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2013 in Review: Retailers Share Surprises, Successes from the Year in Comics

By | January 7th, 2014
Posted in Columns | 4 Comments

The world of retail really is the heart and soul of comics in many ways, as the frontline staff are the ones who order the books you buy and quite often dictate what works and what doesn’t in comics. A good shop makes sure that their customers walk out with comics that they will enjoy, and that the next time they come in, they can be guided to even more books they’ll enjoy. What is working for retailers is the pulse of the industry, so with that in mind, we asked a few retailers – all of which someone at Multiversity has had the pleasure of experiencing – for what worked and what surprised in the year that was.

Take a look below, and if you’re a retailer, please feel free and share what you saw in your shop in the comments.

Jason Leivian, Floating World Comics, Portland, Oregon

What books were the biggest sellers for you in 2013?

JL: 1. Incal (Humanoids)
2. Saga (Image)
3. Hawkeye (Marvel)
4. One Trick Rip Off (Image)
5. Very Casual (Koyama)
6. Battling Boy (First Second)
7. Cursed Pirate Girl (Archaia)
8. My Dirty Dumb Eyes (D&Q)
9. Nausicaa (Viz)
10. Sandman Overture (DC)
11. Walrus (Picturebox)
12. Prophet (Image)

What titles surprised you the most, both in terms of quality and in sales?

JL: I’m looking at the best selling single issues from this year.

It goes:

1. Sandman Overture #1
2. It Will All Hurt by Farel Dalrymple
3. Lose #5 by Michael Deforge
4. Frontier #1 by Uno Moralez
5. The Mire by Becky Cloonan
6. Secret Voice V2.#1 by Zack Soto
7. Thickness #3
8. True Lives of the Killjoys #1
9. Optic Nerve #13 by Adrian Tomine
10. How To Talk To Your Cat About Gun Safety (a zine by some guy)
11. Infinity #1
12. Jupiter’s Legacy #1

So I guess it’s not much of a surprise, but I’m seeing a lot of creator owned books cross the counter and it looks like corporate owned books are slipping a bit in terms of quality and sales.

Also a $2 zine about How To Talk To Your Cat About Gun Safety outsold Infinity #1 and Batman #24.

In terms of your customers, did you find that there was an influx of new readers at all this year, or any noticeable changes to buying habits for existing customers?

JL: New customers: Adventure Time and My Little Pony.

Trade and graphic novel sales have went up this year as well. Are there any series you find that readers trade wait more on, and for graphic novels, which ones did particularly well for you?

JL: There’s a few Image series where the trades sell as many or more copies than the single issues. Walking Dead, Saga, Prophet, Manhattan Projects. That’s cool, excel at both.

Marvel doesn’t know how to produce trades, so no one really buys them. Except Hawkeye and Fury Max. Lost opportunity there. All New #1 issues sell for Now, but a quality trade paperback costs like 5 times as much and they can sell for years and years just keep them in print.

Batman single issues outsell the trades by a bit. It’s easy to rip on DC for bringing back 90s Image but putting Greg Capullo on a monthly book kinda did the trick.

Were there any trends that stood out in 2013 amongst your customers? What stood out that you hope carries over into 2014?

JL: It was exciting to see customers discover Copra as the year went on. A self published indie superhero series that comes out monthly? Michel Fiffe had a great year and 2014 will be even better.

BD and Manga, Moebius and Otomo. Do we need to come up with a term for Canadian comics?

It seems like the divide between DC customers and Vertigo customers doesn’t exist anymore. They shop easily on both sides. So Vertigo is the new DC, Image is the new Vertigo.

I finally sold all those Watchmen TPs I ordered back in 2009. The book is selling at its regular rate again.

Continued below

Scott Stafford, Arcane Comics, Seattle, Washington

What books were the biggest sellers for you in 2013?

SS: Saga hands down. We sold more copies of the 2nd volume of the tp in the first month of its release than we have of any single issue floppy not titled Saga. As a shop we operate a little differently than most others. We follow whats selling well instead of what the industry says should sell well. As such, our top 10 best selling floppies are:

Saga
East of West
Batman
Shaolin Cowboy
Fatale
Walking Dead
Manhattan Projects
Hellboy
Sixth Gun
All New X-Men

What titles surprised you the most, both in terms of quality and in sales?

SS: The two books that surprised us most recently in terms of their quality and sell-ability are Manifest Destiny and Three.

In terms of your customers, did you find that there was an influx of new readers at all this year, or any noticeable changes to buying habits for existing customers?

SS: We have seen a lot of new readers in the last year. Part of that is due to the rising popularity of TV/Film adaptations and word of mouth. As more people read comics and convince others to give it a go, we increase our customer base. As for the TV/Film crowd, it is up to the retailer to make sure that they get what they are looking for, but to make sure they also leave with other items. If you sell Walking Dead to someone due to the TV show, you have to send them out the door with something else to ensure they return for more. If they only leave with what they came in for, they are likely to not consider other series.

We have also benefited from a massive density increase where our shop is located, which is probably the bulk of the new people we have seen.

As for buying habits, we have pushed people to be more active with what they are purchasing / subscribing too. So we have seen some readers drop books they’ve read for the past however many years, because they just weren’t inspiring them anymore. We want our readers to be excited every week for every book on their list, instead of seeing (insert your least favorite book here) their list as a chore. Habits have changed as we have encouraged spending less in the short term out of habit. Hopefully this will translate into spending more in the long term, due to desires. When readers are piling up books in their boxes or in their “to read” stack, it creates an unhealthy or at least an unhappy buying experience. We need happy readers. Happy readers tell non readers to read the things that make them happy.

Trade and graphic novel sales have went up this year as well. Are there any series you find that readers trade wait more on, and for graphic novels, which ones did particularly well for you?

SS: There are a ton of creator owned books that people trade wait for, and they tend to follow the list above of our best sellers. Which is to say not only are those titles, our best single issue sellers they are also our best selling tp series. The book people are probably most excited for this next year is Locke & Key volume 6. That series as a HC or TP has always out performed its single issue sales by a margin of 4 to 1. Revival and Rachel Rising are other titles that perform as trades in ways most books can’t as single issues.

Were there any trends that stood out in 2013 amongst your customers? What stood out that you hope carries over into 2014?

SS: More and more we are training our clientele to use the awesome website we have coded to interact with their purchases and subscriptions. We hope to continue seeing the traffic increase on the site as that will increase traffic at the register.

Continued below

Corry Brown, Zapp Comics, Wayne, New Jersey

What books were the biggest sellers for you in 2013?

CB: Biggest Sellers for 2013 here at Zapp Comics. BATMAN and SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN were Sales Juggernauts in 2013. No other ongoing monthly title even comes close to them. 2 Monster sellers each and every month. Other top monthly sellers for us were East of West, Saga, Black Science, Walking Dead, Uncanny Avengers, Superman Unchained, Avengers, All-New X-Men, Deadpool and Daredevil. As far as event books for 2013, Forever Evil takes the cake. Age of Ultron sold well but F.E. is killing it the last few months and will continue to do so in 2014.

What titles surprised you the most, both in terms of quality and in sales?

CB: We had a few surprises for 2013. The biggest one being The Star Wars (Lucas Drafts) Series. It actually outsells the main Star Wars Series. Good to see that people still care about the original trilogy. Being a huge fan, this next one makes me very happy. The success of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Ongoing series by original creator Kevin Eastman has been a very pleasant surprise. The turtles are back in everyday comic shop conversations and it feels great! Lastly, The Wake by Scott Snyder. Not a surprise because of how HOT Snyder is, but more because of the Vertigo label. Dormant and barely alive, Mr. Snyder instantly put life into a once dominant imprint. This series is a solid top seller with each and every issue.

In terms of your customers, did you find that there was an influx of new readers at all this year, or any noticeable changes to buying habits for existing customers?

CB: We had a good amount of new faces enter our doors this year. With the best part being that most of them are now regulars here. Because of so many different aspects (movies, controversy, Big Bang Theory, The Walking Dead on AMC, etc) reading comics is now “cool” and “mainstream”. Also, social media has made this industry so much more intimate and the connect ability between readers and creators is mind blowing. Comics are “hip” and “fun” again.

I have noticed that our customers who bought only trades are now getting into back issues and weekly books. Same goes with comic buyers now looking at the trades and hardcovers. The 2 worlds are starting to mix into each other more and more.

Trade and graphic novel sales have went up this year as well. Are there any series you find that readers trade wait more on, and for graphic novels, which ones did particularly well for you?

CB: I blame Image for the trade boom the last few years. This is a wonderful thing. Having top books like Saga and East of West being only $9.99 for the first volumes is huge. Most monthly comics are $3.99 a pop so getting a collection for $10 feels like a steal. As big as Walking Dead is as a comic, I find that is the one book most people will wait on for the trades to hit. Same with Saga by Vaughn and Staples.

Aside form the top sellers (East of West, Saga, Walking Dead) others newer trades that constantly sell are The Manhattan Projects, Five Ghosts, Hawkeye, Adventure Time, American Vampire, Bedlam, Chew, Morning Glories, Batman Court of Owls, Mind Mgmt and Deadpool (Marvel Now). Older books that seem to sell almost each and every day here are Long Halloween, Sandman, Preacher, I Kill Giants, Kingdom Come, Days of Future Past, Blackest Night, Deadpool (anything and everything), Infinity Gauntlet and countless others.

Were there any trends that stood out in 2013 amongst your customers? What stood out that you hope carries over into 2014?

CB: Trends that stood out? The “Speculators” came back in full force this past year. Anytime a characters was even thought or rumored to be in an upcoming film or tv show, the entire comic world ran looking for the first appearance making the values skyrocket instantly. On top of that, seeing the amounts of cash that Saga #1 and Walking Dead #1 go for, has people buying up each and everyone of the Image First Issues with hopes of striking gold.

The trend that I am hoping continues into 2014 and beyond is the “casual” comic reader. More and more people wonder in here just out of curiosity and grab a trade or 2 that looks interesting. A few weeks later they come back in looking for more. They are not comic collectors but are just fans of reading. Once the taste of a good solid trade hits their taste buds, it’s nice to see them come back for seconds and thirds.


//TAGS | 2013 in Review

David Harper

David Harper mainly focuses on original content, interviews, co-hosting our 4 Color News and Brews video podcast, and being half of the Mignolaversity and Valiant (Re)visions team. He runs Multiversity's Twitter and Facebook pages, and personally tweets (rarely) @slicedfriedgold. By day, he works in an ad agency in Anchorage, Alaska, and he loves his wife, traveling and biscuits & gravy (ordered most to least, which is still a lot).

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