FW Presents: Comics Retailing in 2017 and Beyond


Comic book retailing has changed dramatically over the years, and the future outlook is in question. Join us for a round-table discussion on where comic shops have been, where they are today, and where they are going tomorrow! Featuring Professor Alan Middleton (Relatively Geeky Network), Paul Spataro (Two True Freaks), Rob Lantz (current employee of Comic Connection in Oakville, Ontario), and our own Irredeemable Shag!

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10 responses to “FW Presents: Comics Retailing in 2017 and Beyond

  1. I’m very curious to hear Rob’s thoughts on Marvel’s SECRET EMPIRE and the reveal that Captain America was an agent of Hydra. I remember when that news broke a year or two ago, lots of fans/readers pledged to boycott Marvel. Did they follow through with that? Did Rob notice a sharp decline in sales of Captain America and related books during the Hydra Cap saga?

  2. Great episode fellas! I don’t think comics retailing has been covered on the network at all before, and it was long overdue. And Rob was a terrific guest–that story about his parents was stunning.

    I also loved the idea of the multi-network team-up show, though I think it would have been helpful if one of you had explained about how the networks all exist in different dimensions, with some podcasters having near-exact duplicates and some being unique.

  3. Great discussion guys. I worked in a comic shop from 1996 to 1998 (although it seemed like it was much longer), so I could relate to a lot of this. I too have had horror stories of finding the right comic stories in the past. From the type who were very rude to kids at my first store like Shag said, to a friendly guy who was so high you couldn’t relate to him, to a fella who just couldn’t be bothered to remember my name, despite me giving him at least $80 a month in sales…to my current store I love, with a very open atmosphere perfect for all ages and backgrounds.

    So interesting to hear that the Marvel comic sales are in the toilet while DC is thumping them, while the opposite is happening at the box office. Considering how important corporate synergy seems to be to all of these huge corporations, the divide is stunning. But my LCS owners have the same problem.

    That new Captain America by Waid and Samnee was really great though. I hope those 6 copies eventually sold.

    Hope to hear Rob back again!


  4. Wow, this was a great episode! I sure hope it becomes a semi-regular thing.

    As an old guy, I can vouch for a lot of the things discussed in this show. Some thoughts:

    1) To Rob. Sales on the Luke Cage comic might not translate to sales on the Luke Cage tpb. For myself, knowing that the tpb was destined to come out means I wouldn’t touch any of the monthlies. Also, knowing that it’s more likely that I find more mainstream stuff at the big stores like Barnes and Noble or Books-a-Million, I might head to an LCS to find something like the Luke Cage tpb.

    2) Speaking of LCS’s… In my area, I have one LCS which is about 3 miles away from my home which I refuse to go to. Mainly because he under-orders stuff I know my kids like in favor of stuff which he seems more comfortable with as a fan. Meanwhile, I’m happy to visit the affiliated store 20 miles away by highway where it’s a smaller space but is jammed filled with both modern and independent comics, and has a healthy back issue supply; even though it’s set in a big city where parking is more of an issue, it’s more fun to go there because there’s a better chance I’ll walk out with something I’ll enjoy. Then there’s the one which is about 30 miles away by local road where the staff is friendly and seem willing to chat with me because their two basset hounds seem to like me.

    3) I’m also glad that Rob touched on the mini-series/but-not-a-mini-series model that Dark Horse has used.to sell Conan and Hellboy books. That model definitely seems like the saner model to adopt for comics series. Everything’s written for trade publication nowadays anyway. Much better than constant reboots and volume numbering.

    I’m sure there are more points I would have mentioned, but my old brain can only handle so much. Time for a nap…

  5. I appreciated the insight into the world of comics retailers, and it gave me some new perspective on the hobby/obsession. Like many other comic collectors, I have made plenty of road trips to check out new (to me) comic stores, only to discover that the floor space that I think should be filled with long boxes is filled with gaming tables or displays of products for which I have no interest. My usual response has been to find something to buy, a TPB, an action figure…whatever, to justify the trip. This is usually followed by thoughts of “this store sucks,” and “what a waste of a trip.” I never really considered the Shag’s floor space to rent explanation. Maybe now I’ll be more forgiving of stores that don’t offer what I’m looking for….maybe.

    Matthew Pustz wrote about the exclusionary atmosphere of many comic shops in his 1999 book Comic Book Culture, stating, “Although the [comic] shop may function like a clubhouse for regular readers, for others it is so intimidating that new readers, especially women, can find it difficult to become involved.” Having moved several times in my adult life, I have become accustomed to searching for a new LCS, and the first thing I notice is how welcoming the employees are. In my most recent search I auditioned two stores, one where I was completely ignored, despite having a small stack of of back issues, while the owner pontificated about something Magic-related for fifteen minutes to a gamer who had just purchased a Coke. At the other store, the employees greeted me and asked if I needed any help. When I explained that I was new in the area, one of them came from behind the counter to show me around the store and answer all of my questions. Needless to say, I remain a customer of the second store (Rainbow Comics in Sioux Falls, SD) to this day.

    Shag mentioned a return to the mentality of the 90s with all of the current gimmick covers and the like (it seems like this trend returned about the same time that Jim Lee and Joe Quesada took the reins at DC and Marvel). There’s also a lack of substance to current comics. Professor Alan regularly comments that current comics take about 5 minutes to read, and that many older comics pack more story into one issue than current books do into six. 90s comics weren’t particularly quick reads, but this was usually because the poor storytelling forced the reader to take his/her time just to figure out what was happening. This could be why Rob is seeing young and old readers alike shun current books in favor of pre-90s stories. Readers want stories. Why pay for 22 pages of pictures with minimal story when we can buy back issues for roughly the same price and get the pictures and the stories?

    I came away from the episode with one question on my mind, but sadly, it’s a question that has vexed me for a while. How can we bring new readers to comics? As a high school English teacher, I try to work comics (“graphic novels” if I’m talking to the school board) into the curriculum whenever I can. When I teach American Literature, the kids get a week-long introduction to Superman (‘the most important literary character of the 20th century”). My Introduction to Literature class studied Pride of Baghdad. The freshmen read an excerpt from Understanding Comics. Despite all of this, I rarely have students ask me to recommend other comics.

    I wonder if the problem is that comics simply aren’t available to kids anymore. Growing up in the 70s and 80s, I had numerous outlets within walking distance of home where I could buy comics. My brother and I made weekly journeys through a comics triangle between the grocery store, the Quick Stop, and the neighborhood pharmacy to spend our allowances. If kids today want to get their hands on comics they have to go to a comic store, get them online, or subscribe. Each of these modes of distribution require parent participation, to varying degrees, which was not the case for the Safeway down the street.

    While many of us who love comics make efforts like handing out comics for Halloween, like Shag, or leaving Quarter Bin books in waiting rooms (I believe Professor Alan mentioned doing that), these efforts fall short of hooking new reader if there’s no follow-up. So, what can publishers, retailers, or fans do to get comics in the hands of kids, or new readers in general?

  6. Splendid episode! That story about, was it Rob’s, parents was beyond touching.

    I giggled when Rob said that if he didn’t have a book he’d send them to a nearby bookstore ‘and they can just drive two blocks’. Lazy sods!

  7. For someone on the outside of comics retailing, this was a fascinating discussion. In my case, I don’t currently have an LCS, because our town just has a small pop culture/nostalgia shop with an extremely limited comic book selection. So I get most of my comics digitally. I favor the digitally route for storage space issues, having had to downsize my comic collection several times over the decades. I still get my favorite title, Aquaman, in hard copy through direct subscription to DC.

    In contrast, my eight year old daughter shows no interest in digital comics. Rather, she is a voracious consumer of graphic novels and trade paperbacks (Squirrel Girl FTW), and libraries (both school and public) have become her primary source. It didn’t come up in the episode, but I wonder how the growing acceptance of and access to free comics through libraries affects (or will affect) comics sales and the recruitment of new comics readers? Does this phenomenon draw new readers to or way from the LCS?

  8. Great episode! I wanted Shag to talk about his retailing for awhile now and didn’t disappoint!

    I also liked to hear a friendly accent (from Brooklyn) .

    My first comic book store experience was when I lived in upstate New York in the 1980’s. It was a tiny store and full of older kids that were all bullies when it came to collecting. Which is ironic because these were the same kids bullied outside of the store. I never went back to a comic book store until I went to college in Daytona Beach 1990’s, at a store called “Cloak and Dagger”. The guy there was much nicer. The comics themselves were not great.

    Then I move to Boston. The store owners were nicer.

    The issue of dwindling Marvel sales is bad. At NYCC, Dan Didio said that it hurts everyone in the industry that Marvel fails because it might prevent people from buying comics at all.

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