Getting stuck in a rut. Last month's comic sales were not what we wanted to read about, though I figured they would not be good. The big two (Marvel and DC) are not releasing any books that are really exciting readership.
According to the Diamond Comics Distributor (the comic book store market's distributor), 5,395 comic books were released in 2019. That is a lot of comics. I have to admit we did not order every single comic released.
Why so many books? Some books being released are hoping to get noticed by Hollywood to get optioned for the big screen. Lots of money can be made if it happens. When Men In Black first came out, I was not even aware it was based on a comic book. That is not to say every new comic being released is just hoping to become a movie or optioned for other media. Some do it for the love of comics.
Currently, there are a lot of comic publishers. Here are some of the smaller ones that come to mind. Zenescope, has been in business for years. We have customers that are loyal followers of their books. Usually, their books have very good artwork. Sitcomics, is a newer publisher and one with a deep passion for their books and the industry. Old comic pros Roger Stern, Ron Frenz, and Sal Buscema are doing work for this company. AWA Studios has some big names producing comics for them. Former Marvel employees Bill Jemas and Axel Alonso have returned to the comic business with AWA. How well will they do? We will find out this year. Artist Jim Balent and his wife Holly Golightly are the driving force behind Broadsword Comics. Jim started it up in 1999 after leaving his long run on DC's Catwoman. His adult comic, Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose has been published for years and has over a hundred issues under his belt on the title. Action Lab is another small publisher that has been around for years. Ahoy Comics published Second Coming after DC's Vertigo got cold feet about publishing it. Aftershock Comics was founded in 2015. They publish creator-owned comics. Vault Comics is another small publisher.
So many titles make for a very crowded market. I often wonder if Marvel purposely publishes so many books to make it tougher for smaller publishers. I just read about another spin-off title from Marvel's upcoming big crossover, Empyre: Squadron Supreme. My reaction? Ugh, another Empyre spin-off. Right now, I am numb about Empyre. The one-shot, Incoming, was supposed to be a lead-in for Empyre and it was a dud for us sales-wise. Customer feedback on Empyre is lukewarm at best so far.
I have believed for years there are too many books being published. Fewer books means better promotion of books.
What the publishers are good at is trying to get the stores themselves to up their orders on their upcoming titles. They do this through variant covers that are available only by ordering so many copies or just by having variants. Stores buy a lot of copies just to get one variant to sell. This often leaves unsold comics. Instead what would I as a comic store owner like to see? The publisher going directly to the people and getting people to read their books. Advertising and pushing people that are not already reading their titles would put pressure on us to increase our orders. When I get multiple requests for a title that tells me that there might be something that has potential to get even more people buying it. There very well could be a book we were not going to order but we will when a customer tells us they want it. Out of the thousands of books a year that come out there very easily are lost sales due to not knowing which books would have been bought by customers. Having people come in and say I want this is great. Get a fan base to put pressure on comic stores to order what they want.
A large customer base that is actually reading comics is best for long term healthy comic sales growth.
In no way am I trying to discourage small or new publishers. Part of the reason I am writing this is to give smaller publishers some publicity. Give people a chance to learn about smaller publishers and hopefully, in turn, ask their local comic store to order their comics. I fall into the same mindset as many comic store owners do. Marvel and DC have the most recognized characters and therefore are the most bankable when ordering. Though Marvel does like to milk out their latest hottest property for all its worth until its worthless. The X titles are doing well so let us have more and more until people say there are too many and quit buying. Currently, DC books here in the store look to be going through the motions such as they did before the New 52's final issues. They seem to be just limping along until the next relaunch. Maybe now might be a good time to check out a new title by a new publisher? Maybe the rise of smaller publishers will be the push the big publishers need to put out higher quality product instead of a lot of quantity.