Shops Still Closing Fast In Spite of Interest in Comic Related Media

The Broward/Palm Beach New Times tells of a store in Florida for both comics and board games like Dungeons & Dragons that’s closed after just 3 years or so, making it one of the shorter lived attempts to open a business. This particular article seems to put more of an emphasis on the board games industry, but is decidedly important for learning what could’ve gone wrong with the entertainment industry as a whole:

 

In a Coral Springs strip mall, Loot Comics & Games sits wedged next to a bakery, a barber, and a pain clinic specializing in back and neck issues.

Or, rather, it sat there: The shop closed for good November 22 after a three-and-a-half-year run. A hastily drawn sign on the door reads, “So long and thanks for all the fish,” a reference to the fourth book in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. […]

Putting aside whether opening a comic book store as a side gig more than 3,000 miles from your home is an insane idea, the fate of Loot is similar to that of at least one other shop in South Florida — Silver Dragon Tavern & Games in Kendall, which also closed recently. This, owners say, despite the fact that tabletop games such as D&D are exploding in popularity. Comic book shops in recent years have been closing at a rapid clip across the nation. Nykolaiszyn said he knows of ten that have shuttered within the past month, and a simple Google search pulls up pages of news posts reporting the demise of beloved gaming spots.

 

I trust they’re aware of the valid reasons why they’re on such a downward cascade, including – but not limited to – failure of artistic merit? If they’re not willing to acknowledge that, the comics industry won’t solve these problems. There’s also cover prices to consider, political/social justice pandering, and much more has brought down the entertainment medium in the worst ways.

Now, since they chose to spotlight the subject of tabletop games, very well then, let’s see what they say about the D&D franchise:

 

According to Wizards of the Coast, the company that produces the various books and ephemera vital to D&D, more than 40 million people worldwide play. Though the cliché is of nerdy middle-school boys playing in the basement — à la Stranger Things — 38 percent are women.

 

While it’s always possible there was a decent amount of women who played D&D decades before, I’m wondering just how and why any are playing it today? If it’s got anything to do with liberal feminism and the laughable belief women are literally required to play what Gary Gygax may have developed as a primarily boys’ pastime, then let me just say I hope those who are playing aren’t doing it because they deliberately want to do any kind of artistic damage to the franchise, recalling a report from the pretentious Kotaku claiming WOTC was going to tone down female sexuality/nudity in artwork (which runs the gamut of damning the game’s original creator as a pervert), yet they seem perfectly okay with doing the same to men, which is a nigh hilarious double-standard.

 

Even worse, as this item notes, WOTC themselves have come to the point of employing people who’re obsessed with bizarre racial/sexual identities, a sad sign of how far counter-cultural types have fallen. In fact, if “counterculture” has been mostly comprised of punkish types over the past few decades, maybe that could explain how counterculture as we know it today got devoured by itself, as it gave way to the worst subculture has to offer. If to play D&D, it should be for the entertainment value of the finished product, plain and simple, not as a political statement.

One of the interviewees for the New Times article said:

 

Peter Kamenkovich, age 23, says he doesn’t think there’s a lot of crossover between D&D and MMG players, and despite his age, his guess is D&D appeals mostly to an older demographic.

“Not that there aren’t outliers, but D&D has a patience and concentration aspect to it that even I have trouble keeping focus with — for example, getting distracted with my phone between turns,” the Boca Raton resident and Loot regular says. “In this day and age of instant gratification, if a child is raised on it, I think they’d find D&D a little boring and slow.”

As for why stores might be closing, Kamenkovich says it might be because public games tend to be somewhat rowdy, loud affairs and not always the best places to follow complicated tales.

“Sessions last up to five hours and essentially it’s a story that you need to listen to and pay attention, while also having a bit of fun and laughs along the way,” he says. “That’s why I think games are moving more towards online and private, in-house, play.”

 

I honestly figure that in itself is a better idea, but a shame if children today aren’t raised to have the patience needed for simpler board games, because then, how can we expect the kind I played in my youth like Monopoly to do well? It’s interesting they suggest the D&D audience is comprised of an older age bracket, because that only compounds the estimation the people at WOTC today are catering to a non-existent audience that won’t buy the product no matter how pandering it ends up becoming to poor ideologies.

 

Another player, Walter Irvine, 35, noted the impact of Amazon on the businesses, saying “selling something in a physical store isn’t a great idea anymore.”

 

Yes, that’s become apparent for a long time, and has undoubtedly affected comicdom too. There was once a Sears department store in Philadelphia around Roosevelt Boulevard that closed down and the building was reduced to a shell, as it couldn’t compete with Amazon’s retail business. And I think there’s only one comics specialty store left there now, Fat Jack’s Comicrypt, one of the oldest of its kind, dating back as far as 1976. When you can get certain products delivered to your neighborhood, it makes a considerable difference in many cases.

 

Nykolaiszyn says his business plan was to create a bar and cafe where people just happened to play D&D. If he sold a few comic books and a number of miniatures – the often elaborately painted figurines players use to represent their characters – so be it, but that wasn’t the point.

“We almost made it,” he says. “Almost.”

 

But in what format would the comics be sold? Pamphlets with 22 pages or so of story, or paperbacks/hardcovers? If it was foremost the former and not the latter, no wonder they didn’t make it. Selling just “a few” doesn’t work well either, and suggests he didn’t get into the business out of dedication to the medium.

Now, since we’re on the subject of stores, here’s another item from the Commonwealth Times of Virginia’s university, which gives a more sugarcoated picture of what the industry is going through, starting with:

 

With the Marvel Cinematic Universe setting box office record after box office record, comics have never been more prevalent in media.

 

Sigh. That’s taking an awfully rose-colored view, when as the first article stated, there are quite a few stores that have closed down, and comics may not be doing well even in online sales. Who knows how long the Marvel movies will continue to prove successful either? It continues:

 

With the rise of digital media, one might assume that the traditional print comics are a thing of the past. However, the average moviegoer might not realize that the comics industry is still bustling.

According to the comics data analysis website Comichron, the chief comics distributor, Diamond, made approximately $446 million through direct sales to local retailers.

 

Okay, but how much of that went to the Big Two, or, how much was made on brand new material rather than older reprints from past decades? And if specialty stores are closing, as the first article acknowledged, then again, how much of it is even selling through them? On which note:

 

With the convenience of Amazon’s direct home delivery, the average Avengers fan might wonder why they should bother with a local comic shop.

 

See, at least that’s saying something. E-commerce surely plays a role in encouraging consumers to buy comics through the web, doesn’t it?

 

“A good comic shop will have people who are excited about something that’s happening in comics,” Donovan said. “I’ve noticed stores with employees that say ‘nothing’s good’ don’t tend to last that long.”

 

What if this alluded to the superhero genre, where everything’s going to the dogs? I think it’s too easy to say the store employees would deliberately put down their wares, though I will say stores whose managers carry products that could be degrading or just plain bad in merit aren’t really doing themselves a favor.

 

Velocity Comics manager Patrick Godfrey said the store’s readership has diversified and increased, thanks to longtime readers.

Our longtime customers have gotten their kids into comics. But the biggest growth in readership has come from a rise in female and LGBTQ readers,” Godfrey said. “As soon as books that appeal to those demographics are available to order, we make sure to order them and make sure they’re visible in our store.”

 

No kidding. This is the belief system the industry makes such a big deal out of nowadays. But, which publishers do they look for, and what exact titles or genres? And above all, what’s the artistic quality level of any of these books? I wouldn’t be surprised if the women coming about find manga books like Sailor Moon more appealing than modern US superhero books, which aren’t exactly appealing to anybody any longer. And when it comes to the children, I’d assume the parents encouraging them to read comics are turning to non-superhero books too, or at least stuff that isn’t overly violent, among other troubling content.

To be sure, there are some areas where the business is doing better than in others, and this Virginia location has to be one of those. But as the former article at the very least confirms, far more have collapsed than risen, and the latter article’s another example of sugarcoating reality, even as it does acknowledge the undeniable influence of e-commerce, which is surely gnawing away at the brick and mortar competition.

 

 

Originally published here.

Avi Green

Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1

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