Do We Need Comic Books In Traditional Retail Stores?


The comic book selling market is in decline and it seems that publishers are throwing any idea against the wall to see what sticks, but are they missing the true problem?

Publishers such as Marvel are changing characters almost daily in order to try to attract new readers and while in the process they are driving away what was once considered loyal fans. The sales numbers seem to indicate that the all new all different method is not working. Meanwhile, DC comics are somewhat restoring some of the characters and possibly listening to their audience, and it seems to be generating more sales. Marvel seems to go in the opposite direction, belittle fans online and try to use shock methods to generate media attention and hope that it translates into sales. My local comic shops have told me that Marvel seems to be shedding readers and that is never a good thing.

In a time that you would think comics could be generating more customers due to the popularity of the movies they are still failing to generate much attention.  All of the shock tactics and media push don’t seem to be increasing the market.  Could the issue be the ability to easily obtain the product?  In order to purchase a comic book today you have to either order the book online or find a comic shop, is that a way to attract new readers? In order to get new readers the product needs to be accessible, and one could argue that the publishers are failing in this area. I wonder how many sales publishers could get by having their books at stores such as Walmart.


The price point is also too high for the product to be considered a spontaneous purchase. Sure the companies will say the price point is necessary but if the market grew the overall cost for production would be less per issue “economies of scale” enabling them to lower the price and make the same level of profit and more. For more on my view on price you can read the following article: The Days Of Picking A Book By The Cover Is Dead

Another issue is the people that represent the publishers online presence. How many readers have been driven away by the writer’s personal agendas leaking into the books? A reader can only be insulted a limited number of times before they stop supporting the company with their hard earned dollars. With writers such as Dan Slott, Mark Waid, Nick Spencer, and many more constantly pushing agendas in the books and in social media it is easy to see that they are pushing away a large market segment. Sure politics can be in the books, but the story should remain neutral enabling the reader to think about the issue and formulate their own conclusions. What we have now are writers forcing their views on readers and if you do not agree you are evil. If a reader voices a different view the writers will attack and mock them on social media, how is that a good business model?

Digital is a nice way to add to the market as well, but does the market truly support it? Many comic book readers are collectors, does the digital format work for them? I love reading the comics on my digital device, but I am also a collector at heart that loves to have the physical copy.

What are your thoughts, should comic books be sold at the local stores again? Would lowering the price encourage more people to try comic books? Should publishers start forcing writers to behave online, or is it too late?


6 thoughts on “Do We Need Comic Books In Traditional Retail Stores?

  1. There was never such a thing as a comic book story close to me. In fact, a lot of the DC and Marvel comics aren’t easily available over here in the first place. So I can only speak of my experience with books and Mangas…and here I have this to say: books are slowly moving to the online market, but if there is one group of books which has a chance to survive it is everything which is either for children or has an artistic aspect to it (because seeing art on the screen is never the same as seeing it on paper). So Comic books are theoretically poised to survive…the problem is, though that the ongoing universes both Marvel and DC have aren’t really inviting for new readers. From the outside looking in it seems like no matter what you do, you always end up in the middle of the story. Mangas don’t have the problem, there you look for specific Mangaka and specific kind of stories which rarely run without end (and if they do, there is usually a reason for it). It is just so much more accessible than what DC and Marvel have to offer.


  2. Thank you for reading and commenting. You mentioned “From the outside looking in it seems like no matter what you do, you always end up in the middle of the story.”
    Do you think that the constant stream of major crossover events is causing this issue?
    I think many stories are being derailed due to major shakeups to “change everything” in order to generate media attention and it is sacrificing character growth. I remember when crossovers and events were a rare thing. I tend to think that Marvel is writing stories that are tailored for the trade paperbacks now more than ever.


  3. Leaving the retail store for the specialty comic book store was a disastrous decision. As a kid, I bought my comic books from the local drug store and grocery store. I didn’t hear of a comic book store until I was a teen. Attempting to get back into retail stores would be a smart move for the industry. But as I now despise the comic book industry, I hope it remains mired in its arrogance and stupidity so it continues its own destruction.


  4. Comics, for quite some time, were magazines you could pick up in drug stores and off spinner racks. Then they moved to specialized comic book stores. For a good while, comics were a very cheap entertainment investment.

    In the 60s, when Marvel was the “House of Ideas,” it cost 12 cents. (Like $1.20 today-ish.) As a low cost investment, it was easy and cheap to pick up issues and back issues. Then the 90s happened and comics nearly destroyed their own industry.

    Today, Marvel and DC are owned by global entertainment corporations that see the characters as something to cash in on. Marvel movies are pretty good, but not great, and DC movies are rancid. (Their tv shows are ok, though.) I think Marvel is way more focused on their movies at this point. Can’t blame ’em. Movies pull in billions, while comics a few million. Same with DC.

    In their minds, comics are an afterthought. Sad, there are a lot of cool and groovy things one can do with the medium. Look at Mark Shultz’s Xenozoic for example, the Walking Dead, and some stuff produced by Image.

    Superhero books have overshadowed many other things comics can be and do. I suspect, we’ll see a resurgence when people finally get tired of superhero movies.

    I don’t see the magazines returning to supermarket or drug store shelves anytime soon. The best thing they could do is work on writing graphic novels, release chapters each month for the die hards who want a monthly book. If they don’t bring the price down, they’re pricing themselves out of existence. Digital is way cheaper than print. That’s where the future could go.

    We’ll see.


  5. It’s a combination of factors. There’a a lot of offensive content in comics. As a conscientious parent, and a religiously-observant person, I can only purchase a few comics for my kids here and there. Producers sneer at all-ages titles, and seem to believe they are writing cable shows. Comics are too expensive, and you don’t get value for your money. For $5 you get ten minutes worth of rather poorly-written material. Writers have turned their series into political propaganda, and several writers are hostile, nasty bigots. Then add the issue of access, which you address. I started buying Spider-Man at the local quick-chek store, the one with the popcorn odor, the Slurpee machine, and the spinner rack. Now I have to drive a half hour to store located in an out-of-the-way place in a local city, and it isn’t worth my time or my gas money.


    1. Thank you for commenting Jack, you bring up some great points. Many comics are not kid friendly, I know I will not read them to my kids. For the cost you can get many other forms of entertainment that will last longer and give you more value for your money. Lastly who wants to read something that continuously insults them while reading forced propaganda points. The comic industry can still fix this but will they before they sink the ship?


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