What I think about non-superhero comics

Ref: http://www.comicbookdaily.com/championing_comics/retailer-q/retailer-q-5-non-superhero-market/

So my answer there was a sort of a glib place-holder, intended to be expanded upon after a few people had had their say on the topic because, frankly, The Beguiling has probably the best reputation in the industry for stocking and supporting “non-superhero” comics. And then I got caught up in heading to Japan and I didn’t have time to respond and everyone ended up looking more eloquent and nuanced than me. My fault for trying to be funny.

So, briefly: The “non-superhero market” is alive and well from my perspective, yes. At any given time there are 10-15 ongoing monthly or nearly-monthly series that I could recommend to readers that don’t fit the ‘superhero’ mold, but are clearly genre-based or genre-inspired works. I think Image is going through something of a renascence right now in terms of the creator-owned work they’re publishing, and Icon, IDW, SLG, Dynamite, Boom, and Oni have all usually got at least one monthly comic worth following, and sometimes two or three. We even got a new issue of Optic Nerve this year!

And that’s before you get into the graphic novels. On a given week, we’re getting 40+ new graphic novels in, and only 25-33% of that is superhero related. Classic comic strips, art-comix collections, mainstream-bookstore stuff. It’s good. One side-effect of Marvel and DC’s “Throw it at the wall to see what sticks, and make sure everything gets collected in trade” business model is that their sales are so diffused among so many products that it’s next to impossible for them to have a ‘hit’ on any title. No one comes in asking for a specific “Green Lantern” or “Avengers” trade, because there are dozens and dozens of books featuring those characters, and it’s impossible to market them or promote them individually… but if someone comes in asking for Buffy, The Walking Dead, Scott Pilgrim, Skullkickers, Criminal, Chew, Locke & Key, etc.? We start them at v1, they read til there’s no more to read in that line, and we start making recommendations from there.  That definitely affects how we order.

And hell, manga. MANGA.

Realistically, the superhero material we stock at The Beguiling (and make no mistake, we stock all of the superhero material, every comic and ever trade) makes up a minority of our comics sales. We like some of it, we’re glad people like it, and we like its dependability, bringing customers into the shop every week that will buy a variety of stuff. While the last couple months have been very strong for superhero material, thanks to the DC relaunch and some high-profile Marvel books, realistically “non-superhero” works are still our bread and butter and I don’t really see that changing any time soon.

I have thought and continue to think, though, that defining the comics industry between superhero and non-superhero works is false and bizarre. Even asking that question and having me respond with a phrase like “actually, non-superhero works as a grouping do better for us,” is exactly the sort of statement that gets die-hard cape fans’ dander up, and I don’t think it’s either necessary or helpful for anyone. So, just to reassure the superhero fans reading this: I don’t and we don’t hate superheroes, it’s okay, and we’re happy to serve you regardless of the types of comics you like to read. 🙂

– Christopher

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