Does whatever an iron can.

§ August 17th, 2015 § Filed under retailing, self-promotion § 7 Comments

So here’s something that happened a few times this past weekend that I’m surprised hasn’t popped up more often in recent months: customers looking for the latest Avengers or X-Men or whatever, and I have to tell them most of Marvel’s Big Name Series are currently on hiatus while the Secret Wars event is underway. I also let them know that new series for most of these titles are on their way, but, unfortunately, that doesn’t do any good right this very moment.

Reactions are mixed. Sometimes the customer will try out one of the Secret Wars tie-ins that’s related to the character/team requested, or s/he’ll buy some of that character’s back issues, or some non-Marvel book will be bought instead. (Or maybe the customer will try to opt for no purchase, but no one gets out of my store without buying somethin’, see.) As I said, this hasn’t been a big problem, but I had enough people bring it up in a short period of time for me to realize, oh, hey, yeah, having all the standards on hold while doing your big event could cause a minor issue.

Related: I was discussing with some fellow retailer pals this forthcoming Invincible Iron Man #1 that’s part of Marvel’s post-Secret Wars publishing initiative. Yeah, there’s a whole slew of new #1s headed our way…and to be fair, a lot of them look like they’ll be pretty good. That new Extraordinary X-Men by Jeff Lemire and Humberto Ramos, for example, seems like it’ll be fun, so long as they can hang onto that creative team. Anyway, I digress…our concern with a new Iron Man series is that Iron Man comics have, of late…underperformed, shall we say. And I would love, love, love a great selling Iron Man comic to burn up my racks, but conservatively-ordering this particular series seems like the smart move. I hope I’m wrong, and that everyone rediscovers their love of four-color Tony Stark, but recent sales history shows otherwise.

Now since I’ve had that discussion, the very high order numbers (relatively speaking) of that particular issue of Iron Man became a bit of a news item. That linked article mentions it would be the highest-selling issue of Iron Man in years, and, well, highest-selling to retailers, sure…whether those retailers can in turn sell those comics to customers is another story entirely. We’ll see soon enough. Like I said, I hope it sells great. There certainly won’t be any shortage of them.

I’ve been asked why I think Iron Man comics haven’t been selling as well as they could be, especially since they’re the basis of an extremely popular series of movies. That could be the problem: the movies deliver a more visceral thrill, present a more relatable cast of characters, than the comics can, and the comics suffer as a result. Oh, and also, most people who see Iron Man movies don’t read comics. And on top of that, Iron Man, in the comics world, is still kind of a…well, “second-stringer” seems a bit harsh. Maybe “one-and-a-half stringer” is closer to it, and the comics sales just reflect that status.

Or maybe people just didn’t like his comics. Hey, it happens. Maybe this new series will be the Iron Man comic everyone’s been waiting for.

• • •

This week’s Trouble with Comics roundtable question was “what makes a perfect comic shop?” and while the temptation to answer “having me running it!” was strong, I put a little more thought into it than that. You can read my responses, and those of my fellow Troublemakers, right here. Given as how I’ve devoted a lot of the past 11+ years of my site to this very question, not to mention this retailing column I wrote, you may find some of my answers familiar. But hey, I’m old now, I’m allowed to repeat the same ol’ stories over and over.

Back to Trouble with Comics: you can see what those folks have been getting up to over the past week in this summary post.

7 Responses to “Does whatever an iron can.”

  • Old Bull Lee says:

    I wonder if it’s easy for us to see this as a comics-only problem.

    I know plenty of guys who like superhero movies along with regular action movies, but they’re not going to pick up Iron Man comics because they’re just not into reading.

    Those same guys may like movies with Jack Ryan or Jason Bourne and never pick up Clancy or Ludlum books for the same reason.

  • philip says:

    I’m one of those weirdoes (I can’t be the only one, right?) who usually avoids superhero movies because I’ve read the comics.

    I guess I don’t feel the need to go see a film version of a story I already know. Or a weird-ass interpretation of characters I like. Nevermind the tendency for superhero movies to be so ponderous and “serious” (“Guardians of the Galaxy” excepted).

  • If the stories reflected the fun RJD version of Stark, it would sell. They had that for a while with Fraction, but event after event interrupted stories. Then they made him not a Stark (adopted) and then turned him into a total jerk. It’s not hard to see why people stopped reading.
    Now will people suddenly want a book just because its written by Bendis and has (gasp!) new armor? And is there enough of a market for 14 variant covers? I’m siding with you on caution. Even doubling my sales of the last issue would be a comfortable number, in the range of Green Lantern, for me.

  • Am I bad person since I’ve never liked IRON MAN and I am not a huge fan of Bendis, that I’m glad they’ve been paired off?

    Sure, some of Bendis’ work is ok. If you squint and forget how a character has traditionally been portrayed and ignore their canonical history. Then, yes…some of Bendis’ writing can be fun.

    But to me, this is a good move.
    Metaphorically placing him and Stark on a boat and setting them off together.

    The boat won’t sink, mind you. Marvel WILL ensure sales somehow.
    Even if it’s by cooking the numbers.

    What? Oh sure… I’M the bad guy.


  • Snark Shark says:

    “well, “second-stringer” seems a bit harsh.”

    No, that’s about right. The title was probably a mid-range seller for most of it’s run, and he wasn’t as well known to the general public as Captain America, Hulk, Spider-Man, or the X-Men. Until the movies, anyway.

  • Bill D. says:

    I kinda wonder if those numbers mean that Lootcrate or something plan on including copies in a future shipment, sorta like how the numbers for Rocket Raccoon #1 were goosed in a similar fashion.