This column focuses on the comics industry, so even though a lot of awful things took place this past weekend, including a mass killing not far from where I live in Central Florida, it’s important to talk about a trend I’ve been noticing recently when it comes to the genre.
We may be in big trouble. I hope not, but I think I felt an awful chill hit when I read a few items recently. And, as I mentioned, I live in Florida where that almost never happens!
HASTINGS MAY ONLY BE THE TIP OF THE ICEBURG
Yesterday, Stephen Schleicher posted a story about Hastings, a national chain and Diamond’s biggest customer, and they face possible closure of their stores in 60 days. Now, I’ve never been to an actual Hastings, but I have been to a Movie Stop, one of the chains owned by that company. There are several of them on the East Coast.
We went to a local one and had noticed several months back that they had seriously increased the number of comics and related items they sold. Previously, they mostly had films and TV shows on disc and some other stuff, but nothing that caught our attention.
Now there was a big sign as soon as you came in the door saying you could sign up for comics subscriptions, and the number of Doctor Who, Batman and other fun things took up half the store! The guy behind the counter said their sales had increased tremendously since the change happened!
Our reaction? “Cool!”
We’ve been back to that store as often as we could, but after that initial burst of comics, we haven’t seen many new issues there. Instead, the books we noticed months ago remain on the stands. And the same has been true with the merchandise as well. Yikes!
I wish I could say this was something unusual, but it hasn’t been.
My brother up in the Maryland/Washington, D.C. area has been telling me that the stores he’s been frequenting have seriously cut back on their orders on many titles. For example, he can’t get in the door on Wednesdays before Astro City has sold out or only copies that look like someone sat on them remain. And he’s a condition freak if there ever was one!
A big comics store I really like here in Central Florida had been ordering a lot of those comics that are hard to find. You know, the ones from the more obscure companies? Well, I went recently went there looking for the final issue of Venture from Action Lab, which I was so happy was being reprinted from its original Image Comics days. When I asked about it, I was told they had stopped ordering it because customers instead specifically wanted Secret Wars tie-ins. “We only have so much shelf space,” he said.
I know my tastes run a lot more eclectic than most, but if a store started ordering a series, it should at least give the people who have been buying it a chance to complete the set! I mean, really!
Of course, store employees respond by saying you should order ahead to be sure you get what you want, and I get that, but I hadn’t pre-ordered the previous issues so I was pretty sure they’d get that last one.
I wish I could say this was unusual, but I had told another store we go to that I wanted ALL the AfterShock comics titles. At first, everything went great, me being able to take them home each week. But then I started noticing that not all of them were there one week. And the next week. And the next. I finally had to resort to waiting to visit other stores or looking on comixology.com to keep current. And this was after I mentioned that the books I wanted hadn’t come in several times. They’ll be in next week, I was told. Next week has yet to arrive, sadly.
Moving forward, I’m going to keep track of what has and hasn’t come in, and whatever doesn’t appear will require me going to other places. I’d rather give that store my business, but I want my books!
Stephen also recently mentioned in another article that Diamond overall sales in May “weren’t rosy,” as he put it. He went on to say:
“What is really concerning is that overall comic sales dropped in May, slipping 6.54% in the dollar share category. Compared to May 0f 2015, sales dropped even further, plunging 14.34% on the dollar share, and 17.60% on the number of comics sold. Combined, comic sales dropped 9.23% compared to the same time last year. Though graphic novel sales also dropped substantially (11% compared to April and 3.39% compared to May 2015), overall graphic novel sales this year is up slightly (3.46%).”
Dare I say “Yikes!” again? I hope this is going to last only one month, given DC’s Rebirth and Marvel’s Civil War events. But if this trend continues, we could see many local shops fade from existence.
Then, too, I read an interview with Ted McKeever, a long-time comics creator, about his Image series Pencil Head. He flat-out stated that he’s quitting the industry, which he says is at an all-time low.
Why leave the industry? He said, “There’s a few reasons. Mostly because I’d reached a point in my life that I just felt like I was banging my head against the proverbial wall. Not sure how to explain it . . . but I just started to feel like I was throwing a party that took me huge amounts of time and work to put together, with not knowing if anyone would even show up.”
He’s found other outlets for his creativity, and he’s going to focus on them instead. Now THAT discouraged me!
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN
While all of the above worry me, I also got to spend a great day at Gods & Monsters, a comics/genre shop in Orlando that celebrated its one-year anniversary on Saturday! They invited in many local artists and creators, including my friend Richard Rivera so he could promote his Stabbity Bunny comic and other series’. I helped out at the table.
The day was well attended, with the store being really crowded a lot of the time. They opened at 11 a.m. and had many functions until 1 a.m. that evening. Of course, most of the dealers left about 9 p.m., but it was a great time for us! New fans, new products, new friends … I was happy to hear that they might be doing this event on a regular basis in the months ahead!
I’m also encouraged by the response to both Civil War II and Rebirth. I understand DC has gone back to press on every issue released to date in this event, with Rebirth #1 getting a third printing! Great news!
I think that if the comics industry ever needed our support, it’s now! If you love comics and your local shop, be sure to let them know by doing all you can to support them. I know, I know… you’ve got a budget! If you can’t buy more, then at least let them know you believe in them and will do all you can to help out.
Be sure to keep up with the latest developments in the industry by checking in here at MajorSpoilers.com regularly! Everyone works hard to get the best and most recent news to you as quickly as possible!