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Food or Comics | A roundup of money-related items

Final Crisis #5

Final Crisis #5

• Despite a 12-percent gain in December, which bolstered the fourth quarter, sales of periodical comics in the direct market were still down 3 percent for the year. According to ICv2.com, the December increase was due largely to the return of titles such as Final Crisis and Secret Invasion, whose absence in November led to a 11-percent loss.

Sales of the Top 100 graphic novels were up 4 percent in December and for 2008. Brisk sales of Watchmen pushed graphic-novel sales for the second half of the year up 7 percent.

Total sales of graphic novels and periodicals in the direct market were down 1 percent from 2007. [ICv2.com’s December overview; Top 300 graphic novels for December; Top 300 comics for December]

• Rich Johnston reports that Top Cow Productions has laid off Mel Caylo, vice president-sales and marketing, and Rob Levin, vice president-editorial. [Lying in the Gutters]

• Charts guru John Jackson Miller wonders whether all the long lines for The Amazing Spider-Man #583 — that’s the heavily promoted issue featuring Barack Obama — will lift direct-market sales for January, a notoriously tough month for comics. [The Comichron]

• Blogger Louis Holt casts a wider net, asking whether Obama’s appearance in countless titles, from IDW’s Presidential Material to Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon to Rob Liefeld’s Youngblood, can give the comics industry a boost. [ComicBook.com]

• The Los Angeles Times links together a series of comics-related financial items — most of which have been reported in previous installments of “Food or Comics,” and elsewhere — to create some sort of snapshot of an industry beaten down by the economy: store closings, layoffs at Devil’s Due, the cancellation of Wizard’s Texas convention. Tom Spurgeon criticizes the article for a number of reasons, including its shoe-horning of events probably unrelated to the recession. Just as Wizard Entertainment’s problems began well before the economic nosedive, so, too, did Virgin Comics’.

There’s one bit of news to be gleaned from the article, though: At the end, there’s mention that a customer has bought Third Planet Comics & Games in Torrance, Calif., which closed on Jan. 5. The store will reopen with a smaller staff and “stricter standards for ordering.” [The Los Angeles Times]

Update: CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland, who was quoted by The Los Angeles Times, responds to the article in the comments below.

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4 Comments

You know what’s especially amazing about that article in the LA Times? That quote attributed to me? I NEVER said that! I’m quite certain that I didn’t use the word slump in that conversation and I don’t know that I’ve ever used the word “slump” outside the context of a professional sports team experiencing a long drought of wins. I spoke about prudence and caution, but not in that manner.

One thing I tried to stress during my conversation with Tiffany were the circumstances behind some of the challenges the industry was experiencing and how the problems facing Tokyopop, Virgin, Wizard and many others we discussed weren’t only a result of the economy tanking at the end of 2008, but rather many various and sundry other circumstances not directly related to the economy including mismanagement, poor choices and missed opportunities.

I also made it clear that the economy of comics works on a different schedule than that of the greater retail market and that whatever affect the financial crisis — specifically the cratering of such in the third and fourth quarter of 2008 — would be felt on a different time line.

I’m not trying to say that all is OK with the industry, it faces many challenges , but that the hysterical nature of said article is not truly reflective of reality. When the writer came to me for an interview, it was clear her angle on the story was predetermined and I warned her against that, encouraging her to talk with publishers who successfully navigated a challenging retail market in 2008.

When I do interviews of this nature, I generally try to record the conversation with the reporter — with their permission, I’ll add. Unfortunately the day I did this interview I didn’t have my recorder with me and was unable to. I greatly regret that now as I would have loved to post the audio file of said interview.

There was a chosen agenda prior to the writing of this piece and its clear Tiffany never deviated from such.

The L.A. Times? Have an agenda? No way.

That was sarcasm by the way ;)

My experiences in that article mirror Jonah’s…

http://blog.comichron.com/2009/01/la-times-and-recession-narrative.html

To the reporter’s credit, she did run the specific statistics she drew from my site by me for fact-check, and made several of the clarifications and corrections I suggested. The fact that the industry was actually up slightly in the widest category was added in that round. But by the time the process got to me, the direction of the wider piece did seem well established.

John,

I’ve spoken to Mike Richardson as well, who feels the same way you and I did. In fact, I told Tiffany Hsu to contact Dark Horse because as a company they had an excellent 2008, with “Umbrella Academy,” “Buffy,” “Hellboy” and others doing quite well. Mike made that clear, but she chose to ignore it.

It seems a letter to the Business editor of the LA Times is in order. That piece does not reflect the reality of the comics retail industry and the potential for damage is too great to simply let slide.

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