Robot 6

Comics A.M. | Comics decline again; Village Voice to pay cartoonists

FF #1

Publishing | The direct market experienced another decline in March, with comics sales slipping 2.43 percent from the same month in 2010, and graphic novels plummeting 10.01 percent. For the first quarter of 2011, comics fell 8.57 percent while graphic novels dropped 7.24 percent, for a combined decline of 8.14 percent.

John Jackson Miller notes that DC Comics’ price rollback appears to be having an impact on the overall bottom line: “While unit sales for comics were up by less than 1% in March, led by FF #1, they were down 2.43% in dollar terms. The quarterly unit-to-dollar gap in periodicals was wider, with a sales loss of nearly 1% in units versus a 5% loss in dollar terms. In the past inflationary periods, we always saw the dollar category doing better than units. Now, the reverse is happening.” [ICv2.com]

Publishing | Following widespread criticism, The Village Voice Editor Tony Ortega acknowledges that not paying cartoonists who contributed to the paper’s Comics Issue “was not the best way to help out the cartooning industry.” So he’ll be paying the artists. [The Village Voice]

Silver Snail

Retailing | Owner Ron Van Leeuwen, owner of Toronto’s famed Silver Snail comic store, is retiring after 35 years and selling the business to manager George Zotti and his partner Mark Gingras. The store will remain at its current location until at least February 2012, after which it will move to another, more “book-friendly” neighborhood. [The Toronto Star]

Publishing | The April issue of Tripwire is available online for free. [Tripwire, via Forbidden Planet International Blog]

Creators | In a far-ranging Q&A, Grant Morrison discusses his process, collaboration, his best work, and Superman Beyond as “the most fulfilling superhero story I’ve ever written”: “It’s slightly overlooked because it was a bit cerebral, so maybe it wasn’t quite grasped since it appeared in the context of Final Crisis and it slightly lost a little of its visibility. But that’s my all-time favorite one in the superhero stuff, I think. There’s a lot of the All Star Superman, the run of All Star Superman, that I think is the most complete and rational and enlightened of my work (laughs), so I really like issue #10 of that, which is probably one of the best things I’ve written, but in terms of just personal issues, Superman Beyond I like even better.” [Graphic Novel Reporter]

Adrian Tomine

Creators | Adrian Tomine talks about his new book Scenes from an Impending Marriage, his process, and how fatherhood has affected his approach to work: “It’s definitely made me realize how much time I’ve wasted in my life up to this point. Until you have that experience of having a kid, or anything that changes your notion of time, you sort of think, the way things are are the way things absolutely have to be. It takes me x number of hours to achieve this much work, and some of that is going to involve sitting around and staring out the window or listening to the music and waiting until the mood hits me. Now that’s really not an option. I have the feeling of being a sprinter at the starting line as soon as my daughter goes to sleep. Time to turn on the talent! Which is not always as easy as I’d like.” [Gothamist]

Creators | Oliver Ho begins a three-part interview with Kill Shakespeare co-creators Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery. [PopMatters]

Creators | John O. Mason profiles Shaloman creator Al Wiesner. [The Philadelphia Jewish Voice]

Creators | Juan Fernandez spotlights Grey Legacy creator Wayne Wise. [The Tartan]

Comics | Michael Roberts takes a look at the Man of Steel’s visit to Denver, Colo., in Superman #709. [Westword]

Fandom | Eighteen-year-old Kaman Stowell of Sartell, Minn., apparently has “one of the largest assortments” of Superman memorabilia in the Midwest. [St. Cloud Times]

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Comments

23 Comments

Hear that?

It’s the death rattle of mainstream comics.

Do they publish sales for Comixology distributions? I’m interested to see how sales have been on a month-to-month basis since Comixology started selling it’s iPad distributions

Silver Snail is still the best comicshop in Toronto, even after all these years. Sold them part of my comic collection back in the 70′s to help pay my way thru college.

All I can say, is I stopped buying comics about 6 years ago. Started seeing prices shoot up for no reason, saw too many Variant Covers… and it’s only gotten worse. I still keep up with the industry, since I’ve been reading comics since 1970, but I refuse to pay $3 to $4 dollars an issue, and I will never again support any industry that crams so much Variant covers on an issue, that you can’t walk into a comic store and even begin to figure out what issue is what. So yeah, I blame the comic companies for this downfall, and until they realize that comics should be fun and cheap… it’ll never be what it once was.

Just my 2 cents… back to reading all my back issues.

Sorry Madmike, That Death rattle you hear is the screw rattling around in your head. People have been predicting the death of mainstream comics for 40 Years. No one has ever been right, no prediction has ever come true.

I definitely blame the companies for this one, too. In the midst of a recession that’s crushing pretty much everyone and forcing people to dig deep just for stuff like food, the misconception that a lot of people will happily pay four bucks a piece for a thirty page pamphlet with adverts all the way through is ridiculous.

Simon DelMonte

April 11, 2011 at 8:01 am

Do you compare to a year ago, as this does? Or to a month ago, in which case sales are up according to the article at Newsarama?

And does it matter that there are constantly new publishers doing comics? Is the industry ill because DC and Marvel are seemingly struggling, or healthy because there are more comics and more types of comics than ever?

Comics in any format won’t really die off; they’re too pop culture oriented, too fan friendly (prices notwithstanding) and too cheap to produce as long as the industry goes back to the old school. I say drop the quality of paper, go back to selling ad space to make comics more affordable and quit pandering to collectors and more to readers.

I’ve been collecting comics for 30 years and find myself slowly weaning off the hobby the last few years. These days I buy only about 10 monthly titles, 10% of what I used to buy only a few years ago.

The price point really doesn’t matter to me, its the QUALITY of the books that drives my purchases. And the quality IMO has nose-dived in recent years. I refuse to buy garbage.

I refuse to buy the “big books” that only exist to build up to the next big event (Bat, X-Men & GL books I’m looking at you). I’m tired of new creative teams every few months on books, wiping out what the previous one’s established. Don’t get me started on the constant reboots/renumbering gimmicks.

Want to know why I think comic sales are dropping like rocks? Because for the most part they SUCK right now!!! :-(

Guy Fumetti said:
“Sorry Madmike, That Death rattle you hear is the screw rattling around in your head. People have been predicting the death of mainstream comics for 40 Years. No one has ever been right, no prediction has ever come true.”

Guy, the only reason it is still here now is because of the direct sales market. The cure, which ironically is now the cancer. There’s nothing on the horizon to bolster the industry now. Watch as the sales continue to slide, and tell me again in six months that I’m wrong.

I’d also be curious to see an aggregate across ALL forms of comic consumption, not just the somewhat artificial divisions of floppies/trades/digital.

What do the total dollar AND unit figures look like across ALL sales of:
-new comics
-trades
-digital
-back issues

I’m especially interested in including the last figure in the aggregate. Though back issues are clearly not a profit driver, I wonder how much they figure into the margin of comic retailers. For instance, a LOT of my comic dollar is actually spent on back issues, to round out holes in my reading, catch up with a new series I’d skipped for a year until it got established, etc.

Brightest Day #23 comes out, I go eBay a big set of Alan Moore Swamp Things to read the story… because my library can’t get the trades.

Seen as an aggregate spend of comic readers, rather than a segmented spend on disparate units, I wonder if the $ looks any different.

I agree with quite a few of the comments here. People have been predicting the demise of comics for years, and they won’t end in six months. The digital element will, by necessity, be sped up faster than most want, and those numbers do somehow need to be included in these figures. As for the quality of books, I also agree they’re disappointing, of course this entire topic is subjective. My big question is “How do the small publishers stay in business?” Since they are, the big two should be doing fine.

Quality should be a factor, but (for those of us without unlimited income) price remains a big factor. A 25% increase in cost for a comic book (Avengers, for example) with virtually no added value over a $3 comic screams at me as to why make that purchase?

$4 books are bad. Don’t buy them.

Unit sales were UP. That’s what it says here. More actual comics were sold but the dollar amount was down, and, like the article says, probably because of the price roll back at DC.

FACE IT, comics ARE dying — because THEY SUCK! No one who’s not a diehard, semi-retarded fanboy would even bother with them anymore. They’re a bunch of amateurishly written, self-referential GARBAGE. How pathetic that sites like CBR continue to worship at the altars of Marvel and DC when those two companies are the ones LEADING this industry into such a well-deserved OBLIVION. Why would a store like the Silver Snail, which has been around since the mid-seventies, be changing ownership AND location?? Because their business is TANKING, fools! — just like practically every other comic shop in North America!! But hey, fanboys, feel free to continue on in your state of denial until long after what passes for “mainstream” comics today has completely disappeared…

Silver Snail is changing ownership due to the inordinately high cost of rent on Queen St. in Toronto, not because of poor sales. When the store opened, the neighborhood in which its located was a bastion of counter-culture clubs and record shops, now it’s an outdoor suburban mall. That said, I’m sure the Snail makes most of its profit from merchandise sales to tourists, not from comics and trades.

The industry will always exist to some extent, obviously; it’s not as though comics are going to disappear completely. What I wonder about is the distribution model. At what point is DIamond no longer profitable? Because when Diamond goes, so too does the direct market…

“All I can say, is I stopped buying comics about 6 years ago. Started seeing prices shoot up for no reason, saw too many Variant Covers… and it’s only gotten worse. I still keep up with the industry, since I’ve been reading comics since 1970, but I refuse to pay $3 to $4 dollars an issue, and I will never again support any industry that crams so much Variant covers on an issue, that you can’t walk into a comic store and even begin to figure out what issue is what. So yeah, I blame the comic companies for this downfall, and until they realize that comics should be fun and cheap… it’ll never be what it once was.

Just my 2 cents… back to reading all my back issues.”

Yeah, that’s just your 2 cents, all right. “No reason?” Don’t be stupid. Readership is very nearly non-existent, paper and production costs are increasing and those of us who make the comics you used to like to read need to earn at least enough money to pay our rent and buy Ramen. Show some respect.

What isn’t mentioned there is digital sales. I wonder if the digital sales make up for the loss at stores. Seeing one piece of info without the other isn’t exactly helpful.

I recently interviewed UK publisher Dez Skinn and he had some interesting things to say about the health of the comic book industry.

If anyone is interested, click here: http://dailypop.wordpress.com/2011/03/26/the-most-important-man-in-uk-comics-dez-skinn-publisher-of-doctor-who-weekly/

Sales are down for these reasons:

1. interconnected crossovers
2. homogenization of characters
3. too much power in only two companies
4. flooding the market with spin offs
5. catering to speculators with garbage like reboots and variant covers

…they are NOT down because comics “suck”. There are more great comic book out there now than ever before. You just have to search for them.
Don’t buy Blackest Night or Incredible Hulks and then complain that comics suck! Companies can only publish what sells.

I agree with what Brian stated, and have for years; publishers need to get back to newsprint, and turn the clock back on advertising. Additionally, this cheaper product needs to be out “in the world”. Get comics back into grocery stores and the like, where the average kid can get hold of them. Even further, the industry should do away with the superstar six-figure salaries, and put a lot of that money back into the product. That last point is the one that usually gets me in trouble.

@Mark Allen: I agree with you that a lot of change has to happen.

By the way, excellent blog!

I used to get comic books at the city news stand and the grocery store, sometimes the drug store.
I stopped buying comics when I started reading paperback novels and the price of comics went up. Newspapers are still cheap, why should comics cost so much? I wonder about the percentage of price increase in comics compared to the percentage of price increase in the consumer price index?
Comic books shouldn’t be boutique items. Selling lots of copies at a lower price would let kids be able to afford them instead of 30+ year olds.
I’m disgusted by the reboots and re-imaginings that do violence to my view of characters. Writers ought to respect the work of previous authors.
Comics should have good stories and they should be written for kids. If writers and artists want to be artistes they should write literary short fiction and paint weird paintings and learn to enjoy being broke and anonymous.

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