Robot 6

Can all-ages comics survive on the direct market alone?

On the heels of Marvel’s cancellation of the all-ages Thor: The Mighty Avenger, iFanboy’s Jason Wood asks Can the Direct Market Save All Ages Material?

Wood starts off with a little analysis, pointing out that although TMA was well loved by some vocal fans, it didn’t sell well, and in fact, all-ages material doesn’t do well in the direct market. There is also the fact that Thor is not a particularly popular character, and there are a number of other Thor titles on the market. On the other hand, Wood feels that TMA was at least as high quality as the others, and better than some, so why didn’t it sell? A commenter gets to the heart of the matter:

Consider too that Thor TMA is neither in 616 or Ultimates continuity. As much as some hate this fact, if it “counted”, more traditional consumers would have bought it.

You know, I do hate that fact. There’s an element of trying to squeeze a square peg into a round hole here. Most comics shops don’t have a big kid audience, and despite Diamond’s attempt to change that, the fact remains that most comic-shop customers aren’t kids and most kids never go near a comics shop. The direct market does a good job of delivering a specific product to a narrowly defined audience. That audience is not very interested in all-ages comics, and children aren’t interested in complicated continuity. This is a basic structural flaw: You have a huge potential market for these comics, but you are selling them in a place the target customer seldom goes to and may not even realize exists.

This is not to beat up on retailers. The simple fact is that many communities don’t have a comics shop, and where they do exist, most people don’t know they are even there. That right there is a huge limit on the potential audience. Add to that the fact that many shops won’t carry the comic anyway, precisely because their audience is so tightly targeted (and because of nonreturnability). As Zack Kruse, marketing director for DCB Service/Instock Trades, says in the article,

The problem is what direct market participants KNOW they can sell often leaves things that CAN/WILL sell left behind—particularly if the shelves are already saturated with a particular character, company, event, or it’s a heavy month of ordering, or whatever. The quality of the book, or even the perceived quality of the book, is, as you know, in no way an indicator of how it will perform in the direct market.

Children’s comics sell well in other venues. Wood and his commenters point to the success of Archie comics, but they do well precisely because they are not restricted to the direct market; Archie comics are in bookstores and at supermarket checkouts. Manga is another example; even at the height of the manga boom, most titles sold miserably in the direct market but went like hotcakes in bookstores (i.e., stores children actually go to). Scholastic sells a ton of graphic novels at their book fairs. There are direct market retailers who choose to make their stores welcoming to children and parents; Wood turns the floor over to one such retailer, Patrick Brower of Challengers Comics + Conversation, who has made it work:

So here’s my point… on December 8th when the Thor Mighty Avenger trade paperback comes out, we’ll rack it in our all-ages section and watch it sell 3 times what it would in the regular Marvel graphic novel section. All ages comics CAN exist and prosper in the direct market, but they have to be marketed to the customer as such. And by the retailer, NOT by the publisher.

But what Brower seems to be saying is exactly the point made above: He will sell Thor: The Mighty Avenger to children and their parents, not to the core comics-shop customers, the ones he has in common with all other comics shops. Truly kid-friendly comics stores are to be commended—I love them, myself—but their shoulders are not broad enough to support an entire line of comics.

Brower brings up another important point: Even in a comics shop, in the all ages category, graphic novels outsell single-issue comics. Again, there’s a culture clash: The Wednesday crowd, pre-ordering from Previews, coming in regularly to get a small bite of a larger story, versus kids who aren’t interested in going through a whole procedure to get their comics, and who like a lot of story in a single chunk. Spinner racks were great when every issue of Superman had three complete stories in it; they don’t work for long story arcs, though, because it’s too easy to miss an issue. That is the comics shops’ strength. The logical thing with a comic like Thor would be to release it straight to trade, with an attractive trade dress (not those white-on-black spines that all look alike) and sell it in chain bookstores, comics shops, book fairs, and anywhere else that will take them. But comics marketing seems to all be geared in a single direction, toward the narrower path.

Ultimately, this is Marvel’s loss. They have a Thor movie coming out next year, and some young people will love the story enough to seek out comics shops, where they will have a choice between some complicated, bloody story they can’t understand (and their parents will snatch out of their hands anyway) or a few faded year-old issues and trades of a story that ends too soon. It doesn’t have to be this way. The direct market can suport all-ages comics. It just can’t do it alone.

News From Our Partners

Comments

56 Comments

While I did not order Thor: The Mighty Avenger through DCB Service (my only option as the nearest comic shop is a 2 hr. plane flight away… or 3 days by ferry), but I might had picked it up had I seen it at the local grocery store or even out recently opened independent bookstore.

I have long contended that if our local grocery stores hadn’t carried comics when I was growing up (’70′s and ’80′s) I would never have developed my love of comics, because I can guarantee if there had been a comic shop here my parents wouldn’t have taken me there for a casual visit.

Both companies need to market their All-Ages titles to newsstands and grocery stores, if only to reach the next generation of fans… they already lost my step-kids.

Simple answer.
No.

As long as comic books will be available (brick & mortar) at Comic Shops only, children (or to be more accurate, their parents who buy the books) will not go out of there way or try to track down a comic shop to buy their kids a comic.

It’s been my experience that the gateway for kids to comics is other people who read comics. I don’t think I’ve met any comic reader who, by completely independent action, decided to read comics. I think the closest thing to that are people who were inspired by related movies and TV. And the typical comic fan isn’t telling his friends or his little brother to read all ages stuff. When I have an opportunity, such as a kid’s b-day party or something, of a nephew or niece, I go the all ages route for gifts, but that isn’t an appreciable opporunity to support that market by and large.

Axon, you may be right, but I also think it helps for the comics to be accessible. Whenever my parents took me shopping, I would head for the spinner racks to check out the comics. I’m not sure who turned my daughters on to manga, but they took off on their own because they could easily find the comics in bookstores (which are easy to get to, and which I’m happy to go to anyway because I sit in the comfy chairs and have a coffee and look at the grownup books). Comics are a multi-generation habit in my family, but if I had to drive to an out-of-the-way store to get them, we simply wouldn’t have gone that often.

I echo what James and Brigid say about alternative markets. Drugstores, Supermarkets, etc, but the article itself makes an excellent point about going straight to trade.

There are some books – ESPECIALLY books aimed at younger readers – that would simply do better as straight spined books rather than serializations. If Marvel set about creating strong, stand-alone books or book series in the scholastic vein for each of their core characters and marketed those primarily to bookstores, they’d likely make just as much money as they would were the titles successful as direct market periodicals. There seems to be this grasping on the part of the big 2 (and, to be fair, they are not the only offenders here) to try and shoehorn specific demographics into their format (the floppies) rather than tailor the format to the dictates of the market. Kids, especially younger kids, are nuts for the well-done books. Bone. Smile.

If there could be one solid Spider-Man book, one solid Thor book, one solid Iron-Man book – the origin and an adventure – those could serve as a springboard for other titles in the same character line, BY THE SAME CREATIVE TEAM. Get some consistency, and get those kid readers, and be equipped to have a product specifically designed to roll off the popularity of films, etc.

Beyond the incredible creators involved in Thor: The Mighty Avenger, one thing I love about the comic is the same thing I love about the Joss Whedon/John Cassaday Astonishing X-Men: the story acknowledged the past of the character(s), but it wasn’t a slave to it.

Continuity is fine and, clearly, it matters to a great deal of comic book customers, but I would take good, stories over continuity, any day of the week. And Thor: The Mighty Avenger presented a good story every month.

If this had been called “ASTONISHING THOR” would it have sold better? Calling a book “all-ages” reminds me of when every was sticking “adventures” either before or after a title thinking that would work.

Its such a shame that publishers have made the titles grow up with the readers rather than create titles for older readers. They are often like film companies that think if I add some swear words and get a PG-13 rating MORE kids will come.

Truth is the market would have welcomed this book with open arms a few years ago and Marvel thanked in praise and sales. Now it was just another THOR SAUSAGE.

Marvel seems much quicker to give the axe to comics (all ages or not) than DC. I can’t believe DC titles such as Looney Tunes, Cartoon Network’s Ben 10, or Scooby Doo do THAT much better than TMA–or even Hawkeye & Mockingbird for that matter.

This column pretty much nailed why T:TMA didn’t sell well (the book being out of continuity,way too many Thor books currently being put out,and Thor not being all that popular).

As for the question of whether or not all ages comics can sell in the DM, the answer is a big “YES”. Here’s the thing that many pros,fans,and retailers either don’t know or want to admit, up until Quesada became EIC the over whelming majority of Marvel superhero comics were LAYERED all ages comics that could be read by anyone. Those books also regularly outsold the more “mature” DC superhero comics. Those LAYERED all ages Marvel comics sold well because they (a) didn’t announce to their readers and the retailers that their books were written and drawn in a LAYERED all ages manner with strict and consistent guidelines on language,violence, and sex in their books (b) were not over sanitized and sugar coated (c) did not talk/write down to the readers (d) had more action and less talking heads (e) delt with mature subject matter in a tasteful and subtle LAYERED all ages manner and (f) the books (no matter how dark some of them would get) were still fun and upbeat and did not decend completely into a self loathing naval gazing emo fest.

Gotta agree with the posters who said these comics don’t make it to enough venues. 7-11, spinner racks at Walden Books and B. Dalton, drug stores…if not for those places when I was a kid, I would not have gotten into comics, period!

That and I could go into a 7-11 with a $5 a week allowance and pick up 4 or 5 comics at a time…

See if I KNEW the book was out of continuity I may have checked it out. I don’t think this is a sign that out of continuity books don’t sell, Superman Earth One just did well enough to make the writer leave monthlies, All Star Superman (and Batman and Robin for that matter) sell quite well, What If? and Elseworld stories typically do pretty well, and there are many more examples.

Really the book failed because it wasn’t seen as anything more then another Thor title when there’s several more coming out each month.

“Both companies need to market their All-Ages titles to newsstands and grocery stores, if only to reach the next generation of fans… they already lost my step-kids.” quote taken from post by James Elkins.

As far as I’m concerned: ’nuff said.

I have to agree that you can’t expect younger audiences to buy books in places where younger audiences don’t shop. When I see do see kids in a comics shop–which is very rare–they’re either there because their PARENTS are buying comics or to buy game cards and high tail it out of there as fast as they can.

For awhile, I was reading Marvel Adventures Spider-man and a few other titles in that line, and thought they were fun reads. Not so much “kiddified” as simply “old school” books, IMO. I would say they were more in spirit with the various Marvel animated shows–like Spectacular Spider-man, Wolverine & the X-Men, and the new Avengers cartoon–than anything else…

I still miss comics not being available in newsagents, as they were when I was growing up and developing a keen comic habit.

Keeping comics semi-secret in a comic shop-only ghetto has harmed the industry – and it’s led to a bizarre mindset in which publishers really think $3.99 is a realistic price point. Try that in the big wide world…

I suspect the answer to the headline question relies on some assumptions:

a) Was it ever really an ongoing series? The first trade is out soon and collects the first 4 issues and a few other Thor-related bits and bobs. What goes into this book was known long before the cancellation was announced and 4 is an unusual number for a trade of something that isn’t a 4-issue mini-series. It seems more likely this was an 8-issue limited series announced as an ongoing (to get around people’s reluctance to pick up mini-series), with an option to make it an ongoing if the sales were strong, which they weren’t.

b) Was the Direct Market the target audience? The timing of the glut of Thor titles suggests Marvel had a plan to make sure there were Thor “graphic novels” in the bookstores as the publicity for the film really got rolling. The New York Times Graphic Books List has show that trades that films (or TV shows in the case of The Walking Dead) were based on do very well indeed from the point the big announcements (and especially the trailers) begin. Granted there is no one specific book this film is based on, so Marvel have put out books to appeal to a range of readers and it isn’t a big risk because they’ve serialised the books as comic books first so a lot of the production costs will have been covered (even with relative low sellers like TtMA), so they are not going to lose money and, if the strategy works, they could be in a position to make some serious cash from.

There has been a lot of head scratching about the vast range of Thor books that were recently released but it is only a mystery when looked at from the perspective of the comic book fans who assume Marvel are making a short-term cash grab milking the diminishing fan-base. It does make sense if Marvel were playing a longer game aimed at book buyers – they haven’t missed their target audience, that audience is only just starting to form. It’ll be interesting to keep an eye on the sales closer to the time of the film’s release to see if this works or not.


Also on this:

“It’s been my experience that the gateway for kids to comics is other people who read comics. I don’t think I’ve met any comic reader who, by completely independent action, decided to read comics.”

It may be an age/region thing but people of my generation got into comics pretty independently because they were available in newsagents. I know that is how I started and as far as I can recall most of the people I became friends with at school because of our shared love of comics, had parents or older brothers and sisters who were into comics. Trips to comic book shops were very rare treats, which I used to fill in gaps in my collections.

The reason more kids don’t buy comics is because they’re not sold in bookstores and grocery stores anymore. The reason bookstores and grocery stores don’t carry comic books is because they don’t sell.

It’s some sort of crazy cycle.

Only a human comic book fan would suggest that publishers need to market their product to main street vendors. Do you really think that your average kid could sense of either dc or marvel continuity? I am billions of years old and I have no many idea how many kids wolverine has. Earth comic book publishers need to halve their output and double the quality of what remains.

Piggybacking off of what Emperor said (but taking it in a direction he wasn’t going, which is pro-article-conclusion):

I think Marvel made the first trade 4 issues of the series, plus some additional stuff, because they know that all ages stuff moves more copies in GN form. They wanted to get it to market as quickly as possible…and then apparently decided that sales of the singles were a big enough indicator to encourage canceling it now.

Well, that was the Thor book I was buying. My niece was actually starting to enjoy it too. She likes Wonder Woman, from the cartoons and television show. I got her reading some of Gail Simone’s work, and she enjoyed it; but the she thinks the current story “Isn’t bright and WONDERful enough for her.”

When I started reading comics, there was a drugstore down the street that I would go to. They had mostly all of the Superman titles and some Batman at the time. The Death of Superman was my first major introduction to the character. The Lois and Clark show was second. I’ve been hooked since, and no one ever introduced me to them. I just found Superman.

There needs to be more options for young kids. Not condescending stuff, just comics in a place where kids can find them and enjoy them.

My brother was a comic collector and I was never allowed to look at his comics so that made them even more enticing to me. It was the late 70′s so you had a Superman movie, a Hulk TV show, Spider-Man and Captain America tv movies, and a Super Friends cartoon (not to mention Batman in reruns). Comics were in 7-11s and other stores. I saw a G.I. Joe ad on tv for the the first issue of the comic and bought it at a local drug store. I eventually became a monthly fan of many comics.

With the cartoons, movies, video games, and such kids should have accessibility to comics at places they go to often and they would buy them. Price may be an issue but availability is a bigger one.

This is just a pointless discussion

Agree with the others that DC and Marvel could stand to put more of their comics on sale in places the general public (vs. hardcore superhero fans who’ll buy the latest Batman no matter what), such as bookstores, newsstands, etc. It works well for Archie and manga… why not Superman and the Hulk?

That said, it’d also help for DC and Marvel to publish a wider variety of material if they’re going to do that—either more family-friendly material (i.e. stories where the Joker *isn’t* trying to one-up Idi Amin’s level of carnage) and/or publishing some of the genres they used to put out, but are now left for dead by them (teen humor, funny animals, adventure, science fiction, etc.) in favor of narrowly focusing on only superheroes and “mature readers only” stuff. Maybe another reason manga took off the way it did—they publish the genres (humor, romance, etc.) DC and Marvel *used* to…

I started reading comics by buying them at newsstands, later moving to comic shops, but only once our town actually got such a shop. Nowadays, I go to a shop near my house, but they don’t carry everything I want (Archie, for one), so I still go to Barnes and Noble for a few items.

These kind of books need to be available in locations away from the regular DM stores to get that elusive “new generation of comic readers” into the hobby.

Gotta echo the above sentiments of many posters–Without comics in the 80s/90s being available in 7-11, am/pm, Safeway, etc. I probably wouldn’t have ever gotten into comics. I loved the X-Men cartoon, but the fact that I could go buy an X-Men comic while running errands with my mom sure helped get me into the print medium. Other wise it might’ve been just another Saturday morning cartoon fix.

Hell, I remember even being able to go to a Pay Less Drug Store (before Rite Aid–remember those?) and buying one of those random 4 packs of comics all from one publisher.

As someone who grew up with a brother who collected comics and a neighborhood corner store that sold them, I agree with many points already made. Comics in general need to be offered to a wider distribution. However, I think there are some other issues to be considered as well …

Why does a comic have to be labeled “All-Ages” to be considered such? As a kid of the ’70s and ’80s, I grew up with Batman, New Teen Titans, Detective Comics, Amazing Spider-Man, Uncanny X-Men, and a plethora of other titles. These were all the mainstream for the time and some, like New Teen Titans, even made the jump to the direct market. However, there wasn’t that much that veered a shop owner from letting a kid get the comics he wanted to read.

These days, however, the stories are a bit grittier and, in some respects, a little too mature for kids. Sure, you have the “All-Ages” comics … but, I guess my query is what happened to the main titles being a bit more “All-Ages”? I have to admit that the Marvel titles like Spider-Man Adventures or X-Men First Class were a neat idea, but some of the comics seem a bit dumbed down for younger children. How about intelligent storylines that are written with respects to any age reading them in the mainstream comics? Wasn’t this the reason for Vertigo and Max branding?

Of course it would be better for comics to be sold at grocery stores etc., but I think Marvel and DC are doing a decent job of trying to get comics into kids eyes. Every Borders I’ve been to has a comics rack. Toys R Us has added a comics rack into its toy sections (right next to the action figures).

To me that seems like an improvement over the last few years, especially the Toys R Us deal.

I get all the underage comics for my kids. Brave and Bold, Tiny Titans, Superhero Squad. I would have bought this as well had I known this was an all age comic book. When I saw this book I don’t remember there being any indication what this book was. I just assumed this was a regular Thor comic that Marvel put out to tie into the bazillion Avengers books that are out there, and now that I’m avoiding everything that is some kind of huge crossover I skip it.

Why in the world would Marvel not advertise this series in Superhero Squad? I’m not saying that doing so would have saved the title, but at least anyone who bought other all ages comics would know about this one.

lets be real here

November 21, 2010 at 12:37 am

KIDS dont read comics. PERIOD.

The FEW kids that do– all gravitate to the mindless hard core violence and T&A that is produced for older NERDS.

The RANDOM children that drag a parent into a shop- are NOT regular customers ( semi regular at best) and what the parent buys them is just to shut the child up and not continuous.

Mom & POP comic shops are just about non existant.
The ECONOMYhas killed them.
But MARVEL has single handedly killed the pockets of retailers

Take into consideration that “wait for the trades” and SAVE MONEY by getting said trade from amazon.
Also there is the DIGITAL movement of ALL print & media to our IPADS.

DC comics cant even sell their line without lowerng the prices ( still too high a $3)
MARVEL zombies ONLY can afford Marvel anyway.

I think the idea of “all ages is good” but a JOKE in todays world.

I think ads in comics are kind of a forgotten practice. I started reading the X-Men because of ads in the G.I. Joe comics. I’ve read where Marvel believes that ads for under selling comics are just a waste of space. As with Spider-Girl and Thor TMA, word of mouth can only go so far.

“All Ages” doesn’t have to mean “kids only”. Plenty of comics I grew up reading had similar stories to today’s yet I would not mind giving them to my nephews to read- they just didn’t have swearing, sexual references or gore; you don’t need those for a good story.

I definitely agree that if comics are to survive, they need to get out of shops and back in the public eye… the problem is, do other kinds of stores even want them?

I don’t get Marvel’s handling of the Thor comics. Sure, I expected a swath of them to come out, but only AFTER the movie- and even then only if the movie doesn’t tank, something we don’t know yet. All these titles at the same time just water things down.

Oh and by the way, when are people going to stop whining about comics not selling “because they don’t count?” Who is it that establishes their continuities, and in fact have been selling them on that basis for decades now? I don’t recall any voting on the matter. Sure I love continuity (and I think kids can handle it better than people think- if they handle the labyrinths that are Pokemon or Magic: The Gathering, they sure can handle Marvel or DC) but comics sold for decades without it and were pretty good too. So STOP BLAMING US.

I remeber a time when all-ages comics did quite well in both the direct and newstand markets. From the 1930′s through the early 90′s. Except they weren’t called “all-ages comics”.

Just “comics”.

I think it shows just how low the creative ability of comic book writers has sunk. When I was 8 years old, I didn’t need a dumb-down version of Thor or Spider-Man. I could read and enjoy the same comics my 30 year old uncle read.

The reason I didn’t buy it is because it wasn’t Thor. It was yet another re-designed character. His design was not appealing, especially that helmet. The art wasn’t that great either, but I could have gone along with it if not for that stupid helmet of his.

Older readers are asking for comics they can enjoy, too– we don’t like the gore and arms being ripped off. I have absolutely stopped buying DC comics because of this.

Thor the Mighty Avenger could have been a comic I enjoyed. Its execution was so bad I couldn’t stand it.

Another problem– if we’re worried about continuity– is releasing these titles in a vacuum. The whole strength of Marvel is its group of characters and their interaction. Not necessarily as a team, but as a universe. If Thor the Mighty Avenger were drawn like Thor, the Kirby/Buscema version, and if it were one of about 8 titles that prominently featured the classic Marvel characters, it would have done better.

Saber Tooth Tiger Mike

November 21, 2010 at 11:36 am

” If Thor the Mighty Avenger were drawn like Thor, the Kirby/Buscema version… it would have done better”
It doesn’t need to look retro, it just needs to be drawn well. It needs a dynamic lettering that on the cover. It needs to compel a viewer to pick it up. The color of the word Thor on the background is nearly the same color as the mountains, which make up the majority of the background…what happened to quality control with the cover? For some reason, the Big Two, but Marvel in particular always assign their weakest artists to their “kiddie” titles. Their attempts outside the direct market are EITHER half-hearted (Regulation may prevent them from actually marketing semi-violent characters to children) or incompetent (They don’t know how to market anything to children anymore ) . The sad thing is that foreign comic book companies(Asian) and creators can circumvent all these problems of being half-hearted and incompetent.

“my query is what happened to the main titles being a bit more ‘All-Ages’ ? ”
. It’s been noted before that any attempt that Big Two would make to gain new readers, particularly Marvel, would alienate the Direct Market. Writers like Mark Millar, Jason Arron or Kevin Smith are important to helping the current fanbase rationalize their continuing of reading material originally intended for kids.

Mark Millar, Jason Aaron, & Kevin Smith

three writers I avoid like the plague

add Jeph Loeb, Geoff Johns & JT Krull to the list, and you got a full house

“It doesn’t need to look retro, it just needs to be drawn well.”

Nearly all super-heroes are retro. All the popular ones at Marvel and DC are. While I will agree they all need to be drawn well, the first part of your statement has no meaning. Even Wolverine is 40 years old! Spider-Man’s black costume is 20 years old. Looking retro has to do with fashions in the real world. What’s funny is that Wonder Woman’s “new” costume looks like it’s from an out-of-date fashion trend.

Thor’s current helmet, no matter what book you look at, is horrible. In his main book, the piece that comes down between his brows look idiotic. In THOR THE MIGHTY AVENGER, it looks like a little cap with wings on it. It looks like he should be drinking beer and driving a pick-up truck. He’s been in Oklahoma too long.

My wife’s little brother wants to read my comics and then I think of arms getting ripped off in the DCU or Ares getting ripped in half or Iron Man asking Captain America and Thor is they nailed Hellcat when she was an Avenger…Nothing necessarily wrong with some of that graphic stuff if it happened off-panel but the conversation read more like an issue of the Ultimates (where I wouldn’t have had any problem with it).

Growing up, I loved super-heroes but looking back, I know my parents (and probably most parents) would never ever buy me a single comic book, costing $6 AUS. It just wouldn’t be worth it, to pay that money, have me read it once and then need to buy subsequent issues each month. It would be easier to buy a $15 toy that I would play with multiples times.

I have seen Marvel comics in Borders, in the kids section with the kids magazine and Archie comics. The problem is the price tag of $17AUS for a single issue (apparently import fees), no parent, or anybody, should ever buy that.

So many points to be made here about how to “hook” the next generation:

First of all, I certainly have no objections to finding places outside of the direct market. Like others, my first memory of comics is of seeing one of those beautiful four-color covers while picking up a candy bar and a slurpee at my neighborhood 7/11. Of course, is that a culturally relevant model at this point? Do kids go to the corner store to hang out any more? A model that emphasizes digital access might be a better approach, but that is a discussion for another day. That being said, I still believe that All-Ages can be successful in the direct market.

Price point is key. It was easy to get into comics when I was making a 50 cent investment. Asking a kid to drop $3.00 (or $4.00 or $7.00) on something that looks “interesting” is a harder sale. Publishers ought to be willing to take a monetary hit in exchange for building their market. If a comic was published similar to what I had in my childhood (newsprint,etc.), the comic could be sold for a $1.00 and get some new fans. Also, what happened to the back issue bins? Comics that aren’t sold, should be thrown into a box and sold for a quarter to fifty cents. As is usually the case, offering a deal is a good way to get people to bite.

If we are talking about how to get young people to read comics, I think we have to acknowlege the role of other forms of media in the process. There is just nothing like Saturday morning cartoons anymore. The Super-Friends are single-handedly responsible for me falling in love with comics, and I hope that Batman: The Brave and The Bold, Young Justice, and Super Hero Squad are doing their part in the lives of future collectors. Movies, internet, and other types of media are important players in bringing kids into the fold as well.

“Spinner racks were great when every issue of Superman had three complete stories in it; they don’t work for long story arcs, though, because it’s too easy to miss an issue”. Which is why, not to open another can of worms, that decompression is an issue to address. Forget “kiddie comics”, I would like to be able to buy my comics and get a complete story in them! Certainly it would not be too great a challenge to create a comic that was appropriate for children to read that had a clear beginning, middle, and end.

Also, add me to the list of voices who think the “all-ages” comics were better when they were just called “comics”. Maybe we would have more kids reading comics if we didn’t shuffle them over to a corner of the LCS where “their” comics were. Millar, Aaron, and Smith can still write. We’ll just put a label on those comics (Not All-Ages) and place them over in a corner and we adults (who will show up for those titles no matter what) can find them without problem.

If we do this, we will also solve the problem that others have mentioned, namely the perceived lack of quality in the all-ages products. Now, I believe that anyone who receives a paycheck from DC or Marvel to draw a comic book is of top quality (because they have far more talent than I ever will), but their is a noticible difference between the art on Thor: The Mighty Avenger and what one might find in an issue of New Avengers or Captain America. When I was a kid, though, I could read just about anything George Perez or Neal Adams had a hand in, and they are some of the greatest artists ever.

Anyway, this comes across as alot of nostalgia, and there is probably a fair amount of that, but I hope that publishers and LCS’s find ways to reach out to younger readers.

Kids have $700.00 cell phones with unlimited texting plans now, I don’t think the $5 allowance thing actually applies to anybody anymore. Comics, especially the all-ages one, do need to be cheaper though but I’m not sure it’s possible for individual monthlies.

While the deck is certainly stacked against all-ages books in the direct market, let’s not forget that the book ran, what, 5 issues before cancellation? Not exactly much time to get a foothold.

I missed the first two issues, picked up the third one, and now consider it the best book Marvel’s putting out.

For God’s sake, couldn’t they have at least waited to see sales on the first trade?

Cost has EVERYTHING to do with it. I have a Boy Scout Troop of 22 guys,age range 11-16. One buys,2 others read comics. The one that buys actually gets them for half price at a local book store. Not COMIC book store, just book store. 2.99 is way too much! I have boxes of them from the 80′s and 90′s that I bring to the meetings a couple a times a year and sell them to the guys interested for a quarter @. Books need to get back to being disposable and made with cheaper paper. 2.99 is too expensive. People would pay one dollar at most for this sort of thing. I stopped buying them at 1.25 and I thought that was crazy high!
Cheaper paper(Newsprint)cheaper staff,and much lower prices!

This gets mentioned everytime there’s a “let’s get new readers into comics” discussion, but switching to newsprint would not actually save very much money, if any at all. It certainly wouldn’t cause the prices to drop down to the levels they were at 20 or 30 years ago. It’s like arguing that if Coke went back to glass bottles, they could sell them for a nickel again.

Yup. Kids don’t read comics. They don’t read Bone, or Smile, or Magic Trixie, or Garfield, or Calvin and Hobbes. Those millions of copies are collecting dust on library shelves.

Kids don’t read comics?
Do you mean to tell me that you have tried to get a kid to read a comic book, and he or she refused?

Libraries all over this nation are using comics to lure kids who don’t like to read into libraries.
A school library in Ontario created a “boys club” where boys received secret invitations to the library and got to read new graphic novels before anyone else. Those boys were quiet and enraptured reading those comics!

Problem #1: Marvel will not publish original graphic novels. It’s all about the monthly issues. Had T:TMA been published as a 96-page digest, priced at $7.99, it would have sold. Librarians would have seen the reviews and ordered it, kids and parents would see it in the bookstores, and the comics shops with a decent kids section would have ordered it as well. At digest size, two pages could be drawn on one board, cutting production costs.

Problem #2: Marvel knows who subscribes to each title they publish. Did Marvel send a review copy along with that month’s issue of MA Spider-Man and MA Superheroes and Thor? Did they send a review copy to every library which subscribes to Marvel comics? Did they offer a special subscription rate? Did they try to publish the magazine for twelve issues, using the subscriptions and DM sales to subsidize production until the two or three collected editions could be published? Did they partner with Disney Publishing Worldwide and try to market this series to Disney subscribers who fit a certain demographic profile?

Easy Solution: Create a blanket “Marvel Adventure Comics” title. Within that title, Marvel features comics about whichever media darling they want to exploit. Or they run two general stories, like Super Hero Squad. Each issue is done-in-one. The series runs forever, and Marvel uses it for a shell to run stories like T:TMA. Publishing a longer mini-series? Maybe a “Marvel Adventures Presents” comic, just like the old “Marvel Comics Presents” with four eight-page stories, a few of which are serialized. Heck, call it “Marvel Comics Presents” (to avoid the “all ages” taint) but make sure the stories inside are accessible. Lower page rates but higher book royalties if collected.

Use this series to develop new talent and properties (like Gravity).

More difficult solution: Day and date all “Adventure” comics. Digital copies ship the same day paper comics do. Promote comics shops via the digital comics.

This article brings to light a very important fact. That the mass market reader is all too often forgotten in the rush to produced, for want of a better term,what we will call the “ultra done” product. If the direct market continues to lose the mass market, by it’s continual failure to integrate the “impulse spontaneous” product…and all the atractive by-products of it’s brand of consumer, which can also build the mass market consumer into a direct buyer—all will be lost. It may take a while, but the comic book will be dead, at least as we know it.
(Please note that I am not saying visual complexity is bad—but too much is getting overdone, and it is just getting too redundent in relation of the products we really need to grow the field. People that know my work outside of comics know I can get VERY graphic and detailed…You can’t get more graphic than illustrating medical proceedures like brain surgury, skin infections, etc…But we have to think of a common denominator that will grow all facets of the overall market.)

I just bought a LOCAL newspaper at .50 cents. 22 pages. Most black and white. .50 cents. Had a full page of comic strips. This not only works using cheaper pulp paper, this local paper has a subscription of only 30,000 people. Thats not alot of profit there, but they have been going(SOLO) for 80 years. It would drop prices down to 30 years ago! Let’s do it Marvel? DC? “Let’s get readers back into reading comics” by doing this.

Up until soon after the direct market almost ALL comics were all ages. Maybe returning to that model would be the way to go.

I think it shows just how low the creative ability of comic book writers has sunk. When I was 8 years old, I didn’t need a dumb-down version of Thor or Spider-Man. I could read and enjoy the same comics my 30 year old uncle read.

I agree. They had a few kiddie comics like “Spidey” or Superfriends” but I didn’t really care for them.

“I just bought a LOCAL newspaper at .50 cents. 22 pages. Most black and white. .50 cents. Had a full page of comic strips. This not only works using cheaper pulp paper, this local paper has a subscription of only 30,000 people. Thats not alot of profit there, but they have been going(SOLO) for 80 years. It would drop prices down to 30 years ago! Let’s do it Marvel? DC? “Let’s get readers back into reading comics” by doing this.”

The economics of publishing a local newspaper and a comic book are very different. How much of the newspaper’s content comes from someplace like AP, as opposed to inhouse staff? How much is ads?

In his latest column, Jason Aaron said that a typical starting rate for writers at Marvel/DC is $90/page. That means that at least $1800 has to go to the writer, probably at least twice that for the artist. Then once you start looking at editorial staff, printing and shipping costs, the split with the distributor and the retailer, it starts to add up really quickly. If comics sold for $0.50 again, or even $1.00, how many copies would have to be sold to make a profit? 100,000? Under those circumstances, a comic like Thor the Mighty Avenger would have never even been greenlit. Marvel and DC would only be publishing sure things because the risk would be so high.

And lowering prices like that might work if there were a guaranteed massive influx of new readers almost immediately. But how would that work? Marvel and DC couldn’t keep publishing at this low price for the months and maybe years it would take to build up new readership. It’s not going to be as simple as putting out a press release saying “Marvel and DC drop their prices to 1981 prices!” That’s not going to make my neighbor or my wife all of sudden decide they want to read ‘Green Lantern’ comics.

There’s been a lot of talk about ‘when I was a kid’ on this thread. That’s probably the one thing that’s damaging comics as an industry. Kids today are different than when I was a kid, or you were a kid. Whenever I hear people complain about the price of comics being too high for the $5 allowance, it reinforces this. Most kids don’t have a $5 allowance; they’re buying video games, Manga, even stuff like Magic cards. The hurdle for comics is not just the price: you could lower them to a dime and some kids still wouldn’t be interested in them. And part of the reason that kids aren’t interested in them is that the two major comics companies don’t cater to them. They cater to the kids of 1980, of 1992, who are now grown men who still read them. What comics are kids reading now? Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Bone, Naruto. If Marvel and DC were really interested in selling to younger readers, they look at the successes and see what worked (primarily you’ll notice that they’re all graphic novels, not single issues) In other industries, people take their cues from what their target audience is into now. Only mainstream comics takes its cue from what their target audience was into a generation ago.

Advertising. That’s how you pay for artist,writers,editors. That way you can keep the cost down. I’ll take a black and white reprint title anyday for fifty cents. Comics are too high. It is all about that $5 weekly allowence.

I don’t know the answer. Just some thoughts…

The hurdle for comics is not just the price: you could lower them to a dime and some kids still wouldn’t be interested in them. And part of the reason that kids aren’t interested in them is that the two major comics companies don’t cater to them. They cater to the kids of 1980, of 1992, who are now grown men who still read them. What comics are kids reading now? Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Bone, Naruto. If Marvel and DC were really interested in selling to younger readers, they look at the successes and see what worked (primarily you’ll notice that they’re all graphic novels, not single issues) In other industries, people take their cues from what their target audience is into now. Only mainstream comics takes its cue from what their target audience was into a generation ago.

You make some real good points there! Again, I really don’t know what th answer is..

But someone made an important point. A lot of kids today get a lot of allowance money. Video games, ipods, etc, are expensive. I think one of the main reasons comics are failing sales wise is that we have nothing to offer different from the rest of media. In another words, the spontineity is gone. Comics just can’t compete with video games, or movies, or even cartoons. They don’t move. They don’t have sound. They only have the success or failure of the visual experience (intertwined with narrative and dialog, which in a fashion ends up as a visual stimulation also), that is, a unique visual and emotional experience that only they can provide. It is up to the artist and the writer (in some cases, the same person, and when that happens with, say a Frank Miller, the nail really gets hit on the head) to provide a wrenching and emotional connection with the reader thru the subconscious, something that can’t always be provided if the material is too complex. Now, here again, I am not suggesting that literal comics should go bye bye. (one of the most successful comics that I thought was very impressionistic and emotionally compelling was Strikeforce Morituri, which was hardly a “traditional” effort…although, for the life of me, I can’t believe they printed that on newsprint…They lost so much of the beautiful detail…) It’s just that only so many people can pull it off. And the industry seems to favor managent that always goes for the literal, and it’s coming off as too static. If I may quote the brillant Gil Kane (and he is brilliant), you’ve got to pass the “real for the ideal”.

That was fun. I think I might start writing a column.

Gil Kane was one of THE best!

Saber Tooth Tiger Mike

November 24, 2010 at 6:27 am

The current trends in commerce say otherwise. For the most part, the age of Mass Media that forced content providers to provide the best possible content to appeal to the widest demographic is gone. Cable ushered in an age of fragmentation and niche based content. Mediums that were faltering , such as radio, television and comics developed content to appeal to very very specific groups of people to stay afloat.
A program can appeal to children 5-6 but not 6-10. A program aimed at adults can’t appeal to teens. Races are usually segregated unless it comes to something like sports. Marketing gurus refer to this as the Long Tail”, a theory that states that the future of marketing is to target ever so more specific groups of people.
America is possibly too diverse these days for it to make sense for anyone to make an entertainment
product made to appeal to everyone. How would it get advertised? Would its marketing department be given the budget to place advertising in every niche and subculture media content provider available? Niche marketing is the bane of all ages content. In comics,both the “mainstream” and “alternative ” content providers tend to see comic as a niche. Superheroes content providers see comics as a niche , because they offer a genre that is sold to mostly adult Comic Book Guys . The alternative comics creators and publishers tend to see comics as a niche because of artsy content that they offer. This content appeals to adult hipsters and other nasal gazing geeks. The independent creators and publishers that
who strive for the success of Marvel and DC, are the only hope the Direct Market has for all-ages content. Previously, the independent market was dominated by manga publishing but manga seems to be fading away. This is significant because at least the tiny number of manga fans that trickled into the Direct Market brought in new blood. Currently, the independent market is targeting the Comic Book Guys with media tie-in comics.

Saber Tooth Tiger Mike

November 24, 2010 at 9:20 am

The publishers are all chasing the same readers in the Direct Market with no end in sight. Some see this as a good thing because “at least comics are still around. “. Many attempts at comics for “all-ages” have resulted in dumbed down comics aimed at the children of comic fans and creators. The curent crop of all ages content seems to tell me that younger readers or new readers just aren’t that important because they reside outside the inner circle, outside the niche.

Leave a Comment

 


Browse the Robot 6 Archives