Oh, did I say “briefly?”

§ October 27th, 2017 § Filed under dc comics, publishing, teen titans § 6 Comments

So earlier in the year I spent some time talking about DC’s “hardcover/softcover” publishing program for New Teen Titans, Legion of Super-Heroes, etc. (posts 1 and a 2 and a 3). Thus, if you still need an explanation of what it’s all about, please refer to those posts, because I’m gettin’ back into it briefly for today’s entry.

Before I get to my main point, let me present this to you. Despite being reprints of the direct-sales only New Teen Titans title, the newsstand editions didn’t reuse the previously-published covers, but instead had brand new covers commissioned for each issue, which you can see over at the Grand Comics Database. Some of those covers were pretty sharp, and then there was this weird-ass thing Brian Bolland unleashed upon your unsuspecting 7-11s and Stop ‘n’ Go shops:


Imagine being the fella cutting open bundles of the latest periodicals to fill the racks and seeing that staring back at you. “THE KIDS THESE DAYS, WHAT ARE THEY INTO?” you’d clearly be thinking to yourself. I mean, that’s an amazing drawing, and one you won’t soon forget, but hey, it’s Comics Code-approved, so I guess the kids are safe. Oh, Brian Bolland, you’ve done it again!

Anyway, what I really asked you all here for is to talk about the last issue of Tales of the Teen Titans, #91 from 1988:


…with its Justice League #1-inspired cover acknowledged by artists Michael Collins and Romeo Tanghal. What’s particularly interesting is the frankness of the editorial page inside, explaining that while they wanted to keep all Titans fans caught up with their adventures, the sad fact was that this reprint series just wasn’t selling enough to keep it going. The newsstand customers for this comic are then implored to seek out the direct-sales “hardcover” version of New Teen Titans at comic shops or other venues, or to use the subscription ad in the inside back cover to start getting that series in the mail.

And here’s where my question about this comes in. At the end of the book is a back-up story of sorts, with Nightwing and Changeling giving a brief synopsis of the “missing year” between the main story reprinted in this issue, and the events in the current issue of New Teen Titans, so any readers making the jump from newsstand edition to direct sales edition wouldn’t be lost. The story ends with this panel:


…but the ad he’s pointing to on the inside back cover is this:


…which features only Action Comics Weekly, Power of the Atom and The Wanderers. What I was wondering…was there a separate coupon just for New Teen Titans bound into the comic at this point (seems unlikely), or…if you’ll look back at that scan above of issue #91, you’ll see there’s no UPC code. Thus, this was a copy sold through comic shops…despite being published specifically for newsstands, copies were also available through the direct market for those completists or the thrifty, as previously discussed. To finish my thought, what I was wondering was if there were maybe different subscription ads inside the back covers of copies that went to newsstands versus those that went to comic shops. Alas, I don’t have a copy of the newsstand edition on hand, but it definitely exists.

I honestly don’t know the answer. The previous place of employment no longer has copies, else I’d check there, but maybe one of you can check the copy in your collection and let me know. For your effort, you’ll win the prestigious “Hey, That’s My Name in a Progressive Ruin Post!” award, with a cash value of exactly nuthin’.

My initial thought was that they would have changed the subscription ad for comic shops so that they weren’t explicitly telling readers to send money directly to DC instead of spending money at the place where you presumably purchased that copy of #91. But, then again…that’s still a subscription ad, including (I think) the direct-sales only Wanderers. Anyway, I don’t know, but if you know, please let me know. You know? I realize this isn’t the most vital information in the world, but I am curious. And hey, if you’re a Titans completist, maybe now you’re aware there’s kinda sorta a new story in the back of that last issue you need to have.

Speaking of curiosity, I was wondering just what the sales numbers on this comic were near the end there, and luckily for me, I found the yearly Statement of Ownership in the first issue I looked at (#88):


…and if I’m reading the statement correctly, this sales on this series would put it solidly in the top 25 today. Times have certainly changed. And hoo boy, that’s a lotta returns.

6 Responses to “Oh, did I say “briefly?””

  • Thom H. says:

    That Brian Bolland cover is…intense. I just wish everyone on it had four eyes so that there were MORE EYES staring at me.

    As an aside: It’s kind of incredible that, by the time New Teen Titans switched to its direct-market version, the team consisted almost entirely of characters created by Wolfman and Perez. Of the two remaining original Teen Titans, one had been given an entirely new origin and the other had been given an entirely new identity.

    I think that really speaks to a) the power of Wolfman and Perez’s vision for the book and b) fan’s interest in the “Claremont method” of storytelling (for lack of a better term) where characters actually change and grow over a long period of time under the direction of a single writer. So different than titles being published today (in good and bad ways).

    End aside. And thanks for bringing up this topic again — it really hits a nostalgia sweet spot for me!

  • Dallas Senosco says:

    The quick napkin math says that’s ~360 long boxes of returns on one issue? (125,941 copies \ 350 comics a long box)

    WOW-zers. That’s just a buttload of tonnage of sad, inefficient, trucking waste & landfill pulp of 4 color funnybooks.
    And then you realize that it was done 100+ times a month.

    Really hope some scraps got turned into phonebooks, cat litter, piñatas, boxes for shipping comics back to stores. . .

  • Ben says:

    Those ‘direct sales’ versions weren’t just for comic shops. Over here in the UK that’s what we got on the newsstands (or “in the newsagents” as we’d say over here). You can see from the Titans issue there that the direct sales versions have a UK price on them.

    Strange thing about that was, through some odd distribution shenanigans, we got all of the Direct Sales titles in the newsagents as well, so chances are you could’ve bought both that Tales of the Teen Titans issue and the latest Baxter Titans book at the same newsstand.

    No non-specialist retailer on this side of the pond ever knew or cared about the Comics Code or took any notice of the ‘Suggested for Mature Readers’ recommendations – fond memories for me of buying Morrison’s Animal Man from my local newsagent at the tender age of 9 or so, along with Slash Maraud, Tom Veitch’s awful Clash/The Nazz, Byrne’s prestige OMAC book, all sorts of oddball stuff that would presumably have been much more strictly policed in the States.

    All of which is to say, I don’t know the answer to your question but reckon you might be onto something given the entire cover (front and back) would’ve been the only bit printed separately for the two versions. Hope someone has got a copy kicking about to check!

  • googum says:

    Returns, or “returns”? Didn’t they used to have to mail back part of the cover for credit, but not always?

  • Dave Carter says:

    That was the thing about the newsstand: due to the potentially large number of returns, comics had to sell many more copies to be profitable than they do under the non-returnable direct market. So if your average press run is 200K, but your average sales are only 70K, that’s going to suck up your profit right there (even on a reprint book).

  • Chris G says:

    That’s more of a send-off than TALES OF THE LEGION got – as I remember, it just stopped. No “bridge” to the Baxter book, no note from the publisher, or anything else. Kind of a sad end for a book that had run for thirty-some years.

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