Comic Shops Should Sell Comics

By | Wednesday, December 19, 2007 Leave a Comment
Continuing my postings responding to Dick Hyacinth, I'm now tackling his second argument: "Comics shops should quit selling toys, models, sculptures, and other three dimensional merchandise."

There's a basic tenant that's being overlooked in this argument. Namely, that "comics shops" is a misnomer. Obviously, they sell more than comics, otherwise the debate doesn't even arise. But beyond that, nobody makes comic books any more anyway.

Let me clarify. DC publishes Action Comics and Superman and however many other titles every month, right? But what are they selling? They're not selling a 32-page story featuring Superman; they're selling the right to be with Superman in a limited capacity. The money you hand over for that issue only allows you a finite experience with DC's character.

It's actually easier to see with marvel since their business practices are broken out a little more clearly in their quarterly earnings reports. They make money publishing comic books. But they make considerably MORE money leasing their character rights to people who make t-shirts, action figures, video games, busts, and whatever else they can think of. They make their money as a licensing company, not as a publisher. And when they DO produce a comic book, what they're actually doing is selling you -- the comic book reader -- a license to one individual comic.

You might argue that that's only the big companies, and the smaller ones are still publishers. To which, I'll point towards the following movies (i.e. licensed properties used by movie companies): Ghost World, American Splendor, Road to Perdition, History of Violence, Art School Confidential, Tank Girl, Richie Rich, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Whiteout, The Crow... Platinum Studios in fact started with the very premise of being a comic book company that could turn their comics into movie deals.

So when you go into your Local "Comics" Shop, what you're actually entering is a Local "Licensed Properties" Shop that specializes in properties that started in the comic book medium. That being the case, it's hardly fair to claim that they should sell exclusively comic books. Especially considering the size of comic book market. Even if those statues and action figures didn't exist at all, could a comic book shop really stand on its own financially just selling $3 pamphlets? Not likely.

Indeed, the most successful shops tend to be ones that recognize that they need to draw in a crowd larger than just comic book fans. They need to sell trading card games and rent table space to play games and sell chips and soda for the games and sell DVDs of anime... all just to keep themselves afloat financially.

So, yeah, while I would love to frequent a shop that did NOT sell anything but comics, that's not realistic from a business perspective. And I am perfectly willing and able to walk past the statues and busts that I have no interest in, mentally scoff at them, and pick up a stylish and well-done comic book off the wall of new material.
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