Comics Creators

Comic shops in trouble


Don’t know if there’s an actual article like this, but I think a lot of independent shops are in the same boat.

People have been ordering comics and not turning up for them, across a lot of comic shops, worldwide.
I’ve seen a few Scottish comic shops (two which are the only ones in their city) frankly telling their customers online that if they don’t pick up their comics, then they will go out of business. It’s a bit surprising that people are being so upfront about it, but if their customers don’t turn up to get their orders, then they’re not going to survive.

If you’ve got a standing order, pick it up, weekly, it’s that simple. Support your local comic shop. Use them or lose them.


My local shop (Arcane Comics, woo hoo!) has made those pleas, too. When inventory outweighs sales, it becomes perilous. Of course, much of that inventory is there because they have subscribers - and subscribers help focus their ordering and provide much more reliable revenue than just hoping people will wander in. So it’s pros and cons. After a few of those challenging times, they’ve diversified into a really fun, inviting comics-plus destination. There’s games (and gaming spaces), art books, toys, and a well-curated selection of featured titles as well as most of the top 200 monthly titles and trades. It’s a radically different store than it was 10 years ago, but it’s also a better store. Almost anyone selling anything in the bricks-and-mortar world these days has to be nimble like that.


Last year the industry got a steroid boost from the Star Wars comics - like blockbuster movies they sold in huge volumes, expanded readership and boosted the industry.

This year DC had another reboot which did the same thing.

What’s going to fill that space in 2017? That’s the problem. Both of those are unique drivers, you can’t repeat them at will (even though DC probably wish they could reboot every year). Marvel isn’t rebooting, and currently they’re messing around with their A list characters. Without Star Wars in 2015 and DC Rebirth in 2016 the industry would be in a far worse state. There’s an underlying problem with comic sales. Added to that there’s an underlying problem with the low level sales of indie comics - if a comic isn’t selling 25k US thru Diamond generally the creators aren’t making much money. And only 6 non DC & Marvel books made that level. They’re not all selling massive volumes on trades, as trade sales tend to look like floppy sales. These creative teams can’t continue to make comics for no money, when the big two are throwing cash around like crazy as they see comics as IP development. (Except there’s not much good IP development coming out of comics given something like Inhumans has been generally rejected).

I dunno. I think 2017 might hit the comic industry like a hard hangover and we could be due to see some real financial pressures in the upcoming couple of years. Even when comic movies have never been hotter. I feel like someone still hasn’t figured out how to modernize the comic hobby.


Also, just as Brexit went and fucked the trade prices, it’s done the same to the monthlies too over here.


If shops are depending comic sales alone, they are living on borrowed time anyway. They should have diversified product lines.

They should not be “comic shops”. They need to “sci-fi/fantasy” or “pop culture” stores. IIRC, the owner of the store I go to said new comic sales accounted for only 15-20% of his revenue. He’s been in business for around 40 years and he’s seen numerous times of feast and famine with the comic book industry.

Jim mentioned that 2017 could be a year of reckoning for the comic book industry. Really, the industry has been on the verge of a bust for a few years now. Events, price hikes, increased shipping frequency, stunts and relaunches have been artificially sustaining the market but there comes a point for everyone when they say “Enough!” It may have already begun.


Kieran Gillen on indie sales:

I’ll give you some really basic rule of thumbs for indie comic commentary:

Anything selling stably over 10k in single issues is a cause for celebration and joy. The creators are almost certainly extremely happy.

If you’re selling over (ooh) 12k, you’re probably making more than either of the big two would pay you, unless you’re one of the very biggest names.

If you’re selling anything near 20k, you probably have to buy drinks for your friends.

I’m sure that refers only to Image or Image style deals though where once costs are covered all the profit goes to creators.


Gillen’s column has become well known and is one of the big defenses against the clear and obvious reporting of low sales. It’s also utter crap. There is not a hidden channel where loads of trade books are sold. Digital is not a huge revenue source. Foreign sales are nice, but 80% of comic revenues will still come from the US. The math simply isn’t there. The money simply isn’t there.

Gillen has the benefit of writing every damn Marvel comic right now and being one of their chief writers. He doesn’t live on indie numbers. And he has the public sway to get his books opted by various studios even if they never turn into anything. He’s like a rich person saying the economy isn’t so bad in 2008.

He’s done more harm than good with that column. It served him but it fucked most of the his peers trying to scrape a living in comics.


I think @mattgarvey1981 has the solution for 2017!


The Beat always has an interesting point of view with a fairly in-depth analysis:


Gillen writes one Marvel comic at the moment and he’s not the only one that says similar things.

Hickman said he can pay his artists more than Marvel top rate and he’s selling less than 25k. Fraction, Brubaker, Remender all sell less than that and can walk into any Marvel or DC jobs. The team on Hoaxhunters and Hickman have said that on their Image books around 5-6k sales is where they break even. You can actually work out from there at say 80c a book how the math can work and then add in all the extras like trade and digital.

Now I’m not going to disagree there seem to be a lot of comics around the bottom of the charts where nobody is making any money but 25k Diamond is way too high (and I agree sales outside NA are around 20-30%, digital typically15%). Even Marvel and DC will be happy with that if a book can keep that level.

The Mark Millar model likely has a much higher bar as he pays up front, top rates for the finest artists, hires an editor, the best colourists and letterers around and 5 or 6 A-list variant cover artists. He almost always sells well over 50k though so the dynamic is different.


Me? :grimacing:

I just make comics for fun.
There is no real money in it for me…but that’s not why I do it.
Outta the six individual issues and one collected trade I put out this years, in eight months, I have sold just over 2,000 collectively…which sounds like a lot (it could be, I’m not sure. I honestly do not know how many my peers in artist alley sell per year)
Regardless, every penny I’ve made goes write (trying to use a clever pun) back in making MORE comics.
Which makes me happy, because I get to work with some amazing artists like our very own @dizevez
when making comics stops being fun…I’ll stop too.
But right now I frickin’ LOVE it…
So in 2017 look out for at least…
THE ETHER #1 (with @Dizevez)
Untitled generic space comedy #1
Cordelia Swift: Fishmen of the Thanes (One Shot)
Mulligan #1

Plus I got two more new titles I’m writing and I’ll will get TRANSFER #3 & #4…CHUNKS#4…hopefully and maybe THE ETHER #2…unless Diz gets snapped up by one of the big two! ( which they should)

Busy year…plus I got a day job! :joy:


The main issue currently is people not bothering to turn up to pick up the comics they’ve requested. Diversity is great, but when you’re up against online retailers also, it’s not the best solution. For example, a board game group had someone recently join and ask where people got their games. No-one bar me suggested one of the local comic shops (there was a board game day at my local a few weeks ago, and someone said try an online place, when the shop he was in could have gotten it for the other person!).


Mrs. Jones was asking me just last night whether there would be more Cordelia Swift. She will be happy to hear about this. :smile:


No dates yet…but have a special guest artist on board for the one shot…who actually inspired the story with his pin up… :blush:
Based on the title Fishmen of the Thames I am sure you can guess who…


Raises hand
Nearly 30 years experience running a comic shop…

90% (at a low estimate) of people who reserve their comics don’t bother to tell you when they quit. I use an “honour” system, so no money up front, and I usually keep the bag going at least a couple of months.
It isn’t just the loss of money - it’s actually surprisingly hurtful personally. These are people I’ve probably interacted with for years, listened to their most intimate secrets and troubles. It’s pretty rare for them to flat out die - I usually see them in the street - they just couldn’t be bothered/were too embarrassed to come and tell you. That’s a reality.

Last year Marvel screwed the pooch spectacularly with Secret Wars. Long story short, nobody wanted it so we essentially had no Marvel product for 4-6 months. I personally lost at least 4k.

and while diversity is good, you need your bread and butter sales. This is how things look for the average person right now:

Thor isn’t Thor
There’s no Fantastic Four
Iron Man isn’t Iron Man
Hulk isn’t Hulk
Spider-man isn’t Spider-Man
Wolverine isn’t Wolverine
CivilWar 2 is not only stupidly late, it’s boring.

And before anyone brings up Marvels lovely diverse 2nd and 3rd tier books, I don’t disagree they are good - they just don’t sell.

So, when the bread and butter company isn’t producing the product it’s known for, you’re going to get a slump.
As for diversity in product - I can’t beat Amazon or on-line retailers, and now the big stores stock a huge range of TPBS and merchandise. Brexit did horrible things to the conversion rate (I’m in the UK) and peoples wages have been essentially stagnant or shrinking for 30 years.

so… it’s not a pretty picture right now. I’m pretty sure I can survive another year or three, assuming things don’t slump even further, but Marvel really needs to stop with the constant relaunches, and ship product more than 10 people want. On top of that, without getting too political, I’m expecting a big downgrade in western living standards over the next 20 years. Not third world, more eastern europe during the cold war levels, so money will be increasingly tied up for esentials.

Happy Holidays!!!


To ask a potentially indelicate question, how have the DC Rebirth books gone down? I have been enjoying some of them but they seem to be the flip side (without going into the detail) of what Marvel is doing.


It’s an unfortunate case, like you say, of people not bothering to tell their shops that they’re stopping. That’s money down the drain for the retailer. Unlike FP, indies don’t have a limitless supply of money.


I actually told my shop to stop because they kept messing up my orders and forgetting to add numbers. So I stepped to digital.

They were so incompetent that they send me an email last week saying I had comics waiting for me… I stopped in July…


I think the solution for comic book stores is to adapt. Like in the Big Bang, that comic shop owner added some couches and started to serve beverages. That is a nice step forward.

People now want the experience. They want something new and fresh.

There is a comic book store here in Ghent that actually opened a bar together with its comic book store and added the option to play boardgames when you consumate a drink.

Fun concept right?

Now, they are half empty and only got their regulars. Why?

First, the place is dark, it looks like a bloody dungeon. They only serve the classic beverages, beer, coke,… The food is just soup and a croque monsieur. And that is the problem. They only think for the comic book reader culture and the hardcore boardgames player. It is not welcoming to the average people.

I know a lot of people that would go to a comic book store to hang if it served cake, had a bright environment, and so on.

I never go there myself as the vibe is just way too hardcore dungeon and dragons geek. And if you look as basic as I do, you get those: “you don’t belong here”. Which is also a huge problem for a lot of people.

Also they don’t have cake. And I love cake.

btw: I’m not trying to insult anybody or anything. In case the message comes accross to strong. :stuck_out_tongue:


The DC Rebirth stuff has been very well received. The gains haven’t been as strong as Nu52, but they seem to be much steadier, if that makes sense.

As far as doing more… I’m on less than minimum wage, work 6 days a week regardless if I’m sick or not, and only have official holidays off. I get bitched at for not being open on Sundays. I just don’t have the time to organise game nights and run a side café too. Plus, I think I’d have to kill if I was forced to spend more than the 54 hours a week I already do smiling and being nice to people :slight_smile: