Why Comic Book Sales Suck, by Mike Gold

Mike Gold

ComicMix's award-winning and spectacularly shy editor-in-chief Mike Gold also performs the weekly two-hour Weird Sounds Inside The Gold Mind ass-kicking rock, blues and blather radio show on The Point, www.getthepointradio.com and on iNetRadio, www.iNetRadio.com (search: Hit Oldies) every Sunday at 7:00 PM Eastern, rebroadcast three times during the week – check www.getthepointradio.com above for times and on-demand streaming information.

You may also like...

53 Responses

  1. mike baron says:

    Incredible photo.

  2. MARK WHEATLEY says:

    Ah – finally I can save this link and – instead of telling the story over and over (to the general public friends and family) I can just point them here.So – Next week are you going to explain what happened to the railroads?

    • Mike Gold says:

      No brainer. As gas prices escalate, the destruction of the railroad passenger infrastructure will be perceived as one of the dumbest ideas of the 20th century. There's a story circulating around here this morning about how a bunch of northern New Jersey communities want the commuter rail system expanded up into their area. These same communities successfully sued to prevent this very occurrence about five years ago.

      • Matt Mako says:

        Being one of those people in NJ who wanted (and voted for) the old rail road right if way not to be made into another road, because it would be a godsend to have a railroad from South Jersey to NY, even if they don't go much further south. We just need the other towns between us and existing the rail line to do the same thing. Oh well.I think that the multi-issue mega stories, are almost guaranteed to be sold as collections, but if good stories don't survive, because of poor issue sales, these will be the only things in Trade Paperback form, and people will wonder why anyone ever cared about this medium.

  3. Karl Cramer says:

    On Chuck Rozanski's Tales From the Database blog, his entries titled "Evolution of the Direct Market," detailed the shift away from newsstands. Why devote space to comics when magazines sell for more and take up the same space? Comics were in a crisis until the direct market rose up.But as a fan of alternate history, I like to imagine if the direct market never happened. What if, to make a more expensive product worth a distributor's time, comic publishers had bound several comics in one publication? Maybe a Marvel or DC exec took a trip to Japan and saw the success of Shonen Jump.Imagine if DC canceled all of their comics and published two phone book style collections: Action Comics and Detective Comics. Of course, underneath the titles it would proclaim "Featuring Superman" and "Featuring Batman" respectively as the lead comics. Other favorite titles (Justice League, Wonder Woman, Swamp Thing, etc.) would in one book or the other.Like manga, this would've kept comics in mainstream distribution and not relegated to the the stereotyped comic book shops that we know all to well.

  4. Vinnie Bartilucci says:

    Aside from the fact that great strides need to be made in making recreational reading popular again (I am ever reminded of Bill Hicks being asked "What you reading for?" by a waitress as he was perusing a paperback.), I have maintained for years that the key to getting comics sales back up to where they once were is to expand the market. And it's far easier to bring the product to the market than it is to bring the market to the product.Somebody needs to make a deal with Wal-Mart.Put together a line of books just for Wal-Mart. Reprints, new material, it doesn't matter. Give Wal-Mart the back cover for ad space. Make every other ad page an in-house plug. Put a bind-in coupon in every issue offering X% off your first visit to a proper comic shop.The more the industry relies on events and multi-covers to spur sales, the less appealing the whole mess will be to the casual observer.And don't get me STARTED on degitial comic distribution. Leaving money on the table, they are…

  5. John Ostrander says:

    Comic books became a niche market. Of course, one of the things that FED direct sales was the "no return" policy; the retailer bought the copies outright, unlike newstand sales where unsold copies were returnable. All the companies had to print — what — a third more than they were going to sell because of that newstand returnable policy? With the direct market the publishers could just print what was ordered, plus maybe a factored in re-order. Mass distribution of comics was, and maybe is, wasteful from a production and even ecological standpoint.The solution these days? Online delivery. No paper, no ink, no transportation costs, no distributor/retailer costs. The bottom third (half?) of Marvel's and DC's lines could be cut and transferred to online to the benefit of the companies and, I think, the readers since those titles would still survive. Both companies, however, are still slow to do this because, I think, they'd rather crowd each other — and other smaller companies — out at the shelves. They're as slow to adapt now as they were when they needed to up the price from a dime.There is, of course, also the content question. The best Iron Man story we're gonna see this year was at the movies and I'll bet the best Batman story will also be at the movies. A little less continuity, a little less crossover, and a bit more accessible storytelling COULD possibly increase the market for comics. But that's not what the Big 2 do. it's not what they know.Of course, the real purpose of comics these days is not in and of themselves, is it? It's to develop content for other media.Hey, Mike — does this count as my column this week?

    • Vinnie Bartilucci says:

      "Mass distribution of comics was, and maybe is, wasteful from a production and even ecological standpoint."Yeah, I could go for hours down that road…I'm a major supporter of the online model. I really think it's more the legal hassle or re-writing the contracts that has the publishers worried. Much like how the writers walked out over the new media of the internet, I can see the lawyers simultaneously licking their lips and quivering in their booties at the potential legislation that electronic distribution could generate. It is literally the only downside I can see to doing it. I really don't believe it would cause comic shops to go out of business; I see them getting more customers for trades, products, etc from all the new readers of online comics.

  6. Mike Gold says:

    "Hey, Mike — does this count as my column this week?"Nope. You blew it as a response to MY column! Ha!

  7. Russ Rogers says:

    What are the real figures? Does "Average Comic Book Sales" mean the average sales of a single book? That's just a slice of the pie. Or are we talking about "TOTAL Comic Book Sales" per month? In which case, we are talking about the total monthly sales of all comic books from every publisher. How big is the PIE? What is the "Total Number of Different Comics Titles Published in the U.S."? [We won't count variant covers or deluxe compendiums of previously published stuff as unique titles.] How many separate titles are currently published? How many pieces of pie are being served? How does this compare historically? Are there more choices on the U.S. Market today? What is the trend? I want charts and graphs! Are we counting Web Comics in these totals? What are the stats for web comics? How many are published? How many discrete readers are there? What are the stats for ComicMix titles? Have any trends emerged?It would be easy for comics companies to increase their Average Comic Book Sales. Just publish half as many books. Force readers to have fewer choices. Maybe you could bind stories together into massive phone book volumes on cheap paper. That's what the Japanese do with Shonen and Shojo Manga. Shonen Jump sells 3 million copies in Japan. At it's height it sold 6 million!Personally, I have very fond memories of the Superman Family, the Batman Family and the Super-Team 100 Page Spectaculars. You would find a cool main story and then a bunch of strange back up stories. Some were reprints. Others were features with characters that could be more compelling than the main title, but didn't have the following to headline their own book, like Metamorpho, Rose and Thorn, or Manhunter. I miss comics with a back up feature story. I miss when those back up plots and characters would cross over into the main title. Again, it's part of the magic of the crossover.Hell, I enjoyed the experiment of Action Comics Weekly. I even liked the DC Quarterlies, like The Question Quarterly and the Ms. Tree Quarterly. I LOVED "Eclipse Monthly" and "First Adventures." There's a lot to be said for longer, anthology titles. But not even Annuals seem that large anymore.[Somewhere I'm sure I have a Giant Size Man-Thing! And I'll let you chew on that for a bit.]Forcing readers to have fewer choices would raise the "Average Sales Per Comic Book." The PIE of total comics readers would get cut up into fewer slices. While the "Total Comic Book Sales" might drop. The PIE might get smaller. Still, profits might go up, since there is a magic sales figure on any comic where you go from "out of the red and into the black." (They give you this, but you pay for that.) My grasp of economics is limited. My my, hey hey.But the real question is, how do we make the PIE (the TOTAL number of comics readers) bigger so that it won't matter how many times the PIE gets sliced (by the total number of comics published).First, we need to get comics in the hands of children again. There is no way to grow a fan base over time while ignoring children. It used to be that comics were too expensive for kids. But with web comics, expense isn't an issue. Look at "Diary of a Wimpy Kid." The comic remains FREE on the Web! But that hasn't hurt sales of the Bound Books any. I think ComicMix can tap into this market by creating a kid-friendly sister-site, "ComicKids." But … I think there is potential here to find DIRECT sponsorship from some major advertisers. Look at FunBrain or CandyStand.The reason "Archie" comics can sell in grocery stores is this is a brand that families (and retailers) can feel "safe" about without having to worry overly about "mature" subjects or images being presented to children. Nobody's head explodes or gets chopped off. Archie and Reggie drool over Bikini-clad Betty and Veronica. It's not the most progressive image. But Betty and Veronica aren't bound for tentacle rape either. Parents need to have "Safe Brands" that they can shove at their kids without having to pre-read themselves. Maybe there could be something like the "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval" for comics. ;) A general "Code" that comics creators could follow that would help ensure that comics were kid-friendly. Many comics have the phrase, "For Mature Readers" on their covers. Should there be a "General Audience" banner on the G-Rated comics? Should Titles or Individual Issues be rated at all? I'm not insisting that ALL comics be "Code Approved" and "kid-friendly." I'm not saying that "mature audience" titles should be limited to adult sales. I don't want to censor books. And I DON'T want to water down what kids read. Writing a clever, interesting, challenging and compelling "General Audiences" comic might be more difficult. But I'm confident that it can be done. And families and retailers need to have an easy way to recognize what stuff is "kid-friendly."And everything I said about "Kid-Friendly" brands, books and Seals of Approval goes for "Kid-Friendly" web sites as well. ComicMix should have a sister site that could be included in KidZui. A site where smart, professional, kid-friendly web comics could flourish.Second, women. Girls and women. Why are the majority of novels read by women, but the majority of comics are read by men? There is no question that most comics are designed to appeal to male readers first. I think you can find plenty of examples of comics with STRONG female characters, that aren't presented just for their salacious sex appeal, that have built fan followings among women. But those are exceptions to the rule. Let's take DC Comics "Sandman" for example. The stories were sharp, well crafted and didn't make women second tier characters. Death and Thessaly were not second class. Hate to say this, but Lois Lane is generally second tier, second class, a supporting character. Too often her role as a character is just to get in trouble so Superman can save her. In the end that's dull and demeaning. More comics have to be created with women in mind. More genres need to be explored that appeal to women. More women need to be creating comics. More female characters need to be taken seriously and not just used as props and eye candy. "Birds of Prey" seems to be a great success story in this vein. Feminism in comics isn't just about good manners, it's good business.I could go on, but this rant (like many of my ComicMix rants) is overly long and strays from the subject. I beg your forgiveness and indulgence.

  8. russ carreiro says:

    I think its a lot of things, but really to me personally its the cost. I have a great job and my wife has no issues with me buying comics, I have kids that kinda like them, but I basically do not buy them anymore because I think they are a total rip off. You can usually tear through a comic in 10-15 mins and most are 3-5 dollars. Its just not worth it. I wait now to buy them in trade paperback because I can order a few of them at a time from Amazon and save 15-30% or I buy them on ebay when someone is selling a used copy for 5 bucks. I buy a few books here and there but mainly its just to support an art form I love and keep people who I am huge fans of in business. Comics when I started were in the 50 cent range and the bang for the buck was enormous. I could buy them with an allowance given to me by my parents who were poor. Now I take my son to comic book store and we end up spending 50-60 dollars and thats after me putting some of mine back so he can get what he wants. Its just not worth it. Not to also mention that all in all comics are probably not as good anymore even though the stuff at the top probably is just as good if not better than what I grew up on.

  9. Michael H. Price says:

    The self-ghettoizing of comics into a niche market must have seemed like a good idea at the time, of course. And how better to identify a readership than to track it to a certain class of retail store? Hmmm.But wasn't the thrill of discovery a whole lot greater when the comics, even at a shrunken 32 pages, at least seemed to have a place in the mass-marketing scheme? The drugstore and newsstand spinner-racks, even the broad horizontal-display spaces dedicated to comics at the Woolworth and Kress stores, may have been more appealing, to a greater variety of customers, than the most festive comics-only shop. And those displays often stood just a few paces away from a toy department and a phonograph-record counter.

  10. Alan Coil says:

    Agreed that the POTENTIAL market for comics isn't being reached. With a movie like Iron Man making so much money, there must be several million people who bought tickets who might be interested in the comics. If they can't find a place to buy them, however, shame on them. Several retailers take online orders, and a few companies are set up solely to sell comics online.Comic book sales are down because comic book sales are down. Too much time is spent analyzing this, and so little on changing it.DC has around 8 comics every month that are suitable for kids. DC has quite likely been publishing them at a loss, just to try to bolster that market. Yet they are some of the worst selling titles on the market.

    • Mike Gold says:

      There's a difference between "on the market" and "marketing." The low sales of the Johnny DC line are not proof that there's no market for this sort of material — Archie's been out there for about a millennium and Sonic's been a major presence of their line.

  11. Marc Alan Fishman says:

    There's no way I could touch upon the great points all being let out here. I am an optimist though, and an avid reader of comics. The best thing the comic book market can do is continue to evangelize the books. I tell people every day how accessible the books really are. Past that, my little studio's new book covers non-super hero material (not trying to plug it here, just saying…), hopefully increasing the size of the base. Sure, not everyone will be turned into a subscribing fan like me… but with any luck, the medium will thrive once again, for the right reasons. If not, then we know we're still a strong base of fans… and all we can do is enjoy the ride for as long as it lasts.. and hope that the powers that be won't mess it all up.

  12. R. Maheras says:

    I think the fact that comic book companies do not have free comic book giveaways at theaters on the opening nights of their films is nothing short of criminal.

    • Rick Marshall says:

      I couldn't agree more. The opening of the Spider-Man film was actually my first exposure to the Ultimate Spider-Man comic, as they were giving away issues before the film.

      • Alan Coil says:

        Did Marvel give away the comics, or a LCS (Local Comics Shop)?

        • Rick Marshall says:

          Ah. Good point. It was my LCS that was giving them away. And I ended up becoming a loyal customer… go figure.

          • Mike Gold says:

            There are lots of clever store owners out there. Unfortunately, the average profit margin is so razor thin (remember, these books are not returnable; selling out of one title might simply balance the unsold copies of another) that they are severely limited in their promotional efforts — even with co-op advertising from the largest publishers.

          • Mark Behar says:

            Sounds like a lack of innovative marketing initiatives coming from the top at Marvel and D.C. I know that's obviously an oversimplification, but if the medium needs to change or find a new direction, who else could we expect to lead the charge?

          • R. Maheras says:

            Yeah. It is short-sighted, to say the least.Let's pick on Marvel here, for the moment. Based on the printing prices I've seen for mass-produced custom comics, Marvel could ship 1,000 copies of a 24-page promotional color comic to each of, say 3,000 theaters (or 3,000 copies to each of the 1,000 largest market theaters) for probably around $500,000. And while a half million dollars may seem like big dough, it isn't. That's probably what you'd pay for a few fleeting, soon forgotten, prime-time commercials in a major TV market.However, those three million comics Marvel could be giving away on opening night wouldn't be making fleeting impressions at all. They'd grab people's attention, get read and saved, and, like the gift that keeps on giving, they'd continue to make impressions weeks, months and even years after the original promotional period. Show me even one TV commercial that can do that and I'll get off my soapbox about this massive opportunity that all the comics companies are guilty of ignoring.Oh, and to put that promo comics cost into perspective, a major film blockbuster marketing campaign spends in the area of $25 million or more.

          • Alan Coil says:

            Good idea, Russ. Even if it cost a million, it's be cheaper than ads, and, as you note, more lasting.

          • Mike Gold says:

            I missed something here. Who covers the costs of the free comic books? Marvel's publishing division? I don't think they can afford it; if it cost, say, a quarter million to print, ship and distribute (not to mention royalties — and that's only assuming it's a reprint), how do they make it back? Will they get back over a quarter million in additional sales? Where do these new readers go to buy these comics? Damn little out there on too few newsstands, and there are only a handful of comic book stores — some of which are hardly inviting to newcomers. They appear to require a level of commitment.If Marvel Studios would pay for it… well, why should they? They've already sold the ticket. They'll get the moviegoer back for the next flick if this one's any good, or if the next one was a sequel to one that was good. Most people aren't going to pay $10.00 for a movie that they would not have seen anyway just because they get a free promotional comic book.And, to take it in another direction, the exhibitors don't want to sell the things. They make far, far more profit off of a $5.00 bag of popcorn than they would off of a $10.00 graphic novel. They want that $10.00 to be spent on two bags of popcorn.

          • Alan Coil says:

            Mike,Russ said a 24-page giveaway.

          • R. Maheras says:

            My argument is from a publisher's point of view, so I would insist that the promotional comic be part of the studio's marketing program (yeah, even Marvel Studios — after all, it's for the good of Marvel, right?).You see, as a publisher who knows that comic book circulations are shrinking, for the long term good of my company, I know that it is essential that everything I do — every deal I make — must have, at least as one of its goals, an increase in readership.And unlike 20 years ago, I also realize that as long as comic book-related films are making good dough for Hollywood, I have contractual clout, and I can insist the studio marketing program include something that will help put butts in seats AND help the long term viablity of my publishing company — i.e., a promotional comic book.The studio might not like it, and the some of the marketing people might whine, but when you have clout, and your company's long-term future looks hazy, you damn well better use that clout while you can.OK, so now I'm wearing the studio marketing hat. I've got this film coming up that I have to do a promo comic book for, and I want to find a way to cut my costs so I can buy (ugh!) more TV ads. Hey, I've got it! I can find another company to do a film co-promotion with, like McDonald's, Seven-Eleven, the U.S. Army or Pepsi, and they might pick up a considerable part of the cost for some prominent ads.One last thing regarding the issue of customer follow-on strategy, which you raised: Some companies, when they do a promotional pamphlet, save a back page to list regional or national dealers so the customer knows where to go locally to buy the product. These days, it could be a Web address that links to a promo Web page with a ZIP Code search function so the customer can find the dealer nearest to them.

  13. Mike Gold says:

    Alan –I realize that Russ said 24 page package. But most comics stories are 24 pages — if not 22 — so that, to me, would be a promotional comic book.Russ –The sad fact is that comic book publishers have no real clout in Hollywood. DC is a division of Warner Bros (which, in turn, is a division of Time Warner) and they could order DC to put a purple tutu on Batman and have him talk in pig Latin (which, I believe, is the next story arc). Marvel comics and Marvel Studios are owned by the same company: they've already got all the unspoken-for Marvel properties. The fact is, a mildly successful movie based on a comic book — once you're done with the foreign receipts, DVD sales, cable and PPV fees, and the merchandising and licensing generated by the movie — can bring in more pure profit to the corporate bottom line than all the publishing efforts of the publisher that originated the property for the year. By the time all is said and done, the pure profit generated by Iron Man and The Dark Knight combined, again, counting foreign and DVD and all ancillary outlets, will resemble that of a decent-sized nation. Comic book profits are at best a fart in that particular blizzard.

    • R. Maheras says:

      Marvel and DC have more clout than they ever had before, and even Miller has become a force to be reckoned with. Besides, there's nothing inherently wrong with a comics promo for a film — one just has to be able to pitch it effectively and be ready to answer the inevitable criticisms that the (inherently biased) media buyers will throw into the mix.I have mixed feelings about the effectiveness of television advertising. A lot of marketers want to throw all, or most, of the marketing money at TV advertising, whereas I advocate spreading the money around. And in the case of comics-related films or video games, I feel that not promoting one's line of comics along with those spinoff deals is detrimental to the long-term health of one's publishing business. As it is, film studios suck off as much money as they can when making licensing deals, so if I were a publisher and brand manager, I'd get what I wanted in a studio deal or I just wouldn't do it. After all, if, as you point out, I'm going to get financially screwed in a film deal anyway, I may as well get some benefit that will help me sell comics.

      • Russ Rogers says:

        I think the comic book/movie tie in is very good. But I don't think you need to give them away with movie tickets. The swag that comes into theaters gets stolen or mistreated by the Ushers. It's not part of their job description. They resent it.There are always lots of related movie/product tie ins for any expected big premier. Make actual Comic Books part of those. I say make mini-comics part of Happy Meal Toy give aways! Have a coupon code in the Mini-comic that gives customers a 25% discount on a Johnny DC Title subscription. Put comic books "inside" cereal boxes. Each cereal box contains (at least) a coupon with a code that unlocks a web comic version of a title and a Superhero flash video game. The coupon code can also be used to get a discount on a subscription to the comic. Every 25th cereal box contains an actual comic with a collectible variant cover. Every 1,000th box contains a subscription to a comic. Have collectible codes that add up points (like Green Stamps) that can be traded for comics swag, including comics subscriptions. Have those codes on multiple products from coke bottle caps to toys to logo towels and bed sheets. Make getting free subscriptions part of the incentive in buying the Brand.Make this whole advertising campaign part of a greater campaign to promote literacy through comics. Give public schools some incentives to create "Comics Book Clubs." Give out awards for the best run Comics Book Clubs. Make those awards mini media events. Give a token amount to the school's library fund (say $200) and a plaque. Small town papers eat this kind of story up! If you give a school a good looking plaque saying they have an "A+ Comics Book Club" that plaque will get displayed prominently in the schools trophy case. Every parent that sees it will think, "Wow! The school thinks reading comics is a good idea for kids! And they must think reading Johnny DC comics are the best, because it says 'Johnny DC' right here on this plaque!"Scholastic has a line of comics now. They also have ideas on how to use comics as curriculum in classes. Tell schools that for every 10 home subscriptions to Johnny DC titles they can get kids to sign up for (at the "Discounted School Rate"), DC will send the school library a free subscription to a Johnny DC title.I'm just using "Johnny DC" as an example. Marvel could do this with their Marvel Adventures line. Scholastic is already beginning the process of pushing comics in schools. I don't see why Dark Horse, Image, Archie or even ComicMix couldn't put a little thought into how to work their comics into classrooms. I don't know, companies might even be able to write off some of their expenses of promoting literacy in schools as charitable tax deductions! My four year old can recognize Batman, Superman and Spider-man and she is just barely beginning to read. Comics STUFF is pushed on kids at a very young age. We just need to make READING comics an integral part of that advertising PUSH.Look at the success of Webkinz. Make a virtual "Super Pet" world. Have exclussive virtual items that can only be obtained from codes found in comic books. Why re-invent the wheel! Have Webkinz sell Streaky, Krypto and Bat-hound Webkinz. Then have their "Super stuff" be available exclusively from codes inside comics! Virtual Books are available inside Webkinz World, why not virtual Comics! Seriously, my daughter would BUY the comic just to get the code to unlock the same VIRTUAL comic inside Webkinz World.

        • Mike Gold says:

          Isn't DC dropping the "Johnny DC" imprint? Not the books, just the designation. If so, that's a good idea: kids of that age hate to be treated like sub-humans. And, besides, Bob Greenberger's no longer on staff at DC.Actually, he's here, working on a vaguely secret project. And at Famous Monsters, a typical case of typecasting.

          • Vinnie Bartilucci says:

            I don't think they're dropping Johnny DC – just the opposite, Jann Jones has put out a bunch of great new titles under the imprint. Of course, they're still not pushing them at all outside the local comics shop, so their sales are merely OK (mainly due to the creators she's been able to attract to the titles). They should be doing monster numbers, and most of the sales should be in bookstores and other places where kids are actually found.I've heard stories that the Marvel Adventures Spider-Man books are incredibly successfull through subscriptions. To the degree that if those numbers were included in sales figures they'd actually show up on the charts.

          • Mike Gold says:

            Actually, I believe it was Jann who told Adriane and me that the "Johnny DC" name was going away — again, NOT the titles, just the imprint name. I certainly recall launching into my same lame Bob Greenberger joke…

        • Martha Thomases says:

          This may have changed since I worked there, but at the time, DC (and Marvel) wouldn't promote comic book subscriptions because they competed with local retailers. Subscriptions were always sold at full (or nearly full) cover price, so there was no real motivation to subscribe. I can buy Time (for example) at a substantial discount, but not Superman.

          • Glenn Hauman says:

            Considering how DC and Marvel later kneecapped the retailers by realizing they could do second printings and trade paperbacks, that's almost funny.

          • Russ Rogers says:

            Is it retailers that get kneecapped by second printings and trade paperbacks or is it comic book speculators? Speculators want to see books in limited supply. I would think retailers would be happy to have more of what was popular to sell. Am I missing something? How do reprints hurt retailers? Is it that most Comic Book Specialty Stores end up being Comic Book Speculators as well?

      • Mike Gold says:

        You know, one of the most effective things I'd seen recently was the flyer promoting Futurama trade paperbacks in the new D2DVD (which, oddly, I haven't seen yet — too busy watching the Doctor Who finale). That's something that could be done quite easily, quite effectively, and has the added benefit of selling books to people who can't find 'em in the bookstore or don't live near a comic book store, let along one that stocks Futurama in any depth.

  14. Marc Alan Fishman says:

    This may lead to a whole new topic, but I feel the need to be schooled here… What made the boom of the 90s happen? I was a teen at the time, and jumped on the spawn bandwagon (not remembering why) and soon after found Malibu Comics (which is what made me a perm. subscriber). Not that I think the quality of the books were necessarily high… I do recall that books were selling better then then they are now (am I mistaken?) .. but the quality of the books now is far greater than those books in the 90s (in my opinion). So, is/was there anything that could be taken from that boom to help the books now?

  15. Russ Rogers says:

    Having a sub-designation doesn't necessarily mean the books will be sub-par or the readers treated like sub-humans. Look at "Vertigo;" there is an imprint that actually made some impact. "Impact" just seemed to get vertigo. Part of the problem with the "Johnny DC" line up is that it seems to be mostly TV tie in stuff. That's not always bad. I remember how Batman got energized by Mike Parobeck and the Batman Adventures. But you want the comics to be the leaders, not just two-dimensional versions of the TV shows. You don't want to get caught pandering, putting out fluff of filler. Kids titles have to have the same emotional power while maintaining limits on complexity, vocabulary, violence and adult themes. Kids books are easy to write, just a pain in the ass to write WELL. Here's a question, "What Johnny DC titles are ORIGINAL to Johnny DC?" What characters and events under the Johnny DC didn't see their origins from a TV show first or from the adult (i.e. "real") comics version first? Answer: NONE! Yeah, that can make a kid feel sub-human. It can leave the impression that Johnny DC is just offering up the "Knock-off Kiddie Versions" of the REAL thing."Vertigo" started off as the comics that had grown too horrific and grisly for regular DC continuity, it was "Knock-off Mature Content Warning Versions." But over time Vertigo has found it's own identity and sense of balance.Johnny DC titles are available at a discount by subscription. $20 for 12 issues versus $27 regular cover price. That's roughly a 25% discount, a little better than the discount I used to get from my local comics shop. Regular DC Titles are $24 for 12 but have a cover price of $36, so you pay more but get a bigger discount. Here's a guess, the Johnny DC Imprint is going bye-bye just so DC can cancel the money losers and jack the price of the better sellers to $2.99 an issue. Ditching the titles that are money losers makes good business sense. But kids and young girls are the two major markets that can expand DC's fan base. Johnny DC and Minx show a commitment to those markets. Is Minx on the way out too? Ditching Johnny DC just seems short sighted.

    • Alan Coil says:

      "Here's a guess, the Johnny DC Imprint is going bye-bye just so DC can cancel the money losers and jack the price of the better sellers to $2.99 an issue."Have a cynical pill for breakfast? ;) They have been priced at $2.25 for quite some time, so a price change is due, but not to $2.99.Regular comics, however, are sure to be $3.50 an issue by this time next year.

  16. Michael Davis says:

    The reason comic sales suck is because the 'man' is keeping the prices down. As soon as we figured out who the 'man' is we can start to…never mind. I got nothing. I really wanted to chime in and sound really smart like Russ or Gold or Vinnie but I got nothing. Wait a sec…the reason comic sales suck is because of American Express. Yeah-that's the ticket.

  17. Jeremiah Avery says:

    I think that one of the reasons (and there are probably quite a few) that comics aren't going beyond a niche novelty item within other outlets besides the Direct Market is that considering Diamond is the exclusive distributor for most companies (unfortunately); if Diamond won't distribute to supermarkets or Walmart or wherever, then those areas won't be exposed to more comics. I could be wrong, but I figure if a single distributor is dictating how the market is, then things will be stifled.

    • Mike Gold says:

      Diamond doesn't handle the traditional store outlets, as the latter accept magazines on consignment. Newsstand deliveries are made through local distributors who get their magazines through the variety of national distributors. Every newsstand (traditional retail store) magazine has a national distributor, some use additional distributors to get into certain other types of stores — Diamond handles comics shops and certain other types of operations on a non-returnable basis. Diamond also has a bookstore distribution arm.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I believe that the lack of variety in genera in the U.S. comic market is a key contributor to poor "American comic sales" that most Sup-fans don't want to acknowledge. Super-hero comics do not cut it as the "Main Stream" anymore. They really never did. What happened to the adventure comics, the detective/crime comics, SciFi, Horror, Fantasy, Westerns, Romance??? Super-Heros were barely a notch in the belt of the American Comic Industry. Its a limited genera to begin with. Great fun! But taken WAY to seriously today.

    • Russ Rogers says:

      Very true. Comics have been homogenized into mostly the gooey melting pot of Superheroes. There is actually MORE variety than ever before in comics. You just can't find that variety at the local Drug Store. As a general rule: if it's easily available, it's Archie or a Super-hero. There are several "fantasy heroes" here on ComicMix, but few fit easily into the category of the Classic Caped "Super-Hero." I think the closest offerings are Mike Grell's, "Shaman's Tears" or Tim Truman's, "Black Sheep." But those were published by other companies first and are very outside the norm for "Superhero" books. I think ComicMix is doing a whiz-bang-up job of providing a wide variety of genres. I think you will see some detective/crime comics here in the near future with "The Prowler." I've heard (or created) rumors that Max Alan Collins might show up on ComicMix soon. Crime/detective stories are his forte. I would LOVE to see some Westerns or Romance or Horror or a Western/Horror/Romance here too!Personally, I think one genre that is lacking in comics is the "all ages" comic. Both funny books and adventure stories. The closest ComicMix comes to an "all ages" book is Simone and Ajax, which has the look of an Archie Comic, but the sensibilities of a Marx Brothers Movie.

  19. Thelonious_Nick says:

    Lots of good points–but I think I agree most with providing free comic books at movie theatres on the opening weekends of comic-themed movies, with perhaps a list on the back cover of local comic retailers in the area. I've wondered before why comics companies don't do that.As for the cost, when I was a kid I received 16-page mini-comics a couple times at promotional events at a shopping mall. This should cost much less than a full-size comic, I would think. Would it really be such a burden for Marvel or DC to print up 100,000 mini-comics for theatre distribution? Especially since there is likely to be an immediate, short-term boost to sales by doing this.I think doing this would provide a huge service by just making it known that comics are still published. Last April I was talking to an interested co-worker about the upcoming Free Comic Book Day and he had no idea where a LCS was even located in our area.

  20. Anonymous says:

    I do agree with Russ, this has become the least charted entertainment medium in the world. Even Laser Disk sales have a better report for this year, and we don't even use that junk any more! What happened? In the 90's sales are "great"- how great?- "millions"- millions what?- "lots of millions-we rich, we gonna make movie, start toy company, …make tv show." Now "it's bad" how bad? "low, real low". A few months ago, maybe a year, some independents were boasting about breaking 40,000 copies sold. Is that bad? Should it be more? Is it hiring that is "bad"? I'm still seeing racks of books moving every month, but the kids are coming in to really play Warcraft and some latent D&D form game. Many Independents are not folding, so is there hope? What pulled animation and comics in the great depression and yet is totally messing things up now? Is it printing cost? Is it really the size? Cause I gotta tell you video game sales are great,and the size of those boxes they come in are still huge! Reading comprehension is down though. Now video game sales look like they are going to take a down turn, are cheaper book, sales going to go up this holiday season? We have too many loose end questions without a solid answer to any of them, so I guess we are going to have wait for things to get good again before anyone cares, about the actual sales of the medium where most of the great stories are coming from.

  21. Anonymous says:

    PS: for giv my frags!

  22. Andy Fish says:

    This is a great thread– I think comic sales suck for a variety of reasons– Mike's suggestion about the latest Batman story arc is probably not too far off the mark. Comics publishers aren't just shooting themselves in the foot, they are machine gunning themselves in the foot with bad storylines, convoluted extended multi issue crossovers and a package that just isn't equatable when you compare it cost wise to a DVD or a video game. Bad storylines have turned off longtime fans (The insipid Death and Return of Bruce Wayne, Blackest Night/Brightest Day, Civil War) which seem like rehashes over and over again. Isn't it about time for Superman to die again?Comics are dead– long live graphic novels– a category that continues to grow in bookstores and libraries. I think the last and only hope for monthly pamphlets is as e-comics for the iPad and iTouch.

  23. contempted says:

    Kind of a silly piece, going so far back. History is worthwhile, but I think that using such ancient history to make this argument is specious at best. I don’t buy it.

    • mike weber says:

      I figure that you’re about twenty-five years old.

      John W Campbell once said, in a story blurb: “History doesn’t always repeat itself. Sometimes it just screams ‘Why don’t you listen to what I’m telling you?!?’ and lets fly with a club.”

      John Brunner said: “Papa Hegel says we learn nothing from history except that we learn nothing from history. Hegel must have been taking the long view – I know people who can’t learn anything from last Tuesday.”