A Potpourri of Comic Business News

Some weeks I know exactly what I want to write about, whether it’s driven by a particularly newsworthy development or perhaps some research I’ve been conducting has come to fruition and is ready for publication. Some weeks, on the other hand, I don’t know what I’m going to write about until I sit down to write the column. This is one of those weeks. So what I ultimately decided to do was just touch on a few comics-business related items I’ve found interesting of late, but don’t necessarily warrant a full and detailed column. Let’s call this one our first 2011 Potpourri Column, m’kay?
Borders logoBorders set to close 150 stores, bankruptcy filing a strong possibility
Bloomberg News reported yesterday that Borders may file for bankruptcy protection as early as next week, and will likely close 150 stores. This comes on the heels of news earlier in the week that GE Capital and other lenders had provided $500 million in financing (contingent on Borders raising other financing from lenders and vendors). As it stands, comic book publishers (and other book publishers) remain anxious and conservative in the way they’re dealing with Borders.
Hastings LogoChecking in on Hastings Comic Book Efforts
It’s been about six months since retailer Hastings announced aggressive plans to expand its comic book sales to a big chunk of its stores – and in turn it would become the largest direct market retailer. While we await the publication of Hastings’ most recently quarterly results, we can jump back to November to get a sense of how the early transition is going. According to its November earnings report, Hastings’ Trends segment (which comics is a part of) grew 19% year-over-year after falling 4% the year before. This was, by far, the fastest growing segment for Hastings and the majority of its growth was attributed to expanded sales of new and used comics. While it’s way too early to draw any conclusions here (we need to see how sales hold up in stores after the initial foray), it’s encouraging to see such a dramatic performance particularly when you realize that Hastings overall book sales were down 6.2% in the quarter.
Radical LogoRadical Comics becoming Radical Studios
Small press publisher Radical has never made any secret about its plan to leverage the comics it produces as properties for a film slate. So it’s not really surprising to hear that Radical Publishing is morphing into Radical Studios, and is attempting to raise a significant round of financing in order to help drive the development of its properties into film, television, gaming and other forms of media. Hat tip to Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool for unearthing a private placement memorandum that Radical had prepared to solicit interest from outside investors. While that memorandum appears to have disappeared into the ether, Rich manages to pull out some fascinating details on Radical and it’s financial outlook and future aspirations beforehand.
Apple LogoApple blocks a Sony eReader application from the App Store, or does it?
Earlier this week a report spread like wild fire after a Sony spokesman suggested that its eBook reader app had been denied entrance into the Apple App Store ecosystem. As journalists are apt to do these days, everyone ran with that story as gospel and began worrying about what such a move would mean for other forms of digital media. More than a few people wondered aloud if this meant troubling times ahead for digital comics vendors who might have to start giving Apple a cut of all their sales, thus making not one, but two middlemen for publishers to deal with. As it turns out, the initial stories weren’t quite accurate. Apple only requires that any vendor who offers direct sales through their app ALSO provides users with the option to buy the same items from the Apple App Store directly. While that’s not a perfectly open environment, it’s hardly the Draconian regression in openness that had so many worried a few days ago.
New York Comic Con expands to four days
I didn’t want to leave you all on a down note, so let’s celebrate the news that Reed’s New York Comic Con will be expanding to four days this year, allowing a full Friday and a preview night on Thursdays. I, for one, will be there with bells on Thursday night, for sure.

Jason is a mutant with the ability to squeeze 36 hours into every 24-hour day, which is why he was able to convince his wife he had time to join the iFanboy team on top of running his business, raising his three sons, and most importantly, co-hosting the 11 O'Clock Comics podcast with his buddies Vince B, Chris Neseman and David Price. If you are one of the twelve people on Earth who want to read about comics, the stock market and football in rapid fire succession, you can follow him on Twitter.


  1. The Borders’ news is unsettling.  Hopefully the location closest to me won’t be closing.

  2. I like the sound of that Hastings news.  I hope those numbers stay high.

    I’m not at all surprised by the  App Store news.  I’m actually more surprised that Apple did put that requirement in place initially. 

  3. Whew, glad to see that the App store worries were overblown.  I figured that would likely be the case, but was worried enough to start thinking about an Android tablet to replace my iPad.

  4. Hastings has made a good effort, but right now its store by store. Some stores have really nice setups and have a better selection of things especially smaller press like Image/IDW/Darkhorse than my LCS. Some hastings aren’t as good and they put out new books..but days late. It seems like it has to do with who is running that section. I don’t know if they fully understand the Wednesday warrior comic thing yet.  Some places even discount 3-4 month old new issues by a dollar to move them and i’ve caught up on some series that way. 

  5. @wallythegreenmonster That makes sense, as it’s a problem all retailers have and, in particular, the less streamlined ones. Usually corporate takes note of same store sales trends and zeroes in on the underperformers, I’m sure they’ll see who isn’t maximiing the comics opportunity and put pressure on getting the right people in charge of those sections of the store.

  6. Hasting’s comics section has been really great for me. The one near me always has new comics out on Wednesday afternoon, and they always have a much better selection than my rather limited LCS. If there’s anything that my store is a bit short on, its having trades, but I can live with that. Glad to hear that its been working out for them so far.

  7. @wallythegreenmonster  I’ve been to several Hastings in the last two months, two in Amarillo, TX and one in New Braunfels. All three had great comic sections featuring new and pre-owned/back issue singles and trades. The NB store was especially awesome. And they do often mark down back issues after a few months. Makes me even more sad that the local Hastings in my area closed a few months ago. It was a unique store – I can’t think of another one that features one-stop shopping for new AND used books, movies, music, comics, magazines, and other trend products. It was really a community hub of sorts – lots of customers, many of them frequent shoppers (guilty!), lots of special events, signings (met Brad Meltzer there at a signing once)… Apparently the landlord raised the rent and Hastings corporate opted to close the store. Must have been a lot given the amount of business they did.

  8. @kennyg  — totally…i ‘ve bought many a used trade and hardcover there. Great prices. I do see lots of different kinds of people browse through the comics…the downside is that sometimes the issues get jacked up. 

  9. I never even heard of Hastings before. Then I went to their store locator and found out why. NONE on the East Coast, NONE on the West Coast, NONE in the Upper Midwest save a location in Indiana.

    So for those who are lucky enough to live near one, could you fill us unfortunate souls in? It sounds like a comic shop within a larger entertainment store. I mean, BACK ISSUES?!

  10. @NaveenM –i think they’re whole business model is an entertainment store…books, movies (sales and rental) t shirts, toys etc. The stores are based in medium sized cities and locals that don’t have big box stores as often, or indie record/book/comic shops. Kind of like a suburban/rural kinda thing. They are largely midwest/southwest based. The stores are around the size of a Borders. Pretty good place to find stuff, but one of their gems is that they buy and sell used everything and its usually mixed in with the new. For trades and comics they are usually half cover price so i’ve gotten hardcovers for $15 and under. But condition is always an issue….stuff is handled like at a bookstore. They have back issues but its really random. I think they bought out stock from some comic shops. THey have HUNDREDS of Valiant and stuff from the 90s. Its a weird mix for sure. 

  11. @wallythegreenmonster  – The info is appreciated! The thing that’s great from a comics viewpoint IMO, is the presence of comics alongside all of these other things. I think one of the big reasons for the decline of comics is the lack of availability in more general consumer shopping places. I know when I was not reading comics, it was like they didn’t exist.  Unless I stumbled upon an LCS by accident, I hardly ever saw them.

  12. @NaveenM  –i agree. i like that they are a decent sized chain and have buyers who are making purchases for a number of stores as opposed to the LCS system. I think if comics got out into more environments like that we’d see more competitive pricing and so on not to mention more people getting into comics because of availability. 

  13. There’s one in my hometown of Maryville, TN which is probably the closest to the East Coast you can get.  (We are in the Eastern Time Zone).  Its morphed over the years, when it first opened in 1998, Video Rental was about half the store and then book and music sales shared the rest of the store.  Now its more video games and books but they have expanded comics from a wire rack section to a more wider part of the books area.

  14. Does Android charge the same fees? If so, it would be very interesting to see some competition there. I prefer Apple right now, but 30% off everything I purchase would potentially* be a powerful incentive to switch.

    *obviously this is an insane pie-in-the-sky fantasy but humor me, i don’t have any better number 

  15. Here is another tidbit about Hastings. This past week because of the weather, every single one of my LCS’s didn’t get deliveries of new comics. As of Thursday afternoon they were all still waiting, and told me that they expect something maybe Friday or Monday. 

    Hastings had this weeks stuff on the shelf Wednesday evening. Got all my books without a problem. To me this means that they have a very strong distribution channel, and as a chain store who buys in bulk gets MUCH better treatment than independent mom and pop comic shops. Fascinating.

    I wonder how many of the shipping problems comic shops deal with has to do with the fact that they are tiny weeny insignificant fish in the eyes of FEDEX/UPS etc?