Comic Book Retailers: About Those Back Issues...

So I've been thinking... Problem 1: Comic Shops often have tons of old inventory (comics) that are worth very little, will likely never sell, and simply take up valuable retail space. Vendors are either too lazy to mark it down and push it out; or they sincerely believe that someday those books will be worth something and they will get a good return on their investment. This belief comes true about 1% of the time. Probably less.

Problem 2: There are lots of great old (and not so old) comics out there that many comic fans don't know about because the books were a) ahead of their time, b) never properly promoted, c) cancelled because of low sales, d) overlooked because something else was "hot" that month, or e) any of a dozen other reasons why good comics don't get the recognition they deserved.

Theory: Many of the great comics (of Problem 2) are the same ones currently mouldering in comic shops across the land (Problem 1).

Fact: Graphic Novels and Trade Paperbacks (specifically reprints of popular comics) have become a mainstay of the comic industry in recent years. Not only can TPBs be placed in "real" bookstores; they are also more durable, easier to store, and--here's the kicker--they contain a complete story. That one fact overcomes so many of the problems of a serial industry. And they are profitable enough that both Marvel and DC have begun to offer TPBs of lesser characters. Hey, they already paid for the art; now the only cost is repackaging. And fans scoop up these low cost collections. This probably hurts sales of back issues even more; but really, were you going to pick up all those old Moon Knight issues on your own?

Idea: Comic shops should create their own collections of stories that have never been reprinted as a TPB. I'm not suggesting that they actually reprint comics (that's illegal). I'm saying: grab that 6-issue story arc, or 12-issue limited series, or that first year of that now-forgotten title that has been sitting in back issue bins for 15 years; wrap the whole thing in a big magazine-size bag and slap a $5, $10, or $15 sticker on it.


Maybe you could include a label with a little synopsis of the story. Or if that's too hard, maybe just a blurb like: "if you like hard core sci-fi, you'll love Electric Warrior." Sure it'll take a little work, but you're probably just surfing the Web anyway. By doing the work of collecting it for the buyer (rather than make them sift through your musty old boxes), you are significantly closer to a sale. And by keeping the price competitive with (and the set near) other collections, you make your selection more interesting.

Problem 3: Obviously, not all stories are worth your attention. So how do you determine whichcomic sets are worth the investment of a magazine-sized bag? Ah, that's where I come in. I'm putting together a semi-regular column showcasing titles worthy of a second look and a space on your TPB shelf. Coming soon: Never Traded: The Series!