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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

How DC's Constant Restarts Hurt Comic Shops Business

I’m hard on DC Comics. Why? Because DC Comics Editorial makes the business of buying and selling comics hard.

Worse, they make it hard for local comic shop owners to stay in business. Your local comic shop has a very narrow profit margin. And all of the bad decisions at DC Comics Editorial shrink that profit margin every month.

Thanks to the contraction of the comic book industry in the mid-1990s, the only place to get comic books these days is at a local comic shop. Sure, you can get trades and graphic novels at Amazon or Barnes & Noble, and you might get a comic or two at Barnes & Noble there if the manager is generous enough to stock them. But most 32-page comics are bought and sold at comic shops.

And most comic books aren’t returnable.

In trade publishing, the paperbacks and hardcovers that don’t sell during the season are returned to the publisher for credit on next season’s releases. And those remaindered books are sold to liquidators like those airport shops, discount stores, and bargain bookstores for pennies on the dollar. However the comic books that don’t sell the shop owner is stuck with.

And they have to figure out some way to get the money back for all those comics.

Back in the 1980s and early 1990s when there was a thriving back issue market, those unsold comics were usually profitable for a comic shop. Because every comic was structured to be an entry point at the Big Two and indies, readers had extra incentive to pick up older issues in a characters’ series. And a comic shop could reap big profits on older rare issues like a #1.

But over the last twenty years of reboots and restarts with multiple new #1 issues comic fans haven’t had that incentive to buy those back issues. And with trade paperbacks compiling those issues at lower prices and being sold at a discount at retailers like, comic fans can choose to leave the floppies on the shelf and wait for the trade. Forcing comic shop owners to sell 32-page comics at deeply discounted prices.

This is why a $3.99 comic book can be found in a dollar box, a 50-cent box or even a quarter box. That comic shop owner is hoping they can recoup some sort of loss on that comic.

Thanks to the constant relaunches at Marvel and DC, comic shops are feeling the pinch. With each reboot or relaunch they wind up getting stuck with leftover comics they just can’t move. With each new #1 issue they can’t move older unsold back issues.

 Unsold back issues that aren’t returnable.

And due to those unsold back issues many comic shops are having their business jeopardized. Similar to the speculator boom of the 1990’s that led to the overprinting of comic books, and foil stamped variant covers all these reboots and relaunches are saturating the comic market with comics. Driving down the value of comic books.

Driving away the audience. With each reboot and relaunch readers have less incentive to go out and buy a characters’ adventures. It’s hard to care about a character when a reader knows their adventures will end around the 36th or 50th issue. Thanks to this cycle Some readers will wait for trades. Others will wait for digital. But most are choosing to just not buy comics.

And that’s hurting business at comic shops. As they tried to adapt to the changing market, many have tried to supplement their business with action figures, video games and imported toys. But even that business is struggling due to all these relaunches.

It’s hard for collectors to buy an action figure when there is no “official” version of Superman or Batman. When there’s a different universe every three to five years that leads to confusion in the comic shop and the toy aisle for comic fans and kids. Sure us older fans know who the “real” Superman is. But that 10-year old kid?

He doesn’t have a clue. Thanks to all the reboots, relaunches and multiple versions of characters in film, TV, video games wearing different costumes claiming to be the same character any version to him is the “Real” version. And that’s going to be bad business for the comic industry. Especially if the comic shops struggle.

Every form of derivative media like TV shows and movies and other licensed merchandise like action figures adapted from comic books its work needs comic books to remain in print. Because without that source material being regularly available there is no way to create content for new audiences. And if the comics can’t sell at the comic shop then there is no source to create those adaptations.

Thanks to all these reboots there has been a huge decline in DC’s sales at the comic shops and retail. And the comic shop has felt that hit the hardest. Which is why many are choosing to order less comics from the company’s latest Rebirth relaunch. They’re tired of losing money. They’re tired of being stuck with comics they can’t sell. In an effort to save their business they’re deciding not to order comics. Which is a direct hit on Warner Brothers’ bottom line.

Comic shops have had enough of the lack of direction at DC Comics and Warner Brothers regarding the DC Comics brand. They have been patient over the last five years waiting for DC to get it together with this New 52 reboot, Convergence and whatever event Dan Didio imagines will jump start DC’s dead sales. And they’re tired of waiting. In those five years they’ve watched as droves of longtime buyers have abandoned the DC Comics brand. Some leaving comics altogether. Money they’ll never see again. Business they’ll never get back.

At this point they’re tired of the excuses. They want Warner Brothers executives to hire a new Editorial team at DC and a new President for the brand. They want a visionary who will rebuild the brand and bring together those frustrated factions of fragmented fans and unite them in their passion and enthusiasm for DC’s catalog of heroes and the DC’s brand. Someone who will revive interest in the DC way of publishing comics and get people excited about DC Comics. Someone who will drive foot traffic for DC Comics at the comic shops and get readers buying comics again.


  1. Do you think that Warner Bros is even aware about how badly DC Comics is doing? Or are Didio and Company using the sales boost they get from these reboot events to snowball Warner into believing that the comic side of things are in good shape? Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    1. I don't know if they are aware of it, but they should be with all the information being posted online. . Didio could be using the sales boosts to snow the executives like the CEO into believing things are good for the company since comic shops are the ones stuck with non returnable merchandise. But there's no way to get around what's happening now with comic shops ordering less.

  2. Thank you for your insight. Glad to see the comic shops are starting to wise up. They are in a business, and if a product does not sell why should they stock it. It's too bad Didio and his crew of idiots are so short sided that don't start producing all ages books that they could sell at say Walmart or the grocery store. Seems like money in the bank in a time when superheroes are dominating both movies and TV. But, I guess they are stuck in a gimmick mindset, and trying to appeal to their 40+ year old fans. Eventually that will catch up to them, no matter how good they try to make the numbers look.

    1. Have to agree with you I've said that myself numerous times. In the business of publishing you want to go where the money is. Unfortunately, DC is so caught up in archaic approaches like gimmicks that they're not focusing on the booming markets for kids and all ages. They make short change and miss out on the long dollar.

  3. Hey I just found out about your website and I am liking what I'm seeing as we tend to agree on a lot of things like state of comics or even Wonder Woman's bi position. You got a new reader. My question is how do you know so much about the process at how retailers deal with leftover/back issues?

  4. Hey I just found out about your website and I am liking what I'm seeing as we tend to agree on a lot of things like state of comics or even Wonder Woman's bi position. You got a new reader. My question is how do you know so much about the process at how retailers deal with leftover/back issues?