The Sky is Falling… Or is it?
I was browsing through a few comics blogs when I saw one of them had linked to an OP-ED prophesying the Doom of Comic Book Retailers in February 2011. This piqued my interest, as most of the other Prophets of Comics Doom have given their time scales for comic shop failure so sufficiently in the future that they can easily redact their predictions at a later date, blaming “unforeseen events” for their complete and utter inaccuracy.
I was intrigued to see who would have the balls to say that Armageddon was only two months away– which brought me to Josh Blaylock’s Blog: http://joshblaylock.com/2010/12/08/will-february-11-be-a-comic-book-direct-market-massacre/
Now please, before you rush off to read the post, allow me to bring to your attention the background of the blog writer in question. For those who don’t know, Josh Blaylock is the founder/owner of Devils Due Publishing. “Oh ho!” you’re thinking, “An industry insider, he’ll surely know what he’s talking about right?”
Wrong. For a start, Blaylock’s company has been run into the ground. Devils Due went through a number of successful licenses like G.I. Joe and Dungeons and Dragons—all of which left the publisher almost as quickly as they arrived. DDP has also been late (“late” often being a euphemism for “never”) in paying a number of contributors to their books, leaving other people to pick up the pieces.
So now that I have the scene set for you, what about Blaylock’s Blog post? Well it seems like dozens… Perhaps even hundreds– judging by the hyperbole and urgency of the post… Of comics retailers are going to go out of business in February of next year. This apparently is a theory that Blaylock’s been cogitating for several months– so there must be sound reasoning behind it right?
Wrong. Again. The crux behind his theory of Retailer Gotterdammerung is, quoting Blaylock, “… the sudden price drops in Marvel and DC comics” and “February is already poised to be tougher than ever, but it’s also running parallel with the forced 25% drop in sales from the majority of DC and Marvel titles. It’s an open wound plus salt.”
Damn those publishers for forcing retailers to reduce comic book prices, eh? Retailers are going to lose 25% of their income… Oh No! Surely if that were ACTUALLY the case, every retailer would be borked… But that would also be predicated on Blaylock having his facts straight– which he doesn’t.
For a start, only a portion of Marvel and DC comics are coming down in price. Incredible Hulk is the only Marvel Comics title lowering its’ cover price… With a few mini-series like Captain America: Hail Hydra being released at $2.99 instead of $3.99 in the New Year.
At DC Comics, the price changes are a bit more significant. Every continuing title that was priced at $3.99 is going back to $2.99. This switch accounts for about a third of DC’s output. Unlike Marvel, a lot of DC’s biggest sellers– Batman, Detective, JLA, Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps etc.– remained at $2.99 during the recent price hikes… So this reduction is not nearly as dramatic as the Blaylock’s blog post makes it out to be.
Given these facts, retailer income could not possibly be reduced by anywhere near 25% in February. More importantly, you have to remember that if the cover price of one of these comics is reduced by 25%…THE COST TO BUY THE BOOK FROM THE DISTRIBUTOR IS ALSO REDUCED BY 25%.
I wanted to put that in capital letters, as anyone with half a brain– and certainly anyone within the industry– should know this fact. I am only a comic book buyer and it is blindingly obvious to me. In the end, the revenue that retailers realize from certain comics may go down by 25% but so will the cost to buy them… In this scenario, the retailer actually loses nothing as the profit margin they realize from selling the books will be exactly the same.
So rather than retailers losing big profits in February because of the cover price reductions, they’ll actually be in exactly the same position financially. There may be other factors that cause a reduction in retailer revenue, like the economy, reader disillusionment or whatever… But it won’t be because of comic prices being one US Dollar lower.
Besides Blaylock’s argument being financially and mathematically incorrect, anyone with any marketing sense could tell you that increasing prices during a recession is a dumb move… And reducing them is potentially a good move. To boost business, savvy retailers will inform their customers specifically which titles are going down– and then try and tempt back old customers who quit collecting after the last price increases took effect.
Whether Josh Blaylock, the blogger, willfully misrepresented the above facts– or was just stupidly and stubbornly inaccurate… I know not. But for me, the entire thrust of his argument is out the window. But to be sure, the comics industry is in a tough place at the moment— due to the terrible economy and several short-sighted, stupid decisions made by the comic book companies.
Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!