In case you missed it — which is quite likely, because it was a holiday weekend for many of you, to say nothing of the busiest shopping day in the United States — I hosted a live chat for patrons, subscribers, and anyone else who felt like joining on Black Friday. It was a grand time, as I answered a bevy of questions from folks that were mostly about comics and the industry, but also about hoops, my “brand,” organization, and some other subjects. It was an awful lot of fun, and I really appreciated everyone for taking the time to chat. But if you did miss it, I have good news: I have a transcription of the chat! That’s what we’re posting up today, edited slightly for clarity and length (to say nothing of relevance).
We’ll be back to a regular mailbag in December, but I wanted to get one more chat in there before the new year. Thanks to everyone for joining, and hey, enjoy the Q&A with yours truly!
David Harper: Alright, just getting the word out on social media, but I’m almost ready to start. I have hot coffee, the Christmas music playing, and a cat on my lap. Lots of great questions to get to, though, so thanks to everyone for participating on the busiest shopping day of the year (in the U.S. at least)!
Ryan Alcock: I think most people go through a phase of preferring grim and gritty fiction before moving into more optimistic and heartwarming fiction as they get older. What is the average age Superman overtakes Batman as the preferred character?
David Harper: This is an interesting theory, Ryan! I don’t know if I’ve ever heard this one before, but it seems reasonable. I will say, I don’t think I have a preference in one direction or another, personally. Sometimes I like super hopeful stuff. Sometimes I prefer grim and gritty. Sometimes it’s a Zodiac day. Others it’s a Paddington one. We all contain multitudes.
But to give a specific answer, I’m going to say…45. Let’s call it a hopeful halfway point, and something far enough away from me where I could see the transition happening. Generally speaking, though, I’d say Batman’s advantage over Superman is he just has more great stories, and I’d say that’s where his lead comes from rather than any demographic shifts (and it’s kind of funny that one of the best evergreen sellers for Superman is Superman: Red Son, a comic that is…grim and gritty Superman, to some degree!).
John NeSmith: What non-comic related podcasts do you currently listen to?
David Harper: So, I’ve said this before, but I figured I’d just say it again. I’m not much of a podcast listener! That’s especially true when it comes to comic podcasts. I regularly listen to zero comic podcasts.
I did recently listen to two that I enjoyed, though. One was Badr Milligan’s chat on The Short Box podcast with Heidi MacDonald from The Beat. Another was Comic Book Couples Counseling’s chat with Juni Ba. I listened to those both because I like the guests but also because it’s interesting to hear how other people interview folks you chat with. They both had fun approaches to the chat!
Anyways, which podcasts do I actually listen to regularly? There’s only one. The Lowe Post, a basketball podcast ESPN’s Zach Lowe hosts. It’s fantastic. I do dabble in The Dunker Spot, another NBA podcast from Steve Jones and Nekias Duncan, and Jason Concepcion and Shea Serrano’s Six Trophies. But because I have zero commute and I don’t listen to things I have to actively think of while working, there’s very little podcast time. Alas! So that’s it!
Jon Auerbach: You are given money to open a comic book shop in your city of choice. (Enough to start up and run for several months). What would your focus be (single issues, back issues, trades, etc.) and what’s one crazy marketing idea you would implement?
David Harper: This is a great question. Naturally I’d probably just select Anchorage because that’s where I live. My focus would be that I wouldn’t have a focus.I’d make it a curated reader shop, sort of like the best parts of Border’s Books at its apex but for comics and graphic novels. Have comfy chairs. Have a coffee shop inside. Graphic novels, trades, and manga would probably get the focus for obvious reasons, but I’d have a balance.
I’d have other products, though, and I’d try to have events that build community. Book clubs, happy hours for people to meet each other and chat comics, etc. I’d also have a robust online store to ensure I get sales from everywhere, especially in a state that is VERY physically separated but has a lot of fans out there. Shipping is a big thing in Alaska.
My crazy marketing idea is…I would do marketing. Namely, I’d run ads through a programmatic advertising platform where I target based on content people are engaging with (i.e. manga, comics, graphic novels, comic movies), I’d geofence other businesses in similar spaces, and I’d retarget people who visit my site but don’t buy anything, at the very least. That way there’s a constant drive of discoverability for people who might be interested in comics/graphic novels but aren’t shopping with me already, and I’d do it for the whole state. The hope is I’d have my base of customers quickly while constantly finding new ones through these methods. And it’s super inexpensive, so it wouldn’t be hard to do.
Would it work? Maybe. But I’d love to try it, especially in a city where the incumbent shop has a tendency of resting on its laurels.
Amber Harper: What’s your favorite holiday activity?
David Harper: That’s my wife, asking me this as she puts up the Christmas tree!
My favorite holiday activity is actually buying presents for people! I love really thinking about people in my life and trying to come up with good presents for them, ones that surprise and delight them. Some people stress in present giving, but it’s something I think about year round. I bought my first Christmas presents for people back in MARCH! Besides that, I like wearing warm clothes and listening to Christmas music and drinking coffee with people I love, which I am currently doing. It’s the best. I just love the holiday vibes.
Cameron: Do you ever get a sense from retailers of the average number of books on a customer’s pull list for their store? And in these stretches when we worry about the DM and floppies, is that more reflected by customers with fewer titles dropping all together, or customers with big pull lists trimming?
David Harper: Cameron, this is an incredible question. I am texting two retailers right now to get a real answer.
Okay, questions out.
My take: I think there’s a pretty big gap from the biggest buyers and the tidiest lists. I’ve heard from a lot of shops that tell me that some customers buy literally everything, or “all miniseries.” Or “all ongoings.” No curation. Just all. My local shop recently just had a customer looking to sell his collection who had been buying everything for about 20 years.
I cannot fathom how big that collection is.
So, in those stretches, I imagine the most movement happens with the customers who are buying fewer titles and dropping some, just because they’re more discerning. The giant pull list folks often just buy out of habit. But if you’re already curating, it’s easier to tighten things up. I’ve seen that with myself this year.
From a shop: No clue on an average, but there are customers with 100s of comics on standing orders. But yeah, the biggest space for dropoff would come from those big customers, but I just don’t know how much they drop for obvious reasons!
Mike Lanuzo: Two basketball questions for you. How are you feeling about the in-season tournament Top three non-Pacer league pass teams?
David Harper: I absolutely love the in-season tournament, and not just because my Pacers are 3-0 and onto the next round! It actually feels special, and it seems clear to me that teams are taking it more seriously. This one Kings game ended with Domantas Sabonis losing his mind because Kevin Huerter dribbled out the clock instead of scoring more points as point differential is a big thing for moving on as a wild card. That was a moment where I was like, “OH SO THIS IS A THING FOR THEM.” And the Lakers are taking it insanely seriously, and as LeBron goes, so does the league. So I think it’s awesome, the courts are about 50% cool and 50% nightmare, and it just feels different. Big fan.
Top three non-Pacer league pass teams. They’re not great, but the Spurs because I have family there and Wemby is fun to watch. The Thunder because they’re a lot of fun (insane current Josh Giddey stuff not withstanding). And…Not the Bulls. The Bulls are miserable.
Actually, the number one answer is the Timberwolves. I love Anthony Edwards and that team rules. Tons of fun. They’re my favorite non-Pacer team. Nuggets are up there too though.
Wes Gift: For someone as busy as you are with your many comics-related projects (Off-Panel, SKTCHD), what tip(s) do you have for others to help stay organized?
David Harper: This is something I struggle with, Wes. It may not seem like it from the outside, but organization is not my strength, at least in terms of personal organization. I’m very laissez-faire and instinctual about how I work. Every work review I have is a ton of pros and one massive con of organization. That said, I make it work nonetheless.
So, my tips would be…Always keep some sort of document tracking active and prospective projects, and do what you can to keep all the irons in the fire and balls rolling. Don’t take on more than you can handle, because that’s a surefire path to your organization crumbling. Take time every once in a while to just do administrative work. Sometimes you get so focused on the capital W “Work,” but if you don’t take time to make sure everything is moving forward and you’re not staying on top of email, things crumble.
And lastly, my biggest tip is this: Do what’s right for you. Some people use bullet journals. Some use regular notebooks. Some calendar or whiteboard. Some just spray and pray emails and hope for the best. Find the answer that works for you and don’t try and force something that isn’t a fit for how you do things, because that’s a good way for things to fall apart.