I do not pre-order comic books and do not plan to. I only purchase trade paperbacks and digital comics. I have a mild fondness for Marvel and DC brands, but do not feel the need to purchase comics from either company in order to engage with said brands. I am a casual reader. I wasn’t always, but I have become one.
And I feel absolutely no guilt about it.
The comics industry will continue to be here. No matter how bad a company’s business practices might be, they cannot kill off a method of storytelling—a medium. Should Sony fail? Songs would still be sung. Should Rockstar Games go under? I would still make the safe bet that there would be compelling video games left to play.
That said? I am concerned. I am worried that perhaps the larger comic companies have painted themselves into a corner akin to the one that the conservative American news media currently finds itself within. And now the extraction process will be a messy and haphazard one.
Both have placed themselves within a cordoned-off area (cable television/specialty shops), narrowed their focus considerably (“alt-right” narratives/superheroes), and appeal to an aging and shrinking market. However, that market is a zealously devoted one willing to pay a higher price for material that could easily be found elsewhere at cheaper cost. So perhaps concerns should not be heeded until the last 40-year-old is no longer willing to pay $4.99 for a new issue of Deadpool and the last reactionary septuagenarian discovers he can read Breitbart for free rather than pay for cable.
And yet Americans are not averse to pre-ordering. We pre-order games, sneakers, novels, graphic novels—why not comics?
I can only speak for myself. Convenience is of the utmost importance. I can buy a pair of shoes from Amazon and the site is kind enough to let me know that I’ve bought 6 Empowered trades from them and a new one is on its way. Would I like to buy it now and have it shipped to me upon its release? Why, yes! And look at that. No rifling through Previews. No pit stop in a specialty shop. Comics right to my door.
Celebrity and exclusivity will also push me to pre-order. Look, if Puma had given me the opportunity to pre-order a pair of Rihanna’s Fenty slides? Done and done. It’s Fenty. It’s Rih. I’d be willing to devote the extra time and effort involved in obtaining said product. Especially when said product is so rare. And lastly, reliability is also a factor. I would never blanche at pre-ordering an album from an artist I had followed for years because I could be fairly certain of the new album’s quality by examining older works.
As for Marvel and DC? I can be entertained by their brands for free or nearly free by turning on my television or computer. Leaning on exclusivity is not an option when your characters are everywhere in nearly every medium. Reliability is not a given considering the frequent changes in creative teams. And there is currently only one celebrity (Ta-Nehisi Coates) employed at either company who is notable enough to motivate me to pre-order. Luckily, I don’t have to pre-order Black Panther because I know that given Marvel’s printing habits scarcity will never be an issue. And I can buy my trade today from Amazon.
All I ask of the comics industry are books I want to read in the format I most enjoy. And yes, I am willing to pay in advance for them as long as the company is a reputable one. I think the larger comic companies realize that. But I also think those companies also realize that the “Wednesday crowd” feels the exact same way—which is why the direct market currently exists! Blithely telling members of either market (direct/digital) to “get with the program” and change their purchasing habits is absurd. If you want someone to give you money for a product? You do the adjusting. DC and Marvel must find a way to appeal to multiple markets—which I hope both are trying to do behind the scenes—rather than blatantly ignoring one or forcing it to change.