Ilan Strasser of Fat Moose Comics and Games in Whippany, New Jersey saw recent comments by Torsten Adair of Barnes and Noble (see 'Torsten Adair of Barnes and Noble on Marvel Comics in Bookstores') and David Craig of My Underground Lair (see 'David Craig of My Underground Lair on Comic Retailing') and sent us this response:


I'd like to respond briefly to Torsten Adair and David Craig who recently posted comments.  First to Torsten, as an owner of a single comic shop, I in fact do order more than 100 copies of number one issues, should customer interest warrant it.  Recent examples include Marvel 1602, JLA/Avengers and the upcoming Identity Crisis #1 from DC.  Further, the lowest number of copies I ordered for any of the 1602 or JLA/Avengers books was 140 and as I recall, I had to reorder that issue as well.


Secondly, to both Torsten and David, the issue is not one of being afraid of the big boys or not wanting to grow the marketplace; after all, a healthy, thriving marketplace benefits all retailers.  The issue is the special deals the big boys get beyond lower pricing, which they do deserve due to their volume buying.  Why does Barnes & Noble (for example) get softcover versions of Marvel's Masterworks series, priced at $12.95, when we have to try to sell (and have supported for years) the hardcover line of these same books?  If these softcovers had been available 10 years ago, I could have sold hundreds of them.  How many stores could have benefited and solidified their bottom lines if they had the same access to these special projects as the big boys do?  How many stores would still be in business if the playing field were truly level, outside of the aforementioned volume discounts?


In the end, those of us who are portrayed as being angry or negative or whatever -- well, that's our right.  I, along with hundreds of other dedicated, hard-working retailers carried Marvel, DC, Image and everybody else on our backs for the last 20 years or more.  We carried them through every stupid decision, every inept marketing scheme, every management changeover, and every change in editorial and marketing direction.  And the thanks we get is being shunted aside.


Adapt or die?  That notion is painfully obvious to all of us and no retailer with any sense at all would quibble with it.  But it is impossible to change and adapt when you are left to clean up the mess that others create.  It is also impossible to compete and thrive when you routinely get product weeks after everyone else does; my sales of manga trades has dwindled to nothing since Barnes & Noble and Borders gets them three weeks before I do.


Do those lost sales reflect on a lousy retailer or on the fact that my competition is given an unfair advantage, especially in terms of dealing with a product whose target audience (predominantly teenage girls) is not known for being patient?  Lastly, adaptation and success are difficult when you become a lesser consideration in the minds of those who profess to be your business partners.  If comic publishers, spearheaded by Marvel & DC, had always used and trusted us as business resources, then I believe there would be 10,000 or more active stores today and a readership in the millions.  But there isn't.  And the hard-working retailer is not to blame.


The opinions expressed in this Talk Back article are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of