Comic Store In Your Future – Going Solo, Going Solo, Gone

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Rod Lamberti of Rodman Comics, writes weekly for Bleeding Cool. Find previous columns here.

One of the things about being a business owner is I try to figure out what is going to happen in the future based on what is going on today and what I read about and feel. As I often say I may sell fantasy but I have to deal in reality.

Getting out the crystal ball and dusting it off what do I see? I see Jim Lee visiting our store! I wish. Some more shaking of the crystal ball and now I see….. Rich vs Jude over who is the better online writer…. weird. A Nightwing movie? What? A Bloodshot movie? Wow.  Still no Gambit movie.

I am hopeful for Marvel. After reading the online rumors that come 2018 more well-known talent is going to be signed up on Marvel books that is great. That's a long time to wait but at least they are finally upping their game and making plans. Hopefully, a new Fantastic Four title is in the future. Would like to see just one Avengers title. Avengers and Uncanny Avengers seem to have nothing to do with one another even though they share the Avengers name. And of course after typing that just had a person drop Uncanny Avengers from their pull list.

Hoping for fewer gimmicks. Fewer variants. Less first issues with a character that has already had a bunch of first issues over the last six years.

I want the future to have higher standards for Marvel Universe sales. Such as not selling below at least 10,000 copies nationwide for goodness sakes. Same with DC.

4.80
SOLO #5
$3.99
MAR
4,903

Solo issue 5 is estimated to have sold at 4903 copies? That means per comic store in the USA it averaged what 2 or 3 copies? Off the top of my head, I do not know how many comic stores are currently in America. Another sad fact. Less than 4903 were sold to actual customers because I am sure that not each copy was wanted by a reader. Meaning some people dropped the title before it arrived in store. That is a title that should never have came out.

Smaller publishers have fewer resources than Marvel so I accept and expect them having a tougher time selling their publishing line.

Years ago Marvel's Joe Quesada used to attack DC for being a part of AOL and not promoting comics better. Now, years later  Disney owns Marvel and makes millions off the movies based on Marvel Comics and now Joe keeps very quiet. Marvel is the biggest comic seller with the biggest super-hero money making films and has comics that sell under 10,000 copies? To twist one of his old quotes around "What the heck is Marvel anyway? We'd be better off calling it Disney Comics. At least people know what Disney is. I mean, we have Spider-Man and Avengers, and don't know what to do with them. That's like being a porn star with the biggest manhood and you can't get it up. What the heck?"

DC I see as promising. Geoff Johns writing comics in the future is always good. Still waiting for a new JSA title. Along with a hopefully popular Legion of Superheroes title. And what will happen with the Watchmen? Will Alan Moore sacrifice a cat and try to summon a demon to get revenge on DC? Will Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons actually do something like a new Watchmen cover for DC? Doubtful. Though it would be cool. Will the fans go wild when the Watchmen finally return? Will the Before Watchmen limited series see another burst of demand? What does DC have planned after the whole two years of Rebirth is done? Bi-weekly shipping I believe is a good thing for publishing. If the brits are able to get weekly comic out for decades then why can't Americans get bi-weekly books out? The current Batman story wise is not connecting with fans. Batman is starting to bleed readership which I hope DC fixes quickly. It is easier to keep a top selling book selling well than trying to reverse the loss of readership after readership has fallen too far. Hoping to see a better connection with readership in the future. Bane vs Batman should be an easy sale. But as people have pointed out Bane went and captured three of Batman's allies just to let them go so he could capture three different ones later on to use as hostages? That makes no sense. Will the Dark Knight Returns the Master Race be done before 2018 gets here? The crystal ball is blank on that. Getting out the Magic 8 ball it says ask again in the later part of 2017.

Image. Oh Image even after all these years shipping delays plague thee. Walking Dead is easily Image's bread and butter. Along with the fact that it doesn't follow the typical Image publishing patter. Delayed, delayed, delayed to the point where it might come out this year again or never again (looking at you Wytches. Coming back out at the start of 2016, right). As a store owner I have a tough time justifying hyping new Image material. One reason there seems to be a ton of new material by Image. Second, what is the point trying to get people into a new ongoing series if it isn't able to come out monthly? In this day and age of instant gratification delays really hurt. And being asked when the next issue comes out and having no idea because Image doesn't know either make me look foolish along with the publishing company. So many Image titles I look at when they finally come out and think I wonder how many copies  I could be selling if it just came out closer to a regular monthly schedule? I still have people getting first issues of the various new Image titles when they come out hoping for the next Walking Dead #1 hit. Image seems fine with non stop delays or never finishing a title. Image United seems to be their M.O. I do not see Image changing anytime soon sadly. After so many years it's an Image trait.

Marvel, DC, and Image are the  top three publishers.  At times I wonder if their publishing plan is or was to flood the market with books to crowd out the smaller publishers.

Dark Horse Comics. They have been around for years. When they lost the Star Wars license a lot of people were sad. They produced some great Star Wars comics. In store the lost of the license resulted in the lost of a lot of Dark Horse sales. With the upcoming Aliens movie looking better than the last Aliens themed movie Prometheus there is hope that their Alien comics will see renewed life. Hellboy seems to have faded in popularity badly over the years. Right now in recent years Dark Horse truly looks like the dark horse in terms of publishing. I don't say that to be mean. It's just the way it is. Dark Horse has been around a long time and hopefully will for many years more.

Valiant. We have a small but loyal group of customers for Valiant. And the group has grown over the 6 years I have been open. I have had our back issues of Valiant bought up by their fans. Which is great. Valiant does have standards and is hungry for business. The new X O Man O War has people excited. The announcement of the director for the Bloodshot movie has their fans pumped. The only down side is Valiant seems to at times get lost in the overwhelming sea of comics. Which isn't their fault. They are not flooding the market with new titles that after a few issues get lost in publishing limbo. When someone asks when the next Valiant title is due out I can easily find out and tell the person.  I see the Bloodshot movie along with other Valiant properties making it to the big screen as helping hype Valiant as a publisher. A hungry for business publisher is a good publisher.

Boom! The little company that could. Like Valiant they get crowded out in the comic market. They do have successful licensed comics like Power Rangers. With the upcoming movie we have seen a renewed interest in the Power Rangers comic. Hopefully, the Power Rangers breaks the comic movie curse that we seem to have. Meaning the few people that come in and get a comic related to a new or upcoming movie actually returning back afterwards.

IDW. Transformer movies look never ending now. Again hopefully they can break the movie curse we have. My Little Pony might not sell as well as it did when it first came out. But it does have a loyal fan following. We have multiple people with it on their pull lists. More than Transformers even. Those My Little Pony fans always pick up their comics and are always wanting all the My Little Pony material that comes out. G.I. Joe the comic could use a boost.

Action Lab Comics. I will give them this they are the most diverse comic line I know of. From kid-friendly material to adult material they have it. From Dog of Wonder to Zombie Tramp.

Bongo Comics. As I have stated before an easy sale to kids when it comes to the Simpsons. Same with Spongebob comics. Their comics have legs. Meaning they might not sell out in the first week of release but in time they do sell. That said in all the years I have been open I finally checked out their website. Neat website. Could use an update on the "places to buy" their comics. One of the comic stores listed has not been open for years now. Bongo I see as staying the same sales wise for us. Long live the Simpsons!

I think the future easily can be very bright for comics. The key to a bright future is standards. What are they right now? Anything goes by the big three? I find it a glaring problem that millions see these movies based on comics and maybe, what? .01 percent actually go and check out the source material? For Halloween often kids dress up as their favorite comic based movie character. Often unaware that their favorite movie character is actually based on a comic.

Changes need to be made. New creators for a new generation of comic readers. New goals. New advertising. New excitement. Raise the standards. What is the direction of the company? What is the publishing direction? How are new people going to get into comics?

Make the future so bright that we all are brimming with excitement to what it holds.

About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.