“This is our Swamp Thing rack, and everything else is just kinda shoved into that old box on the back shelf there.”

§ September 11th, 2013 § Filed under question time, retailing § 7 Comments

More questions, more hopefully-informative answers:

  • Adam asks

    “Mike, do you ever see any kind of temporary downturn for a brand when stuff like DC’s recent foibles (RE Batwoman and the Harley Quinn contest) come to light and make internet waves?”

    In general, no, because most comic fans, the ones that actually go into shops every week and buy things, don’t seem to be impacted or even terribly interested in online shenaniganery much beyond general news announcements and reports of, say, shortages of 3D comic covers and such. The Internet comics world seems to be its own insular thing, with not a whole lot of overlap with the real world; otherwise, Thor: The Mighty Avenger would still be published, and Dan DiDio would have been run out of town by villagers with rakes and torches.

    “Also, did people really like Spider Island?”

    Yeah, they liked it well enough. The actual Spider-Man comics that tied into the storyline seemed to experience a bump in sales, while some of the other tie-ins didn’t really go anywhere. I haven’t seen much back issue movement on them, however, since once it was over it became just another Marvel crossover event like Fear Itself and Civil War that was forgotten as soon as the next event came along.

  • Blogging brother Tim wants to know

    “Serious question, why is 29 issues of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN that much worse than the situation in the 90s, when you had 50+ issues a year of AMAZING, SPECTACULAR, WEB OF, the adjective-less series, as well as a monthly VENOM and who knows what else? Was it that many people only bought the flagship book, so that the tertiary titles were less of an obligation?”

    Offering four or so different monthly series, each usually featuring their own storylines and subplot threads and so on, is a different animal (and problem) than offering one series with an unpredictable number of installments per year. With different series with a fixed number of issues per year, the decision on how much money to invest in how many series is still up to the reader. If you’re only interested in one series, you bought just the one series, and you generally knew how much you were going to spend to keep up with it. In the case of Spider-Man, most people didn’t buy every series, but some readers didn’t seem to mind buying the occasional issue from a series they usually didn’t follow if it was part of a cross-series event.

    Now, with a single series rushing out issues onto the stands as quickly as they’re able to produce them, that’s forcing you to spend more money to keep up with one particular set of storylines that you’ve already decided to follow, making you a captive audience of sorts, and that money has to come from somewhere. I wonder if people would have found more money in their budgets to buy the withering-on-the-vine Superior Foes and Superior Spider-Man Team-Up books if they weren’t already buying two issues of the main Superior Spider-Man title each month?

    As an aside, I have to agree with your later comment on the J.M. DeMatteis Spectacular Spider-Man run. That was some good, weird, and occasionally dark, stuff.

  • GregNGray wonders

    “Would it be comic shop suicide to place indie comics front and center and big-two comics on secondary or side racks using the (undocumented and totally lacking in evidence) theory that:
    a) big-two readers are far more likely to know exactly what is out each week and will have no problem finding what they want and,
    b) they are less likely to make spur of the moment purchases?

    Oh, I wouldn’t think so. Racking any comics in an easily-accessible manner is never a bad thing. Well, okay, maybe putting Faust next to Fantastic Four could be a problem, but you know what I mean. Ideally, though, all comics would be racked together alphabetically (barring age-appropriateness considerations), or by genre, if you want to get all fancy-pants about it. At the very least, if you have a Marvel/DC rack and an Everything Else rack, keep ’em close together. The fewer barriers you put between a customer and the books he or she wants to buy, the better.

    We have kind of an oddball set-up, mostly based on rack types and available spacing: one larger wall rack that has enough room to accommodate new Marvel/DC/Dark Horse/Image books, and smaller wall racks of another type that have the room to accommodate all the new indies. The two are right next to each other, and I haven’t had any problem displaying and selling the indie titles. I would prefer to have the entire new comics area be one uniform series of shelving, and all the comics be mixed together, but this set-up seems to work okay for now until I can make that dream come true. One advantage is that a number of the indies tend to skew a little higher in recommended reading ages, making it a little easier to direct parents to the rack with the superhero books on it. Not that a lot of the superhero books are appropriate for Little Billy, but kids want the guys they saw on the TV and in the movies, so there you go. (And yes, we help ’em find comics that won’t turn their kids into juvenile delinquents.)

    We also have another rack of kids comics (Archie stuff, My Little Pony, etc.) right at the front of the store, along with shelves of kid-friendly trades, so I guess in a way we do have a shelf of indie books front ‘n’ center.

7 Responses to ““This is our Swamp Thing rack, and everything else is just kinda shoved into that old box on the back shelf there.””

  • G23 says:

    Last I checked, the Graham Cracker Comic shop in the Chicago Loop put the indie comics in prime real estate. Right across from the cash register. The marvel books moved to the inside corner. They seem to be doing just fine, last I checked, anyway. Whether or not indie books sales have jumped in that store, I can’t say.

  • Robert in New Orleans says:

    One of the main criteria I judge a comic shop by is how it racks its new issues and recent issues. I’ve been to one store that bags and seals all new issues without a board. I would never patronize a store that does it that way if I had another choice.

    I’ve been to another shop that has a wall display of the week’s new books behind plastic so one of each cover can be seen, but not handled. If you want to buy something you ask for it at the counter and they retrieve it for you.

    Neither of these shops are in my area. I feel sorry for the customers who have to depend on those retailers for their comics.

  • GregNGray says:

    Interesting Robert. My local bags and boards but does not seal. I like getting the B&B but it does tend to discourage me from browsing.

    I’ve been surprised by the lack of signage in the stores I’ve been in. Particularly signs informing once-newbies like myself. As a first tme store goer I’d have really appreciated (far) better phrased versions of:

    “Here are this weeks new comics”
    “New comics arrive every Wednesday”
    “These comics start a great new story-line”
    “First issues”
    “Kid-friendly comics”
    “New issues arrive each month! really”
    “Here are comics collected in book form!”

    I don’t think I’m a completely stupid person but I had no idea of these facts when I walked into my first comic shop. Signs would have made my first couple of trips there far less confusing. I realise there are staff to tell you these things but signs would do the job so much quicker and more consistently.

    I do NOT own a signage shop :)

  • G23: Graham still has that set up and it seems to work well enough.

  • Luke says:


    You once mentioned the brand name of your preferred sticky lables for use with comic bags. Could you link to this again?


  • Robert in New Orleans says:

    I’m also interested in which sticky labels Mike prefers. I looked for some at the Office Depot and Michael’s and neither place had what seemed like the “right” kind. Maybe I just don’t know what to look for.


    I don’t mind the bag & board approach if it’s not sealed. I want to be able to peruse the art and maybe the first few pages of story to see if I really do want to spend 3 to 4 dollars on the comic book. I feel like my budget is limited and I’d rather avoid disappointing interiors ahead of time if possible.

  • Bizarro-Wuxtry has always sold all our comics bagged & boarded (and previous to our becoming a separate shop, the comics in the record store were packaged thusly going back to at least the mid-’80s), and we’ve always regarded it as a bonus; a service to the customer. Lord knows it’s expensive and labor-intensive enough (as I’m sure you’re aware, Mike). We let anyone who asks open them for inspection, figuring that the simple act of their inquiring suggests that they’re probably responsible enough to do so. I’ve never in 23 years had a customer complain about our set-up. I wonder how many may be quietly seething with rage as they contemplate our racks?