independant publishers to find outlets, but the price has been steep for Superman and Spiderman.

Only the complete collapse of the direct market will save comics. True, many of the people today will be forced to look for new jobs, but a new distribution system would emerge allowing for a new way of doing business. But of course, for the people who earn a living from the direct market, finding a new way of doing business is not a priority or even desirable. The fact that books lose sales every month is just too bad as long as they get their paycheck.

Warren Ellis's call to arms for the direct market is another nail in the coffin. In order to make the few dozen titles he likes survivable, he wants to see a system in place where DC and Marvel die on the vine. He has that system now, and the result is the sales figures cited in SPLASH.

The best way to change comics is for retailers to demand returns as the only way they will do business with Diamond and the publishers, and for consumers to boycott the preordering system. Marvel putting out magazines is a step in the right direction, and I look forward to the day when I can get all my independant comic anthologies at Virgin Megastore and all my superhero needs at my local magazine rack.

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#460033 - 03/03/01 07:15 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Rick Veitch Administrator Offline
Member

Registered: 11/23/98
Posts: 3531
Loc: Vermont, USA
Chris,
Bill Jemas, Pete Cuneo and Joey Quesada are all on record saying many of the same things about the dismal state of comics sales as have been reported on the SPLASH.

One of the aspects that makes the financial problems of Marvel Enterprises such a compelling story, is that Marvel Publishing really does seem to be making some intelligent moves. The question is, are they going to be able to implement and follow through on their plans before the money runs out at corporate?

------------------
Rick Veitch
Invites You To Read THE DAILY RARE BIT FIENDS
updated every day along with news of the world's most popular artform!
THE COMICON.COM DAILY SPLASHis always refreshing!
www.comicon.com/splash
_________________________
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#460034 - 03/03/01 08:38 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Chris Knowles Offline
Member

Registered: 01/23/99
Posts: 875
Loc: USA
Quote:
Originally posted by Ken Rothstein:

Only the complete collapse of the direct market will save comics. True, many of the people today will be forced to look for new jobs, but a new distribution system would emerge allowing for a new way of doing business. But of course, for the people who earn a living from the direct market, finding a new way of doing business is not a priority or even desirable. The fact that books lose sales every month is just too bad as long as they get their paycheck.


This defies logic. Listen, I think the over-reliance on the Direct Market was a terrible move. I think the motivation was solely to maximize profit. It was incredibly short-sighted, but who could envisioned a time when Ron Perelman and the Image gang would be using the DM as their personal cash machine? But the problem is that the Direct Market is the last place you can find any type of variety of comics and the DM is taking the financial burden for the trades currently making headway in the bookstores. I have said many times on this board that Marvel and DC have to get back in some format on the newstand, preferably in a large-scale magazine format, but with the current bloodbath in magazine distributing there's no way you can get any kind of diversity of material on the newstand. I think Marvel should push forward with the Ultimate magazine and DC should follow suit.

And I wish I were as cavalier about people losing their jobs as you are. I lived through the painful experience of watching my income fall precipitously when my Toy Biz work dried up and I found out that there wasn't anywhere else to go with that type of work. I was one of their top guys for four years and there was nowhere else I could do that work. I had to completely retool my business and I had the advantage of already having had worked in other fields. Your average inker or colorist, (hell, penciller even) unless they have a sizable portfolio in another field is going to be flipping burgers if the work dries up. I'll tell their families that Ken Rothstein said it's for the good of Comics. I'm sure they'll find great comfort in that.


Quote:
Originally posted by Ken Rothstein:

The best way to change comics is for retailers to demand returns as the only way they will do business with Diamond and the publishers, and for consumers to boycott the preordering system.


Well, a returns system will guarantee Superheroes Uber Alles for eternity. Every book I care about will be gone. Whatever you think of the DM, it has supoorted high quality work that would have never made it out of the gate in a returns system.

Quote:
Originally posted by Ken Rothstein:

Marvel putting out magazines is a step in the right direction, and I look forward to the day when I can get all my independant comic anthologies at Virgin Megastore and all my superhero needs at my local magazine rack.


I totally agree, and Ultimate Marvel is at least ten years too late in my opinion. Heavy Metal might not be burning up the charts but it's reportedly a solid seller and it doesn't have the advantage of marquee characters. But Ultimate Marvel will only work if they put their best work in it.

My hope is that the DM will be just one of the venues that comics are available in in the future. But right now it's the last bastion and I think it should be supported.
When we get past this crisis we can all go our separate ways and look back on all this and laugh.

I know the dominant attitude on comicon is anti-Marvel, anti- Diamond, and anti-DM, but my fear is that without them we'll have a bunch of hobbyists doing webisodes for each other.

Chime in, Kim Thompson. I can't believe that you'd like to see the DM vanish.



[This message has been edited by Chris Knowles (edited 03-03-2001).]

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#460035 - 03/03/01 09:24 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Tom Spurgeon Offline
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Registered: 12/24/98
Posts: 1095
Loc: WCW Special Forces
Probably because he said so in a previous post.

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#460036 - 03/03/01 10:16 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
ATKokmen Offline
Member

Registered: 05/22/00
Posts: 1170
Loc: New York, NY
Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Knowles:
Listen, I think the over-reliance on the Direct Market was a terrible move. I think the motivation was solely to maximize profit. It was incredibly short-sighted, but who could envisioned a time when Ron Perelman and the Image gang would be using the DM as their personal cash machine?


I certainly agree that the over-reliance on the comics direct market is a major element of the shaky situation comics are in today, but I don't particularly think it's fair to call the creation of the comics direct market "short-sighted." The comics direct market has managed to persist--and occasionally flourish--for about two decades. Sure the direct market--like any well-reasoned business venture--was driven by a desire to be as profitable as possible; that's not in and of itself a bad thing. Certainly, it's just as easy to argue that without the direct market, comics would have died out decades earlier.

Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Knowles:
...a returns system will guarantee Superheroes Uber Alles for eternity.


That's hardly a given. Some indy publishers may have to adjust their accounting and business practices in order to offer returnability if they want to, but that's nowhere near impossible. When returnability works, it ameliorates some of the risk borne by a retailer in offering new and different product. The result of returnability could just as credibly be a rich and diverse array of offerings placed on the market as it would be "Superheroes Uber Alles for eternity"

Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Knowles:
My hope is that the DM will be just one of the venues that comics are available in in the future.


Yep, that's my hope too. In fact, some would assert that from the outset the DM was intended to supplement and not to supplant other venues of comics distribution (but I'll defer to anyone more historically informed on that one.) That things have evolved otherwise is unfortunate, to say the least.


[This message has been edited by ATKokmen (edited 03-03-2001).]
_________________________
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#460037 - 03/03/01 10:52 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Chris Knowles Offline
Member

Registered: 01/23/99
Posts: 875
Loc: USA
AT WRITES:

"I certainly agree that the over-reliance on the comics direct market is a major element of the shaky situation comics are in today, but I don't particularly think it's fair to call the creation of the comics direct market "short-sighted."

I didn't say it was. I said the over-reliance on the Direct Market was short-sighted. I think the DM has been the best thing that happened to Comics in some ways, but it's kind of like a boxer relying too much on that killer left jab.

It's widely believed that without the DM, Comics would have been gone at the end of the 70's. The problem is that it was such a wonderful cash cow that Publishers neglected to deal with the newstands where you got most of your new readers. And here we are today. But I don't think it's too late, but the Industry definitely has to make up for lost time. The steps Marvel are taking now should have been taken in 1986 when they were flush with cash. And like Rick says, it's a real nail-biter as to whether they can pull it off before the money runs out. Keep your fingers crossed, folks.

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#460038 - 03/03/01 11:35 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Ken Rothstein Offline
Member

Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 519
Loc: NY, NY USA
Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Knowles:
Originally posted by Ken Rothstein:

Only the complete collapse of the direct market will save comics. True, many of the people today will be forced to look for new jobs, but a new distribution system would emerge allowing for a new way of doing business. But of course, for the people who earn a living from the direct market, finding a new way of doing business is not a priority or even desirable. The fact that books lose sales every month is just too bad as long as they get their paycheck.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This defies logic.


What defies logic is the clinging to a system that literally produces diminishing returns.

Any businessman worth the title would have looked at the situation years ago and came to the conclusion that the unholy trinity of publishers, Diamond, and stores unwilling or unable to take a risk has led to Superman selling 50,000 books a month.

I think it makes perfect sense that as long as the publishers and presidents of DC, Marvel, Diamond and whoever will earn their cushy salaries and benefits no matter how shlocky they are at selling books, that the DM will continue to dwindle. What does it matter to the President or Publisher of COMIC A what his book sells since he knows there is a 0% chance his job is connected to the performance of his titles? Hell, maybe if the DM can last another 10 years, he will be able to retire comfortably.

Smaller publishers make a grave mistake in assuming Diamond is equipped to sell their books. 300 page catalogs forcing consumers to buy in advance unheard of new product sight unseen is not the best way to sell "OBSCURE COMICS #1"

The sad fact is the titles at the bottom of Diamond's top 300 list sell so abysmally that I, all by myself, could peddle them at a faster rate on a Manhattan subway platform. What does ARCHIE sell in the DM anyway, a few thousand a month? Why not just not pay Diamond their cut, and hire a bunch of kids to stand at Grand Central Station, and see if out of the millions who pass through every week if you are able to convince 1/10 of 1% of the commuters to buy it for their kids? There isn't a person over the age of 12 who is not able to sell at that rate any legitimate product under the sun. And then go to Pennsylvania Station and repeat. Hell, how is it that these Star Trek titles sell 20,000 copies when conventions pop up all over the place--each one pulling in 20,000 people or more?

I believe the answer is that Diamond is not able to sell at a better rate because they have a good thing going as is with the DM stores. And stores don't sell at a better rate because they have no money to speak of to invest in their businesses. Where is their money? Its at Diamond, tied up in buying titles months in advance and subject to delivery whenever Diamond is good and ready to deliver and DC and Marvel are good and ready to print.

No, end the DM system as it stands today and force these companies to change their ways. If they don't, rest assured someone else will pop up to make a buck. Trust me, if someone were to try to sell these books, they would sell. This is true for your indy titles, and especially true for the T&A and porn titles.

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#460039 - 03/04/01 08:19 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
StevenRowe Offline
Member

Registered: 06/25/99
Posts: 33
Loc: Valdosta, GAUSA
>>Heavy Metal might not be burning up the charts but it's reportedly a solid seller and it doesn't have the advantage of marquee characters. But Ultimate Marvel will only work if they put their best work in it. <<


Heavy Metal's circulation for the year 2000 as mentioned in their circulation statement is 92,000. Almost none of this is direct market sales.
Oddly enough, since most of the comic shops that I go to have become catalog showrooms, I buy most off my impulse comics buying off the newstand- bookstore. It is the only place I could buy Archies, DC Milleniums, Comics Journal (I must resubscribe), and various soft and hard cover comics; since so many comic book stores don't cary items for impulse shopers.

Steven Rowe

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#460040 - 03/04/01 08:40 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Pat ONeill Offline
Member

Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 3064
Loc: PA, USA
Quote:
Hell, how is it that these Star Trek titles sell 20,000 copies when conventions pop up all over the place--each one pulling in 20,000 people or more?


I can answer this one quite easily, after two decades in the Trek fan world--

The hard-core Trek fan is not and has never been a comics reader. He (and more likely than not, actually, she) is not interested in comics, even comics about Trek.
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#460041 - 03/04/01 05:49 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Kim Thompson Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/29/05
Posts: 0
As a publisher here and now, I would not like to see the direct-sales market die because it would almost certainly take my company down with it, and likely throw 90% of the good cartoonists currently scraping by entirely out of work. If I put on the guise of a comics historian with a very long view, I would argue that the destruction of direct-sales market might very well lead, eventually, to a revival of comics, although to a degree that's like saying letting Ralph Nader hand George W. Bush the presidency is a long-term victory for environmentalists because Bush will destroy Alaska and thus rekindle the environmental movement. (Ashcroft will similarly be a boon to the abortion-rigths movement, of course.) Or, to save the village we had to destroy it.

In other words, I'm conflicted about this issue, in case you couldn't tell.

Pat is right about the fact that readership doesn't necessarily transfer from one medium to another. Otherwise we'd be hip deep in E.R. and FRIENDS comics, and Gladstone would still be publishing MICKEY MOUSE comics.

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#460042 - 03/04/01 06:15 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Stuart Moore Offline
Member

Registered: 07/26/99
Posts: 201
Loc: Brooklyn, NY, USA
I agree with everything Kim just said, so instead of contributing something useful to the discussion, let me make a few smartass replies.

Tom S. said:

Flo's still there! She proofread THE PUNISHER for me on Friday. Weird, huh?

(And if I know my internet bulletin boards, SOMEBODY will turn that into an example of how comics culture has declined over the past forty years.)

Chris K. said:

In geneal, I disagree about other media -- I just read and loved Jonathan Lethem's novel MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN, and I'm definitely looking forward to the SOPRANOS season premiere tonight. But I sure agree about Martin Amis. Those early works were brilliant, but God -- did you try to read NIGHT TRAIN?

Ken R. said:

Ha! Don't come at ME with those filthy little four-color things when I'm trying to get home at night.

Best,
Stuart
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#460043 - 03/04/01 06:41 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Tom Spurgeon Offline
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Registered: 12/24/98
Posts: 1095
Loc: WCW Special Forces
Flo's still there? And they say Marvel lacks underground comix street cred...

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#460044 - 03/04/01 07:05 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Lee's Comics Inc. Offline
Member

Registered: 06/05/00
Posts: 114
Loc: Palo Alto, CA 94306
Insisting that the direct market must be scrapped for a new and better market to take over is like being lost at sea on a raft and jumping off in the hopes that an ocean liner will come along.

Some art forms have died. They don’t make silent movies or radio dramas anymore.

Let’s be glad that comics are still being made. They may have gone underground, but they haven’t yet gone under. Be glad that a system exists to produce them and get them to market.

By all means, let’s supplement the current system and develop new ways to get more comics in the hands of the public. Don’t be too eager to see the death the only system we have.

- Lee Hester
Lee's Comics Inc.
Palo Alto, CA
San Mateo, CA

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#460045 - 03/04/01 08:33 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Chris Knowles Offline
Member

Registered: 01/23/99
Posts: 875
Loc: USA
To Stuart, Kim and Lee- thanks for chiming in. I was beginning to think I was wandered by accident into the Bizarro world Comicon.com- "Comics sales am down, let's destroy Direct Market to sell more comics!"

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#460046 - 03/05/01 02:20 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Jim Hanley Offline
Member

Registered: 06/19/99
Posts: 1313
Loc: NYC
One does get tired of addressing the same questions over and over with the feeling that no one is really listening. The problems facing the comics business are numerous, but the important ones get little play in discussions like this. There are hobby horses that the various internet comics factions ride in spite of any contrary information.

I'm going to have to save this as an all-purpose text file to insert once a month or so.

The Direct Market came into existence because the few surviving comics publishers in 1973 figured that any port in a storm was worth trying. The newsstands had been dying for 30 years by then and people like Denny O'Neil were making noises about starting prose writing careers, because the comics business would be gone in 5 years. Phil Seuling offered a chance to bolster sales at no risk to the publishers. They took it.

Phil believed that an efficient (non-returnable) market could grow into a profit center and eventually supplant the failing ID market. I sat next to him, in 1980, as he bellowed at Mike Freidrich that the comics business was insane. "What other business sells their product at 80% off, has three quarters of its product destroyed before it ever sees the light of day, and sabotages an efficient, guaranteed profit market?"

He was slightly exaggerating. Mike had just answered his question about the best discount that Marvel offered. Mike said that the biggest he was aware of was 80% to Whitman for bagged sets, but those wouldn't have been returnable. Otherwise Phil was asking the question that was on the minds of anyone who was paying attention to the dire condition of the field.

The publishers didn't abandon the newsstands, The newsstands went away. They closed up. Became pizza shops, shoe stores, and bars. Some were demolished. but they were gone.

If anyone doubts this, I have one question: how many daily newspapers do you read? In most cities, there is one surviving paper, at most. In the 1930s, at the height of the depression most cities had 6 or more. New York had 20. I'm not sure what total daily circulation was, but it was at least an order of magnitude greater than today. As the newspapers died, so did the newsdealers, both literally and figuratively.

Mom and Pop died or retired and their children, who were gainfully employed, weren't interested in continuing the nickel and dime business that had occupied their parents for 12 or more hours a day for 50 years. Sidewalk newsstands that had been exclusively licensed to disabled Veterans were bulldozed as there were fewer and fewer Vets still around from the World Wars.

The middle class deserted the cities for the suburbs and the automobile became the dominant commuter vehicle. Drivers don't read the newspaper. They listen to the radio. When they get home, the watch TV.

Comics have been sold in chain bookstores for at least 25 years. They have always been a marginal sideline, at best. There have been attempts to market comics through supermarkets for at least as long, again with marginal success. Neither of these venues could replace newsstands in selling comics because they were not stores that encouraged children as customers.

Barber shops were once an important venue for comics. Of course, that was when all males went to the barber every 2 weeks. Other than TV personalities, very few men or boys know their barber that well any more.

Remember Pop's Choklit Shoppe from Archie? Do you know of any places like that today? Have you ever? Did it have a comics rack? Does it now?

Superheroes didn't force other genres of the racks, they were the only genre that fanatical readers would search out as they became harder and harder to find. Comics stores didn't limit comics publishers to superheroes only, they carried what sold and what sold was superheroes. Why? Because fans would travel 40 miles on bicycles every week to buy superheroes. Few would do that for Casper or Millie the Model.

Now, despite the conventional wisdom, speculators didn't destroy the comics business. They created a churning effect for a few years that got too many peoples' hopes up about the higher sales that they brought. When much of that money left the business --or more properly stayed because the books it bought didn't get bought back-- there were many retailers left to face high orders for comics they would not be able to sell. But, the market survived. And they haven't gone away. Green Arrow #1 was selling for $5-8 this weekend at Mega-Con.

Marvel didn't destroy the business, either. They embarked upon a series of disastrous acquisitions whose harm was mostly directed at their own bottom line. Remember Malibu? They had a coloring department that knew how to use Photoshop. That was a good way to spend $20 Million. How about SkyBox? Fleer? Pannini? Heroes World? The crazy thing is that DC was in negotiations for Malibu, when Marvel bought them. And that DC, Image, Dark Horse, and Wizard followed Marvel into the exclusive distribution mess. This was ostensibly going to lead to a new world order for the comics business. That trick never works!

Ron Perelman bought Marvel because he found out that Michael Milken (yes, that Michael Milken) intended to do so. When Perelman beat him to it, Milken was incensed. He tried to buy the #2 comics publisher, but DC was not for sale. #3 at the time was First, then embarked upon a co-publishing deal with Berkeley Books for bookstore distribution of Classics Illustrated, Lone Wolf & Cub, and their graphic novel and trade paperback lines. Milken's involvement in First was an important contributor to the suspension of their publishing line. The fact that they had a bad record of paying their talent was made worse by the losses they suffered in bookstores.

Comico, then a serious player, lost its shirt in an attempt at newsstand distribution. They hung on for a few years until the went bankrupt. Neal Adams' Continuity followed Comico onto the newsstands and into oblivion. Even Harvey, with 40 years experience in newsstand distribution stopped publishing in the early 1980s, only to come back under new ownership in the 1990s and lose the investments of a new group of owners in newsstand distribution. Disney threw a pile of millions at the newsstand wall in 1990 and lasted about 18 months before they stopped the bleeding.

There is no newsstand market for comics publishers to move to. The market at bookstores is limited. While bookstores may, someday, be a viable alternative to comics stores, they are not one yet.

If you prefer to buy comics in book form, you are free to do so. I'll even sell them to you. But don't ignore the fact that the creative portion of comics is paid for by monthly comics. DC gave Pirhana/Paradox a good run for 10 years trying to crack the bookstore business. When they gave in to pressure to issue their mystery line as books without the intermediate step of serialization, they turned a marginally profitable line into a big money loser.

Returnability from small press publishers is an unimaginable disaster waiting to happen. There's little upside potential with a huge downside. Considering Top Shelf's recent announcement of returnability, I can only hope that Chris & Brent have outside investors with deep pockets.

As I have said, again and again, without contradiction, the biggest problem the comics market faces is the lack of venues. Unless there is some nascent chain of comics stores in the planning stages, there doesn't seem to be much hope for an easy fix. But every new store is a step in the right direction.

Do you really think you could do it better? Prove it.
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#460047 - 03/05/01 06:38 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Joe Zabel Offline
Member

Registered: 11/23/98
Posts: 2546
Loc: Cleveland Heights, OH 44106
I suspect that Top Shelf's returnability policy is a good publicity ploy, and that they are not at great risk, at least in the short run. As I understand it, it's really a 'replacement' policy, which means that a store owner can swap one product for another.

Other than that, I agree with Jim absolutely. In fact, despite it's difficulties, I think the DM is a model that book and magazine publishing might eventually move to.
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Joe Zabel

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#460048 - 03/05/01 08:09 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Brad Simpson Offline
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Registered: 09/25/00
Posts: 559
Loc: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
In Montreal (where I live), we have dozens of magazine stores, each one carrying, if not every published periodical in North America, then at least an impressive portion of them. All of these stores sell comics, although at most, not more than a couple of dozen titles. Is Montreal unique in the number, and type of, magazine stores? These outlets don't carry a very good variety(of comics), but they(the stores) outnumber the comic shops by at least 5 to 1; and, they're always in very visible, high traffic areas. From what I've been hearing, or reading, the U.S. doesn't seem to have this kind thing. Am I right in my assumption?
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#460049 - 03/05/01 11:45 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
NatGertler Offline
Member

Registered: 07/10/99
Posts: 4618
We certainly do have magazine stores. They're not as plentiful as they may be in Canada, though.

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#460050 - 03/05/01 11:54 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Chris Knowles Offline
Member

Registered: 01/23/99
Posts: 875
Loc: USA
Quote:
Originally posted by Jim Hanley:
One does get tired of addressing the same questions over and over with the feeling that no one is really listening. The problems facing the comics business are numerous, but the important ones get little play in discussions like this. There are hobby horses that the various internet comics factions ride in spite of any contrary information.

I'm going to have to save this as an all-purpose text file to insert once a month or so.

The Direct Market came into existence because the few surviving comics publishers in 1973 figured that any port in a storm was worth trying. The newsstands had been dying for 30 years by then and people like Denny O'Neil were making noises about starting prose writing careers, because the comics business would be gone in 5 years. Phil Seuling offered a chance to bolster sales at no risk to the publishers. They took it.


Thanks, Jim. I think you should repost this on every other topic dealing with Industry problems. I think people are frustrated by the problems the DM is experiencing, but starting fresh is not the answer. I don't think the DM should be comics end-all be-all, but it's all we got at the present time and its worth saving.

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#460051 - 03/05/01 01:12 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Dunc Offline
Member

Registered: 03/13/00
Posts: 36
Loc: Bend, Oregon, USA
I think Jim pretty much summed it up from a retailer's point of view. I'd only add, that children's comics don't sell as well as we'd like; but I think the dearth of children's titles is because they stopped selling very well, not the other way around. You can assemble a pretty good selection...but without Disney, Harvey, and Little LuLu it will never be complete. Incidentally, my local B&N bookstore just pulled their graphic novels...because of theft, damage, and lack of sales. Is this a local thing, or have they disappeared from other B&N's too?
_________________________
Duncan McGeary
Pegasus Books of Bend

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#460052 - 03/05/01 02:35 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Buzz Dixon Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/03/01
Posts: 12
You guys aren't just whistlin' past the graveyard, you're marching a whole brass band...

C'mon, you all know the words: "Seventy-six trombones led the big parade..."

The reasons comics don't sell well today is because somebody has sprayed the entire industry with a heavy coat of Fun-A-Way. The stuff is boring, predictable, for the most part badly written, and all too often with unappealing art (I almost said "Ugly" but some people can make ugly look appealing, viz. the late great Basil Woolverton).

The core group of comics buyers is growing smaller and smaller.

For the most part, comics can not currently bring in new buyers.

The industry needs to:
Offer a better bargain re cost per page
Offer better stories
Forget superheroes for at least a decade or so

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#460053 - 03/05/01 03:23 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Tom Spurgeon Offline
Member

Registered: 12/24/98
Posts: 1095
Loc: WCW Special Forces
Jim, I pretty much agree with your general statement and history lesson, that the direct market was developed in large part by necessity because the newsstand market was decaying quickly -- I might phrase it differently.

And I do believe the larger point which led to your entry into the thread, that somehow everything should be torn to the ground, is fanboy posturing. There's no reason in the world not to have both pamphlet comics and book comics, given the current economic realities surrounding both formats. And given the current need for medium entry points at the lowest cost possible, getting rid of a format that still lets people impulse buy -- though not as many as before -- is lunacy.

Okay, that's what I'm not arguing about. I'll admit, though, I'm confused with your statements on speculators and Marvel. If you're saying that they didn't destroy the business because there's still a business, I don't really follow that logic of pursuing the point that way but I have to admit there's a self-evident germ of truth there. But certainly you can't be saying that Marvel only hurt Marvel, and that speculation only hurt people who believed in the speculation, can you?

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#460054 - 03/05/01 03:47 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
gene phillips Offline
Member

Registered: 09/30/99
Posts: 5910
Loc: Houston, TX
Point of definition: I gather, Tom, that when you speak of "fanboy posturing" you are defining "fanboy" as anyone who is a bit too rabid about the stuff of which he is a fan.
I have to ask because most of the time I see "fanboy" used to denote only rabid superhero fans (a la Mescallado's "Fanboy Politic"), not just any rabid comics-fan. And I don't think I've seen too many hardcore superhero fans calling for the demolition of the current system, if any.

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#460055 - 03/05/01 05:05 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Jim Hanley Offline
Member

Registered: 06/19/99
Posts: 1313
Loc: NYC
Yeah, I'll admit it, Tom. That was an awkward bit there. In my universal field theory of comics, speculation is something that has always been with us and always will be.

The Mile High collection was supposedly made up of books that had been bought, but never read. These were books that dated back to Marvel Comics #1!

So people have been buying comic books with an eye towards resale for more than 60 years. Bill Gaines told a story about throwing out bundles of Action #1 after his father died. Max Gaines had stored them away in the expectation that they'd someday be valuable. It's kind of heartbreaking, but the Gaineses did all right, so I guess they were able to handle the loss.

In 1970, I worked as a sidewalk newsstand on 34th St. & 3rd Ave. in Manhattan. This was in the days after Screw magazine had started to great sales success. There were a slew of imitators, like Kiss, Pussy, New York Review of Sex, et.al. We'd regularly have guys come up looking for #1 issues. They didn't care what the title or its quality, if it was a #1, they wanted it.

So this speculation thing has been around for a long time. It didn't start in 1992 and is didn't end in 1994. Many retailers got hurt, but many did well during the boom.

I think that what I was getting at, but didn't quite make clear was that the madness of 1992-3, was much more survivable for retailers than it has been given credit (or blame) for. It was the terraforming of the comics business of 1995 that caused the massive store closings. And I lay the blame for that much more squarely on DC, Image, and Dark Horse's shoulders than on Marvel's.

I've never been much of a fan of Marvel's business practices (though Carol Kalish did much good), but most complaints about them are focused on the wrong crimes. Despite Peter David's recent testimony to the contrary, it seemed to me that Marvel could do no wrong as far most comics retailers were concerned throughout the 1980s. It was the relatively innocuous Marvel Mart advertising program that first raised the ire of retailers.

That was fine with me, at the time. In retrospect, I'm less sure. Is the enemy of my enemy, my friend? Well, maybe. But I never wanted Marvel to fail. I wanted them to do better. The hatred of Marvel among retailers has made things worse, not better.

Freud evidently said that "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." Well, sometimes a Marvel publishing plan is just publishing plan.

By the way, my universal field theory does include the "angry white males" who were blamed for the Republican victory in 1994. It was the 25-35 year-old white males who seemed most frustrated by the multiple covers, crossovers, etc. of the early 1990s. They were the ones who chose the publishers' "convenient jumping-on points" as "convenient jumping-off points."

That combined with the fickleness of the Wizard generation account for a lot of the sales declines of 1994-1996. And it's also something I never see addressed.

[Edited to reverse all my previou;y stated opinions. And to fix grevious speling erors.]

[This message has been edited by Jim Hanley (edited 03-05-2001).]
_________________________
"I love him like a brother. David Greenglass." -- Woody Allen - Crimes & Misdemeanors

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#460056 - 03/05/01 05:30 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Chris Knowles Offline
Member

Registered: 01/23/99
Posts: 875
Loc: USA
Quote:
Originally posted by Tom Spurgeon:


Okay, that's what I'm not arguing about. I'll admit, though, I'm confused with your statements on speculators and Marvel. If you're saying that they didn't destroy the business because there's still a business, I don't really follow that logic of pursuing the point that way but I have to admit there's a self-evident germ of truth there. But certainly you can't be saying that Marvel only hurt Marvel, and that speculation only hurt people who believed in the speculation, can you?


It's my theory, and I'd like Jim to weigh in on this, that two things led to our present difficulties. First, was what I call the "Deathmate Effect," ie retailers overordered on the reams of sludge that Image and Valiant (and to a lesser extent, numbers-wise, Marvel and Malibu) were flooding the racks with in the early '90's. When Image was incessantly late and Valiant was incessantly lame, readers walked and thousands of retailers were left holding the bag. Subsequently, thousands of stores closed due to bad debts. (You probably can count on one hand the amount of remaining stores that don't have stacks of longboxes with unsold Turoks, XO's, CyberForces and Youngbloods, et al.) There's your crash- what, mid-'94?. Marvelution/Heroes World and the Diamond exclusives were '95, if memory serves. I know everyone here blames Marvel for everything bad that ever happened to the Industry, but Image was at the wheel of the market when the car hit the tree.

I must admit I'm still puzzled as to how the Diamond exclusives wave had any effect on retailers. Wouldn't it do the opposite, making it easier for retailers to order?

The other thing that I personally know drove a lot of readers away (including myself, for a while) was the fact that more or less every color comic published from 91 to 97-98 was an unreadable, eye-hurting amalgam of steroids, bullet-casings, silicone, tasteless coloring and grimaces. If you asked me to state the defining archetype of mainstream comics in the 90's it would be a pumped-up she-male dressed only in a thong and bandoliers, toting an blazing Uzi. There's plenty of market analysis and charts and graphs in discussions about the DM's decline in the 90's, but no one seems to discuss that not only was the product faulty, it was insanely inept and offensively bad.

Maybe the road to recovery is uncertain at best, but I feel like the entire Industry is now sipping coffee at a giant, metaphysical 12-step meeting after the most egregious binge of self-destructive indulgence the medium has ever seen. Since I would characterize the 90's Comic experience as the largest exercise in aversion therapy known to man, it's no wonder we're having a bit of trouble getting the engine running again.

[This message has been edited by Chris Knowles (edited 03-05-2001).]

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#460057 - 03/05/01 07:19 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Paul Storrie Offline
Member

Registered: 10/15/99
Posts: 86
Couple quick points to something Jeff Z said --

>>The Lone Ranger: much like Superman in spirit (if not in superpower), he was a masked man (secret identity) who rode around the American West on his big white horse righting wrongs and defending the innocent. He was, for a while, a figure as compelling as Superman (IMO) -- and was even something of a contemporary with the Man of Steel.<<

Actually, the Masked Rider of the Plains preceded the Man of Steel by about half a decade. In many ways, he was prototypical of what superheroes would come to be in terms of morality. The owner of the radio station the Ranger debutted on (WXYZ Radio in Detroit, for those who care), he was intended as a wholesome hero -- one who didn't take lives, didn't use harsh language, basically a clean-cut guy behind a mask.

>>However, is the Lone Ranger still as valuable a property as he once was (bless Clayton Moore's heart regardless)? Do we see Lone Ranger movies? Comics? Merchandising? No. While he's a great character, he's no longer as relevant in our culture, and no longer strikes the same chord with people.<<

>>Certainly there's not enough left of his prestige to sustain continuing stories centered on him, in whatever media.<<

I think that we certainly *could* see the Lone Ranger return as the valuable property he once was. Westerns, every so often, experience and upswing in popularity as they did after Clint Eastwood's UNFORGIVEN. It would take the right set of circumstances and the right talent, of course. For myself, I'd jump at a chance to write the Lone Ranger.

My point being that, while Marvel's host of "brand name" characters might not be as valuable as they once were, their value may return under the right set of circumstances. Which is, of course, exactly what Marvel is hoping for.

PDS

Paul D. Storrie
Writer
_________________________
Paul D. Storrie
Writer

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#460058 - 03/05/01 08:43 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Tom Spurgeon Offline
Member

Registered: 12/24/98
Posts: 1095
Loc: WCW Special Forces
Gene: Sure, that's what I meant.

I think the "Blame Marvel" tendency is sort of funny, even when it's inaccurate.

Obviously, there were several short-sighted, selfish, and unfortunate business decisions made by multiple actors in the 1990s, none of which should be repeated in this decade. Since we're talking about the market in the broadest terms possible, I'm lumping together the entire inability of the decade to make good on whatever opportunities for reasonable growth presented themselves. This runs the gamut from the flat-out shoddy product to Image screwing over retailers to Marvel spending more money on a warehouse of colorists than its own retail infrastructure right up to the major companies taking turns putting their car keys into Geppi's tubesock.

And Jim, I recognize there's always been speculation, but as a personal strategy for consumption not as a stand-alone strategy for production, at least not for an industry that hopes to survive more than a few years.

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#460059 - 03/06/01 03:57 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Jim Hanley Offline
Member

Registered: 06/19/99
Posts: 1313
Loc: NYC
Tom:

The thing is that most of what the publishers did in the 1991-95 period was reasonable given the state of information technology at the time (i.e. there was none.) If printing a fifth color on a cover doubles sales, let's put fifth colors on all our comics.

Even Image's actions made sense given the severely limited nature of the feedback systems. They were told to solicit a line of comics every month. They did and the orders were higher every month. That looked like a reason to solicit more comics. That the growing backlog of comics would wipe out the market once the floodgates were opened was not a topic that they heard very much from the few people they had contact with.

Those of us who got caught up in the hysteria, should have known better. Being angry at Image because they filled our orders was foolish. As was trying to argue that the comics didn't sell because they were late. They didn't sell because the consumers who had been spending $30 a month on Image Comics (when they issued one or two titles a month) still spent $30 on them when they issued 20. That meant that they didn't buy even one copy each. The retailers who had been doing this for two weeks or more should have been able to see that. Many of us didn't until it was too late.

The unfortunate thing for some of us was that we knew about tulip bulbs. We thought that we were immune because we didn't intend to sell these comics at jacked up prices od stockpile them. In the end that made us more vulnerable, because we had cut off the upside while ingoning the downside.

The thing is that the publishers had no malicious intent. In fact they were reacting to the best information they had. If they thought that retailers would not be able to sell all of their output, they would have behaved differently.

The non-returnable market works because the people doing the ordering know that they have no out if they over-order. That is the safety valve that eventually caused people to behave rationally. The overheated engine pumping out the comics geared up too quickly for calmer heads to prevail, though.

The big problem, as I see it, is that everyone in the creation to consumtion chain took the data at hand to be predictive of future returns.

A Wall Street truism was unfortunately unknown to me at the time. It says that you should "never confuse brains with a bull market."

Ron Perelman, never made that mistake, though his employees at Marvel did. I am told that he sent all of the people from Revlon that he disliked the most to Marvel as punishment. Then, they all got rich off stock options when Marvel went public and the comics market exploded. Marvel's actions in the aftermath were vain attempts to keep sales and profits growing. As the entire
Marvel executive class shared a total lack of understanding of why anyone would ever buy a comic book, their later actions seem predicatble, in hindsight.

At the time, they were unpredictable in their details, but they should have been predictable in their chaotic nature.

Do me a favor and warn me the next time things go crazy.
_________________________
"I love him like a brother. David Greenglass." -- Woody Allen - Crimes & Misdemeanors

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#460060 - 03/06/01 04:10 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Jim Hanley Offline
Member

Registered: 06/19/99
Posts: 1313
Loc: NYC
Chris:

Thanks for the excessively kind worcs. The above is addressed at least as much to you as Tom, but he was the last to post.
_________________________
"I love him like a brother. David Greenglass." -- Woody Allen - Crimes & Misdemeanors

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#460061 - 03/06/01 08:24 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Rick Veitch Administrator Offline
Member

Registered: 11/23/98
Posts: 3531
Loc: Vermont, USA
ICv2 has posted an article addressing some of the responses and criticisms directed at their sales estimates. Check it out (and bookmark ICv2 for daily updates of pop cult news) at: http://www.icv2.com/articles/indepth/201.html

------------------
Rick Veitch
Invites You To Read THE DAILY RARE BIT FIENDS
updated every day along with news of the world's most popular artform!
THE COMICON.COM DAILY SPLASHis always refreshing!
www.comicon.com/splash
_________________________
More signal. Less noise

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#460062 - 03/06/01 12:08 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
NatGertler Offline
Member

Registered: 07/10/99
Posts: 4618
I think all the talk about the speculator boom and bust just begs the question of where would we be without past comics speculation. I'm not sure we'd be better off. Even if you look at the decade before the 1993 boom, you're still looking at a decade of very active speculation. You're still looking at stores being supported in large part by folks who were buying 4 copies of X-Men rather than 1, and who were automatically buying all #1s whether they wanted to read them or not. Dazzler #1 wasn't a 1993 book, it was a 1981 book. When we talk about the number of shops that have closed down since '93, remember that we're counting in there thousands of shops that were popping up at that time (many of them cardvestites) and shops that had survived for years on multiple Marvel purchasers.
Without that, we wouldn't have had comics companies grow as big as they have, nor have the breadth of publishing lines that they do. We would have had smaller sales in the 1980s, leading to fewer stores, leading to smaller sales, and the increasing paper prices would still have harmed us.
The artificially-fueled market of the 1980s and 1990s gave rise to a host of new comics companies, giving us more opportunities to have companies adapt to the new times. Some of them adapted well; Dark Horse, whose initial strength seems quite predicated on the Turtles-spawned speculative interest in black and white comics, is still with us today. Other publishers who did not survive still had an impact, by showing a market beyond superhero comics and forcing other companies to compete on those terms. Without First, I doubt we would have Sandman, or Transmet.
This isn't to say that the speculation boom didn't have some strong negative effects. Even for those who saw past the craze of investing in Boof & The Bruise Crew and still sought out quality stories, they became hard to find. It's not that there was any shortage of quality stories; actually, there were quite a few even during 1993 (and some of them, like the strong highpoints of the Milestone line, clearly owed their existence to the strong sales of the period), but they were hard to detect on the shelves against the dazzling chromium of the books that were more investment-worthy than readable.

I suspect that without the investors of the 1980s, we'd have fewer shops and far fewer titles. Oh, the books in the Top Ten might be selling more, but there would be no such thing as a Top 300 list.

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#460063 - 03/06/01 12:45 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Jim Hanley Offline
Member

Registered: 06/19/99
Posts: 1313
Loc: NYC
Nat:

All good points that coincide with my experience.

From a macro-economic viewpoint, the multi-copy sales would seem to encourage greater production (as in my Image example) which leads to lower sales per title. That would be an unforseen consequence for publishers who see robust sales as indicative of a greater number of consumers than there really are.

The relatively small sales of many small press titles can more easily be explained if their sales come from multi-copy X-Men buyers, rather than single copy Hulk buyers, switching to Love & Rockets.

I've never really considered that explanation for much of the expansion of the number of titles. I have noted that the expansion caused a cable TV effect on larger title sales, but didn't consider why there were more titles.

By the way, I have also noted that our sales on many individual titles don't reach the heights of other stores that don't carry nearly our selection. It may be that stores that carry just a few titles do better at selling them to an audience that has fewer choices.

Thanks for pointing that out.
_________________________
"I love him like a brother. David Greenglass." -- Woody Allen - Crimes & Misdemeanors

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#460064 - 03/06/01 03:07 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Pat ONeill Offline
Member

Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 3064
Loc: PA, USA
Quote:
I have also noted that our sales on many individual titles don't reach the heights of other stores that don't carry nearly our selection. It may be that stores that carry just a few titles do better at selling them to an audience that has fewer choices.


Well, of course. Our mutual grocery experience should make that obvious, Jim.

The supermarket that carries Coke, Pepsi, Royal Crown, and a house brand cola will still have Coke as its number one seller, but the percentage of Coke sales against all cola sales will be lower.

OTOH, the corner convenience store that only stocks Coke and Pepsi will have Coke as the number one seller, but with a higher percentage against all cola sales.
_________________________
Best, Pat

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#460065 - 03/06/01 03:45 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
NatGertler Offline
Member

Registered: 07/10/99
Posts: 4618
Oh, the cable TV effect is apparent in so many ways, and it radically changes the decision-making process.

Let's flashback to the early 1980s. Marvel was about 75% of the direct market sales, if memory serves. Now, pretend you're the decision-maker there. Someone comes up with an idea for a new comic that will sell 100,000 copies, and you know that to break even against production costs, you only need to sell 50,000. So you publish it, right?

But wait, not all of those 100,000 are really added sales. About 20,000 of those are genuine new sales, either brand new comics readers or people who have both time and money to add another book to their monthly reading list. The other 80,000 would be dropping some other book to buy that title, and 75% of those dropped titles would be Marvels (actually probably more, since we're talking the days of Marvel Zombiism, but all the numbers here are made up examples anyway.) So you'd only be adding 40,000 to total Marvel sales. It makes sense not to expand your line willy-nilly.

Flash forward when Image has become a powerhouse, DC is no longer just "the other company", and players like Valiant and Dark Horse are bouncing around as well. Marvel is 25% of the field. Crunch the numbers on the same equation again, and suddenly it comes out differently. Most of the sales you're draining are coming from the competitors titles, not your own. Adding that marginal title makes sense, and continues making sense. Proliferation becomes a strong value.
A "hit" could be less of a hit to keep its place.

The days when you could walk into a public place and talk about last night's I Love Lucy with any TV owner are gone... and it seems to me that the day when you could count on talking about X-Men or Spawn with just about anyone who walks into the shop are gone as well. There is now a book for anyone who walks in... but there is no longer a single book for almost everyone.

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#460066 - 03/06/01 05:36 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Michael Burns Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/06/01
Posts: 4
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Rick Veitch:
[B]Chris,
Just click the link over to ICv2 to get a clear explanation of how they came to their conclusions. The short version is they extrapolated from numbers they were certain of against the Diamond Top 100 to get their numbers. This is a time-honored method that no one has been doing regularly since that guy at Antarctic Press gave it up a few years ago.


ER... Both me and Carl Henderson have been providing this kind of information on rac.misc for a while a now (more than 2 years in my case). We use the same method as Matthew High (who was the Antartic Press guy).

Mike

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#460067 - 03/06/01 05:40 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Michael Burns Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/06/01
Posts: 4
Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Knowles:
First of all, I don't understand Rick's motivation in being so sensationalistic about this article. The numbers reported X-Men below 100 K in January, so the headline has no news value. I read the article and saw their numbers and I don't believe them. There is no documentation or corroboration for the sources of their numbers and it seems awfully early to make this kind of judgement.


Thirdly, these pre-order numbers are suspicious to begin with, especially when a book like Green Arrow #1, which pre-ordered at 68K ended up over 100 K and is sold out at the distributor level. Again, Rick's source for this dubious announcement didnt source their numbers, and since they are significantly lower than Michael Burns February numbers, I'd suggest we wait for some corroboration.



My numbers are not a lot different from ICV´s, just 3,5% higher. Still there was a big drop this mionth across the board.

One point of clarification, Green Arrow, sold 100k of #1 not #2, #2 had 68k in pre-orders, #1 had 83k.

Mike

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#460068 - 03/06/01 05:47 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Michael Burns Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/06/01
Posts: 4
Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Knowles:

No, you're wrong, Rick. The monthly Top 200 has been posted regularly on rec.arts.comics.misc by Michael Burns for at least a year now and no one has challenged his estimates. And his numbers are totally inconsistent with Griepp's numbers. And no less than Warren Ellis has complained that even Burns' numbers are low.

Compare for yourself- with apologies to Burns- here are his Feb #'s compare with Griepp's numbers- go to the site listed in Rick's article for the full list- and Griepp's numbers are at least a couple thousand lower across the board. I would guess that he didn't have complete information.

Rick, I'm not 100% sure, but I think you're source is wrong and I think your Splash headline is reckless and irresponsible, as well as potentially untrue.


Here are my numbers for March, I haven´t posted them to rac.misc because I am having problems connecting to the Usenet, and I now longer having Deja.com available.

Even tough my number´s and ICV´s numbers do not coincide (mine are 3,5% higher), the conclusion and comparisons made by Splash seem to be correct.

Top-selling comics, comics-related magazines, and graphic
novels for March 2001. For a detailed explanation on how
these sales figures were calculated, see the end of the list.

estimated #
# Title Publisher sold (1000's)

1 Ultimate X-Men #4 Marvel 101.3 0,8%
2 Uncanny X-Men #392 Marvel 99.5 - 4,3%
3 X-Men #112 Marvel 96.6 - 4,5%
4 Ultimate Spider-Man #7 Marvel 73.2 10,3%
5 Wolverine #162 Marvel 70.1 - 6,3%
6 Ultimate Marvel:Spi.&Wolv. #2Marvel 69.9 -27,6%
7 JLA #52 DC 69.7 - 5,7%
8 Green Arrow #2 DC 68.2 -20,3%
9 Fathom: Killian #1 Image 67.0
10 Daredevil: Yellow #1 Marvel 64.9

11 Avengers #40 Marvel 62.4 - 6,2%
12 Spawn #108 Image 57.0 - 8,9%
13 Fantastic Four #41 Marvel 49.7 - 5,5%
14 Amazing Spider-Man #29 Marvel 47.0 - 4,9%
15 Superman #168 DC 45.9 7,8%
16 Universe X #8 Marvel 45.6 - 8,1%
17 Detective Comics #756 DC 45.4 8,7%
18 Peter Parker, Spider-Man #29 Marvel 44.3 - 3,9%
19 Batman #589 DC 41.4 - 4,9%
20 Thor #35 Marvel 40.7 - 5,9%

21 JLA: Black Baptism #1 DC 40.2
22 Tomb Raider #12 Image 39.0 - 8,1%
23 Midnight Nation #6 Image 38.9 - 6,1%
24 Captain America #41 Marvel 38.3 - 7,0%
25 Iron Man #40 Marvel 38.1 - 7,8%
26 X-Men Forever #5 Marvel 37.8 - 8,6%
27 BatGirl #14 DC 37.8 - 5,9%
28 Thunderbolts #50 Marvel 37.5 - 1,0%
29 JSA #22 DC 37.0 - 5,3%
30 Amazing Spider-Man 2001 Marvel 36.9

31 X-Force #114 Marvel 36.7 - 9,8%
32 Mutant X #31 Marvel 36.3 - 7,1%
33 Nightwing #55 DC 36.2 - 5,5%
34 Generation X #75 Marvel 35.6 - 4,6%
35 Planetary #14 DC 35.5 7,3%
36 Cable #91 Marvel 35.1 - 7,6%
37 Just a Pilgrim #1 Black Bull 35.1
38 X-Men: Blink #4 Marvel 34.7 - 1,5%
39 Action Comics #777 DC 34.3 -12,2%
40 Green Lantern #136 DC 33.8 - 7,9%
41 Defenders #3 Marvel 33.7 -17,8%
42 Incredible Hulk #26 Marvel 33.5 -10,3%
43 Batman: Gotham Knights #15 DC 33.3 - 8,1%
44 Adventures of Superman #590 DC 33.1 -12,7%
45 Superman: Man Steel #112 DC 33.0 -12,0%
46 Batman Legends Dark Kn #141 DC 32.6 - 6,4%
47 Harley Quinn #6 DC 32.4 -10,3%
48 Marvel Knights #11 Marvel 31.6 - 7,4%
49 X-Man #75 Marvel 31.2 - 6,4%
50 Mutant X 2001 Marvel 30.4
51 Spectre #3 DC 30.2 - 8,8%
52 Spider-Man: Lifeline #3 Marvel 30.0 -15,5%
53 Monarchy #2 DC 29.8 -17,8%
54 Titans #27 DC 29.6 - 5,6%
55 Gambit/Bishop: Sons Atom #5 Marvel 28.8 - 9,5%
56 Gambit/Bishop: Sons Atom #6 Marvel 28.8 0%
57 Darkness #39 Image 28.2 - 6,5%
58 Shidima #3 Image 28.0 -26,4%
59 Flash #172 DC 27.8 - 6,9%
60 10th Muse #3 Image 27.7 -10,8%

61 Tom Strong #13 DC 27.4 - 4,8%
62 Excalibur: Sword of Power #4 Marvel 27.3 - 7,0%
63 Robin #88 DC 27.0 - 5,2%
64 X-Men: Hidden Years #18 Marvel 26.7 - 7,2%
65 Captain Marvel #17 Marvel 26.5 4,8%
66 Wonder Woman #168 DC 26.2 - 3,6%
67 Young Justice #31 DC 25.4 - 7,2%
68 Star Wars: Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan #3DHC 25.3 - 8,5%
69 Star Wars: Underworld #4 DHC 25.0 - 9,7%
70 Birds of Prey #29 DC 24.8 - 3,8%

71 Spidergirl #32 Marvel 24.6 - 4,6%
72 Aria : The Soul Market #1 Image 24.3
73 Powers #10 Image 24.2 7,5%
74 Catwoman #92 DC 24.1 - 3,2%
75 No Honour #2 Image 23.7 -36,8%
76 Deadpool #52 Marvel 23.5 - 6,4%
77 Star Wars Tales #7 DHC 23.4 - 2,6%
78 Star Wars #28 DHC 22.6 - 5,5%
79 Starman #77 DC 22.2 - 4,4%
80 Batman: Hollywood Knights #2 DC 21.9 -14,8%

81 Gen 13 #63 DC 21.6 - 7,4%
82 Supergirl #56 DC 20.8 - 7,2%
83 SuperBoy´s Legion #2 DC 20.8 -11,2%
84 Enemy Ace: War in Heaven #1 DC 20.7
85 Hellspawn #8 Image 20.4 -16,4%
86 Black Panther #30 Marvel 20.2 - 4,0%
87 First #5 CrossGen 19.3 - 5,4%
88 Silke #3 DHC 19.1 - 3,3%
89 Sam and Twitch #20 Image 18.8 - 8,9%
90 American Century #1 DC 18.7

91 WildCATS v.2 #21 DC 18.5 - 8,1%
92 Scion #10 CrossGen 18.3 - 7,3%
93 Batman: Gotham Noir DC 18.3
94 Mystic #10 CrossGen 18.3 -17,6%
95 F4: World Great. Magazine #4 Marvel 18.3 -16,1%
96 Spawn The Dark Ages #25 Image 18.3 - 9,2%
97 Hellblazer #160 DC 18.2 - 5,9%
98 Transmetropolitan #44 DC 18.1 - 5,5%
99 Green Lantern: 1001 Em.NightsDC 18.1
100 Buffy, Vampire Slayer #31 DHC 17.7 - 7,5%


Some others down the charts:


101 Superboy #86 DC 17.1 - 7,1%
107 Azrael #76 DC 16.4 - 5,0%
109 Martian Manhunter #30 DC 16.1 - 7,2%
110 Savage Dragon #85 Image 15.8 - 9,0%
111 100 Bullets #22 DC 15.4
119 Orion #12 DC 15.2 - 5,2%
122 Impulse #72 DC 13.8 - 6,6%
132 Dreaming #60 DC 12.2 - 4,8%
133 Swamp Thing #13 DC 12.0 - 6,2%

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#460069 - 03/06/01 06:14 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
ChrisW Online   content
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Registered: 11/25/00
Posts: 10034
Loc: Lincoln, Nebraska USA
Where can we find a complete list of sales, going down as low as the charts can pick up?
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#460070 - 03/06/01 07:52 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Rick Veitch Administrator Offline
Member

Registered: 11/23/98
Posts: 3531
Loc: Vermont, USA
Michael,
Sorry, I wasn't aware you were doing these estimates on rec.arts (I'm not a newsgroup guy). After Matt High gave it up I posted on the board asking if anyone else was doing it and came up empty.

If you let me know when your new numbers are up, or want to e-mail them to me, I'll be glad to make them part of my reporting on the SPLASH.

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#460071 - 03/06/01 11:12 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Kim Thompson Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/29/05
Posts: 0
Diamond ordered 6,894 copies of ACME #15 from us, which had a 15.05 index. Based on that BATMAN would be 45,807, which suggests true figures may be about 10% more than what Michael Burns posted. Which would place the three X-MEN titles slightly above 100,000 and everything else below. And this means that anything that's not in the Top 100 (and, in fact, starting at the bottom of the 90s) is selling less than 20,000. Which would include about half of the DC line but, interestingly, no Marvel titles at all. (I suspect Marvel is more ruthless about chopping anything that drops below a certain point.)

By the way, I suspect the discrepancy is the result of a discrepancy between INITIAL Diamond orders (what they give us in their early TRU reports, which I bet is what they use for their Top 100 chart) and FINAL orders which include stragglers and early re-orders (and, I think, a lot of the international orders). But I could be wrong.

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#460072 - 03/07/01 09:24 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Michael Burns Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/06/01
Posts: 4
Additional food for thought. Marvel Comics publishes a Statement of Ownership once a year, in this Statement ALL sales are accounted for. I will post a collection of data from C1 and C2 categories: C1 Total Paid Circulation (including newstands, Direct Market, and subscriptions) yearly average; and C2 Total Paid Circulations (including newstands, Direct Market, and subscriptions) for the last month before the Statement (July 1999 and July 2000 respectively)

1999
C1

1 Uncanny X-Men 207.381
2 X-Men 200.070 -10,0%
3 Wolverine 146.962 -20,3%
4 Amazing Spider-Man 127.915 7,0%
5 Avengers 123.078 -26,3%
6 Spider-Man 110.875 2,6%
7 Fantastic Four 104.941 -38,5%
8 Gambit 99.952
9 Captain America 94.475 -38,3%
10 Iron Man 92.008 -33,7%
11 Thor 91.957 32,4%
12 Spider-Girl 81.367
13 X-Force 76.034 -29,2%
14 Spider-Woman 74.561
15 Cable 72.550 -22,9%
16 Hulk 72.498 -23,2%
17 Generation X 71.405 -37,1%
18 X-Man 63.240 -36,9%
19 Thunderbolts 50.110 -13,1%
20 Deadpool 42.989 -18,9%


C2

1 Uncanny X-Men 183.330
2 X-Men 178.799 -13,6%
3 Wolverine 133.104 -21,9%
4 Amazing Spider-Man 117.854 2,0%
5 Spider-Man 111.186 7,0%
6 Avengers 105.155 -31,6%
7 Thor 101.452 -16,6%
8 Iron Man 94.694 -19,8%
9 Fantastic Four 85.478 -37,4%
10 Captain America 77.749 -35,9%
11 Spider-Woman 72.112
12 Generation X 62.912 -31,9%
13 Hulk 62.266 -26,6%
14 Gambit 64.240
15 X-Force 61.372 -32,2%
16 Cable 61.183 -20,9%
17 Spider-Girl 57.812
18 X-Man 52.302 -36,7%
19 Thunderbolts 48.662 -10,1%
20 Deadpool 40.908 -20,2%

2000

C1

1 Uncanny X-Men 163.239 -21,2%
2 X-Men 161.190 -19,4%
3 Wolverine 121.289 -17,5%
4 Amazing Spider-Man 113.685 -11,1%
5 Avengers 97.835 -20,5%
6 Captain America 91.046 - 3,6%
7 Spider-Man 80.737 -27,2%
8 Thor 71.480 -22,3%
9 Iron Man 69.257 -24,7%
10 Thunderbolts 68.837 37,4%
11 Cable 63.529 -12,4%
12 X-Force 61.573 -19,0%
13 Generation X 61.019 -14,5%
14 Gambit 56.456 -43,5%
15 Hulk 53.613 -26,6%
16 Spider-Girl 50.869 -37,7%
17 X-Man 48.790 -22,8%
18 Bishop 45.103
19 Deadpool 34.955 -18,7%


C2

1 Uncanny X-Men 154.436 -15,8%
2 X-Men 149.695 -16,3%
3 Wolverine 108.956 -18,1%
4 Avengers 87.721 -16,6%
5 Amazing Spider-Man 78.278 -33,6%
6 Spider-Man 73.550 -33,8%
7 Iron Man 66.538 -29,7%
8 Thor 62.828 -38,1%
9 X-Force 60.557 - 1,3%
10 Captain America 59.260 -23,8%
11 Generation X 58.554 - 6,9%
12 Cable 53.399 -12,7%
13 Hulk 49.549 -20,0%
14 X-Man 49.338 - 5,7%
15 Gambit 48.754 -24,3%
16 Spider-Girl 42.750 -26,2%
17 Thunderbolts 42.614 -12,4%
18 Bishop 33.297
19 Deadpool 32.997 -19,3%

And some data from the last years (all C1)

1991 Captain America #398 - 177.458 (Mar92)
1992 Captain America #413 - 222.175 25,2% (Mar93)
1993 Captain America #424 - 163.858 -26.3% (Feb94)
1994 Captain America #437 - 114.892 -29,9% (Mar95)
1995 Captain America #447 - 82.258 -28,4% (Jan96)
1996 Captain America v.2 #2 - 79.676 - 3,1% (Dec96)
1997 Captain America v.3 #2 - 131.274 65.4% (Feb98)
1998 Captain America v.3 #11 - 153.214 16,7% (Nov98)
1999 Captain America v.3 #23 - 94.475 -38,3% (Nov99)


1992 X-Men # 18 - 967.808 (Feb93)
1993 X-Men # 29 - 672.175 -30,6% (Jan94)
1994 X-Men # 42 - 614.075 - 8,6% (Jul95)
1995 X-Men # 49 - 332.889 -45,8% (Feb96)
1996 X-Men # 60 - 432.119 -29,8% (Jan97)
1998 X-Men # 81 - 222.183 (Nov98)
1999 X-Men # 94 - 200.070 -10,0% (Nov99)
2000 X-Men #107 - 161.190 -19,4% (Dec00)


1993 Uncanny X-Men #309 - 714.675
1994 Uncanny X-Men #322 - 552.975 -22,6%
1995 Uncanny X-Men #329 - 362.128 -34,5% (Feb96)
1996 Uncanny X-Men #340 - 455.570 25,8% (Jan97)
1999 Uncanny X-Men #375 - 207.381 (Dec99)
2000 Uncanny X-Men #387 - 163.239 -21,2% (Dec00)


1993 Avengers #371 - 188.683
1994 Avengers #384 - 165.408 -12,3%
1995 Avengers #394 - 85.165 -48,5%
1996 Avengers v.2 #2 - 123.581 45,1%
1998 Avengers v.3 #11 - 166.903 35,1%
1999 Avengers v.3 #22 - 123.078 -26,3%
2000 Avengers v.3 #35 - 97.835 -20,5%


1993 Spider-Man #43 - 447.083
1994 Spider-Man #56 - 256.883 -42,5% (Apr95)
1995 Spider-Man #64 - 199.974 -22,2% (Jan96)
1996 Spider-Man #74 - 165.342 -17,3% (Nov96)
1997 Spider-Man #86 - 140.056 -15,3% (Dez97)
1998 Spider-Man #97 - 108.050 -22,9% (Nov98)
1999 Spider-Man v.2 #11 - 110.875 2,6% (Nov99)
2000 Spider-Man v.2 #24 - 80.737 -27,2% (Dec99)


1993 Fantastic Four #385 - 217.625
1994 Fantastic Four #398 - 151.275 -30,3%
1995 Fantastic Four #408 - 103.573 -31,5%
1996 Fantastic Four v.2 #2 - 105.506 1,9%
1997 Fantastic Four v.3 #2 - 212.554 101,5%
1998 Fantastic Four v.3 #11 - 170.649 -19,7%
1999 Fantastic Four v.3 #24 - 104.941 -38,5%


1994 Wolverine #91 - 380.383
1995 Wolverine #98 - 334.592 -12,0%
1996 Wolverine #108 - 266.815 -20,3%
1997 Wolverine #119 - 251.738 - 5,7%
1998 Wolverine #131 - 184.335 -26,8%
1999 Wolverine #144 - 146.962 -20,3%
2000 Wolverine #156 - 121.289 -17,5%

Mike

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#460073 - 03/07/01 01:17 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Robert Boyd Offline
Member

Registered: 12/09/99
Posts: 82
Loc: Milford, CT, USA
This has been a fascinating discussion. I'd like to respond to a few things.

Kim Thompson wrote: "Yes, I understand that mainstream comics are also sold on newsstands, but we don't have those figures, do we? The point is that --pay close attention, now-- if DIRECT SALES figures, which we can be pretty sure are relatively accurate, have plummeted, this means that SALES IN GENERAL have plummeted unless newsstand sales have skyrocketed at the same time, which no one would dare to suggest."

I think this is generally true, but I can imagine a situation where it wouldn't hold true. One thing to keep in mind is that as comic shops close, some buyers will still get their comics elsewhere. Locally, for instance, I could buy newsstand comics at Brooks Pharmacies, Stop & Shop and Waldenbooks and probably other venues served by the IDs (independent distributors--the guys who distribute magazines). There are far more places locally to buy comics that aren't comics stores than are. They tend to have very narrow selections, of course--top Marvel and DC, Star Wars, Buffy, Archie...

Michael Burns numbers seem to bear out what Kim is saying generally, though.

Jim Hanley wrote: "The publishers didn't abandon the newsstands, The newsstands went away. They closed up. Became pizza shops, shoe stores, and bars. Some were demolished.
but they were gone. [...] The middle class deserted the cities for the suburbs and the automobile became the dominant commuter vehicle."

I think this is kind of a New York City-centric point of view. In the great American suburbs, it is still pretty easy to find places to buy magazines--drug stores, big supermarkets, mall bookstores, big-box bookstores and even convenience stores. Not all of these places carry comics as well, but a lot still do. They replaced newsstands.

Jim Hanley also offered this horror story: "Returnability from small press publishers is an unimaginable disaster waiting to happen. There's little upside potential with a huge downside. Considering Top Shelf's recent announcement of returnability, I can only hope that Chris & Brent have outside investors with deep pockets."

When B&N and Borders first started expanding their big-box stores across the country in the '80s, they ordered recklessly and publishers were killed with returns. This has mostly settled by now (at least in the U.S.--the Canadian superstore situation is still a total nightmare). Believe it or not, bookstores--even big stores--don't like to return books. Furthermore, they don't like to overorder. Consequently, the books that get returned in spades are ones that are overhyped. (The classic example is a movie-tie-in book where the movie ends up being a big flop. You can bet at LPC we were sweating blood over the X-Men movie, because if it had been a flop, we would have gotten huge returns on X-Men books.)

But for the most part, graphic novels are far from being over-ordered. In fact, I'd say they're being way under-ordered. The returns rate for the category is substantially less on the whole than the returns rate for other books.

Bookstores were burned by graphic novels in the '80s because there weren't enough good ones to create a successful category. Booksellers bought tons of unsellable books, and when they didn't sell through--and indeed rotted on the shelves--they dropped the graphic novel category throughout most of the '90s. Only in the past three years have they slowly, cautiously been returning to the category. But their caution is a good thing--it means that they tend to make better buying decisions and not over-invest in "BANG! ZOOM!" hype, the way they did before. For small-press publishers, as well as for larger publishers, the book trade offers something hugely valuable--a doubling (or more) of their sales of graphic novels. Not only does this increase revenue for publishers, but it lowers unit production costs.

Joe Zabel wrote: "I suspect that Top Shelf's returnability policy is a good publicity ploy, and that they are not at great risk, at least in the short run. As I understand it, it's really a 'replacement' policy, which means that a store owner can swap one product for another."

I assume Top Shelf offered this to the comics community because they've had full-returnability in the book trade for over two years with no particular deliterious effects. In any case, their returns policy is not too different from the bookstore standard, where you can only return for credit against future purchases. Bookstores can't return books for cash (thank God!).

Finally, Michael Burns circulation report was VERY interesting not only because he showed (as if we need to have it proved) how quickly the sales of comics have dropped, but even more important, it shows what a large chunk of sales of certain comics take place on the newsstand. I never suspected it was so many. I wonder if these numbers are before returns or after. Does anyone know?

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#460074 - 03/07/01 01:45 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
NatGertler Offline
Member

Registered: 07/10/99
Posts: 4618
The Statement of Ownership figures are after returns (returns get listed in a separate category from the ones cited.)

However, SoO figures are not immune from being doctored or even invented wholesale.

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#460075 - 03/07/01 10:22 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
nenad Offline
Member

Registered: 04/22/00
Posts: 869
Loc: Toronto, Canada
Quote:
Originally posted by Kim Thompson:
By the way, I suspect the discrepancy is the result of a discrepancy between INITIAL Diamond orders (what they give us in their early TRU reports, which I bet is what they use for their Top 100 chart) and FINAL orders which include stragglers and early re-orders (and, I think, a lot of the international orders). But I could be wrong.


This could very well be true, as the comic shop where I place my pre-orders isn't placing their orders with Diamond till last week of the month (Of course then a month before was also a bit higher)

nenad
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#460076 - 03/08/01 01:08 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Broken Shakespeare Offline
Member

Registered: 07/06/00
Posts: 43
Loc: Maysville, Kentucky
Diamond orders aren't due untill about the last week of the month (usually somewhere between the 20th and 25th). Orders placed before that deadline are included in the pre-order number, not reorders.
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#460077 - 03/08/01 03:13 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Chris Knowles Offline
Member

Registered: 01/23/99
Posts: 875
Loc: USA
Posted on rec.arts.comics.misc
by Matt High:


"On the third hand, my estimates were slightly higher still - another 1.4%
higher than Michael's. (Estimates based off of 5 data points in the 200-300
range). Also, my estimates have traditionally been a few percent lower than
those produced by John Jackson Miller at Comics Retailer Magazine (who uses a
few larger publishers to get his numbers).

To put it bluntly, ICv2's estimates are just plain too low - many people keep
telling them that, and they keep poo-pooing them."

So Matt, who's been doing this for years, runs the numbers and they are 5% across the board higher than ICv2. And the numbers may be even higher than his. It would be nice if there was some coordination with all these stats, considering the impact they have on the Industry.

No one can argue with the fact that sales are not where they should be. But two things should be kept in mind- First, we really should some sense of complete data before numbers are released. Second, the numbers should be put in context of overall magazine sales, which are proportionately grimmer than comic sales, especially given the greater retail coverage.

If ICv2 continues to refute contradictory data in regard to their estimates, I believe it is fair to question their agenda.






[This message has been edited by Chris Knowles (edited 03-08-2001).]

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#460078 - 03/10/01 04:46 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
StevenRowe Offline
Member

Registered: 06/25/99
Posts: 33
Loc: Valdosta, GAUSA
Quote:
Originally posted by Michael Burns:
Additional food for thought. Marvel Comics publishes a Statement of Ownership once a year, in this Statement ALL sales are accounted for. I will post a collection of data from C1 and C2 categories: C1 Total Paid Circulation (including newstands, Direct Market, and subscriptions) yearly average; and C2 Total Paid Circulations (including newstands, Direct Market, and subscriptions) for the last month before the Statement (July 1999 and July 2000 respectively)


And of course, if you add the Heavy Metal circulation figure (yearly) that I listed in an thread above, you can see how the non-direct market can certainly add lots of numbers. I'd seen Sonic the Hedgehog figures, which were fairly low. Anyone seen any total paid circulation figures for the Archie digests this year?

((and just a note that in the 1960s, I bought all my comics from drug stores, grocery stores and mom and pop groceries. In my small town America, I never saw a newstand till I was in college in bigger town America))

Steven Rowe

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#460079 - 03/10/01 07:34 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
brent Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/14/06
Posts: 11
Thank you, Steve.

The numbers by Michael and ICV2 do not take those numbers into consideration. If "Sonic the Hedgehog" was selling as low as represented in this thread, does anyone think it would have made it this long? Cripes, Archie is still in existence. There has to be more of a reason than DM sales.

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#460080 - 03/10/01 07:27 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
StevenRowe Offline
Member

Registered: 06/25/99
Posts: 33
Loc: Valdosta, GAUSA
I did get one Archie Digest sales figure (note the digests sell much better than the regular size comic)

Archie's Double Digest
Year's total: 143,250
Most recent issue: 155,437

I believe the Betty and Veronica Digest and Double Digest are Archie's best sellers.

Steven Rowe

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#460081 - 03/10/01 07:59 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Chris Knowles Offline
Member

Registered: 01/23/99
Posts: 875
Loc: USA
Quote:
Originally posted by StevenRowe:
I did get one Archie Digest sales figure (note the digests sell much better than the regular size comic)

Archie's Double Digest
Year's total: 143,250
Most recent issue: 155,437



It boggles the mind to think that no one but Archie is making comics for girls. It's sickening, actually. If any publisher wants a presence on the newstands, they should think seriously about tapping into this market.

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#460082 - 03/11/01 10:51 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Walt Stone Offline
Member

Registered: 01/01/01
Posts: 496
Loc: Katy, Tx
Chris K. said:
Quote:
It boggles the mind to think that no one but Archie is making comics for girls. It's sickening, actually. If any publisher wants a presence on the newstands, they should think seriously about tapping into this market.

Harlequin decided to delay their graphic novels for the North American market - perhaps indefinately. Several I know about were done for Japan, and at least one country in Europe (Italy?) They've sold well in those markets. Harlequin is many things, and one of those is obsessive with market research. I don't know if it was the distribution or actual opinion ("would you buy this?") problems that made them NOT pull the trigger - but I do know they were set up for it had they wished. The stories did involve some action (military, I believe a Navy SEAL is a main character), so it was more than talking heads.

To state the obvious, "Navy SEALs" are the modern-day substitute for "cowboys" as they have similar character traits - as seen by most current storytellers.

Walt Stone

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#460083 - 03/11/01 06:53 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
brent Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/14/06
Posts: 11
Walt:
"The stories did involve some action (military, I believe a Navy SEAL is a main character), so it was more than talking."

Well, there is the problem right there! Women don't want to read action books. They want the talking heads and murder mysteries. They want the scumbag husband to get his comeuppance. They want the stranger coming in the rescue the fair maiden. Anyone read theose lovely harlequin books with the oh-so-tragic near-rape scenes? Certainly, not the majority on this board. My point is, if you're going to start a new venture, you shouldn't be forgetting your core audience.

If women wanted action stories, then thre would be more women reading comic books, Mack Bolan novels, and Tom Clancy.

[This message has been edited by Brent (edited 03-11-2001).]

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#460084 - 03/11/01 10:15 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Tom Spurgeon Offline
Member

Registered: 12/24/98
Posts: 1095
Loc: WCW Special Forces
I can't think of a better place to read about what women want than from the fellas at a comics industry message board.

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#460085 - 03/11/01 10:38 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Chris Knowles Offline
Member

Registered: 01/23/99
Posts: 875
Loc: USA
Wait, I missed something- how did we go from talking about Archie comics and girls to talking about Harlequin Romances? Do we understand that women and girls are two separate audiences?

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#460086 - 03/11/01 11:21 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Walt Stone Offline
Member

Registered: 01/01/01
Posts: 496
Loc: Katy, Tx
Bwahahahaha!!! Funny, Brent.

Sheesh. There are SEVERAL subgenres within the Harlequin category romances. Intrigue focuses on mystery, for example. The books chosen for conversion to graphic romances were already very strong sellers (in N. America) when they were first published as paperbacks within the "Action" line of Harlequin monthlies. The author is known for writing strong selling books. Harlequin merely chose books that already had great sales. I had a chance to talk with that author a few months ago at a book signing. She was very pleased with the sales, and indicated Harlequin was pleased as well. She didn't, however, know anything about additional books, nor did she know about any possible North American distribution.

As to the discussion on within this thread, I'll put this simply; Romance comics from years back would not sell anymore than reprinted cowboy comics from the 50s.
But then again, romance books from the 50s 60s 70s or even 80s wouldn't sell today, either. That market has changed, and changes today.

That market is very, very large. A small piece of that market would make a world of difference. Not for many current comic book writers, of course. And close minded shop owners pretty much guarantee that the bulk of any women oriented books aren't going to be solicited with much success there, either.

You'd need a known "Name" romance writer to guarantee sales, and you'd need a format that would work with current romance book distribution. While DC or Marvel could do something like that, I honestly don't believe DC or Marvel would have the balls to hire a romance writer. I DO KNOW that DC once contacted a well known romance (fantasy oriented) writer for a possible Vertigo proposal. Yes, the writer had not a clue until DC contacted her. The ultimate target audience would be college age women (for that particular project, so I was told).

Some subgenres of romance might lend themselves to comics. Some recent comic proposals I've heard about might lend themselves to romance books.

While I'll grant you that I don't purposefully seek out a "chic flick" when movie going alone, I do respect that excellent storytellers exist in all storytellers, and there are some kick ass storytellers working the mid-list romance circuit.

Walt Stone

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#460087 - 03/12/01 07:36 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Stuart Moore Offline
Member

Registered: 07/26/99
Posts: 201
Loc: Brooklyn, NY, USA
Tom S said:

<>

Me either. The "women" I "know" are always complaining that their thongs are too wide and their stiletto heels just aren't high enough. Hey, let's talk about it some more!

Walt Stone said:

<< I honestly don't believe DC or Marvel would have the balls to hire a romance writer.>>

You won't catch me near one of them. I see a romance writer come through the door, I'm under the desk for the rest of the day.

Best,
Stuart
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#460088 - 03/12/01 08:43 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
brent Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/14/06
Posts: 11
Walt:
"Sheesh. There are SEVERAL subgenres within the Harlequin category romances. Intrigue focuses on mystery, for example. The books chosen for conversion to graphic romances were already very strong sellers (in N. America) when they were first published as paperbacks within the "Action" line of Harlequin monthlies. The author is known for writing strong selling books. Harlequin merely chose books that already had great sales. I had a chance to talk with that author a few months ago at a book signing. She was very pleased with the sales, and indicated Harlequin was pleased as well. She didn't, however, know anything about additional books, nor did she know about any possible North American distribution."

I'm not a dork. I know they have subgenres, and read my darn post. I said women like talking heads and murder mysteries, the intrigue line. They also have, if I remember corectly, a horror line. My bad for not knowing they had/have an action line of books. The only time I follow Harlequin is when I pick up the latest Walden book reports.

My point is that if Harlequin is going to put out graphic novels, why start with the action line? Why not the intrigue line? I'm willing to bet it would work.

I also agree that there are some darn good writers in the romance field (I saw a well known author (so well-known that I forget her name) on Sunday Morning about a year ago who got here start in Harlequins. Actually, many authors do). Fabio is not one of them. [img]/resources/ubb/wink.gif[/img]

My bad also for stating that Women don't want to read action titles. What I should have said was "Generally speaking, women don't want to read action books."


Chris K:
You're the one who brought up comics for girls. We just bring up a publisher who specializes in publishing for girls, young women, and women. They would be perfect to start in this business.

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#460089 - 03/12/01 02:08 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Chris Knowles Offline
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Registered: 01/23/99
Posts: 875
Loc: USA
Quote:
Originally posted by Brent:

Chris K:
You're the one who brought up comics for girls. We just bring up a publisher who specializes in publishing for girls, young women, and women. They would be perfect to start in this business.


Perfect? Does Harlequin have any record of success dealing with teen and pre-teen girls? Do they have any success with anything other than ninth-rate formulaic sludge?

I don't think more generic pulp rubbish is the way to reach that market, though some might argue that Archie is exactly that. I think strong and creative work, preferably written by females and if not drawn by women, then drawn in a style that girls find appealing (in other words, not like most comic books existing now) would be the way to go. Something unique, pop savvy and sympathetic to what the audience actually is interested in. For instance, the comic book equivalent of something like Daria or Charmed.

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#460090 - 03/12/01 02:16 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
The OC Offline
Member

Registered: 03/27/02
Posts: 1985
Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Knowles:
Perfect? Does Harlequin have any record of success dealing with teen and pre-teen girls?


Maybe not pre-teen, but cerainly teen. Harlequin's core constituency for many years was rural, lower-middle-class high school students and high school graduates -- basically, the nice ladies who live in the trailer parks and have fulfilling careers as K-Mart checkers. Some fifteen years ago, when I was working at a chain bookstore, my Harlequin/Sihouette sales rep averred that the audience was changing, but that the "grit chicks" were and were expected to remain a major segment of it.

And their money spends just as well as anyone else's.


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#460091 - 03/12/01 07:42 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Joe Zabel Offline
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Registered: 11/23/98
Posts: 2546
Loc: Cleveland Heights, OH 44106
Having never read a Harlequin romance, I wouldn't assume they're total crap. All professional writing is formulaic, but it's often done by writers who are trying for something more. Even superhero comic writers.

I think this discussion of romance comics is very encouraging. I'd love to see what Harequine has done overseas, and would really be interested in knowing why they apparently cancelled their American project.

But just because Harlequin doesn't think it would work for them in America, that doesn't mean it wouldn't work for somebody. After all, they have no stake in comics, they're just looking for ways to turn a profit. But for companies like Marvel, an influx of new readers and a new image with the reading public would be a new lease on life.
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#460092 - 03/12/01 11:42 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Ken Rothstein Offline
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Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 519
Loc: NY, NY USA
Wow, you leave a thread for 40 or 50 posts and all of a sudden it's a salute to Barbara Cartlandt!

Back to comics, this weekend I bought for $4 a copy of a LOIS LANE 80 Page Giant detailing the many romances of Lois. It was a hoot and a half and in one epic she was brainwashed into being evil and in the very next panel she was was telling her sister Lucy "Smart Dame, aintcha?" She even smoked!

I can tie it all back to comics selling below 100,000...

If given a choice btw a 32 page comic for $3 featuring 1/6th of a story, and an 80 page comic for $4 featuring 80 pages of non stop wackiness spread over seven stories, how long do you think it took me to buy the LOIS book and walk out of my comic store completely pleased with myself that I bought what had to be the best bargain the store had to offer?

And that directly ties into the recent DC reprint of their ROMANCE 100 pager. It was $7. But for little more than half the price, I got a 40 yr old comic that was the real deal. Sorry DC, I'll buy DC comics, but I'll buy the one from 1960 for half price everytime before I buy your recent offering.

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#460093 - 03/13/01 12:21 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Walt Stone Offline
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Registered: 01/01/01
Posts: 496
Loc: Katy, Tx
Quote:
From Brent:
You're the one who brought up comics for girls. We just bring up a publisher who specializes in publishing for girls, young women, and women. They would be perfect to start in this business.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

From Chris K.:
Perfect? Does Harlequin have any record of success dealing with teen and pre-teen girls? Do they have any success with anything other than ninth-rate formulaic sludge?


It's easy to knock down slams with the scoreboard on this one.

Like I said, Harlequin is huge on market research. Hell, the entire romance writing market is very well researched. What's more, the writers are organized.

To partly answer the question, of all romance readers, 71% of them read their first romance before their 16th birthday.

Of ALL paperback fiction printed in the US, 41.4 million people read a romance book within the last year. This implies a large number of teens reading romance, wouldn't you say?

Romance fiction comprises 58.2% of ALL paperback fiction, and 38.8% of all popular fiction (this would add in hardbacks of both romance and non romance fiction to the total books)

Compare that 38.8% to the total of Mystery/Detective/Suspense - that's 25.7% of the total popular fiction.
Science Fiction/Fantasy? - that's 7.3% of total popular fiction.
Religious, occult, westerns, male adventure, general history, adult and movie tie-ins? - Those total 16.1% of total popular fiction.

(Above statistics were compiled by RWA from Book Industry Study Group and American Bookseller Association reports, and from tallies in Ingram’s catalogue of all book releases. Below stats and the teen reading stat from above are from a commissioned survey on reading habits in America conducted in Spring 1999 by BBC Research in Denver, Co)

Of the total romance readers (that 41 million that read a romance in the last year?)
6% are 17-19
5% are 14-16
3% are under 14

And... to reference the trailer park aspect...
28% of romance readers are college graduates
9% have post-graduate degrees
And while their money is as good as any other...
23% of romance readers make between $50,000 - $75,000

Finally, as to the "formulaic sludge" comment, I have to shrug my shoulders. Some of that rings true - some of that by definition. If it doesn't have a happy ending, it's not a romance - by definition. It would be "women's fiction." Temptation, the sexy category book line my wife has written for, will dictate the number of sex scenes in a book, adding or subtracting, obstensibly to aid "tempo".

But we've all seen writers in the comic book realm that have risen above a basic "mid-list" title to put out some excellent work. Sometimes those comic book writers go on to more popular and challenging stories.

So too, do romance writers. Some of the best (non-romance) suspense/thriller writers were once romance authors.

No, I'm not shy about promoting the need for "romantically driven" comics. And I'll beat the drum loudly, and use statistics as much as possible to emphasize how large the market is. ANY ripple of that commerce toward comic books could swamp the cash registers. ($1.35 billion in sales in 1999)

Or not. One problem, as I mentioned before... you need a NAME. And sadly, those with big names are going to want serious money. It would be cheaper to buy an already published work. But those are usually under contract. Harlequin's boiler plate contract keeps hold of old titles for seven years, and if they reprint that title, keeps the title for seven more. Other publishing houses offer similar contracts.

I, however, do know of several titles where several authors went on to 1) become popular and 2) keep all publishing rights to those titles. Graphic rights to these could be had for a song. You would have a name author, happy to have that title in print again, and perhaps a decent story, good enough to get that initial sale. I'll admit it's a back burner issue with me, but if romance comics ever did take off, I'd seriously propose this one to whomever would listen.

The market IS there for romance based comics. Distribution headaches kill most ideas here, and I don't have any ready solutions. Females ready to buy romances won't come to Direct Market stores, and I can't see how graphic novels could be put next to currently selling romance novels.

Walt Stone

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#460094 - 03/13/01 03:00 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
UncommonCon Offline
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Registered: 05/23/00
Posts: 119
Loc: Dallas, TX USA
Walt:
"The market IS there for romance based comics. Distribution headaches kill most ideas here, and I don't have any ready solutions. Females ready to buy romances won't come to Direct Market stores, and I can't see how graphic novels could be put next to currently selling romance novels."

I would say that the publishing giants that produce the romance novels that make so much money for the book retailers *tell* them that they have to put them there. As I understand it, shelf space is often contracted for by the publishers in the big chains.

$.015

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#460095 - 03/13/01 12:25 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
ATKokmen Offline
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Registered: 05/22/00
Posts: 1170
Loc: New York, NY
Quote:
Originally posted by UncommonCon:
I would say that the publishing giants that produce the romance novels that make so much money for the book retailers *tell* them that they have to put them there. As I understand it, shelf space is often contracted for by the publishers in the big chains.


It is the case that book publishers often pay big retail chains for the privilege of stocking their books, whether that's in the form of an allowance for shelf space, or special displays, or featured space in in-store magazines, or whatever else.

It does not, however, necessarily follow that a publisher could automatically coerce a bookstore into carrying or categorizing a particular product the way the publisher wants simply by throwing money around. If, say, the purchaser in charge of the romance category doesn't get graphic novels, doesn't want to offer them, doesn't think he/she should be deciding about that product over the guy who's in charge of buying other graphic novels, then the publisher might not actually get anywhere by throwing money at the situation; the romance category buyer might opt to take some other publisher's money in promotion of other books he/she is more comfortable with, which promotion he/she feels will ultimately be more successful.

All relationships are nuanced, including the ones between book publishers and book retailers. They're not all simply solved by opening one's wallet--though that never hurts.
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#460096 - 03/13/01 04:16 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Walt Stone Offline
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Registered: 01/01/01
Posts: 496
Loc: Katy, Tx
Regarding placement of romance books in stores: Remember, these books are returnable. I don't know the exact details, but I'm sure there are certain allotments of space. In recent years, other publishers that are well established have tried to carve out a niche in the categories. Good people (editors) and the like, and poor results due to the lack of followthrough at the marketing level.

Was it that they took manuscripts that were rejected first by Harlequin? I know this occurred in more than just a few cases. Or was it that the new imprint just wasn't marketed well enough? Hard to say. But Kensington has had to pull an entire line of monthlies, due to poor sales. That line was taking the niche abandoned by another publisher a few years ago.

This is why Harlequin has such an advantage. They ARE the NAME. There's a whole story behind their rise, because even in the 70s, they weren't what they are now.

Harl has slots available, and if they wanted, they could slide a few of whatever they wanted to put there on a test - as long as it fit in the rack.

As to display, Harl had to send out folks to monitor the displays - making sure their stuff was positioned - sales would drop if the stuff was hidden off to the side. They didn't have enough folks to check everywhere, but they spent some money checking the spots they could.

I realize this is getting things off track, but I wanted to make the point that not every romance publisher is doing as well as every other one. And if you think that Diamond is bad, think of the romance publishers themselves. Since more than half of the paperbacks published are romances, the romance publishers were in part responsible for the consolidation of the distributors, and now the distributors are telling the publishers what's going on... What was once a nice convienent situation (having to deal with fewer distributors) has become a problem (having the distributors pull their weight around.)

In the next few days, I'll put the word out that I want one of those graphic Harlequins. I've seen a small scan of a couple pages, but I'd be interested to see the size format, which wasn't apparent in the small pic I saw.

And to get back on topic, the publishers don't formally list romance sales figures on individual titles. The authors themselves trade numbers off of their royalty statements. Actual sales (print run minus returns) of a category book run anywhere between 50K and 120K, but the number for any particular line is probably within 20% of others within that line; some lines are featured in "book clubs."

If any book line averages below 50K, for an entire year, the line usually gets yanked.

With the additional art and special typesetting (er, lettering) costs required for a graphical romance, I can't see the "drop dead" line being less than 40K, and that's for a black and white. (yes, I'm guessing high here.) The reason I guessed so high? The books it would take the place of on the shelves are already making more for that same shelf space. Like I've been trying to say: Romance, done right, is very profitable.

Not stellar, but steady.

Walt Stone

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#460097 - 03/13/01 09:36 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Johanna Offline
Member

Registered: 07/12/99
Posts: 1026
>>And that directly ties into the recent DC reprint of their ROMANCE 100 pager. It was $7. But for little more than half the price, I got a 40 yr old comic that was the real deal.<<

If you had wanted that particular real deal, it would have been $400 in NM. As someone who owns approximately 80% of DC's romance comics from the mid-60s forward, I was *thrilled* that I got the chance to see a copy of this book I likely would never seen any other way.

That said, of course you should go for what you think are the best deals. I just wanted to put this in a different perspective.

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#460098 - 03/16/01 12:07 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Steve Hogan Offline
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Registered: 02/27/01
Posts: 5099
Loc: Burlington, VT 05401
I spent several months in charge of the Romance section of a large NYC bookstore (Sections were rotated on a regular basis.) and used to talk to a lot of the women who shopped in it. (They were a very voracious audience.)

Judging from what I observed, Harlequin graphic novels in the current market would sell worse than new Coke.

There's a kind of lower/middlebrow sensibility amongst a lot of the Romance audience. They are very proud of the fact that they read BOOKS. It doesn't really matter that the books in question are formula hackwork, reading BOOKS helped to add to their sense of self worth. There's a middle class respectability and perceived sense of maturity that comes with even lowbrow novels that the average person would not attach to comic books. I imagine most Romance readers would feel pretty sheepish bringing a comic book to the beach. (Even if it is printed on good paper and called a "Graphic Novel".)

Add to that a phenomena that I've observed: people who haven't read comic books much past childhood don't like reading comic books. I think there's a similarity between comic books and subtitled movies, both require a certain comfort level in dealing with images and text. People unused to reading comic books tend to get impatient or irritated with the process of alternating between looking and reading in a sequential narrative. Some people overcome this, but for the general public you have to get your audience young and keep them.

It has been noted on this thread that there are teen and preteen girls who read Harlequins. I would suggest that the crossover between girls who read romance novels and girls who are apt to read comic books is pretty slight. Reading a Harlequin novel is is a very "Traditional" (In terms of gender stereotype) female thing to do (Like cheerleading.) whereas reading comic books past grade school is not. You may get a bit of crossover if you throw in enough gothic fantasy elements (Like the whole "Beauty and the Beast" TV thing) but this is still a small audience. Navy Seals are flat out.

I think the "Betty and Veronica" audience is probably the best bet for developing new female readers. If you could develop comics that maintain their relevancy to girls past puberty, you could lay the groundwork for a new audience. (Actually, maintaining relevancy would be a good goal for "Boy" comics too. I fell out of comic book reading for years after I realized that the superhero comics I was reading had absolutely nothing to do with my life.) That said, you would probably need a strong presence outside of comic book shops. I imagine a lot of young girls are uninclined to want to enter stores caked wall to wall with guns, gore and thongs.
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#460099 - 03/16/01 05:12 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Jeff Zugale Offline
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Registered: 12/06/98
Posts: 1806
Loc: Los Angeles, CA, USA
Tatsuya Ishida did a Sinfest( www.sinfest.net ) strip where his female character is sitting reading a book with wide eyes; one of the male characters comes by and notices, and says "Romance novel?"

She responds: "Girl porn."
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#460100 - 03/16/01 07:37 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
StevenRowe Offline
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Registered: 06/25/99
Posts: 33
Loc: Valdosta, GAUSA
Tying the comics circulation and Harlequin romance together...
... Irwin Donenfeld, former president and co-owner of DC (then National) has been interviewed a couple of times recently..
.. one of the things that he says DC (and it's co-company Independent News) used to do was continual market research -- most often by constantly talking to the guys running the local distributor and then the bigger retailers - what selling and to whom. What could you sell more of -- what do you have too much of.
Comic companies today are talking to comic shops, but is anybody talking to the non-direct market?

Steven Rowe

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#460101 - 03/16/01 07:44 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Reggie Mantle Offline
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Registered: 06/22/00
Posts: 280
Loc: Riverdale, USA
Quote:
Originally posted by StevenRowe:
Tying the comics circulation and Harlequin romance together...
... Irwin Donenfeld, former president and co-owner of DC (then National) has been interviewed a couple of times recently..
.. one of the things that he says DC (and it's co-company Independent News) used to do was continual market research -- most often by constantly talking to the guys running the local distributor and then the bigger retailers - what selling and to whom. What could you sell more of -- what do you have too much of.
Comic companies today are talking to comic shops, but is anybody talking to the non-direct market?

Steven Rowe


From everything that I've read about it, the idea for Ultimate Marvel Magazine was a direct result of listening to newsstand distributors - albeit feedback related to format, not content. I haven't heard much on the success of UMM since it's launch, which leads me to believe that it isn't succeeding. Which is too bad, if true.

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#460102 - 03/17/01 08:17 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Stephen R Bissette Offline
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Registered: 11/27/98
Posts: 939
Loc: wilmington, VT USA
Great thread! I'd like to tilt back to points Jim Hanley and Robert Boyd raised, however:

I believe availability of comics OUTSIDE of the DM venues is at its lowest ebb... certainly the lowest its ever been in my lifetime (just turned 46 this week).

Simply put, even as a comic reader, I can't FIND the damned things any longer. Growing up in Vermont (where I still live), comics were accessible to me in small towns, big towns from my earliest memories through the 1980s. When traveling, from 4 years old to 25, I could always count on stumbling on a comics rack in during a trip and sweetening the experience with some new (or old) comics in easy buying range. That, too, ended some time ago. With the collapse of newsstand outlets and disappearance of the spinner racks, the decade or so flowering of DM shops in driving distance lasted through the mid-1990s.

Now, whether I were to tackle driving to Jack's shop up in Barre or the closest venues in NH or MA, I'm looking at a 90-minute to six-hour round trip. Daunting, to say the least.

That means as a kid growing up in the boonies today, under 16, no license, comics are simply NO LONGER IN REACH. Period. My two teenagers LOVE comics, but we make the pilgrimage at most twice a year.

[And not to divert the issue, but we've never enjoyed the "catalogue" shopping experience -- the necessity of pre-orders killed the market as much as anything -- nor has online purchasing captured us. We like to enter shops, check out the books, find things we didn't know existed... and once or twice a year, we manage to afford the drive and experience.]

The urban model may differ, but in rural America (based on my travels, not just local experience), comics have vanished. We are going into our first, possibly second, generation of potential readers who simply NEVER SEE COMICS in their formative years. Judging from the college classes I guest lecture to, many don't see comics until they're in college -- and read them as part of their class requirements.

I've posted this before on another thread a year or two back: For about four years I was a guest author at the Vermont State Pavilion at the "Big E" New England Expo in Springfield, MA. It's THE major fall fair for all of NE, with each pavilion enjoying literally thousands of folks going through each pavilion's doors per day. I set up with my books and comic books (TYRANT Paleo Paks, 1963 Six Paks, and single issues) and always did phenomenally well. What was sobering, though, were the constant comments from adults verifying the invisibility of comics ("Wow, COMICS! They still make these?") and the utter lack of interest from most kids 12 and under. It was rare (say, one out of every 25 sales) that the kids would initiate the sale; most often, the adults would actually cajole their kids into looking closer at the books. At my last Big 'E' (1999), two 12-year-olds from seperate families who'd purchased Paleo-Paks for them approached me at the end of the day to thank me for turning them on to comics: they'd never READ a comic before.

This would have been unthinkable in my childhood. Any 12-year-old who hadn't read a comic then would have been considered a completely alien being. Today, it's the norm.

That said, it has also been heartening to see that as my own daughter (now 17) found a handful of comic-reading friends in high school, they swapped some pretty heady fare between themselves (from collections outside my household, mind you): LOVE AND ROCKETS, the hardbound CAGES, etc.

The quality of comics available today outstrips anything from prior eras... but the comics themselves barely register as a prop, much less a central reading experience, in the lives of most rural kids.

[And per the tangent about girls and women reading comics: my daughter has a far greater variety of titles catching her attention than you'd imagine... if only we could find them more often, or within reach.]

[This message has been edited by Stephen R Bissette (edited 03-17-2001).]

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#460103 - 03/17/01 09:52 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Pat ONeill Offline
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Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 3064
Loc: PA, USA
Quote:
The urban model may differ, but in rural America (based on my travels, not just local experience), comics have vanished. We are going into our first, possibly second, generation of potential readers who simply NEVER SEE COMICS in their formative years. Judging from the college classes I guest lecture to, many don't see comics until they're in college -- and read them as part of their class requirements.


The urban/suburban model may differ, but not by much.

When I lived on Staten Island until a few years ago, the only DM store on the North Shore closed in 1994; there were fewer than a handful of other shops (including Jim Hanley's place in New Dorp) left when I moved to the Philly area in 1997. (Jim--check my memory on this: Two, maybe three, shops in addition to yours?) Staten Island was a place with pretty decent public transportation, but by 1994, a trip to buy comics for the average under-16 meant being driven by the parents or a minimum half-hour bus ride each way.

Here in the Philly suburbs, there are exactly two DM shops in my county that I know of--one is local, the other's at the largest regional mall.

In neither area was or is it possible to reliably buy comics from the newsstand/convenience store market. That means the average kid under 16 never sees comics as part of his daily life, the way my generation (I'm 49) did.
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#460104 - 03/17/01 01:19 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
gene phillips Offline
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Registered: 09/30/99
Posts: 5910
Loc: Houston, TX
Steve Hogan: Thanks for sharing your independent research re: romance readers. I've never to my knowledge talked to anyone who was a devout reader of this genre, but your description of the mentality SEEMED spot-on, particularly the idea that they would be literary traditionalists who would consider it better to be reading any prose books, EVEN those from a genre maligned by most other readers (whether of other genre-lit or "pure lit"), rather than a debased medium like comics. Of course, as someone posted on another thread here long ago, this is a cultural thing: purportedly soap-operaish "novelas" do very well in a lot of countries south of the US border. (I assume Canada is no better off than the US in lacking romance-books.)

SRB: When I was growing up here in Texas my main avenues for comic books were the drugstores and convenience stores, and I could almost never find them in grocery stores; since sometime in the '80's that trend changed and the only place to find them in a non-DR venue is a fair number of grocery stores that stock an assortment (I'm talking maybe twenty-thirty titles from DC, Marvel, Dark Horse and maybe one or two others.) Apparently the complete lack of comic books in major outlets is a regional thing. Perhaps others would care to weigh in as to regional availability--?

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#460105 - 03/17/01 02:48 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Rory D. Root Offline
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Registered: 09/12/99
Posts: 628
Loc: Berkeley,Ca.,USA
>>>And per the tangent about girls and women reading comics: my daughter has a far greater variety of titles catching her attention than you'd imagine... if only we could find them more often, or within reach. Stephen R Bissette <<<

We have had great success with libraries introducing comics to new readers.

And Steve if your daughter wants more selection she [and you] might try talking to a few of your local librarians. They are very reseptive to requests. These are not your fathers librarians.

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#460106 - 03/17/01 03:30 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Joe Zabel Offline
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Registered: 11/23/98
Posts: 2546
Loc: Cleveland Heights, OH 44106
In the Cleveland area, it has been common to see comics in the larger supermarkets, either on spinner racks or shelved with the magazines. I believe Giant Eagle stopped carrying them, and I think Topps still does.

Growing up in Youngstown, Ohio in the 1960s, I could get comics only at a local grocery store, and sometimes pick up some of those illegally sold copies with the stripped covers, which a local supermarket sold.

Back in the Good Old Days it was very difficult to get each issue of a series, and I became so frustrated by it that I went to (for me) extraordinary lengths to get my Spidermans-- I subscribed. The first issue came in the mail, and it wasn't illustrated by Steve Ditko, it was illustrated by some guy whose work I couldn't stand!
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#460107 - 03/18/01 09:50 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
NatGertler Offline
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Registered: 07/10/99
Posts: 4618
Here in Covina, California, I can find comics in the Albertsons supermarket that's about 2 blocks away, in the ToysRUs that's 3 blocks, in the Wal-Mart that's also three blocks, and in a donut shop that's about 5 or 6 blocks. None are the spinner-full-of-new-superhero-and-kiddie-books that I would like to see, but all have at least some comics.

Having just moved from Pasadena, California, there I had access to two comic book stores, a newsstand, and a drugstore all of which carried a reasonable mix, various supermarkets which carried Archie titles, and the supermarket nearest me, which it any time would have a dozen or so titles in Spanish, ranging from Donald Duck to racy romance. And that was hardly a full scouring of the city.

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#460108 - 03/18/01 10:23 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Pat ONeill Offline
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Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 3064
Loc: PA, USA
Quote:
Here in Covina, California, I can find comics in the Albertsons supermarket that's about 2 blocks away, in the ToysRUs that's 3 blocks, in the Wal-Mart that's also three blocks, and in a donut shop that's
about 5 or 6 blocks. None are the spinner-full-of-new-superhero-and-kiddie-
books that I would like to see, but all have at least some comics.

Having just moved from Pasadena, California, there I had access to two comic book stores, a newsstand, and a drugstore all of which carried a reasonable mix, various supermarkets which carried Archie titles, and the supermarket nearest me, which it any time would have a dozen or so titles in Spanish, ranging from Donald Duck to racy romance. And that was hardly a full scouring of the city.


Nat, how many of those venues are accessible to the average under-16 traveling by foot, bike, or public transportation? Do most or all require a vehicle to be easily reached from the nearest residential neighborhood?

If so, that's the problem. Comics have become something that kids need their parents with them to find. Didn't used to be that way. Part of that is a change in the overall culture, as we have changed from a society that did its shopping in local neighborhood stores to one that goes to major shopping centers and malls for "one-stop" shopping. But part of it is that comics have become a fringe, niche product, marketed only to those "in-the-know" and not to the public at large for impulse purchases, as they once were.
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#460109 - 03/18/01 12:08 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Chris Knowles Offline
Member

Registered: 01/23/99
Posts: 875
Loc: USA
Quote:
Originally posted by Pat ONeill:


If so, that's the problem. Comics have become something that kids need their parents with them to find. Didn't used to be that way. Part of that is a change in the overall culture, as we have changed from a society that did its shopping in local neighborhood stores to one that goes to major shopping centers and malls for "one-stop" shopping. But part of it is that comics have become a fringe, niche product, marketed only to those "in-the-know" and not to the public at large for impulse purchases, as they once were.



Yes. The only way for comics to come back is to get back in the general market, The only way to get back in the general market is to give readers format and content they want. Find out what stories kids want to read and what type of art they like and give it to them in a package they find value in.

The quickest way to fail at this venture is by peddling your tired old properties to kids who are way past them. Superheroes are fine for the shops, but certain death in the general market.

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#460110 - 03/18/01 12:17 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
NatGertler Offline
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Registered: 07/10/99
Posts: 4618
Quote:
Nat, how many of those venues are accessible to the average under-16 traveling by foot, bike, or public transportation? Do most or all require a vehicle to be easily reached from the nearest residential neighborhood?

Pat, if you had bothered to read the message you're quoting, you would have seen the listing of many of these places in terms of blocks from my own residence.... and the number of blocks is quite small. So yes, they're reachable by foot, by scooter, by bicycle, and even by pogo stick. None of the places mentioned are more than 3 blocks from sizable residential areas. So when you start using my message as a basis for "If so, that's the problem. Comics have become something that kids need their parents with them to find," your logic is falling on hard times.

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#460111 - 03/18/01 06:14 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Joe Zabel Offline
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Registered: 11/23/98
Posts: 2546
Loc: Cleveland Heights, OH 44106
If we're trying to 'save comics', I think trying to break back into the supermarkets and the drugstores is a very limited and flawed approach.

At least conceptually, there is a lot more promise in attempts to create more comic book shops (as Jim Hanley wisely advises) and to transform comics shops into retail outlets that are attractive to a wider variety of shoppers.

A grocery-store-based market will never have the diversity or the quality that comics need to build a large and diverse market. Just look what entertainment options are available in grocery stores now-- they're all TRASH!
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#460112 - 03/18/01 09:54 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Walt Stone Offline
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Registered: 01/01/01
Posts: 496
Loc: Katy, Tx
Quote:
If we're trying to 'save comics', I think trying to break back into the supermarkets and the drugstores is a very limited and flawed approach.

A grocery-store-based market will never have the diversity or the quality that comics need to build a large and diverse market. Just look what entertainment options are available in grocery stores now-- they're all TRASH!


If the only way you could sell ink on paper would be to compromise your vision to put out "trash", would you? Several would not. I applaud them. Loudly.

Will they masses ever see the work of those that do not "sell out"? RARELY. Thus we get the "trash" formed by committee. Why, why, why???

Because those willing to risk money have to take a low risk strategy.

That being said, we got the collector's glut because of what most people would agree is an over promotion of "trash".

So, you got "trash" in the Direct Market stores! What is the diff here? The sheer percentage? Or the fact that some corporate committee decided what was on the stand instead of the person running the magazine stand? I don't know. Right now, I'd hazzard a guess that if we took a complete random sample of comic books sold in Previews magazine right now, (say 10 randomly selected from a list of the total monthly offering) you'd be looking at how many crappy books?

I'll tell you my opinion - completely unfounded, I'll admit. Most of what is NOW offered for sale through Previews isn't stellar material either.

So, you have the "trash" that is offered in the supermarkets now, and the "trash" that is offered in Previews now. Yes, perhaps the current percenatage of memorable material now is ever so slightly higher, due to the current lack of "collector" issues.

There will ALWAYS be exceptional material created and offered in the form of comic books. But getting enough of an audience to buy that stuff so that the creators, publishers, and sellers can make a decent profit is difficult. The rest of the profit is going to be done on the backs of pulp. Pulp and the related merchandise.

I'll give you an analogy. I would think the folks that made the Pokemon animated shows have made enough money so that they can markedly improve the cartoons... Of course they haven't, and they won't. Because they don't have to.

The folks that sell pulp know it's pulp, and it's sold that way. I think that Archie comics are pretty much the same way. They don't have to change the way they present the comics. The comics are there to sell ink on paper, not to present earthshattering story lines or breathtaking art. And yet the creators and the publishers and those selling those comics don't mind it at all.

Quote:
At least conceptually, there is a lot more promise in attempts to create more comic book shops (as Jim Hanley wisely advises) and to transform comics shops into retail outlets that are attractive to a wider variety of shoppers.
I wish folks luck with this one. Wishful thinking, simply put.

I know I'm a naysayer on this, and I'm sorry to sound the downer note all the time like this. I'm not in the biz, but I have made a habit of paying attention to what does sell in the general marketplace, and between Amazon.com and Borders, there are some larger downturns than just a large comic book store chain on the east coast.

It has to do with business decisions, and some of them are hard ones.

Walt Stone

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#460113 - 03/19/01 06:56 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Pat ONeill Offline
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Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 3064
Loc: PA, USA
Quote:
-----------------------------------
Nat, how many of those venues are accessible to the average under-16 traveling by foot, bike, or public transportation? Do most or all require a vehicle to be easily reached from the nearest residential neighborhood?
-----------------------------------------

Pat, if you had bothered to read the message you're quoting, you would have seen the listing of many of these places in terms of blocks from my own residence.... and the number of blocks is quite small. So yes, they're reachable by foot, by scooter, by bicycle, and even by pogo stick. None of the places mentioned are more than 3 blocks from sizable residential areas. So when you start using my message as a basis for "If so, that's the problem. Comics have become something that kids need their parents with them to find," your logic is falling on hard times.


"Block" is not a measure of distance, but of intersections. Each of those "blocks" could be a half-mile long, for all I know, Nat. They could be blocks along a major four-lane thoroughfare, with the comics-selling locations on one side and the residential areas on the other, meaning that many parents would have qualms about the kids crossing that street on their own. (There's such a situation in my own area; MacDade Blvd. operates as a "dividing line" for many families--kids' on-their-own travel is bounded by it: "You can't cross MacDade.")

Of course, the next question would be, even if they are as close as you say, are they on a path that kids would naturally take--say, on the way back and forth from school (presuming kids actually walk to school in your area)? My point is that kids no longer encounter comics in the natural course of their day, as they once did.
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#460114 - 03/19/01 09:47 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
NatGertler Offline
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Registered: 07/10/99
Posts: 4618
Quote:
Of course, the next question would be, even if they are as close as you say, are they on a path that kids would naturally take--say, on the way back and forth from school (presuming kids actually walk to school in your area)? My point is that kids no longer encounter comics in the natural course of their day, as they once did.
And again, Pat, you make your "points" without having the answers to your questions yet. Your first point fails, so you aim for a second uninformed one. Yes, many of these places are along a path that kids are likely to take in their usual routines. Some are within a block of a school, a park, or a community center.

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#460115 - 03/19/01 11:23 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Steve Hogan Offline
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Registered: 02/27/01
Posts: 5099
Loc: Burlington, VT 05401
Quote:
Originally posted by gene phillips:
[B Of course, as someone posted on another thread here long ago, this is a cultural thing: purportedly soap-operaish "novelas" do very well in a lot of countries south of the US border. (I assume Canada is no better off than the US in lacking romance-books.)[/B]


Yeah, my comments were strictly for the U.S. South of the border they do seem to have popular comics for adults. When I lived in NYC many newstands carried Spanish language comic book digests that all seemed to revolve around truckers/taxi drivers and sexy women involved in PG-13 sexual escapedes.

A co-worker of mine went on vacation to the South of France last year and commented on how comic books seemed to be everywhere>/I>. (And she's not even really a comic book reader, so she wasn't even looking for them.) It's kind of sad that the country that pretty much invented comic books is one of the least hospitable to them.

As far as getting younger readers, here's a question: Has anyone tried putting together a children's comic with quality art and nice printing and marketing it like a children's book? After all, most children's books are essentially words and pictures too, the only difference would be word balloons.
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#460116 - 03/19/01 12:05 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
ATKokmen Offline
Member

Registered: 05/22/00
Posts: 1170
Loc: New York, NY
Quote:
Originally posted by Steve Hogan:
As far as getting younger readers, here's a question: Has anyone tried putting together a children's comic with quality art and nice printing and marketing it like a children's book? After all, most children's books are essentially words and pictures too, the only difference would be word balloons.


There's Little Lit by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly, published a few months ago by HarperCollins Children's Books. Probably a few others, too...
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#460117 - 03/19/01 05:20 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Pat ONeill Offline
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Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 3064
Loc: PA, USA
And, of course, Nat, your neighborhood is, per force, representative of the nation as a whole.

As opposed to mine, or Jim Hanley's, or Steve's--all of whom have described geographically diverse areas in which comics are not anywhere near as available as you say they are near you.

So your experience must be the correct one, and ours is merely idiosyncratic of our areas.

Let me put this again--perhaps you'll get the picture: Are any of these places you say comics are available in your area--these places within walking distance, close to schools, etc.--are any of them retail environments that kids are likely to enter, let alone be welcomed in, without adult accompaniment?

Of the places you cite, the donut shop is (perhaps) the one place that a kid under 12 is likely to visit without an adult. Maybe California is different somehow (but I doubt it), but the supermarkets, discount chains and Toys R Us outlets in the Philly area do not encourage (in fact, I don't think I'm going too far to say they discourage) shopping by unattended minors under 16.
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#460118 - 03/19/01 06:51 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
NatGertler Offline
Member

Registered: 07/10/99
Posts: 4618
Quote:
And, of course, Nat, your neighborhood is, per force, representative of the nation as a whole.
Gee, Pat, I haven't been trying to build claims about a nation as a whole. You were the one who kept citing my posts, who kept asking me questions and then anticipating the answers, in support of your own series of points... points which the data being discussed did not support.
Quote:
Let me put this again--perhaps you'll get the picture:
Which picture is that? The picture that you're some kind of logic-impaired problem-child who will argue against any facts that don't fit in with your assumptions about the world? Pat, before you try to explain to me what my neigborhoods have been like, and how it fits into wherever-you've-chosen-to-skide-goalposts-this-post, perhaps you should reflect on your failures in the past to explain to everyone that all Internet connections are over phone lines, that you can't have comics on a computer, and things of that nature.
Quote:
Are any of these places you say comics are available in your area--these places within walking distance, close to schools, etc.--are any of them retail environments that kids are likely to enter, let alone be welcomed in, without adult accompaniment?
First, let's notice the sliding goal-posts again; the places in Covina and Pasadena failed to fit his earlier points -- at least, according to the questions he asked -- so here comes a different goal line that must be crossed.

Now let's watch this, boys and girls, as Pat tries to answer his own question without any sign of having been to the places he's talking about!
Quote:
Of the places you cite, the donut shop is (perhaps) the one place that a kid under 12 is likely to visit without an adult.
Hey, look, suddenly it's not folks under 16 anymore! The goal-posts have slid on down to the age of 12! Gee whillikers, what a shocker!
The donut shop in question has pictures of Pokemon and X-Men characters on the door. I haven't hung around it often enough to say what sort of clientelle it actually draws, but it seems to want the kids, and is within 6 blocks of at least 2, I think 3, public schools.
I can tell you about shopping at the supermarket a block away from me in Pasadena; if I would head over there between 3 and 5 o'clock on a weekday, the odds were good that I'd be in line with someone who looked under-12, buying a snack. More of them got their snacks at the adjacent 99 Cent Store, which occasionally had comics as well (although they seemed to run through them fairly quickly.) The supermarket had ride machines out front, gum and sticker machines right inside the front door, then you'd pass by the counter where they sold ice cream and shakes, and then as you'd head in toward the registers there'd be a spin-rack of coloring books and puzzles, and then the magazine rack, much of the bottom half of which was comics. If this store was trying to discourage kids from entering, they would have done better to just leave a trail of cookies running straight in the door.

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#460119 - 03/19/01 09:54 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
brent Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/14/06
Posts: 11
Pat:
"Are any of these places you say comics are available in your area--these places within walking distance, close to schools, etc.--are any of them retail environments that kids are likely to enter, let alone be welcomed in, without adult accompaniment?"

Well, I can't speak for all of America, unlike Pat, but I will talk about the realatively small town of So. Burlington VT. (Pop: roughly 18,000).

So. Burlington high school is close to the University Mall, a place that many kids ages 12-16 hang out. In the mall is a Walenbooks that carries comic books, and a store called Hot Topic that also carries a very limited selection of comic books. The local Hannafords, which is right next to the U Mall, also has comic books on a spinner rack. A Barnes and Noble is located right across the street and carries comics in the magazine section, and a helthy supply of trade paperbacks and graphic novels. A local Grand Union carries a small selection and is close to the Chamberlin school, which is for younger kids. I also know of several kids and teenagers who actually dare to use our public transportation system (a bus) which allows them easy access to all these places. Across the street from GU, is a little store called Gacey's, which also sells comics.

Now, although kids between the ages of 12-16 wouldn't be welcomed in with open arms, they certainly are allowed in without adult supervision. Also, if what I've seen is any indication, than yes, kids will often enter these places just for food alone.

Of course, I live in a weird area.

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#460120 - 03/19/01 11:08 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Steve Hogan Offline
Member

Registered: 02/27/01
Posts: 5099
Loc: Burlington, VT 05401
Quote:
Originally posted by Brent:
Of course, I live in a weird area.

And how! (Steve lived there as of less than a year ago.)

I live in the city next to Brent and we've got pretty much the same stuff. We have one comic store plus a used book store that stocks alternative comics. (Where I shop mostly.) When I used to manage the local indie record store I stocked some comics, but now I think it's pretty much just James Kochalka titles. I can't think of any shops the kids aren't allowed in around here ...except for the headshops. (I should talk them into carrying old undergrounds.)
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#460121 - 03/20/01 07:03 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Pat ONeill Offline
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Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 3064
Loc: PA, USA
"Under 16" was cited because 16 is the age--generally--when kids can get drivers' licenses.

But "under 12" is the real crucial "get-started" age for reading comics.

Oh--and if you think all that kid-oriented stuff is in that supermarket to attract unaccompanied kid shoppers, then you know absolutely nothing about grocery marketing techniques.

OTOH, I've worked in grocery stores, I've written about all kinds of general retailing.
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#460122 - 03/20/01 11:42 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
NatGertler Offline
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Registered: 07/10/99
Posts: 4618
Quote:
Oh--and if you think all that kid-oriented stuff is in that supermarket to attract unaccompanied kid shoppers, then you know absolutely nothing about grocery marketing techniques.
And if you think that putting all that in the front of the store is compatible with discouraging kid shoppers, then you don't know kids.
Quote:
OTOH, I've worked in grocery stores, I've written about all kinds of general retailing.
You've also written about comics, yet I've been watching you spew false information about comics for years. I will not assume that you're more competent when it comes to other topics.

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#460123 - 03/20/01 04:17 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Pat ONeill Offline
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Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 3064
Loc: PA, USA
All that stuff is at the front of the store because it's considered impulse purchase fodder, which is always placed as close to the checkout line as possible. (And because it's also shoplift fodder, so they want it placed where the largest concentration of store employees are, to keep an eye on it.)

Sure, it appeals to kids--but the store is hoping for "Mommy, mommy get that, get that!" and Mommy giving in to shut the kid up; it is not hoping on the kid coming and buying it for himself.

Believe me, Nat, supermarkets do NOT want teens and pre-teens shopping unescorted. This may be an unwarranted attitude, but they are considered potential shoplifters at the worst and loud, noisy, problems for the adult shoppers at the best.
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#460124 - 03/20/01 06:03 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
NatGertler Offline
Member

Registered: 07/10/99
Posts: 4618
Quote:
Believe me, Nat, supermarkets do NOT want teens and pre-teens shopping unescorted.
Believe me, Pat, when I say that I don't believe you know how every single local supermarket is run. This thread shows you have a pretty poor track record in knowing how things run in my area. I'd have to be rather inattentive to start taking your word for anything.

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#460125 - 03/21/01 07:28 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Pat ONeill Offline
Member

Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 3064
Loc: PA, USA
Of course not, Nat. That would mean admitting I know what I'm talking about and you don't.

That couldn't possibly happen, could it?

Final word from me. Go talk to yourself--you're the only person you don't pick fights with anyway.
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#460126 - 03/21/01 08:21 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
brent Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/14/06
Posts: 11
Uh...Nat actually agreed with you on Napster, the Harry Potter debate (You automatically assumed he was against you), and something else that I forget off-hand. It's your own stubborn arrogance that makes you assume he's against you.

Pat, in this case, you don't. Nat isn't talking about a supermarket. While you are quite versed in supermarket retail, you have no idea what it's like to run a small mom and pop store. If you're going to tell us that the same principles apply to both places, well, you'd be wrong. It's the area that you live in that determines what you are going to use to get customers.

While it may be true in your area that pre-teens and teens are not wanted in the stores, that isn't true for every area...particularly areas that are close by schools. I mean, a smart businessman will use anything he can to get business and if that means putting pokemon in the windows and ride machines out front, than so be it. He'll get unattended kid shoppers whose money is just as green as attended kid shoppers.

While placement of said items to disuade shoplifting is true, I'd have to say that you're determination that your reasoning of the kid stuff being there to get mommy to go in with the child is kind of stupid if we're talking kids walking home from school---without mommy. A good businessman will want that business and will put stuff there to attract that business. A simple retail pracitce that I'm sure you know having such a vast knowledge retail.

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#460127 - 03/21/01 10:11 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Beck Atcha Offline
Member

Registered: 06/20/00
Posts: 1053
This is all well and good, you guys, but we're really getting away from the topic: what constitutes a city block?

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#460128 - 03/21/01 10:37 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
NatGertler Offline
Member

Registered: 07/10/99
Posts: 4618
Quote:
Of course not, Nat. That would mean admitting I know what I'm talking about and you don't.
Pat, you've just spent this thread displaying how little you know about the neighborhoods I live in. If you want to have credibility, first you have to show some sign that you actually know what you're talking about. When you do like you did in the Tansini thread, trying to claim some expertise after already getting basic facts wrong, it just doesn't work. You've spent your time mis-describing to Internet pros how the Internet works, mis-describing to comics fans and pros what comics are available, mis-explaining to computer pros about what computers are available and what they can do. Hell, you spent time in a conversation with me and Ted Slampyak mis-describing the contents of an agreement that Ted and I had reached and that you were in no way privy to. I can't think of anyone I have ever dealt with who shows less ability than you to distinguish things he knows from things he doesn't.

You may have some insights into supermarkets in general (although I've yet to see much evidence of it), but when you try to tell me specifics about a supermarket that you show no sign of having been to, I see no reason to lend that any credence.

Quote:
Final word from me.
Oh, please, let it be true!

Quote:
Go talk to yourself--you're the only person you don't pick fights with anyway.
Riiiiiight.... Pat, look at this thread. I posted details on the places I've lived recently, in answer to a request to do so. For some reason, you felt the need to question me repeatedly about the information, and to posit points seemingly based on answers you presumed you would get, even where your points didn't match with the tone of information in my posts.

Quote:
Nat isn't talking about a supermarket.
Actually, I am (at least in the context of how "supermarket" has traditionally been used; on today's scale, it's not so super). Farmers, at the corner of Los Robles and Villa in Pasadena, has a manned meat counter, has several checkout lanes plus a quick purchases/smokes&lottery checkout, a manned meat counter, etc. It's not just a mom'n'pop grocery stop.

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#460129 - 03/21/01 04:26 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
betty brant Offline
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Registered: 09/23/00
Posts: 1622
Loc: nerdonia
Quote:
Farmers, at the corner of Los Robles and Villa in Pasadena, has a manned meat counter, has several checkout lanes plus a quick purchases/smokes&lottery checkout, a manned meat counter, etc.


but does it have a manned meat counter?

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#460130 - 03/21/01 04:30 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Fin Fang Foom Offline
Member

Registered: 02/02/01
Posts: 154
Kinda off-topic at this point, but as the subject had come up before in this thread (during the speculation of circulation numbers), I relay this piece of information from an AP article on MAD Magazine...

"...Besides, it's pretty clear that they could use the money. Mad won't disclose any financial data, but its circulation has declining sharply since the early 1970s, when it hit a peak of 2.3 million, and currently stands around 250,000."


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#460131 - 03/21/01 05:30 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Brad Simpson Offline
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Registered: 09/25/00
Posts: 559
Loc: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Mad actually reached a circulation of just under 3 million, in the late 70's/early 80's.
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#460132 - 03/21/01 05:40 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
betty brant Offline
Member

Registered: 09/23/00
Posts: 1622
Loc: nerdonia
Quote:
Mad actually reached a circulation of just under 3 million, in the late 70's/early 80's.


but did it have a manned meat counter?

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#460133 - 03/21/01 05:59 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
The OC Offline
Member

Registered: 03/27/02
Posts: 1985
Quote:
Originally posted by ATKokmen:
There's Little Lit by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly, published a few months ago by HarperCollins Children's Books. Probably a few others, too...


Maurice Sendak's SOME SWELL PUP is very much a comic book, right down to word balloons.

Of course, it first came out, like, 15 years ago....



------------------
"If you pull your head outa your butt, you'll see things a whole bunch clearer."
-- Witty but intolerant Chris Medellin, to popular Otto Chelman
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#460134 - 03/21/01 06:22 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Jim Offline
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Registered: 09/03/00
Posts: 1855
A man-meat counter?

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#460135 - 03/21/01 06:40 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
betty brant Offline
Member

Registered: 09/23/00
Posts: 1622
Loc: nerdonia
jack, you have a dirty mind.

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#460136 - 03/21/01 06:41 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Jim Offline
Member

Registered: 09/03/00
Posts: 1855
It's Jim, and check this out:
http://www.manbeef.com/

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#460137 - 03/21/01 07:01 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
NatGertler Offline
Member

Registered: 07/10/99
Posts: 4618
Quote:
but does it have a manned meat counter?
Boy, does it ever!

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#460138 - 03/21/01 07:06 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
horst Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/21/01
Posts: 26
I used to live across the street from Farmer's Market on Villa.

That place is good if you want Mexican soft-porn comics featuring Michael Jackson and Brobdignagian nuns.

[This message has been edited by horst (edited 03-21-2001).]

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#460139 - 03/21/01 07:46 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
NatGertler Offline
Member

Registered: 07/10/99
Posts: 4618
Quote:
That place is good if you want Mexican soft-porn comics featuring Michael Jackson and Brobdignagian nuns.
Those things are still in the mix there, along with various adventure titles and the occasional Spanish-language Disney comic (although those seem to be older books; not sure how they show up there.)

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#460140 - 03/23/01 07:31 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Rick Veitch Administrator Offline
Member

Registered: 11/23/98
Posts: 3531
Loc: Vermont, USA
Update: I just checked the rest of the board that Sam spammed this morning. He is history.

------------------
Rick Veitch
Invites You To Read THE DAILY RARE BIT FIENDS
updated every day along with news of the world's most popular artform!
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www.comicon.com/splash
_________________________
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#460141 - 03/23/01 07:35 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
brent Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/14/06
Posts: 11
Bad move, Rick. It wasn't Sam Catalino. It was Comics are Go intentionally trying to get Sam kicked off the board. I made the same mistake until I got to one of the threads where Comics are go says he appropriated the name, and as you can see the messages were all by "Sam Catalano", and not "Sam Catalino."

I see a major apology in your future.

[This message has been edited by Brent (edited 03-23-2001).]

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#460142 - 03/23/01 07:55 AM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Rick Veitch Administrator Offline
Member

Registered: 11/23/98
Posts: 3531
Loc: Vermont, USA
Thanks for the tip! I've gone in and deactivated the knock off Sam and reactivated Sam's account. We'll mass purge all the phony Sam posts this morning.

Sam, sorry for the mix up!

------------------
Rick Veitch
Invites You To Read THE DAILY RARE BIT FIENDS
updated every day along with news of the world's most popular artform!
THE COMICON.COM DAILY SPLASHis always refreshing!
www.comicon.com/splash
_________________________
More signal. Less noise

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#460143 - 03/23/01 04:10 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Walt Stone Offline
Member

Registered: 01/01/01
Posts: 496
Loc: Katy, Tx
A few days back, Steve Hogan said:
Quote:
I spent several months in charge of the Romance section of a large NYC bookstore (Sections were rotated on a regular basis.) and used to talk to a lot of the women who shopped in it. (They were a very voracious audience.)

Judging from what I observed, Harlequin graphic novels in the current market would sell worse than new Coke.

There's a kind of lower/middlebrow sensibility amongst a lot of the Romance audience.


Um, I don't know about that. I've defended it before, but there are some that do quite well. Besides, what you see is on the shelves because that is what gets bought.

Here. Take this excerpt for example.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/stores/detail/-/books/0505524384/excerpt/

It may not be your cup of tea, but you have to admit it IS almost closer to a comic book idea than most "romances" you might see on the shelf. This particular author also writes traditional romances because, hey-they DO pay the bills. I know this author because she was part of the website I once did.

The publisher tries a variety of the lesser selling romance subgenres, such as gothic horror romances and paranormal romances. The following is small for these paranormals and the like, but the fans are usually devoted.

Walt Stone

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#460144 - 03/23/01 05:34 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Samuel Catalino Offline
Member

Registered: 04/04/99
Posts: 4447
Rick,

No problem. Heck, for once I am trying to calm things down and this happens!

Brent,

Thanks for the honest defense. I do appreciate that.

To the rest of the posters on this thread,

I apologize for deviating from your topic; I am only answering the comments dealing with me.

It is a shame that the top comics circulation is below 100,000. What can be done about it?

Samuel Catalino
_________________________
"If we lose a hundred troops a week, then Dean will be our next Prez." Jack V, avid Dean supporter with no concern for the troops.

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#460145 - 04/10/01 12:17 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
NatGertler Offline
Member

Registered: 07/10/99
Posts: 4618
Following up on the discussion of Green Arrow #1 sales from earlier in this thread: News Askew is quoting Smith as saying that the issue is getting a third printing, and that issue 2 will likely also see press again. (Nice of a publisher to try to make sure retailers have comics they can sell, innit?)

And as for folks who expressed concern (or derision) about the monthly scheduling of the book: Smith says he's working on issue 8 now.

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