DC Retailer Roundtable Program (RRP) 2002

I'm going to take a break from last week's discussion about utilizing the Internet for marketing new comics. I still have quite a few ideas I want to cover on that subject, but I just returned from the DC retailer conference in Burbank, California, and I am so wired about what I saw there that I feel that I have to jump right in on reporting my observations of that great event, before my memory fades.

To begin, the DC RRP (Retailer Roundtable Program) is an invitation-only conference that DC sponsors approximately every 18 months. The original purpose of the program was to give the DC editorial and marketing staffs the opportunity to ask selected retailers (in a very private environment) about what they thought of DC's efforts during the previous year, and to explore how DC might be able to improve in the future. This program began in the early 1990's with just a few comics retailers attending, and has now expanded to over 60 retailer organizations being represented at this year's conference.

The cool part about the RRP is that sales volume, alone, will not get you invited. DC bases its criteria for invitations more on the capacity of given retailers to innovate, and to bring an open mind to the discussions, than on how many stores they might have, or how many comics they sold last month. The net result is that the attendees of the RRP represent organizations ranging in size from Mile High Comics and large multi-store chains, all the way down to individual mom-n-pop stores from very small markets. The entire goal of this gathering is for DC to set into motion wide-ranging discussions which might start on DC-specific issues, but which oftentimes have far-reaching implications for the comics industry as a whole. With DC having invited such a broad spectrum of comics retailers to participate in the discussions, we frequently learn much more from each other's diverse perspectives and experiences than we could ever discover on our own. Because I learn so much from my peers during these discussions, I will state for the record that I feel that the DC RRP meeting is the single most important event that I can attend in any given year.

I'm not going to go into great detail about what we discussed during this year's meetings at this time, because there were simply too many interesting topics, several of which will probably end up as expanded columns in this space over the next couple of months. What I do want to mention, however, is that I came away from this particular conference amazed at the extraordinary intellectual capacity of the comics retailers at the RRP. This may come as somewhat of a surprise to those of you who buy into the media stereotypes (ala' SIMPSONS and FUNKY WINKERBEAN) of comics retailing professionals being weak-minded, greedy, socially dysfunctional louts. I've always been bothered by that unfair portrayal, but there's no doubt that being a professional comics retailer is certainly an alternative lifestyle, and that more than a few comics retailers have manifested the very boorish characteristics parodied by Matt Groening and Tom Batuik.

That having been said, my experience has been that most comics retailing professionals are smart, hard-working individuals who have made a very expensive lifestyle choice in order to do something that they really love. Almost everyone who sells comics for a living (either as an owner or a staff member) could make quite a bit more money working in another field. The reasons we stay are for the love of the art form, and the love of the comics business. On a professional level, the comics world is still small enough that once you've been in for a while, you get to know a great many of your peers. As such, you become a part of a community filled with a very diverse set of individuals, bound together by a common love of comics, and graphic storytelling. As in any community, we have those who excel, and those who just get by, but the bottom line is that we're the ones keeping the entire comics industry alive right now, and I, for one, take great pride in knowing that to be true. I just wish you could have been a fly on the wall during the discussions at the RRP. I think you would have been amazed at the intellect, and the passion for comics, that was expressed by everyone attending the conference. Any doubts you might have had about the professionalism required to be a successful comics retailer would have been dispelled immediately.

In closing, I would ask you to take a moment to thank your local comics retailer the next time you see him, or her at work. All I ask is that you remember that with over 80% of all comics now sold through Direct Market retailers, without them making the personal sacrifices that they do, there would be no comic books being published. We certainly love what we do, and would probably be doing it even if it paid less than it does now, but it would still be nice to get a little respect and appreciation. We've all gone through some exceptionally hard financial times during the past 10 years, and it would sure be nice to hear that you care and appreciate our efforts and sacrifice. You never know, your moment of offering thanks may be the catalyst that keeps your personal comics retailer from finally giving up the fight. That's why I'm encouraging you to show your appreciation. In these tough days, we need every professional comics retailer that we can possibly keep in the business...

Next week, I'll return to discussing utilizing the Internet to revitalize the comics world.

Please send your e-mails to chuck@milehighcomics.com, and your letters to:

Mile High Comics, Inc.
Attn: Chuck Rozanski
2151 W. 56th Ave.
Denver, CO 80221

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