Today, Image Comics announced they will be selling physical comics directly to fans through their Image Direct service. This is on top of their digital comics service that’s been running for about a year. As you’d think, comic fans were excited about this, while retailers…. not so much.
Check out the reactions below including quotes directly from retailers we reached out to.
The Retailer Perspective
My initial reaction is also a realistic one. There are fans who simply don’t have access to a comic book store in their driveable area (including work commute). Marvel and DC have offered mail order subscriptions directly to customers for a very long time, but the fact that they usually do not offer all series, limited series, specials, or one shots so frequently lead customers to comic book stores. Where it is that store’s job to show how much variety is available, show that there is a community of readers to neutralize feelings of isolation (no one else I know reads comics), and also offer expertise, friendly guidance, and recommendations.
But here’s the interesting part: the Image Comics customer is usually a customer that isn’t just following the latest adventures of a character they grew up with or met via other media like movies or games. Typically the Image Comics customer follows creators, specifically writers in today’s market, and knows which creators they want. Or they specifically know what they want. Many times a customer will come into Acme Comics specifically and precisely looking for Saga, for example. And usually Image Comics do not offer ancillary mini series tying into main series or related specials. My point is, and this is likely what may have some brick and mortar stores irritated, is that I’m currently not sure what the built in mechanism that may cause an Image Comics mail order subscription customer to seek out a local comic book store.
I appreciate and respect that Image Comics are a publisher of innovation and not just innovation of content. Honestly, I am a bit surprised because it seems like innovation could only come through digital means. Publishers offering their material in a non-physical form for those who want it that way. But the reality is there are areas that have brick and mortar comic book stores that do not carry everything from the major publishers. Which is fine. A successful store cannot invest in stock that, after an attempt to market it, there are no customers for. Unfortunately though some stores will not carry comics that customers are ready and willing to buy from them. I see it on Twitter every Wednesday. A customer will express they’re interested in and prepared to buy a series but the store did not carry it. Worse still, sometimes it is a preorder customer who thought they had a reservation in place. Because of this very real scenario, I can see Image Comics looking backwards to offer print mail order subscriptions in a world where digital pioneering seems the direction the industry was moving in. But I think Image Comics pays attention to all aspects of the industry including the fact that some interested customers can’t get their print releases through traditional means.
Bottom line for me personally on this? It is happening and there is nothing I can do to change the initiative. But I also trust Ron Richards, director of business development at Image, to be aware of what the concerns of the comic shops may be and also build in some sort of detail that promotes the local comic shop. It could be something as simple as a comic shop locator sticker on whatever package they will use to mail out the comics. I don’t think Image is intentionally slighting or trying to circumvent their good retail partners across the country/ world.
I don’t see Image as a competitor any more today than I did in a post digital comics world. The competition of the local comic book store, good ones, bad ones, and in between, are still EBay and Amazon.
Jermaine Exum – General manager Acme Comics Greensboro NC aka Comic Book City USA (est 1983)
@lordretail on Twitter
acmecast podcast on iTunes
I have to say that I am disappointed in the choice Image has made with their new direct ship. They say that it is to reach people who don’t have a comic store close to them but then they announce discounts for these people at 30-35%. That will most likely be a better discount than most comic stores can afford to give their own customers. So, Image is coming into direct competition with the stores that have taken care of them and continue to be their biggest customer. That, to me, doesn’t make good business sense. They are not going to make a ton of money in this direct mail scheme but they risk alienating their #1 customer, comic shops. I don’t mind the direct shipping, just don’t do it at such a huge discount that brick and mortar stores can’t compete with.
Game On! Comics
The Fans and Creators
We’ll continue to update this as more reactions come in.