Periodical Market Gets Largely Strangled by its Very (and Varied) Caretakers

A Closer Look at the Challenges Facing the Direct Market

In a recent column by Milton Griepp titled “Can Comics Be Saved?”, the predictions of doom for the Direct Market were analyzed. Brian Hibbs, the owner of Comix Experience in San Francisco, California, offers his perspective on the root causes of the current problems. While acknowledging the insights shared in Griepp’s column, Hibbs believes that there are a few key points that were missed. In this Talk Back, Hibbs delves into the challenges faced by creators and retailers in the periodical market and offers his own observations on the state of the industry.

The Changing Landscape for Creators

Hibbs begins by addressing the creative side of the industry. While Griepp suggests that creators have migrated from the Big Two publishers to other platforms that offer more creative freedom and potential for financial success, Hibbs argues that many creators are actually stepping outside of any physical middleman system altogether. They are turning to crowd-funding platforms and self-publishing avenues like Substack. While this approach may seem appealing to creators, Hibbs believes that bypassing the traditional market can lead to a loss of leverage and support from comic stores. He cites examples of projects that performed below expectations because they had already gained a substantial following through crowd-funding or Substack, leaving little incentive for comic stores to carry the titles.

The Challenges for Direct Market Retailers

Hibbs then addresses the challenges faced by Direct Market retailers. While Griepp suggests that retailers can adapt by expanding their sales to include manga, webtoon collections, kids graphic novels, and OGNs, Hibbs questions whether anything is currently working in the periodical business. He emphasizes that for “typical” comic book stores heavily reliant on Marvel and DC titles, making a significant shift in their business model is neither easy nor quick. Building up knowledge and a clientele for new product lines takes time and specialized expertise. Hibbs shares his own experience running a comics-oriented bookstore, highlighting the struggles they face as the periodical market continues to be constrained by the decisions made by various stakeholders.

The Strangulation of the Periodical Market

In a thought-provoking reflection, Hibbs suggests that the periodical market is being strangled by its very caretakers. He points out that the diverse range of stakeholders, including publishers, creators, and platforms, each have their own priorities and strategies. This fragmentation, according to Hibbs, has made it challenging for the market to thrive. He emphasizes the importance of curation and the authenticity that selling periodicals brings to the store experience. However, he also acknowledges the difficulties faced by retailers as they navigate the changing landscape and try to cater to the evolving tastes of their customers.


The periodical market in the Direct Market is facing significant challenges, as highlighted by Brian Hibbs in his response to Milton Griepp’s column. Creators are increasingly bypassing traditional distribution channels, leading to a loss of leverage for comic stores. Additionally, retailers are grappling with the need to adapt their business models to include new product lines while maintaining their existing customer base. The periodical market’s struggles can be attributed to the varied priorities and strategies of its caretakers, resulting in a fragmented industry. As the industry continues to evolve, it is crucial for stakeholders to find common ground and work together to ensure the long-term viability of the periodical market.






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