Storefront
December 8th, 2011

Storefront

David Brothers of Comics Alliance recently wrote about his personal burn-out after writing and working in the comics industry for a while. It’s honest, it’s sad, and it’s 100% accurate. You should read it.

If you’re reading this site, you’ve been in a comic shop. You’ve probably had a comic habit, spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours in a comic store. I’ve heard stories about terrible stores, rank pits of misogyny and quarter bins covered in black mold. Nobody’s worried about those stores dying. Nobody would care if those stores died.

Please, die awful comic stores. Give the good ones better market share.

Personally, I love my local comic shop. I worked there, I’ve made friends there, lifelong friends, and it’d really hurt me if it ever went away.

I know digital comics threaten comic shops as we know them. I can sympathize with the small business owner who sees a correlation in dollars spent on an iPad NOT being spent in his store.

I do know that the music industry and the video industry have already gone through the digital revolution, so I can look at that for an idea on how this might all shake out. You know what I immediately notice?

Music stores are dying. Music publishers are still around.
Movie stores are dying. Movie publishers are still around.
DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, et al – they’re not going anywhere.

If I was a comic book store, I’d really start trying to plan for a different reality than the one I’m living in now – or trying to get things back

THINGS:

I did an interview with LBFAintern Luke over at his site The Nerdcenaries. It’s a trainwreck.

FRIDAY! THIS FRIDAY! Chris and Eugene and I at Billiard Bar in wonderful Dallas, TX! 9 P.M! We’ll be entertaining at a live art show along with a bevy of other creatives including the cast of the Variants and SO. MUCH. MORE! Buy me a drink, I’ll be your friend.

-cof

^ 16 Comments...

  1. Andrew

    Perhaps those comic shops that also emphasize table top gaming have a better shot at sticking around. Live events like tournaments are always going to bring in some cash. Not to mention statues, figures, tshirts etc all these things that really can’t be digitally produced can hopefully keep the bottom line. They should be looking to libraries though as a source of inspiration for transitioning into a digital space there might be some ideas there to help keep comics viable.

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  2. M'tt

    The comic shops that seem to be ‘not dying’ in my locale are slowly turning into expensive toy/clothing/gaming stores. It is essentially what Barnes & Noble has done (Barnes & Noble chains also have started incorperating e-reader sections in their stores, which is funny to me because it kind of seems like they’re saying “we’ve embraced fate. Come help us kill ourselves”).

    I’m increasingly more digital myself. Once digital becomes cheaper I will only really need comic shops for Trade Paperbacks. It’s sad, but so was the fall of Rome.

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    M'tt Reply:

    I want to clarify something: I LOVE comic shops and I still impulse-buy from them when I can. However, they have been closing and the options are becoming slimmer and slimmer each year. Personally, I feel that this is due more to a generally bad economy and lack of readership than an actual mass exodus to digital comics.

    Digital is a great alternative for those of us who simply want to read the stories. Collectors are a sizable market, but are they sizable enough to keep shops alive? That is hard to say.

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  3. StripeyC

    I have a feeling as long as original comics are worth money, and things like incentive covers carry on then the shops can’t die out completely. Part of comic buying is the collecting habit.

    Digital has no such thing as first print, and you can not trade digital copies. Will people be getting flash drives signed at conventions? Who cares about a full run of digital copies? Chances are you will always be allowed to download them.

    If you are just interested in reading the comic then yes the digital world will entice you. But if you are a collector and a hoarder then it is not the way forward.

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  4. Kachi

    Well, as someone who works at a comic shop and makes her living that way, these kind of comments cut deep…

    I live in Austin, Texas, which is one of those places that will keep a store alive because it’s loved and because it’s the hipster thing to do. It breaks my heart every time I hear horror stories that Waterloo Records or End of an Ear might be closing.

    I visit comic shops the way people visit museums or the world’s largest ball of twine. I do have this feeling that they’re not going to stick around forever, so that’s why I stop by every comic shop in every town I visit, and pick up a few comics I can’t find at home. So many comic shops (including mine) find a sense of pride that they’re being run like book stores (like Barnes and Nobles) so there’s not as strong as a threat for them closing down, so finding those black-mold-quarter-bin is becoming more and more elusive.

    Despite a digital boom, I feel book-store run comic shops will stick around a while, because where else are you going to find Journey Into Mystery #83 and LOOK at the pages and KNOW it’s a 4.0? You can’t do that online. You can’t check for scratches in the paint or a chipped cape on a 300$ Superman statue. You can’t try on that Mister Miracle shirt before you buy it. You can’t walk up to a shelf and flip through Jimmy Corrigan if you’ve only ever cared about DC. I feel like these are the small things that people don’t think about when they talk about the death of comic shops. These stores should be temples, not something to be ashamed of.

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  5. Brad

    Amen, Kachi.

    I’ve dabbled in a few digital books, for series I didn’t already collect, but I don’t ever see digital replacing print for the books I regularly purchase. I would imagine that most customers of my local comic shop feel the same. I think this digital revolution for comics is mainly going to affect new customers, not existing ones. My town only has two real comic book stores, as it is, so hopefully that’s enough to keep them around.

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  6. JoeAconite

    When the irresistible retailer meets the immovable publisher, what happens? They surrender.

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  7. Chris

    Kachi, come up to Dallas this Friday! Meet everyone from Zeus Comics. We’d love to meet you too.

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  8. Lightning

    Honestly, I would like nothing more than to support the comic industry. But sadly, I live in a one horse town with no comic shop. So I download comics instead of falling behind for months at a time until my next trip to the city, and I’ll usually buy copies of whatever I downloaded(and enjoyed). But even then I rarely buy single issues due to the infrequency of me being able to get them so I generally stick to trades.
    If I had a comic store around here I’d be in there every damn day.

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  9. SeanNOLA

    I’m sort’ve at an impasse with the whole “digital vs store” thing. On the one hand, I really don’t like having all of these physical books taking up shelf space. I’ve only gotten back into single-issue comics for two years now, and I’m already out of space. Also, I prefer reading digitally – in fact the thing that got me back into comics was the Captain America 4 Disc DVD set from Best Buy that had every issue of Cap from 1941-2007, complete with original ads. I was able to read all of the comics on my laptop and tablet, which I liked because carrying around 70 years of history in my pocket was much cooler than having 3 tons of comics in a closet somewhere.

    On the other hand, I don’t think I would have discovered half of the things I read now if not for my comic book store clerk. He pays attention to what I’m reading, makes very personalized suggestions based on what he knows I like, and more often than not he’s right. It isn’t a “people who bought this also liked this” sort of thing, it’s more like “You liked the Mighty Avengers? Well Avengers Academy continues a lot of those characters’ stories, but John Walker, who I know you’re a fan of, is featured a lot in the Thunderbolts. These are good issues to start on those. Full refund if you don’t like them.” You’ll never get that kind of service from Comixology. Also, he gives great discounts to regular customers – 10% off any subscribed book and 20% “book club” credit on every trade. I’d hate to take business away from him.

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  10. Markus Seaberry

    I like physical comics, I like holding the book in my hand, I like engaging in nerdy arguments at my local comic shop, I hope that comic book shops are not on their way out.

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  11. JasmineP

    I was just at my local spot, a friend did his senior show there after shop hours and the owner let his sell comics, so they made sales. It’s a great shop, worth a visit if you’re ever in Norfolk, VA.

    I’m not a fan of digital, and like with records there will always be hold outs. Apparently not for betamax or eight tracks, the VHS hasn’t quite gone the way of the horse, but it pretty much has.

    I love the feel of comics, or how easy it is to show a friend a comic book and to just flip through. Previews are one thing but actually flipping through a comic is an entirely different mentality.

    So… you know…comics are great, but also if there’s an audience, sell to it, sell to all the audience so comics everybody! is that much more of a reality.

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    SeanNOLA Reply:

    I usually get sent to Norfolk 2 or 3 times a year for work. What’s the name of the shop? Maybe I’ll stick my head in next time I’m in town!

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