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I’m really not kidding about Sugar and Spike.

§ September 14th, 2015 § Filed under dc comics, retailing § 1 Comment

The cancellation of a few DC titles was just announced, and, well, it was a mix of surprising/not totally surprising.

Gotham by Midnight was the most surprising to me, as, while not a huge seller, my sales on what was essentially a Batman horror series was slowly creeping upward. But I guess it was doing so too slowly, so that’s that.

Justice League United was another semi-shock, but of late getting a Justice League book going that isn’t the main series is bit of an uphill battle. It’s no comment on the quality — and in fact the recent new direction of the series has been fun — but more a comment on just how many different Justice League comics people really want to buy. Even the newest iteration of Justice League of America has shown a dip in sales from the first issue, but we’re only three issues in so who knows if this is a trend or just settling in at a particular sales level.

The Omega Men title was a little surprising, too, if only because of the good buzz it was getting. Alas, good buzz doesn’t always equal sales, and though it was beginning to get something of a following at the shop, it was too little, too late. Were people put off by the title, remembering that there was an old series by that name and thinking this was a continuation? Was there not enough Batman in it?

Now Lobo…the traditional problem with Lobo wasn’t his character design, but his overuse. We saw an awful lot of the character in the ’80s and ’90s, and I think most of us are still kind of burnt out on him. The solution probably wasn’t this New 52 redesign, which took our biker-tough ruffian Lobo and turned him into this sleek, sophisticated assassin with style. But, I guess, they had to try something, and if it didn’t work…well, that’s okay. I expect Lobo will return with a back-to-basics (well, not too far back) approach soon enough.

Doomed, according to the article linked about, simply doesn’t have an entry in the new solicitations, so the assumption is that it’s cancelled. Who knows if it’s gone or not. Wouldn’t surprise me, since the first issue barely sold for me, and the later issues don’t sell at all. I mean, literally…I get one copy for the shelf, and then a month later I back issue it and put one copy of the next issue on the rack. Funny, I sell a lot of comics here….

Now, the problem with this series is the problem we’ve seen lately with follow-up series/mini-series to Big Events: by the time the Big Event is over, everyone’s pretty much done with it and don’t necessarily want to revisit it right away. Like, after Fear Itself was finished, out came Fear Itself: The Fearless and that was mostly given a hearty “no thank you” by the market. Same with this…we just endured approximately 1,000 “Doomsday” crossover event issues in the New 52’s Superman line of books, and then here comes yet another Doomsday-themed comic, and not even starring the Man of Steel.

I mean, I guess DC likes that Doomsday money, but aside from 1) having Doomsday turn up in the Superman books every month or three, or 2) having a series starring the actual Doomsday (which would be crazy and I’d absolutely read that) I don’t know how else they’d continue that specific subset of the franchise.

I’m glad at least DC is trying some new stuff and revisiting some old properties, though, like I’ve lamented before, I wish DC would just try some of these things out as mini-series first, since “the mini-series has reached its conclusion” sounds a lot better than “more books got canned.” I hope this doesn’t put the kibosh on that Sugar-and-Spike-as-adults mini. I am so looking forward to that.

How I was never quoted in any kind of advertising or on any print edition for All-Star Batman and Robin, I’ll never know.

§ August 20th, 2015 § Filed under dc comics, obituary § 6 Comments

So the other day I sold a copy of the Superman: Krypton Returns trade paperback, and as I flipped it over to get the price, I noticed the following pullquote on the back cover:

“Superman is still super.”

And, well…yes, I know it’s a play on words meaning “Superman comics are great!” but it’s hard not to look at that and immediately parse it as “Superman still retains super abilities, hence the name ‘Superman.'” But that got me to thinking.

I’ve been quoted by publishers in the past, once or twice. I know I had a quote on the back of an AiT/Planet Lar trade, and I was quoted in this Previews ad for a Rick Veitch book. But boy, I think it’d be pretty neat to get quoted on the back of a DC graphic novel.

And thus…DC Comics or representatives thereof, if you’re reading this, hear me out. Now, you guys ‘n’ gals publish, what, four or five dozen Batman graphic novels and trade paperbacks a month? I might be rounding up a bit, but it’s a whole lot. You’ve got plenty of space to fill on the backs of all those books with pullquotes from, like, the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal or Modern Bride or whatever. Now, my little site here, Progressive Ruin Super Adventure Hour and Family Recipes dot com, may only have approximately three quarters of the prestige of any of those fine publications/organizations, but surely there’s room for just a few words from your pal Mike.

You can use this quote for any Batman book you’d like. I would be perfectly okay endorsing any Bat-title with the following words:

“Batman is still batty.”

                            –Mike Sterling,

Perfect for every Batman story, I’m sure you’d agree. If you want to save it for the eventual print collection of Dark Knight III, feel free. If you want to use it on every Bat-collection over the next year, well, who could blame you? Anyway, I look forward to your usage of this pullquote, DC Comics.

• • •

All seriousness aside: just as there is the Best Batman, there was also the Best Batgirl, Yvonne Craig, who sadly passed away this week. Mark Evanier has a pretty good story about her that you should read.

So long, Yvonne.

In which Mike posts about DC Comics logos in the Year of Our Lord 2015.

§ May 11th, 2015 § Filed under dc comics § 9 Comments

So Reader Allan asked:

“I was browsing the DC Comics wikipedia page and realized today is the 10th anniversary of when DC announced the change of the DC Bullet logo to the DC Swirl and everyone lost their minds. Remember when that was a thing?”

Well, in fairness, folks with comics blogs at that particular moment in time lost their minds about just about anything, so what can you do? But yes, folks weren’t happy, but you know how we all are about anyone fiddling with our beloved superhero funnybooks.

At the time, ten years ago (and that I can refer back to something I posted on this site ten years ago puts some creaks in my joints, I’ll tell you what) I said:

“…A new DC logo? The heck? What was wrong with the old one? Okay, I guess we’ve had the DC Bullet for a while, and maybe we were due for a change…but all I can think when I look at this new logo is ‘boy, that’s going to have to be replaced in a few years.'”

And yeah, there was nothing wrong with the old bullet logo, really:

…aside from maybe being a little old-fashioned, which just won’t do when you’re a forward-thinking multimedia brand forging ahead into the 20th cen…er, 21st century. The replacement logo:

was a little fancier, and probably looked better in front of the cartoons and movies and whatnot…though, come to think of it, did that bullet logo ever get branded onto any of the cartoons or movies? I can’t really recall. Just imagine the DC Bullet spinning around here in place of the logo that replaced it:

I was right when I stated in that old post that they’d have to change the logo in a few years, because not much later we got this slightly more austere, if perhaps more professional “grown-up publisher” logo:

…which I’ve become used to, I suppose, which I’m sure comes as a great relief to DC Comics, Inc. I do like its use in the ending credits of the Arrow TV show, with all the arrows whizzing by:

But a part of me still misses this old logo:

I hope when the eventual direct-to-video Swamp Thing cartoon happens, that’s the one they’ll use.

Well, better make plans to visit the hat store.

§ March 30th, 2015 § Filed under dc comics § 4 Comments

So it has been pointed out to me on my site and elsewhere that DC Comics does appear to be planning a reprint volume of the very Doctor Fate comics I was dead certain would not be reprinted any time soon.

According to the Amazon listing:

“Collects 1ST ISSUE SPECIAL #9, stories from THE FLASH #306-313, THE IMMORTAL DOCTOR FATE #1-3, DR. FATE #1-4 and DC CHALLENGE #11.”

…which is kind of a weird way to put it, since The Immortal Doctor Fate is a reprint series that features the stories from 1st Issue Special #9 and The Flash #306-313. …Unless it’s also featuring the other stories reprinted in IDF #1 (a retelling of the origin from DC Special Series #10, and a Golden Age story from More Fun #56), in which case why not say “collects all that other stuff and DC Special Series #10 and More Fun #56″ and leave out mentioning Immortal Doctor Fate altogether. Or maybe the book is reprinting the covers from Immortal Doctor Fate, which, as far as I know, were new to that particular series.

Oh, hey, let Webster’s know that I’ve got a new definition of “nitpicking” for them. Thanks.

Anyway, including the four-issue Dr. Fate mini feels just a little odd…on one hand not too odd since it does feature the art of Keith Giffen, who drew all those Flash back-ups also reprinted in the book. On the other hand, it is a bit odd since it’s very much a transitional series, doing away with the decades-old version of Dr. Fate that most of the book is covering, and establishing a new status quo for the character. It feels like it would fit more as a prologue piece to a second Doctor Fate trade, as the monthly series that followed directly spins off from that mini. Instead they could have reprinted a couple of those Superman/Dr. Fate team-ups (from World’s Finest and DC Comics Presents, and I’m sure there are one or two appearance here and there that could have been squeezed in as well.

But they didn’t ask me, and frankly I’ll be surprised if there is a second Dr. Fate reprint volume, though I’m too busy eating this remarkably tasty Glengarry bonnet to vociferously deny its possibility. I’m glad that any kind of reprint is in the offing, even if my preference is to get more stuff that only exists on crummy, decaying newsprint represented on nice white paper with modern printing, like those Superman team-ups I mentioned, since the rest of that Dr. Fate material has already made it into a longer-lasting format.

The one really oddball thing about the book is, as reader BobH mentioned, the inclusion of some of Giffen’s Dr. Fate pages from DC Challenge, which must only be included here for completeness’s sake. In brief, for those who may not recall, DC Challenge was a round-robin mini-series, where random creative teams were assigned to each issue (after an initial installment by prime instigator of the series Mark Evanier), who were to resolve cliffhangers left for them by the creators of the previous issue, while setting up more difficult situations for the next creators to deal with, and simultaneously attempting to push along whatever was passing for the plot. You can read more details at the Wiki entry, and I’d posted a couple of panels from the series a while back.

The whole thing was kind of a glorious mess, entertaining almost despite itself, and definitely outside of whatever was passing for regular DC Universe continuity at the time. I’d love to have this as a full trade paperback, which likely would sell about 10 copies, but it would be nice to remind people that the series exists. It was a fun book that brought in characters from all over the DC Universe and mixed ’em all up into a crazy jumble, not for “changing DC Comics and nothing will ever be the same” Big Event Stuff, but just for the heck of it. We don’t get enough of that kind of thing any more.

Um, oh, yeah. There’s actually a Doctor Fate reprint book coming out. Pretty crazy, right? It’s full of good comics, so if you haven’t read the material before, here’s your chance. And it’s nice to be surprised by what DC will put into trade…there may be hope for that DC Challenge collection yet.

I promise you, Red Lanterns isn’t a bad comic.

§ December 18th, 2014 § Filed under dc comics § 6 Comments

Yup, they’ve canned the latest iteration of Swamp Thing. Okay, they cancelled some others, too…some surprisingly, some less so.

Swamp Thing actually sold relatively well, both at my previous place of employment and at my current headquarters (which would be Sterling Silver Comics, conveniently located just off the 101 Freeway in lovely Camarillo, CA!), for reasons that had nothing to do with me forcing everyone who walked in the door to buy a copy, honest. No, really, it seemed like it was a pretty good mid-range seller for us…er, me, outselling most of the comics with “X-Men” in the title in fact, which may be a more damning statement about the X-Men than a positive statement about Swamp Thing, come to think of it. My suspicion is that Swamp Thing will return in a new, relaunched title, like New Swamp Thing or Swamp Thing Adventures or Swamp Thing A-Go-Go or, you know, like that. Even if not, at least we’ll have him in Justice League Dark or he can join one of the Lantern Corps or something.

Speaking of Lanterns, it wasn’t really much of a surprise that they’re scaling back the Green Lantern-and-related books. As I noted at the end of this post, DC making a big deal out of Geoff Johns leaving the GL franchise and publishing an extra-sized conclusion to all his plotlines and such essentially gave readers full permission to abandon the franchise as well. I don’t have the numbers right in front of me, since those numbers technically belong to a store I don’t work at any more, but my memory is that sales dropped by around half. The main GL title wasn’t hit as hard as the others, but there was still a big dip in the number of copies we were moving. The constant crossover events helped for a while, but eventually even the effectiveness of those wore off, judging by how not-well this current New Gods storyline is affecting the secondary GL titles. The big loss is Red Lanterns, which was far better than it had any reason to be.

Batwoman was sort of another surprise, since that seemed to have been improving slightly in sales, both at my old shop and at the new one, but it was the poorest selling Bat-title, so I guess it was only a matter of time. Others aren’t too shocking: they might as well have been titled Infinity Man and the Forever People’s Soon-to-Be-Cancelled Series and Star Spangled Cancelled Stories. I don’t say that snarkily in the slightest: these really did not seem like titles that were going to find sufficient audiences to survive from the get-go, an assumption almost immediately borne out by sales. I mean, good on ’em for trying, and I really enjoy Infinity Man, but, yeah, no surprise here.

Secret Origins was a $4.99 anthology title…the first issue sold well, as did the Harley Quinn issue, but that was pretty much all she wrote on that. Klarion just did not attract readers, and…I hate to say this, but I tried reading it and it just didn’t do anything for me, and I was one of the folks looking forward to a Klarion series. Trinity of Sin I’m surprised they even attempted…I liked it, anyway, since I’m always up for more Phantom Stranger comics. And Worlds’ Finest I had thought was already cancelled and kept getting surprised by its continued presence in the order forms, so that probably says something.

Aquaman and the Others…well, that we got one Aquaman comic doing reasonably well on the stands is surprising enough. A second Aquaman title was DC pushing its luck. I don’t really have much to say about Arkham Manor‘s loss aside from maybe there were one too many ancillary Batman titles launched at about the same time, perhaps?

I’m sure some of these concepts will pop up again, either in relaunches or, more likely folded into other titles. Justice League Dark could probably accommodate Klarion, Phantom Stranger and…hell, G.I. Zombie from Star Spangled, too. So long as they don’t crowd out Swamp Thing.

My idea of rotating intentional mini-series for DC’s New 52 program is one I wish could be implemented. Concepts could be tested in short runs, which could improve sales if readers know that they’re getting a beginning, middle and end on the comics they’re reading. Plus, a series ending as scheduled is probably better P.R. than “here’s our latest dozen or so titles cancelled for low sales.” If sales warrant, a mini could lead into a regular ongoing series. There are probably logistical reasons preventing this from happening, but something’s got to be better than constantly throwing titles at the wall and seeing nothing sticking.

Armageddon 2019.

§ May 19th, 2014 § Filed under dc comics, swamp thing § 5 Comments

So here they are, the images that will comprise the lenticular cover for the Swamp Thing “Futures End” one-shot due out in a few months, which I’ll be ordering, along with a few dozen other similarly-covered comics, in the next week or so with what will be my best, but likely ultimately incorrect, guesses as to how they are going to sell.

I first assumed, upon seeing that cover, that we were in for something similar to this long-ago issue of Swamp Thing by Alan Moore and John Totleben, where our hero, during his exile in space, tries to build a body from a biomechanical entity and ends up some sort of weird robo-Swampy. That, at some point between the present DC Universe and the 5-Years-Later DCU, Swamp Thing becomes a Robot Elemental and, hell, I don’t know.

The actual solicit on the DC Comics website, which is probably in the Previews I looked at a couple of weeks ago but I’ve been trying not to think about, notes that Swamp Thing is going to war against “the avatars of Bacteria and Metal,” so that’s Metal Thing, I suppose, though “Metal Thing” brings something else entirely to mind. But that’s a pretty neat cover image anyway, so I definitely made sure to save a copy of that animation to help give me an idea of what that slightly-blurry 3D final product was supposed to look like.

As for some of the other covers: I’m all for the return of the Sand Superman; this cover makes me laugh (“GAH! Where’d you come from?”); but not as much as this cover. Man, the Stranger never catches a break. And, they don’t have the animated version of this cover up yet, but I hope they producers of Smallville send the helmet prop over to NBC so we can see this eventually happen in the Constantine TV show.
EDIT 5/21: special thanks to reader Geoph for the improved GIF!

Also, one of the Blackhawk stories took place in my hometown of Oxnard, so that totally should be reprinted.

§ February 21st, 2014 § Filed under dc comics § 19 Comments

So at the shop the other day, we were briefly talking about Action Comics Weekly, that late ’80s run of Action from issue #601 through #642 where it was an anthology title featuring DC characters both famous and not-so-much. Mostly, we were discussing the fact that, as far I can remember, almost none of the material from these comics has been reprinted. We’ve had the Nightwing: Old Friends, New Enemies trade paperback reprinting the two serials from this series, but that’s about it.

Some of the material is past its sell date: that Captain Marvel serial spinning off from the Shazam! The New Beginning mini will probably never be seen again, unless someone actually decides to make a trade of that mini which includes the serial as “bonus material.” And, you know, never say never.

But there’s a lot of Green Lantern material in those issues, stories written by Christopher Priest (as “James Owsley”) and Peter David, and at least one storyline drawn by legendary GL artist Gil Kane. DC hasn’t been shy about dipping into their GL comics backlog to reprint for their trade paperback line, so it’s a little surprising that these stories haven’t made it into some book or another.

With the character popping up occasionally on the TV show Arrow, now might be a good time for that Black Canary ACW series to see print again.

Speaking of Arrow, I’ve had requests for solo Speedy comics lately, which are purt’near impossible to come by. There was that Speedy team-up with Nightwing that’s reprinted in the trade paperback mentioned at the beginning of this post, but there’s another solo Speedy serial in this series as well. (Say that five times fast.)

There are a handful of Phantom Stranger stories, including at least one drawn by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. Okay, it’s not likely a reprint of these is particularly viable, even with a Phantom Stranger series currently on the racks, but I like the Phantom Stranger so let me dream my little dream here. (Same with all that Deadman material in ACW.)

And then there’s the “Sunday Pages” segment in each issue…the two-page centerspread starring Superman and drawn by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson. That’s about 80 pages or so of unreprinted Swanderson artwork hiding in this run of weekly comics, not reprinted on nice paper with one full strip per page to avoid losing artwork in the gutter of a trade paperback.

A lot of this work would fit nicely (with room left over for related reprints) into those DC Comics Presents mini-trades, the 100-page prestige format comics priced at $7.99. They’d mostly vanished of late, though that Harley Quinn volume just came out a week or so ago.

I’m sure there are many marketing and editorial reasons why Action Comics Weekly‘s content has remained mostly untouched for republication. And I know DC has plenty of worthwhile material that also hasn’t been reprinted yet, so why should I think ACW is so special? (Again, I’m working on my memory that most of it hasn’t been reprinted…if I’m wrong, let me know!) It just seems odd that in the 25 years since its release, the majority of this material remains languishing, forgotten and ignored, in back issue bins. Like all anthologies, it contained its share of duds, but there was plenty of good, enjoyable work in those comics by solid creative teams.

Plus, there’s probably still at least some potential audience for ACW’s Wild Dog serial.

In which I say I’m not going to respond to the comments, but I do so anyway. (Also, I usually compose these titles after I write my posts, in case you were wondering.)

§ October 7th, 2013 § Filed under dc comics, does mike ever shut up, retailing § 10 Comments

The temptation to follow up to the comments on my Robot 6 interview is strong, but I think I’ll try to resist…mostly. A few folks there noted an actual, physical aversion to the very texture of DC’s 3D covers, which is a reaction I hadn’t heard at the shop. I did have a few people reject the 3D covers because they didn’t care for them visually, and others who expressed an aversion at paying $3.99 a pop, but people just plain not liking how they feel is a phenomenon I didn’t expect. Personally, I liked rubbing them together and listening to the zzzzzzip zzzzzzip sound, but perhaps I’ve said too much.

Interesting also is the gap between one commenter’s statement that “the idea any of these titles are going to be worth money in the future is laughable” and another’s statement that “these are going to be worth money.” The truth is somewhere between, as it often is, unless the eventual answer turns out to be “these will be worth exactly one visit to the King of the Moon!” which is waaaay outside the range established by the initial responses, admittedly. Right now, yeah, some of them are commanding Big EBay Bucks, but they’ll settle down to Slightly More Reasonable EBay Bucks in a few months, and I suspect future price guides, assuming a future industry to support publication of future price guides, will reflect slightly higher prices for these 3D issues over the issues that surround them. If the vast majority of them are going for any more than about $5 to $10 a year from now, I will be shocked, and thankfully the comments on this post will be closed by then in case I’m wrong. Anyway, in a year someone remind me to go look at the aftermarket pricing on these books and maybe I’ll write up a follow-up post, unless by then I’ve ejector-seated myself out of this crazy business and finally started doing something sensible, like deep-sea fishing.

The negative response to the comics themselves, not just in those comments but elsewhere on the Internet, are a bit of a surprise, too. Well, not much of a surprise since it’s currently DC’s turn to get kicked around by the online comic-gnoscenti, but in general my customers seemed to enjoy reading the comics, when they weren’t being frustrated by availability issues. Most of the ones I read I enjoyed, but, as I noted in an earlier post, I was generally just picking up the Villains Month issues for comics I was already reading (or featuring concepts I enjoyed, but shoved under the Justice League banner for the month), so I was predisposed to like the Villains Months issues I was buying. I liked most of the one-shots that tied into the main Batman book, for instance, but I passed on the Bane one-shot because, well, aside from the animated versions, and the amazing live-action version from the third Nolan Bat-film, I don’t much care for the character. I enjoyed the Doomsday issue of Superman/Batman, with its crazy-pants Krypton story and implications for how the Death of Superman now fits into New 52 continuity. We also got a new Mongul story in one of those Green Lantern one-shots, written by Mongul’s creator, Jim Starlin! That was pretty fantastic. And I enjoyed Swamp Thing‘s Arcane one-shot, as I’d discussed previously, and my issues with that particular comic were more related to the general Swampy-reboot as a whole than any specific Villains Month hoohar, but then, I’m Swamp Thing-obsessed so that should be expected. …And I’m sure some of you folks out there liked reading some of these villains comics as well.

In a more general sense (and I’ll stop using the word “general,” I promise) I don’t object to the idea of DC doing a big special event like this. If it gets people in stores and looking for comics, well, beggars can’t really be choosers, especially as the marketplace continues its ever-ongoing and seemingly-eternal upward scrabble out of the pit of the ’90s crash. I wish the event had been handled differently — let me insert right here the “NO DUH” you’re thinking right now. I wish it didn’t effectively make a bunch of titles weekly books for the month…I mean, if you were already getting all the Green Lantern books, you were basically buying a weekly GL comic anyway, but if you were only getting the main Green Lantern title, you may have felt compelled to get all four Villains Month issues, quadrupling your GL input, and that hardly seems fair. (Much in the same way Superior Spider-Man fans got about twenty issues of their title in nine months, Lucy-and-Ethyl-working-the-chocolate-conveyor-belt style). At the same time, just doing a Villains Month special for each of their regular titles would not have generated the same sales levels, probably; an All-Star Western 3D Villains Month special issue wouldn’t have generated the numbers of a fourth Superman special, hence that marketing decision.

In conclusion, I wish things were different and better and that everyone would be happy, and also I want more Swamp Thing titles, so long as I’m wishing for stuff. I also hope the next Big Event is not quite as headache-inducing, as long as I’m really wishing. And hopefully, that’s enough discussion of 3D covers on this site (until the aforementioned year-later post I may or may not do).

Next up: DIE-CUT COVERS – why these are a huge pain in the ass.

Frankly, I’m not sure that’s even entirely true about Adam Sandler movies.

§ August 22nd, 2013 § Filed under collecting, dc comics, retailing, superman § 4 Comments

So I was asked, in response to my post on Monday in regards to DC’s 3D cover allocations, which title was the one I’m getting more copies than what I originally ordered. I probably should have noted it at the time, but, you know, how do you keep a blog reader in suspense? I’ll tell you Thursday: it was the Darkseid issue of Justice League, and I don’t entirely understand DC’s mix of numerology and voodoo in determining how many copies of each comic that each retailer gets in relation to the actual number of copies DC ordered, but apparently they thought Darkseid was going to be A Big One and set print runs accordingly.

I mean, I have no idea how true that is. DC’s allocation formula is apparently based on each retailer’s ordering history for the titles, or something like that, so maybe the comic publishing stars aligned in just the right way for my Darkseid orders to be increased rather than decreased. The mileage of other retailers may, as they say, vary. At least I’m getting all the copies I ordered of that Joker issue, which apparently means DC also anticipated demand and ordered a forest-leveling amount of them. Anyway, in conclusion: 3D covers! I’m looking forward to never talking about them again!

In other news, comic collections, like buses and taxis and Adam Sandler movies, seem to come all at once, and in the last week or three we ended up with about three collections of ’80s and ’90s indie comics, resulting in yet another copy of Yummy Fur #9 in our possession. As you may remember, that was one of the big missing links in my collection that, after a decades-long search, finally was acquired a few months ago. So now here’s another one, mocking me with its availability so soon after I finally found a copy. Sigh…it’s MacKenzie Queen #5 all over again. Please note my accurate prediction regarding current events in that post.

And in variant cover news: why, hello there awesome Jim Starlin variant for Superman Unchained #3:

I enjoy Superman Unchained well enough as is, but baby, like I wrote about at the end of this post, I would much rather read the comic this cover is selling me. (Take a look at this oddly creepy yet amazing Brian Bolland variant, too!)

I can’t wait to explain to my customers why they can’t see the special 4D covers all at once.

§ August 19th, 2013 § Filed under batman, dc comics, green arrow, pal plugging, retailing § 9 Comments

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.

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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.

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