Comic books fight new arch villain: The economy

Superman and Spider-Man have not shown any signs of weakness — yet.

However, they’re facing a pretty solid foe in the economy.

The retail climate that has consumers spending less is not escaping the comic book industry.

“I’ve seen people cut back on stuff they want,” said Mike McDaniel, owner of Heros and Villains Comics and Games, 1245 Russell Parkway, Warner Robins.

McDaniel said many comic book collectors place orders months in advance and when people fall on hard times or tighten up on spending, comics are likely one of the first things they drop.

“If someone wants to cut back (spending) and they run into financial problems, they may not order as many (comic book) titles,” McDaniel said.

Times have changed significantly since he opened his store.

“It’s a totally different climate,” he said. “We’ve been here five years and have seen growth. This year is the first year we may see that shrink.”

McDaniel said February was one of his worst months since opening, but he’s confident things will bounce back largely because regular buyers of comics and graphic novels are going to buy.

“I’ve got people who are loyal fans ... they will not miss an issue ... comic fans are pretty rabid,” he said.

McDaniel’s favorite is Batman. “I’ve been reading comics since I was 8. I’m 40 now and I’ll be reading (comics) for the rest of my life.”

And when his life is over, McDaniel said he hopes to be buried with something Batman related. “I hope my wife will put something in my coffin, but we’ll see,” he said.

Jimmy Cooper, owner of Comics Plus, 4650 Forsyth Road, Macon, said he and many of his loyal customers will not stop buying comics and graphic novels anytime soon.

“People who are really into comics are going to buy them. I’d start eating cheap food before I stop buying comics,” he said. “Some people who are married and have families, they’d have to cut back.”

Cooper and McDaniel said their businesses always get a jolt when Hollywood releases superhero movies, such as “The Dark Knight” and “Watchmen,” which starts showing Friday.

“Whenever new movies come out, that brings people,” to the store, Cooper said.

Comics Plus typically has a pretty good stock of comics, action figures, models and supplies and Cooper said they don’t have to order extra merchandise when new movies are released.

He said that has not been the case with the buzz surrounding “Watchmen.”

“Many call it the greatest graphic novel of all times and there has been a big demand for product,” Cooper said Friday as he unpacked a shipment of merchandise.

“We had to order more since they’ve been advertising (‘Watchmen’) last year.”

McDaniel said he always recommends “Watchmen” — first released in the mid-1980s — to people who are new to comics and want a recommendation on what they should start reading first. “It’s in the top three” of all graphic novels, McDaniel said.

“We’ve sold out of all the (‘Watchmen’) graphic novels we had,” said Robert Marshall, owner of Avalon Comics, 3317 Northside Drive, Macon.

Marshall, who said his business is “doing alright,” said he saw an increase of new customers in his store recently when a cartoon President Obama shared the cover on some Spider-Man comic books with the web slinging, wall crawling hero.

“I sold all of them,” he said.

Information from McClatchy Newspapers was used in this article.