Comics shops are like any other retail establishments, I guess, in that there are good ones and bad ones. The difference between comics shops and coffee shops, though, is that people seldom accuse coffee shops of being unwelcoming to women. The food may be bad, but everyone’s money is the same color to them.
Comics shops, on the other hand, have developed a reputation for being uncomfortable places for anyone who isn’t a straight white male. I used to live down the street from a place like that, and I quit shopping there because of it—but that was in 1986.
That’s why I have mixed feelings about the Tumblr Safe Spaces for Comics Fans. On the one hand, I think it’s great to have a place for people to recommend (or warn against) particular shops. On the other hand, just by its very existence, it perpetuates the notion of comics shops as unfriendly to women, gay people, and people of color, and I’m not so sure that stereotype is true any more. Are there bad stores? Yes there are, but if you look at the blog, most of the comments are positive, with people giving shout-outs to local comics shops that treat them well. I think—I want to think—that this reflects reality. I want to think that the default is a friendly comics shop with good customer service for all its customers, and that places like this are the exception. The problem is that the bad places are more visible—that photo in the link has been reTweeted and reblogged all over the place—while the good places get taken for granted. So I guess in the end I am glad that the Safe Spaces Tumblr exists, if only as a place to recognize the retailers who get it right.
Retailers ordered more than 4.6 million comic books for the May 4 Free Comic Book Day, a 34-percent increase from last year — and a staggering 70-percent jump from 2011. Needless to say, that’s a record high for the 11-year-old event.
According to Diamond Comic Distributors, this year also will see nearly 2,000 retail accounts participating, still another record. The event coincides with the North America premiere of Marvel Studios’ Iron Man 3.
Gold-level comics include Marvel’s Infinity, by Jonathan Hickman and Jim Cheung, described as “the opening shots of the war that will be heard around the galaxy” — likely to appeal to those Iron Man 3 audiences — and DC’s Superman Special Edition, which boasts a preview of Scott Snyder and Jim Lee’s Superman Unchained.
Other offerings range from The Walking Dead (a new Tyreese story, paired with reprints of Michonne, The Governor and Morgan stories) and Ape Entertainment’s Sesame Street & Strawberry Shortcake to Archaia’s Mouse Guard/Rust flip book and Dark Horse’s Star Wars/Captain Midnight/Avatar sampler.See the complete list on the Free Comic Book Day website.
Dearborn, Michigan’s Green Brain Comics will reopen Wednesday morning after a sport utility vehicle crashed through its wall Sunday morning, taking out a restroom and knocking a shelf of children’s comic books 20 feet across the store. Stormy Records, located on the second floor of the building, was able to open today.
“It was heartbreaking — first the cartoonish image of the van sticking out of the hole was breathtaking,” Green Brain co-owner Dan Merritt told The News-Herald. “It broke my heart but it didn’t break me.” He noted the impact left the silhouette of the SUV on the interior wall.
Although the debris was cleared by Monday and the hole boarded up, Merritt and his wife Katie had to wait for a city inspector to certify the store was safe to reopen. Both Green Brain and Stormy Records are insured.
“Had it happened during business hours, it would have been really unfortunate,” Stormy Records co-owner Windy Weber said. “It could have been way worse but it wasn’t, and I’m thankful for that.”
Taking into account the Bookscan figures supplied last week by CBR columnist Brian Hibbs, numbers-cruncher John Jackson Miller estimates that print sales in North America of comic books and graphic novels reached $715 million in 2012, a high not seen since 1993 or 1994.
Miller breaks down his math, so there’s no great mystery as to how he arrived at that number: Bookscan tracks about 75 percent of bookstore sales. Add to that the rest of the book market, direct market sales of periodicals and graphic novels, and newsstand estimates, and voila. He acknowledges it’s a little rough, and doesn’t take into account graphic novel sales to libraries (or, clearly, the digital and U.K. markets); there’s also the big caveat, the rate of inflation that would put those 1993-1994 sales at about $1.1 billion in 2012.
Stills, it provides a fascinating snapshot of the state of the North American comics market last year, which grew by about $35 million from 2011.
Jackson also singles out another interesting number: “For what I think may be the first time in years, the Direct Market’s graphic novel dollar orders exceeded the value of the Bookscan orders (but not the entire mass market). I attribute it at least in part to the huge traffic in Walking Dead trades: comics shops ordered at least 74,000 copies of the first volume in 2012, versus 38,000 copies through Bookscan’s retailers. That’s a big difference.”
At least three more retailers have joined Dallas’ Zeus Comics in deciding not to stock the first issue of the DC Comics anthology Adventures of Superman, which features a story by sci-fi author and vocal gay-rights opponent Orson Scott Card.
Citing the author’s efforts against the legalization of same-sex marriage, Whatever Store in San Francisco, I Like Comics in Vancouver, Washington, and Ralph’s Comic Corner in Ventura, California, have all said they won’t carry the print edition of the digital-first comic when it’s released May 29. (However, Mike Sterling, manager of Ralph’s, said his store will still order “the couple of copies for customers who have preexisting, ongoing comic savers for Superman items.”)
Best known for his award-winning 1985 novel Ender’s Game, Card has become notorious for his outspoken views on homosexuality and his advocacy against gay rights. A board member of the National Organization for Marriage, a group dedicated to the opposition of same-sex marriage, the author has tried to link homosexuality to childhood molestation, and advocated home-schooling to ensure children “are not propagandized with the ‘normality’ of ‘gay marriage.’” Following rulings by “dictator-judges” in 2008 that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, Card infamously endorsed a government overthrow.
As the calls grow for DC Comics to drop Ender’s Game author and outspoken gay-rights opponent Orson Scott Card from its digital-first Adventures of Superman, the first retailer has stepped forward to say he won’t order the print edition of the new anthology.
“Zeus Comics will not be carrying the print edition of writer Orson Scott Card’s Superman,” Richard Neal, owner of the Dallas store, wrote this afternoon on his Facebook page. “Card sits on the board of the National Organization of Marriage which fights against marriage equality. His essays advocate the destruction of my relationship, that I am born of rape or abuse and that I am equated with pedophilia. These themes appear in his fiction as well. It is shocking DC Comics would hire him to write Superman, a character whose ideals represent all of us.”
He continued, “If you replaced the word ‘homosexuals’ in his essays with the words ‘women’ or ‘Jews,’ he would not be hired. But I’m not sure why its still okay to ‘have an opinion’ about gays? This is about equality.”
Zeus Comics was the recipient of the 2006 Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award, presented to a store “that has done an outstanding job of supporting the comic art medium both in the community and within the industry at large.”
Adventures of Superman debuts online April 29 and in print May 29.