For various reasons, it’s been tough to enjoy reading or talking about comic books recently. So this week – little to no comics talk. Instead, here are some non-comics-reading ways you can spend your free time, if you’re looking to step away from comics for a while. (For those looking for comics talk, I’ll hopefully have some for you in a couple weeks.)
Marvel Comics publishes a lot of comic books. In March 2020, Marvel published at least 80 new single-issue comics, the majority of which were set within the Marvel Superhero Universe. If a reader wanted to keep up with the Marvel Universe as a whole that month, they would have had to read 60+ books and spend $240+ to do so.
I’m certain that few (if any) readers did that. And anecdotally, retailers have been asking Marvel to reduce the number of books they publish for years now. 60+ superhero books is (and likely always has been) too many to ask readers and retailers to care about each month. Releasing that many titles that regularly oversaturates the market, cannibalizes sales, and perhaps most importantly, keeps readers from being able to access and understand the Marvel Universe as a whole.
Meanwhile, the Marvel Cinematic Universe releases roughly two new movies and a new TV show each year, and audiences eat them up. They do so because each new MCU installment feels accessible, digestible, and important. Because just two Marvel superhero movies release each year, each remains an event to behold. Because roughly 15 to 20 Marvel superhero comics release each week, each has to fight and scrap (or do something exceptional) to get noticed.
Retailers and readers like myself felt this way before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Now, it seems Marvel may agree with us. In early May, Marvel announced that seven of its current monthly titles (and one one-shot) would switch to releasing digitally first, before later being collected in print. (This is a bummer, by the way, for the creators who were excited for these books to release in print, the readers who were excited to read them in print, and the comic shops that will miss out on selling physical copies of these books.) Marvel’s print publishing line is now shrinking – so the question now becomes, how much further could it go?
As y’all know, I’m a comics process nerd. I like in-depth interviews with writers, artists, store owners, editors, and anyone comics-adjacent. So you can imagine my delight when I found David Harper’s Off Panel – an interview podcast that discusses all things comics with people both inside and adjacent to the industry.
Each Monday, Harper talks with a different comics creator (or other guest) about their work, often including their comic book origin story and what that creator’s up to right now. But Harper also goes deep on each creator’s process and outside interests, and sometimes, he releases episodes that look at the state of comic shops or the industry as a whole, rather than an individual creator’s work.
To convince you that you, too, should be listening to Off Panel, I’ve compiled a list of six of my favorite semi-recent episodes, which include creators, comics, and topics that I love. If you’re a comics process nerd, and you listen to the episodes below, I think you’ll be convinced to add Off Panel to your podcast feed.
On Shaw Avenue in Fresno, CA, just off the exit from Highway 41, sits Heroes Comics. In business for almost 30 years, Heroes has been my comic shop of choice since moving to Fresno last year. The store’s inviting, well-organized, and staffed by a knowledgable, friendly owner: Dave Allread.
In the interest of learning more about Allread, the industry, and how comic shops are doing this year, I recently stopped by to talk with Allread. We chatted about everything from what Dave’s reading right now, to how sales have been in 2018, to how the current glut of variant covers prevents stores from trying some of the many, many new titles that are coming out each month.
(Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.)