It’s recently been announced that video game retailer GameStop is getting into the comic book sales game, and the big question is: how does this affect me?
And the answer is: not much. I really don’t shop at GameStop unless they have a weird, exclusive toy I’m after. Frankly, GameStop is starting to resemble every other pop culture store out there: Hot Topic, Barnes & Noble, F.Y.E., BoxLunch, and now GameStop are all starting to resemble the same kind of pop culture factory which are loaded with t-shirts and Funko Pop figures and comic book merch. Seriously, these places are approaching the pop culture singularity. But, that aside, here’s two quick thoughts on what this program means for the comics industry and for you.
1. Local Comics Shops Are Probably Not Affected By This.
Your first inclination might be to worry that your LCS is suddenly going to close because GameStop is stealing all its customers. Somehow, I’m not worried about this. For one thing, have you ever seriously set foot in a GameStop? They’re not that big, and their primary merchandise is games. They’ve got a few smaller sections for pop culture merch, to inclue Funkos and a few action figures and other cheesy collectibles. A comics section is just going to further clutter what’s already a cluttered store.
This means that GameStop is probably going to have a limited and “immediate” supply of comics. I’m betting it will be a few staple titles like Justice League and Batman and Spider-Man, but nothing nearly the size of even the smallest LCSes.
Color me crazy, but this probably isn’t going to look much different from any non-LCS which sells comic books. You can currently buy comics in Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Wal-Mart, and you still bump into Archie digests in supermarket checkout lines. A few of those stores also sell trade paperbacks, and I’ve also seen them in F.Y.E. and Target. But in all cases, it’s only a sampling. Odds are, this won’t be the colossal selection that your LCS carries–it’ll probably be a smaller selection based on what’s popular at the moment.
Point being, the hardcore comics collectors are still going to be shopping at the LCS. GameStop might have Avengers or X-Men, but you’re going to have to go to the LCS to get lesser known books and books from publishers other than the big two. And that says nothing of back issues, bags, boards, incentive covers, and more obscure merchandise that only comes from Diamond. So if you’re worried about the LCS, don’t be. It’ll be fine.
2. This is probably a good move for the industry as a whole.
Remember, comics aren’t dead, but they’re always dying. Despite living in the era of superhero mass-media, comics sales perpetually remain abyssmal and companies are constantly competing to stay relevant and, more importantly, solvent. There’s one neat trick to getting comics sales up: get people to friggin’ buy them.
We’ve heard it said many times before, but it bears repeating: for the longest time, comic book stores were not the norm. It used to be that comics were commonly available in drug stores and supermarkets, and kids bought them there in massive quantities. The LCS was a creation of the 1970s when the collectors’ market for back issues became a thing. Suddenly, comics stopped being sold in traditional retail, and the LCS became the near-exclusive home of comics.
It wasn’t always like this. As a kid in the 1980s, I didn’t have an LCS around the corner. But I had 7-11, and the local bookstore, and it wasn’t uncommon for me to take my allowance and go for a walk to go get myself some comics. That is not a thing anymore. Hell, I currently live in a large D.C./Baltimore suburb, and I cannot think of where I could buy off-the-rack comics within walking distance of my house. I have to either drive to the Barnes & Noble one town over, or to the LCS 25 minutes away. And I have a car. Kids don’t.
But my town does have a GameStop, and honestly, GameStops are everywhere. I can think of four that are on my driving route home, and they tend to be in every shopping mall or corner shopping center. Kids are going into these places. If they’re spending $50 on the latest Call of Duty, there’s a chance that they might spend another $5 on Justice League of America. And that might inspire them to keep reading, and then if they like comics enough, to get into an LCS, and now we’ve got a new reader to keep the industry alive for another day.
Bottom line: whether you’re a casual fan or an LCS shopper, there’s little to fear from GameStop getting comics. It’s actually a positive sign of hope for our hobby.