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Last weekend, Todd Allen wrote at The Beat that he had spotted some Dark Horse comics on the newsstand at Books-A-Million, now the second-largest bookstore chain in the country. That piqued my interest, as newsstand sales have proved to be a challenge for most comics publishers for decades now, so I got in touch with Matt Parkinson, Dark Horse’s vice president of marketing, who answered some questions about the company’s newsstand sales at Books-A-Million and its used-book subsidiary 2nd & Charles.
Robot 6: First of all, what has Dark Horse’s newsstand presence been like in recent years?
Matt Parkinson: Since the early ’90s, Dark Horse had placed titles on the newsstand through various distributors. In recent years we only enjoyed strong sales if the comic had a blockbuster movie tied to it or some major media component. Ultimately, due to the reduction of available display space and the resulting decline in sales, we discontinued all newsstand distribution in fall 2014. We would consider returning to newsstand distribution if a title demonstrated mass-market appeal.
Retailing | The Books-A-Million retail chain reported significant growth in the last quarter, due in part to strong sales of manga and strategy games. “Sales in the graphic novel category … grew nicely on the strength of a significant resurgence in the interest in several manga series, particularly Attack on Titan,” CEO Terry Finley said in an earnings call. The chain’s sales increased 1.2 percent, and same-store sales were up 1.8 percent last quarter compared to the same quarter last year; by contrast, fiscal year 2013 sales were down by 9.4 percent from the previous year. [ICv2]
Creators | Jeff Lemire talks about his new graphic novel Teen Titans: Earth One, which reflects his love of Marv Wolfman and George Pérez’s The New Teen Titans: “I wanted a fresh and clean take on a teen super-team without having to rely on other heroes or continuity. So I gravitated to these unique teen characters Marv and George had created, and re-envisioned them through my own sensibilities along with artist Terry Dodson, who really helped them come to life.” [The Kindle Post]
Retailing | Books-A-Million had a good second quarter, and CEO Terry Finley gives at least part of the credit to graphic novels: “We also saw strong growth in the graphic novel category, with continued success with titles related to AMC’s The Walking Dead series and a renewed interest in several manga series [that] drove sales increases.” And to boost that, the retail chain, which operates more than 250 stores nationwide, is planning Marvel promotions throughout September. [ICv2]
Conventions | Salt Lake Comic Con co-founder Dan Farr is trying to measure how much money attendees are spending. In terms of hotel beds, at least, the convention seems to be dwarfed by trade shows, but with people coming to Salt Lake City from 48 states for the recent spinoff event FanXperience, that may be changing. Still, even in San Diego, attendees spend only about $600 per person; if Salt Lake attendees are similarly thrifty, the convention may not be a significant player in the Salt Lake City convention scene. [The Salt Lake Tribune]
Comics sales | The bookstore chain Books-A-Million had an up year, and CEO Terrance G. Finley credited that in part to strong graphic novel sales, including The Walking Dead and kids’ graphic novels. [ICv2]
Digital comics | Wired runs down a handful of digital comics apps, noting both the pluses and the minuses of each one. [Wired]
Creators | Yehudi Mercado talks about his kid-friendly comic Pantalones, TX, which is filled with Saturday morning cartoon-style action, authority-questioning, and risky business: “I did purposefully envision Pantalones, TX as the anti-safety pad cartoon. I see my nieces and nephews growing up in a sheltered and sanitized environment, they don’t play outdoors at all. When I was a kid we shot fireworks at each other while playing in a bayou. I’m not saying that’s the right thing to do, but there should be a balance.” [Wired]
In the nearly two weeks since Barnes & Noble drew a line in the sand, pulling 100 of DC Comics’ top-selling graphic novels from its shelves to protest the publisher’s exclusive agreement with Amazon’s new Kindle Fire, there’s been little visible change in the tablet wars. That is, unless you count the decision by Books-A-Million to follow the chain’s lead.
Both sides appear to have dug in, with Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million insisting that books be available in all formats to all customers — specifically, their customers and their e-reader — and DC and parent company Warner Bros. insisting they’re misunderstood, and more than a little disappointed.
There are hints, however, that behind the scenes things may be a bit less … concrete.
Although there’s been some indication that DC’s exclusive arrangement with Amazon will last just four months, meaning graphic novels like Watchmen, Fables, Y: The Last Man and The Sandman could be available digitally for other platforms by mid-March, the publisher has yet to say so, much to the frustration of some fans (and, I would imagine, certain retailers).
In its overview of the dispute, The New York Times notes the DC website trumpets the books are available “exclusively to Amazon’s newly announced Kindle Fire,” period. No qualifiers. But comments for DC Co-Publisher Jim Lee lend credence to reports that the Amazon exclusivity is for a limited time.
Although he cited a nondisclosure agreement with the online retail giant, Lee still told the newspaper that, “Just because we’re starting with Amazon, this is not the be-all and end-all of our digital strategy and distribution.”
And to DC readers frustrated by the deal? “We say to our fans, have a little patience.”
Retail chain Books-A-Million has followed the lead of Barnes & Noble, pulling from its shelves the 100 graphic novels DC Comics plans to sell exclusively on Amazon’s new Kindle Fire.
Barnes & Noble, the largest bookstore chain in the United States, removed the top-selling titles late last week — they include The Sandman, Fables, Watchmen and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns — citing a policy “that unless we receive all formats of a title to make available to our customers, we will not sell those physical titles in our stores.”
Publishers Weekly reports that Books-A-Million, which operates 211 stores in 23 states, has taken the same position, with CEO Terrance Finley saying in a press release that supporting a publisher that “selectively limits distribution of their content” isn’t in the best interest of the store’s customers.
“We will not promote titles in our stores showrooms if publishers choose to pursue these exclusive arrangements that create an uneven playing field in the marketplace,” he continued.
DC’s deal with Amazon apparently only lasts for four months, beginning Nov. 15, so it remains to be seen whether Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million will return the graphic novels to their shelves when the exclusive arrangement lapses in mid-March.