Robot 6

Comics return to the newsstand—at a premium

Comics on the newsstand at Barnes & Noble (from Indignant Online)

Comics-and-More blogger Dave Ferraro, who works at a Barnes & Noble, remarked last week that the bookstore chain has moved comics from the Games section to the newsstand and greatly expanded the selection, from about 10 to about 60, mostly Marvel, DC, and Archie. Todd Allen spotted some in the wild (including a very non-mainstream comic), and Rich Johnston has another example.

I’m not sure this is as much of a novelty as people think: The Borders near me always had a large selection of comics on its newsstand—mostly Marvel, DC, and Archie—and while they were set off in a corner, they were very visible and the selection was good. Since my store is gone, along with hundreds of other Borders stores, B&N may simply be picking up on an unfilled niche.

Todd makes an interesting observation:

The Marvel titles were all marked “Newsstand” and priced $3.99, with the exception of Incredible Hulks. That one went for a massive $4.99. That means some $2.99 titles jacked up $1 for newsstand and some $3.99 titles staying steady. I have no immediate explanation for the Incredible Hulks price.

Dave notes that Barnes & Noble can’t order specific issues, which is a much bigger deal than it used to be back when every Superman comic had three complete stories. The Barnes & Noble customer who picks up a Hulk comic will pay five bucks for a slice of story, with no clue as to how to get the previous issues and no guarantee of getting the next one. It’s hard to see this catching on for comics with a lot of continuity, although it’s a boon for serious fans who don’t live near a comics shop.

Incidentally, Todd also spotted a staple of his childhood and mine, a three-pack, at Sam’s Club. When I was a kid, these were obviously remainders and the comics were sort of random. As befits Sam’s Club, the comics are much cheaper than regular retail, and they seem to have been printed specifically to go in a three-pack—i.e., not remainders. This one had Thor #1 in it; if Thor #2 pops up we may have a trend here.



The local BAM sells comics, too – but only Marvel jacks up the price for the newsstand.

My B and N only carries DC right now. womp womp. And they don’t have top shelf space, they’re filled under hobby on the bottom shelf, second row back from front.

Marvel’s actually been doing that for years. I remember buying a New X-Men issue at the Borders I worked at for $3.99, rather than the regular $2.99.

You can still find three packs at the occasional dollar or Dollar Tree store.

Greg Hatcher noted that the Sam’s Club 3-pack is terribly implemented:

I saw this the other day at the Barnes and Noble near me, and I was just feeling so hopeful. Finally, comics are (the other kind of) accessible again!

Jacking up the prices on already over-priced unreadable crap is a great way to attract new readers to a dying industry. 11:58 on the comics doomsday clock.

The price hike is a terrible idea. Comics need to give fans a reason to buy at B&N, and B&N needs comics and other new revenue streams to bring back customers and stop store closings before they turn into the Borders story of 2011.

Travis Pelkie

June 7, 2011 at 4:07 am

The Marvel newsstand comics have been a buck (or more) than DM copies for years. I have a copy of New Avengers 30 (the one before the Elektra Skrull) from whenever that came out, and that’s a buck more than the newsstand was. It was suggested that when a lot of the Marvel comic went from 2.99 to 3.99 in the DM, the reason they figured they could do it was that they’d “focus grouped” it by jacking up the newsstand prices.

And as Kris notes, Hatcher points out that the Thor etc 3 pack is a crappy tie in to the movies Marvel is putting out this year.

I wonder how much the DC reboot had anything to do with this — that is, if DC “convinced” B&N to carry more comics because they’d be doing the reboot soon.

How much of the newsstand readers crossover with the comics shop readers? When I collected, I only hit the newsstands when the comics shops sold out of some hot title, like Robin #1, which was shipped three weeks after the DM.

I suspect Marvel jacks the price at the newsstands to cover the returns (which they probably don’t receive). A general rule of newsstands: place THREE copies on the rack, sell ONE. That’s why Ka-Zar, Micronauts, and Moon Knight went Direct-only in the early 1980s.

I suspect that B&N saw the sales of GNs, wanted to increase newsstand sales (which are unhealthy industry-wide), and DC was eager to work with B&N. B&N planned this months ago, long before DC announced their relaunch in September. IF DC planned this, then why do it in June, and not September?

DISCLAIMER: employed by B&N, but not privy to any of this, nor would I talk about it if I did.

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