Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by retailer Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in
Here’s a confession: I’ve been in this business nearly twenty years but I showed up this morning fully expecting to read the latest issue of All-Star Superman, having completely forgotten about Memorial Day. But it gave me the chance to speak to co-owner Tad Cleveland, and as you’re already probably well aware, things are not going all that great for comic shops right now.
We were off to a great start this year. Sales were brisk, even in February, and we had an outstanding Free Comic Book Day, but that momentum stopped when gasoline hit the $4 mark. Now things are far from desperate, we’ve even picked up a couple of new file customers, but we’re just not seeing the new faces FCBD brought in. And some of our file customers are cutting back on the number of times they pick up the comics from weekly to twice or even once a month.
So far they haven’t talked about cutting back on the comics they’re buying, though I definitely think we should. We can’t control gas prices and I’d like to think eventually people will find solace in relatively cheap forms of entertainment like comics and movies. But that’s just wishful thinking and I’m the guy who always likes to say “There’s always something you can do.”
And what we can do is stop ordering certain comics. I know we’ve been down this road before but if you haven’t already, take a look at the ICv2 Top 300 Actual Comics list for April, in particular the bottom. I knew comic books sales were down but, man, when a color superhero comic book from Marvel or DC sells 15,000 copies or under you really have to wonder what the breakeven point is for the publishers. I know this may sound crazy, but maybe if they published fewer comics the circulation of the comics they did publish would actually go up.
I mean, you have to wonder why they keep publishing the things and, once they’ve been cancelled, they come up with a whole new batch of mediocre selling superhero titles. But for some reason they just can’t seem to disassociate themselves from a business plan that’s proven toxic to themselves and the entire industry. So I say, let’s help them by NOT ordering comics like All-New Atom, New Dynamix, Avengers Classic, Avengers Fairy Tales, Number of the Beast, Marvel Comics Presents, Uncle Sam & the Freedom Fighters, Shadowpact, Checkmate, and Suicide Squad.
I know you can’t predict with 100% accuracy how comics will sell, but you know your stores and the customer base, and if you’ve probably been ordering new comics long enough you can pretty accurately predict which ones in Previews are going to be the dogs. So when the new one arrives next week and you’ve looked for the titles you are going to order, go over it again and look for the ones you just know will end up at the bottom of another ICv2 list and just don’t order them.
You’ll be doing yourself, and the entire industry, a favor.
After posting my last column it realized I’d neglected a prime example of a comic that should never be made into a movie; the upcoming live-action version of Dragon Ball. To accurately adapt it would be prohibitively expense for the biggest of big budget productions (which clearly this isn’t) and so many of its characters work better in print. There have already been complaints among fervent fans of the manga/anime that Chow Yun-fat as Master Roshi isn’t sporting his signature shades, though I have to admit for a human actor Justin Catwin (as Goku) achieves near anime level elevation to his hair. Plus there’s the matter of just how much interest in Dragonball there is in mainstream
Now while nobody really needs a G.I. Joe movie, I have to admit if you absolutely have to, the way they’re doing it is the way to go; no attempts to reinvent the property to make it more “realistic” or the actors complaining about how “silly” the outfits they have to wear are. In these kinds of movies you have to put them on, commit to the bit and hope for the best – I certainly hope that’s what they’ll doing with Street Fighter: Legend of Chun-Li, but right now outlook, not so good.
Then there are comics like Watchmen. I keep seeing more and more photos of the costumes and the sets and they look wonderfully realized, but I have to admit I feel a little queasy thinking about that first midnight showing; maybe because that there are just some things I want to stay in their world instead of escaping into ours.
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 ICv2.com.