Funnybook Babylon

January 23, 2008

FBBP #42 – Pros & Gods

Filed under: Podcasts — Funnybook Babylon @ 12:08 pm

Pedro’s read Manga, and we weigh in on the ComicPRO’s debate. All under the shadow of having listened to The Loeb Report. We truly have traveled into the heart of darkness my friends, and we’re all a little shell shocked.

5 Comments »

  1. Two thoughts:

    (1) Brian Hibbs addresses the ‘returnability’ aspect of the pre-sale controversy that we were discussing. In his view, (and I’m summarizing, so check it out for yourselves) returnability would not substantially improve his business because of the costs associated with it, and the decrease in profitability. Check it out here

    (2) Steven Grant discusses what may be the real central issue here, namely that there is not enough money in the comics market as a whole. He says:

    The retailers’ underlying principal argument is that there is a very limited pool of money in the comics market, and any money that goes to someone else is money that doesn’t go to them. Small publishers essentially argue the same thing, with a slightly different spin; the money they get at cons is money they need, and there are few other ways to get it and end up with the lion’s share of the profits. If it were a flush market, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. There’d be money enough to go around that even Hibbs wouldn’t miss the odd dollar here or there. As it is, the odd dollar can make all the difference in survival, and both retailers and small publishers face huge issues that make survival tenuous.

    Survival’s tenuous for a lot of people in comics these days. Certainly most freelancers have been feeling the pinch for years, and I suspect most freelancers would back the notion of publishers selling comics wherever and whenever they can, so that freelancers can get their legit cut. But among small publishers the payment of page rates let alone royalties, incentives, and participation percentages is increasingly rare. To the freelancer it doesn’t make a difference whose pocket that dollar isn’t going into, because in most cases it isn’t going into theirs. That’s a problem only publishers and retailers (and maybe Diamond) can solve, and they’d have to work together to do it instead of what amounts to petty territorial squabbling.

    But it’s hard not to feel the “pre-sale convention comics issue” is a flare-up expression of greater frustration, as comics shops, a 1980s institution, find themselves under fire from many directions: a way to at least get some control over a continually deteriorating situation. Comics shops have been a necessary element of the comics market for almost thirty years, but various developments threaten the end of their useful lives. They’re mostly (there are always exceptions, especially those shops that have more and more included manga) predicated on magazine sales and, like most publishers, continue to function on a magazine-based economy, even as the business has continuously shifted over the last decade to a book-based economy. Even with the cost of returns, comics publishers are finding trade paperbacks the most profitable element of their portfolio by a wide margin and bookstore sales increasingly critical to their bottom line, and I believe this year we will finally start seeing a visible shift by major comics publishers away from the mini-series (which, in the era of the trade paperback collection, has become increasingly unviable) and toward original graphic novels. (Now that “real” book publishers have broken that ice and established a firm bookstore beachhead for the things.) More outlets, more visibility and more availability are vital to the field now, because what we need now is more money, not just in Marvel’s coffers, or Warners, but across the board, and there are only two ways to achieve that: either we get a lot more comics shops going again and they sell a lot more comics, or we find other places to sell comics. No one wants to see comics shops hurt. But no one wants to die for them either.

    The question is this: Is it really more healthy to rely on the retailers involved in the bookstore based economy?

    Comment by Jamaal — January 24, 2008 @ 10:45 am

  2. Apparently there are 12 volumes of Death Note. All of the volumes are out in America. The live-action movie was pretty badass.

    Comment by Abby — January 24, 2008 @ 12:51 pm

  3. I just listened to the podcast! I was sad you guys didn’t update much in the past week. I mean, I know you all have lives, so I’m not begrudging you, but I like reading this site so much that reading more content on here makes me happy.

    Anyway, I’m a huge fan of Speedball! So, there is one guy out there who Speedball is beloved, too. lol

    The running Jeph Loeb joke was *hysterical*!

    With the ComicPRO thing, I agree that anyone that preorders a book, or any item, from a comic store and doesn’t pay for it is a dick. I think that’s kinda like saying the sky is blue, though, and I think that’s where the ComicPRO paper fell apart. I think Hibbs and them assumed a lot of things as universal truths (the average retailer is a good retailer, being screwed over by dick customers is inevitable, indy publishers depend upon the Direct Market, etc) that aren’t universal truths and in the process exposed a lot of raw sores on the consumer side. I think the average comic reader has been exposed to nothing but bad retailers have lied, cheated, or even stolen from their customers on more than one occasion; I think it’s not the responsibility of the publisher to make up for the bad behavior of a few bad customers; I think indy publishers don’t rely on/trust the Direct Market as much as most of us assumed they did.

    I agree with, I think it was Chris (I’m trying not to assume you all feel the same way after my last discussion on here with Jamaal), that retailers want their cake and to it it to. I think it’s ludicrous for retailers to be like, “Why is Amazon selling comics? Why are they selling them at such a discount? I sell comics at full price! It’s not fair!”

    I also agree with Steven Grant, there’s not enough money in the comics pool. This all screams to me of starving people fighting over scraps of food – why else would comic stores and publishers be fighting over sales of Lost Girls (which, I believe, sold out all around on the first print regardless) or a dollar or two here and there?

    I think relying on retailers in a book based economy is, quite frankly, foolish. I’m not saying I’m very knowledgeable on indy books, because I’m not, but I’ve never found a retailer who knows as much as I about indy comics. I’ve lived in 10 different cities in 10 years and I’ve gone to at least 25 comic shops with some regularity in that time, and I have yet to find one who could answer a question as simple as, “What’s the best way for me to collect reprints of Love & Rockets?” or even something like, “Are the Usagi Yojimbo trades still in print?” I’ve found maybe 3 who would give an honest attempt at answering those questions. At the end of the day, I don’t need comic retailers. I can find information on books myself on-line and order them through Amazon at a discount better than any comic retailer can match. I can also go to a book store, like Barnes & Noble, and flip through almost any book I’m interested in buying. So, the question, for me at least, isn’t if it’s healthy to rely on retailers in a book based economy, the question is why should I pay a premium price at a comic retail store for inferior service.

    Long story short, I don’t see any possible value to comic retailers anymore.

    Comment by Kenny — January 24, 2008 @ 2:20 pm

  4. Oh yeah…I’m soooo going to buy Death Note because of Chris’s review! If only Chris would do some sort of review of Countdown so I could determine whether or not to spend my money on the series…. LOL

    Good looking out, Abby! I’m totally checking your comic out now!

    Comment by Kenny — January 24, 2008 @ 2:22 pm

  5. Nice ‘cast, guys — nicely balanced and listening to all points-of-view

    If you’re ever interested in having a “guest”, I’d be happy to sit in one day and discuss a few of these things with you (and provide you with some tangible numbers on these things), for whatever that is worth…

    -B

    Comment by Brian Hibbs — January 26, 2008 @ 1:07 am

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