From The Guardian:
With Avengers: Endgame set to break box-office records – it is predicted to make $1bn in its first week – it seems that the superhero business really is the one to be in. In Hollywood, at least.
But what of the medium in which the superhero originated – the comic book – and the purveyors of the hundreds of comics that are released every month? The high street is not as bulletproof as multiplexes, and comic shops are having a tough time of it.
Dozens of closures have been reported across the UK and US over the last few months – including, in January, the end of St Mark’s Comics, once one of New York’s most venerable institutions. (It even appeared in Sex and the City.) Last year, comics website Bleeding Cool documented how 50 comic shops had closed in the previous year, in both the US and UK. And since June 2018, at least 21 shops in the US and 11 in the UK – including shops in Nottingham, Ramsgate and Tooting – have closed, with others likely going unreported.
While superheroes have never had a higher profile, the gap between cinema and comics has never been wider. The days when you could pick the latest issue of Spider-Man or Batman from the newsagent’s shelves are long gone.
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So why are so many going out of business? Like other retailers on the high street, comic shops must factor in rents, business rates, staff wages, insurance – but the profit margins on comics are so narrow as to make this a very delicate balancing act.
“There isn’t a huge profit in comics and graphic novels,” says Jared Myland of OK Comics in Leeds. “Nobody gets into comic retail to be a millionaire. We do it because we love comics. Unfortunately, closures are a more and more common topic on both sides of the pond. Most comic shops make enough to get by if they make cuts, but some retailers depend on the generosity of family and friends to help support the shop.”
One of the unique challenges in comics is the monthly gamble on what will sell. Comics released every few weeks, as opposed to the collected editions available in bookshops or on Amazon, aren’t returnable; with 600 to 1,000 such items published every month, stores must make educated guesses or be stuck with their mistakes. At OK Comics, 90% of what Myland gets in are pre-orders, with the rest put on shelves for casual customers. “Smart retailers would rather under- than over-order,” he says.
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[Lisa Wood] says being unable to return comics leads to less risk-taking on unknown names: “Marvel and DC stuff will always do well but for a retailer, when money is tight, taking a risk on new work by unknown creators can end up being very costly.”
Link to the rest at The Guardian