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

August 17, 2012

Brian Hibbs First Out Of Gate With DC New 52 + 365 Analysis

imageIt's mostly positive. It's worth reading even if you're not keeping score -- seriously, why are you keeping score? -- because of the "retailer's point of view" the longtime shop owner and industry advocate unfurls in his analysis. Hibbs' strongest two arguments on behalf of last year's publishing initiative are a) a lot of the titles have kept sales gains made, b) the event returned a lot of customers to his store that have purchased a variety of material. There's a little bit of rhetorical inflation there because the numbers to which Hibbs' compares current and initial initiative figures are the really depraved numbers that DC had before the launch, but I think the general points hold true and from Hibbs' perspective the actual numbers in the store are what count no matter how they got to where they were. If there's an underlying theme to the analysis, it's that fans and readers want to buy the work that's important and that counts, which indicates in a way that's been borne out a bit so far they're not unwilling to go to an IDW or an Image if there are books that present themselves in a compelling way there, even if they walked into the door with money for t-shirt Superman or whatever.

Hibbs' general criticisms are intriguing, too, particularly his notion that keeping so many titles that don't sell well in order, say, to make an artificial figure of 52 comics being sold are a drag on comics shop sales. I'm not sure I follow his logic all the way out there: it seems if you have these kind of performers you're not going to take similar risks with them the way you would in ordering titles that sell better. So while it's more difficult to make a profit with titles that have a much tighter margin, knowing that's the case means it doesn't have to serve as a drag -- some stores drop such titles altogether, which is weird to think of given the original, implied promise of the DM to "carry all the comics" but there you go -- the way it would if you were somehow forced to apply the same principles to every title. I also think that Hibbs has to know that DC is subject to motivations that likely include but are not in any way solely defined by maximizing shop profit, including the much-denied element of having a certain market share, developing properties or looking like they're developing properties for exploitation in other media and perhaps even hitting an overall bottom-line sales figure of a certain size according to whatever standard gets set in those Keepers-style meetings that take place in whatever corporate building basement they're held. I do think there's value in wondering after how a mainstream publisher's not-top-sellers should work right now: anyone who argues that there should be a more sustained effort to find a different kind of comic book to sell could find some encouragement there, I bet.

There will be a number of New 52 analysis articles over the next six weeks, which will oddly also provide a way different context for analyzing Marvel's moves with the "Marvel Now" initiative in real time. Good on Hibbs for being first.
posted 7:00 am PST | Permalink

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