Some of my favorite parts of (postmodernbarney.com) are the times when Dorian shares anecdotes about his comics retail business. They are generally amusing in pointing out the insanity that comics retails must face on a daily business.
In his latest installment, this exchange jumped out at me:
"Do you have any real comics?"
Uhm...as opposed to the millions of "fake" comics that currently surround us?
"No, real comics, like The Far Side!"
Now, aside from the silliness of thinking that newspaper strips are the only 'real' comics, it does point out something that I have always thought to be curious: Why don't comics shops stock collections of comic strips?
A look at the Bookscan top 'graphic novels' of 2003 seven strip collections in the Top 25, including collections of Get Fuzzy, Calvin and Hobbes, The Boondocks and Foxtrot. After manga, they're the next largest category in the list. Yet the typical comic store has none of these.
If comic shops are trying to appeal to an audience wider than comic book geeks, shouldn't they have in stock what a majority of the people think comics are; what they are exposed to on a daily basis? There should be collections of The Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts, Dilbert, Mutts, Foxtrot, For Better or For Worse, and others. If anything else, they would bring people in off the street and into the store, where they could even be enticed to buy 'real' comics.
Oh sure, there are a few, like Liberty Meadows, Jane's World, and The Norm, which get collected into comic book form, but aside from the recent Fantagraphic Peanuts collections (and maybe some of the other Fantasgraphics offerings) how often do you see any mainstream strip collections in a comic store?
A good portion of the blame can be laid at the feet of Diamond, who don't offer these books in Previews for the retailers to order, but surely there are other distributors for books, yes? And if there was enough presure from retailers, one would think that Diamond would make an effort to start making them available.
I'm sure that retails have their reasons for not stocking strip collections. Heck, some of them may even be valid. But wouldn't it be great if, in the situation that Dorian cites, a retailer could point the customer to a rack of strip collections and say: "Here they are. Not only do we have The Far Side, but we have others as well. Please let me know if I can help you with anything else."