Monday, February 28, 2005

Rack'em up

Its been ages since Ben and Karen from phosphorescent comics were in town but while they were here i saw them sell/spruik their comics to my local comic shop Pulp Fiction Comics.

Pulp Fiction is the best comic shop in Adelaide, tiny sure, but with a great selection. Plus comfy couches, good music and they display books by genre.

Well kind of-
There's a goth/horror section, a smart superhero section organised by writers (moore, gaiman, morrison, etc), a crime section, a superhero section, an alternative/indy/humor section, a tv tie in and children section and a manga section - now manga is not a genre (its japanese for comix!!) but it's in alphabetical order and there's a lot of it so we'll let that slide.

Shops that rack by publisher are dumb. I can understand it in the early 80s when there was marvel zombies buying everything presented by Stan Lee but if a shop is still racking DC, Marvel and other well tell them I have some Valiant back issues they are welcome to buy - i hear they are worth a bit.

Pulp Fiction also has a Aussie Comics section, right by the door opposite the counter. And it does ok, it used to do better but now its a bit over populated.

Usually Australian comics get ghettoised into dusty back corners or lower racks of shelves. Not great for visibility or credability.

Now Ben, trying to sell the Watch and other comics made the suggestion that he'd prefer if PC comics were racked by genre with the import comics. Which is fair enough.

For the majority of comic readers "Australian comics = crap", and as a publisher who would want to be associated with that mentality? Also it doesn't help when most Aussie Sections contain zines and mini comics with paper stock B/W covers. That don't look great - even though most are kind of cool.

But on the other hand, for the few genre comics released (mainly by PC, as well as Knights edge, Killeroo and Crumpleton Experiements) why would they want to be put with the vast array of banality of most imported comics? Where every comic cover just looks the same.

i don't think the majority of comic fans browse for comics anymore, if they did then comics like Sleeper, Street Angel, Wild Cats, Losers, Human Target would have sold more (all had/have critically acclaimed stories and great covers). Readers just collect what they are familar with, the only new character consistently carrying a book in the Top 20 is Wolverine and he's over 30 years old (may be wrong here but nothing else comes to mind - Authority for a couple of years maybe).

So with some titles (genre superhero stuff) it doesn't matter where its are racked - no one will seek it out. I think people who think "Australian Comics are crap" without reading them are going to stick with Identity Crisis and Xmen and the Spiderman - no matter what.

At least in an Australian Section you stand out a bit. Seperated from the crowd and all that.


G said...

Hey Mark,

I'm in the same thinking as Ben on this matter actually. Having my comic book, Knight-Edge, on the racks together with the imported comics is what I'd prefer, too. This gives my comics a higher traffic visibility, since the majority of comic buyers would go to the racks to at least a quick scan if not a good perusal. If as you say that most imported comics are banal and looks the same (I've done the stand back and look at which type of cover design jumps out at 'me' test myself), then it's my job as a comic creator to make my cover stand out like a red blazing sore thumb!

If the comic store put the Aussie comics near the counter or where it gets seen quite a bit, then I guess it's probably a better deal.

I must say that, however, I don't believe in sorting the comic rack/shelf by genre either. It's just something I don't like as a regular comic buyer/reader but I see it's advantages for a new comer and for a comic store owner logistics.

My experience has shown that if the comic store put my comics in the "Manga" section then it sells less believe it or not. So I think, Knight-Edge is a really strange example in terms of where it really belongs. Aussie? Manga? Mainstream?

For me, I simply just appreciates any comic store even just selling my comics at their stores. And even appreciates more if they pay on time and reorders! (^__^)

Mark Selan said...

How do you like your comic shop to sort out there comics.

if it makes you feel better, Knight edge has got some great covers.

I'm kind of not really that surprised about Knight Edge not doing well when racked with manga. I'm make a Huge presumption, but i don't think manga readers crossover to non-manga books. I've read a couple of times, from various industry bloggers, that american manga doesn't sell; that may be just reference to Marvel's attempts, but if i'm not mistaken Antartic Press pretty much has closed up shop when the 'real' thing turned up. I know that Tokyopop has some stuff coming out by American creators but have no idea how its going.

but then again the non-manga to manga comic reader movement is only a couple of Dark Horse titles. So i dunno.

It's all Location, location, location

G said...


If I owned or managed my own comic shop, I'd definitely sort the racks alphabetically. As simple as that. (Obviously TPBs / GN / HC on shelves separately.)

I've noticed some shops locally here go a further step and separate the racks by genre and even one shop by publishers. I don't know about this system.

What are your thoughts on this, Mark?

You're spot on regarding American manga. There seems to be a less welcoming acceptance from comic buyers of American manga or non-Japanese manga. I have no idea how the Tokyopop American manga GN are doing but I do know there's a certain clique of hatred towards Tokyopop because their translations are mediocre (apparently). I only get GTO and having read some of the original Japanese versions (limitedly though), I'd say they do ok at translating, so I got no issues there.

To my knowledge, Dark Horse, as a publisher makes the most effort in terms of acquiring excellent manga licences as well as publishing decent American manga.

Do you reckon, if I did Knight-Edge under a Japanese pen-name, I'd probably sell more?

Mark Selan said...

Books stores rack books by genre and then by authors name. Video stores rack by genre and then by title. Music stores rack by music type and then by artist.
If it ain't broke try copying it.

It would be kind of dumb if in a supermarket put the bananas next to the bread next to the cream (alphabetically).
Same with comic shops.

I think the idea is putting titles near other titles that people may like; if a person looks in the Crime section looking for Losers, they may pick up the comic shelved next to it, 100 Bullets, because it shares a similar theme. But if Losers is racked next to Livewire or Legion, a team book starring superhero kids may not spark the interest of the crime book reading buyer.

People who know what they are looking for will find a book regardless but those people not net savvy, that don't read Newsarama everyday may or read Previews may not know that if they like JLA they should try Authority.

I reckon you should publish Knight Edge under the pen name of Mark Selan.
A japanese pen name would probably backfire, if people get mad at TokyoPop for bad translations (that seem fine to me) they'd crucify someone masquerading as a Japanese creator.
Lau-San, Gojima sounds cool tho.

G said...

Okay, I get your point but I still don't agree with you. Comic books are not the same as books, videos/DVDs and/or music CDs in my opinion. While I think comics are just as legimate in terms of entertainment, the audience and the variety available for comics are not quite the same. Thus, a comic store owner has to run his/her business according to the products they are selling and not copy how other *different* businesses do it just because it work for them.

Book stores, as you said, sort by genres and authors. But comic book racks, as in the New Releases, have a much shorter shelf life. Plus not everyone are in the know about the writer(s) and/or artist(s) involved in each comic book. Also most people go into a book store having some knowledge of a writer they know or like and will most likely ask for help if they can't find a book. I highly doubt this could apply to a comic store unless you're specifically talking about TPBs.

Furthermore, I don't know of any book stores that sort New Releases by genres or authors. This also applies for video stores that you mentioned.

Music is very different also. There's no radio for comics (although I guess if someone was innovative enough, they could use the web in such a way that they could totally bypass the monthly issues and release them as 'singles' online like music and then collect them as tpb like albums. but that's a whole another barrel of words altogether). Most of get to sample comics these days either from online previews or at the store, flipping and man-handling the latest issue from the racks.

As for the supermarket comparison, all I can say is if it was sorted alphabetically, it would definitely make shopping for me a whole lot easier (even though it would logistically be impossible with the whole cold and not cold items). How often have I experienced going into a different Coles or Safeway, etc. and not know which isle to look in!! @__@
I think sorting out by genres in a comic store would work for TPBs though. But again, you'd need a pretty extensive range of trades in order to do that and probably a hell of a lot of time determining which books goes in which section. I'd imagine & presume the "Super-hero/Action" genre section to be the primary section in most stores if this was the trend. Who would be the authority on sorting this? One store might have Powers in the Crime & Mystery section while another might have it in the Super-hero section.

Anyway, just my opinion. I've never managed or worked at a comic store myself (but hope to one day) so I'm just having a healthy discussion here in your blog, Mark, hope you don't mind. (^__^)

Ha, I don't know about changing my pen-name to Mark Selan since I don't think that sounds very Japanese either. But if I ever get any hate mail for Knight-Edge, I'll let you answer them from now on, ok?! Remember, Japanese can't pronouce "L"s properly, so I'm more like Raru-san. And yes, Gojima does sounds quite nice hehehe...

Mark Selan said...

Gah - the exception that breaks my ironclad theory of racking - yeah New Releases should be different, and i think most retailers of entertainment (books, video, cds) all have a new release wall where everuything thing released in the last wee to a month is on display.

Advantage Gojima!

My store - has a new release wall of the current weeks book. After that week is over and new gear has arrived then they move it to genre based displays. Then after 4-6 months it all gets put in the sale bins.
Comics and Trades are all shelved together.

This shop is trade based so that's why it works. Figuring out what goes where isn't that hard and if it is tricky, you can either set up sub-genre (Superhero Detective for "Powers" and "Gotham Central" and then a seperate Detective section for "Torso" and "White Out") or you shelf cross over books in two sections.

And i love the discussion.

I'd reply to your Knight Edge hate mail using my best L Frank Weber impersonation or use the name Reademthrew..... ahem - that well last time.

Gojima Raru has a ring to it. keep it on file for a new character ;)

G said...

Ha, it's interesting to hear about how your store sorts their comic books and I think it's pretty original! Especially comics and trades being shelved together. I'm trying to imagine it in my head but it'd definitely be very interesting to see. Next time I'm in Adelaide, remember to drag me there!!

The store I go to, have their New Releases along this huge wall. I think it's approx. 6 racks high by at least 50 comics across or more (I'll have to count next time I'm there). Trades are on the opposite and adjacent walls separated into manga, indy/alternative, Image, DC and then Marvel. There are floating mid high shelves for art books, Aussie, Indy/Alt new releases, etc.

Hehehe. Y'know I was looking forward to slowly revealing that "Dr. Derrick Rethamfew" is an anagram of Dr. Federic Wertham (Seduction of the Innocent) with that mailbag gig in Ozcomics magazine. But hardly anybody wrote! Oh well, nevermind.

Gojima Raru will be a future victim, umm, I mean character in Knight-Edge.

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