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I think “The Violence and the Vulgarity” was my prom theme.

§ October 22nd, 2018 § Filed under batman, publishing, question time, retailing § 3 Comments

I’ll get back to the topic of extended breaks in ongoing series (1 and 2) shortly, but I wanted to get a couple more questions ahead if at all possible:

William opens the gate to the following:

“Let’s talk about that evergreen topic, The Bat Penis.

“Maybe I’m cynical, but it seems like the image was provided just to garner controversy (and sales) for that issue. The image does not play into the plot, and is basically superfluous. It’s only there to either satisfy the kinks of the creators or stir up word of mouth and demand, which if it was the latter, it did magnificently.

“My question is this. I know you touched on this briefly in your post on the subject, but, as a retailer, do you feel that DC left you out to dry in this case. I am old enough to remember the Friendly Frank’s raid when it was current events, and while a lot of things changed since then, a lot of things stayed the same. I know the book was advertised as mature readers from the get go, but it seems DC didn’t let retailers in on just how ‘mature’ the book really was. And there is a difference between ‘expletive-laden’ mature readers and ‘Let’s look at the Batwang’ mature readers, and parent would be far more upset if the latter landed in their kids hands.

“I’m just wondering if you wish DC was more upfront about what the mature content was beforehand or if it didn’t really make a difference. I’m not a censorship guy, but an informed retailer can better avoid any potential legal entanglements that might cause. I’m curious on your opinion on the matter.”

So I’ve been watching that new Titans series on the DC Universe streaming channel, and…well, if you’ve been following my Twitterings, you’ve probably seen a few of my comments on the show. Overall, I do like it, but it does inspire a bit of eyerolling when they lay on the violence and the vulgarity. Especially in that one scene from the premiere episoide, the one that made it into the pilot, with Robin, um, expressing his opinion about his former crime-fighting partner. What I tweeted was

“Yes, in context Robin’s ‘F Batman’ line is totally gratuitous and tacked on as the buzz-creating ‘everyone will talk about this’ free advertising moment it was meant to be.”

Okay, maybe when they were writing this scene, they were simply intent on making this as “adult” and “gritty” as possible, and that meant the occasion f-bomb…but they still put that scene into the trailer, knowing full well that would engender some controversy and get mouths yappin’ and fingers typin’ about this new TV show.

That I think was an intentional usage of unexpected “mature” content to garner attention. I honestly don’t think Full-Frontal Bruce in Batman: Damned was the same situation. I don’t know the specific reasons why they decided to include that image (if the creators were interviewed about that topic, I haven’t seen it) but my guess is that they took this new “mature readers” “almost anything goes” imprint at DC to heart and, well, went for it. I could see ’em saying “mature imprint, huh? Let’s see if THIS gets past the editor” and then a while later: “oh dang it did.”

I don’t think I was blindsided by the image…I knew it was a mature readers title, and granted, the image itself it relatively minor…silhouetted, almost easy to miss, not like other popular comic book penises like Watchmen‘s Doctor Manhattan. His Lower Manhattan just popped up (heh) in DC’s Big Event Series Doomsday Clock, and seems more like a thing (ahem) than Batman’s deal. I think exposed wedding tackles fit well within the subject matter covered by the “mature readers” label. Now if there were explicit close-up images of Tab A being inserted into Slot B, that’d be a different story…one likely published by Avatar or Boundless.

I don’t think I felt legal problems were potentially a threat here…I mean, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund still exists for a reason, but the naughty Batman comic probably received more jokes about it on late night talk shows than actual complaints from concerned citizens. Raina Telgemeier’s publisher probably receives more letters from uptight parents about her graphic novels per week than the whole of DC does all year. Superheroes are “mainstreamed” now, and I think enough people have been exposed to tie-in media where Batman says “shit” or where Deadpool gets, um, rogered roundly, or where Robin says “fuck Batman” that the idea of an adult-oriented comic book isn’t quite the foreign idea it once was. I’m not saying problems wouldn’t, or don’t, happen, just that Batman: Damned probably wasn’t going to open those particular floodgates.

Not that I shouldn’t be careful, of course. Keep the Bondage Fairies off he kids rack an’ all that.

File under “death, beaten to.”

§ October 17th, 2018 § Filed under publishing, question time § 16 Comments

Following up on the last post, where I answered Paul’s question about “longest publication gap” in a series, I feel like I may have confused the issue a bit. So let’s clarify:

THE PRODUCTION DELAY: what I think Paul was specifically referring to, where an ongoing series, which is intended to continue or complete, experiences a huge unintended delay between issues. Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk, with its years-long pause between issues, is my go-to example of this, though there are plenty of others (like Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do, or Camelot 3000, or anything in the Dark Knight Returns ongoing saga).

THE RETURN FROM THE GRAVE: where a series totally ends, and is not intended to continue at the time…but the title is later revived and continues the numbering. Seems like such a foreign idea now, where any given comic book series seems to have a new #1 every few months or so, but there was a time when the Golden Age Flash series would end at #104, and a few years later, after the introduction of the Silver Age Flash, said series would be resurrected beginning with issue #105. Those “Blackest Night” one-shots which purported to be, like, issue #48 of the canceled Power of the Shazam series and whatnot, would fit in here, as well as those new issues of long-canceled Marvel titles (like Power Pack #63). Ghost Rider #94 would probably fit here, too, since as far as anyone was concerned at the time, #93 was the end of that series, and it wasn’t like there was an editor impatiently waiting nine years for script pages to come in so they could wrap the title.

THE INTENDED SPORADIC RELEASE: where there are extended gaps between issues, but more from design than because of any particular delays in production. I’m pretty sure something like Zap Comix would go here, where it was just released as the participants came together to produce it. (Unless Zap was intended to be monthly, in which case hoo boy did they blow it.)

There are other permutations and variations, but I think those are the big divisions, there. The recent Miracleman reprints probably span a couple of these categories, and some of the longrunning Disney comics which nobody thought would go away for long but definitely stopped publishing at times ’til a new publisher put ’em out again. but I think I’ve created enough headaches splitting these funnybook hairs like this.

Separate from all that are the aborted series, where an issue or three came out and then never continued. I mean, sure, this happens all the time, but it’s relatively unusual from Marvel and DC. Daredevil: The Target is one fairly high profile series that got out one issue and then vanished, never to be seen again except when we dug out our unsold copies of that first issue to return them to the distributor for credit. Or something like Sonic Distruptors, which I liked, but stopped at 7 out of the intended 12 issue run.

But I think what we’re specifically talking about is the first category: the comic that did eventually complete in the format and numbering in which it was intended, just with excessive pauses/delays in the release schedule, and never officially intended to be over and done with. Like Ronin with a much delayed final issue.

That’s the spirit in which I took the question, and sorry if I confused the topic initially. You all had interesting (and some extreme) examples of extended gaps in comic series publication, mostly of the resurrected title kind, which would probably be an all new post just by itself! DON’T TEMPT ME

So, with all that in mind…what’s the record production delay in a comic that did eventually publish an issue after said delay? And again, not meaning a revived title that picks up the numbering, but rather has everyone involved going “holy crap, is this book late.” Excluding Ghost Rider #93/#94 for reasons noted above, would that Spider-Man/Black Cat mini, with 3 1/2 years between issues, be in the top spot?

Let the answering of questions begin!

§ October 15th, 2018 § Filed under publishing, question time § 12 Comments

Here’s Paul, filling my comment section with this, the first question from this post I’m addressing:

“What is the current winner in the “Longest Delayed Issue” contest? Completion of a mini-series, etc. Please feel free to discourse on this title as much as you wish:”

…which he follows with a mention of the never-released follow-up to the as-yet-unfinished comics classic All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder by Frank “The Spirit” Miller and Jim “Put a Collar on Everybody” Lee.

Now, I’d meant to bring home my copy of the Überstraße comical book pricing guide for research purposes, but dumb ol’ me left it sitting on the front counter at work, so what’cha gonna do. So, I’m going to depend on online databases like the Grand Comics Database for my info here.

For the purposes of argument, let’s just consider series that did have a follow-up issue after an extended pause in publication (which would leave out something like that All Star Batman follow-up, which is more theoretical at this point anyway, not to mention technically being a separate mini-series aside from the original).

The first thing that comes to mind is of course Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk, a six part mini-series that had a three-year gap right in the middle there. That’s one of the more obnoxious examples of this sort of thing.

However, there’s an even longer gap from another Marvel title: the 1990s Ghost Rider series, which ended at #93 in 1998 even though an issue #94 had been intended to wrap up the series, sales (and orders!) just didn’t warrant the expense to publish it! Eventually, Marvel did publish #94 as an extra-sized special in 2007, 9 years later, which included a reprint of #93 as well as the heretofore unpublished #94, finally bringing closure to that run.

Then I suppose there’s the legendary underground comic Zap Comix, which published #15 of its run in 2005, and #16 (the final issue, supposedly) in 2016. I mean, this is slightly different from the other examples, in that its not a serialized story that was suddenly interrupted, keeping everyone in suspense until the shocking conclusion was released. …I mean, I suppose once you start looking into undergrounds, there may be all kinds of long publication gaps between issues like this. That’s a whole ‘nother ball of research.

Then there are circumstances like this one, where a Buck Rogers #1 was released in 1964, and then 15 years later, in 1979, when the title was revived due to the TV series, the comic continued with an issue #2. I feel for the Buck Rogers fan who picked up #2 on the stands and lamented that he just missed the first issue, surely containing a prequel to the television show.

I guess I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Miracleman, which doesn’t quite fit the criteria I established above in that it hasn’t yet had the follow-up to its final issue in 1993, and the continuation would have had a newly numbered series anyway. But Marvel came close, coming within a couple of issues in its recent reprint series to finally getting to the promised new material. Had that come out when expected, that would have been a 23 year gap. And though it wouldn’t have had “#25” on the cover, it would have been “The Silver Age” Part 3, so maybe we can consider that the numbering system that was so cruelly interrupted. It’s all a moot point anyway, since those new Miracleman stories don’t appear to be arriving anytime soon, and frankly I’m surprised Marvel hasn’t thrown some version of Marvelman into the Avengers or whatever, and try to recoup whatever money and resources they put into acquiring the character.

Oh, and I just remembered Amazing Fantasy, which had a somewhat famous issue #15 in 1962, followed by #16, #17 and #18 in 1995. Plus, there were all those Blackest Night books that purported to be the next issue after each series’ last issue (like Atom and Hawkman, ending with #45 in 1968, getting a new one-shot event tie-in special #46 in 2010). I’m not sure I’d count these specific cases as “interrupted series runs” as clearly these next issues weren’t part of the plan when the original series were canned.

Well, that’s certainly a lot of typing. Paul, these are the best examples I can think of off the top of my head. I haven’t yet looked into the Disney conics, as I’m pretty sure here there are some lengthy publication gaps, particularly in the 1970s. Admittedly I got a bit off track near the end there, so if anyone can think of any series with lengthy publication gaps that retain their actual numbering, and clearly were meant to continue on but got horribly delayed (as opposed to my examples where a series definitely had its ending, but then had follow-up issues that continued the numbering), just let me know.

Good thing there wasn’t a Swamp Thing one, else I’d be traveling across the country looking for it.

§ July 16th, 2018 § Filed under dc comics, publishing, retailing § 8 Comments

(NOTE: I’ve been told that these aren’t actually “digest-sized,” which for some reason I got into my head these actually were, similar to the ’80s DC digests. This is why I wanted a copy to look at for myself! Also, I’ve heard from various sources that they’re racked “with the Pokemon and Magic cards near the registers,” and, um, my local Walmarts don’t appear to have those either, unless I’m really missing that particular series of shelves.)

(NOTE TO MY NOTE: So, uh, just ignore every time I call these things “digests,” okay? Thanks!)

So I’ve been trying to track down copies of those Walmart-exclusive DC digests, mostly to have just at least one sample copy I can look at and discuss here on the site, before passing it on to a niece or nephew. Like, I wanted to know the actual dimensions of the thing, its readability at that size (likely extra problematic for me, Mr. Gots Eye Troubles), the paper quality, the story selection, etc. And as it turns out…no dice at two of the Walmarts in my immediate area. Not that I found the DC Digest display bereft of copies, sitting on a shelf somewhere…I couldn’t find any sign that there were any on display at all.

Now, given the, um, state of said local Walmarts, “not finding something” could be said to be the default result of any product search, and it could very well be that they were there, somewhere, diplayed in plain view in a disused lavatory with a sign that read “BEWARE OF THE LEOPARD” Douglas Adams-style, but I checked all the usual spots and didn’t find a thing. So, let us hope that this was a case of the comics finding their target audience (i.e. not me, Elderly Comics Guy) and the empty displays were removed to make room for economy-sized tins of mixed nuts, and not, as was suggested by some Twitter pals, disappeared into the hands of speculators, a possibility I honestly hadn’t considered but…well, yeah, that could’ve happened.

I mean, it’s just as well…these digests are not for me, but to get kids to try out comics. Despite my near-despotic command over comic sales in my area (via my foreboding Camarillo headquarters at Sterling Silver Comics) I realized not every young’un will come through my doors to discover the sublime delights of Swamp Thing and…well, pretty much just that, but kids like comics and if you get them into their hands, they more often than not will devour them. I mean, read them, but get ’em young enough they may very well eat them…it’s just paper, they should be okay. So yes, I’m very much for the idea of getting comics into the hands of new readers via publishing initiatives such as this one. I have zero idea if it’s actually happening around here, since I don’t know if our local Marts of Wals even had ’em, but they’re out there somewhere, presumably getting into young people’s hands and not just being mailed off to Comic Slabbers, Inc. to get graded and traded.

I heard about some comics collectin’ and retailin’ folks getting bent out of shape over these things even existing, for some reason. I mean, yes, there are new stories mixed in with the reprints, but, c’mon, it’s not like DC is going to sit on that Brian Michael Bendis Batman story…that’ll be a trade or a mini-series or something down the line. Or it could just be “there’s something out there I can’t have!” — how dare there be a Collectible Issue #1 of Something we can’t order through our shops. (‘Course, if it were, then we’d hear “$4.99 for a new 12 page story and a bunch of reprints? BAH!”) I mean, whatever…the good these could do versus…basically no valid argument against, I think. Get kids used to the idea of reading comics…that’s a net gain for the industry as a whole! And it’s not like Walmart’s going to “steal” your customers, since most of those kids weren’t going to your shop anyway, but now, maybe, if they decide they want more comics, maybe they’ll seek you out. You never know. And besides, just given my personal experience seeking them out, it’s not like you’re going to find well-curated permanent comic racks in these shops directly competing with you.

Going back to that DC Comics release, i can see a lot of the actual contents of the initial digest wave right there, and it looks like a pretty solid mix of recent-ish stories. Now, the old ’80s DC Comics digest fan in me was kinda sorta hoping for some Silver Age-y or even Bronze Age-ish reprints, but I realize those may come across as a little old fashioned. But man, at the very least I hope they drop some Neal Adams Batman stories into some of these digests, just to blow some kids’ minds. Here’s that Shirtless Batman fighting Ra’s al Ghul you’ve been waiting all six years of your life to read, Little Billy!

Anyway, these digests are fine in theory (assuming others have better luck than me finding them). If it gets some kids to realize that, oh, hey, these just aren’t movie characters, they came from somewhere…good. I hope whoever got their hands on these reads the hell out of them, leaving it with tattered covers and bent pages and happily awaiting even more.

Let me just end this on saying that this pic of an empty digest display pocket (courtesy Twitter pal Joe) leaves me in deep appreciation of some designer’s dark sense of humor, considering the source of the image:

\
“For all my super-speed I wasn’t (choke) fast enough!” …Me neither, Superman — me neither.

“Realistically.”

§ July 11th, 2018 § Filed under batman, publishing § 9 Comments

In response to my not-at-all-about-Batman-#50 post from the other day, I’ve had a few folks here and there note that a “these characters get married!” comics event isn’t really the same as a “this character dies!” event, and, well, yeah, sure. There’s more of an implied permanence, I think, with marriage in comics, versus a death in a comic basically having the “well, how will our hero get out of this one?” question implied. (Though maybe that question is implied in the former situation as well…joking, I’m joking.)

However, to clarify my thoughts on the matter…I don’t think the nature of the event itself matters so much as the fact a specific event was specifically marketed and then not delivered. It’s kind of a moot point now, I suppose, as the initial sales window for Batman #50 has come and gone, and hopefully retailers managed to sell the majority of their copies that they almost certainly ordered large-ish numbers on. I mean, yes, realistically, Batman and Catwoman shouldn’t get married, such a major change to iconic characters may be too much…but then again, Superman and Lois Lane are married. And have a kid. And for that matter, Batman has a child as well. Those are all fairly significant changes to the status quo, so yet another marriage didn’t seem entirely out of the question. And besides, all these changes could be swept away in the next series of relaunches/reboots when everyone gets tired of dealing with them.

Like I said, no beef with the story itself, or the tie-in “Prelude to the Wedding” issues and whatnot. But the “invitation” postcards and retailers being encouraged to do in-store celebrations…that’s the sort of thing that seemingly should only be occurring with an event that’s actually happening, not “FAKE-OUT! Nothing’s changed!”

It reminds me in a little way of the Fantastic Four issue where it was promoted as a big deal character death (complete with putting the issue in a black polybag deliberately reminiscent of the “Death of Superman” issue) and it was reasonably clear within the story itself that there wasn’t really any death happening. I wrote about it way back when, and yeah, a character goes missing, and the rest of the team is bummed and thinking he’s dead, but…it just felt like marketing overhyping a minor plot line that would get resolved in short order. I mean, most character death stories are like that, I guess, but this one in particular. Under normal circumstances that issue would have been follwed by the next one emblazoned “THE SEARTH FOR THE HUMAN TORCH!” and then we’d have that goin’ on for four or five issues.

So that’s that. I know a lot of you agree with me that the Batman “event” build-up was misleading, which I appreciate. Everything sold great anyway, so yeah yeah, I know, what are you complaining about, Mike? I just hope it doesn’t encourage more fake-outs: “hey, if we just TELL them that Iron Man is going to lose a leg in isue #12 and then never actually do it…they’re still gonna buy it!”

Okay, no Batman marriage stuff in the next post…I mostly promise!

Someone remind me to make an MST3K category for my site.

§ June 8th, 2018 § Filed under publishing, television § 3 Comments

Okay, I was planning on this being a two-post week, but I find myself having to report on the only big comic news to come out in the last few days. I am, of course, talking about the reveal of the covers for the first issue of Dark Horse’s Mystery Science Theater 3000 series.

The regular cover, by Todd Nauck, which has a real Mad Magazine vibe to it:

The variant, by regular contributor to the MST3K box sets Steve Vance, featuring Tom Servo’s very disturbing man-hands:

I have no idea what ratio that variant will be available in…1 in 10? 1 in 100? 1 in 1000? Well, I hope my customers are ready for 1,000 copies of the MST3K comic, because I’m gonna need both versions. Anyway, read more about it at this article here.

As I assumed back in ye olden tymes, the comics will indeed be the Satellite of Love crew riffing over old comics (as was the original plan waaaaay back even farther when Acclaim Comics intended to do their own MST funnybooks). I’ve been waiting for a MST3K comic book for a very long time, and I’m very glad it’s almost here.

Oh, and I guess there’s some big to-do about Vertigo this week as well. I mean, in much less important news.

Any reason at all to talk about Land of the Lost.

§ April 11th, 2018 § Filed under publishing § 7 Comments

So on the Twitters the other day I lamented the fact that there never has been a comic book based on the classic ’70s Saturday morning show Land of the Lost. I did mention that a Land of the Lost comic was at one point solicited in the Diamond Previews catalog in April 2009, featuring this solicitation text:

“Rick Marshall, his son Will, and younger daughter Holly are trapped in an alien world inhabited by dinosaurs, monkey-people called Pakuni, and aggressive, humanoid/lizard creatures called Sleestak. The family’s struggle to survive and find a way back to their own world continues in this comic book series. Land of the Lost is also a $100 million budget film starring Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel coming from Universal Studios on June 5th!”

I had mentioned in my Twitter thread that, based on the solicit, I wasn’t sure if the comic would be based on the TV show or the Ferrell vehicle, until it was correctly pointed out that the familial relationship in the TV show and described in the solicit is not present in the film, so it appears the comic would have been based on the original version. I mean, one could hardly blame me for forgetting the details of that mostly execrable movie. Anyway, this was the image accompanying said solicitation:


..so it seemed like it was a safe bet this would have been the TV show version of the concept.

Now, it never did come out…Diamond has it marked as “CANCELLED” in big red letters, and why exactly it was canned I’m not entirely sure. I’ve always assumed it was because the Big Budget Movie whose coattails the comic’s publishers had hoped to ride, based on that solicitation text, turned out to be a bust. Or maybe it was more complex behind-the-scenes licensing shenanigans, or creative issues, or…I haven’t a clue.

But it’s a shame…I’d still love to see a Land of the Lost comic of some kind. The Ferrell movie seems mostly forgotten by now, so a new comic book series wouldn’t have that particular shadow cast over it, I’d think. And there was enough weird world-building elements and hints in at least the first couple of seasons of the TV show that I would love to see some of the original writers for the program participate in this proposed comic book series and maybe put some of those pieces together. Um, y’know, while they’re…uh, still around.

Now to the other thing I wanted to discuss, which was inspired by Twitter pal J.R. Jenks very wisely pointing out “But how would the banjo music translate to the page? That series had great banjo.” Yes indeed it did (and you can look here for all the Land of the Lost banjo discussion you could ever use), and my immediate and somewhat facetious response was “sound chip, like greeting cards.”

And you know what? Why wadn’t there ever a comic book with a sound ship? You open the cover of, say, Justice League International, and there’s Blue Beetle doing the “BWA-HA-HA!” laugh. Or open a Shazam! comic to a crack of thunder. Or…well, there’s plenty of possibilities. Now, as a retailer, I would eventually be driven to murder after listening to these repeatedly play several hours each day, but “practicality” and “the sanity of comic shop owners” rarely enter the discussion when planning gimmicks like these. However, to the best of my knowledge, even during the 1990s cover gimmick heyday, the comic book sound ship threshold was never breached. If someone knows differently, I’d like to hear about it. There are probably production and cost reasons it didn’t happen, I’m sure, but I’m still a little surprised. Plus, those batteries don’t last forever…I’ve got a Star Wars sound-chipped birthday card which plays a very sadly worn-down and depressing rendition of the theme at this point.

I know relatively recently we’ve had the “talking comics” from the current iteration of Valiant, where you’d hold your smartphone in front of a character’s face on the cover, and software internet magic would happen the character would “talk,” but that’s not exactly what I’m talking about.

So basically what I’m asking for here is a new, ongoing Land of the Lost comic which has an embedded sound chip that gives you either banjo music, Grumpy’s roar, or a Sleestak hiss whenever you open the cover. So long as it’s not this terrible, terrible sound from the show that’s always creeped me out.

I’m pretty sure some of the sentences I typed here make sense.

§ March 9th, 2018 § Filed under publishing § 7 Comments

So I’ve been trying to think of a solution to the issue-numbering albatross that’s been hanging around the comic industry’s neck for so long, and surprise, I don’t know any easy fixes that don’t involve everyone who publishes/buys/is otherwise attached to comics just, you know, not worrying about issue numbers. Honestly, I really think the best best, and one that was working at least up until Marvel said “ha ha, never mind, here are more #1s” was just keeping that issue number where it was, based on the number of previous issues published. People were buying Doctor Strange #387 or whatever…like I said, sales were beginning to creep up as consumer confidence rose in the titles they were following having some established (and potentially future) consistency. I mean, over at DC, Action and Detective seem to be doing fine with their issue numbers in the hundreds.

Some points were made in the comments to my last post on the topic. Both Brian and Daniel T bring up what Dark Horse does with their Hellboy-universe books, having an overall series number inside the book, while having, if necessary, “chapter” numbers on the fronts of the book. I went into annoying detail on this very topic almost exactly five years ago discussing this very thing.

I mean…maybe that could work for superhero books, maybe, but that would require a huge change in mindsets regarding how readers approach the titles they follow. We’re too used to there being a regular monthly Batman book, for example…while, with a regular monthly title, switches in storylines and creative teams would in effect make an ongoing feel like a bunch of “mini-series” that just happen to be tied together with a shared numbering system. Actually making them literally different mini-series, with new #1s on the cover of each first chapter, even with a secondary overall numbering inside that ties them all together. The Hellboy/BPRD comics can pull this off, as the comics have a mostly consistent aesthetic/tone with a relatively small circle of creative teams. It’s the nature of superhero comics to change in style pretty significantly with new stories and creators, so a “mini-series” by J. Master Artist might sell a lot better than the follow up “mini” by Hacky McHackerton, causing a distinct change in order numbers and sales figures that might be smoothed out by a more obvious shared-numbering system and a sense that it’s all “of a piece.”

My personal preference would just be picking a numbering system, sticking to it, and don’t kill a series and crank out a new #1 just because, I don’t know, the Beast changed the color of his trunks or something. First issues used to be special, a big event…”here’s a brand new series starring the character YOU demanded!” I’d like to see them that way again. Not to say we still don’t get occasional excitement over some new first issues…the recent batch of new launches from DC is getting a small amount of interest, which is a change from that lack of response that “DC-You” thing got. Anyway, the ultimate solution to all this is likely going to be the transition away from monthlies to trades/graphic novels. Which, of course, will still be numbered so here we go again, but possibly would be more conducive to an environment where the specific order of release is less important than the individual reading experience of each volume.

So let’s meet back here in a decade or two and see how it all shakes out.

• • •

In other news…I love — well, cringe sympathetically at, more accurately — stories about shops that have been stuck with way too many copies of something, particularly from the years of excess during the 1990s. You may recall this tale of the tragic fate of 14 long boxes full of Valiant’s Turok #1. Well, here’s a brief remembrance of the Superman Wedding Special which leaves me thankful that we only had as many left over as we did.

The All-New Progressive Ruin #1! (Six months later) The All-New, All-Different Progressive Ruin #1!

§ February 28th, 2018 § Filed under death of superman, market crash, publishing, retailing § 7 Comments

JohnJ Week continues, as he’s left another comment to which I wanted to respond:

“And you only get a month’s rest before you have to decide how many copies of Amazing Spider-Man #800, supposedly a big 80-pages for a whopping $9.99.

“My biggest screw-up ordering comics when I had my store was over the Superman-Lois wedding special. I thought it would sell in the kind of numbers the death of Superman could have sold in if I’d known that was going to be a big news item. But they tried too hard to coordinate it with the wedding on ‘The Adventure of Lois and Clark’ on tv, which really killed off interest in the comic.”

Now for me, Amazing Spider-Man #800 isn’t quite as difficult to order as you might think. Marvel’s past $9.99 books (almost entirely special issues in the Deadpool series) I’ve ordered reasonably okay on, as I’ve got some solid sales history for Deadpool to refer to. Oddly enough, the only $9.99 issue of Deadpool I sort of blew it on was #25 [EDIT 3/11/18: actually, it’s $5.99…still blew that order, though], where I got just a few too many for inexplicable reasons and thus I’ve just kept it on the shelf, selling a copy every once in a while.

Amazing Spider-Man sales of late have been slowly increasing, probably because of the impending 800th issue, partially because of the plotlines, and partially because Marvel sales have been slowly climbing for me just kind of across the board on many of their main books. Of course, that’ll come to an end when Marvel begins their next round of relaunches, killing that momentum, but hey, maybe I’m just being cynical and this eighth or ninth time really will be the charm.

Anyway, getting back on track…even though the increased demand for Amazing Spider-Man has caught a lot of folks off guard recently, after kind of bottoming-out for a while there, I think I may have kind of a handle on orders for it now and can make a realistic guess as to how #800 will do for me. And, historically, and even still today, “anniversary” issues of Amazing tend to sell well even as back issues, so if I still have a few left over on the shelves after the initial sales window is complete, I’m not going to be too worried.

Now, the next part of JohnJ’s comment had me wondering how our own sales on the Superman wedding issues were, back at my previous place of employment. I do remember, after being caught short on 1992’s Superman #75, the black-bagged “Death of Superman” issue, we ordered much higher numbers for 1993’s white-bagged Adventures of Superman #500…and so did everyone else in the country. We sold plenty of that #500, but still were left with a boatload of them in stock. So don’t feel bad, JohnJ…that was our own “b-b-but Superman #75!” foul-up!

By the time 1996 and the Superman Wedding Special came around, we were still trying to recover from the comics crash, and the excesses of the late ’80s/early ’90s were mostly behind us. But our comic sales weren’t doing too badly, and there was still the occasional rush from the general public into shops whenever any particular comic hit the real world news (though, as you noted, that’s not an occurrence you can ever predict or readily depend upon). As I’ve been typing this, I’ve been trying to envision the Superman backstock boxes in the old storage room, and if I recall correctly, we did have some remaining copies of the Wedding Specials (both the white-covered Direct Edition and the John Byrne-covered Newsstand Edition, though more of the former). It wasn’t a lot, and I seem to recall selling quite a few of them on the stands, and continuing to sell them over the subsequent years (at the very least, I do remember having to fish ’em out of the back room every once in a while).

I can remember that, I just can’t recall what our initial orders were…it was a pretty good number, I think, but not so high that we were stuck with an enormous number of leftovers. And I can’t even recall if there was the aforementioned rush of folks who heard about it on the Evening News or wherever. If only I’d known I was going to be starting my comics retailing blog a mere seven years later, I would have kept better notes. Ah well, I’ll be talking to my old boss Ralph soon, so I’ll ask him and see if he remembers.

As for the Lois and Clark TV show fouling things up a bit…yeah, I do distinctly remember when the plan was to separate Lois and Clark in the comics for a bit to forestall the impending nuptials even further, complete with solicitations for future issues to that effect. Then, when the wedding was announced for the TV show, that tail wagged the dog sufficiently to cut short that separation storyline in the comics and fast-track the four-color version of the super-couple down the aisle. You can read more about that in this column by my comic article-writin’ pal Brian. …Thanks, JohnJ, for your blogging-inspirational commenting!

Now let me go back to something I said earlier in this post, regarding the Marvel “Fresh Start” publishing initiative. Perhaps I came across a little…agitated by the whole thing. I thought the recent Marvel Legacy deal was a good idea…trying to wean themselves off the constant relaunches and new #1s, focus on the lengthy histories and runs on these titles, give readers some confidence that they can follow a story without thinking it’s just going to up and restart with a new first issue. And as I said, I was seeing some improvement on many Marvel books…even Doctor Strange and Punisher were slowly climbing in sales. Will those gradual increases carry over into any new relaunched titles featuring the same characters? I sure hope so, but I don’t know.

I think what set me off was the announcement of the “new ongoing” Immortal Hulk, launching with its first issue in a few months. That made me snark a bit on the world’s primary snarking service, Twitters Dots Coms, because honestly, is there going to be an Immortal Hulk issue number, say, 35 on the stands three-something years from now? Or by “ongoing” do they mean like the old “maxiseries,” which would run a fixed 12 issues, in, out, and done? Don’t get me wrong…I’m a longtime Hulk comics fan, and Immortal Hulk sounds fine and I look forward to reading it. But…any reason why this couldn’t have just been done under the title Incredible Hulk? Does relaunching a long-running title with a new first issue still have any kind of extra selling power? Does any kind of sales boost that results stick around for any period of time? Is there a long term advantage to doing that versus just building an audience on an established title without breaking momentum with forced cancellations and restarts?

I’ve said before, I want comics to sell well. I mean, more than just because that’s how I make my living. I want comics to sell well because I like comics. And I want other people to like comics. But every single time there’s a series of relaunches like this, it really does make things difficult. It can confuse and irritate customers, and as has been said so often, jumping-on points are also jumping-off points.

It’s…a weird thing to be concerned about, I realize. It doesn’t really matter what the number is on the front of the comic so long as you’re enjoying what’s inside. Like I said above, I’ve read Hulk comics for a long time, and I’ve read them through, what, a half-dozen restarts and renumberings? But part of comic collecting is the “collecting” part, and it’s hard to escape the issue numbering mindset. These constant renumberings do have an impact, and having a big new “#1 First Issue Collector’s Item!” on the front cover isn’t quite the sales ploy it used to be.

Popeye the Zombie Man.

§ February 22nd, 2018 § Filed under popeye, publishing § 8 Comments

So Wednesday morning my first customer in the door had a question for me, regarding the variant cover for the recently-released Popeye Classics #65, which looks a little something like this:


Charming, no? Frankly, I’m surprised King Features even let this fly, but that’s kinda beside the point of my post here. Anyway, my customer was asking if I could somehow get my filthy comic-selling mitts on a copy, as he tried eBay and someone there was asking for $500 for that particular comic. I found that a little…alarming, so I went to the eBays to see for myself, and sure enough:


…a “Buy It Now” listing for $499, and a still-active auction for one of those graded ‘n’ slabbed copies at nearly $300. But, you know, there’s free shipping.

That’s…something else, to be sure. And if that’s not enough, looking around at other Popeye variants that have been on eBay, here’s one that seemingly sold for $4,100!

Now, these variants are available at 1:10 ratios…for every ten copies of the regular cover I order, I can order one copy of the variant. I mean, I don’t need to tell you, you know how this whole comic book variant thing works. Under normal circumstances, a variant with only a 1-in-10 “scarcity” is hardly scarce at all, and wouldn’t sell for too high of a premium. There are some circumstances where I even say “eh, don’t feel like baggin’ it and markin’ it up” and just sell it for cover. That’s okay for high-selling (or, you know, “relatively high-selling,” given the state of the marketplace) comics, where even the 1/10 variants are easy to come by.

But Popeye Classics…that’s a different story. That’s a niche market in a niche market, a comic book directly reprinting comics from 50-something years ago. I love this comic, personally…when people ask me what my favorite comic on the stands is right now, that’s usually my go-to answer. But, unfortunately, it’s not a series that really moves off my shelves. I get a copy for me, a couple of copies for pull lists, and every time I try to rack it, it just doesn’t sell. It’s a shame, really, but at least I get copies for the folks around here who appreciate it…like me!

At the store (and on the Twitters) I was speculating that the print run was likely in the 2,000 to 3,000 range, which means, at most, there could only be potentially 200 to 300 copies of the 1:10 variants. Now, realistically, not every store who orders the comic is going to order 10 or more copies. I’d imagine far more stores order well under 10 copies, with shops ordering over 10 (and thus qualifying for the variant) being the exception. Thus…well, I don’t know how many stores exactly could qualify, but I was thinking the number of circulated variants would be closer to, maybe, 30 to 50.

Well, as I was tweeting about this, Twitter pal Dave let me know that, according to the information on this site, the number of copies of Popeye Classics #65 disseminated through Diamond Comics Distribution was 1,287. Presumably that number includes the variants, too, so as you can see, the actual maximum number of potential variants sent out to Diamond accounts is much lower than I assumed, and probably, realistically, way lower than even that. Again, I don’t know the specific number, but if it amounted to just a couple of dozen, I would not be surprised.

As I also wondered on on Twitter, I don’t know what kind of printing limitations there may be, too. Like, is there a minimum number they have to print of each cover? For example, if they need 25 copies of the variant cover to send out to retailers, and there’s a minimum print job of 100 copies, does that leave IDW with 75 extra they can sell at a premium at shows or in online stores and such? Or can they just…switch out the covers during the print job easily enough and only print out what they need? …Look, I just sell the things, I don’t print ’em, so I honestly don’t know what the deal is. If anyone could clarify the actual mechanics of this, particularly at this small of a scale for what is otherwise a major publisher, I’d be interested.

So of course the temptation is to always order enough Popeye to get variants, sell the portion of that I could actually sell, give the rest to Swee’Pea for him to read, sell the variant for that high premium, and then dive around in my money like a porpoise, and burrow through it like a gopher, and toss it up and let it hit me on the head, if I may mix up my cartoon characters a bit. But naturally the day I do that so will everyone else, and then the 1/10 Popeye variants are suddenly not expensive and in demand, and all we’d have gotten out of it is higher sales on Popeye comics and presumably more publishing interest in continuing to provide Popeye comics. But…despite those high prices I noted at the beginning, there are several of these variants that don’t sell for that kind of money, or at least not enough to let me eat the cost of extra unsold comics. And I’m not sure there’s much rhyme or reason to which ones do sell, and besides, speculation could pay off, or just leave me with a backroom filled with unsellable product. If I could guarantee that $4000 payoff, sure! Or even that $300 one. But that’s the sort of behavior that can kill a store, and one I’m wary of as a result.

But “your pal Mike thinking about making a big score” isn’t the point of all this. Mostly, it’s just amazement at finding out about this strange micro-market involving some variant covers I’d barely thought about over the last few years. And partially it’s about that Zombie Popeye cover. I mean, holy cow.

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