The August 2021 Mailbag Q&A is Here!

It’s a short Mailbag Q&A this month, but it’s also a good one. Let’s get to the reader, listener and subscriber questions from August, led by one that’s all about properly classifying publishers.

Is it time to retire the term “the Big Two”? Or is it time to pointedly use the term to refer to Scholastic and Viz Media? – Mark Tweedale

I saw someone else tweet about this same idea, and my take is no, if only because the Big Two was never really designed as an all-inclusive comics term from what I understand. I’ve always read it as a strictly direct market one, as Marvel and DC have so fully dominated that market for so long – taking up 70%+ of the market for decades – that it just makes sense. That was never the case in the book market, though.

If anything, Scholastic and Viz are the Big Two of the book market, and it’s really about establishing Big Twos for each if you’re trying to define or determine anything. Or just calling them by their names because they each do their own thing. If anything, DC/Marvel being the Big Two was more of just accepted shorthand, an easy way to separate and speak to two entities in a way people within the direct market could quickly understand it. No retirement necessary, but I do think it’s worth remembering that comic industry is certainly larger than just that. Which we do!

When you finish your Uncanny X-Men quest, will you read them, or preserve them and read a reprint/digital copy? (Or is it merely for the enjoyment of collecting the run with no real intention to read it all from start to finish?) – Andrew Tan

If I read Marvel back issues, it’s almost universally on Marvel Unlimited. Mostly because I’m lazy and digging into my back issues is a pain, but also because it’s just nice and convenient and keeps my comics in the condition they are in. But when I finish my Uncanny X-Men quest, it won’t be to read them. It’s more for the joy of the hunt – my rule is I aim to not gather them via eBay, although I broke that rule for three issues recently – and for completing the quest. It’s something I told myself I’d do when I was a kid, and my goal is to live up to those aims, even if it theoretically will be very expensive (although the hope is I can do it in a way that isn’t quite so expensive either).

Has Free Comic Book Day run its course (or does it need to be retooled) when certain books this year are being preyed on by the speculator/flipper contingent? (e.g. House of Slaughter) Is there a way to gear it more specifically for young kids and families, and then maybe amp up Local Comic Shop Day or something to make that the big day on the calendar for the adult collector crowd? – Chris Burton

As far as the speculator/flipper contingent is concerned, I think Free Comic Book Day is already solved. Most shops I know of limit customers to single customers of specific titles I believe, and most also cap the amount of comics you can get yourself. So I’m not really concerned about the sharks circling the blood of the House of Slaughter, especially considering most kids and families aren’t excited for that release.

Take my local shop as an example. There were still the speculator/flippers, of course, but the majority of people there were kids and families excitedly grabbing a ton of issues for their reading pleasure. So I think Free Comic Book Day is one day where a balance is found, where all audiences are represented without crowding each other necessarily. That might only be the case here in Anchorage, where we have events in two shops and one library, so the wealth is spread. But I don’t think that’s the case.

I do think Local Comic Day is already amped up a bit for collectors. I haven’t researched that, but from what I recall, that’s more of a day for “special” releases rather than mass appeal. But I think Free Comic Book Day is fine enough as is, at least in theory.

Really, the big problem for Free Comic Book Day is the pandemic. My shop definitely was subdued this year, as a rise in cases led to lower attendance – despite the shop holding it outside to mitigate risk – and to their usual product connector of coupons for trades and comics being given out but only to be used between the 15th and 31st of August. Normally the shop is loaded with people, most of whom buy things. The point of FCBD isn’t giving away free comics, it’s getting people in the shop to buy things. If you have lower attendance and you can’t connect free comics to a shop’s larger connection, that defeats the purpose. Then it’s just an event where shops pay money for comics to give them away for free, effectively spending money to lose it. Not ideal! But that’s not a solvable comics problem. That’s a world problem. Heavy TBD there!

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