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Friday, April 27, 2018 

SD Comic Fest just doesn't do enough to explain what's gone wrong with marketing

Comics Beat wrote some unsurprisingly weak coverage of a panel at the SD Comic Fest discussing what's gone wrong with the medium, but which unshockingly won't get deep into the issues surrounding the downfall of the industry:
We are in a time where graphic novels are topping best-seller charts. Also, more than ever are people making comics. However, the comic book industry is still suffering. While the likes of the “big-two,” Marvel and DC, have found avenues of money through movies and other media, this still doesn’t address downward sales in printed media, which in turn is felt by readers and retailers.
And neither is Comics Beat. If the leading factors include overbearing leftist politics, marginalizing much appreciated characters like Mary Jane Watson, villifying major and minor characters/heroes, with Captain America one of the most recent, over-the-top violence and shock value, they've epically failed to stress the possibilities.
At this year’s San Diego Comic Fest, several prominent people from the comic book industry were collected to discuss some of the issues with comics today. People such as: Maggie Thompson, former editor of the now defunct Comics Buyer’s Guide; David Scroggy, former Vice President of Product Development for Dark Horse Comics; Jamie Newbold, owner of local Southern California Comics and author of The Forensic Comicologist: How to Collect Comics the Smart Way; and Karen Berger, who helped to create DC’s Vertigo imprint and then held the position of its Executive Director for decades, until recently overseeing her own imprint, Berger Books, with Dark Horse Comics. The panel was moderated by Rob Salkowitz, author of Comic Con and the Business of Pop Culture: What the World’s Wildest Trade Show Can Tell Us About the Future of Entertainment and close follower of the comic book industry.

This panel was in no way meant to solve all of the comic book industries issues, but rather to continue a discussion that has been going for years now. Rob Salkowitz was first to talk, explaining how the issues of the comic book industry have been long ongoing and are nothing new. Jamie Newbold asked the room to shout out what they felt was wrong with comics right now. “If I hear something that I’ve never heard before, I’ll shout out “stop!’” Diamond Distributors, technology, online medias, online sales, and others were named by the audience. Not once did Newbold shout ‘stop,’ as he said afterward, “Not one thing you said is new.”
And not one of the moments in this "article" provided any honest admittal that leftist social justice propaganda played any part in the decline of sales. They do mention prices, but that's just part of the whole problem. So, nothing new under the sun.
Maggie Thompson pointed out that publishers are having difficulty in getting readers excited in the stories that they are currently producing. She then asked Karen Berger “how she does it;” meaning, how she gets readers interested in the stories that she has overseen over the years. “Comic books have expanded beyond the superhero stories,” explained Berger. As she pointed out, across the likes of Europe and Japan comic genres are much more expanded compared to ours and have been for many years. For instance, many casual readers, and even some loyal comic fans, don’t know that the likes of France has an extensive comic book community that regards the medium almost as much as a find work of art. As Berger also pointed out, the market here is also moving beyond superheroes, slowly but surely, but in many ways publishers and retailers are not.

“The core of the comic shop model has always been super heroes, and that’s always been a mystery to me,” added David Scroggy. He continued, saying, “But in the more recent times we are seeing a lot of diversity of material, and we are starting to see a lot more personal works that are not superhero related.” He went further to say that retailers are being choked by amount of titles available nowadays and the distribution system. “The ‘signal to noise ratio’ is so high now, and if even you were a person who has, let’s say, gone to see some of the superhero movies and used to like comics, decide to walk into a comic shop to see what they are all kind of about these days because you like the movies, good luck!” Scroggy not only meant the amount of comics now available, but also the amount of “incomprehensible writing” and “complicated stories” that look intimidating to new or returning readers. “It’s really hard for a new person to kind of discover something.”
Has there been more than just superheroes over the past decade or so? Sure, but even those aren't immune to SJW mentality. Though I will admit it's puzzling and regrettable the retailers cling to the Big Two as the main source for income. But considering they've been some of the biggest offenders in social justice marketing in some way or other, that's why they're not bringing in the goods anymore, and the writer fails to mention crossovers played a notorious part in dragging down sales and quality alike by the time Secret Empire made its unwelcome arrival the other year. It's only vaguely hinted at in the quotes from Scroggy.

I can understand if store managers might not have the space for everything, but then, why not start taking steps at replacing the Big Two's output with items from smaller outfits? That could make the perfect start to sending them a message their aimless, politicized storylines and other denigrating steps are not appreciated and let them know we expect far better.
For retailers, they are consistently put to task with choosing what comics to buy and at what quantities. As a comic book business owner, Newbold explained that his choices are hampered by a number of factors. “I have to buy Marvel and DC,” he said, meaning they are safer bets in terms of what will move from shelves. Otherwise, Newbold has to take educated guesses on what other stories will sell. Sitting in the audience, local Executive Director of Little Fish Comic Book Studio, Alonso Nunez, pointed out that if comic stores would carry more graphic novels, then he knows those would sell well. “I often get asked by parents what their child should read or what is selling well right now. I tell them to buy Smile, or American Born Chinese, or others… but later, they tell me they went to comic shops and couldn’t find any of them there, so they end up buying them online… I think if more comic stores would carry graphic novels, more people wouldn’t have to resort to online.” It’s true that graphic novels have become driving forces in the comic book sales. In 2016, author and artist Raina Telgemeier’s work dominated the sales charts, making $14.4 million in sales reports CBR.com. To this, Newbold quickly explained that shipping costs often block him from ordering graphic novels. “They take up more space than a comic does… Because of it, they just kill me with shipping costs compared to comic books.”
Oh, you have to buy them? See, this is exactly the problem; they cannot take risks in marketing, and try to find the best from different sources that could please adventure farers more than mainstream superhero titles are now. And if GNs cost more to ship than pamphlets, why not stop ordering pamphlets and just buy the GNs? Not sure what he means by taking up more space; it all depends on the size of the store and shelves, and besides, if a typical bookstore's comfy with paperbacks and hardcovers, then shouldn't a comics store be comfy with the same? I don't get it.
Another contributor to the decline of physical comic sales has been the large shift to digital entertainment. The likes of Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and Amazon have made entertainment available at anyone’s fingertips. Likewise, books have found new life in the form of eBooks, and so has comic books, with the likes of Comixology leading the way. Though, Newbold had this to say about the digital sales. “Comixology is apparently losing readership, and that is supposed to be the villains that were going to take me out, because now you have the revenue distribution through the internet from Marvel, to the guys who left me out of loop.” It is obvious that Newbold holds a great deal of contention for Marvel, who in recent news has come under accusations of making special deals with the likes of online retailer Amazon; deals that no brick and mortar store can possibly beat. “Five years ago, Marvel was in charge, and they ruled everything I did as a retailer. It was ‘Marvel first.’ Now, they are the bastard children of the industry. I’ve lost probably 25% of my comic readership because 25% of my Marvel fans got tired of my higher cover prices, the non-sequitur storylines, the almost incomprehensible X-Men this and that… Marvel has done nothing to drive the industry towards us.”
Well haven't you guessed the leading reasons? It's because Axel Alonso pushed the SJW agenda even further than Joe Quesada did, and it's resulted in much of the audience finally realizing the books aren't worth diddly squat. But they're not the retailer's "prices", they're just about any publisher's who goes by 4 dollars an issue, and it's only ensured their own eventual downfall to boot.

As for the X-Men, the incomprehensibility's probably become a serious detractor for much longer than we think, dating back as far as the launch of the sans-adjective spinoff from 1991. I own a trade collection first published in about 2003 of the 1st seven issues, and looking at them now...it doesn't look like anything to write home about. Chris Claremont was beginning to lose steam at the time (he only wrote the first 3 issues, while Scott Lobdell took over from there, and John Byrne did a little work on the title too to fill in). I remember reading some paragraphs from Sean Howe's history book on Marvel telling how there were huge crates of the premiere filling up the storages behind the scenes that didn't get sold, which proves the exaggerated, ambiguous figures began pretty early on for sales.
Obviously, there are many concerns that plague that comic book industry. If I were to try and list every one of them, I would have the makings of a journalistic thesis. Like any old Marvel or DC story, each concern or wrong-step has been falling into place as a continuous series of issues. And just like Marvel or DC, over the years those issues have grown to a size that is overwhelming for any one person to tackle in a reasonable amount of time. Through more discussions like this, I’m hopeful that the dialogue is kept alive, making it unavoidable to all comic book publishers.
Sorry, but that's not a defense for refusing to go more in depth, and stress whether reader concerns about nasty politics are valid or not. Biggest problem with the piece is that it's not an opinion column, and that's how to better raise the issues that could help turn around the situation. But these are not people who want to turn around a bad situation, no matter how much they might claim otherwise. The failure to show the courage to address these issues meat-and-potatoes is just why this dismal article won't solve anything.

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Chris Claremont ain't responsible for the storyline of the early adjectiveless X-Men issues; he only scripted them over the artist's plots. That was one of the main reasons he chose to leave Marvel.

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