At the MoCCA Festival panel on running a comics shop, the topic of Before Watchmen came up as part of a discussion of pull lists. Tucker Stone, manager of Bergen Street Comics in Brooklyn, volunteered that his store wouldn't be ordering the miniseries except for those customers who've already requested it.
ComiXology’s David Steinberger was in the audience and asked Stone to clarify why that was. "We’re gonna lose money," Stone said. "We’ll probably lose customers. It was a decision that was made."
I wasn't there, and it's difficult for me to interpret Stone's additional comments without hearing his tone of voice or reading his body language, but based on the panel report, it sounds like this was a decision that wasn't without controversy even among Bergen Street's staff. Stone continued, "When I heard that decision, I said that’s a bad idea. That’s an explanation that I’ll have to give over and over again." But, "as time has gone on, as I’ve seen online response to that project ... This is just gross, and we don’t want to be part of this one. We’ll participate with the grossness they did to Kirby on the Avengers books, but this one ..."
Heidi MacDonald attended the panel and reports that her tweets about it "got a vociferous response from pros and retailers alike who felt that Bergen Street was being irresponsible and leaving money on the table." That raises some interesting questions about the role of retailers in creators' rights issues. Should shop owners serve their own sense of right and wrong (not that all retailers agree about what that looks like in this situation) or does that not matter compared to the mandate to serve the customer? I don't feel qualified to cast judgment either way until I have a comics shop and a family and employees that depend on how I run it, but it's fascinating to think about.
Comics shops uniquely personify the struggle many comics fans are experiencing as they think about these things. Which matters more: creators' rights or my right to read what I want?
(John Douglas' Watchmen Too: The Squid cover from Relaunched!.)