Friday, January 02, 2004

Dave Fiore wonders what the point is of having comics specialty stores change their ways:

However, what all of the "comic stores are killing comics" people seem to ignore is that most "comic stores" have never been "comic stores" at all!! In Montreal, we've got retailers with names like "Captain Quebec", "Heroes and Villains", "Super-Heroes", etc--do you see what I'm saying here? They are "genre stores". We also have bookstores that specialize in stuff like New Age material, and Sci-Fi. I don't have any interest in either type of book, and I wouldn't set foot in either establishment--but I would never dream of telling the owners of these stores to 'diversify' their product! They are specialty shops!!

He also likens getting these shops to sell non-superhero fare to having a local burger joint sell samosas, and wonders why people care when bookstores have stuff availible.

Well, I think there are some different reasons, actually. First of all, the "revelation" of shops being superhero shops is something that people like Dirk has been saying about for a while, but something that not a lot of others want to admit to. Even for shops with "superhero" in the name, there would be the claim that superheros were the main stock just because that is what people wanted. I mean that's why people still call Marvel/DC "mainstream" comics and everything else is "indy/art."

That's why the comparison to a sci-fi bookshop is a bit faulty. You've been able to read sci-fi books in any bookstore or library for many years now. The reason to go to a sci-fi bookshop is to get a better selection and an atmosphere catoring to that audience. But if it was like comics, then for a bunch of years now, you'd pretty much only be able to get books in a sci-fi bookstore, any books. If you wanted a romance novel, it probably had sci-fi elements added to it to help it sell, as there "wasn't a market" for straight romance novels. Changing a local burger joint is a different proposition when they've been the only resteraunts availible and claimed people didn't want differently...

The marketplace has been changing a lot lately, but a lot of people still seem to think that the bookstore market won't last. I hope it will, but it is still a very different type of thing from a specialty store. I think specialty stores are great. You can't beat the variety of titles and local creators and everything if the owner chooses to go that route.

I think that's the real point that people like Dirk a trying to make. It seems like the audience for superheros themselves aren't as strong as they used to be and with people who are interested in other things like manga able to shop at bookstores, a lot of the shops are closing up. Instead of having that trend continue, it seems better to instead either remake old shops or open new ones which are comic shops that specifically try to carry a variety of titles, clean and professional, cater to what different people want, etc. There are shops out there (and locally) that are managing to do this and seem to be doing quite well. For all the gloom that people throw around, I refuse to give up on comic specialty shops as a valid place of business. I'll also say that shops that specialize in superheros is fine in and of itself (as long as there are alternatives), but that they'd better be sure that they can stay viable by doing so.

And as for this:

why do you care if the super-hero guys go under? There will still be outlets for Fantagraphics books...

Dave, I think you've missed the many times Dirk has said that if all comic shops closed Fantagraphics could very well be put under. It sounds like several of these companies have been able to move a lot of sales into other venues in recent years, but the DM is still not insignificant. It is probably fair to say that most of the sales are from a few of the better DM shops, but then it makes those all the more important and something to get more of if possible.

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