Favorite Quotes

"The fact that you think you are a person is a socially induced hallucination. There is not such thing as a person."
- D. Chopra, Playboy March 2011 interview

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Seuling Kicks Off The Direct Market

In November 1973, Phil Seuling convinces National Periodical Publications (DC Comics) and Warren Publishing Co. to sell new comic books to him on a non-returnable basis for distribution to comic book dealers.  Marvel Comics follows suit a month later.  This small start represents the beginning of the Direct Market distribution system of comic book stores that we have today.

Scholar Robert Beerbohm has said that Seuling didn't create the direct market but expanded the underground distribution system that already existed.  There is some truth to that, but not the complete truth.  As part of that system, Seuling undoubtedly was just adding items to his product mix that he was selling to dealers.  But the addition of new newsstand comics enabled a store to have enough continuous new product to survive on comic books and related materials alone.  Underground comix creators did not produce enough material to do that.  It also nearly guaranteed stores could get every comic book issue they wanted, which was not the case with the newsstand distribution system.  This was a fundamental change in distribution and created a new system, the Direct Market.

This new system also saved and marginalized comic books in North America at the same time.  The Direct Market's growth in the 1970s and 1980s rescued the comic book from an increasingly hostile newsstand environment while at the same time focusing the product on a small segment of superhero fans.  This focus excluded most women, girls and non-superhero readers.  This marginalization also meant that comic books were harder to find, so new readers declined.  This trend continued until the acceptance of manga trade paperbacks and graphic novels by bookstores in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

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