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Don’t worry, there’s more retailin’ talk after the pog talk.

§ February 13th, 2013 § Filed under blogging about blogging is a sin, pogs, retailing § 5 Comments

A small reminder: I’m about to wind down the daily posting over at pogressiveruin.com, the Internet’s #1 source for watching a middle-aged man slowly drive himself crazy wallowing in some fad from a couple decades ago. I don’t know if we’ve learned anything, but one thing’s for sure: we certainly got to see a lot of large scans of pogs.

Anyway, I originally intended to go into that site with a finish line in mind, and that finish line was always meant to be six months after I started. I figure that’s probably enough. It’s not grinding to a complete halt…I’d like to keep the option open for featuring any more future oddball cap discoveries from this collection, so there will probably still be a new entry every now and again. But, as of February 15th, the daily posts there are done.

If you followed that site, I appreciate it! Also…why? Are you nuts?

In other news: it’s time for me to start going through Previews for actual business-related reasons instead of End of Civilization reasons, and put together the monthly comics order. So basically, take this post and multiply it by several thousand items. Not every comic requires that much hemming and / or hawing over the numbers, of course. I have sales histories for many titles, and I can easily base orders on those, noting any increases or decreases and adjusting accordingly

And then of course there are the comics that never change sales levels, ever, no matter what the publisher does, what gimmicks they try, etc. For example, sales on one particular long-running-through-a-variety-of-publishers property have been pretty much unchanged for some time now. Don’t go up, don’t go down, don’t do nothin’ but sell the same number of copies every month. But when a second series featuring this same property was solicited, I thought the variety of different covers, plus the fact that it’s a new first issue of this once very popular character, might encourage additional pick-ups. And, when the comic came out…hey, we sold more copies of a comic based on this specific property than we normally have of late! …Then I realized that one of our regular customers who usually bought the other series bought one copy each of most of the variants of this new #1, so while we technically did increase sales of individual copies, we didn’t increase the number of actual customers for it. So while it was a good thing for me to bump up orders like I did, it didn’t actually bump up readership, but that’s okay. Not everything works like I planned…and I did sell more comics, so I guess I shouldn’t complain.

History (well, really recent history, as the story in the previous paragraph wasn’t from that long ago) is sort of repeating itself this week, with the release of this new Ghostbusters comic from IDW. IDW’s previous Ghostbusters comics started off…okay, saleswise, but have slowed down a bit for us. I’m taking a bit of a chance on this new series, having bumped orders up a wee bit over what I normally sell on Ghostbusters, since I think the comic looks like fun, the covers stand out, and my plan was (which I in fact implemented last night as I was setting up the racks) to display each cover separately, rather than shoving them all together into a single shelf space, which should garner a little extra attention. I may just sell more of the first issue, and maybe we’ll be back to regular Ghostbusters sales levels with the second, but there would be no chance of increasing sales on #2 if I don’t have the #1s for people to try out right now.

Maybe it’s good money after bad, I don’t know, but it doesn’t hurt to give it a try. Ghostbusters is a known property that people generally like, and with a bit of sales strategy combined with a comic that looks a little more appealing than the previous GB attempts from IDW, maybe I’ll sell a few more copies. Worth a shot.

Now if they could somehow bring back the Slimer solo title, then IDW would be cookin’ with gas!

Just one more pog post on this site, I promise.

§ August 20th, 2012 § Filed under pogs, self-promotion § 11 Comments

So a long time ago, prior to the early 2010 redesign of my site, I used to have a different title banner on my site every week. Sometimes I made them myself, but usually they were contributed by readers, and I’d post them up with a little link credit to the designer.

One submitter, noting my particular attitude about the POG phenomenon in a then-recent post, sent in a banner whose image presented a scattering of milkcaps, with the site name “mike sterling’s pogressive ruin” printed across it, and with an “r” sorta squeezed in above and between the “p” and “o.” Alas, my backup of all those banners is not immediately available (and my local one on the hard drive was lost during my recent computer troubles), so I have neither the actual image nor the name of the contributor, but that person was the first to make, at least to my face, the “POGressive Ruin” gag, way back in the distant mists of time (aka 2008 or so). (EDIT: Why, it turns out to be no less a personage than Pal Dave who was responsible!)

With the recent resurgence of the “pogressive ruin” name in my comments and, yes, people saying it to my face, the thought did cross my mind, “hmmm, maybe I should grab that domain name,” and then I thought “some of these milkcaps are pretty bizarre, it might be amusing to present them on said site,” and then I thought “maybe this could help me whittle down the pile currently at the shop,” and then the next thing you know, this happens.

So yes, pogressiveruin.com is now open for your viewing pleasure. I plan on this project to be primarily image-heavy and text-light, so this won’t be some extended treatise on ’90s fad marketing and exploitation, beyond what’s already implicit in the products themselves and what I’ve already written on the explanatory page. I just want to be amused by weird things, and hopefully I’ll amuse some of you, too.

I’m also not planning for this to be a permanent, ongoing project. I figure about six months, tops, so feel free to come back and laugh at me when I’m still doing this a year later.

Most importantly, at least for some of you, this is separating out the pog content from this site, so come back, it’s safe now! Well, after today’s post, anyway.

Thanks to Seth, the store owner who acquired this ginormous pog collection in the first place, who’s also totally behind this pog blog project of mine. And a very special thanks to the greatest stuffed bull of them all, Bully the Little Stuffed Bull…I needed a particular quote for this new site from an issue of Brave and the Bold, I didn’t have that issue, I put up the Bull-signal, and Bully answered right away with exactly what I needed! Thanks, Bully!

So anyway, pogressiveruin.com. Look what you all made me do.

EDIT 8/21: Dave found his copy of the “Pogressive Ruin” banner mentioned above!

In case you’re wondering why I’ve been quiet this weekend.

§ August 19th, 2012 § Filed under pogs § 16 Comments

It’s coming:

pogressiveruin.com

I’m reasonably certain we do sell comics.

§ August 10th, 2012 § Filed under pogs, teenage mutant ninja turtles § 16 Comments

So get this: Thursday morning, we had a gentlemen come to the store carrying a couple of filled bags, who told us he’d just been cleaning out his storage unit and came across some materials and was wondering if we were in the market for them? He then opened up the bags to reveal what he was trying to sell…

…you’re way ahead of me…

…and it was POGs. …We pointed him to the corner of the store where we were trying to contain the vast amounts of POGgish items of which I’d only barely scratched the surface in these last couple of posts. I told him I didn’t know what to do with all the POGs we already had. He suggested I give some away with each comic book purchase. I replied that I wanted to keep my customers. And we both laughed, though I think my laugh was tinged slightly with hysteria and despair.

Okay, okay, it’s not as bad as all that. Everyone at the shop, customers and employees alike, are fairly amused by all this so far, and we even had a brief POG demonstration yesterday evening, run by Employee Debra:


And yes, we will totally have POG tournaments at the shop, if people want to play ‘em. I mean, why not. Might as well dive fully in.

But enough about POGs, let’s talk about this other collection of stuff we got in…Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles merchandise from the early 1990s, like this big ol’ action figure carrying case:


“Holds 20 Figures,” it says, though none were inside. Instead, the figures were loose, scattered about the boxes in which this collection was stored. Figures like this terrifying Splinter figure, complete with faux fur:


…Or this poor bastard Turtle, who as part of his city camouflage, wore a manhole cover on his back:


I don’t know what’s going on here:


…except, well, what teenager doesn’t have problems with acne?

I honestly have no idea (or just didn’t remember) what the deal was with this character:


…until a quick trip to the Turtles Wiki explained she was a fifth turtle mutated by the radioactive stuff that created the regular TMNT gang, who did not know of her existence.

Here’s a closer look…I didn’t know turtles had breasts:


Having this Turtle’s eyes on separate fingers freaks me out just a tad:


…and c’mon, he clearly just endorsed the glove for a paycheck:


…unless there’s a two-fingered / one-thumbed version he was able to personally try out and I don’t know about.

“Remember kids…crush the entire tissue in your fist and then just shove the exposed ends against your nose for best effect!”


I wonder if kids blew their noses on these printed tissues in such a way as to give the Turtles’ faces, I don’t know, beards:


That would take some fine nasal control, I’d imagine.

I took a picture of this just because it’s a big rubbery Frisbee-type thing:


And I took a picture of this suction cup-fastenable Turtle face because it’s shifty-eyed and terrible:


These TMNT binoculars worked about as well as any other toy binocular set I’ve ever had:


…in that it made things look, oh, about an inch or two closer than just plain looking at that thing.

Most of the weapons and other accessories were separated from the loose figures and stored in this plastic bowl:


Of note was this weapons sprue, which I’m featuring here partially because I thought it was a bit sad that these accessories were never detached and used as intended, but mostly because I like using the word “sprue.”


And then there’s this:


I guess if a turtle can have breasts, then why not a mustache?

Finally, just to bring it all around:


All roads lead to POGs, I’m afraid.

…And that word is “POG-a-licious.”

§ August 8th, 2012 § Filed under pogs § 13 Comments

Before you say anything…yes, this set of Undertaker caps are already marked for shipment to a certain Mr. Chris Sims:


I mean, honestly, just look at it. It comes with a plastic coffin in which to store your caps. This is a beautiful thing.

Anyway, I did indeed return to the shop on Tuesday to find that the boxes from our shocking Sunday shipment had all been opened up and the contents sorted out, and I spent a few minutes picking through the entrails of this long-defunct POG store to see what caught my eye. I’m pretty sure I saw holographic foil robot unicorn POGs, but I’m going to have to go back and confirm before I admit to it here. Also, there are bags upon bags of Christian-themed caps, because why not.

I did pull a set of these McDonald’s cap sheets to throw on the eBay:


…and I’m pretty sure the Grimace cap alone sells the set:


There were a lot of Peanuts-related POGs as well, including a series of five sheets of POGs advertising the Knott’s Berry Farm amusement park to which the Peanuts franchise has been tied for many a year:


I don’t know which is more disturbing: this POG from the above sheet featuring Snoopy actually speaking:


…or, from another sheet in this series, an actual licensed studio-produced drawing of Linus and Snoopy fighting over a POG:


Opening up the shipping cartons also revealed lots of sealed boxes of packs of caps, such as this one:


I should keep track (NOTE: no, I probably shouldn’t) of all the ways different manufacturers referred to their products without using the actual trademarked term of POG. Most used variations on the word “milkcap,” or just “cap,” like “coolcaps” on the above box. There were also multiple terms for the thicker and heavier “slammers,” used to throw down upon the caps during the course of what we will call a “game” for the lack of a better term. I’m pretty sure “slammahs” never caught on, despite Big Deal’s noble attempts, and the official POG term was apparently “kini,” as on this World POG Federation Micro Tournament Game Pack from Milton Bradley:


And by the way, remember that video I mentioned at the end of yesterday’s post? Well, we did have volume one of that series, as well as this tape from another series (well, if there was a series of them):


If I remember the back of the package correctly, this 20-minute video promises music from “two different Southern California bands!” which really narrows things down a bit. I have no idea who the bands actually were, so I’m gonna pretend they were “Steve Garvey’s Hair” and “False Confession” just to amuse myself.

Speaking of that video from yesterday, longtime reader Old Bull Lee found Milk Cap Mania Vol. 2 online, uploaded by one of the people behind the project. Of note is that person’s brief text commentary about the genesis, and the death, of this series. (As I skimmed through the video, I did notice a few scenes filmed within a comic book store, and I had a nostalgic twinge upon seeing some of the promo posters on the wall. …Hello, ‘Breed poster, it’s been a while!)

So, yeah, I told you I’d be presenting more from this collection. If I gotta deal with it, so do you. Despite all my supposed despair and bemoaning of this fate, I think I’m distanced enough from the actual height of the fad and my retail part in it to look at these things for the cultural oddities that they are. To appreciate their absurdity, and to examine the exploitative Gold Rush that surrounded them.

In fact, there’s only one word to describe all these fascinating treasures…

Just when I thought I was out…they POG me back in.

§ August 6th, 2012 § Filed under pogs, retailing § 32 Comments

So the boss had some friends who came into the possession of a storage unit full of material that once belonged to the distributor of a certain product. Those friends had no particular use for said product, and they said to the boss, they sez “here, you can have it all, and see if you can get anything for it.”

And thus, on a warm Sunday afternoon, the boss pulled the rental truck up in front of the shop, and this was the scene within:


And here we are, a little closer and at a slightly higher angle:


Yes. Oh, yes indeedy. So, we meet again, my old enemy:


Yes, that’s right, boxes and boxes and boxes of POGs and milkcaps and slammers and carrying tubes and oh sweet mother an entire CASE of Ultra Pro POG sleeves and uncut cap sheets and a generous handful of SLAMINATORS:


This fellow was apparently a distributor and / or manufacturer of cap products during the height of fad, in the early ’90s, and these rare jewels have apparently been resting in storage for nearly two decades since. I haven’t had much of a chance to actually go through the boxes, since mostly we were just hauling them out of the truck and making a giant POG box pyramid in a corner of the shop. However, one employee drew the short stick and he’s going to go through and sort everything out…and when I’m back on Tuesday, I’ll begin the process of getting these things on the eBay and finding homes for them.

Yes, this means I am back in the POG-selling business. …Don’t you judge me.

As we were hauling boxes into the shop, I was carrying a smallish box which caused some wag to call out “Hey, Mike, way to pitch in!” to which I replied “Here, you hold this box” which was filled with brass slammers and thus heavier than your mother:


And if you don’t know what “slammers” are, please don’t ask me to explain. Speaking of which, another customer, a young fellow of about twelve, asked us what POGs were as he’d never heard of them, and I envied him his youthful innocence.

By the way, SHAQ POGS:


And all of these caps were presided over by their true and rightful king:


Just to allay any concerns, I took this pic on top of one of our glass cases, so Pogman isn’t directly sitting on top of our copies of Daredevil #7 (1965), Marvel Tales Annual #1 (1964), or X-Men #8 (1964), as it may appear.

There was one of these as well, a videotape sealed in its original shrinkwrap, and thus presumably the “6 Collectible Wackers” are still included:


The back, since I know you’re curious:


Oh, there are no winners here.

Most terrifying part of this video?


Yeah, there was more than one in this series. Seriously, I am tempted beyond all belief to pop this open and watch it.

In an odd sort of way, I’m sort of excited, just for the sheer “OH MY GOD WHAT’S THIS” entertainment of it all, not to mention seeing what actually does sell and for how much. And believe you me, I’ll be taking full advantage of the “pogs” category on this site if I find any more treasures.

In the meantime…drop by the shop! Scale POG Mountain! See Mike just kinda stand there and shake his head in bemusement!

I wasn’t planning to post today, but I had to mention this.

§ May 26th, 2012 § Filed under pogs § 2 Comments

I knew when I saw this Metafilter post on POGs this morning, it was only a matter of time before I got mentioned. Thank you, Martin…I think.

Anyway, that encouraged me to go through and add the “POGs” tag to some of my previous posts to fill out the category a bit. I consider that part of my penance for having sold the damned things in the first place.

(Yet another) SECRET SHAME OF MIKE STERLING.

§ November 6th, 2009 § Filed under pogs Comments Off

I own a pog:


‘Course it’s something sorta Swamp Thing-esque. Also, I didn’t realize just how pixelated the thing was ’til I blew it up good and big here for the site. Frankly I’d expect a little better quality control on my rushed-out and cheaply-made fad-exploiting pieces of cardboard.

More racial sensitivity in comic books, plus more ’90s stuff.

§ July 22nd, 2007 § Filed under archie, market crash, pogs, publishing, question time, racial sensitivity, retailing Comments Off

I don’t normally buy current publications from Archie Comics, and when I do, it’s almost always books that reprint their work from the ’60s and earlier. Such was the case with last week’s Archie Digest #236, which reprints Archie’s first appearance from Pep #22, along with a full reprinting of Archie #1 from 1942.

One of the stories from Archie #1 has Archie involved in a series of mix-ups on a train with another passenger, and the poor railroad porter gets caught in the shenanigans as well. The porter looks and talks like this:


I realize it’s no shock to anyone familiar with comic book history that racist caricatures of black people (and Asians, and Native Americans, and so on) were common in early stories (and this isn’t even the worst example from this particular story, with other panels including dialogue like “I done thought…” and “Mus’ be dat bump on yo’ had!”). Not having an original Archie #1 lying around the house, I’m going to assume the porter has been recolored slightly for the reprint, even though all his stereotypical dialogue appears to have remained intact.

I’m not saying this shouldn’t have been reprinted as is. If you’re going to reprint your old material for historical purposes, it should be reprinted as it was, warts and all*. And that’s what folks have been doing…a glance through your Shazam Archives and your Golden Age Wonder Woman Archives, among others, will show you examples of political incorrectness similar to that bit of business with the porter. But these are high end reprints, aimed at comic collectors, who are presumably familiar with the poor way minority groups were portrayed. Disclaimers aren’t uncommon, noting the usage of such caricatures were typical of the time, and left unchanged for historical reference.

This Archie digest, however, is aimed at a young, general audience. It’s one of the few modern comics actually sold in places where people who aren’t comic fans shop. At my grocery store, they’re right up there at the checkout line, next to the TV Guide and the Weekly World News. How will kids take the porter’s portrayal — how will the parents? — particularly since there is no disclaimer that I can find noting the historical reasons for that portrayal.

I’m very curious as to the response Archie Comics will receive.


Okay, one last round of “Mike Remembers Barely Making It Through the 1990s:”
  • Commenter Stavner asks

    “Do you think we’ll ever see comic books back in supermarkets and convenience stores?”

    It’d be nice, and in some cases apparently you can find comics in some convenience stores…but a widespread revival of this manner of distribution? Not unless 1) comics get a whole lot more popular, and 2) the profit potential for them is enough for store owners to risk valuable space on them.

    “Do you think Gemstone will keep publishing Disney comics for very long?”

    Hard to say…my gut feeling says “no,” since their number of publications has declined, and their prices have gone up. Their last Don Rosa reprint book has sold very well for us, though, so maybe there’s some life there yet.

  • H of the Comic Treadmill doth ask

    “There are those who insist that monthly super-hero comics will be dead sooner rather than later. Do you see a trend in that department? What’s your take on the viability of our beloved monthlies?”

    I think if the price point of the standard comic book goes much higher, something is going to have to give. My guess is a regular comic book will eventually undergo some form of evolution, possibly into a much thicker publication with more stories, at a slightly higher price point (but giving a higher perceived value to the reader), and just loaded with ads to help subsidize the cost of the magazine.

    There are a lot of economic factors there that I’m overlooking (such as whether or not a comic book publication could attract enough ads, and get enough money from them). At the very least, I don’t think monthly books will go away, but they’ll have to become something new to give readers more perceived value for their money.

  • Commenter Roel asks

    “Where the hell did all these investors come from in the first place? I mean, why did everyone suddenly get the idea that these comics would be worth a lot of money? Comics had been around for decades and decades, and then — all of a sudden, out of nowhere — all these non-comic book fans start investing in them? Why? Was there some sort of triggering event? I don’t get it.”

    Apparently there was a large crash in the sports card market just prior, and it was just a lateral shift from collecting one thing to another…I don’t have exact details, but it appeared to be common knowledge at the time. I can personally testify to the number of investor-types requesting “comic book Becketts” — Beckett being the publisher of several sports card price guides — so that lends credence to that theory.

    Also, the greater awareness of comics among the general populace, driven by movies and media-hyped events, combined with a possible economic downturn and plenty of newspaper stories dragging out the old “did you know old comics are worth money?” thing…that made comics a large, attractive target for investing, without all that “dealing with brokers” stuff.

    “Oh, another question — why are you so remorseful about selling pogs? How is that any worse than selling, say, a trading card or an action figure? People wanted pogs, and they wanted to give you money in order to own them. What’s the big crisis of conscience there?”

    Because I can see the value of a trading card or an action figure. Though technically, I realize, there’s only a slight difference between a trading card and a POG, but least trading cards were numbered, sometimes had cardback text, and could be put into sets. They had something to them. POGs (or, rather, milkcaps) were, with some exceptions, just random pictures on bits of round cardboard, and just felt to me like it was worthless junk. The alleged “game” involving milkcaps was essentially jacks or marbles, without the skill….you threw a heavy disc down onto a pile of cardboard discs. and you kept the ones that turned over, or some damned thing.

    I understand this might just be bias on my part, since there are plenty of folks who think comics are worthless junk too, but even if customers were willing to part with their money for POGs, I felt like I was giving them nothing of value in return. I was essentially turning their money into crap. I know I should feel like this when I sell someone a copy of, say, Purgatori, but I don’t.

    Yeah, cheap shot at Purgatori, sorry, but I can accept that someone might find entertainment value in that comic. Somehow. I just don’t see that value in milkcaps.

* As far as story content goes, anyway…I realize the comics in question have been recolored and (it seems) relettered for clarity.

More ’90s retailing , a Licensable Bear™ cartoon, and links to Punisher studies.

§ July 20th, 2007 § Filed under market crash, pogs, question time, retailing Comments Off

Okay, I’m gonna try to go through these a little more quickly…I’ve given you a lot to read this week, which means a lot of typing on my part, and a man’s gotta get some sleep sometime. Plus, that Doctor Who Genesis of the Daleks DVD I got from Netflix ain’t gonna watch itself.

So, here are a few more answers to questions posed to me about the comics market, the ’90s, and, God help us all, POGs:

Cove West asks

“Did you as a retailer see any signs that comics were recovering in the late-’90s, or was it just a long period of malaise from the Bust until Quesada/Jemas at Marvel kicked off the Media Age?”

I think the simple departure of the investors meant a stabilization/correction of the market…unfortunately, that stabilization of the market also included the departure of fans who were present prior to the fad/boom, who left for a myriad of reasons (tired of the decline in quality, disgusted by the catering to investors, distracted by other hobbies, etc.).

At that point, there was no where to go but up, really, and with the shaking out of lesser books and a general increase in quality in what was left, you got the sense that a slightly healthier market was beginning to emerge. Retailers ordering more sanely, consumers showing a bit more discretion…we all went from “wild abandon” to “cautious penny-pinchers” right quick.

The Quesada/Jemas thing, if anything, probably stirred things up a bit more than the market was really ready to deal with at the time. It’s like taking someone out dancing two days after they broke both their legs…a little more recovery time is probably required. I’m thinking the whole “upping comics schedules to every three weeks instead of monthly” shenanigans they tried, briefly, before discovering everyone hated it.


Commenter Bill asks

“I was wondering if your shop saw a lot of customers who, like me, didn’t even notice the boom and bust.”

Probably…we had a few folks wondering where all their Punisher titles went, for example, or noting that a lot of the comics they were following suddenly dried up, or came out less frequently. Whether some of them were aware of the changing marketplace as a whole, I don’t know…I imagine some never really noticed. So long as we still had our doors open, still getting new comics every week for them to buy, then it was all Business As Usual.


The mighty and fearsome Ken Lowery asks

“Rare, sought-after book = high value. Did speculators not realize that companies printing 300k-500k copies of a new book, and everyone buying five copies apiece to store away, meant that these books were by definition not rare and therefore not valuable?”

You’d think. I did a lot of explaining to people trying to sell us comics during the lean years why their stacks of Image #1s weren’t worth diddly squat.

On the other hand, there’s a particular phenomenon I’ve noticed when I see collections from people who bought multiple copies in large quantities. The vast majority of these people did not keep their comics in new condition. Of those 500,000 copy print runs, chances are the copies that actually made it into customers’ hands (and not just stored away in shop’s backrooms) are not longer in mint shape, if they were even kept at all and not just tossed out once the faddish fever broke.

So, maybe, just maybe, that one person who bought fifty copies of Secret Weapons #1 and managed to keep them in mint shape actually may have something, there. Still not going to buy ‘em, though.


Commenter P-TOR asks

“You wouldn’t happen to have any packs of GHOST RIDER hero caps (aka; pogs) left over would ya?”

Nope, no more POGs. A year or two back I found one last cardboard box filled with POGs and associated paraphernalia still gathering dust in the back room, threw it as is on the eBay, and got about thirty bucks for it. Aside from maybe a POG promo or two in our card section, and that little tiny plastic POG case with a few caps in it that I use as both a paperweight and as a constant reminder of my retailing sins, POGs are no longer welcome in the store. Phooey, sez I.

FMguru has lotsa questions, so let’s see what kind of answers I can give him:

“When the boom was going on, did you believe that the market was ascending to a new plateau (i.e. that a lot of the boom was actual long-term growth in the market) or did you think it was all hot air and candyfloss and likely to end in tears (or, more positively, a nice little bump in sales and cashflow before things settled back to normal)?”

My expectations was that it was a faddish increase, and that things would eventually normalize…but I figured it would normalize with some extra folks joining the comics scene as regular readers, so that as a whole the market would be slightly larger than before. Alas, what ended up happening, as I noted earlier in this post, was that the investors went away, the fad-followers went away, and a bunch of the regular fans went away, leaving us with a shell of an industry.

“Also, what was the most traumatic event of the boom, from a retailer’s POV? What one thing (corporate decision, book delay, whatever) did the most damage to your business?”

I’ve discussed this in past posts of mine, trying to track down the book that killed the industry. In my mind, it’s still Turok Dinosaur Hunter #1 from Valiant, which every retailer overordered, and ended up not selling anywhere close to expectations. It might just be me creating connections in hindsight, but it seemed to me that this was the book that triggered the realization that investing in comics, particularly comics that had larger print runs than the Bible, was a really stupid thing to be doing.

“What was the most ludicrous waste of money that was clearly going to be an enormous failure? I’m thinking Tekno Comics, here.”

Tekno Comics is a good answer, featuring a lot of Big Famous Names on titles that they were only tangentially attached to, like, say, Isaac Asimov’s I-Bots. Not saying they were bad books, but having “Isaac Asimov’s” and “Neil Gaiman’s” and “Mickey Spillane’s” across the tops of the covers, and having someone else write the insides, was bound to disappoint somebody. Yeah, I know, what were they expecting, but still.

In general, though, I think the huge amounts of money spent to try to compete with Marvel and DC at their own shared-universe superhero game was a bad idea. And the whole “collect the trading cards to assemble the first issue of our series” idea for Defiant’s Warriors of Plasm and, I think, Dark Dominion, seemed like a good way to dissuade people from trying your books.

“What role did the Magic: The Gathering boom of 95-96 have in helping keep your store afloat during the comic market implosion?”

Games in general helped keep us going…half the store was devoted to role-playing and tabletop gaming, and that kept bringing in the bacon when the comic half was in the doldrums. I knew something was up with Magic almost from the start, when we’d get calls like this:

“Hi, I’m in Los Angeles. Do you have any Magic packs?”

“Uh, yeah, I have a couple left here.”

“HOLD THEM FOR ME I’M DRIVING UP THERE RIGHT NOW.”

So, yeah, RPGs, Magic, Warhammer…all that stuff definitely helped.

Not a question, but an observation:

“One other good side effect of the boom was that it created a huge demand for writers and artists, and a whole bunch of people who otherwise wouldn’t have broken into the industry got breaks.”

True enough…I was going to touch on that, but I kept wanting to phrase it as “consumer confidence was undermined by the influx of not-ready-for-prime-time artists and writers hired primarily for their ability to fill a page with something, regardless of quality, as all those books being pumped out each month couldn’t go out blank.”

But you’re right…the side effect of this was that, just by the sheer numbers involved, some of those people would actually turn out to be pretty good, and got their breaks during this creative influx. So that’s a good thing, but too bad about the trials we all had to endure for this to happen.

“Finally, of all the dumb cover enhancements that came along in the 90s, which was your favorite? I really liked a Superman cover that was just a Metropolis cityscape with a slightly waxy coating – and it came with a sheet of ColorForms(tm) you could peel off and make your own cover with. Reusable!”

That is probably one of the best ones, but I still like the firework effects on this Adventures of Superman cover, and this enhancement may be the Greatest One Ever.

I’m kinda partial to glow-in-the-dark covers, too, like the Spectre ones. Or that elaborate Mighty Magnor pop-up cover by Sergio Aragones.

All in all, I didn’t hate the idea of novelty comic covers, but there were just too many, too fast.

(FMguru has many other good observations that I’ll eventually get around to discussing in a future post.)


Commenter Mark dares to ask

“You know, I still can’t effin’ understand how POGs are played. Is player? Are played with? I can’t even get the prepositions right!”

It involves throwing a heavier POG, or a Slammer, at a stack of other caps, and whatever flipped over you got to keep, or something. Either that, or the point was to accumulate as many POGs as possible, so your mom will something to complain at you about leaving all over the floor of your room.


And Pal Nat notes

“About the black-and-white boom, it should be noted that some of those ‘failures’ were selling in numbers which would happily get them continued by a small black-and-white publisher today.”

True enough…though a portion of those b&w titles were selling to retailers, and not necessarily getting into the hands of any customers. Shadow of the Groundhog sold great to that convention guy I told you about yesterday…he just couldn’t sell ‘em to anybody else!

But I get your point….lots of good b&w titles sold solid numbers, to actual readers…numbers that may have been sneered at by Marvel and DC at the time, but are probably looked at now as “pie in the sky hopes” dream numbers by the Big Two.


Speaking of Pal Nat, the (sniff) last issue of Licensable Bear™, #4, is now out in stores. Read more about the cutest little licensable bear ever at Licensablebeartm.com.

And here’s a Licensable Bear™ video that I seemed to have accidentally skipped featuring on my site when it was released. So, please, enjoy a lesson in branding and marketing from the only expert you can trust…a bear wearing a shirt:



Tim O’Neil continues his in-depth examination of the rise and fall and rise again of the Punisher comic book, inspired, at least in part, by a post of mine briefly discussing the character’s waning and waxing popularity. (Here’s part one of Tim’s Punisher posts.)

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