This was originally intended to address some comments in another thread. It seemed inappropriately off topic, so I decided to start a new thread.

The direct market came about because Phil Seuling needed a source of regular income. He had been a high school English teacher in Brooklyn and a part-time comics dealer/convention promoter for 12 or 13 years, when he and two teenage girls working with him were arrested for allegedly selling underground comics to an under-age kid at one of his Second Sunday shows. He had recently separated from his wife Carole and (as he told someone else in my presence) he gave his teaching salary to his family and supported himself with comics.

In 1973, after he was acquitted of the charges, Phil convinced Sol Harrison at DC and Jim Warren to sell comics through him on a non-returnable basis. Harrison & Warren did this purely as a secondary (or tertiary) source of income. If they really expected Phil's little business to supplant the ID market, they kept quiet about it. Phil did it because he saw an opportunity to replace the business he had done in undergrounds. Phil didn't bother to incorporate until 1975 and continued teaching at least until then.

Maggie Thompson told me that DC's earliest records of selling to Phil date from 1975, so who knows what the financial arrangements were before then. It wasn't until 1980 that Marvel hired someone (Mike Friedrich) to specifically handle the Direct Market and it was probably the late 1980's before direct sales surpassed newsstand sales.

All during this time, the newsstands of America continued to recede into a smaller and smaller market segment for magazine publishers. The National Enquirer became a mass market phenomenon by refocusing on celebrity gossip, adding color, and purchasing supermarket display space. It wasn't that long previously that supermarkets published their own magazines to sell at the check stands. I believe that Family Circle was originally published by A&P.

Supermarkets didn't want merchandise that sold to children, that was hard to police and easily shoplift-able, that was low-priced and low-margin, and hard to keep track of. This continued to leave comics out in the cold. The color-bar coding on newsstand comics was added in the late 70's as a sop to retailers who complained of the difficulty in stripping the right comics.

Now, The question is: now that the big publishers have destroyed the comics retailing trade and the newsstand distribution business has withered away, what could be the future means of distributing comics to potential readers. That is, real, solid, printed bundles of paper, rather than virtual Internet comics.

Even the print-on-demand model discussed elsewhere is not necessarily germane to my question. That's more of a cost ratio question for micro-publishing than a new mass market distribution question.

Have I framed a proper question for debate, here? And does anyone disagree with my analysis of the history?

Jim "doomed to repeat it" Hanley

[This message has been edited by Jim Hanley (edited 09-18-1999).]
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"I love him like a brother. David Greenglass." -- Woody Allen - Crimes & Misdemeanors