Must read: Ten Things to Know About the Future of Comics

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201010261223 Must read: Ten Things to Know About the Future of Comics
Shaenon T. Garrity, as she so often does, sums up all the things we’ve been talking about with a piece called Ten Things to Know About the Future of Comics. A sample:

Format is infinitely mutable. But so what? You’ll pick up the trade. You’ll read it online. The age-old format wars and lamentations on the death of beloved antique media are gibberish to anyone under 30.


More on the new canon, the fate of manga, and the future demographics in the link. Oh, and one more:

7. Manga has changed the game. Young creators think in terms of the sprawling, subjective, emotional approach to visual storytelling shared, to one degree or another, by most manga. They’ve picked up other ideas from mainstream manga, too. Focus on characters over plot. A love for iconic, instantly appealing character designs (but not, unfortunately, a love for bothering to draw backgrounds). And total comfort with merchandising. Why would you not want something fun made out of your characters?

Comments

  1. Shannon OLeary says:

    Daaaamn. Go Shaenon.

    This is my favorite part: “The comic book could have survived if the direct market hadn’t been run, since the 1990s, like a less competent and smellier version of one of those fly-by-night outfits that hawk gold on the Glenn Beck show..”

  2. I get so tired of people telling me that the monthly format and direct marketing are dead. I am 47. I am a part of the generation that direct market was originally geared towards. I am also online quite often being told by people 10, 20, even 30 years younger than me that the monthly format and direct market is dead. Oh, they go to the comics shop and buy their monthlies, sure, but where is the next generation? You are the next generation!

  3. Wow….who would have thought a manga editor would make a bold statement like “Manga has changed the game”. You’d almost think she had some skin in the game or something.

  4. My favorite part, from the comment-section:

    “Whoops, you aren’t Heidi.”

  5. 1 Newspaper comics are dead. Agreed

    2 Monthly comics are dead. Sigh. This again? I’ve been hearing this for years, mostly from women who we must all remember are still new to comics when compared to males. Males over 35, who make up probably 99 percent of sales for monthly comics and who have the most disposable income will keep monthly comics going long after we are all dead and buried. Women really don’t figure into the sales of monthly comics and never have. When it comes to monthlies, particularly superhero titles, women are dabblers at best. No comic company, let alone comic shop takes the female market for monthly print comics seriously. Sorry ladies, it’s true.

    3 Format is infinitely mutable.

    Re: “ lamentations on the death of beloved antique media are gibberish to anyone under 30.”

    True. However, the majority of readers under 30 (whatever the format might be that they’re reading) aren’t buying anything. They’re downloading it for free. They aren’t considered part of the equation when DC or Marvel is thinking about their bottom line but in “advertising” only. Sales can only be measured by those who are actually “buying comics”. This is something that people under 30, comics journal, and the comic blogging elite just don’t get. It’s why Superhero comics dominate the marketplace, it’s why males over 36 are catered to, it’s why women aren’t catered to and it’s why independents still, after all these decades and with the rare exception, don’t sell. Even if they are where creativity is born (or rather “stillborn”).

    4 The audience is infinitely fragmented. The audience yes, the “buyers” no. Again, we can talk about “readers” all day long but the only readers that matter are those that buy what they’re reading.

    5 But there is a canon. Irrelevant because the majority of readers under 30 are irrelevant from a sales standpoint. They only thing they’re buying are t-shirts based on what they’re downloading for free.

    6 Superheroes are not comic-book characters. Sigh. This is something that again, I hear more from women then men. Comics will always, irrevocably be about superheroes. Superhero Movies, like comics are made for males over 35. They are marketed to them because they are the ones spending the money. Hey, look on the bright side…you chicks still have Scott Pilgrim, Tamara Drew and…um…Titanic?

    7 Manga has changed the game. For who? The ever fickle female marketplace? Isn’t it common knowledge by now that Manga is for young kids, teen girls and college nerd girls who like emo guys and vampires? And why do they always draw the characters with giant eyeballs? What’s that all about?

    8 The line between fans and creators is razor-thin. Um…so? Who cares about DeviantArt? Not the folks with disposable income, that’s for sure, they’re buying superhero shit.

    9 They are mostly girls. Who, the bloggers? The independents with websites? The former can’t even buy their own cameras, the latter aren’t selling anything to anyone that matters.

    10 They are very good at making comics. “This too. It is going to be wonderful”

    For who? All those kids downloading stuff for free? Shaenon might be right in that case. But the dominant demographic doesn’t give a crap about Vanessa Davis. Ladies, seriously, get over this delusion that you matter in the comics marketplace. Just be happy you have Twilight and Manga.

  6. Just a quick disagreement for now, where John says:

    “Superhero Movies, like comics are made for males over 35.”

    I would say they’re aimed at any male less than 60 yrs old, myself.

    And of course I disagree with Shaenon’s original assertion too. Goes w/o saying.

  7. Was this written in 2004?

  8. “lamentations on the death of beloved antique media are gibberish to anyone under 30.”

    Hey, you never know. I’m an old guy who abandoned vinyl long ago for my music, but now it’s back in vogue.

  9. The Beat says:

    Is there anyone in this thread posting under the age of 35? (Not me.)

    John V, since you were so proud of your little rant you crossposted, I will cross post my response:

    John V., that is one of the greatest salvos from the deck of the Titanic yet. What ever would we do without those manly over 35 dollars which are worth so much more then under 18 girly dollars! I’m about to faint from fear of finding out.

    BTW, I find Shaenon’s two final points are more ambiguous than being made out. The “they” of “They are very good at making comics” doesn’t necessarily mean the girls of point 9 — but could just mean people under 30 in general.

    In either case, I agree. I think the future of comics is in good hands, artistically at least.

    The future of commenting in this thread? Not so good.

  10. maija says:

    Many of Shaenon’s points apply to anyone who is new to comics, not necessarily under 35. I’m not under 35 by a wide margin but I’ve only been reading comics (as an adult) for six years. It took me a little while to figure out how the hell to get comics (“What do you mean I can’t just walk into a comic book store and find what I want on the shelf?”), and immediately found it was way easier to order trades on Amazon (though I did not know they were “trades” then and had to have “TPB” explained). I tried buying periodical issues for a while, but when several months go by in which I haven’t had time to go by the shop and now the TPB is out anyway, why bother? (I only bother for indie stuff that is danger of never making a trade).

    Try explaining the Direct Market to anyone who is not familiar with comics and you’ll quickly realize that the biggest threat to the Direct Market is just how mind-boggling bizarre and unapproachable the Direct Market is, especially in 2010. It’s like telling people you still order your farming implements and moustache wax from the Sears and Roebuck catalog and go down to meet the train on Wednesdays to pick them up.

  11. Matthew Southworth says:

    Almost 40 here, checking in. . .

    I love my comic collection, by God, all the single issues. . .but for God’s sake, who cares what the format is?

    Who cares whether it’s on DVD or VHS? If DVD looks better and is easier to store, count me in for DVD (not to mention the ease of production).

    Who cares whether it’s on vinyl or 8-track or mp3? It’s MUSIC, for GOD’S SAKE! More music is available to you now because anyone–ANYONE–can make a song and put it on an mp3, and you can download it off the web. You can’t just throw together an LP in your bedroom.

    And so if comics come out in issues or books or digital or whatever, the ease of production and the ease of distribution is what matters. All those “acquired tastes” who could never convince Marvel to publish and distribute their work, they now have a platform. And you can get it from them!

    No middle man. Right at home. And you can still go to the comic store, which will continue to stock ever more hardcovers and trades and fewer single issues (remember searching through longboxes for back issues?, those days are nearly over already). And if you think the artist deserves your money–and he does–then buy it from him and give him your money.

    For God’s sake, people.

  12. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Heidi, Shaenon’s over 30 as well. Besides, automatically granting someone expertise because of their proximity to a demographic is pretty weak. The only group of twentysomethings I was an expert on when I was a twentysomething were those that fought in the civil war. Shaenon’s comments are worth considering because she’s smart and perceptive, not because she’s younger than Gene Phillips.

    I can’t believe I’m sticking up for some random Beat comments poster, but I wanted to point out it’s not an unheard-of argument in coverage of general media issues right now to note that the current group of folks under 30 haven’t consistently put their economic muscle behind much of anything yet. There are profitable media companies right now that act out of that knowledge, and not because they’re blind to the future but because they want a certain kind of present. Personally, I think it’s tough to extrapolate long-term economic behavior based on what people do when they’re young people. If broad trends could be extrapolated over the long-term, my generation would have starved out all the corporations larger than a couple of million dollars around 2004 or so.

    I disagree with Shaenon on a lot of what she wrote based on my own observations of young people via binoculars and being really immature for my age. For one thing, I think the comic book and the newspaper comic have been dead since 1980. But that’s a subject for a different time.

  13. maija says:

    Not long ago I spent the better part of an evening trying to explain the Direct Market to a FIFTY-FIVE YEAR OLD MAN, a lawyer, who loved comics as a kid but had left them behind as he grew up. He was curious to check them out again after hearing me enthuse about them. But it was in trying to explain it to him that I realized just how ridiculous the Direct Market is.

  14. Matthew Southworth says:

    And hell yes, Maija is right on the money.

    I do nothing but think about comics all day long, go to the comic store every week as I have for decades, and I find the shelves and the product confusing.

    You want the new issue of Spider-Man? Okay, which title? Just Spider-Man, I liked the movie, I want to read Spider-Man. Well, there’s a bunch of different kinds. There’s SM for kids, there’s the dark Spider-Man, hey, there’s Spider-Girl and Spider-Woman. If you buy THIS issue you won’t know what the hell’s going on because it’s part of the BRAND NEW DAY tie-in and you’ll need the other four parts of this miniseries, plus the tie-in issues of other series. And hey, by the way, Spider-Man is wearing black this month. . .

    I love all that shit, but a casual reader doesn’t need all that confusion. A collection, HC or TPB, simplifies it for the casual reader.

    Test: take a non-comics reader, show them Captain Marvel, then take them to a comic store and tell them to find more Captain Marvel stuff. They’ll resent you and suppose you’re making fun of them when they discover how many Captain Marvels they are and get confused by why the Captain Marvel you showed them is A) called Shazam half the time and B) not published by Marvel.

    Bottom line: comics are confusing. I love them, love them, love them. But they are intimidating to the newcomer, and if he/she can look things up on Amazon or wherever in order to feel like they know what they’re buying, why shouldn’t they?

  15. TonyJazz says:

    I’m confused, John (the last poster here).

    You state: “2 Monthly comics are dead. Sigh. This again? I’ve been hearing this for years, mostly from women who we must all remember are still new to comics when compared to males. Males over 35, who make up probably 99 percent of sales for monthly comics and who have the most disposable income will keep monthly comics going long after we are all dead and buried.”

    How exactly does a population that is aging (and not replenished) keep a business such as comics profitable & continuing?

    Isn’t your argument exactly the reason that monthly comics will have to end?

  16. Chris Hero says:

    I’m under 35! ^_^ But not by much, only a few years…. Still, can I play??

    John:

    “9 They are mostly girls. Who, the bloggers? The independents with websites? The former can’t even buy their own cameras, the latter aren’t selling anything to anyone that matter”

    Seriously? That’s your response to that? You’re going with the “women folk are too busy twirling their hair to buy comics” approach? What, did “Go play dress up and don’t worry your pretty little head about it” not want any of that?

    Women are by far the majority gender when it comes to reading. So, there’s a good point there that women may be the future of comic readers. I happen to think that’s correct and we need more books like the Minx line or Y The Last Man or Fruit Baskets or even Bone or One Piece that can appeal to women as well as men.

  17. Chris Hero says:

    @maija:

    Wow!! You hit it out of the park with the best analogy ever with that Sears and Robuck/meeting the train on Wed thing!

  18. It’s tough to determine amid the woman-bashing, but I think John’s suggesting that the supply of over-35-year-old males IS getting replenished.

  19. Tom’s comments notwithstanding (yes, I’ve sons that are in their twenties who love comics but can’t afford them, so I understand the economic arguments and the stagnation of the middle class’ buying power), I think Shaenon’s points are worth considering.

    And I’m not sure people aren’t buying downloads. Yes, there are those who download scans. But I’d like some more info on the digital delivery purchases. I realize that may not be forthcoming since there are no middle-men (distribution companies and retailers) that can report sales.

    And I sure hope commenter “John” isn’t employed in the comics biz. Whatever you think of his counterpoints, his parting shot was uncalled for.

  20. Chris Hero says:

    @Matthew Southworth

    Your imaginary scenario of someone going in to a comic store looking for “Just Spider-Man, I liked the movie, I want to read Spider-Man,” I saw that happen once with Batman. A lady came into a comic store and wanted to buy a Batman comic for her nephew. The guy began asking her a series of questions, like “Which Batman?” “How old is your nephew?” and “”Is he current with the continuity?” She finally left the store screaming about “why can’t I just buy the Batman book? Isn’t there one like the movie?” It was very telling to watch….

  21. For what it is worth, here is a comment from someone in the older range (low 40s, if you must know). First, I am a casual reader of comics for the most part. I read a few as a kid (I remember an issue or two of Spiderman with the Human Torch in it), but I certainly did not collect. Second, I have really come into reading comics as an adult, and I read all over the board– hero comics (your Marvel/Dc, so on), other graphic novels, some indies, mangas, etc. On the list then:

    1. Like a lot of younger people, I have not read a newspaper in print in ages. I cannot remember the last time I picked one up. So, newspaper comic strips? Definitely dead to me.

    2. Monthly comic books are not dead, but I don’t care much for them. I am the “wait for the TPB” guy (and yes, I know what a TPB is). In large measure because I am a busy guy, so remembering to go to the comic book shop to pick up specific items on a specific day is not something I have time for. I have to note though that I do visit and buy things from my local comic book shop. They are very nice, and they even have a “hold” service so I can tell them hold these titles, I will come buy them at a more convenient time. However, for me, since a lot of comic story arcs cross titles (I mean, how many Batman titles can you really have or need, for instance? And I say this as someone who likes Batman), waiting for the trade that picks up the whole arc in one sitting works better for me as a reader.

    3. Format? Who cares overall. I like TPBs, but my daughter will read the occasional “regular” comic. You go with what works. I do also read some Webcomics. QCC is currently my “must read” every weekday morning.

    4. Agree on the fragmentation. I read all over the place. Basically, there are genres I like, and I seek them out.

    5. Canon. I suppose there is one. I would agree with some of the titles listed, would add others probably. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman should probably be on that list.

    6. Yes, Superheroes are comic book characters, so are all sorts of other characters. The point is…what exactly?

    7. Manga has changed things, yes. I think in some “regular” comics you can detect some manga influences and viceversa. (And yes, I did notice the post’s author works for a manga co.; it does not make the point less valid).

    8. Seems anyone can make a comic these days with a computer and some basic art tools.

    9& 10. Probably. I am sure there are some very good lady artists out there. Anyhow, I don’t care for the gender. You make me a good story with good art, you can be a midget, Siberian, tranny with a tail for all I care.

    Best, and keep on blogging.

  22. Matthew Southworth says:

    Just reread some of John’s comments, and John, you might be a nice guy and all, but your commentary here makes you sound like a negative, lonely misogynist.

    First off, the comment that indie comics don’t sell is nonsense. Tell it to Robert Kirkman, whose WALKING DEAD outsells most mainstream books. Jeff Smith has built a mini-empire on BONE. There are dozens of books that sell quite well and don’t have to sell as much as mainstream books because they don’t have to subsidize and recoup massive marketing and infrastructure costs. They’re independent because they’re produced by a handful of people instead of dozens of people.

    Second–women do read comics and they love them. My girlfriend, in her mid-30s, with two children, just last night got all excited about BPRD and wanted me to get out of bed and go get more to read before we went to sleep. BPRD is not aimed at women, it’s aimed at intelligent people who like to read. She also goes crazy for minicomics and handmade comics and autobiographical comics she can only get at shows. And she loves Darwyn Cooke’s work.

    Your final comment telling ladies to go back to the kitchen–sorry, I mean Twilight–is insulting, rude, lame. I suspect that the women in your circle that don’t like comics actually are responding to your shitty attitude and associate that with comics instead.

    There’s also the distinct possibility that you just read some shitty comics. Given your comment that indies are where creativity is “stillborn”, that’s a fair guess.

    Don’t be such a jerk. People would take your commentary much more seriously.

  23. Newspaper comics are dead. I wish it were otherwise, but it’s impossible to get around the fact that no one under a certain age—and that age gets higher all the time—considers newspapers essential daily reading.

    Unless some younger commenters start appearing soon, I will begin to fret about the future of The Beat.

  24. chris says:

    Must read? Read what? Brian Hibbs writes at length on these ol’ rags called monthly comics, and he backs them up with numbers and stats. This is quickly thrown together op-ed, so it’s “must read?”

    I read it, and my question to you is according to whom?

  25. Okay… sorry, but have to bash the troll…

    “No comic company, let alone comic shop takes the female market for monthly print comics seriously. Sorry ladies, it’s true.”

    Oh? What about Viz? Tokyopop? Why the recent Women of Marvel promotion? Or is that just for the aging fanboys to slobber over?

    “…it’s why males over 36 are catered to, it’s why women aren’t catered to and it’s why independents still, after all these decades and with the rare exception, don’t sell.”

    Rare exceptions: Persepolis, Maus, American Splendor, almost the entire Vertigo backlist, Odd Thomas, Outlander, Genesis, Scott Pilgrim, Walking Dead, Hellboy, Sin City, 300, Asterios Polyp, Bone, Baby Mouse, Smile…
    (and almost all manga)

    “Again, we can talk about “readers” all day long but the only readers that matter are those that buy what they’re reading.”

    Did you see the previous post about 4Chan? How about: “the first one is always free”? The Internet has proven that free content drives sales. Perhaps advertising helps pay the bills, perhaps merchandising. But that can be said about a lot of media. What matters is that a creator makes enough money to support his or her vision.

    Sure, some people will steal instead of paying for content. But a lot more will pay for it. And you know what? Get them while they’re young! Look at all the re-launched nostalgic properties out there! (Holly Hobby?!) People either buy stuff they loved as a child, and/or they want to share that love with their children.

    “Irrelevant because the majority of readers under 30 are irrelevant from a sales standpoint.”

    Libraries buy a lot of books. Libraries want kids to read. Libraries buy comics to get kids to read. Almost every publisher of children’s books has a graphic novel program because teachers and librarians realize how powerful a literacy tool comics can be.

    And then there are all those cosplaying manga readers. The reason the New York Times has a manga bestseller list is because it would dominate the regular graphic novel list. How about the numerous manga charting on the USA Today 150? Somebody is buying those manga. And most of those buyers are teenagers.

    “Comics will always, irrevocably be about superheroes.”

    Funny… there aren’t many superheroes in comic strips. Yes, superheroes are the predominant genre, but see my list of the “rare exceptions”. Oh, you mean “comic books”? In the 1950s, superheroes almost died out at Marvel. Horror and romance and western comics were the big thing back then. It was only when the Comics Code Authority was established that the pure, wholesome good-versus-evil superhero genre was resuscitated.

    “Isn’t it common knowledge by now that Manga is for young kids, teen girls and college nerd girls who like emo guys and vampires?”

    Careful, Frank Miller might beat you into a coma with a copy of “Lone Wolf and Cub”.

    “And why do they always draw the characters with giant eyeballs? What’s that all about?”

    Why do they always draw the female superheroes with big boobs, impossible anatomy, and skimpy costumes? What’s that all about?

    ” Um…so? Who cares about DeviantArt? Not the folks with disposable income, that’s for sure, they’re buying superhero shit.”

    You might not be familiar with Amateur Press Associations, such as APA-5 or CAPA-Alpha. Or mini-comics. Or fanzines like The Comics Reporter or Omniverse. DeviantArt and blogs and message boards are where the future creators will come from. That’s where the community is now, where fans show what they can do, and others comment.

    Okay. I’m done.

  26. thefreakytiki says:

    I disagree with the article. I’ll leave it at that to avoid the sh!t storm.

    the Tiki

  27. Chris Hero says:

    I don’t know who said this, but for the Hell of it, I felt like replying:

    “Newspaper comics are dead. I wish it were otherwise, but it’s impossible to get around the fact that no one under a certain age—and that age gets higher all the time—considers newspapers essential daily reading”

    The local newspapers are all trash. They’re mostly just collections of syndication stories and AP wires. I’ve watched the NY Times go down in flames. It’s sad, really.

    On the other hand, newspapers without comics are continuing to kick ass. The Economist, the Financial Times, Barron’s, that’s just three that all put out excellent news. Really, it’s all about your definition of newspaper, which just services Shaenon’s point about format.

  28. Tom — I said 35 not 30. And of course many golden agers such as the Beat are still able to tweet and twoot intelligibly as we sit on our ergonomic kneeling chairs and talk about CSI.

    And yes, Chad, the Beat’s commenters skew older, so we have these good old circle jerk arguments. You can be a jerk at any age, thank God.

    Chris: Brian does some solid analysis but he also falls prey to the Hibbsian Fallacy in stating over and over again that it is periodicals that are the driving force behind recent historical comics sales — which is true if you are looking at comics shops sales but not if you are considering the overall trajectory of comics sales in the Aughts. For instance — http://www.icv2.com/articles/news/12416.html — in, 2007 periodical sales were $330 million and graphic novel sales were $375 million, according to ICv2. That’s through both bookstores and comics shops — obviously a huge part of the comics consumer dollar in the last ten years went for graphic novels NOT periodicals. And just because Brian didn’t sell manga in his store doesn’t mean manga doesn’t exist. For instance in the Bookscan charts for 2007 (seen here: http://sites.google.com/site/lyinginthegutters/Bookscan07.xls?attredirects=0) non-manga best sellers 300, Dark Tower and Watchmen all lead in dollars over lower priced manga volumes, but the top 100 is overwhelmingly manga.

    Of course these are PAST trends, as manga has plateaued and new demographics that will be ignored by people like John V. are already moving into the comics reading audience.

    As I IM’d (so 2001) at someone just today, everyone is looking for a new audience, but when they actually see one they get scared.

  29. I’m in my twenties, but am too busy downloading pirated comics to post a reply to all this stuff.

  30. Boy, this post really did touch a nerve with the Fan-Man, didn’t it?

    Personally, I’m just happy that comics HAVE a future. And I honestly believe it’s a very bright and colorful one.

  31. It might not be fair to say this about something that’s labeled a manifesto, but my biggest problem with definitive statements like “Monthly comic books are dead” is that all the evidence on that is purely anecdotal.

    There’s no real data confirming that the majority of the people buying the monthlies are nerd dinosaurs getting ready for extinction (or if there is, no one’s sharing it publicly). Yes, sales are down right now, but sales of everything are down now.

    Sure, my guess is that monthly comics will eventually disappear in favor of TPBs or digital comics, but the reality is, no one knows for sure. Ten years ago, Marvel Comics stock was selling for under $3 a share and drowning in debt, and it looked like they would disappear. Five years ago or so, online pundits were predicting that manga would take over the world and finally vanquish superhero comics as the mainstream in America, but, as Heidi notes, that market has plateaued somewhat. (For the record, I enjoy manga; I’m not commenting on the quality of the product, just the lack of a complete takeover.)

    That said, I agree with a lot of what Shaenon writes, I’m also optimistic about the future of comics in whatever format it takes, and I agree that Cul de Sac is a national treasure and girls rule.

  32. Brian does some solid analysis but he also falls prey to the Hibbsian Fallacy in stating over and over again that it is periodicals that are the driving force behind recent historical comics sales — which is true if you are looking at comics shops sales but not if you are considering the overall trajectory of comics sales in the Aughts. For instance — http://www.icv2.com/articles/news/12416.html — in, 2007 periodical sales were $330 million and graphic novel sales were $375 million, according to ICv2. That’s through both bookstores and comics shops — obviously a huge part of the comics consumer dollar in the last ten years went for graphic novels NOT periodicals.

    But before we dismiss Mr. Hibbs, isn’t part of his point that without sales of periodicals funding the creation of the work that eventually gets collected, most of those graphic novels wouldn’t exist?

  33. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Hey, if increments of five years are that important to you, you sure shouldn’t be grouping the two of us together.

  34. Erk! I have fixed the offending comment.

  35. hikaru go says:

    These comments took to a strange course. Once the kids grow up who love comics– the ones who love comics so much that become involved in the ins & outs of the industry, they will make their way to places like this one here at the beat. As for now, I’m sure most kids could give a shit about sales, medium, the direct market. When I was 15, I loved comics for the art and the story. If it was good, I bought it. Nothing else should matter to a kid when it comes to comics. Oh, and I’m now thirty.

  36. Just to follow up on my previous comment — and to respond to one or two others.

    While I don’t believe the direct market and monthlies are going any where, I think the point needs to be made that, even for us old guys, its never a matter of picking one thing over the other. I buy monthlies and I wait for the trade. It depends. I also read manga and have since Viz and Dark Horse were printing it in the monthly format.

    And, as I said originally, the local’s customer base isn’t as gray haired as some here think. I am constantly running into comic readers – superhero, direct market buyers – who are much younger than I am. And that includes women (though they tend to be more common in the shops than in the forums).

    And I don’t think its really that hard to explain the direct market: most comics are sold through specialty shops and comic publishers cater to these shops, typically via a single wholesaler. Explaining continuity in a given comic universe is another thing, but an hour or so on Wikipedia will go a long way.

  37. Andrew Farago says:

    Most of what Shaenon writes in this article seems to fall into the “Common Sense” category to me, so I’m always surprised when the pitchforks come out from people like John V (whose main argument seems to be that as long as the current readers are reasonably healthy and don’t die unexpectedly, they can keep the industry going for another 30 years at its current levels).

    The big problem that comes when she posts articles like this is that valid, interesting arguments tend to be derailed by people saying “Girls are dumb and they don’t like REAL comics anyway, since they’re dumb.” It’s like when Obama wants to talk about the economy, but reporters want to talk about how he doesn’t have an American birth certificate.

    To that regard: John V., you’re wasting teacher’s valuable time. Please put your head down on your desk and try not to prevent the rest of the class from learning.

  38. I’ll offer my two cents (which in January 2011 will get me a 0.7% of a paper DC Comic and 0.5% of most paper Marvel Comics) as a spry 28 year old who has been buying comics and downloading music since the ages of 9 and 17 respectively.

    Though Shannon’s article has “Ten Things” I see “Three Points”: Format is changing (1, 2, 3), Audience are changing (4, 8, 9, 10) and Content is changing (5, 6, 7). Of those three Comics needs to be concerned with Format and Audience because if those two are done right the Audience will find the Content they want and pay for it so that everyone wins. What I think Comics needs to be thinking about is not “how do we get the Audience to the Format we like?” but “what Format does the Audience want?”

    It took the music industry a long time to figure this out the Format for their Audience, but most other industries want to repeat their process rather than their solution. Music put up with a lot of lawsuits, PSAs saying “downloading is a crime” and technological advancements before it was discovered that their Audience wanted to download the Content they liked. So then heads got together to make a new system that for a fee delivered that Format better than any illegal option.

    Every conversation that is “people are pirating Comics” was had ten years ago about “stealing music” when it should be “who’s making a simple interface that our entire potential Audience can use to buy every type of Content in Comics in the Format they want?” There are some good options on the market, but they could be better and they could have more cross-publisher support.

    Since everyone in this thread is old, I’m sure we all remember The Buggles song “Video Killed the Radio Star” but did you know that this summer some crazy kids called The Limousines put out a song called “The Internet Killed the Video Star?” They kept the best line “We can’t rewind now, we’ve gone too far.” Comics shouldn’t rewind and fight progress, steal the solution and go forward to use Format to reach the Audience with the Content.

    My predictions for the future:
    -Everything goes digital (new stuff and back catalog) and comes out more often (weekly or bi-weekly) but in cheaper, shorter installments (that bring back the satisfying chunk) and are all in one place from everyone (big publishers and people in their studios).

    -Lots of things are still printed, mostly collections and specialty art projects.

    -Companies figure out how to capitalize on the interest in their IP in other media. And I mean more than spending a year before each movie making a dozen miniseries starring the star character to become trades in the summer. When the next big movie comes out, next summer’s Thor, someone in the general public can say “I want to read a Thor comic” and within minutes be reading the Thor comic that Marvel recommended via the leading digital interface.

    …And as a complaint about the past and present, why doesn’t Marvel ever really take advantage of the fact that their movies opening on Free Comic Book Day Weekend? It’s no accident they’re the same time. When I saw Iron Man 2 this year, I should have been forced past a stack of the Iron Man/Thor FCBD comic or at least been told to go to my local shop. For the future why doesn’t a trailer run before every Marvel movie with note that right then I can download a free comic related to the movie I just paid $12 for? I and the hundreds of other people sitting around me are obviously interested in Thor, so make it easy for us to get more of him!

  39. Kate Willaert says:

    @David Bird:

    I get so tired of people telling me that DVD rentals and rental stores are dead. Oh, they go to their Blockbuster and rent their DVDs, sure, but where is the next generation? You are the next generation!

    (To be fair, I’m not saying all comic shops are as doomed as Blockbuster, or places like Hollywood Video that have already gone bust. However, believing that monthlies will forever be the driving force of comics seems kind of like a video rental or video store believing that DVD (or two decades ago, VHS) would always be the driving source of video, or that Netflix will eventually go away if you just ignore it.)

  40. Boy, this post really did touch a nerve with the Fan-Man, didn’t it?

    That’s the problem with the religious. They’s so sensitive to criticism.

  41. @ Matthew Southworth said:

    “You want the new issue of Spider-Man? Okay, which title? Just Spider-Man, I liked the movie, I want to read Spider-Man. Well, there’s a bunch of different kinds”.

    That’s true, but that can happen with all sorts of media when the interested party is someone who is unfamiliar with it.

    Someone walks into a store that sells DVD’s, “I want the CSI”.

    Which CSI do you want? The one based in NY, Miami, or Las Vegas? If Las Vegas, do you want the one starring Laurence Fishburne or William Petersen? Which Season do you want?

    The potential customer might reply that they only had heard that the CSI was a good show, that they didn’t know how to pick among the many Seasons and Series. If they were open to an explanation then they might be willing to wait patiently enough to have it explained to them, but if not, they might also flee from the store in confusion or frustration.

    Another customer asks for “The Batman Movie”. Are they speaking of the one with Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale or someone else? Perhaps one of the Animated Movies? If that’s the case, is it one from the Animated Series or one of the new comic adaptations such as Public Enemies?

    Most people are more familiar with TV shows and Movies and how to buy them, but they aren’t necessarily intrinsically more confusing than comics. Understanding the comic market, as with anything, depends on the patience of both the person being asked to explain and their audience, and the ability of the explainer and the willingness to listen from the party (or parties) to whom they are attempting to explain.

  42. I’d gladly sell comics to girls under the age of 21, if they were interested in comics. Currently, I’m happy making money off of men over the age of 35 who, you know, have jobs and “disposable income” to spend on comics.

  43. Mikael says:

    “Boy, this post really did touch a nerve with the Fan-Man, didn’t it?”

    No. It didn’t. What it did was show how short-sighted the manifesto actually was in the first place. And how – like your quote above – is too eager to label and pigeon hole without any base in facts.

    You know what I wish would disappear? This kind of snark blogging. For when you’re making those kind of grand comments, leading “snobs” to use degrading terms like Fan Men, no one wins. The circle doesn’t stop that way.

  44. @ Kate Willaert

    Thanks for your comment Kate, but I don’t think that the analogy really works. The thing about direct market is that it caters to a collectors market. Video/DVD rental stores, on the other hand, sell to a general audience.

    Comic publishers really are following the money. For all the complaints of fanboy exclusivity, they know their market and they are giving it what it wants. Many argue that that may be fine for now, but that customer base is getting older and will eventually just die off, taking direct market with it. My observation is that direct market customers are actually getting younger all the time. If they weren’t, the people I run into would largely be my own age. Online or in the shops, however, they aren’t. I meet people of all ages (actually most of them are younger than I am) and I do see many woman in my local too — which raises the question of just how representative comic forums, etc are of the general comics community.

    Anyway, I do appreciate that change happens and that someday the direct market will be replaced with something else. But I don’t think’ll be any time soon.

  45. Kate Willaert says:

    @David Bird

    “The thing about direct market is that it caters to a collectors market. Video/DVD rental stores, on the other hand, sell to a general audience.”

    I would say those two sentences above define the entire problem with what the major comic companies are doing.

    How is catering to a niche market rather than a general audience “following the money”? Going for the general audience would be going for a wider, and much MUCH LARGER audience, and hence more money. Video games are big money right now, but if they catered almost exclusively to the hardcore gamers, they’d probably be having the same troubles as comics.

    I don’t get why people seem to think its a good thing that the major comics publishers are catering to the niche market. Comics could sell just as much as videogames or DVDs or albums, yet the people with the most influence seem content going after a hobbiest market that’s closer in size to that of, say, model train enthusiasts than gamers.

    I’m not saying I dislike the direct market. I just think comic stores should work more like record stores — the place you go to get a wider selection than what’s available at the big chains — rather than like hobby shops or cards & collectibles stores.

  46. likefunbutnot says:

    Torsten said “Okay… sorry, but have to bash the troll…

    “No comic company, let alone comic shop takes the female market for monthly print comics seriously. Sorry ladies, it’s true.”

    Oh? What about Viz? Tokyopop? Why the recent Women of Marvel promotion? Or is that just for the aging fanboys to slobber over?”

    At C2E2 this year, a dear friend of mine stood up and asked Joe Quesada about what she saw as the extremely negative prevailing attitudes toward female characters and for female readers from mainstream super hero comics.

    Rather than address her concern, she was openly laughed at and heckled by both the panel audience and Marvel employees.

    So no, I think it’s fair to say that mainstream comics really, really don’t give a crap about female readership.

    For what it’s worth, I actually think that a lot of John’s points do have a certain level of validity, especially those related to who the people are who are actually paying for comics. We’re men in our 30s or older, we’re probably going to be following the same titles for life and our comic book world is only in the same orbit as manga in the sense that it’s sequential art that’s printed on paper.

  47. The future of comics is in trouble if the response from the the Superman Earth One make over is any indication.

    Judging by the response from the preview on Yahoo today, people not only don’t seem to be interested but they’re hating on it pretty bad and remember, this is from the exact market DC targeted.

    Some of the comments under the Yahoo story by the non-regular reader market DC is trying to reach is at an ugly, fever pitch.

    In fact, it makes the some of the complaints I’ve heard from some regular readers tame by comparison.

  48. The reason I bring this up is because everyone knows, the future of comics relies on new readers and this may go a long way towards explaining why the leaders at the big two just can’t seem to get new readers interested, no matter how hard they try.

    Mind you, whenever Marvel or DC tries to get new readers*, the new readers never say they don’t buy because comics are ancient, they say they don’t buy because the ideas are terrible.

    * Think any of Marvel or DC’s attempts to gain new readers that became a media event over the past ten years like a party thrown for people who never showed up: Spidey a new swinging single/Captain America dies/Batman RIP/Wonder Woman’s new costume/Superman Earth One…

  49. I’ve been verbed?

    Well, can we at least get my arguments a little closer to the real ones, please?

    “he also falls prey to the Hibbsian Fallacy in stating over and over again that it is periodicals that are the driving force behind recent historical comics sales — which is true if you are looking at comics shops sales but not if you are considering the overall trajectory of comics sales in the Aughts.”

    I’d say that my argument is actually that periodical installments are what allow the creation of the (inexpensive) book format work in the first place.

    Just looking at the 2009 BookScan Top 100 (because I’m lazy!!), AFAIK 86 of them were serialized before collection (and like 8 of the “nots” are really guides or otherwise in-my-view miscoded titles with different base economics than “proper comics” — eg the #2 “Dork Diaries”). As far as I can tell the entire reason that it is POSSIBLE to produce $9.99 manga collections is BECAUSE they were serialized first. Maybe not in America, no, but that’s hardly important — the single largest chunk of the cost of production (creative costs) have been amortized in some fashion.

    Be it NARUTO or WATCHMEN, it would appear that you need some sort of periodical mechanism to underwrite the creative costs so that the collection can be ultimately delivered, if you want a economic engine that provides creators with a living wage during production.

    Yes, there are certainly a few counter examples of books that earn-out-and-then-some — the Azarello JOKER HC or Crumb’s BOOK OF GENESIS or SCOTT PILGRIM among them, but those appear to be the extreme minority, and, as near as I can tell, most “OGNs” have a hard time earning back the creatives in any kind of short-term frame. This is, I suppose (and possibly wrongly!), why Charles Burn’s latest is 52 story pages for $20, or why Marvel does NO OGNs, and DC has radically stepped back from them according to reports.

    OGNs *can* economically work, in a very narrow number of cases, but mathematically they look like a significantly greater risk to a publisher to my eyes.

    Heidi: most “we’re all about the bookstores” attempts to generate a line of original comics work in book-format-only in the last decade (or more) have gone down to crashing failure as a publishing strategy (as you well know) probably because the general bookstore market is many times more ruthless and unforgiving than the DM. The outlay to pay a living wage to produce a real (100+ page) GN is, sadly, far more likely to outstrip the revenue it will generate in its first burst of sales.

    ***

    “And just because Brian didn’t sell manga in his store doesn’t mean manga doesn’t exist.”

    Um, what, Heidi?

    Dude, you’ve even been in my store, so I’m wondering where the heck a comment like that might come from? Here, go look at my POS-generated report for the first half of ’10 — http://www.savagecritic.com/brian/comix-experience-best-sellers-books-the-first-half-of-2010/#more-3721 — I see a BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL and 20TH CENTURY BOYS on my “Top 100″ list.

    There’s no doubt that 2-out-of-100 isn’t all that hot for Manga as a category (which of course is really stupid anyway — Manga isn’t a genre, even though I rack them like that [as does almost every bookstore and library I've ever been in in my life]), but clearly I sell them, and some are among my “best sellers”

    Comics should be comics whether they be by Geoff Johns or Alan Moore or Herge or Goseki Kojimo, the enduring question is, as always, “are they good”?

    I had a good sense that the “Manga Explosion” in the general market was a bubble — my major error was under-estimating the ultimate circumference of the top of the bubble (way higher than I thought) — but the bubble burst, just like I predicted it would. That does not, however, translate to “I don’t carry manga” or “manga doesn’t exist”.

    Because that would be stupid. Manga is comics! I mean, literally and all!

    ***

    To the more general bullet point, “monthly comics” are *hardly* “dead”, but there’s little doubt in my mind they have been systematically and unceasingly abused by their purported Guardians since sometime probably dating after LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #1. Periodicals weakening has far less to do with changing demographics and emerging platforms than it does with the current audience growing increasingly unwilling to be serially abused. The good news is that is entirely possible to fix every problem the DM has… though no friends will be made by doing so in the short-term because it means a whole lot of cancelling and rethinking. Which means it probably can’t happen, because politics sort of rule everything when we talk about actually-making-the-sausage rather than armchair-theory-with-no-skin-in-the-game, if the lovely Beat readers know what I mean?

    (what a stupidly long paragraph!)

    ***

    Also: I thought Adam Farrar’s post was pretty right on (especially the first half of it) and everyone should go read it again. I disagree with some of his conclusions, but his basic theory is sound.

    -B

  50. Geez. I’m just under the gun of 30 and I feel like I’m a young whipper snapper being told to get off the lawn reading some of these comments. I feel torn between the old traditions and the oncoming ways. Honestly I don’t think the traditional monthly comic is dead, but if it continues to be stubborn and not move with the flow, it will be. The 90s ‘Glenn Beck for Gold’ mentality sure will kill it if it doesn’t get off the smack. The big two with their crossover event addiction and flood of titles that contradict each other will take the industry down like the Titanic if they don’t change.

    I like manga, but I do find it sad that so many fans won’t even touch an American book on that basis alone. Meanwhile they want to publish a book here and call it manga. That’s a whole other problem. These camps are stupid because they’re all just words and pictures on a page. And honestly I don’t think Japan is all that different. Yet what works in Japan simply won’t work in America. We’re simply not Japan. Everything from differences with recycling to school systems to public transportation dictates how the comic market is different there.

    Of course I’m one who loves Japanese and American books. I also hate a good deal of both of them too. It boggles my mind when people come out against manga on comic forums like this, or vice versa. If you true love comics and manga, you shouldn’t be blind to see how they really are the same thing.

    Then aside from the whole manga craze is the even younger medium and crazy economics of web comics. Plus the whole Napster and iTunes generations. I’m still a fan of print on paper, but I’d have to have my head pretty firmly up my bum to realize plenty of kids are fine with digital copies and there’s a market to feed there. Then again, even the manga publishers are maddeningly conservative when it comes to digital.

  51. Wow. Lot of comments here. Sorry, don’t have time to read them all. In short, I think the future of comics IS in the free download. I mean, people are just going to pirate it anyway. Might as well give it away on my own terms. Coming soon. Moonlight Art Magazine free downloads. After that, some upgrades for a small fee. It’s like hearing a new song on the radio. You know, where you can tun in and hear songs for free, and then you go buy the album, because you liked what you heard. Man. Even that’s a dated concept at this point. The times they are a changin’. Oh, and I’m 34. I think that counts for something, but it’s really just silly to fixate on. People is people. Art is art. Money is money… and in that order of importance. It’s a good foundation to build on.

  52. Serhend Sirkecioglu says:

    She should of called this “3-5 half-truths to know about the future of comics”…here comes another list:

    1) true

    2) debatable. when the ever coveted “I-tunes for comics” meaning a universal hub to download comics appear, then I see monthly comics are going to be as strong as ever…the only road block is the content. Comics do not have a mass market branch(wal-mart comics), which means all were doing is essentially moving out of a old niche and into a new one.

    3) this one I mostly agree with this but with no definitive format, how do create growth? we don’t need a universal “this is the way” format but we de need definitive points of entry like a print model and a online model that overlap and support each other. what we have now is two warring factions, and people joining who they feel is the winning side.

    4)Rly? this is the weakest one of the bunch…here’s a summary: “people like different things now and have opinions” SINCE THE BEGINNING OF TIME IN EVERY FACET OF LIFE WE ALWAYS LIKE DIFFERENT THINGS AND HAD OPINIONS! from the classic “my god is better than your god” to today’s “my lack of a god is better than your god”. my gen and yours has always thought that way & your just noticing now?!

    5)Yeah, for the people who are still act like they are in MS/HS, Manga right now for Gen Y is our Terri Schiavo. 50% of us want to keep it alive and the other 50% just want to take what they learned from it and move on. personally i’m with the latter. Mentioning manga to some of us now is like that sex you regret.

    6)another weak argument, honestly these 10 points mostly badger mainstream comics, which I love as much as the next guy at, but who gives a shit? the superhero genre sux yeah, with it’s “OMFG it the end of the world…again” plots which are nothing more than soapboxes for the writer and artist. Robert Kirkman is well overdue to say “I told ya so” to the mainstream. Instead of catering to the aging uber-niche fan base actually make an effort to create comics for KIDS…yeah not girls, KIDS you know those adorable little munchkins who are behind over 60% of purchases in households. a good example to look at is Pokemon, now moving on!

    7) true but changing the game is exaggerating it. it’s more like 18th cenury europe when artists like Picasso, Van Gogh, and others were introduced to japanese woodcuts and aftican art for the first time. I would like to say though, i do like drawing backgrounds FYI(40% of the time).

    8) this is another weak one. so your saying if i ride my bike, that makes me as much of a professional as lance armstrong? I hope not, quoting the Incredibles “If everybody is super, then nobody is”, which is the problem with webcomics right now. if ANYBODY can put a comic online and be called a cartoonist is there such a thing as a cartoonist? and with the offshore drilling you have to do find a good web comic thats alot of wasted time…again itunes for comics anyone?

    9&10)Seriously, Gen X ladies love these points. I see this more as the same 35+yo fans now with more estrogen. aside from the manga boom i see little to no growth in new readers. plus remember the copies of a copy i mentioned earlier? this demographic is the bell-curve(or semi bell-curve, depends on on you rly). there are some rly awsome female artists among this gen of ladies but they are the minority IMO.

    yeah im done.

    counter-points anyone?

  53. Serhend Sirkecioglu says:

    my bad for the typos and the 8 that turned into a smiley.

  54. To chime in on David Bird’s, “The thing about direct market is that it caters to a collectors market. Video/DVD rental stores, on the other hand, sell to a general audience.”

    Comics are a story-telling mass medium first, a Kincaid-style collectible second. If the story doesn’t hold up, the secondary collectible market for the comic goes under. That is why the varient cover business model to increase sales keeps collapsing. A simple cover swap doesn’t double their sales for any length of time, because it doesn’t double the amount of the underlying product they are selling. There is a collectible market that will keep the floppies around for quite some time, but floppies are not a great bet for audience growth in the future.

    Smart comic producers realize they’re selling content and search for as many ways to sell it as possible. So they license their content to other other content producers (hey look, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon!), or they repackage their own content in way different enough to reach an additional audience. In prose works, this means you get hardbacks, trade paperbacks, mass market paperbacks, and ebooks. In comics, you get newspapers, comic books, magazines, trade paperbacks, hardbacks, webcomics, and digital downloads.

    I realized we talk mostly about direct market comics on this site, but for most of the artform’s commericial history, comic books were always newspaper comics’ country cousin. Comic books were never the king, and they still aren’t. The king right now is the trades. Watchmen, Sandman, Bone, or Maus, they’ve made a hell of a lot more money as trades than they ever did as floppies, and got more respect while they did it. There’s no technological reason why they couldn’t be sold over and over again as floppies – but that isn’t the packaging the larger audience wants. Trades are so important that, if the comic was successful its original format, it will be rereleased as a trade. Calvin and Hobbes, Batman, New Yorker, or Penny Arcade, trade paperback is the format where they all meet.

    Soooo, I largely agree with Garrity’s post except about floppies being dead. It ignores the long tail the collector’s market will create for the format. Even the collector’s market might not be enough, but 17-22 pages for a monthly digital download will probably work well in subsidizing the creation of longer dramatic works (trade sized), especially for ongoing properties (like Batman). Easy enough for the big, entrenched direct market companies to service both those formats with the same content. Just don’t expect them to produce much new and innovative work in the floppies. The problem with collectors is that they don’t really want anything new….

  55. Al™ says:

    I’m over 35, and I think the future of comics is an iTunes store with downloads.

    The past ain’t coming back. The newsstand where a casual reader could BROWSE and buy a done-in-one comic is not coming back.

    The direct market continually irritates me, for reasons I’ve already gone on about at different times.

    But to summarize, I find it tiresome to do all the work to research the market, monitor the ever-changing creator teams and being sure to preorder a comic, sight unseen, at full retail cover price.

    It’s all so unbelievable to me, the way I am doing all this work to be allowed to buy a comic, including driving to the store to pick it up.

    All the retailer channel is doing for me is shipping a comic from the plant. Is that really worth 40% markup? I feel patronized.

    (Well, that was not really a summary, was it?)

    Anyway, the future is: Downloads; mass market advertising; and then cross marketing of new, reader friendly non-superhero titles to iTunes and Amazon users.

  56. As always, Tom Spurgeon can most be counted on to be funny when he’s most serious.

    “Smart and perceptive”= telling elitists what they want to hear.

    Bravo, Spurgeo!

  57. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Gene, I only used your name because it’s spelled out like a real one, not because I was soliciting the opinions of the ponytail-bearing, hero-history writing crowd. Please go back to the stale, sad world where you think you matter, the world where Viz editors and manga enthusiasts writing about people reading Watchmen comics and Calvin and Hobbes are elitists.

    PS — I won’t read your response. Mwah.

  58. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Okay, I regret that a bit. Have a nice life, Gene Phillips, wherever you are, whoever you are, whyever you are, both you and your loved ones. I’m going to leave 1999 Comicon.com behind now, and urge you to consider doing same.

  59. It’s articles like this that prove the wide gap between internet armchair quarterbacks and people that actually, you know, sell comics for a living. If manga (what is this, 2004?), graphic novels, and young female customers were the only way to stay in business, then that’s what I’d be selling and who I’d be selling to. But it’s not. The average American comic book store sells superhero books to men over the age of 35. If I changed my business model today, I’d be out of business tomorrow.

    Considering the drastic turn in the economy the past few years, the fact that I’m within 5% of my yearly numbers from 2006/2007 means that, despite what everyone says, monthly comics aren’t dying, manga hasn’t taken over the world, and men over the age of 35 are still buying comics every week.

  60. Tom, my opinion of you predates our jousts on Comicon.com, thanks, but since nothing we’ve said here will make for a decent essay, I’ll leave the matter alone–

    Except to wonder why a guy who can apparently remember reading Roy Thomas AVENGERS comics didn’t just use his own name ‘stead of mine. I wasn’t affronted by the use of my name, though: only by the notion that Shaenon Garrity was smart.

    Now *that*’s a subject I can use for a blog-essay, though you’re correct that almost no one will read it. C’est la guerre.

  61. hikaru go says:

    I wonder if silent film buffs urge the continuation of the format because people still enjoy watching Chaplin and Keaton movies…

  62. Jesse Post says:

    Interesting reading these comments after reading James Surowiecki’s essay in last week’s New Yorker. He not only uses the demise of Blockbuster and rise of Netflix as a way to look at new vs. old business models, but he even throws in a Sears & Roebuck reference for free!

    http://www.newyorker.com/talk/financial/2010/10/18/101018ta_talk_surowiecki

    Highly recommended reading for anyone who cares enough about the topic to read this far down in the comments.

  63. Yeah Jesse, a brilliant essay, reminiscent of my own “Telex Machine” theorem.

    >>>The problem—in Blockbuster’s case, at least—was that the very features that people thought were strengths turned out to be weaknesses. Blockbuster’s huge investment, both literally and psychologically, in traditional stores made it slow to recognize the Web’s importance: in 2002, it was still calling the Net a “niche” market

    All this looks so feebleminded with the hindsight of seven years.

  64. Rebecca De Meyer says:

    The only thing I disagree with is that “monthly comics are dead”. True, they aren’t the end-all be-all of the industry anymore, but I’m not sure I could wait long enough for my BPRD or Hellboy trade editions (hurray to the guy who mentioned his girlfriend reads BPRD, too!). I need my monthly fix. I only buy trades to catch up to the current monthly storyline.

    Oh, and to the guy who said: “Ladies, seriously, get over this delusion that you matter in the comics marketplace. Just be happy you have Twilight and Manga.” Screw you. There’s an exuberance of female cartoonists out there, most of them right here in NYC. I think the reason they aren’t as apparent, however, is that most of the ones I know are in the middle of lengthier projects rather than working on monthlies. Also, that there aren’t a log of women aged into the comics industry, so the demographic seems to certainly tip quite a bit younger than the men producing comics.

    The whole “Girls read Twilight and Manga” is like saying boys only watch Nascar and read John Grisham. And big publishers such as Harper Collins, Penguin, Random House, Scholastic … they’re all interested in what their female readers want out of the comics they currently have in production.

  65. Now all my posts show up, and I look like a crazy person, repeating myself :P

    Well, even more of a crazy person.

  66. Y’all missed the comment at ComiXology where John V. told me “Don’t worry Heidi, no need to thank me. Just go bake me some cookies or somthing.”

  67. Brett says:

    “Periodicals weakening has far less to do with changing demographics and emerging platforms than it does with the current audience growing increasingly unwilling to be serially abused.”

    Exactly.

    It’s a convenient way to place blame on everything else for the cause of weakening periodical sales but the primary cause is and always will be the same, no matter how many people like to argue otherwise:

    The reason for declining sales isn’t due to the threat of digital media or anything else other than the work being offered simply isn’t good enough to get more people interested and buying.

    Comics were created as a collectible, tangible format and it will always be in demand in this format so long as there are publishers who publish things people want to read.

    The same way news over television and radio didn’t kill newspapers in the 50’s, nor did the internet kill them in the 90’s or 2000’s.

    People still buy newspapers. People still buy books despite big screen adaptations and the option for a kindle.

    And people will still buy comics too… when publishers put out material that people want to read. Right now, it just so happens that the leaders of the industry don’t care what anyone else wants to read, they’re putting out stories that makes sense only to them and sales will improve when the leaders stop catering to themselves.

    PS. Just to provide a visual image of how wide the disconnect is between publishers, their regular comic reading supporters and the rest of the world is clearly seen by the comments on the latest Superman: Earth One graphic novel.

    You can always spot a regular comic reader by their irrational logic because they always use the same argument over and over again when they tell people to ‘Stop complaining about something you haven’t even read yet.’

    Thing is, to read it, you have to buy it.

    But most normal people won’t buy something if the preview looks rotten or unappealing. It’s like going into a supermarket and seeing a sample piece of bread with dirt or mold on it.

    The normal person would say, ‘Ew, that’s disgusting’ then walk away.

    The habitual comic reader will tell the consumer they have no right to complain about something they haven’t even eaten yet.

  68. Brett says:

    BTW, I know most of the posts are commenting on Shannon’s article, which had many excellent points but the comments really crossed the line when John injected his unevolved, personal opinion of women and their role as leaders and consumers in comics.

    All I have to say about women in comics, their role as leaders and equally valued consumers can be summarized by the unparalleled work of a certain Wonder Woman who brought to comics a new golden age:

    Jenette Kahn.

    No man has been able to do what she did since.

  69. Mikael says:

    “I wonder if silent film buffs urge the continuation of the format because people still enjoy watching Chaplin and Keaton movies…”

    Not the best comparison actually. Since silent movies to talkies is a change in the content/medium, etc.

    If you’re making the comparison of print vs digital – you aren’t changing the content as much as you are the distribution.

    Different story.

  70. It’s late in the day, but there’s a comment from Brian Hibbs I can’t let stand without countercomment: “most “we’re all about the bookstores” attempts to generate a line of original comics work in book-format-only in the last decade (or more) have gone down to crashing failure as a publishing strategy (as you well know) probably because the general bookstore market is many times more ruthless and unforgiving than the DM.” (and surrounding content)

    As a publishing house with a background and expertise in producing and selling books, not floppies, the book-format-only model works just fine for us (Graphic Universe). Maybe that comment was referring more to a traditional comics publisher branching in the other direction–onto “our territory.” I’d love it if our books had more shelf space in the DM, but at the moment our main markets are libraries and schools, what with the kids and that sparkly new generation of readers and all.

    Even if we don’t achieve Wimpy Kid or Scott Pilgrim sales numbers with every book, the imprint has not been in any way a crashing failure, it’s growing rather than contracting, and we do our our best to provide the talent with a reasonable payment rate (we *try*, I said). Some book publishers who stepped into comics may have overextended, and the recession didn’t help. Others have built upward and are going strong, and we’re all still trying to find our level.

    Although…I sure wouldn’t mind selling some books at Wimpy Kid numbers. Or getting those books into the LCS, then getting the kids in front of them, so they can all grow up and get more comic (from the stores, on their iPad, beamed directly into their optic nerves, I’m not picky).

  71. Dave Elliott says:

    I think using the Blockbuster analogy is an interesting one that does highlight one of the major problems the direct sale market faces especially if the digital age has truly come upon us (forgive if I repeat aspects that others here have already touched on).

    Blockbuster sells/sold films that rarely have sequels/spin-offs/cross-overs to worry about. The trick was to get someone into the store and rent/buy a single film and then come back later and do the same again with a completely different film. Barnes & Noble works on the same principal with books. Their audiences are mainly casual, buying when they have spare income.

    Comics are reliant on someone coming in week after week to buy their titles. This audience is trapped in not being able to go a few weeks without their core titles.

    Someone posted a comment about buying the entire output of a company and how that wasn’t a factor, which I really have to disagree with. As a life long reader of comics I can fondly remember being in a position where I could buy every comic that Marvel put out, including reprints. They were cheap and cheerful and I reread them. Not so any more.

    When you reach a point where you realize some titles have to go, it just makes it easier to let more go soon after. You soon realize what a fool you’ve been in buying a crapload of titles that are on bad runs just because you don’t want a break in your collection.

    Btw: If someone could put my comic collection onto my iPad the collection is theirs.

    Comics have also had a few very lucky escapes in the last twenty years. It just survived the distributor implosion, but a lot of people over look the technological advances that saved comics in the past. The cost of comics production dropped significantly when they went direct to plate printing. All those films that were no longer needed to be output and checked saved thousands of dollars making it that much easier to breakeven or make a few $$’s.

    And this is just scratching the surface…

    But I think the biggest reason that comics have survived is the love that so many people have for them and stubborn refusal to let them die. Dire straits always brings out the best ideas.

  72. J. K. Simon says:

    Reading this ‘manifesto’ was kind of a frustrating experience. It did contain some valid observations and a few persuasive arguments, but those were undercut to some extent by typical indie(comics)-kid axe grinding and superhero hate. So, in order:

    1)Agreed newspaper strips are pathetically moribund, and newspapers themselves are likely on their last legs. The big name brands (NY Times, the WSJ, etc.) will probably live on in some form but they’ll be significantly streamlined, customizable according to reader preferences, and unlikely to host Beetle Bailey.

    2)Uh, no. Granted, the days in which the monthly single was the dominant format are over and unlikely to return — but ‘forced to share floor space w/TPBs and other formats’ isn’t the same as dead. In fact, the single is probably the format most likely to benefit from the gradual shift from paper to the net. If you want a quick entertainment fix on the go (via Phone, iPab, Laptop, etc.) what would you be more likely to buy, a $2.99 ‘single’ or a $14.99 tpb? Anybody trying to to a victory dance on singles right now is an art-comix partisan / mainstream hater whose biases have led them to badly misread current market dynamics.

    3)Agreed, with the caveat that format is not *infinitely* mutable. Not all the new storytelling options technology provides are or are likely to be effective and/or viable narrative vehicles, as shown in the McCloud webcomics commentary piece Heidi linked to a few weeks back.

    4)Agreed. In fact, Garrity should have stuck with this view of the audience instead of some of the axe grinding reader stereotypes she invoked further down the list.

    5)Ah, no. The audience is too fragmented for their to be a consensus canon around much of anything. The Anime/Manga crowd might be aware of major works outside of their chosen subgenre, but they’re not likely to have read/liked them — and vice versa. You could make a fairly credible case for Calvin & Hobbes, Maus, (and maybe for Bone, although I don’t know that it’s been in the mass market long enough for full cultural penetration just yet), but that’s pretty much it. Not enough to build a comprehensive canon on.

    6)See #2. Superheroes aren’t going anywhere Increasing their overall cultural cachet in other media =/= fading from the comic scene. Yes the market is broader now, and that’s all to the good — but having a smaller cut of a bigger pie is hardly a extinction level scenario, and anyone arguing otherwise (like Garrity) is a superhero-hater with a pathetic case of wishful thinking.

    7)Yes, but mostly along the Manga/Anime/OEL axis. Certain storytelling and stylistic conventions have infiltrated the larger marketplace (especially in terms of the character design influences and the wholesale embrace of merchandising), good comics uith plot-driven storytelling and/or backgrounds (plus color!) will still find plenty of eager readers.

    8)Yes, however it’s a missed blessing. The bar to entry has probably never been lower, but the result has been the same as what happens whenever any industry is deprofessionalized. More and more people can work within the medium, but fewer and fewer can support themselves doing so. The number of talented creators forced to get day jobs to make ends meet is going to continue to increase with no real end in sight.

    9)More axe grinding by Garrity, of the sexist variety this time. Comics used to be very male dominated, and though we’re on our way to gender parity (and will probably eventually reach a point where girls outnumber boys slightly, just they do in the overall reading population), it’s not going to be some sort of pink tsunami that will drive all the boys from the medium. Just like the larger book market there will be a assortment of genres, some (superheroes, crime, action, probably sci-fi) will be dominated by boys and others (shojo, yaoi, fantasy, etc.) will be dominated by girls. The idea that girls can (much less should) drive boys from the genre is as misandrist a notion as some of the nastier comments directed at Garrity were misogynist.

    10)Another mixed blessing, a la #8. Lowered barriers to entry means that some creators will be able to begin their artistic evolution sooner than they could have in the old days, and this will help them hone their talents and craft in a major way. However, more creators with more access to the levers of publishing won’t have any impact on the iron dynamics of Sturgeon’s Law — there will be more ‘wonderful’ stuff, but tons more crap too (some of which will attain Twilight-esque levels of bewildering popularity).

  73. hikaru go says:

    “I wonder if silent film buffs urge the continuation of the format because people still enjoy watching Chaplin and Keaton movies…”

    “Not the best comparison actually. Since silent movies to talkies is a change in the content/medium, etc.

    If you’re making the comparison of print vs digital – you aren’t changing the content as much as you are the distribution.

    Different story.”

    Well, in all fairness I made a vague statement. I just meant people’s reluctance for change regardless of its entertaiment value in general but specifically, digital production very much is apt to changing content and the way new ideas are presented.

  74. Dave Elliott said:

    “Blockbuster sells/sold films that rarely have sequels/spin-offs/cross-overs to worry about. The trick was to get someone into the store and rent/buy a single film and then come back later and do the same again with a completely different film. Barnes & Noble works on the same principal with books. Their audiences are mainly casual, buying when they have spare income.

    Comics are reliant on someone coming in week after week to buy their titles. This audience is trapped in not being able to go a few weeks without their core titles.”

    Let me attempt to avoid making new enemies by stating first that you’re right in some particulars even if you’re wrong in others.

    Your strongest point is your differentiation between the casual customer and the hardcore devotee. There’s no question but that Blockbuster is supported by the former while the DM is supported by the latter.

    However, while Blockbuster does not make the films it rents and sells any more than the DM makes its comics and related paraphernalia, both seek to appeal to the customer with the aura of familiarity. PSYCHOTRONIC magazine used to have a review-feature called “Sequels Nobody Wanted.” The reason why there have been dozens of straight-to-video sequels, ranging from SCANNERS to DARKMAN to something like 10-12 WITCHCRAFT films, is because Blockbuster and its kindred were willing to buy those films in the hope that the casual customer would sooner rent a sequel to something good rather than take a chance on some unknown indie flick. There will be some risk-taking customers out there but given the proliferation of “sequels nobody wanted” I’d say Blockbuster’s purchasing policies were validated, even if a lot of those customers ended up regretting letting themselves be led into renting PUMPKINHEAD ELEVEN.

    Barnes & Noble also deals in both the casual and hardcore markets. Some of its customers take chances and some know that they want either the new ANITA BLAKE or something very much like it.

    I can’t believe I’m the one harping on this instead of Brian Hibbs…

  75. J.K. Simon,

    Bravo. Now I don’t have to write my own rebuttal of Garrity.

    (Although I have written Part 1, and will probably write another two, just for the pleasure of hearing my own voice.)

  76. Dave Elliott says:

    Gene,

    I wasn’t saying that B&N doesn’t have hardcore readers.

    My main point about Blockbuster/B&N is that their customer base comes in looking for something usually contained in a single volume (be it disc or book). The direct sales market has traditionally worked the opposite way.

    Looking at what is being offered digitally so far through the various apps I think DC has an edge over what Marvel are doing purely on the basis of the short two page intros to all their major characters and identifying the major arcs to look for to read.

    There is a big reason why the “mass market” still aren’t buying comics in the millions and that is because of the soap opera aspect to them. People who buy magazines expect to have everything they want in a single issue. Who spreads interviews out over several issues? Heavy Metal nearly shut up shop 20 years ago because it was serializing too much. It ceased publication for a while and came back as a quarterly with self-contained issues. It managed to build itself back up so it is now 10 times a year.

    Accessibility is the key word for comics future, I don’t mean finding it.

  77. If you want to see a female-centric reader fanbase, go look at romance fiction.

    Harlequin has numerous lines and sub-lines catering to just about every permutation you could imagine.
    http://www.eharlequin.com/store.html
    Every month, each line has about four to six releases, retailing for about $4.99 each, all numbered on the spine.

    Since romance readers can be a bit embarrassed to be seen reading romance literature (just like men were once embarrassed to be seen reading superhero comics), e-readers, the modern “plain brown wrapper”, have become quite popular. Harlequin now offers each month as a “one-click-buy”, allowing readers to purchase books easily and anonymously.

    (And, yes, Harlequin does cater to men as well. Don Pendelton’s Executioner series, for example.)

    As for the “hardcore” customer… much of that is shifting online. They pre-order the book and get it shipped as soon as it arrives at the warehouse. I did that for BAC`10 and the latest Amelia Rules.

    Store signings, “Midnight Madness” parties, co-op promotions can be used to bring them into the store.

    The hardcores are also bibliophiles. They may want something similar, but many of them just want a great book to read. And yes, many customers will take that recommendation, then go online, even though we could order from the website as well. Chances are, though, that they will buy something before leaving the store.

  78. With comics, you have to wait a month (although Marvel has been publishing some miniseries as weeklies).

    With books, you have to wait six months to a year (or longer, like Harry Potter).

    To a bookstore customer who does not know of the Direct Market, there is little difference between Ultimate Spider-Man, Sookie Stackhouse, and Lt. Eve Dallas. Each volume is numbered, each volume is somewhat self-contained, and each volume refers back to previous volumes.

    Given the decompressed story arcs in periodical comics, many fans have determined that it is easier to follow the story in a collected edition. Since almost every publisher now factors in trade editions into profit-and-loss statements, almost everything published as a comicbook will be collected into a book.

    There are multiple distribution channels for comics. Fans usually use all of them, to locate EVERYTHING they enjoy. All co-exist, and each helps the others. Mediums adapt to new distribution models, some older models may disappear or become retro (need some needles for your Edison record player?), some might actually thrive symbiotically.

    geez… the original thread has now been fractalled…

  79. Dave E said:

    “My main point about Blockbuster/B&N is that their customer base comes in looking for something usually contained in a single volume (be it disc or book). The direct sales market has traditionally worked the opposite way.”

    I would agree that from the 80s on most of the best-selling books carried by the DM became “Marvelized” in that many of them depended on what you call a “soap-opera” mode of storytelling. I’d call it the “continued next month” mode because you did get some successful titles that had little interiority but used a “serial cliffhanger” approach to the story instead. A lot of Frank Miller’s post-DAREDEVIL work fills this bill.

    I agree also that Blockbuster and B&N aren’t driven as *exclusively* as the DM is by the “continued next month” mode. But I think it’s important to point out that even though the separate parts of the FRIDAY THE 13TH aren’t really tied in to one another, they do keep the customer who wants more slasher-stuff coming back to rent that old familiar hockey-masked face once more.

    It’s interesting that brick-and-mortar rental stores couldn’t do much to take advantage of serial TV shows, whose episodes can be as integrally connected as those of LOST or as independent of one another as those of LAW AND ORDER. But Netflix and similar concerns have found a way to support the “continued next week” format so that you no longer have to wait the requisite broadcast week.

  80. Dave Elliott says:

    Gene,

    Netflix works best not as “continued next week” but as “I’m going to watch four episodes back to back tonight”, effectively waiting for the trade.

  81. Kate Willaert says:

    @Dave Elliot:

    “There is a big reason why the “mass market” still aren’t buying comics in the millions and that is because of the soap opera aspect to them. People who buy magazines expect to have everything they want in a single issue.”

    So the mass market don’t watch TV shows…? (Which are also undergoing their own digital distribution change – see: Hulu.)

    Also, there are arguably more people reading webcomics than buying physical comics nowadays, and that format is one that frequently asks people to come back daily (or three times a week) to get just one additional page at a time. Granted, the problem is still how to monetize that without having to rely primarily on merch.

    But my point is that the mass market has never really been opposed to serialization per se. Or television would be filled with TV movies instead of shows.

  82. Dave Elliott says:

    @Kate:

    No, the mass market isn’t totally opposed to serialization. For how long have all the day time soaps been going? Feels like forever. And a lot of those are five days a week.

    But what are the majority of people watching as the core viewing material? Sitcoms, sports events, the latest CSI or Law & Order incarnation…

    But what if there were five different Law & Order shows that were all about the same team? And what if all of those shows were continued stories with cliff-hangers every episode and the story didn’t continue next week, but next month, because next weeks episode was about a completely different storyline that was also continued on a monthly basis?

    And where did I say the mass market didn’t watch TV shows?

  83. ‘Netflix works best not as “continued next week” but as “I’m going to watch four episodes back to back tonight”, effectively waiting for the trade.’

    Depends on whether they’ve sampled the inidividual units before, either through substantially-free antennae TV or as part of a cable package. Just as people do rent movies they’ve seen in movie theaters, they also rent TV shows they’ve already seen– though I’d think Hulu cuts down that rental market somewhat.

  84. Kate Willaert says:

    Here’s a random thought, slightly off topic but maybe related:

    With TV shows, sitcoms (comedy) are usually 30 mins., but most dramatic shows tend to be at least 60 mins, because “decompression” is necessary to set mood properly, and 30 mins is too short an amount of time to feel satisfying.

    The main complaint about monthlies today is that the decompression leads to a single issue not being a satisfying experience…but to a younger generation of readers, compressed comic storytelling comes across as dated and old fashioned, like watching an old serial vs. a modern TV show.

    So…what if the standard monthly had its page count doubled? Would that lead people to feel more satisfied with the amount of story for the money spent?

    (Though that still wouldn’t fix my personal pet peeve of monthlies being such a fragile format…I prefer GNs personally because I can put them on a shelf, and don’t have to worry that it’s going to start to fall apart if I don’t bag and board it.)

  85. @Torsten

    Re:

    “If you want to see a female-centric reader fanbase, go look at romance fiction.
    Harlequin has numerous lines and sub-lines catering to just about every permutation you could imagine.”

    “To a bookstore customer who does not know of the Direct Market, there is little difference between Ultimate Spider-Man, Sookie Stackhouse, and Lt. Eve Dallas. Each volume is numbered, each volume is somewhat self-contained, and each volume refers back to previous volumes.”

    Are you honestly trying to say that the general readership for romance novels or any serialized novels with a large female consumer base are just chomping at the bit, waiting to become this mass consumer base for monthly comic books? Or that there’s no difference between SpiderMan comics and Sookie Stackhouse novels because it’s all words and all the words are sold at the same place? Seriously?! You love a good non sequitur don’t you? That’s phenomenally ridiculous. Why is this delusion with no basis in fact other than each persons subjective, anecdotal and meaningless evidence continually perpetuated?

    Why do people continually think that the “majority” of readers of monthly comics are the same audience for Manga? Or that romance novel readers are a possible audience for monthly comics? If the readership of romance novels were a possible audience for monthly comics it would have happened already. It hasn’t happened. There is no definitive sign that it will ever happen. This is about as stupid as saying that classical music listeners are a possible consumer base for death metal because it’s all music and it’s all on cd and it’s all sold at the same record store.

    Oh, and if you’re gonna “bash” someone try not to cede their point before disagreeing with it. It felt less like a bashing and more like a nice night out at Olive Garden.

  86. “Are you honestly trying to say that the general readership for romance novels or any serialized novels with a large female consumer base are just chomping at the bit, waiting to become this mass consumer base for monthly comic books?”

    No. I’m offering a comparison between two readerships. Women who enjoy prose novels of the romance genre and men who enjoy comic books of the superhero genre.

    Women buy a lot of books. Teen girls have a lot of disposable income. Publishers would be stupid to ignore that demographic.

    You know what? If someone publishes a decent monthly comicbook, like Sandman, or Claremont/Byrne X-Men, or Legion of Super-Heroes, which does appeal to women, then HELL YES they’ll come. It’s not “If…”, it’s “When will someone publish the Harry Potter or Twilight of graphic novels?” Maybe Wimpy Kid is that book. Maybe it’s something nobody has thought about yet.

    “Or that there’s no difference between SpiderMan comics and Sookie Stackhouse novels because it’s all words and all the words are sold at the same place? Seriously?! You love a good non sequitur don’t you? That’s phenomenally ridiculous. Why is this delusion with no basis in fact other than each persons subjective, anecdotal and meaningless evidence continually perpetuated?”

    Ultimate Spider-Man is a sequentially numbered trade paperback series with a fan following which continues to sell ten years after the first volume was released. Sookie Stackhouse and Anita Blake and Mack Bolan also have dedicated fan followings. The stories inside are different, but they are all popular literary series.

    The average bookstore customer isn’t aware of the monthly comicbooks. All they see are the trades. They know Spider-Man and Batman from the movies and cartoons, and want to read the comics. So they buy Ultimate Spider-Man, or The Dark Knight Returns, or Joker, and don’t have to worry about twenty-five years of canon.

    As for facts, I refer you to Brian Hibbs’ annual Bookscan analysis:
    http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=24818

    My knowledge comes from working in bookstores since 1994, watching the daily sales rankings on BN.com, and reading the bestseller lists from USA Today, the New York Times, and Diamond to know what’s popular.

    I wasn’t bashing anyone with my “Harlequin” post. I was offering a different viewpoint which many people are not familiar with. You, unfortunately, misinterpreted my point of view: that there are parallels to be found among other fan readerships.

    “This is about as stupid as saying that classical music listeners are a possible consumer base for death metal because it’s all music and it’s all on cd and it’s all sold at the same record store.”

    Of course they are a possible consumer base. There might not be much overlap, but if someone enjoys good music, then that person might find something of interest in death metal or punk or Tuvan throat-singing.

    (Quite possible, given the Wikipedia definition of Death Metal: “Death metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal. It typically employs heavily distorted guitars, tremolo picking, deep growling vocals, blast beat drumming, minor keys or atonality, and complex song structures with multiple tempo changes.” Given the various subgenres of death metal (jazz, Egyptian, aboriginal fusions) as well as something called “symphonic metal”, I’d say this has already happened.)

    The best musicians or artists or writers are influenced by a variety of sources, otherwise the results are derivative or generic. That’s where innovation comes from. Dedicated readers get bored with a genre, and want something similar, but different. If they can’t find it, they find something else to occupy their time.

    The best retailers make no assumptions of a customer. That sweet old lady might be a hardcore gamer. A twenty-something male Filipino club kid might enjoy Archie comics. The best retailers start a conversations with a customer and then recommend titles that person might enjoy. If they do this well, the customer returns for more recommendations, and a relationship develops.

    I don’t care what comics people like to read.
    I don’t care in what form they read them.
    I just want everyone to read comics.

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