21 March 2006

Faster Than A Speeding Retailer, More Powerful Than A Market Share (CS)

I just can't seem to understand the comic book industry and it drives me crazy.
This shouldn't be something that bothers me too much as I've grown accustomed to having trouble understanding "industry" in general. Like any good History student I've read my Marx and my Wages of Whiteness. I understand the idea of market forces and I've even begun to be a regular reader of The Economist (god, help me). But once you start talking with numbers and "marketing" and the like, if I don't zero in on what's going on with a laser-like focus, I'm going to become very lost very quickly. Often, trying to understand the manipulative aspects of marketing ruin the fun I might be having. Despite always trying to improve on this, I've come to generally except this limitation and not get too wound up about it. Then what is it about not understanding the comic book industry that drives me insane?

The problem to me is that I can identify certain glaring flaws in some comic business decisions. Little old me. With the help of the comics-web-blogosphere, with many pages maintained by retailers who have been in the business for quite some time, I easily pick up on a lot of what's going on in the industry, whether it's pertaining what is/is going to be hot or whatever jerk-wad moves Marvel, DC, or even Diamond has made.

is precisely what "the big two" have been accused of recently, as they try to trade mark the word "superhero." It's almost enough to make one not want to buy their product. I suppose I can try to understand the mindset their in and how it could pay off but why try to stifle smaller publishers and at the same time clearly stand in the way of having the medium accepted as worthwhile? Most importantly, why piss-off your customer base like that?

Most companies understand the importance of having a good image in the eyes of the customer. Even Wal-Mart and Starbucks have made certain moves to alleviate the impression most have of them as corporate monsters gobbling up space on the market. The comic-book industry is experiencing a boom right now and perhaps Marvel and DC figure they can use that to ride out any ill effect from boneheaded or sloppy moves. There will come a time, though, when the market quiets down and especially at times like this, there's something to be said for customer loyalty.

Brian Hibbs points out that brand name actually does carry some marketing power in his most recent article of Tilting @ Windmills. Hibbs points out more than just that, though, as his article goes on to explain a lot of the major errors publishers (including Marvel and DC) make when promoting their books. I regularly read several comic-book blogs, many of them produced by comic book retailers (many of whom have been at that gig for quite some time) and they often have similar insights that apparently continue to go unaddressed by the companies actually producing comics.

I just wonder, if I can catch on, why can't the comic book companies? More importantly, why aren't some of these guys (or like minded individuals) gaining positions of influence within the companies to enact the changes that need to be made?
The high-times that comic book sales are seeing now aren't going to last forever and being a big fan of them, I'd hate to see the industry get hit harder than it has to when things start heading downhill.


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