Look, I’ve never been to a Piggly Wiggly.

§ October 12th, 2020 § Filed under batman, question time, retailing § 12 Comments

Okay, let me follow up briefly (ha, you know how that usually goes) to some of the responses to my last post. Regarding the idea of getting comics into supermarket checkstands, it was pointed out that’s a lot easier said than done, given that 1) Archie digests were basically grandfathered in (hence that brief deal Marvel had with them to get their digests distributed into your local Piggly Wiggly), and 2) there’s a stupid amount of competition for that immensely valuable space. Marvel and/or DC aren’t exactly going to be able to march right in there. (Y’know, without cutting a deal with Archie again.)

Also noted is that putting comics into anything other than a bookstore environment is likely not going to work out. Department stores are, in general, allotting less space for books and magazines these days, and even if they did, there’s no real care or curation going on there. No guarantee you’ll see your comics on a regular basis (as Brad points out, a new run of Disney comics are pretty tough to find), or even at all (I never did see any of these DC Giants at Walmart).

I suppose it doesn’t really matter so much…as long as they’re there, they’re visible, and kids show an interest, and the sale is made, the job is done. These sources can act as feeders to places like actual bookstores and even a comic shop where there would be ample supply of related material and (hopefully) a knowledgeable employee to help them along. Which is ultimately the goal of this sort of distribution.

Thom H. asked, in response to my assertion that comic shops may not be ready for a switch from a periodical model to a trade based model:

“Is this because there are so many readers of the periodicals still around, and they wouldn’t make the switch? Or comic shops wouldn’t be able to handle the change in format? Or some other reason? I’m genuinely curious because I can’t decide how I feel about the idea.”

I’m probably being a tad bit shortsighted, admittedly. I’ve heard of stores that have made that change, at least partway, focusing more on the book end of the comics market versus that weekly Wednesday (and now a little Tuesday, thanks DC) bump.

But as it stands now, it’s the arrival of the new comic books that drives most customers into stores. Now if suddenly the only way to get stories of your favorite characters is to buy a $14.99-$19.99 trade paperback of new material once every four to six months, then I suppose several people would make the switch. But the frequency of visits would decline, I’d imagine…instead of coming in monthly for Green Lantern comics, now it’s every few months for the new paperback), and yes, prices may go up but without as many people buying as many comics on a frequent basis…well, basically, there’d be a lot of economic adjustment on both the retailer and the customer’s parts to continue this hobby.

Short answer: I don’t know what would happen, but it would involve change and after 32 years in this business, change gives me the stomach-tumblies. But I’d figure a way to make it work, because what else am I going to do at this point? Get a real job?

• • •

Okay, let’s try to tackle a couple more questions before I hit the sack, and let me tell you, that sack has it coming:

Dean puts me on double secret probation with

“Since you e opened your own shop., what’s the oddest/most random request for a back issue you actually had in stock?”

That’s a good question…I don’t think I’ve been hit with any particularly wild requests, though. I think having someone ask “do you have Reagan’s Raiders

and lo, I had it.

Not to say I’ve not had people amazed that 1) I’ve heard of the comic they’re asking after, and 2) I actually had a copy, but I don’t think it’s been anything especially strange. Had one fella just falling over himself in surprise that I had any copies at all of Too Much Coffee Man, for example, but that’s not really a weird or funny answer, I think. I guess Reagan’s Raiders is the one that comes to mind. Sorry, I’ll try to remember if there was anything else!

• • •

Tim conjures up this question

“Do you, like me, think the Joker is played out as a viable character?”

I think he’s overutilized, especially right now (what with an extended storyline in Batman wrapping up, a prestige series currently in progress, and a couple other oversized Black Label books running or just wrapped up). Plus we had a high profile movie featuring the character not too long ago, back when there were still movies, and other mass media appearances of the Joker tend to cast long shadows. So yes, there’s more than enough Joker to go around of late.

But does that make him less viable? The Joker is Batman’s arch-nemesis, the literal embodiment of the world’s chaos that Batman seeks to bring to order. That, I believe, makes the Joker eternally viable…as long as there’s a Batman, there will be a Joker, to be really on the nose about it. But how can we miss the Joker if he won’t go away, and having Joker always appearing in something on the new comics rack makes his appearances less special, have less of an impact, and that does lessen the viability of the character. Batman: Three Jokers should stand out more than it does as A Special Event, but instead it’s Yet Another Joker Comic.

Maybe it’s nostalgia feeding this feeling of mine. I remember reading one Joker story as a kid where he seemingly dies at the end of the story (a boat he’s on blows up, and Batman’s all “is that the last we’ll see of the Joker?”). I knew full well the Joker wasn’t dead, but I was looking forward to his next appearance where I presumed there’d be an explanation of how he got out of that one. However, when he eventually popped up again, no dice. We just swung back into the next Joker adventure.

Now I bring that up partially to register a complaint from Young Mike about comics continuity, but mostly to point out I had to wait for a follow-up Joker story. It had to have been a few months, at least. It kept me wondering, and anticipating his return. But today, you kids have it easy, what with a Joker in every other comic.

Well, Joker is immensely popular, and he sells comics, so I see why DC wants to use him as often as they do. But maaaaybe spacing out the appearances a bit might make those Joker stories a little more special. I mean, c’mon, when was the last time we had a good Tweedledum and
Tweedledee story? Let’s give them their time in the sun with a multi-parter already.

12 Responses to “Look, I’ve never been to a Piggly Wiggly.”

  • Steven R says:

    I’m sure Archie won’t be sharing their check out line space, as they had to pay rent on that space. Indeed the candy and gum people and tabloids pay for the good spots as well. I’d don’t know about Piggly Wiggly, who happily claim to have created the supermarket, but most of the Walmarts I go to have Archie digests at the checkout, and not the special “collectors item” area.

  • Brad says:

    Perch actually talked about digests in one of his latest posts — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c751I2dG-hQ — but he completely ignores the fact that Archie has that spot all tied up, at least at present.

    I only found the Walmart Giants one time, in the collectibles section. No incentive to the retailer to put them in a prominent spot. At least the Allegiance books have an easily identifiable end-of-aisle display, even it’s never in the same place twice.

  • I wish I could find the original quote that said it better than I have often repeated, but just as I find the Sherlock Holmes stories with ordinary people more interesting than his battle with Moriarity, I find Batman stories where he is in the lives of ordinary people more interesting than those with the Joker. Heck, Nero Wolfe encountered Arnold Zeck in only three of the 33 novels.

    Oh, and I have been to a Piggly Wiggly, literally 32 years ago when I lived briefly in Charlotte. Don’t recall seeing any comics then.

  • Thom H. says:

    Thanks for answering my question, Mike! I can see how switching from monthlies to trades would be a big change on both ends of the transaction. I’ve often wondered if there’s something in between like a quarterly soft-cover periodical that includes 3 regular issues’ worth of material for $10-12.

    One of the problems I have as a consumer with the “they should just publish trades” argument is that I like to try things out before committing to an entire story. I love books like Strange Adventures and Black Magick, but I wasn’t immediately sure about either. I appreciate that I can pick up an issue or two for cheap instead of plunking down $20 for an entire arc. I feel like quarterly chunks would still allow for that.

    And that frequency means that there could still be new titles every week for the retailer. Not to mention the storytelling possibilities of having 72 pages to play with instead of just the monthly 23. It feels like something that could benefit everyone in the comics chain. Anyway…

    For what it’s worth, I’m sick of seeing Batman, Joker, and Harley Quinn. Relying so heavily on those characters for comics, movies, toys, etc. smacks of poor management to me. If DC can’t generate interest in their other characters, then they’re going to be in trouble when people get sick of the same three over and over again.

  • Brian says:

    I’m curious how many shops have not changed their content of periodicals vs. collections, but changed their layout, front-ending the “book” section for the casual shopper, while maintaining the racks and back issue bins behind (not “behind the porno curtain” behind, but sort of how men’s sections in clothing stores are usually back past the women’s section one enters into at the door) for the regular clientele who know to look for it.

  • King of the Moon says:

    I thought this conversation between Mark Evanier and Kurt Busiek had a really nice breakdown of the “comics in supermarkets” issue https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFscrKDVxn0#action=share

  • Allan Hoffman says:

    I’m sure the reason we have so much Joker material now is because of the movie and DC wanted to have a lot of material on the racks at the same time. The problem is that instead of one shots or GNs that would have just come out during the movie’s run they went with miniseries so now we have Joker material coming out every month long after the movie’s gone.

    As for Tynion’s Joker War storyline, after King’s aborted run I think DC needed something else big for Batman #100, which would have then led to the 5G era, and a big Joker blowout would have been a way to clear the board.

    I think Johns said he didn’t have any idea what Three Jokers would be about when he put it in Justice League so many years ago.

  • Brian F says:

    I’m just here for the Too Much Coffee Man mention

  • Tim says:

    Thanks for responding to my Joker question.

    My problem with the Joker arises from the use of him since circa the death of Jason Todd. You’ve now got a situation when the Joker is perpetually rolled out for ‘big’ stories, which tend to result in death / injury to a member of the supporting case (Jason Todd, Sarah Essen, Barbara Gordon etc). Since, because of periodical comics, Batman can never finally defeat the Joker, it just makes Batman look ineffectual to perpetually be unable to deal with the Joker. I’m all for suspension of disbelief, but the idea that the Joker would ever be able to recruit a henchman or survive a day in Arkham stretches it to breaking point.

  • Matthew says:

    Any switch to “trades only” that Marvel/DC do would probably be tied to digital serialization of issues of some kind.

    DC would probably have one new Batman graphic novel out every month, but would there be a “main” title any more? Would fans buy them? Would graphic novels be more self contained or would there be ongoing stories? How do crossovers or events work? How do you launch new series? (Well, digitally I guess.)

  • James G says:

    I don’t understand how getting comics back into supermarkets or bookstores (periodicals, of course) would be something the comics industry would even want. The business model has changed so much since they were there in the first place, how could it work?

    The comics companies (and Diamond) have successfully chickenized the retail side of things. Comic retailers sell what the industries want, at the prices they want, force stores to buy the product they want to get the product they actually want, and can change the rules at any time to suit their needs. Is a grocery store chain or bookseller going to put up with that? No way.

    Bookstores and grocery chains (and other comic-book-injection-sites) have alternative means of making money that doesn’t involve being trapped by the whims of the comic companies. They aren’t going to buy 20 copies of Blankman number 7 just to get one copy of the Blankman Nad Shot Alt cover. They don’t have time for crap like that.

    The comic shops are the only place they can pull that BS off. They haven’t made a habit of listening to the woes of the retail side of things for years. Would they invite in the much larger bullhorn of B&N to scream at them? Or Kroger? Hell no.

    And we keep thinking how comics need more sales to keep them going. Perhaps, but the money for DC and Marvel lies elsewhere in their larger corporations. They can take the loss on comics (and the associated tax shenanigans) and put out Hulk 7: Hulkier as a summer blockbuster or Disney++ series and do just fine. Keeping copyright and properties alive and well may be a bigger cause than saving the comics industry from themselves.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “Reagan’s Raiders”

    It was far better than Bush’s Buckaroos!

    “Archie digests were basically grandfathered in (hence that brief deal Marvel had with them to get their digests distributed into your local Piggly Wiggly”

    Into Fred Meyers, in my local case! I did buy 3 of those.

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