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

November 10, 2004

Go, Read: Ed Shukin Interview

The industry analysis site does everyone interested in the comic book business a favor by posting this great, short, from-the-vaults 1994 interview in two parts with longtime Marvel circulation and marketing honcho Ed Shukin. Shukin's recollections of the early days of the comic book "direct market" are fun because he has a business executive's way of dispensing information: straight-forward, with a minimum of fuss. In terms of the principles involved, Shukin's succinct summary of the direct market's possibilities remain golden:
"Pragmatically, I don't think we can ever again duplicate the annual trends of the 70s and 80s, but with a sensible approach, we can again generate reasonable and consistent increases year-to-year. Obviously, to do that we are going to have to control volume, make quality, not quantity, the principle commitment, and improve the levels of communication."

It's interesting to note how much a commitment to an alternative to newsstand sales grew out of some very dire business concerns. Shunkin talks about a 30 percent sell-through which if my memory of Marvel correspondence serves shows a severe decline from Marvel's late '60s heyday. Shukin also speaks about dealing with a certain kind of buyer, something I think reflects some of Marvel's specific early 1970s frustrations with some of its distribution partners. I would love to hear him speak about how much Marvel's competitive situation in those newsstand worked into their feelings about trying Phil Seuling's alternative. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but I seem to remember that in 1974 there were specific doubts about Marvel's saturation and ability to be displayed in relation to its competitors.

Anyway, this is fun, wonky stuff for those of you interested in the business history of comics, and a pretty jam-packed, concise summary of historical issues for those who are not.
posted 7:38 am PST | Permalink

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