There have been several LCS closing this year alone. In L.A. the biggest LSC - Meltdown Comics - will be closing at the end of March. As a creator in this small and seemingly shrinking business, what is your view on all of this?
Thanks for writing in, Erick. My view is mostly that it sucks, but it’s not wholly surprising. Both of the big publishers took their fans for granted and flooded the market (something they have been doing since at least the 90s). I see them making big moves to try to correct this right now and hopefully that will help fix some of the damage, but let’s be honest, there’s just not a market for 150 superhero comics a month (and don’t even get me started on 150 superhero comics with dozens of variants covers on them, too).
There’s definitely a market for superhero comics, don’t get me wrong, but it’s always amazed me how publishers will get a hit book and then immediately pump out ancillary and spin-off stuff around it, squeezing the life out of it as quickly as possible. Like, can you imagine if anyone else had published Walking Dead or Saga? There’d have been three spin-off books and five mini-series a year.
That’s not sustainable, but when you’re a big corporate enterprise, you can find yourself trapped in thinking about your quarterly profits, not worrying about building a sustainable marketplace.
But I really hope things turn around for any comic stores that are struggling. The Direct Market has been very good to me. It’s allowed me and Sean to build a large readership for our books over nearly 20 years of work together, and even now our sales are still going strong and expanding with every new book we launch. I think a big part of that is because we’ve always tried to give our readers a quality product – more story pages, better paper, articles and art in the back pages. It’s not rocket science. You give your readers something they like, in a good package, and they’ll keep supporting you. You pump out a bunch of crap to hit quotas, print it on paper so thin that your lenticular covers don’t actually lenticulate, and your fans stop supporting you.
Fans of print, especially, want to spend their money on a package that’s worth it… print is as much an art object as it is a medium for the story, and more publishers are going to have to take that into consideration moving forward. I see DC is launching several lines of YA graphic novels, and the BLACK LABEL line, where my friend Kelly Sue DeConnick will be releasing a series of books about Wonder Woman, the Amazons, and their history, which I think is going to be a big deal. But clearly, they’re looking ahead to a future more geared around books, not single issues.
So I’m not sure what the future holds for the market. Some comic shops are still doing well, and while some are closing others are opening, and even more are diversifying to become graphic novel and game shops aimed at all ages. It’s a weird time for retail in general. But I don’t think anyone that loves to read books or comics is going to suddenly stop loving to read books or comics, I just think for some of them how they GET those comics will change, if it hasn’t already.
Personally, I have a great local comic shop and I love going there, and if you have one that you love, you should go there more often than you do, probably. There’s nothing like thumbing through a hardback or a single issue before you buy it. One of the things that we lose when everything is bought online or digitally is the sense of local community – and I don’t just mean comics or books, I mean any stores in your town or city – that is a vital part of our world. But whatever happens to the market, comics will survive, and Sean and I will keep doing our books as long as people keep buying them… And I hope that’s at least another decade or two.