Friday, September 7, 2012

It's a Great Big Superhero World! (At Target)

Superhero toys
During a recent trip to Target I noticed, as I'm sure you have, that there is a TON of comic book related merchandise for sale in a store like Target or Walmart. I wanted to find out exactly how much stuff. So here was the rule - to "count" the item in question has to come from a property that STARTED as a comic book. So Batman and Spider-Man count but Casper and Strawberry Shortcake do not. I wanted to count how many items are for sale at a Target that have comic book inspired.

This is much harder to do than you might think. I started out just walking around the store with a notepad and making tally marks but it quickly became overwhelming.

I decided the best thing to do would be to make a gift registry with all of the items. That way, the computer would tally the items up for me.

What I discovered was that items are available in several major categories.

Video games
First, are, of course, toys. There are a wide spectrum of superhero toys available. In fact, they have their own aisle! Spider-Man, Batman, and the Avengers dominated the aisle, of course, because of the movies this summer. But there were plenty of other toys available as well. Marvel Super Hero Squad was well represented. Toys are available for all ages and all levels of sophistication. Lines such as the Bonkazonks, Marvel Miniature, and Marvel Legends diversified the offerings. There were a lot of dress-up clothes as well like superhero masks, Hulk gloves, Iron Man chest light, and Spider-Man web shooters.

Games are another category that was well represented. The Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG is available for sale at Target. There are plenty of board games. But video games was a big category unto itself such as Batman's Arkham Asylum.

 Perhaps the biggest category, however, is apparel. Shirts, pajamas, shoes, hats, underwear... pretty much anything you can wear, it's available with something comic book related on it. I noticed that the superheroes were directed toward boys only. There was no clothing in the little girl or adult woman's section related to comic books. How odd, right? I mean, girls like comics and comic book movies too, don't they? There is plenty of sports team apparel made for females - why not comic book items?

Party Supplies
Party supplies was another big category. Pretty much when you choose a theme for a party you want EVERYTHING to go along with that theme so the numbers quickly add up. Cups, plates, party favors, decorations, not to mention birthday cards.

There were a ton of food items that bore the image of a superhero as well. As you can well imagine, everything from fruit snacks to frozen pizzas were adorned with and shaped like a superhero. Superheroes sell a lot of food.

DVDs were a natural category because superhero movies are so popular this summer.  Not only did Target have a ton of DVDs from popular superhero movies, it also had a bunch of non-superhero movies such as 300, V for Vendetta, and Howard the Duck as well. To up the count even further many of these movies were available in multiple versions - deluxe packages, widescreen vs fullscreen, and BluRays.

The last category I would call "miscellaneous." In this category goes everything that doesn't fit into one of the other categories. Pretty much anything you can stick a superhero's picture on, they've done it. Notebooks, folders, pens, lunchboxes, picture books, bikes, fishing poles, backpacks... the list is nearly endless.

So, how many different comic book inspired items does Target carry? It's hard to give an exact number and it depends on how you would count. Should every different toy in a line of toys count as an item or does the entire toy line count as one item? While an exact number eludes me, here's what is for certain: It is WELL OVER 500 items no matter how you count in difficult categories (if you counted every item individually it would perhaps be as many as 900 or 1,000). That's a LOT of merchandise bearing the likenesses of characters coming from comic books.

Surely there is no doubt that we live in the Comic Book Age. A large portion of our culture is dedicated to these iconic heroes.

X-Men Trilogy (X-Men / X2: X-Men United / X-Men: The Last Stand) Movie Poster
What mystifies me is this: The one item that Target doesn't sell? COMIC BOOKS! How is this possible? Target is willing to sell anything with Spider-Man's image except for Spider-Man comics? Surely if Target did carry them they would sell. And while I'm sure comic book shops are glad that they don't, how can the big comic book companies walk away from such huge outlets such as Target and Walmart? Imagine the audiences that could be reached that aren't otherwise! I know for myself as a kid I used to buy all of my comics at a local gas station I could walk to. Were those comics not sold in that gas station I doubt I would have become the avid comic book fan I am today. Try finding comics in a gas station today. You can't do it!

So, come on, Target and Walmart! Start selling comic books! After all, you're certainly willing to profit from superheroes everywhere else in your stores.

One side note: Aside from superheroes it was impossible for me to miss the second place property: Cars 2. Even though this movie was released over a year ago it is still extremely popular as a brand and can be found in almost all of the same categories I listed above for superheroes.


  1. To answer your question about comic books: It's because all that merchandise has everything to do with movie and animated TV show tie-ins, and very little to do with comic books. The comic book industry is more geared toward adults, even the superhero market.

    1. I agree 100%... still, you'd think it would be a no brainer to put a bunch of Spider-Man Batman, and Avengers graphic novels in a Target this summer... but no - not a one!