I’m going to generate some controversy today.
I was originally going to just publish a list of comic book releases, but I realized that other places did it better than I could, and I didn’t think a list would be very interesting.
So, instead, let’s have a discussion. You and me. You love comics. I love comics. Maybe you love them more. Maybe less. However, I think that you and I can both agree that the industry has problems. Some big, some small. Some require tweaks, some require a complete change in how the comics business is run.
Let me get this out of the way. I love comic shops. I LOVE THEM.
See that? I used capitals to show you how much I love them. However, I’m not convinced that they are entirely good for the industry.
When I was a kid (really, I’m not that old), comic books could be found in grocery stores, drugstores, and, sometimes, gas stations. Comics are a great impulse buy, but many people aren’t going to buy on impulse if the comics aren’t visible. If I saw comic books in the checkout lane at the grocery store, I would totally pick up one while I was buying milk. And I don’t think I’m the only one.
I don’t want comic shops to go away, but I want comics to expand into other stores. I really don’t think that it would hurt comic shops all that much. Although, it might make some of them work on customer service more…that might be a plus. I’ve been in some unfriendly comic stores (until you prove yourself as “one of them,” anyway).
Next problem: Diamond Comic Distributors. That name shakes every comic publisher to the core. The current business model is that the publishers write, pencil, ink, color, and print the comics, and Diamond is basically the only company that distributes comics. They have had exclusive rights with all major publishers since 1997. The Justice Department investigated and concluded that Diamond has a monopoly on comic books, but (and here’s where it gets tricky) nothing could be done because the monopoly didn’t include books. See, Diamond is officially a book distributor, not a comics distributor. Bada-bing, bada-boom. The Justice Department couldn’t do anything.
Diamond is the Dr. Doom of comic books.
Diamond charges 60 percent of the cover price for their part in distributing comics. The retailers charge 25 percent to stock. This leaves the publisher with 15 percent of the cover price to pay its creative people and print costs. Do you wonder why comics are up to $4 now? Diamond is effectively driving the prices up. This also makes it nearly impossible for small start-up publishers to recoup their costs.
Unfortunately, I think the only thing that is going to break Diamond’s grip on the comics industry is digital distribution.
I love books; I love the feel, the smell, the turning of the pages. But, let’s face it, books are probably on the way out. E-readers are becoming too affordable, publishers don’t have to pay for printing and shipping costs, and it’s becoming more economically and environmentally sound. Comic publishers have already signed deals with Amazon and Barnes & Noble for exclusive rights on their tablet devices.
I really don’t think this is change that comic book shops deserve. I don’t want them to go away. Unfortunately, this might be the change that the comic industry needs.