Sunday, August 16, 2020

Interests, Comics, and Problem

 I have a problem with my interests. I like some things that are in a continual and constant change. The problem is, that some people enjoy the same things, but they drop in and out of interest.

When it comes to comic books, I think people fail to realize that they don't really stop. Just because you stop reading Spider-Man doesn't mean he quit having adventures published about him. Being surprised that stories have progressed is a pet peeve of mine. I strongly dislike when someone claims to be a "fan" of something, but has no idea what is going on with that supposed "fandom".

I work in a comic book store. I have done so for far longer than I like to admit. Being around these things and the constant change in story, tone and character just makes everything blend together. I may remember that a thing happened, but can't explicitly point out exactly when it occurred. I just know that it did. Hell, it could be changed back to the original by the time of asking. Strike that reverse it.

This happens a lot when supposed bigger events occur. A story gets hyped up, so people want to jump on. Then the reader might feel a bit left out when they don't quite know what is going on in the book. While there may be a pay off for a long time reader, it just seems too many new readers are thrown in the deep end of the story pool. It is this disregard of the new reader that pushes too many away from the comic medium. Just saying that a reader should read a pile of comics to play catch up doesn't help. Most people want the story, but don't want to read years or decades worth of comic stories to have the full grasp of what is going on in a current story.

I guess the problem I have is that trying to enjoy something gets tougher every day. There is no real easy way to get into a thing. I used to tell people that the sign of a good comic is that any comic should be able to be someone's first. There should be enough in there to grab the attention of the reader.

Now, there is no easy introduction. All that leads to is lapsed "fans" who have a passing knowledge of what is going on. They tend to be stuck wherever they stopped though. I just dislike when they are surprised things progressed without them.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Stress Distribution

Just trying to get things out of my head.

A friend of mine asked what the new situation was with how comics, specifically DC Comics, are distributed to the retailers. I have been under a ton of stress and other problems, that I ignored giving an answer. I am writing this now to get some of it down. I will inevitably forget some aspect of it that grates my nerves.

When this global pandemic hit, it rocked all aspects of life. Literally everyone was effected by its spread. It forced people to stay home, not go to work, close schools, ban shopping and dining. Life was, and still is to a great degree, upended.

When it comes to comic books, this hit globally.

All comic book stores deal with Diamond Comics Distributors. Well, all of them do if they want to carry almost anything popular. Diamond has exclusivity deals with Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, IDW, BOOM, and probably many others. When the shutdowns started, all levels were impacted. Stores had to close their doors. Warehouses had to stop shipments because of both the stores closing and not being able to receive as well as for the sake of their employees too. Since the warehouses couldn't get new stock, that caused the printers to stop making things. When the printers stopped, the comic companies started to pull back on what they were producing. Everything was thrown into chaos. No new comics.

Diamond used to have DC Comics, but the pandemic hit. DC saw an opportunity.

Seeing how Diamond couldn't, nay wouldn't, distribute comics broke a contract of exclusivity. I think DC was looking for an out. DC wanted to get comics in the hands of readers and Diamond wasn't making that happen, so they had to go figure out alternative methods. DC hooked up with a couple smaller distribution companies (that just happen to be two of the bigger comic retailers online). Being a comic seller online doesn't effect how I thought of them as distributors. If someone was buying their stuff online, then they probably weren't coming in my store to get the same thing. So, DC was determined to get comics in stores regardless and especially if they were the only ones. It didn't matter that most stores couldn't open. They could still mail order and curbside pick up and a number of other new was of trying to make a living if you can't go inside a store.

At first, it was portrayed to me that DC was making efforts to get comics in stores. The best way to get the first release is to go with the new distributors. DC claimed at the time that they were working with Diamond to get those promised books to their stores too. They would just be delayed until Diamond started shipping. I didn't mind this because my store wasn't allowed to be open yet. Sure there were customers that wanted new comics, but the world already gave plenty of other distractions to worry about. There wasn't mush pressure to start with a new distributor if I could just stay with my current one-stop-shop for my comics. Who wants a new bill every month?

Turns out, this was a lot of smoke and mirrors. DC Comics and Diamond couldn't come to an agreement and DC pulled out. Now, DC exclusively goes through new distributors that are not Diamond. Also, all of their comics are scheduled to be put on sale on Tuesday. (Tuesday is the typical new on sale date for most books and other media.) Comic books on sale date has been Wednesday for a very long time. DC wants to be different. Oh, and DC doesn't want to produce a print catalog anymore of their upcoming products. They recently had a separate book that had just their stuff that was "free". (They only provided enough free copies to go along with the Diamond Previews catalog that contains all the other comics. Except Marvel, they have their own book too, but they give extras free of charge.)

Anyway, the stress now started with having to deal with a new distributor of a product that makes up a significant portion of our comic sales. I can't really sell new comics if one of them isn't Batman. There was about a two week window to set-up and get approved to be a client for the new distributor.

All in all, this has added a ton of new work for me. It doesn't help that it is just my boss and me as the sole people that work in the store for the moment. It more than doubled what I would normally do for ordering comics. That doesn't even account for the later changes that just keep happening with it as well.

For our account, it is shared between the two stores. This saves on shipping, which can quickly lead to loss of profit when shipping fees eat most of could be made from an order. I have to keep track of all the comics that are ordered. My book-keeping went up because instead of just keeping track of the comic inventory, I now have to keep track separately of what specific DC stuff I am getting. Add to this deciphering what stuff I ordered compared to the whole order. These are separate tasks that I have binders and folders full of paper to try and account for everything.

So, money is tight. I have to watch what I am ordering so as to not go overboard with extras, but still ride a line of taking care of customers. For most of the titles that come out, I am now getting either just for subscribers, subs plus one, or even a couple extra for the shelf if it is a bigger title, like Batman. When it is sold, it is effectively gone forever now. Supposedly, I can reorder stuff I sold out of from the new distributor. It would help if there was any overstock to order. It would be nice if reorders were sent with the weekly order to save on shipping. So, I just don't reorder. What we get in initially is about it.

The DC books come in earlier than the rest of the comics. The first week was right after July 4th, so they showed up on a Tuesday and it was a bit hectic. I didn't have to deal with the bulk of the problems that day, because I was at my day job. My boss and the other guy at the other store figured it out. The next week was fine and showed up on Monday when I could handle it. The third week had problems and showed more problems with the new distributor. We were missing entire titles. No issues of things were ordered. Usually, if it was Diamond, I could call or shoot off an email and the problem would have been resolved. Either the books would show up in a later shipment, or the account would get credited. Typically, the comics just show. There are supposed to be several copies of each title set aside for when things like this happen. The new distributor doesn't answer their phone. There is no real email to contact. I reported my problems to a strange contact screen. I don't think it actually worked.

Thankfully, all of our orders since have been fine. Some of the orders even show up on Friday to give me extra time to work on them. I just feel I have to do everything twice.

Oh, when we submit orders, I order week by week. Normally, I order all of the month's comics at once. A few weeks before they come out, I can do an FOC (Final Order Cutoff). This just allows me to make some changes if I need to, like adding issues to popular titles or removing some from poorer selling ones. DC is just done during FOC now. There really isn't an initial order to put in. This is upsetting, but not too much of a problem. The problem is that FOC is typically on Monday. DC is now on Sunday night, when I am not there. I don't even get an entire weekend of sales to judge how a title is performing. I also doesn't help that I have no real idea what I am ordering other than issue numbers and titles. It is all guess work and hope that I don't upset too many people.

And now it is constant event season for the comic industry. Companies are playing catch up and it is very difficult to guess what stuff people will buy. The speculators are on the rise too, which is its own headache.

I just want to like comics again.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

In the beginning...

This is mainly a running tally of things I could be doing.

I haven't creatively written in a very long time. The seeds of a story never germinate. I see scenes and parts of a whole, but nothing to congeal it. I think the last long form thing I wrote was years ago. Possibly college. Christ, that was almost two decades ago.

At the moment, I am trying to spark something. Not necessarily a written thing, but some thing. I have a book in front of me that I read the first chapter of on Sunday. I picked it up because lately I watch a ton of Youtube videos. Seriously, it is probably my main form of entertainment. I used to listen to podcasts while playing World of Warcraft, but I put aside the game for the time being. I think I was just a bit bored of it. 

Anyway, the book was written by the guy who runs the channel and produces the videos. I started watching him because I was approached to participate in a Star Trek role-playing game. Trying to gather inspiration for a character, I discovered a channel that had some short sci-fi lore videos. 

After watching a bunch of the videos, I usually feel compelled to contribute something back to the creator. Sometimes, I back them on Patreon if I find myself looking forward to their videos every week, This time, I kept getting his embedded ads for his own novel. Checking it out on Amazon, it was a decent price, and only a few dollars more for a print copy. I personally prefer physical books rather than digital. I have a better chance to read on paper than a screen because a screen can usually be used for videos instead.

Well, after the first chapter, it hasn't grabbed me yet. I liked his brief description of the plot. The concept seemed interesting. When I got the book, the layout looked easily digestible. I will probably attempt to give it more of a go. The first chapter seemed like a slog though. I know it was set up, but parts seemed forced. It will probably pay off later, but I don't think it was handled very well.

I am a big believer in the power of the first sentence. It sets the stage for everything coming after it. The first sentence was weak. It was certainly no, "Call me Ismael." That is hard to top. Even the generic, "Once upon a time," evokes something. It starts with, "In a corner of the Universe, resided a Galaxy." I know it is science fiction, and wants to present that. Still, the whole first chapter is set up, but consist of the end, final strike of a war between two worlds. According to the back of the book description, the rest of the story is about trying to prevent another war. It should have been something about war and not the universe/galaxy thing.

Looking ahead, the second chapter starts better. Maybe there is hope for it. Hell, the first sentence of the Special Thanks in the very beginning was good. "Writing is expected to be a solitary activity."

Well, he ain't wrong.

I specifically didn't name names or throw anyone under a bus because I don't think I can't accurately review a book without reading it. I don't drop the Youtube channel because 1) I don't think anyone is actually reading this, and 2) I don't think anyone will actually care.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Fandom things

I am not sure I understand fandom.

I like a lot of things. Nerdy things, sci-ency things, arty things, weird things, scary things, lovely things, pretty things, ugly things... you get the point.

More and more, I keep hearing and reading about how fans of things aggressively admonish the supposed thing they love. They focus so much time and effort in loving a thing, that whenever something is done with their fandom, it is seen almost as an attack.

I understand preferring one thing over another. I can understand someone who says that the prequel Star Wars films are better than the original trilogy. I think they are wrong, but that is my opinion. Maybe they fell in love with Jarjar Binks when they were a kid and it triggers that right sense of nostalgia. It can bring them back to a better part of their life, or and easier part. Maybe Jarjar makes them smile.

People are allowed to like things. There truly is something for everyone out there. Grabbing hold of a thing and making it your life can be troubling. Like or love a thing but don't let that thing govern and define who you are as a person. It is merely a part.

I like wresting. It seems silly to some people, but I like it. I have actively watched wresting for nearly 25 years, but it has always been in the periphery my entire life. At first it was something to do. Then, it turned out my friends got into it as well. When college and young adulthood happened, I started to be slightly ashamed of it. I would still watch, but I had no one to share it with. Still, I liked it and didn't really retreat into it. It was just entertainment. Now, I am a little less guarded by my love of wrestling. I still watch, but I will engage in conversations if someone wants one. I wear the t-shits like a badge.

Still, it isn't my everything. If I don't like it, I can watch something else. There are plenty of things that can fill that void. Hell, I can fill that void of bad things with other wrestling. I can give new things a chance if the current thing I like isn't going the way I would prefer it to.

I like things. I never call myself a fan of them. It feels like that word had an almost negative connotation these days. It seems that "fans" are the first ones to adversely react to the thing they supposedly love. If the thing I like suddenly does something I am not happy with, I can always just go find something new. Some day, I may even come back to the old thing. It is my choice.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Something to do....

I haven't looked at this in years.

I have been feeling anxious lately. The whole world is in actual chaos. People are unsure about how life works now. For me, I just don't know what to do with myself.

I fill my time. I still work two jobs, which is better than some people. I never applied for unemployment, so no bonus cash from the feds. Money isn't too important to me right now. I have that going for me. Thankfully, I have few expenses.

I decided to started writing this in an effort to do something. I spend a good bit of time trying to figure out what to do with myself. I sometimes get stressed at work from just having seemingly everything happen at once. Work can give me focus, though. At least when I go to work, I have something to do. I have something to work towards, even if it is the end of the day.

I am the only employee working at my "night" comic book job. The boss stepped up and is still finding his feet getting back to actual work and not just delegating. I just have to step up my usual tasks. It doesn't help that the comic book industry used everything going on as a springboard to screw more things up for me. I know it wasn't a personal attack. It is mainly poor timing at a terrible time to throw more chaos and stress on an already near mentally breaking time.

This is just a bit of stress relief. I have more hobbies than I can handle. I like too many things, but am not a true fan of any of them. Nothing is really "my thing". I still have a terrible habit of attempting to throw money at a thing in the hope that I'll enjoy it. I have bought video games and played them once. I buy books to flip through and pretend I may read them some day. I have models to build and paint and no desire to choose which ones to do first. An excuse of not wanting to screw it up is fleeting. I could always just buy a new one to attempt to get that desire feeling again.

Who knows? Maybe this will trigger something in me. Maybe I will start writing a bit here again. Even it if is just something to do. At least it feels like a slight sense of accomplishment. That is all work is now, a sense of accomplishment when I struggle to get started. Still, I didn't have to get back on here to write, Luckily, it was automatically logged in because this site is owned and run by Google. Saves some time.

All right. I think that is enough for now. We'll see how long this lasts. One step at a time...