This is the End of Comic Book Shops

And the end of comic books as well?

Well, that I don’t know. Direct mail is still an option and the Indies who can’t get into the shops have been doing alright with that.

But the comic book shops themselves are not going to survive this. I’m not cheering their demise, believe me I’m not.

When I was a kid there was no such thing as a comic book shop. There was only the drugstore turnstile.

And it sucked.

The only issues available to you were ones that were on the turnstile. If you were following a prolonged story arc and your local five and dime didn’t carry it that month you just plain missed that episode of the story.

Your only hope of being able to catch up with it, is if you were enough of a nerd to go to a comic book convention. There you would find a herd of tubby guys who loved comics enough to load up a bunch of long-boxes into their creepy-ass windowless vans (with bad mural art on them) and drive from convention to convention. The more sensible ones had day jobs to support them but they all wanted to make it in comics and it just wasn’t going to happen for them due to the fact that the openings were very limited.

Then in the early 1970s a guy named Phil Seuling got DC and Marvel to agree to a new system in which he would act as their middleman. They didn’t actually have one that was dedicated strictly to comics before then.

That changed everything for the comic book guys. The first comic book shops of the Seventies flopped but they paved the way for the totally gnarly comic book shops of the Eighties. Now these shops, by comic book nerd for comic book nerds, created a marketplace for independent comic publishers. Titles like Elf Quest, Rocketeer and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles began appearing on their shelves, (which were actual shelves). I admit I am viewing these stores through rose colored glasses, but I did love them back in the day. It was a place you could go and hang out and the owner would hate you for not having a shopping agenda. Although, the owner was just doing this store thing until his comic book about a Fat Ninja (that was real) took off.

As with all things that are expanding too fast, there came a crash. a lot of the comic artists decided it was time to let the dream die and got real jobs. There was a Gaiman inflated second bubble of adult oriented (which is to first wave Gen-X readers) in the 1990s the also lead to a crash about the same time Sandman ended it’s run. Fairchild couldn’t keep their doors open.

Sorry guys. I tried.

The problem the shops now face is one of demographics. Comics never caught on in a big way with Millennials or Zoomers (unless you count manga). Which made for a struggling market.

And that was before the biggest fish in the sea got barnacled by SJWs who didn’t give a fuck about the comics characters they had taken over.

This was all before Covid-19.

Marvel as always is leading the way in industry destruction. How the comic shop industry works is, you have to sell whatever you ordered. If it didn’t sell, too bad, it goes in the one dollar bin. And comics shops don’t buy their comics from week to week. They are ordered quite a bit in advance. Right now, a bunch of shops are facing the threat of having to pay for three weeks worth of shipments with absolutely no way to sell them and no hope of being able to do so in the immediate future. Image has announced that all orders are Returnable as of now. But all that Marvel is doing is offering deep discounts on existing orders. Which means the shop owners don’t have to pay as much but they still have to pay.

Diamond (the effective monopoly that controls most comics distribution) is beginning to rouse itself out its typical bovine torpor and look at the problem. But it’s so massively inefficient it won’t be able to adapt until it’s market has gone under.

The immediate solution is to go out business and that is what it looks like a lot of them are going to have to do.

The major problem is that the two biggest comic publishers have corporate parents that are taking this one in the teeth. Warner Brothers is going to be trimmed by AT&T. Right now there is no real indication if that means that DC will have to halt publication or not.

But Marvel is owned by Disney and Disney is in the deepest of shit. Corona hit them when they were absolutely cash strapped. They are having to offer debentures just to pay interest on their loans. Disney stock has cratered and they have begun selling off smaller subsidiaries.

I strongly suspect that the only reason that Marvel Comics is still in business is that Bob Chapek doesn’t know that his company owns it yet.

And without Marvel comics, the shops are done.

I strongly suspect that when Marvel starts up publication again, it going to be farmed out to third party contractors. Although these are likely to be people that actually care about Marvel’s character in a way that it’s current writers and editors simply do not.

The really sad news for me is that I’m never going to get a chance to make fun of The New Warriors.

4 thoughts on “This is the End of Comic Book Shops

  1. Marvel and DC have moved aggressively into the tween/upper elementary market.

    Because comic books are going gangbusters with zoomers (and younger) as long as they are books and not piece-work pseudo -magazines. The babes-on-tights and fire-fest are also a non-starter, but GNs like Smi le, and series like Geronimo Stilton and Baby-Mouse do very well. Some of Our Crew, the Western Civ types do well via Scholastic and other book publishers.

    If Marvel and DC wised-up and gone with the Shonen-jump model for the old comic story lines, and kept the woke t o one throw-away story per issue, I bet they’d be doing a lot better.

    I firmly believe that the creeping SocJus didn’t help, but the hard roll into full woke-tardia was a consequence of the knowledge that they’d missed the boat.

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  2. I’d be very pleased to see the companies that created the heroes of my youth be cut down and plowed under the earth. The characters of Marvel and DC have suffered too long as shambling hordes of the living dead under Marvel’s & DC’s lack of real leadership and outright hatred for Superheroes and Characters-of-Character.

    Life under a third-party IP license by creators who respected them would be better than undeath in the hands of the current crop of ghouls in charge.

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  3. I’m one of those older millennials who never got into comics, but I frequented those comic stores because they stocked plenty of the thing I DID get into – collectible card games. I did my part to keep those places in business by sinking hundreds of dollars into M:TG and later Star Wars:CCG cards.

    Mine also had a big tabletop gaming section, and once I figured out by chance that the holotable lore in MechWarrior 2 which fascinated me so much came directly out of the Battletech sourcebooks on sale there, I bought plenty of those too.

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