Every once in a while, something that grips my attention hits me on Facebook. The latest article to do that is from Business Insider, and it was an article with a long title: 2 major changes happening in comic books could shape the industry’s future — and comic shops will have to adapt to survive.

The basic points of the article were that graphic novels are becoming more prevalent, and local comics shops aren’t the most effective way to distribute them.

All this led me to wonder: Are local comics shops on the way out?

THE BASIC POINTS MADE

Gerry Conway, Punisher, local comics shop, HiLo, Judd Winnick, Dav Pilkey, Dog Man, Amazon, Loot Crate, subscription, digital comics, Milton Griepp, ICv2Before I dive into this subject, let me post some summary points made by the author:

  • The “book channel” — which includes chain bookstores and online retailers — is projected to surpass comic shops as the largest channel for comics sales this year.
  • There are two major reasons why this is happening: Graphic novels are growing in popularity primarily through the book channel and children’s comics, which are almost exclusively in the graphic-novel format, are now more popular than superhero comics.
  • The comic industry has operated for decades on a “direct market” business model, which is more skilled in single-issue comics over the graphic novel format.
  • Experts are still hopeful for the future of comic shops, though.

Right away, I thought of Judd Winick and his series of books called HiLo, which have primarily been sold through bookstores and Amazon, then eventually hitting LCS’s. I’ve enjoyed them, but I’ve stopped asking my LCS to order them and have gone through Amazon primarily to buy them because they can arrive on my doorstep earlier and are still in pretty good shape when they arrive. Now I fear I’m betraying the folks who run local shops. Yikes!

CAN YOUR LOCAL COMICS SHOP SURVIVE?

Gerry Conway, Punisher, local comics shop, HiLo, Judd Winnick, Dav Pilkey, Dog Man, Amazon, Loot Crate, subscription, digital comics, Milton Griepp, ICv2I have to be honest here—prior to reading this article, I had never heard of this “book channel” concept before. I understand who they are, but I’m perplexed that the author considers bookstores to be prospering when I know most of them have faded away. I mean, I have trouble finding a BAM or a Waldenbooks today. Also, many shopping malls are undergoing a transformation as well. Their future is also in doubt, and if they go away, that means bookstores will have to find locations in business districts or neighborhoods. But that’s where LCS’s are located! Huh?

Then there’s the idea that graphic novels are growing in popularity. Perhaps I’m not in touch with the general population of shoppers, but getting a longer comic is not a priority with many people going to malls these days. If anything, graphic novels are much more easily found in a LCS than in a bookstore. I do see some bookstores carrying GNs, but their selection is usually extremely limited to Marvel and some DCs. That doesn’t work for fans or even casual readers, it seems to me.

Now, online shopping is on the rise, and I can see people ordering books through Amazon and the like. But I haven’t heard much about Loot Crate and their competitors in a long time, so I’m not sold on that notion either.

I remember hearing that the GN format has been popular in Europe, for example. They don’t buy “floppies” very much there. I’m kind of surprised to hear that GNs are taking over, according to this article. Am I that out of touch?

CHILDREN’S COMICS

Gerry Conway, Punisher, local comics shop, HiLo, Judd Winnick, Dav Pilkey, Dog Man, Amazon, Loot Crate, subscription, digital comics, Milton Griepp, ICv2One of the points made in the article is that children’s comics are becoming more popular. That’s good news, I think, but the author makes this point:

At 5 million copies for its most recent volume, Dav Pilkey’s “Dog Man” is the most-circulated graphic novel ever, according to (Milton) Griepp.

FYI, Milton Griepp is the CEO of ICv2, and he’s the source of a lot of this article’s “facts.” I’m not at all convinced these are true, so I reserve judgement.

Speaking of Dog Man, I have heard of that book, but I’ve never come across anyone who actually has it or has read it. Are these mostly in the hands of kids?

And the author contends that superheroes are “soft” right now, that their sales fluctuate. Maybe the number of superhero comics supporters are dwindling, but I think the heroes remain popular. Just check the local move theater or TV station! We just need to tap into those markets if comics are to survive and flourish, I believe.

Then there’s this paragraph:

New types of content are becoming more popular: Children’s comics, which are almost exclusively sold in the graphic-novel format, have surpassed superhero comics this year as the most popular genre, according to ICv2. “Superheroes have dominated the comics business for as long as I’ve been in it, but there are some amazing things happening with kids content,” Griepp said at last week’s conference.

Again, I’m very happy to hear that kids are reading more! But I haven’t noticed this apparent mass exodus to stores that sell kids GNs. I’m not up on online sales numbers, so maybe that’s what is being discussed here.

Finally, creator Gerry Conway said in the article that the comic industry’s business model is “totally unsustainable.” I agree that we’re in a transitional time, but I’m not ready to give up on my LCS!

Everyone seems to think the “next big thing” is just around the corner. However, many of them have not done as well as predicted. I mean, digital comics were going to change the industry. And mail subscription services were changing everything, yet I don’t see that happening either! People are too quick to count LCSs and fans out, I believe.

And some folks are anxious to declare the LCS and the comics industry dead. They want to be the first to do that, it seems. I take all this with a huge boulder of salt, actually.

I was encouraged to see that some are still hopeful about the future for LCSs. I haven’t seen anything that will replace them yet.

I’ll admit that I don’t know what’s going to happen next. But I still believe in comics, and I still believe in those who give us access to them, so I’m on board for the future, whatever it holds!

What do you think? What is the future of comics? If your LCS was to close down, what would you do? Whatever your opinions, be sure to share them in the space below!


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About Author

Wayne Hall creates the Wayne's Comics Podcast. He’s interviewed Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, John Layman, Kyle Higgins, Phil Hester, Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray, David Petersen, Christos Gage, Mike Grell, and Matt Kindt. On this site each week, he writes his "Comics Portal" column (general comics comments and previews) and reviews comics.

1 Comment

  1. I can only speak of how it is in Europe and yes, that’s true, almost every single new comic is either graphic novel or large size “album”. Some Italian western and pulp are still in small pocket size. Few monthly “floppies” that remain are almost exclusively home subscriptions and in supermarket magazine stands. Nobody even publishes monthly super hero books anymore, not really done it in years. Those were popular from 70’s to late 90’s, then, with popularity of manga, they were pushed to the sidelines and reader base hasn’t really recovered since. DC and Marvel comic fans are getting old and buy their stories mainly as trades or hardcover collected editions. Its really not such a big deal to me at least, my city of 200,000 people has never had a dedicated comic book store, not even when they were popular.

    Dedicated comic book stores is very American concept. Yes, they have some in other countries too, but perhaps only British are even close the same, everywhere else they are very different, even if they are selling comics.

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