The York Daily Record spoke a few weeks ago with comic store owners about whether the Marvel movies like the Avengers have had any positive effect in the past decade since they really got going with the Iron Man movies one of the biggest starting points:
“I think the bubble is only getting bigger. They’re only making more movies and TV shows,” said Jeff Mathison co-owner of 4th Wall Comics in Lancaster.
In 2017, comic books topped $1 billion in total sales, according to reports from Comic Chronicles and ICV2. Those figures are miles away from the ’90s when the comic book industry was on life support with sales dropping by 25 percent between 1993 to 1995.
Yet, while superhero movies rake in billions at the box office, the comic book industry suffered a $70 million loss between 2016 to 2017.
“There’s a lot of tricks publishers do to pump up the numbers,” said Zane Zerman of AA Comics & Cards in Lebanon.
The data compiled from Comic Chronicles and ICV2 is based on the total amount of comics and graphic novels purchased by retailers, it doesn’t account for direct consumer sales.
“Just because a publisher distributed it, doesn’t mean [direct] sales,” Zerman said.
At face value, one might believe the popularity of superhero films would directly translate to more comic book sales. For some local shop owners, that’s not the case.
“Comic book sales have been going down,” said Rob Barem, co-owner of Comix Universe in Hanover.
And that’s why sooner or later, the bubble will burst. Story quality’s taken a huge plunge in the past few years, and when it’s that bad, it won’t recover so easily.
“We don’t see much happening in terms of customers coming in because of movies,” Barem said.
Barem said his store has seen a decline in sales recently. But he puts the onus on publishers, not an over saturation of movie and TV shows. Barem blames an increase in multi-issue crossovers that span dozens of comics and the continuous re-starting of character series for the lack of interest.
“It makes customers feel like the series isn’t important,” Barem said.
This is accurate, but I hope they realize bad storytelling and art also contribute to the downfall of comicdom and sales. If that’s not cited as one of the major factors in the coming collapse, how does anyone expect sales to improve in future marketing?
“I’ve got mixed feelings,” said Mathison. “A lot of people see the movie and don’t buy the comics. I don’t know if it directly helps the comic book industry.”
Comic books — like most literature — often differ drastically in comparison to their big screen counterparts. For some regional shops this difference often leads to a visitor, not a customer.
While Mathison has noticed an increase in foot traffic thanks to the MCU, he has also noticed movie-going fans tend to research a particular comic or series online rather than purchasing a hard copy.
“They never read the story, they just know the facts,” he said.
In other words, they don’t love the medium at all, and they’re not going to see the movies because they do, if all they’re interested in is superficial data.
Another store manager who took a positive view said:
Senft credits the change in publishers shifting away from catering to collectors. In the ’90s and early 2000s there was an abundance of variant covers — many of which would sit on shelves or in boxes — and now he believes comics are being marketed more towards readers than collectors.
“If you’re not reading it, why are you collecting it,” Senft asked.
I can’t understand why he’s acting as though the practice isn’t still dominant today, when there’s still variant covers to some degree, and even Archie’s made use of them at times, and some of the most talented artists have taken the ill-advised route of becoming variant cover artists at the expense of the more challenging interior assignments. I think Alterna is one publisher who aren’t relying on such a cheap ploy, but there’s still some small outfits who’re doing it, along with Marvel, and possibly DC too.
And if story’s merit is poor, that’s one more reason why you can’t say the books are marketed more towards readers now. Certainly not Marvel/DC’s books. At least the guy’s got a good idea to criticize anybody who’d buy only to collect, and never for the entertainment value. If I were one of the classic creators and learned people were only buying my creations for the sake of money value, I’d be outraged. These collectors have only slighted tons of decent, hard-working people in the past who wanted to entertain the audience, and instead, they buy all this stuff just in hopes it’ll become valuable for money.
Evidently, some store owners are waking up and acknowledging why comics are failing. But they’re not telling enough, and they’d do a lot better to show the courage to pan the higher echelons who’ve brought everyone to the situation we’re at today.