Yes, this was before Turok Dinosaur Hunter #1 came out.

§ November 15th, 2017 § Filed under market crash § 5 Comments


Here’s an interesting artifact of the early ’90s comics market boom/bust…a letter from Voyager Communications (the publisher of Valiant Comics) encouraging retailers to lessen their dependence on the Big Two companies and be more open to upping orders on indies (like, oh, say, Valiant Comics). I like the list of then-current perceived problems in the direct market at the beginning of the letter. I vaguely remember the Marvel/DC retail chain thing. I don’t remember there being any distribution/”apportioning” problems with the Robin hologram covers…I just remember there were too many of them! And toys…man, toys are still a weird thing for comics shops to deal with, given that on some items it’s way too hard to compete with chain stores re: wholesale pricing and release dates.

The advice in this letter isn’t bad, by any means…a more diverse product line is usually a healthier option. And “consider trimming orders of titles that don’t sell for you” may seem like “no duh” advice, but trust me, that wasn’t happening as often as it should. Plus, by the time this letter got around (late 1991, I think, given the letter was with a Shadowman #1 promo), it may have been too little, too late for some shops. There were more excesses yet to come, with the Death (and Return) of Superman right around the corner, and I think X-Men #1 may have been happening about the time of this letter, and we still had Image Comics on its way, not to mention a certain title mentioned in the very subject line of this post. Money was being made, yes, at least for a time, but too much unsold stock was piling up as well, and when that crash hit, those high orders would kill you. (Wrote a bit about that a couple of months ago.)

I see also that Dark Horse Comics and Continuity Comics were cc-ed this particular memo, presumably to…I don’t know, get them to chime in or something. They had their own then-forthcoming attempts at seizing market share that may have helped spread some retailers thin…”Comics’ Greatest World,” one of too many new “universes” companies were trying to get off the ground, or Valeria the She-Bat, which required some hoop-jumping in order to get the early (and as it turned out, almost the only) issues of the series. And there were some kind of shenanigans with the “Deathwatch 2000” crossover that I barely recall now, but just remember it was a pain in the butt and it turned out nobody cared anyway.

And I won’t even mention Deathmate. Well, except right then.

Basically, there’s a lot of blame to share in the 1990s market crash. It ain’t just on Marvel and DC’s shoulders, and some bad choices by some retailers themselves didn’t help either.

Anyway, thank goodness weird publishing initiatives like that are all behind us now! Just smooth sailing ahead for the comics industry!

5 Responses to “Yes, this was before Turok Dinosaur Hunter #1 came out.”

  • James G. says:

    I got out of comics for a while, and was pulled back in by Transmetropolitan, which is a pretty awesome way to get back into the medium. So there is a bunch of stuff that you mention (Deathwatch 2000, X-Men #1) that I don’t even know what that means, or what it’s implications to the direct market, retail system, etc were. I don’t even know what a Deathmate is, unless it’s an ex-GF (buddum-chihhh, I’ll be here all week). Can you elaborate a little, or is there somewhere (other than googling that for me) that you could recommend?

  • Zoot Koomie says:

    I had completely forgotten about Continuity Comics. If you’re looking for content to write about, I’d be interested in a retrospective.

    I was buying lots of Dark Horse, First, and Eclipse books at the time and still didn’t recognize most of their titles when I looked them up just now. How did they sell compared to the other small publishers?

  • Mikester says:

    James ‘n’ Zoot: I’ll try to address your questions on Friday!

  • Rich Handley says:

    It’s kind of funny to think that Dark Horse was once considered a small publisher.

  • Chris Gumprich says:

    I feel bad for actually knowing what “Deathwatch 2000” was, not to mention remembering that there were actually two competing “She-Bat” comics out around that time (“Valeria” and… “Murcielega”? I refuse to Google it.)

    My collection is filled with 90s books that I regret buying.

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