Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

December 17, 2010

Go, Read: Brian Hibbs On State Of DM

The retailer and industry advocate Brian Hibbs has a longish post up at Comic Book Resources that if you're interested in the overall business landscape of comics and/or Direct Market retail specifically, you pretty much want to read right now. It's about as self-critical as the retail community ever gets, although if you're keeping score -- you probably shouldn't be keeping score -- you'll note that there's not a whole lot of shouldering the blame when it comes to Direct Market retail's participation in various unsound business practices, as in zero. Brian makes a call to fix things, but he makes it long distance.

However, that's a different conversation, one held by crabby old men like me in cold, dark places where the flickering light of our flat screen monitors illuminates, however briefly, a Dynamo Joe poster. The primary takeaway from this piece for everyone else should be two-fold. One is that the first quarter of 2011 holds the possibility of being brutal in terms of store closures and general wounding to the Direct Market economic landscape that could result in even more closures down the line or, perhaps more likely, a general inability to help right the ship by starving the system of course-correction capital. The secondary takeaway is that a lot of these problems involve system-wide bad behavior of several years standing, a dozen lousy habits coming home to roost. Whether you believe that the key to solving these problems is bold decisive action, a long-term adjustment of goals and behaviors, or hacking away at the market until the ugly parts are less noticeable, I think the near-intractability of some of these problems needs to be acknowledged. If you don't see these problems as drastic and systemic, the forty percent of the stuff you don't fix will get in the way of the sixty percent you do.

I like all the markets. I want all the markets to be as strong as possible, and I want lots of them. I know that the basic response here is that people like Brian are just running counter to history, that he and his peers are avoiding the inevitable. The money is over here now, and to think the money is going to come back over there keeps us from taking greatest advantage of the money being over here. Man, screw that. For one thing, the entire Direct Market and the wholesale rise of comics as a more viable art form that took place alongside it is a thumb in the eye to historical inevitability. Comics should have died in 1957. More importantly, I don't think correcting the self-fulfilling part of any prophecy is ever a bad thing. If the prophecy itself is any good, it will survive our unwillingness to meekly capitulate to its conventional wisdom. And hey: if the Direct Market is in worse shape than we thought, if it has to go out because of natural shifts in the way we make and consume things, I want them to go out viking funeral style, not sad burial in the backyard style. Count me among those that would rather build a boat than fetch a garbage bag any day of the week, including Wednesdays.
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink

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