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Brian Hibbs, Erik Larsen & Everyone On Image

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Brian Hibbs, of the San Franciscan comic book chain Comix Experience, leads a massive discussion regarding Image Comics switching in Lunar.


Brian Hibbs, of the San Franciscan comic book chain Comix Experience, is one of the most influential comic book retailers in the direct market. It was his class lawsuit against Marvel Comics over a previous distribution kerfuffle that saw FOC instigated across the direct market, first by Diamond and now by Lunar and Penguin Random House. So he had a little something to say about Image Comics’ switch from Diamond to Lunar this last week.  Unlike some other publishers who distribute with both Diamond and Lunar, Image Comics is going all in like DC Comics did, with full worldwide exclusive distribution in the direct market of comic book stores though, unlike DC, allowing Diamond to sub-distribute from Lunar. And, unusually, Image Comics partner Erik Larsen chose to join in with the response. Here’s a selection from a very long Facebook thread. Strap in, bookmark this for later, have some holiday reading.

Image Comics Quits Diamond To Go Exclusive With Lunar Distribution

The disappointment of Brian Hibbs.

Brian Hibbs; I am extremely disappointed that Image is forcing us to buy our comics from DCBS, the single largest competitor of all retailers everywhere. I am extremely disappointed that Image is changing their on-sale date to Tuesday (we’ve got decades of effort to brand Wednesdays). I am extremely disappointed that Image will ONLY have a digital catalog (the overwhelming majority of subscribers have been clear they don’t want that). I am extremely disappointed that the publisher who said this (https://www.cbr.com/image-comics-eric-stephenson-slams…/) switched to Lunar.
This is a big straw for me. I genuinely wonder if I want to continue to own a comic book store after this news.

Kelly Anderson Heying, owner of Buy Me Toys & Comics in Mishawaka, Indiana: Wednesday is so unique to our industry and I love it. We are sticking with Wednesday.

Benjamin Napier of Mansfield Comics & Manga in Mansfield Texas: On the opposite side of the coin, as a retailer who is only 2 years deep, this is a big win for me as Diamond damages almost 50% of my comics every single week, especially the image books. I cut all my orders back by about 75% and I’m still being charged shipping costs equal to about 1/2 of my cost for my books every week. (About $600 worth of product msrp weekly, paying $150-$175 in shipping per week, consistently. I had been hoping they would switch to PRH, but this is still better than paying stupid money for damaged books every single week.

Brian Hibbs: Our damages are well under 1% a week on average. Always have been. Sorry yours are so high.

Benjamin Napier: You are basically confirming what I have always suspected which is our orders were not high enough for them to care.

LS Kafka, Owner at Sour Cherry Comics, San Francisco: our damages were always terrible and the shipping was crazy. i cancelled my diamond account last month because i was sick of dealing with it and they had the audacity to 1.) try to CHARGE ME for cancelling and 2.) they still REFUSE to refund me for damaged and missing books (over $100) and now i am threatening legal action because they are claiming that i OWE THEM because they didn’t include FCBD charges on the invoice (the invoice which said “0.00” on all FCBD books – changing that price after the fact – 2 weeks ! – is literally illegal in both CA and MD consumer protection laws) so yeah. Fuck Diamond. i am going to watch them go down in flames with GLEE. and i am going to support Lunar still existing because PRH shouldn’t have a monopoly on the DM – that’s how Diamond got in the position to fuck retailers over as much as they have. Lunar providing competition is vital.

Steve Nemeckay, Owner of Amazing Heroes, Union, New Jersey: Benjamin, 50%? I think you are expecting something impossible with a paper periodical. The only damages I report are trades, floppys with a ding hit the rack and sell. I have to much honest to god work to do then look at every corner.

Benjamin Napier:  impossible for Diamond thus far, but not a problem for Lunar or PRH, The market is speaking and I’m glad Image listened

Could Diamond be at risk of a lawsuit over its Free Comic Book Day listings?

Brian Hibbs: Just reading back through this thread, and this thing stood out to me: are you suggesting that you thought the FCBD titles were just free for you? Despite clear prices in the catalog? It’s been delayed billing for years now, and there are always several articles to this note in Diamond Daily every year. I’m always fast to drop legal elbows, but in no way is delayed billing illegal. Also: Lunar establishing a DIFFERENT monopoly on product doesn’t *actually* provide competition.

LS Kafka: lol i know they aren’t supposed to be free but you understand consumer protections laws right? they can’t put “0.0” on an invoice with a product and then say 2 weeks later “btw you owe us money” that’s literally illegal IDGAF if “that’s the way it’s done.” and i also don’t care that i am supposed to just “know” that i “have to pay for FCBD books” ?? if they have the idiocy to put 0 on a unit cost next to all the FCBD titles in an invoice they’re sending then yeah.. they need to comply with state and federal laws lol…. edit: so yeah, just btw delayed billing is illegal when you’ve already sent an invoice with a unit price. hope that helps.

Brian Hibbs: You should fully sue them, then. Because, if you’re right, that will be hundreds of thousands of dollars for the class, and you should find a line of attorneys who will be happy to take the case on contingency. I know, because I’ve already won my class action suit.

LS Kafka: i mean like i assume you’re registered with the city for having a point of sale/register with weights and measures yes? and they test you every year? the DPH agent comes in and picks 10 items to make sure that you charge the amount that they are priced? did diamond not send you an invoice with 0.0 as unit cost with your FCBD books? was that a typo on my invoice only? and yeah i mean if you have any attorneys you’d recommend i would love to sue diamond it’s literally been my dream since opening an account with them because they’ve been so consistently terrible for me.

Brian Hibbs: when I sued Marvel, I just sent letters to about 10 class action lawyers. Several got back to me, and I went with Nancy Ledy-Gurren. Looks like her partnership has changed a little and can be found here: http://lgb-law.com. won one million dollars for our class. Good luck!

Back to Image Comics and Lunar.

Kevin Johnson, owner of Universal Comics, North Canton, Ohio: I’m very happy Image is switching. The shipping prices Diamond charges is criminal

Brian Hibbs: I’d be super fine with PRH or Universal. Lunar/DCBS is the enemy.

Frank Forte, publisher at Asylum Press: I thought Diamond said they were reducing these costs over time

Brian Cronin of CBR: Reducing, yes, but still very high.

Kevin Johnson: they were supposed to but I’m not seeing it

Krayz Joe Rider, comic book reader: I will be ordering less, if any, Image. I am too old for this digital sh*t! I’ve been using Previews and Advanced Comics since the late 1970’s-early 1980’s.
Same sh*t happened with DC when they fumbled leaving Previews. I was down to two monthly titles, and have only now been adding more as I browse their monthly physical catalog!.. If you make your potential customers jump through hoops to find your product, that is never a good thing. Again, a monthly physical preview may be a cost, but Image will be the only major comic publisher without one. We’ll see after September if it makes a difference…

Steve Nemeckay: New comics are Wednesday at Amazing Heroes. My customers like me and the service and are willing to wait a day.

John Jackson Miller, founder of ComicChron: Contrary to at least one report I’ve seen, Geppi is saying Diamond has an Image wholesale deal coming, for what that’s worth.

Brian Hibbs: It will be “just like” the Marvel one — a 10% or so lower discount and overpriced shipping, making it impossible to make an actual profit.

Carl Pietrantonio, longstanding comics reader, writer and expert: Truly, *as a customer*, I despise digital catalogs. I use them when I have to, for example while traveling for an extended time, but I *much* prefer to sit and read through a physical catalog. Definitely might impact some of my purchasing.

Larry Young, publisher: I always think it’s hilarious when companies whose product is analog makes ordering digital-only. I always think it’s hilarious when companies whose product is analog makes ordering digital-only.

Joe Field, of Flying Colors Comics Comics, Concord, California: The medium is the message… and always has been. I wish they’d get that simple and timeless point.

Then there was the Dynamite Comics diversion.

Jackson Brantley, of Fanboy Comics in Wilmington, North Carolina: Curious if Boom Studio can keep Diamond alive

Brian Hibbs: And Dynamite, heh. It seems to me to be very likely that the days of “full service” stores is now going to be numbered.

Jackson Brantley: no really, this Red Sonja relaunch is going to be the one…

Leef Smith, owner of Mission: Comics & Art, in San Francisco: seems unlikely

Nick Barrucci, publisher and owner of Dynamite Entertainment: It is disappointing too, when we are brought up, to be the butt of your comments. You have employees whom you care about? Well we have 25 employees and over 80 freelancers working for us. And they all have families to support. I don’t think I’ve said anything negatively about you or anyone who does not support us as much as others. It would not be cool. What’s the saying? “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”? And as with Brian Hibbs, I would say very disappointing that this kind of public stance is acceptable. Would you feel good if any publisher were to diss you for not ordering and supporting them? I hope that no one disses you in public and hurts Fanboy Comics or your or your families ability to make money. Again, “Do unto others as you would like them to do to you.”

Brian Hibbs: There is a Cold numbers reality involved — for many stores that I know, Boom and Dynamite alone are not going to be enough of a rational reason to keep giving Diamond business. It was, in a practical sense, Image’s volume that keeps what I suspect are a good many accounts doing business with Diamond in 2023 — I can see scores of stores saying that with Image going, they intend to not order from Diamond any longer in the private retailer groups. I don’t believe that there is the *slightest* amount of “diss” involved in making this observation! Sorry if you thought there was — I regret the unwanted blowback that Dynamite and Boom are likely to feel from this.

Nick Barrucci: And I quote <And Dynamite, heh>. Was the “heh” necessary? And then this <<Brian Hibbs no really, this Red Sonja relaunch is going to be the one…>> where you hit the laughing emoji. You are going out of your way to make fun of us or our business. There’s no other way to see it. There’s a difference between making a black and white statement of “I don’t think that X or Y publisher can maintain sales” or pick your words, and throwing out a “heh” or laughing at a new launch series. As I said, there are a lot of employees and freelancers who count on us, and there are also retailers who do well enough with us that a loss would hurt them.

Brian Hibbs: Again, sorry you are offended. I stand by my reaction to the humor of the notion of the tenth (or so) Dynamite relaunch of RED SONJA as being the thing that’s going to help *Diamond* retain business that is looking to leave with Image’s departure. As I said: I regret the blowback you’re going to end up getting from what Image chose to do, and how that will impact Diamond’s customer retention. Take that as sincere, or don’t. IF I DON’T LAUGH I WILL HAVE TO CRY.

 Nick Barrucci: I will take this as sincere. Just the other two, the “heh” and smiling emoji are something that cuts. Simple as that. If a publisher did something like that, “Sure, x retailer who supports THAT line will save that publisher” and the retailer was called out, how would that be received? Poorly, as it should be. There’s a lot going on and hard decisions to be made. There’s a lot of peoples livelyhood on the line on all levels.

Danica LeBlanc, owner at Variant Edition Graphic Novels & Comics of Edmonton, Alberta: Edit: “Sorry I offended you” The way you wrote yours sounds really passive aggressive, and I want to make sure you’re communicating your apology as clearly as possible.

Nick Barrucci: There’s a lot going on, and this is happening fast and furious. And I can appreciate your doing what you need to do. But when we’re doing initiatives like making our first issues returnable, hiring new creators we’ve never hired before and being fortunate to expand the creators we work with, and trying to continue to grow and bring you comics you can sell. It’s very difficult. But it’s the job. But when you say it the way you did, you slight the creators, the editorial, and everyone working on the series. And it is honestly exhausting. And I chimed in because it hurts a lot of people. I don’t care about myself, but there are a lot of creators and it’s deflating during a challenging time. We would never slight retailers saying anything like “you’re x for ordering those books” or anything similar. We need to get through this together. We are a community. We only succeed if we lift each other. Yes, rationally and with good business sense, but we shouldn’t have to slight each other. Again, we have faith in Red Sonja, and it’s why we’re making #1 returnable with just a minimum of 20 copies being ordered.

Jackson Brantley: My store carries everything Dynamite publishes, and while I am personally a fan of Red Sonja my sales numbers are my sales numbers. I take it you work at Dynamite in some capacity? It is impressive that you guys have hung in there as long as you have, and I sincerely hope you can find an escape from the sinking ship of Diamond Comics.

Rob Salkowitz, author, who works for Forbes: Nick doesn’t work for Dynamite; Dynamite works for Nick.

Jackson Brantley: Oh, interesting.

Nick Barrucci: I wish! I’m responsible for over 25 employees, and 80 freelancers on any given month. That’s a lot of responsibility. Hence commenting at 10:36 at night to try and give insight.

Regan Clem: I hope your sales are showing that your efforts are working because they are working in my store. We’ll complain about so many covers. I’m wondering if selling cover art is a main revenue stream for you all. Which if that is what is needed to keep things rolling, go for it. But I also have one person who buys every cover of a few books. That adds up.

There were the former comic store owners.

Thomas Gaul, formerly of Pop Comics, Anahaeim, California: Every day I’m more and more glad I got out when I did.

Joel Pollack, formerly of Big Planet Comics, Washington DC: I retired on Jan. 1. I operated Big Planet Comics exactly half my life. The last three years were brutal.

And the issue that Lunar Comics is DCBS by another name.

Shawn Hudachko, owner of Comics Elite and Artists Elite Comics, who publish exclusively through Lunar Comics:  Maybe part of the problem is you’re so stuck on Lunar being the enemy because the same people own an online store. The impact DCBS has/had on me selling weekly books was zero to none. Never once did I think “Id only be doing better if it wasnt for that damn DCBS”
Stop complaining about things that have zero impact on you and maybe focus on the fact that you’re barely surviving and make changes where you can control them in your business.

LS Kafka: this, literally. playing to the bottom of the barrel will always result in losing. people who only want discounts are going to always go wherever it’s cheaper. people who are loyal to your brand + store because of all the various reasons that it is unique and fun will continue to support.

Brian Hibbs: Over the 34 years I have been open, we’ve directly had scores of customers directly and specifically say they were switching business to DCBS purely for the discount, so please believe me when I tell you that you are incorrect there. I can enumerate the losses that DCBS and Half-Priced trades have cost us; this is not merely supposition.

Krayz Joe Rider: Shawn, did you read Brian’s posts on how this DOES affect him, with less discounts, higher shipping, and the like? As a customer of my LCS, yeah, nothing changes. I get my comics, but to shrink a retailers profit margins? I was a retailer during the distributor f**kery in the 1990’s, and it increased my cost significantly, increased my workload, but did NOT increase my sales as Capitol/Heroes World/ and Dimond did their self destructive dance…

Brian Hibbs: Shawn is also a retailer, and from what I can tell, he does a pretty massive business in segments like variant covers, so this impacts him less than reader-focused stores like mine.

Shawn Hudachko: You are correct. I very quickly realized that I was not able to keep up with the massive discounts some people were offering so I decided early on to focus my business in a different part of the comic world. I decided to not complain about it and make a change in my business. Lunar and DCBS are 2 different companies owned by the same people. Merc Publishing and Comics Elite are 2 companies ran by the same people. I promise you Lunar is not out there plotting against you. Focus on growing your business.

Brian Hibbs: I appreciate your helpful intention here, but I assure you that I am never ever focused on anything but.

Jo Hansen, comic store employee:  if you lose a customer you should try to get new customers, turning casual visits into repeat customers is key. I feel like if you have a comic shop for 34 years you are bound to lose a few customers just due to the linear nature of time and its effects on humans.

Brian Hibbs: *eyeroll*

Andy Liegl, owner of Brave New World Comics at Santa Clarite, California: This.

Jo Hansen: that’s a new one! usually it’s just a “you’re wrong because I said so”

John Cunningham, former DC Comics Senior VP, Sales And Marketing: Who are these chuds trying to lecture you on how to run a goddamn store? FFS…

Brian Hibbs: Shawn makes way way way more money at comics retail than I ever will!

Carr D’Angelo, owner of Earth-2 Comics: Yeah, but aren’t you just a little curious to see Hibbs’ Whatnot show?

Jacob Motsinger of Memory Lane Comics, in Wilmington, North Carolina: I’m holding my own in the battle against giant retail, and do my best to excel at the things they can’t offer. It’s working. I have a profitable business with an awesome staff making a good wage and spend very little time thinking about Amazon or DCBS. I try to focus on the things I can change and keep pushing forward. That doesn’t change the fact that these companies are constantly devaluing the product that our customers are buying, and it is 100% a problem that can’t just be ignored

LS Kafka: it is a problem that has to be ignored because it is a battle you will never win as a brick and mortar retailer. you just simply always have to focus on the customers who appreciate just going into a store in person and looking around

Jacob Motsinger: Are you a member of ComicsPro? Banded together WE are a giant. We have more pull than you think and don’t have to ignore these issues

LS Kafka: lol ComicsPRO is more like a pyramid scheme than a union

Would a Diamond monopoly really be better?

Gabe Yocum of Reed Pop, former of Midtown Comics in New York and Take 2 comcis publisher, I offer these questions because I’m honestly curious- if diamond still held the monopoly they did, and all the other issues brick and mortar shops have had, they continue to have, is that better than Lunar taking over the business from DC and Image? Don’t get me wrong- I understand the fervor about Lunar being parented by competition; I simply want to figure out if there exists a world where a real solution exists where everyone still makes money. In my fraction of a fraction of time In The industry I’ve watched and read Brian Hibbs shine a spotlight on problems and offer common sense solutions, but most importantly, continue to ask hard questions and speak truth to power. I’m exhausted watching, lord knows he’s gotta be. Is the fight unwinnable? If Lunar wasn’t owned by DCBS how much more palatable is this change?

Brian Hibbs: We haven’t changed anything essential about the “monopoly”, is the thing — there’s still only one place to buy DC and Image from, for example. And adding that second monopoly doesn’t generate a single new customer. All it does is increase costs for the average working retailer, be it time/labor, direct discount, shipping, whatever.

Regan Clem, owner of Summit Sports, Comics & Games, Fort Wayne, Indiana: Publishers don’t have to deal with a monopoly. They get to shop around and get the best deal. Retailers still deal only with monopolies. One place to get Image. One place to get Marvel. One place to get Boom. We’ll have two places to get DC it looks like. That will be the only non-monopolistic relationship we will then have as Lunar and Universal will be competing for our dollars. But I don’t know if publishers can afford to go with multiple distributors. That would be what would make distributors compete to provide retailers with the best service and prices. Is that even feasible? What if publishers had distributors competing to make them happy every month. And those same distributors also were competing to win over retailers. And everyone was trying to expand the market. Lunar has done a good job. Set the gold standard in shipping. Rarely has damages. DCBS has been not just an online competitor with me but also a brick and mortar competitor for a while. People worry about the data they now have, which I can come up with ways to use that data to gain customers. Not saying they do, but the option is right there.

Colin McMahon of Pittsburgh Comics in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: The problem we are having right now is we are working more for less. 3 weekly orders. Extra reorders due to multiple sources. 3 weekly shipments. Each company has their own systems, own way of doing things. This one is just clicking a box. This one is sending a picture and saying please. This one I’ll have next week. This one will be 2. It’s so much more busywork keeping track of things, making sure you’re not ordering something twice, seeing if a backorder has been canceled. It’s hours a week of extra work. Extra aggravation. Less time actually enjoying what we do. That’s the biggest thing for me. They tried to spin 1)working more on Sunday 2)putting books out on Tuesday and 3)sending our customers to DCBS’s website to see the digital catalog as positives for us. None of those things are a positive. It’s more work. And there is no benefit to us. Maybe less shipping. Maybe less damages. Ok. I’d rather have the hours back.

Avi Ehrlich, publisher of Silver Sprocket Press: my publishing house is very small, but our distributors (Diamond, Lunar, Ingram) are very much in competition with each other to provide retailers with reasons to order from them and not the others. The only reason to go *exclusive* with anyone would be a significant amount of extra $ or marketing attention, seems very risky where I sit.

Regan Clem: Your small publishing house is picking up in my stores. Dare I say it was because of Lunar though. Because it was.

Joe Field: I would be very interested to know what changed for Image since Eric made the fairly incendiary comments about DC leaving Diamond three years ago? Now I know one answer to that is “everything changed the last three years” but I feel like there’s a ton of behind the scenes financial gyrations that are not casting Diamond in a good light. For the record, I want a healthy comics specialty market and I believe a healthy Diamond is part of that. But I also don’t want to be over-funding that health.

LS Kafka: lunar offered them a deal they couldn’t refuse lol it is as simple as that. they get tiered discount like DC

Brian Hibbs: I believe that there are multiple elements in play that we’re not publically aware of, so odds seem low “it is as simple as that”. I also don’t know that I think that individually tiered discounts for Image will be all that good of a deal for most retailers given the general inconsistency of sales across the line, though until they reveal those charts, we’re all just guessing at best.

LS Kafka: it won’t be a good deal for retailers but it’s a good deal for the publisher since it will probably incentivize a good amount of retailers to order more just to keep the discount and that will definitely translate to image selling more, for a bit at least. and if they keep their stories worth buying then they might be able to just hack it. i also suggest talking to your sales reps more because i’ve been hearing bits and pieces from them about this move (and others) for a minute so… a little birdie told me that image and boom might eventually move over to PRH but that you will probably see boom at PRH first (as early as next spring) bc they have a kill clause in their contract that if image leaves they can too

So what’s really going on?

Rob Salkowitz: Do you think Lunar’s lack of transparency (eg no sales charts) has anything to do with it?

John Jackson Miller: Image historically looked on the charts very favorably, since their whole purpose was to attract retailers’ attention to promising series they might be missing out on. (I highly doubt that sort of thing ever motivated any dollars-and-cents decision of this scope, in any event.)

Lee Hester, of Lee’s Comics in Mountain View, California: I haven’t had a brick and mortar store since 2020, but I still watch all the changes with great interest.

Marc Arsenault, former Art director at Fantagraphics and Tundra, and General Manager at Alternative Comics: since 2019 here. Lease thingee I miss the people, but don’t miss the bs. And oh yeah, having been in this since my teens and having been a buyer at Comic Relief I still keep a toe in.

Lee Hester: I miss the people too, but the pressure to try make money every second to try to cover my obligations was overwhelming. It’s much more relaxing not to have rent, payroll, and Diamond bills to worry about.

Darren Hutchinson of Unknown Comic Books in Amarillo, Texas: As a retailer that goes that primarily generates sales from online i will say i will always have issue from buying from my competitor. But i will say adapting is what we do. We are in an ever dying market that is comics. These publishers are having to make choices solely on the bottom line for the future of their businesses and if image thinks its lunar ill for sure adapt to make it work. At the end of the day the publishers like any business will have to make choices that effect there clients. Luner being owned by dcbs i think has brought some great rewards to our industry. Shipping is second to none, we get very little errors in our shipments, and we almost always get books in advance to have good processing times. Your stance on Wednesday sales date is archaic…….Tuesday sales date drives traffic on a day that is typically slow for stores. Then you get them again on Wednesday for Marvel. This is like a email everyday about a new topic. It drives traffic to your store everyday. At this point you will respond with how long you have been doing this and we will go back and fourth over whatever in the comments……longevity is not a privilege you are still required to adapt.

Brian Hibbs: I don’t think “We are in an ever dying market that is comics” inherently. I think publishers and retailers have had made specific decisions that are actively murdering the market for periodicals (including the crazy reliance on variant covers, and stunts) — but it’s super obvious from looking at BookScan that the market for the medium of comics is growing quite fine!
RE Wed NCD, having to maintain both Wed and Tue means that one has to do (at least some aspects of) work twice. A singular check in is significantly more efficient than doing distinct and separate ones for each distro on different days. While Lunar and PRH are very good about getting comics to us well in advance of sale, that SPECIFIC day (at least *here*) is somewhere between Thur and Mon — IT ISN’T CONSISTENT ENOUGH TO SCHEDULE FOR. Diamond comes on time on Tue each and every week like clockwork (barring “acts of god”)
RE “At this point you will respond with how long you have been doing this and we will go back and fourth over whatever in the comments……longevity is not a privilege you are still required to adapt.” I think you’re thinking of someone else…. I’ve absolutely WHOLLY changed the very basis of our store, how we rack, days of delivery, etc etc at least five different times over the decades — I am fine with adapting…. IF THAT ADAPTATION MAKES ME MORE MONEY. But nothing, NOT ONE THING, since DC fucked us all and left Diamond in 2020, has made me more money when it comes to distribution: exactly the opposite. All I see is far more work, for far less return

Phil Boyle, President of Coliseum of Comics in Florida: 40 years isn’t done without constant adapting. I can still see the stupid in the tea leaves. Been here, done this. Always greater cost only this time it’s subsidizing our competitor.

Shawn Hudachko: “longevity is not a privilege you are still required to adapt.” I will be stealing this from you sir. Well said.  “All I see is far more work, for far less return” “That….is why you fail.”

Regan Clem: Brian started the Graphic Novel of the Month club. He won us the Marvel lawsuit. He is always giving good insights to help my business. He’s not failing. His biggest issues are being in a broken and failing city. I don’t know if he would… See more

Brian Hibbs: I would quibble with the specific language of “broken and failing”, but yeah The City could be doing much better with different leadership, and thus we would be as well.

And then Erik Larsen arrived.

Erik Larsen, CFO of Image Comics and creator/writer/artist of Savage Dragon: Here’s the thing–I can’t go on record with a detailed list of the advantages of one distributor over another or share proprietary information. Suffice to say that Image didn’t come to this decision lightly and that we didn’t make the move for no reason. We thought it was better for all parties involved, from the reader to the retailer, to our creators. This should benefit everybody in the long run.
And we absolutely have listened to retailers along the way. Retailers have let their feeling be know from the offset and we have been listening.
I think the DCBS concern is a non-issue just as Marvel including free digital versions of their comics in every book is a non-issue. If readers were going to buy online they’d be doing so now. Hell, every comic book ever published has been bootlegged and is free and available from numerous sources now and your customers aren’t chasing down that content because they WANT to go into your store–they WANT the ritual. This isn’t going to replace the pilgrimage and experience that stores provide. People WANT that social contact. They WANT to experience that.
The only reason to fear a mass exodus is if going to your story is an unpleasant experience. Of course a bad retailer CAN drive people away if they really try. But, again, if they haven’t been scared away yet, this isn’t likely to be the thing that’s going to send them screaming out of your store.
As far as Wednesday is concerned–there’s no reason customers can’t continue to come in on Wednesday, if that’s what they’d prefer. I do. If you’re selling out of certain titles on Tuesday before some of your customers arrive in your store–that’s a sign that you’re under-ordering books. There’s no reason that you shouldn’t have plenty of comics on hand for Wednesday.
I know this is comics and people freaking-the-fuck-out at every announcement is part of the ritual but might I recommend waiting and seeing how this goes before you lose your goddamned minds?

Roger Prows of the Nerd Store, in West Valley, Utah.  I appreciate your context. However, I would like to give some counter input from the perspective of my stores (I’m a retailer with 3 stores in Utah).
As far as Wed vs Tuesday is concerned, my issue isn’t with the customer facing end. The logistics from both an ordering and receiving end, is a big issue for us. With inconsistent delivery times from UPS we already have times with people waiting on boxes on Tuesdays without things to do, adding a seperate day increases that issue, increases payroll on processing, not to mention the FOC being split is an unnecessary inconvenience.
As far as DCBS is concerned, many, of not most, of my customers do not know they exist or that online subscription models or pirating exists. My shops specialize in new readers, we’re in malls and sirens a lot of our efforts on creating new comic fans, and do so well. Over 60% of our holds had never read comics before coming to us.
I agree that it’s probably more extreme a reaction in a lot of cases than warranted in long term impact, but there are definitely legitimate concerns that I think should be addressed

Benjamin Napier: As a struggling retailer, my gratitude for this move is infinite, and will absolutely result directly in my being able to afford a lot more of the Image product that I want to be carrying, and even being able to count on it showing up in consistently great shape for the first time virtually ever. Thank you for listening to retailers, and staying connected to the community like a boss.

Roger Prows: i have definitely found that the degree to which Diamond is a problem is greatly amplified for smaller shops

Regan Clem: Erik Larsen I think there may be more to worry about in the DCBS angle. They can have data on where books are selling now and target ads specifically to that region. Not saying they will do that or do.
Online retail is probably the biggest bane of growing the industry currently. They create no new readers. Only gain customers by brick and mortars creating comic readers who then want a better deal. The place that gains the industry readers loses a customer to the place that just functions as a parasite. We do survive, as you note, by people wanting that physical/social experience as we don’t win on price or selection. But this is a much bigger idea that could be better fleshed out.
There are some of us retailers who pay serious rent and have bought properties to be in great places to be that place where new readers come. Accessible, clean, and welcoming stores.
As for Lunar, I think they do an amazing job. Gold standard for packing. I have had every issue resolved pleasantly, and that is with having been their local brick and mortar competition for a while. I don’t doubt they will serve Image well.
But the multi delivery release day is an issue that makes us lose money. This actually didn’t change one bit of that though. We had two days before this. We have two days now. I actually asked Marvel to change to Tuesday. That would solve it just as much as everyone else moving back to Wednesday. The workflow was way better when we had only one release day.

Roger Prows: that’s a good point. I prefer Wednesday, but everyone on a Tuesday is better than having 2 days

Brian Hibbs: I appreciate you engaging.
Let me say: I do not “fear a massive exodus” or anything like that. Rather, I don’t want *any* of *my* money to go to my *competition*! We all deserve a level playing field.
The primary issue with multiple release days is that it creates multiple order cycles, multiple shipments to track, multiple OSD reports to manage, multiple shifts to schedule to time recieving labors against, multiple invoices to pay and so on.
It was easy to ignore DC’s insistence that comics come out on Tuesday. It becomes exponentially harder when the second publisher says “us too!”
You and I have both been through this long enough to know there is really not enough profit for periodical comics to reasonably support multiple distributors for the category (think what happened with Capital City, or with Cold Cut!) and once you remove the largest players from a profitable channel, then that just hangs the smaller players out to dry. Every buy/sell publisher at Diamond is effectively fucked even more because Diamond no longer has the cash flow to keep their stock on hand (not that, he hastened to add, they historically wanted to!)
Finally, if I am “freaking the fuck out” (and I don’t think I am), it is because each and every change to distribution since DC pulled out has cost me time (and thus money), without selling one single more comic book. And in a case of salt in the wound DC’s choice of upjumping DCBS has enriched the retailer’s competition.
If it doesn’t make me more money, if it doesn’t gain me a new customer, then a new system inherently becomes a net negative. Twas ever thus.

Erik Larsen: I expect most customers will wait for Wednesday, as per usual. Marvel is still the top dog and I don’t anticipate a lot of folks making two trips to the store when they can do it in one. Shipping prices should change for the better, and there are other benefits which will become apparent over time. Again, I can’t go on record with a detailed list of the advantages of one distributor over another or share proprietary information–but we were very conscious of you and other retailers when we made this move.
All I’m asking is that you give this a chance to play out before you jump to any conclusions.

Aaron Settle, Owner-operator at Urban Legends Comics, Mesquite, Texas: I understand your desire to let everything play out. But if it’s something we know from experience is going to hurt us, why wait until it hurts us to do something about it? We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that not having a physical catalog to order from is going to cost us sales and hurt us. We know this because DC did something similar and people ordered less and sales went down. We have hard data that this happened. Looking at historical precedent isn’t jumping to conclusions.

Regan Clem: We’ve switched days so many times in this industry. Wednesday just has been a staple for the most. When I began, it was whatever day comics arrived. Then it moved to Thursday. Then it moved to the Wednesday we know. Now, it’s in flux again. I just would like one day but will be flexible if that’s not possible.

John Cunningham: This “response” was tone deaf and pedantic. Kudos! You have arrived as a corporate executive!!

Something John Cunningham used to be. And then it comes to an end…

Brian Hibbs: If I look outside, and the sky is overcast, and there’s a smell of ozone in the air, and the air is heavy, well I’m going to carry an umbrella that day. Living in San Francisco, we both know that doesn’t *absolutely mean* it’s going to rain, hell, it might not even be a 50/50 chance — but I’d still rather carry that umbrella rather than not. Especially if I am carrying around armloads of paper that are going to be destroyed if I am wrong about being cautious.

Duncan McGeary, Small Business Owner at Pegasus Books of Bend, Bend, Oregon: “Waiting until things play out,” is not a winning strategy. By then, the damage is done.

Phil Boyle: As the economy tightens and new comic prices rise, fans are more cognizant than ever about how much they’re spending. Jumping either online for free/bootlegged downloads or buying cheaply off DCBS has become a real option for many former comic store stalwarts. They still come into our stores but tend to spend less than previous years.
Wednesday Warriors have been all but replaced with Wednesday Speculators. Fewer people are talking about stories and are instead talking about which cover will be worth $20 on ebay. If a book specs out, we can sell out on a Wednesday. Then #2 sells almost nothin without the same speculator interest. All this has caused a drop in new comic sales over the past year yet our work ordering and tracking has tripled thanks to the fracturing of the distribution system.
Forced subsidization our largest competitor by those who can least afford it is horrific.

Jo Hansen: thank u for the dissenting input. I work at a comic shop 5 miles away from Comix and we all appreciate the move to Lunar, this will make shipment day much easier and with far less damages or missing boxes. We are not in competition with DCBS, Amazon, Marvel Unlimited, Pirate Bay, or the public library system for that matter. We will continue to release all our books on Wednesday because that’s how long it takes to get them ready. Also this is the second time this week, but your Spider-Man run is my favorite this side of Romita Sr, we sell them out of the vintage box all day, hope u are doing well

With Ron Killingsworth, owner of Collected Comics and Games in West Fort Worth, Texas wrapping it all up: This has been an excellent discussion, only thing I will add is that I for one never expected a mass exodus to online, just a slow attrition. You know, death by a thousand cuts. Stores create new customers that eventually move to online discounters as their hobby becomes addictive enough that they cannot afford at full price. Stores become stuck in an eternal acquisition mode without the long tail of acquired customers to fund the outreach.

For now.

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Posted in: Comics, Dynamite, Image | Tagged: brian hibbs, erik larsen, image comics, joe field, lunar

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