Robot 6

Comics A.M. | Comics fall short of the 100,000-copy mark (again)

Batman: The Return

Publishing | Following its grim snapshot of year-to-date dollar sales in the direct market, ICv2.com has released a dreary analysis of the November charts: For the third time in 2010, the top-selling title failed to crack the 100,000-copy mark. Batman: The Return, priced at $4.99, sold about 99,500 copies, compared to the 144,000 sold by November 2009’s top title, Blackest Night #5. According to the retail news and analysis site, 20 of the Top 25 titles experienced a drop last month. As ICv2 noted last week in its initial report, dollar sales of comics were down 10.2 percent when compared with November 2009, while graphic novels jumped 14.84 percent, tied to the release of the 13th volume of The Walking Dead (it sold more than 19,000 copies). [ICv2.com]

Digital publishing | Google on Monday unveiled Google eBooks, a web-based e-book platform/digital storefront that boasts “the world’s largest selection of ebooks.” Dan Vado offers brief commentary. [TechCrunch]

Barnes & Noble

Retailing | Activist investor William Ackman has offered to finance a $960 million bid by Border Groups to buy its smaller larger rival Barnes & Noble. Both chains have been struggling amid competition from online stores like Amazon.com and the increasing popularity of e-book readers. [The Detroit News]

Passings | Steve Bates, longtime manager of Ohio’s Bookery Fantasy and later a writer in the marketing department of Diamond Comic Distributors, passed away Dec. 3 from cancer. He was 48. [ICv2.com]

Best of the year | Katherine Dacey selects the best manga of 2010, including AX: A Collection of Alternative Manga, Black Blizzard, and A Drunken Dream and Other Stories. [The Manga Critic]

Comics | S.I. Rosenbaum rolls out a graphic novel gift guide. [The Boston Phoenix]

Frank Miller

Creators | Christopher Irving continues his profile of Frank Miller, this time focusing on The Dark Knight Strikes Again, All-Star Batman and Robin, The Spirit movie and more. [Graphic NYC]

Creators | Nathan Wilson continues his discussion with Paul Levitz about 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking. [TCJ.com]

Creators | Sarah Glidden discusses her memoir/travelogue How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less: “I don’t even think I believe in objectivity anymore. No matter how hard you try to gather facts, there’s always a motivation behind the reasons we choose one source over another, and our sources have prejudices and biases too. That stuff can really drive you crazy if you start thinking about it. As soon as I started doing research into the history of the Levant region and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict I realized this. I was suspicious of pretty much everything I read. This book is kind of about my search for objective truths in a situation where that’s nearly impossible to find, so I knew that if I wanted to write about that I would have to go the route of extreme subjectivity.” [Bookslut]

Creators | Paul Tobin talks about Spider-Girl, Marvel Adventures and what he likes best about writing kids’ comics: “The freedom of being able to completely world-build. The all-ages material isn’t as bound by the Code of Continuity, so if I feel like bringing in some disparate elements, it’s all up to me.” [TFAW]

Doctor Strange: From the Marvel Vault

Creators | Tom Mason chats with Neil Vokes about his upcoming collaboration with Roger Stern Doctor Strange: From the Marvel Vault, which tells the story of the Sorcerer Supreme’s first night at at 177-A Bleecker Street. [Comix 411]

Comics | Tucker Stone offers tips for jump-starting a career in comics: “Don’t be that guy. You know which guy I’m talking about, the guy who is a walking PR kit. He never talks with you, he talks at you. This one dimensional persona pollutes the comics industry. If you have an idea for a project and you’re pretty excited about it, congratulations, but here’s a little secret: no one cares. If you insist on giving us lip service then please, I urge you to take a step outside yourself and imagine listening to your spiel about your ‘secret project’ or how ‘people would kill to work on the deal’ you just ‘scored’.” [comiXology]

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22 Comments

They raised prices in a recession in the midst of already unprecedented digital competition that’s challenging all print media. At least DC got the message….

Not only that, but both Marvel and DC have been putting out more books that, in terms of compelling strorytelling, are mediocre at best. Ho-hum stories and higher prices should equal lower sales.

“Ho-hum stories and higher prices should equal lower sales.”

So true. The decompressed story-telling means zero bang for the buck. I just read the first six New Avengers comics ($24 plus tax) and it took slightly over an hour. Compare that with a two hour movie that costs $10 or a $7 paperback novel that entertains for days. I used to get very excited about comics stories that ran 2 or even 3 issues, but now the norm is for one flimsy story to be stretched over 6 issues.

For forty-five years I bought 50 to 150 comics each month, but as of now I’m buying about 12 per month. Because these days the prevailing feeling I get when reading a comic is, “Is that it? Is that all there is?”

@Rob: Of course, the best book Marvel put out all year hovered around 10,000 and got canceled after 5 issues, so unfortunately great comics at decent prices don’t equal higher sales. At least, not if they’re non-canonical kids’ books.

“Activist investor William Ackman has offered to finance a $960 million bid by Border Groups to buy its smaller rival Barnes & Noble. Both chains have been struggling amid competition from online stores like Amazon.com and the increasing popularity of e-book readers.”

Ahem… Barnes & Noble is the larger bookstore chain.
Also, the e-book reader struggle is non-existent. Both chains have readers and are selling ebooks, and the new color nook seems to have taken the lead among e-book readers.

Of course, there is a lot of analysis to be considered with this… Is it a ploy to erase the bad financials of Borders? Will B&N shareholders approve the merger, given the animosity from the acquisition of B&N College? What about Len Riggio? What about Ron Burkle?

Prices did it for me. At one time, I had a pull list of up to 30 titles a month. Now, I have cut ALL titles priced higher than $2.99. Even at $2.99, if the storyline is lacking, I put those back as well.

People are downloading more comics. Its a damn shame but its true. Not to mention the prices.

“Both chains have readers and are selling ebooks, and the new color nook seems to have taken the lead among e-book readers.”

Really? What’s your basis for that statement? That’s surprising, if true, given Kindle’s head start.

I’ll agree with the other posters. For $3.99, it better be a damn good book. Or else I’m not coming back next month. For $2.99 I can deal with some less than superb books, but not $4.

And enough with charging me for the backup stories! I was p!ssed when I saw my $6 Ult. Spider-Man 150 had a reprint of an issue I had already bought.

Many comics aren’t worth what their charging. Which is why I’ve been dropping a lot of books over the past year or two.

Prizes in combination with mediocre stories….
Vertigo books cost $3 and have overall good intelligent stories, which I cannot claim for most superhero titles which cost more

Wow, I’m shocked Batman Inc didn’t break 100K. i thought that would do an easy 125K, maybe even more.
I wonder if DC’s across the board price drop will actually have a big affect on sales? I don’t see it making much difference. Their top books (B&R, GL, BD etc) were already at the price. They may draw a few more readers from Marvel, but that doesn’t really change anything with in industry as a whole, just helps DC over Marvel. Its not bringing in new readers.
I think they only thing that will can “save” the industry is releasing digital versions the same day as print and at a price point of $.99 to $1.99. Also, need to be accessible from laptops/desktops, not just iPads, etc. You also need to “own” the issue, not just something that accessible while your online.
All the publishers need to get together to develop an online LCS in the vain of iTunes. i thought it would be better for each publisher to sell them on their own, but a centralized market will be better for everyone. I know a lot of people are against this, but this is the future.

“They raised prices in a recession in the midst of already unprecedented digital competition that’s challenging all print media. At least DC got the message….”

This is absolutely the reason sales are down.

I was willing to put up with titles at 2.99, and the occasional 4.99 special edition, but no way in hell am I supporting 3.99 for a regular comic. I’ve cut my pull list by 50% over the past year because of this.

I also refuse to try out new titles at 3.99, which I consider to be the kiss of death for a title.

Way to go Marvel. You’re shooting yourself in the foot.

I don’t think any comic reader is surprised to learn that less books are selling. Personally I am really happy that sales are dropping. I think it sends a clear message to the larger companies. We want quality books, not shiny paper, or crossover events… QUALITY WRITING AND ART.

If we are going to pay 3.99 heck even 2.99. I want a book that is good. I’ve dropped more titles this year than ever before. I just refuse to spend ~$4 on a book that isn’t good. Heck I’ve dropped some of my 2.99 books because I refuse to get sucked up into a huge crossover event that my title is only tangentially involved in. Admittedly Marvel is probably the worst when it comes to pointless crossovers and complete high jacking of titles (so you enjoy incredible hulk or wolverine well too bad he is no longer in his own book… have fun with this other guy).

That said there are a few books (northlander, walking dead, scalped, fables) that are seemingly putting thought and care into every issue.

Economy, pricing, holiday season= price drop. Might have been a different story if this were a different season. People are buying gifts. Just not the comic book kind.

Maybe people are finally starting to vote with their wallets…

I can’t say I don’t buy $4 books (with only 32 pages) but I do buy very few of them. I allow myself 1 from Marvel (Uncanny X-Force). I’m only continuing with $4 DC books because they’re rolling back to $3.

I’m hoping DC sees a nice increase in sales the month when prices rollback. I suggest everyone drop at least 1 $4 32-page book from Marvel that month. In my case, it’ll be Uncanny X-Force. I’m not saying you drop it entirely but just hold off on buying it for that month and pick it up the next. I think that might be a good way to show Marvel how we feel.

Screw digital comics! I like the real thing…but I had a pull list at 40 and now I pull about 2 a week. The prices are too high and the stories for DC and Marvel have been falling. I straight dropped Spider-man after one more day and never bought one again. I hear good things hear and there but it still don’t seem like the Spider-man I know, I will read New Avengers to get my fix. I dropped all Ultimate Titles ,they seem so forced. During Batman’s death there were to many Tie ins I said screw it dropped all but Batman and Robin. To high priced and lame stories being told out there

The movie industry is going through the same thing.

Increased ticket prices + awful quality of movies = falling box office receipts compared to previous years.

The entertainment industry has yet to learn, consumers won’t spend their hard-earned money on poor quality product…

I don’t know what some of you are talking about. Look at the sales of mainstream comics in the 90’s. They completely dwarfed current sales but the quality of the comics back then is an absolute joke. The art and writing is downright embarrassing and they relied heavily on gimmicks.Creatively the best comics of that decade were the ones put out through DC’s Vertigo imprint.
Although I earn a modest wage I still try to support the industry I love so much and currently I buy between 20 – 25 titles each month.
I agree that prices could come down a little, and there are a lot of subpar books out there at the moment, but creatively the industry, in my opinion, is in the best shape it’s been in for a long time.

“Ho-hum stories and higher prices should equal lower sales.”

I think it’s funny that the people who make this argument seem to fail to realize that the exact same books they don’t like are the only ones that sell… You do realize that stuff like Batman and New Avengers and big crossovers are the only books that are making a profit, right? Whether you like them or not, those kinds of books subsidize the rest of Marvel & DC’s line. Without them, you’d never get stuff like the Vertigo books or Thor the Mighty Avenger.

I’m with Mike – I’m shocked Batman Inc didn’t sell so much better, let alone come in as the #1 book for the month. That’s a strange one to me.

Yeah, no shock here. The biggest thing is that these figures are estimated PRE-ORDER numbers for shops. Once owners started to see a decline in sales with the price increases (plus event fatigue, etc), they cut their orders accordingly. Hell, even if the comic buyers were purchasing the same amount, there’s still only so many dollars one can commit to their orders each month without going over budget.

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