Greg Bennett, one of the owners of the Big Planet Comics chain, agreed to answer some questions for us in the wake of Big Monkey's closing.
Big Monkey Comics, in their closing announcement said, "It wasn't Galactus, Lex Luthor, or Dr. Doom that defeated us, but simple dollars and cents. The economy has adversely affected so many people, and we are the latest casualty." Has the economy affected the Big Planet chain?
Of course. We've had to adjust our business model with the times. Mostly we're not selling as many big-ticket items as we did before last September. But overall, we're doing just fine. Recession isn't really a bad time to be in the escapism business, if you think about it.
There are 4 Big Planet stores - 2 in suburban Maryland (Bethesda and College Park), 1 in DC (Georgetown) and 1 in Virginia (Vienna). Do you see a different clientele for the stores?
As you would imagine, spanning from suburban Northern Virginia to the university town of College Park, our clienteles are a bit varied, and there are some different seasonal fluctuations as well. But all four stores carry the same core product--good comics for people who like to read good comics--ranging from super-hero to indy.
Are comics about to top out their price again, with Marvel's raise to $3.99 per comic?
You know as much as I do. DC is at least making sure that all of their $3.99 comics have extra content that justifies the price. I think Marvel is testing the market to see if it will bear $3.99 for a standard 32-page comic.
What's selling the best now? The worst?
The best--Batman and Robin by Morrison and Quitely, Blackest Night by Geoff Johns, et al. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill. Anything by Bendis, Brubaker, or Jason Aaron at Marvel. Robert Kirkman's Walking Dead and Invincible at Image. The Darwyn Cooke Parker: The Hunter GN and Asterios Polyp by David Mazzuchelli were also really big for us.
The worst--mostly extraneous mini-series by no-name creators from Marvel, and DC to a lesser extent. People are definitely not looking for more side titles to buy during the recession.
Any comments on the Disney purchase of Marvel? Any guess as to effects on comics?
Let's just say that I don't think Disney will do anything to adversely affect the value of Marvel, since they're over-paying by close to a billion dollars. And if you look at what they've done with Pixar, I think that's turned out quite well for both companies.
Any comments on DC's conversion to DC Entertainment and Paul Levitz's departure? Any guess as to effects on comics?
I don't really have a lot of information on that. My guess is that the trains will keep running more-or-less on time, and that there may be some more synergies utilized between the comics, movies, animation, and video games--probably a good thing in the long run. Paul's done a lot of great things at DC, and it sounds like he's going to continue to work with the comics there, just not as much on the administrative side. After 25+ years, he deserves a break.
Anything you're excited about coming out now?
Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys, and Monster, and Pluto--his take on Tezuka's Astro Boy. I'm not a big manga guy, but Urasawa is truly amazing. DC's weekly Wednesday Comics, Strange Tales from Marvel, Asterios Polyp, Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire, Little Lulu reprints in color from Dark Horse My guiltiest pleasure is the soap opera that is the current Superman family of titles, being written by James Robinson, Greg Rucka, and Sterling Gates--great fun, and a new chapter almost every week.
Anyone you're looking forward to seeing at SPX?
Gahan Wilson, 1980s RAW legend Jerry Moriarity, John Porcellino, Matt Kindt, whose new book 3 Story: The Secret History of the Giant Man from Dark Horse should be out. Hans Rickheit, with his new book, The Squirrel Machine, and Josh Neufeld with his New Orleans A.D. GN. I was sad to hear that Jeff Lemire couldn't make it, but I think he has a new baby. And I'm hoping that Mark Burrier will bring some more skateboards.