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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.
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.