News and notes from retail and publishing

A roundup of other news from the week, and some follow-up on other stuff:

§ The big, big news is that the Hastings retail entertainment chain will be going into comics in a big way, bother graphic novels, which they already carry, and now periodicals, including back issues. 147 Hastings stores — mostly in the Midwest, Sun Belt and Texas, will start up direct marketing accounts. The move follows the success of two test stores:

After the decision was made to pursue the comic industry, two test stores were chosen to see what impact a full comic presence would make in our stores. These stores would contain 32 feet of new comic releases, 32 feet of back issues, 44 linear feet of Manga and graphic novels, an expansion in action figures, role playing books, comic-related merchandise and supplies among other things. Almost immediately, these stores showed a double-digit improvement in comic sales, and a significant sales increase within the department in which the comics are featured.

After the success of these two large expansions, our team began to move quickly with two exciting versions of comic layouts within our chain. One expansion mirrors our two test stores, while the other smaller version contains mostly comic new titles and back issues with 16 linear feet each. Out of the 147 stores, approximately 27 will have our large expansion and 100 will have the smaller comic expansions by the end of the year. Along with these expansions, we have added skateboards and the accessories one would need to enter the sport in our 27 large expansions.


A couple of observations:

– since Hastings was in the business of carrying dying media like DVDs and CDs, it shows the fantasy economy of paper has some life in the old girl.
– A 147-store national chain of comics accounts will quickly become a big force with Diamond and publishers. Rich Johnston, breaker of the story, has been showcasing that exclusive covers from publishers Top Cow and IDW are already in the mix.

Very, very developing.

§ Some other retail stuff going on. Chris Oliveros makes a plea for a local indie bookstore:

Landmark Toronto bookstore THIS AIN’T THE ROSEDALE LIBRARY is facing tough economic times, as reported in this post by Rory Seydel, manager of our own independent bookstore. THIS AIN’T is particularly close to our hearts in part because they have carried and supported D&Q books and comics since the early 1990s, at least a decade before most bookstores in North America started creating “graphic novel” sections. Folks, we all have to step up here and do our part to support these stores, or else we’ll all be reading books on iPads and Kindles a lot sooner than we think. Except without a base of independent bookstores to hold together the foundation of a book industry, there won’t be any options to read books in “hard copy” formats anymore. And on another depressing level, when independent stores shutter their doors they’re often replaced by the likes of a GAP or Starbucks and their ilk, making our cities less interesting places to live in. Sigh, this is all starting to resemble the “future” that Seth has long complained about.

§ But on the GOOD side, Halifax comics shop Strange Adventures is opening a third store in Dartmouth . Add this to NYC’s Midtown Comics adding a third branch, and you see the iPhone hasn’t killed brick and mortar yet.

§ Speaking of iPhone, Robot 6 rounded up reactions to DC’s entrance into digital comics. A piece on CNet talked to Brian Hibbs:

One retailer in San Francisco sounded largely unfazed by the announcement. Brian Hibbs, proprietor of Comix Experience, said it’s too early to gauge how the day-and-date release will affect sales, if at all. “We can’t avoid day-and-date. It’s going to happen, at least as experiments. But there’s no evidence yet that they replace these are 1:1 replacement sales.”

Hibbs, who is also on the board of the comics retailers advocacy group ComicsPRO, noted that DC’s plan to funnel some earnings from digital sales back into brick-and-mortar stores represents an unusual path to trailblaze in online sales. “Think if we had the record companies doing that when digital music started selling. We might still have record stores.”

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§ Also, from the first line of DC’s press release on their digital comics:

DC Comics, publisher of Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and Fables,


Oh, Wonder Woman. You’re the comeback kid now.

§ With the announcement that DC was going for day-and-date release with the biweekly miniseries JUSTICE LEAGUE: GENERATION LOST, it has announced issues 4 and 5 will be returnable to retailers.

§ Writer Paul Cornell has gone exclusive with DC.

§ Bleeding Cool reports that Jeff Lemire will soon get his own DC press release on going exclusive. Lemire has already had awards and acclaim as an indie comics guy, so it’s nice to see DC reaching out to new voices.

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§ Also via Bleeding Cool, the whole story of how Darick Robertson took some time off from THE BOYS to draw the BUTCHER spin-off, and wrote some things on the internet that he wishes he hadn’t. But it all ended happily, and Russ Braun will fill in while Robertson is away.

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§ Adrienne Colan, wife of Gene Colan, passed away this week — she was found dead in her home, and no cause of death has been announced. The Colans had been in the middle of an unfortunate and ugly story in recent months — Adrienne was under a restraining order to stay away from Gene after an attack left him in the hospital. While acknowledging the sad winding down, Clifford Meth remembers the good stuff, too:

The Adrienne Colan you met at conventions was the real McCoy. She was tough and funny and uncompromising; warm and intelligent and spiritual. And her sense of humor was splendid. I think that’s where we met—at that dark crossroads where everything was tragic-comic. Our friendship existed outside of my friendship with Gene; we corresponded for decades, sharing dreams and fears.

And I guess I loved Adrienne. Now that the end has come amidst ashes and tears, I owe myself that honesty. I loved her attention, loved sending her a new story and when she got something I’d written and dissected it (and me with it); loved that she was intellectually curious about everything I shared and painfully honest with me…and with herself.

Comments

  1. Re: Hibbs on comic shop subsidies:

    “Think if we had the record companies doing that when digital music started selling. We might still have record stores.”

    It’s a nice fantasy to have, but still a fantasy. The music industry propping up record stores would not have influenced the changing tastes of the buying public, which fell hard for music CDs and largely abandoned the LP.

    The same logic applies to the DC subsidy of comic shops. In no way will it stem the tide of people moving to digital delivery…but that’s not what it’s designed to do. It’s designed to be a stopgap “sop” to help ease the transition from a P.R. perspective. Digital delivery of comics will become all the more attractive to brick-and-mortar regulars knowing that their beloved comic shop will magically remain open thanks to the good graces of DC (and probably Marvel by some time next week).

    It’s part of a larger strategy that will be dropped like a hot potato when the future of digital delivery becomes more common and less mysterious.

  2. Kevin Hynes says:

    Yeah, how dare they try this! ;)

  3. Ali T. Kokmen says:

    Clifford Meth’s conflicted remembrance of his friend is one of the most amazing, beautiful, and touching things I’ve ever read anywhere.

  4. Nate Horn says:

    I’m sad Lemire is going to waste his considerable talents at DC. On the other hand, it’s super awesome he’s going to have steady pay and possibly health care, so I’m trying very hard to be happy for him. I’m just going to miss pieces like his Essex County books and minicomics….

  5. “It’s a nice fantasy to have, but still a fantasy. The music industry propping up record stores would not have influenced the changing tastes of the buying public, which fell hard for music CDs and largely abandoned the LP.”

    Not true. CDs took several years before they ever broke out of the audiophile geek market. Even today, the LP is showing a resurgence in popularity thanks to mom and pop record shops which never gave up on the format (due to the unbalanced sound quality of the CD). And at this point, it is looking more likely that the CD format will first fade away (due to digital downloads into iPods and more expansive media solutions) before the LP goes extinct.

    While there’s no telling for sure whether prerecorded record chains would have survived longer had they received a cut of digital download sales, the prerecorded music industry mostly shot its own collective foot more than once on potential opportunities missed when consumers adapted to a change in format.

  6. Mark Engblom says:

    Whatever, Ket. The point still remains that DC subsidizing comic shops is essentially just a PR ploy and not a serious plan to help keep brick & mortars open in perpetuity. It’s brilliant, actually….but nowhere near permanent or meaningful in the long term.

  7. A recent Newsarama poll show 50% of readers are either not interested in digital comics, or will “wait and see.” 73% of CBR readers in a different poll have never bought a digital comic.

    I uh, yeah, don’t see a “tide of people moving to digital delivery,” but that’s just me, sitting behind a counter where I deal with *actual* comic book customers on a daily basis.

  8. Well, now that online comics have solidly moved from theory to reality…and the iPad bound to fall in price…let’s see if you feel the same way a year from now. You may have to start doing more than just sitting behind your counter.

  9. I see what you did there…

    I might not be a James Sime, but I think I do all right by my customers.

  10. Robert Haines says:

    @ Nate Horn: Jeff Lemire has health care, he’s a Canadian living in Toronto. DC allows him to play in the sandbox he loved growing up, while publishing some personal, creator owned work: Sweet Tooth. Further, Jeff will work on a personal story every year or two with Top Shelf, such as his underway story ‘Under Water Welder’.

  11. >>You may have to start doing more than just sitting behind your counter.

    Mark, do you feel comic shops are in need of a comeuppance? It’s a vibe I’m getting from some of your posts, but maybe it’s a misread.

  12. Charles Knight says:

    “A recent Newsarama poll show 50% of readers are either not interested in digital comics, or will “wait and see.” 73% of CBR readers in a different poll have never bought a digital comic.”

    This from 2005:

    “The cellular phone industry’s hype machine has been in high gear over innovative music- and TV-centric devices and services, but a new In-Stat report shows that some early adopters are lukewarm about them. Fewer than 9% of respondents to an In-Stat early adopter consumer survey were very or extremely interested in buying a cell phone capable of playing MP3″

    You can find similar articles that say that people will not switch from CDs to mp3s, that the sales of ebooks will not increase etc etc.

  13. “Mark, do you feel comic shops are in need of a comeuppance? It’s a vibe I’m getting from some of your posts, but maybe it’s a misread.”

    No, not a comeuppance, but a serious wake-up call that digital comics aren’t a passing, gimmicky fad, but a serious threat to their cash flow. Not much at first, but over time (but not that much time), it’ll be a factor. It’s hard to see how DC’s brick-and-mortar affiliate program is going alter that fact one way or the other….except to stifle B&M pushback (i.e. dropped orders for hard copies) as the digital initiative is launched. Like I said, clever….but ultimately meaningless in the long term….especially for the B&M’s symbolically sitting behind their counters.

    Plus, I’m not a big fan of subsidies….for any industry. However DC spins their affiliate program, that’s what it’ll be at the end of the day: a self-congratulatory bit of pity P.R.

  14. @Charles Knight – Of course, but I was referring to what I assume Mark Engblom meant as a current “tide of people moving to digital delivery.” There’s so little available digitally now, I doubt many people are interested in it’s current form. Until Marvel and DC are all in with 100% of their current releases available digitally the same day as print, I don’t see digital affecting b&m stores *that* much. We already compete against huge discounts from Amazon and online retailers for new releases, some old comics for $1.99 isn’t an issue.

  15. Here’s the deal: the ipad is a great place to ingest disposable information. If you read comic primarily for the writing, then you may as well read them for as cheap as possible and move on. But if you believe in bookmaking as an art form, then the ipad is not good enough. Printed books will never die, they will just become art objects.

    Quoth Blade Runner: “Do you think I’d be working in a place like this if I could afford a real snake?”

  16. What’s a record store?

  17. Nate: there’s nothing at ALL wrong or sad about SWEET TOOTH, so I don’t see the value in broadly slamming DC. Seems to me that they’re treating Lemire pretty well!

  18. “Whatever, Ket. The point still remains that DC subsidizing comic shops is essentially just a PR ploy and not a serious plan to help keep brick & mortars open in perpetuity. It’s brilliant, actually….but nowhere near permanent or meaningful in the long term.”

    That’s clearly a subjective point that has little basis in reality. If DC thought that a brick and mortar subsidy was important enough to include along with the online comics launch, then they may have something more than mere PR in mind. You just don’t know what it is yet.

    Basically, there’s been a lot of implied consumer interest in digital comics downloading; but in reality, few will actually pony up money to buy in immediately. To provide a prominent comparison, even after all this time, paid music downloading remains not as widespread and accepted as Apple’s iTunes would like everyone to think. File sharing is still the more common Internet practice, because (let’s face it) in a global recession, this procedure provides the best price for consumers.

  19. TylerDurden says:

    I just want to be an example here:

    I’m 28, from germany, always loved Superheros, never bought comics, loved animated superhero series.

    Three years ago I illegally downloaded “Supreme Power” and “Civil War” with all it’s tie-ins via torrents, just to check it out and couldn’t stop reading. After some other illegally downloaded and read on my notebook comics, I wanted to try DKR and thought it to be damn ugly in that scan. That’s why I bought the TPB, next thing, Watchmen TPB. Since then I’ve spent about 3000$ on trades.

    I LOVE good paper, it looks good, it feels good, it holds the universe together.
    You guys ever seen the recolored Crisis on Infinite Earth Absolute Edition? Compare that with what you can download! Same with Y – The Last Man Deluxe and it’s online or old trade versions.

    And believe me, people will not pay for digital comics. Most downloads will be illegal as soon as they find out, how easy it is.

  20. The future of print is embossed foil!!!

  21. Re: Meth’s article.

    On a serious note, I discovered I could draw because I mimicked line for line a Gene Colan splash in Daredevil (Mr. Fear!) on a piece of cardboard when I was 9. The best Black Widow rendition was his. I wish him the best and I hope the future is a much brighter one. A fine article.

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