By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Getting back to basics: I compliment you on the detail, accuracy, and observations in "Pain & Ink" (August 10) regarding the current state and likely future of the comic book industry. Sadly, the two biggest publishers, Marvel and DC, just don't get it. Instead of developing audiences and diverse markets, they continue to embrace the same ol' sameness. As a major collector who was and remains concerned about the industry, I wrote Marvel and DC back in 1983 about the impact of their business mediocrity on the future of the industry. I want to believe the industry will re-invent itself. Vertical integration hasn't helped much. Ultimately, as observed in your article, I believe the survival of the industry is at risk, because the creative process no longer generates any appeal. Getting back to basics--producing and marketing innovative and diverse stories and art--will best serve the industry. In the meantime, business as usual means killing off or re-telling the origin of Superman again and again and again and...well, you know what happens next. Been there, done that.
People really dig comics: What an incredibly fun day I had yesterday! I was in my store, Keith's Comics, at Mockingbird and Greenville, and it was Wednesday, new comic day. Our customers were having a great time looking through the new releases and bantering with us. I love my business, my staff, and the coolest, most diverse clientele in the world.
In my opinion, this is why stores like mine will always survive. We are a destination. A common thread. A hang-out. A connection. We all love stories and storytelling. As a result, we have a shared mythology. I love it.
I'm energized every day about comics and comics merchandise, because I see how much people really dig this stuff. Your tag line--"Creatively, comic books are healthier than they've ever been. So why is everyone rushing to bury the industry?"--is right on! There is no prevailing doom and gloom out here. Was there a shake-up? Yes. Is there a decline in comic sales to retailers? Yes. Everyone always assumes these two things together are bad. It isn't necessarily so.
Speaking from personal experience, my comic purchases are down about 20 percent. The comics companies sold a heck of a lot of comics to me in the frenzy of the early '90s but, oddly enough, I sell as many comics to customers now as I did then. Look, comic retailing as a nationwide industry is very young. Most retailers during the bloom (early '90s) were inexperienced and undercapitalized. For most, it was their first time running a business, much less owning one. For others, I know of seasoned veterans who threw out their business plans and budgets believing the bloom would never come to an end. We retailers made bad decisions in ordering that contributed heavily to the thinking that comics were selling these huge numbers. Practically every retailer I know had tons of comics unsold and in their back rooms. Few businesses could survive the cash-flow crunch our ordering problems and the non-returnable system (described in the article) created--and many did not.
My point: Today's surviving comic retailers are healthy, the industry is putting out great product, and customers are responding.
The shops left today--myself, Titan, Lone Star, Stage and Screen, Awesome, and a few others--are good at what we do. We have targeted our audience and serve them well. I won't apologize for comics. There is nothing to apologize for. I won't wring my hands in despair. The truth is...most traditional retailers would kill to have my consistent return business. And I won't try to deride an industry because it doesn't meet some haughty definition of comic-book storytelling. The only people I perceive as crying about the current state of comics are those who feel their project is being held back by some unseen evil inherent in the system. Comics are what they are and not what some whiners want them to be.
Quit bitchin' about what could be and enjoy what is!
Don't call me lucky: So what, a few people return their children to the dreaded DISD ("Public Defenders," August 3)! The reason for the success of their children is parental involvement. And I do not mean showing up at the school board meetings to raise hell.
The public school system--where one must pay for another--is doomed to fail. The parents of the DISD "returnees" are winning the battle but losing the war. Not only do they now pay their tax money to support their child, but they must support people that do not pull their own weight. To add insult to injury, they pay extra to make sure the job is getting done correctly.
"People who live in the right neighborhood," as letter writer Shellie Driscoll (Letters, August 17) phrased her insult, are not "fortunate." Fortunate indicates luck--as if hard work or skill never could be the reason.