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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:

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“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.

Not that I’ve really added anything by returning to the topic.

§ January 5th, 2018 § Filed under publishing § 3 Comments

So anyway, I was going back over some old posts and realized that I’d meant to return to your comments about who the big Frank Miller/John Byrne-esque comics superstars are today. I think part of my problem is definition of terms, and that perhaps the Miller/Byrne superstardom was inflated in my memories. I mean, not too much, they were undeniably Big Names, but I think I may have been trying to compare creators of today to a standard that perhaps didn’t really exist as I remembered.

I don’t think I was too far off base; there was a reason why DC handed Superman over to Byrne and said “okay, pal, go to town.” And why Miller was given a six-issue mini-series in a new deluxe format starring demons and future-ninjas and not a single Batman in sight. And some of today’s creators are comparable, I think, despite the business being a quite different beast now. I don’t have much to add to the suggestions you left…I think Alex Ross and Neil Gaiman are probably the two most likely suspects. Okay, Ross covers are all over the place, but should he decide to do interiors on a series, that would almost certainly grab attention. And Gaiman is, well, Gaiman…he gets attention whenever he delves back into comics. And Mark Millar, too…yeah, okay, “boo hiss” but he’s pretty much got free reign to do whatever, and good on him. And I still think if Todd McFarlane came back to a Big Two comic (as unlikely as that is), that would probably suck up all the available money in the direct market. I mean, just picture “Todd McFarlane’s Superman.” Holy cow, I just had a vision of myself diving into my money bin the day after that first issue came out.

Anyway, my response to the original question was perhaps ill-considered…there are plenty of popular creators out there who get an extra amount of attention from fans and news sites/mags, but, as was pointed out, even the most popular creators don’t necessarily appeal to everyone. It’s hard to pick out one or two folks as being superstars, and even when a dummy like me does it anyway in that previous paragraph, there are plenty of pro and con arguments to make. Hey, let’s just agree that everyone is a superstar to somebody. Even if it’s just, y’know, Mom.

• • •

Okay, still taking your comic industry predictions for 2018, and I’ll start looking at your 2017 predictions next week…after an End of Civilization post, hopefully.

Let me just start off this post with something that would have blown the mind of teenaged me.

§ November 17th, 2017 § Filed under market crash, pal plugging, publishing § 6 Comments

First, the plug:


Steve Bissette (whom you may remember having drawn a certain swamp monster of some note) has published a new book, Cryptid Cinema, where he discusses a few of his favorite movie critters. Along the way of the production of this volume, Mr. Bissette asked for my assistance, particularly regarding some of the goofy Swamp Thing merchandise that was produced way back when. Well, specifically, he asked if he could quote some of my old blog posts on the topic, to which I of course said “sure!” So here we are, a big ol’ book by ME ME ME with some help from Steve Bissette that you can order just by clicking on this little box here:


Tell ’em Mike sent you! And when they say “who?” just turn around and run, run like the dickens.

And of course, a big, big thanks to Mr. Bissette for asking me to be involved!

• • •

Okay, now back to Progressive Ruin, which is already in progress:

Dan wonders in the comments to Monday’s post:

“I was never able to find out what exactly ‘Mando’ or ‘Baxter’ paper is besides ‘a kind of paper they printed comics on.’ Are they brand names? Named after inventors? What other uses do the have? Newsprint I get – it’s what they print newspapers on.”

I…don’t know. I just assumed they were names assigned to various kinds of paper stock by the manufacturers. Just doing a quick Googling I found a couple of references to “MANDO paper,” as in the “Minnesota and Ontario Paper Company. I didn’t find many specific references to this being the same mando paper stock as used in comics, outside a message board entry or two, but maybe someone who knows better can clear it up.

Baxter paper I’m not so sure about…there are some references to a couple of paper companies with “Baxter” in their name, including, confusingly enough, a fictional Leland Baxter Paper Company that supposedly constructed the Fantastic Four’s Baxter Building. I’m pretty sure that, like I said, it was just a name assigned by the manufacturer to its product, and again, if anyone has a more specific answer, please chime in!

EDIT: Thom H. notes in the comments that Baxter paper appears to have originated from the Great Northern Paper Company (which was one of the possible sources I turned up in my own search). Ben backs this up in the comments to my Monday post, and both fellas point to this weblog posting and comments for sourcing.

From Wednesday’s post, James G. asks

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

James, I apologize. I’ve been doing this so long (I mean, selling comics, not just blogging about them, though that’s likely the case as well) that I just throw out references here and there and everywhere and assume that just because I know what I’m talking about, that everyone else will too. I do attempt explanations when I can, but some events just loom so large for me in my recollections of the Comics of Decades Past, I forget not everyone was there experiencing the same magical times that I was.

The big deal with X-Men #1 was that there were five variant covers for the issue (which you can see right here, with the newsstand edition included as well), with each cover released in subsequent weeks. The first four covers formed a larger image, and the fifth variant featured all four covers linked together in a wraparound foldout cover. This came out around the peak of the comic market boom, and orders on these comics were out of control. I think the combined total made this the highest ordered comic at least in the modern age, or maybe even since the Golden Age…trying to look this up to confirm just brought me to a bunch of comic book “investment” sites, which depressed me, but trust me…there’s a lot of copies of this.

Now, don’t get me wrong…the comic sold great. We sold a ton of them at the time. Hell, even I bought one. (Just one!) But we had a bunch left over as well, as at the time the store purchasing strategy was “this is the first issue of a new ongoing X-Men series, the first since the Silver Age, better have lots on hand for all that back issue demand!” I’ve joked that even since opening my own shop, I’ve acquired a small backlog of some of these first issues without even really trying to buy any, and by “joked” I mean “accurately described my specific experience.” They just kinda…show up, man. They do still sell even now, on occasion. Of course, even given the large amounts of copies that were printed, perhaps copies are not as easy to track down now, given that many stores at the time that may have had overstock are now gone, and that a significant percentage of people who bought it at the time either lost them or didn’t store them properly. This is something I discussed a while back, if you’re interested.

Deathmate was the greatly-anticipated crossover between the then new and hot publishers Image Comics and Valiant Comics. I actually did a write-up on this, oh, about 12 years ago, which is good because I could barely remember the “story” details now. Anyway everyone overordered it, it had problems with shipping delays, I think some people were put out that Spawn wasn’t involved (or only just barely) and it turned into a huge backroom burden because it didn’t sell anywhere close to expectations. As noted in that post I linked, I was happy to rid myself of these for the princely sum of one slim nickel each, and good riddance.

“Deathwatch 2000” (boy, comics were big on death then, you know, not like now) was the big crossover event from Continuity Comics. Continuity was the company run by legendary comics artist Neal Adams, with most of the titles seemingly drawn by him or at least drawn in his house style. They had bit of a following…in particular Armor, Samuree and Megalith seemed to be the most popular. Now, here’s where things get a bit fuzzy, as I don’t remember the specifics, but I seem to recall some kind of special “#0” issue that was part of the storyline but wasn’t, like, sold on the stands. Specifically, there were some hoops for readers to jump through in order to “qualify” for getting that issue…honestly, I just can’t recall what it was. I just remember we had too many of that comic. (And no, I’m not talking about the Valeria the She-Bat comics Continuity released as yet another hard-to-get premium comic, the details for which I also can’t recollect.) Hopefully, as I plow through those boxes of old promotional material from the previous place of employment, I’ll be able to glean some clues as to what specifically was going on.

Zoot Koomie zoots

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

As you see just above, my memories of Continuity are pretty limited. I didn’t read any at the time (though I was tempted by Echo of Futurepast, their anthology comic). I’ll see if I can come up with anything more.

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

Pretty well, actually. There were the Big Two (National Periodical and Timely Comics) and then there were the larger small-press companies (the three you mention, plus probably a couple of others), the not-quite-as-big-as-the-bigger-smaller-publishers (companies like maybe Fantagraphics and, yes, Continuity), and then the small-small publishers, who did their one or two titles every few months and that was that. Of course, that’s just talking about periodicals…once you factor in Fantagraphics’ book publishing, that boosts them up a bit. And plus, I’m just going on personal experience…maybe there were stores where, say, Jon Sable Freelance outsold X-Men. Hey, it could happen.

I sort of touch on this topic in this post, where I mention that it was kind of a different comics market back then, with people more willing to try books from indie publishers. Sales on what probably look like strange, offbeat books to current eyes likely sold better than you’d expect. Probably at numbers that Marvel and DC would love to have now.

Doing this post reminds me I still have a couple of questions left to answer in that old post where I asked you for those questions.

§ November 10th, 2017 § Filed under publishing § 6 Comments

Okay, going back to that post about Boris the Bear and variants an’ stuff….

Jim Kosmicki says

“well, there were the variant covers on Justice League and Firestorm where they tried a younger skewing trade dress, but never mind. Looking those up in the GCD, that experiment was about a year after this was published…so no, in my feeble memory, there was no other precedent.”

The covers he’s talking about are these…Justice League #3 (1987):

…and Firestorm #61 (also 1987):

As best as I can recall, these were just sent out to newsstands in scattered areas around the country. Our local area seemed to me hit with a lot of copies of Justice League, but I personally bought a copy of the Firestorm variant from a newsstand in Oxnard, so some did make it out here. But I recall having at the previous place of employment a sizable stack of the JL book that, frankly, didn’t show much sales movement…I suspect the higher prices in the price guide reflected the secondary market in areas where said variants didn’t get sent, while out in sunny Califor-nee nobody much cared. The Firestorm cover, however, I almost never saw come through the shop, so I assume 1) it wasn’t as widely distributed around here and 2) well, duh, just realized Justice League sold quite a bit better than Firestorm so of course there’d be more of the former.

• • •

Daniel T goes a little something…like this:

“Boris was released in November and Man of Steel I’m 90+% sure was out late June/early July. How many other two cover comics could there have been? I’d think Boris could have been the SECOND comic with a variant. So I have no idea what ‘other’ comics are being referred to unless the two versions of MoS #1 count as the ‘other’s.”

Yeah, that sounds right. I think it’s fair to say that perhaps Dark Horse was being a little…politic in not directly saying naming DC Comics and saying it was all their fault. There was also a parody of Man of Steel called Man of Rust that also had two variants, but that was out around the same time as that issue of Boris the Bear. I wonder how many of the early “variant covers” wave were just variations on Man of Steel?

“And the letter wasn’t really explaining the idea of 50/50 variants so much as the fact that every copy of Boris #4 was going to have both covers, just half of them reversed.”

Well, okay, maybe there weren’t doing that specifically…perhaps I was simplifying/extrapolating a tad. It was still a press release explaining “variants,” which I thought was amusing given that it’s kinda old hat now. It’d be like putting out a press release for announcing, I don’t know, “Majority of standard comic books will continue to use staples.”

• • •

Eric L presents, in response to my assertion that newsstand-edition comics were likely ordered in lower numbers at comic shops

“But at the time if you wanted the newsstand cover all you would have had to do was wait two weeks and pick it up at the local 7-11. At the time they were readily available. And I always liked the newsstand cover better anyway.”

That’s fair, but there were probably enough people going to comic shops who knew their comics would be out now and didn’t want to wait two weeks for the other edition to hit newsstands, assuming local newsstands would even get the book in question (and sometimes not all of them did). It just became easier to have one place to go to get all their comics, instead of touring the neighborhood hitting all the convenience stores to get the issues they needed. …Though between you and me, sometimes I have that nostalgic feeling about riding my bike from 7-Eleven to 7-Eleven, hunting and gathering the latest releases every Tuesday and Thursday.


Andrew wonders

“I’m thinking of Marvel, and how in either the lettercolumns or Bullpen Bulletins they had to reassure people that the cover differences between newsstand and direct market copies were only about the distribution method, and neither one was meant to be seen as rarer than the other or a variant of some kind. Maybe that’s what the flyer’s referring to.”

I don’t think the flyer’s referring specifically to that, given that they’re addressing the multiple cover images on Boris. However, though I haven’t had many inquiries about this in a long time (since it’s mostly not an issue anymore), I did used to get people asking me if it made any difference if there was a UPC code on the cover, or if there was a little picture of Spider-Man where the UPC code should be? Actually, I just remembered I talked about this very topic at length a year or so ago right here.

• • •

From the post about The Nam, Bryan recalls

“Re: The Nam’s sales and collectability, didn’t the series actually start off rather popular? I can remember the first issue being a on-the-wall-behind-the-cash-register-for-$10 book within months of its first publishing.”

Yes, actually, it took off right away and the first issue did acquire some premium pricing in short order. Weird for a non-superhero comic from the Big Two at the time…I remember rarely if ever having copies of that particular issue in stock at any given time. In later years, that issue and the ones with, um, the Punisher (sigh….) still retained some demand.

• • •

And from the Classics Illustrated rack post, Alvin inquires

“Speaking of First, any inside dope on their collapse? IIRC, the bottom dropped off for them well before the real market implosion.”

Not really anything too juicy, alas. They replaced long-running series that were probably experiencing dips in circulation with proposed ongoing series of mini-series, which I’m guessing they were counting on sales bumps from new #1s every few months. I don’t know how successful those minis were, but it was probably still a comedown from having several ongoing regular monthlies on the stands at the same time. I also think First was looking into, or just beginning to start, a chain of retail comic shops, and if I’m recalling that correctly, that may have eaten up some resources too. And I there was other stuff, I’m sure…I’ll have to go back through my Comics Journals from the period and see if there are any write-ups about what was goin’ on.

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