Steve Devine – A Place in Space
Are modern comics as hot as they used to be in the late 90’s ?
No they’re not, but are they still as popular – yes I think so.
Comics aren’t for kids anymore! The publishers obviously still put out some “all ages titles”, but they have seen the average age of their readership increase and with the increasing availability of electronic entertainment available to children there has been a massive decline in young readers. Combine this with increased prices and buying comics for your kids in a recession is not really financially viable.
The current popularity is certainly tied in with the amount of films and now TV series that are being released. As more people become aware of the characters and want to get to know more about them, there has certainly been an increase in sales around the relevant titles. As long as the film and TV programme makers do justice to the comic titles then we can expect to see good sales but if not then sales will decline.
In terms of hot titles, well of course this changes, but there is certainly a trend that if there is a cool looking film or TV series then the key books from that title become hot. Currently the back issues and Graphic Novels of Walking Dead are extremely popular and Green Lantern and Thor issues are also doing well because of the forthcoming films.
Publishers are now looking to get their comics optioned for movie and TV, to the point that some publishers produce each series just to try and get it optioned, with maybe a star writer, visually stunning artwork and all on good quality paper. Publishers have also been very creative by producing comics based on video games and these have proven very successful over the last year or so (Halo, Kick Ass, Modern Warfare etc).
In general I think that variants and first appearances would be hotter in today’s market if the big publishers didn’t tend to lurch from one big event to the other and everything in between seems to be of little relevance as they seem to want their readers to gear themselves up for the next big event and then bring out a multitude of irrelevant crossovers which they expect the fans to buy into. There are many out there that would love the main titles to be more character driven rather than event driven. Fans love to tell their friends that they are reading a great story at the moment, rather than recommending an event that could cost a small fortune to read. Fans don’t have infinite funds spend on comics, so to keep them wanting more and to keep them parting with their hard earned cash they need to maybe focus on one event a year, and to keep the tie-ins streamlined.
Comic events, because of their scale and obviously price, tends to drive people onto the internet to download an event once it’s finished. There you can get all the tie-ins for virtually nothing and this is obviously keeping people away from shops buying back issues, because they can just download them. Comic Piracy is taking fans away from stores and therefore has an massive effect on back issue sales.
Nowadays there are so many titles to choose from. A retailer might decide not get a title in either because they don’t think that they can sell it, they can’t afford it, or want to invest their money in the latest Spider-Man mini-series. Therefore a title gets under-ordered – does that make it hot? If a couple of friends start to highly rate a title on an internet blog, but the publishers haven’t actually published very many and they want to get a copy of the comic, does that make it hot?
Of all the so called hot books that are around at the moment, we don’t actually get much interest in them, because nowadays the fans know that issue will be reprinted 2 or 3 times and that they will eventually get a copy – so they actually care if they get a 1st print – not really. I think that it just diminishes the value of the 1st print.
Publishers are also very quick to reprint a series, so fans know that they can always pick up the title or they just download it. If fans miss an issue they just normally say ”oh well I’ll pick it up when the graphic novel is released”.
I think that the comics industry has unfortunately gotten into a spiral. As the publishers have made superstars out of artists and writers, they are of course expected to pay them more. To be able to do this the publishers have to run more adverts in comics or increase the selling price. Comics are then perceived to be less value for money. How many kids can go into a store and are able to afford 2 or 3 comics a week? Not many! I believe this is why the industry has lost a generation of readers and it will only be to its detriment if they keep on ignoring this.
As the recession has worsened, the publishers seem to be trying to do all that they can to help the retailers by producing an untold amount of variants. They perceive this as being great value to the retailers, but in reality it tends to breed frustration among collectors who would like to own every cover to a particular title, but realistically can’t because it just becomes too expensive. What we do see is that fans want the rarest of the covers and this then pushes up the secondary market value of the rarer retailer incentives (1 for every 100, 1 for every 75 and 1 for every 50 copy variants).
There are a lot of CGC graded books for sale online at extortionate prices and I just don’t see that the demand is there for modern CGC books. We never get asked if we send comics away to be graded and we are never asked if we sell CGC books. Personally I don’t agree with it and here’s why.
Retailers online are offering a guaranteed CGC 9.8 version of a comic that has not even been released yet! How is that possible?
We sell thousands of comics a week and with the paper quality used nowadays and the amount of times a comic gets handled, it’s pretty tough to find high grade copies – let alone guarantee it. So unfortunately I just don’t buy into it.
So in terms of what’s worth buying in the modern market I would say:
Walking Dead #1 – 10
Ultimate Spider-man #1 – White Retailer Incentive
Green Lantern Key Issues
Thor Key issues
Retailer Incentives (1:50,1:100,1:200 etc…)
And don’t get them CGC’d – read em!