So following up on my brief grumbling about DC Comics and their handing of the 3D covers for Villains Month….
To recap briefly: DC Comics is replacing their regular superhero series for the month of September with what is essentially 52 supervillain “one-shots” as part of their line-wide “Forever Evil” crossover event, though they are all branded and numbered as part of particular series. For example, what would have been one issue of Action Comics for that month is now Action Comics #23.1 through #23.4, four weekly issues of Action each featuring a different villain. And on top of that, DC is using advanced lenticular imagery to give each cover a 3D effect.
In ordering these special issues, I had to take into effect the following considerations:
1. I needed enough copies to cover in-store sales, both for customer pull boxes and for sales off the rack (based on sales histories for each title over previous months).
2. I needed to gauge how many extra copies I’d need to cover extra interest caused by being a crossover tie-in.
3. I also had to estimate interest based on the specific villain being featured in each issue. (A Joker comic will sell forever…a Count Vertigo comic I’d probably have to staple dollar bills to the cover to get people to take it home.)
4. And then, of course, I had to use the immense precognitive powers all comic retailers must develop to foresee how many extra copies I’m going to sell because AWESOME 3D COVERS, DUDE!
After too many weeks of agonizing over these things (particular over Justice League: Dial E, tying together one of DC’s highest selling titles with one of their lowest, and wondering how stuck I’m going to be with copies), I finally settled on numbers I could live with for each title. I had enough to cover regular monthly sales, I believed I had enough to handle any additional interest each individual title might bring in, and I thought I had enough of a buffer to accommodate folks attracted by the 3D novelty.
And then this happened. DC wasn’t able to produce enough copies of the 3D versions of these titles to meet demand, resulting in allocation of retailer orders and the announcement of alternative editions of these comics with regular 2D covers.
In my case, it’s not as bad as it could have been, but Good Lord it ain’t good. Out of 52 titles, my orders on eight remain unchanged. On eleven books (including some particularly significant ones, like some Justice League titles), my orders were cut in half. Even more than half, in a couple of cases. Some orders were only dropped by about 1/3, but that’s enough of a cut to be problematic. In a number of cases, I only lost a few copies, sometimes as little as two. And, oddly enough, in the case of at least one title, I was allocated more than I ordered (which has me wondering if DC way overestimated the popularity of that one issue when originally setting their print runs).
For a couple of the drastically reduced titles, I am going to be stuck with not enough of the 3D covers to even cover pull lists, though discussion with some customers has shown that they’re sympathetic to the situation we find ourselves in, that it’s not our fault and they’re okay with receiving 2D covers if necessary.
Plus, there’s another potential hiccup, even with the titles for which I’m receiving my full orders (or close to full orders). The news regarding the allocation of the 3D covers has been widely disseminated, which means it’s widely known (or at least perceived that) these books are in short supply, which will jump up demand beyond that which I anticipated. As I noted, I based my orders on particular factors, but not one of them was “DC won’t be able to print enough of them, ensuring I don’t get even the numbers I ordered.” I was doing my level best to estimate sales levels on previous histories, demand for specific characters, and general interest in the 3D effect. Now that we’ll likely have “speculation” and “other stores trying to buy copies for their shelves” and “I hear these are rare, we better buy ’em” goosing sales, rack copies are going to dry up immediately, even with one-per-customer limits that we’re almost certainly going to have to impose. Even on that one Joker issue, for which I am getting my full order, but will now surely blow off the shelves.
Ordering the 2D cover alternatives to make up the 3D cover shortages was bit of a bear as well, though, as I said, some of my customers are cool with having 2D replacements. But now, I have to reconsider what my potential racks sales are going to be, as my estimates were at least partially based on the 3D covers attracting attention. Point 4 is now no longer a consideration in my numbered list above, which would have been the dealmaker in at least a few of the more borderline titles being offered. No offense to the World’s Biggest Count Vertigo Fan, who is very likely reading my website right now and is about to shoot off an angry email to me, but a Count Vertigo comic with a cool 3D cover might have sold to someone with no prior interest in Count Vertigo out of the novelty of it all. A plain ol’ Count Vertigo cover may not have grabbed that same customer.
Of course, Harley Quinn and Joker and Lobo and the like will sell comics regardless of how many dimensions their covers have…I plan on getting plenty of the 2D versions of those titles. Regardless, this whole hoohar DC caused by their overreach and inability to provide the product they promised is going to make a very nervous September for us, as I hope the orders I did my best to estimate will actually reflect reality. Otherwise, you may see me in front of the shop, rattling a tin can and asking for spare change.
Sigh. I hear if you look closely, you can actually see the grey hair shooting out of my scalp.
In other more amusing news: where I lead, Grant Morrison follows! Big news over the last couple of days, as Morrison revealed his interpretation of the end of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s Batman: The Killing Joke. Basically, Morrison thinks at the end of the story, based on particular storytelling clues, Batman kills the Joker.
Why yes, that is an interesting interpretation, and old news to longtime readers of this site, who may remember I came to the same conclusion nearly a decade ago. …Of course, I’m sure I wasn’t the first, and in the end it’s just an interpretation of the ending, and not necessarily reflective of any direct intention of the authors. Not that I got anywhere near the blowback on this at the time that Morrison’s receiving now, since Morrison seems to attract his share of folks getting the vapors whenever he says anything. But anyway, I was a bit bemused by this turn of events, and my thanks to folks on the Twitterers who did their best to point out my original post.
One last item: Bully, the Bull Who Walks Like A Little Stuffed Bull, was responsible for my corner box image last week, in case you wanted to know what that was all about.