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Thread: CAFP 14: Who's Watching the Borders?

  1. MattGrant Guest

    CAFP 14: Who's Watching the Borders?

    Alright, coming back from the dead here, I'd like to take this week and knock out some shorter items and thoughts...

    The Last Time I'll Talk about Watchmen (until the next time)

    Being that the movie was basically a commercial flop, the upshot is that sales on the comic... were not. Hitting the #1 spot overall for books on Amazon (for a period of time, I might add), selling a ton of books before that, and continuing strong after that... is no small feat. Could it now be the best selling graphic novel of all time? Anyone got stats on that (y'know, dis-counting Naruto volumes of course)?

    So as far as CAFP is concerned: success!

    Also, following up on the After Watchmen tid bids, DC has been re-issuing the first...er.. issues of the various series that After Watchmen highlights. Did I mention they were only one dollar? That's pretty cool, except, once again, you have to already be inside a comic book shop to take advantage of that. So Joe Noncomicbookfan who is interested in stuff he sees in an AW pamphlet at, say, Borders, won't have those issues readily available.

    Speaking of Borders

    So we've been talking about periodical pamphlets eventually being overshadowed by "the trades" or "graphic novels" or "graphic books" and the likelihood of comics sales shifting from the LCS to the book chains, right? But waitaminute:

    Over the last couple weeks we've been hearing rumblings that things aren't going so well at Borders. Several indicators began cropping up, such as people being forced to pay ahead for special order books, which indicate that perhaps Borders was not on good terms with its suppliers.

    Well today in my handy Google reader, it came through that Borders did, in fact, post a substantial loss. Could they be on their way out? Is this indicative of what's going to happen to other book chains? Too early to tell, for sure, but I think a lot of us assumed that the book industry, fairly hit as anyone with the recession, would remain strong enough to hold it together (therefore being a viable future home for comics). This is enough to put a doubt in my mind, anyway, as to what alternative options there will be if monthly pamphlets become un-viable for the LCS model of selling comics (price hikes, anyone?).

    Where I live we don't even have a book chain. Well we had a Walden and a B. Dalton in the mall. The Walden (owned by Borders) closed. B.Dalton (Barnes and Noble) is still open, but those stores are basically jokes. Worse, the already small "graphic novel" section has shrunk to just three shelves (next to about 16 such shelves of manga. No dis on manga, but why is there 16 shelves dedicated to ONE TYPE of comic, and every other type confined to three shelves?).

    Awakening Pre-Order Coupon

    I posted a news item late last week: Nick Tapalansky and Alex Eckman-Lawn's Awakening has been collected in a hardcover edition. Very cool stuff. I reviewed the pamphlets a while back and interviewed Nick when Awakening was first coming out. Really good stuff, a refreshingly different take on the zombie genre. This is put out by Archaia Studios Press.

    Anyhow, what impressed me is that they're doing an interesting marketing approach. The book is being distributed by Diamond, but instead of just doing regular ads with Diamond codes (which, to a lot of fans, especially more passive ones, means nothing)-- Nick (himself, as far as I can tell) is reaching out to fans/readers by offering a pre-order coupon. Basically what they've done is put all the pertinent information that you would need to give to a retailer in order to special order the book for you. This is pretty smart, I think, because, I know my LCS won't be ordering any copies "just cause" so if I was a fan just waiting for the book to come out... well I'd just keep on waiting. The coupon makes you aware that A) If you're interested, special ordering is a good way to make sure you get it, and B) it takes a ton of the hassle out of special ordering for both the consumer AND the retailer.

    So, anyway, I was impressed with that. I'm working on putting together a follow up interview with Nick, so keep your eyes peeled for that!

    Indie Corner: Tales of the TMNT #56

    I don't think I need to tell you that TMNT are cool. You either agree with that or don't agree at this point. So I'm not really pointing out anything new here. IF you are unfamiliar with the "Tales" series... its a pretty cool concept. Instead of adhering to a chronological continuity, this book tells one-shot stories from various points in the greater continuity. It has a lot of freedom in that sense, and has a lot to offer for both casual readers, and people who are long time Turtle fans. Plus it gives you (or really the creators) a chance to explore various un explored areas of the TMNT timeline. So, its an easy book to jump on board with if your curious about Turtles.

    "Tales" has pretty consistently been really good since I've began reading it. Typically you can expect stories from Dan Berger and/or Jim Lawson (or both), but they sprinkle other creators in between issues. So lots of variety.

    Now you're probably wondering why I'd pick #56 (current issue) out of the lot to feature in Indie Corner. Well, of course, its an excuse to let people know about the book, but also I felt that this issue was a stand out issue. Done by one of the aforementioned "sprinkled" guest teams, Tristan Jones and Paul Harmon, this issue deals with an unexplored issue in Casey Jones' past. Before the Shredder and the Foot came to NY, there was Hun, and you'll see why he is a big part of the reason Casey became the man he did. Years later, the Shredder is gone, the Foot unorganized, and the Hun gets out of prison... I don't want to give away too much, but I have to tell you that this is one of those really gut wrenching edge of your seat stories that really puts old characters in a new perspective.

    In short: I was pretty impressed with this issue. Check it out.

    Closing thoughts...

    Well, that wraps it up for this week. Hopefully the next week brings a good week for comics!

    Read any good comics lately? Don't tell me, tell you friend... you know the one... the guy who doesn't read comics yet but is always looking for something good to read. Yeah. THAT guy. Let 'em know!

    Cause COMICS ARE FOR PEOPLE!


    ______________________________________________________

    Matt Grant is a graphic designer and self-publishing comics and webcomics creator. His comic MastorisM can be read at www.MastorisM.com and updates Tuesdays and Thursdays. A long time comics fanatic and advocate for the medium, Matt eats, sleeps, and breathes comics. Something clever here.

    Matt would love nothing more than to hear from fans, retailers, creators, and publishers that have anything relevant to contribute to his column. He believes that, only by working together, we can bring the comics medium to a wider deserving audience. Please feel free to email him at matt@projectfanboy.com, private message him here, or harass him on the street! Matt does not claim to be an industry expert in any way shape or form, but rather an opinionated pundit on the sidelines.



  2. JamesFreeman Guest

    Wait, the Turtles still have their own book? I might have to check that out...



  3. MattGrant Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by JamesFreeman View Post
    Wait, the Turtles still have their own book? I might have to check that out...
    Two books actually (and I think there's a Mikey mini-series happening too). All from Mirage of course.

    There's TMNT Vol. 4 which is the main continuity run. Not to frequent. I think it was running regularly until 2006, and then didn't come out till last April (which I reviewed, and we had companion interviews me with Peter Laird, and Steven with Dan Berger, to promote that). I got the impression at the time that it was "starting up again" but its been a year, and nothing has come out yet on that front... (I'm guessing that maybe another TMNT flick is in the works, and Peter might be tied up with that)

    And then Tales of the TMNT, which, I describe above, is (usually) one shot stories from various periods in the greater continuity. This book is on sale monthly... or even more than monthly it seems at times. Peter Laird is not really directly involved with this title, it's more of Dan Berger's baby, or so it seems.

    Anyway, all of it good stuff. Totally recommend. Especially "Tales" because its easy to get into and on a steady schedule.



  4. JamesFreeman Guest

    Thanks for the reccomends. Ya know, it's funny. The TMNT franchise is a clear example of how a comic can achieve mainstream acceptance, and yet relatively few people seem to realize that it was based off a comic book.



  5. StevenForbes Guest

    Handy Google Reader, huh?

    Those of us who've been using the Reader for a while as well as keeping an ear/eye out for business news, knows that Borders has been in trouble for a while. Been hearing rumblings for the past few months, at least.

    While I don't think this is indicative of the overall strength of the book market, I think it's indicative of the overall free market economy that we have. Carrying too much debt is a bad thing, and these companies feeling the crunch are now alarmingly aware of that.

    While I'd hate for every bookstore to be Barnes & Noble (kinda like every restaurant becoming Taco Bell...), I do think that bookstores are going to be the new comic shops.

    As a matter of fact, I think that would be a damned GREAT idea. Have a comic shop inside of large chain bookstores. Hire those who are knowledgeable about comics run just that section. You want comics to reach the masses? That's a great way to do it. Then you won't have to worry about where to place all the graphic novels and that 'pesky' manga.

    Will this hurt the LCS? Quite possibly. They could always be bought out, or run the shop themselves as a sort of independent contractor.

    There would be some hurdles, sure, but I think this idea could be a viable alternative.

    What do you think, Matt?



  6. JamesFreeman Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenForbes View Post
    Handy Google Reader, huh?

    While I'd hate for every bookstore to be Barnes & Noble (kinda like every restaurant becoming Taco Bell...), I do think that bookstores are going to be the new comic shops.

    As a matter of fact, I think that would be a damned GREAT idea. Have a comic shop inside of large chain bookstores. Hire those who are knowledgeable about comics run just that section. You want comics to reach the masses? That's a great way to do it. Then you won't have to worry about where to place all the graphic novels and that 'pesky' manga.

    Will this hurt the LCS? Quite possibly. They could always be bought out, or run the shop themselves as a sort of independent contractor.
    Can't speak for Matt, but that is an EXCELLENT idea. I buy the bulk of my trades from places like Borders, and I always see that the people who work there are totally clueless when a parent asks them about comics for thier kids and stuff.

    Having men and women who actually know this stuff would be great!!



  7. StevenForbes Guest

    Thanks, James.

    I have a good idea every so often.

    Now, if I could only get people to let go of the letter "c"...



  8. MattGrant Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by JamesFreeman View Post
    Can't speak for Matt, but that is an EXCELLENT idea. I buy the bulk of my trades from places like Borders, and I always see that the people who work there are totally clueless when a parent asks them about comics for thier kids and stuff.

    Having men and women who actually know this stuff would be great!!
    I agree. I think, and in some ways I hate to say it, but I think that a large book store could easily dominate and make a decent profit by taking over the LCS's share of the market. All they really need to do is stop half-assing it.

    Like you said, Forby, make a comic book store WITHIN the bookstore. Or at least a significant section a la the children's section (which is a designated area with its own vibe, and little layout). Here's an area where you can market all of the "graphic novels," mangas, the 257 how to draw comics books, the 2364 how to draw manga books, the toys, cards, DVDs, all that stuff that is spread out across the store, in one spot. Then maybe also bring in current issues (even if its an expanded offering of newstand editions).

    This would be good all around because here comics would be in a place where people who were in the store for any number of other things/reasons (even just a cup of coffee), are exposed to comics.

    Good thinking Forb.

    Though.... it would be BAD BAD BAD for the LCS. And I would have to guess that it would be bad for some of the smaller indies (who, i suppose, are facing their own perils at the moment) and self pubs who's only sales go to the LCS.

    But I also think that for comics will eventually have to move away from the periodical-- and will probably (maybe this is wishful thinking on my part) get picked up more and more by regular book publishers.

    Time will tell.

    But good idea!



  9. MattGrant Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenForbes View Post
    Handy Google Reader, huh?
    Oh and yeah, I finally got hip to the RSS scene and google reader a couple weeks back. Fairly life changing.



  10. StevenForbes Guest

    Thanks! Glad you liked it.

    Like I said, there are hurdles, but I think it's a viable thing. I, too, was thinking about the children's areas.

    The space B&N is using now to sell music and dvd's? Use that space for comics instead. Keep the comics area totally separate.

    Who wouldn't LOVE their comic shops being open 7 days a week, generally until 11pm?

    Have them ring up right inside that area, just like a comic shop. Keep supplies in the back.

    And honestly, I don't think this will hurt the small publishers/indies. They're now getting attention at a NATIONAL level. As a matter of fact, a group of them could get together to make an incentive program with the chain to have them prominently showcased somewhere in the store.

    Honestly, the only losers in this is the LCS, but their numbers are dwindling, anyway.

    I think this idea makes all kinds of sense, but the question is, how feasible is it?

    Anyone?

    (And the rss reader makes life SO much simpler, doesn't it?)



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