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Okay, more like a dozen Batman series.

§ February 11th, 2016 § Filed under retailing, self-promotion § 5 Comments

So Chris in the comments to Monday’s post noted that he often wondered why superhero movies didn’t lead to higher sales on the related comics. His answers — price and availability — are part of the problem, clearly. The other answer, essentially spinning off the idea of availability, and one I’ve noted on this site before, is that it’s practically a lifestyle choice. Going to a comic book store on a regular basis to follow the serialized adventures of superheroes is a commitment, as opposed to seeing a superhero movie every few months or a TV show beamed directly into your every week, which is good enough for most people.

The other problem is, as Chris also mentions, is that the stories themselves often don’t tend to welcome new readers. I think it goes even beyond that…if someone sees an Avengers movie and comes to a store looking for an Avengers comic, there’s at least three or four to choose from. Or Batman. Or Spider-Man (which, for bonus confusion, has a side series numbered 1.1, 1.2, etc.). It can be hard to pick which one is the one to follow. At least in most cases, if someone comes in and says “I want a Batman comic” there’s usually a comic that’s just straight-up called “Batman” that I can hand them. And to Marvel’s credit, while their flagship Amazing Spider-Man title is doing some different stuff with the character, there’s a side-series, Spidey, which is a more recognizable version of old Web-Head that’s not tied into any post-Secret Wars, pre-Civil War 2 hoohar for the uninitiated to worry about.

Now, it’s not as bad as all that. I still do reasonably good business (and repeat business!) in folks young and not-so-young just popping in and trying out comics that look interesting. Plus, of course, there are always the trade paperback collections for anyone seeking out longer reads. This is generally despite the comics themselves, with confusion numberings and constant reboots making it difficult for titles to get traction and for new readers to catch on and catch up.

Anyway, as usual, there are no answers here. It’s a weird business, but generally a rewarding one for readers who decide to put the effort into it and figure out just how to keep up with the mostly-bonkers publishing end of things.

Be sure to go back and read the comments to Monday’s post…some good discussion there.

• • •

The latest Question of the Week over at Trouble with Comics is regarding favorite romances in comics, and while I considered the Brain and Monsieur Mallah, I went with the response that will surprise none of you.

And four bedroom houses only used to cost twenty bucks.

§ February 8th, 2016 § Filed under pal plugging, publishing, retailing § 15 Comments

So the other day a lad and his grandmother came to the shop to look around, and everything was going well until the grandmother took a close look at the new comics rack and exclaimed “comics cost $3.99!?” It was a bit of sticker shock for her, as that was quite a bit higher than the new comic prices she remembered from her youth.

I mentioned this on the Twitters, and as the discussion continued from my initial post there, I realized there were two different issues that were perhaps being conflated. The first issue, and the one of greatest interest to those of us who regularly consume this particular artform, is that of perceived value. “Did I get my $3.99’s worth out of this comic?” “Did I just blow through this $3.99 comic filled with splash pages and no dialogue in two minutes?” “Did I just spend 20 minutes slowly absorbing the intricacies of dialogue and appreciating the beautifully-rendered art?” All questions we’re familiar with, I’m sure. And it is an important concern, that everyone from the reader to the publisher to the retailer needs to worry about: is the product worth it?

There’s no simple answer, of course. Maybe you don’t like the all-splash page comic with no dialogue, but maybe someone else loves the art in that comic and is thrilled to have huge images and no text to get in the way. Maybe I like dialogue-heavy comics that take me a while to read, and maybe someone else thinks if they wanted to read a prose novel, they’d have bought one. Everyone decides for him-or-herself if the price they’re paying for a comic is worth the value they get from it.

Anyway, we’re all comics people, we know all that. But the other issue I was thinking about, based on that grandmother’s response to seeing the price, was the very fact that the price itself is a barrier to new readers, independent of whether or not the contents could deliver on the cost of admission.

This isn’t a very deep topic, admittedly. “High price drives away customers” – no dur-hay, right? But it reminded me of when I wrote about DC’s “The New 52!” slug that they had on their covers for the last few years. For those “in the know,” it told us “hey, this is part of DC’s newly-rebooted continuity!” For anyone else who hasn’t read comics, it told them “you have no idea what this means, so clearly this isn’t for you.” Even though the New 52 initiative is no longer marketed as such (ending when it did just as reader Ray predicted), the phrase still exists on back issues and on the trade paperbacks and I still hear “hey, what does this mean” from folks new to the industry all the time.

Basically, it’s something on the cover that warns people not already reading comics “this is not for you.” And maybe the higher price points on the regular monthly series (currently averaging $3.99, with Marvel slowly getting us used to $4.99) are yet another warning. Okay, maybe it’s mostly a warning to people who remember when comics were ten or fifteen or thirty-five cents and have somehow wandered back into a comic shop only to discover 1) wait, they’re still making Howard the Duck? and 2) it’s $4.99 a throw? And I don’t think four bucks is too bad a price point for what you’re getting…that’s like a pack of Magic: The Gathering cards (I think…it’s been a while since I’ve had to sell any), or…fancy coffee, I guess? But it’s not “toss the guy a coin and not think about it” pricing…it’s not a significant amount of money, but it’s not nothing, either. And that’s just one more barrier to someone new to comics trying to decide if he or she really wants to take the plunge.

Again, this is hardly a new observation, but it brought me to think once again about what the breaking point is going to be. I’m sure those of us who were around a couple of decades back buying comics for, what, $1.25 or $1.50 each, would have laughed in your face if told we’d be buying essentially the same comics for $3.99. But here we are. And so far any comics that have been $4.99 or higher have had higher page counts or nicer production or some other aspect that improved the perceived value of the item. But then, so did $3.99 comics at one point. And so did $1.99 comics.

My thought was that eventually periodical comics would have to evolve into thick anthology magazines, front-loaded with ads to keep costs down, but attracting advertisers is a problem now for comics, too. So who knows where it goes from here…moving to a trade paperback-only model? Everyone moves to digital comics? Your pal Mike shutters his store and has to find a real job? I don’t know…it’s a thing I have to worry about, and it’s a situation that’s coming whether anyone likes it or not.

Boy, that’s cheery stuff, right? Anyway, this isn’t a “comics industry is doomed” thing, since people have been saying for decades that the business’s death is “five years away.” I’m just curious about what’s coming next, and hopefully whatever’s coming will appeal to new customers rather than try to block them out.

• • •

I wanted to post a brief note regarding pal Dave’s decision to end his blog, at least for the time being. He’s one of my favorite writers…smart, funny, and very insightful, with plenty of interesting things to say on a wide variety of topics which as I type it sounds like a remarkably generic thing to say about someone, but it’s really true in his case. I’ve never been much of a gamer, but his posts on the various games he’s played were just as fun to read as his occasional comics or movie post, which fell more within my specific wheelhouse.

I’m sorry he’s taking down his virtual shingle, but I’m glad he shared as much with us as he did. Plus, I still get to bother him on Twitter, at least until he blocks or mutes me. Thanks for all the good work, Dave, and hopefully we’ll see more from you in the future.

Just badgering you about this for a minute.

§ February 1st, 2016 § Filed under retailing, self-promotion § 8 Comments

So a few weeks back, Johanna wrote a bit about the forthcoming return of the Badger, a character whose prime period was in the 1980s when it was initially published by Capital and then continued by First Comics.

The point of her post was…well, it’s right there in the title: “You Are Not Owed Pre-Orders Because You’ve Been Around Before.” And that’s true, unfortunately. I’d love to order tons of a new Badger series. I enjoyed the original series, picked up all the revivals (which were of…uneven quality, shall we say), and this new series looks like it should be okay, based on the preview that was presented in Comic Shop News a while back. But, frankly, I can’t order a lot, because I don’t know if it’s going to sell that well.

That said, I did order the new Badger series. I ordered enough to have copies on the shelf. Already that probably puts me ahead of a lot of shops that ordered it for their pull lists only, if they ordered it at all. I like the Badger well enough, and have enough fond memories of the comics, to order just a little bit with my heart over my head. I’m reminded a bit of when IDW brought back Grimjack, another character that had been off the stands for quite some time. I loved that old Grimjack comic, but realized that the audience that had followed it back then may no longer still participating in the direct market. I ordered reasonable-if-lowish numbers on that series, and it sold at about what I expected…partially to old fans, but some to new readers, too, and it probably helped that they didn’t pick up where they left off. Instead, they went with a very back-to-basics, no-complicated-backstory Grimjack, which was great for both new readers and longtime fans.

It is almost inherent to the nature of the Badger comics that there is no complicated backstory that one needs to know before jumping into a new adventure with the character. That’s part of its appeal, that elements come and go as needed with minimal explanation. Which brings me to another point…Johanna commented that the Wikipedia description of the character made it sound like a string of clichés, and to someone unfamiliar with the Badger, like presumably a good chunk of folks in today’s comics market, that surely doesn’t do him any favors. A dry description doesn’t accurately represent the actual tone of the book, as I tried to explain in Johanna’s comments. There was an overwhelming sense of…well, just plain weirdness, an off-kilter sense of humor at work in the comic that I could only describe in comparison to writer Mike Baron’s other major series, Nexus. It was wacky when it wanted to be, dead serious when it needed to be, with quirky dialogue and clear storytelling. It was more than the sum of the parts listed in that Wiki entry.

Part of the problem in later Badger revivals (and, in fact, later issues of the original run itself) is that something of that tone was lost, and attempts to recapture it never really quite succeeded, in my opinion. I mean, some of the latter-day Badger comics weren’t bad, but there was a you-can’t-go-home-again thing goin’ on, too.

Now, in that Comic Shop News preview I mentioned, the interview with Baron makes it sound like he’s really up and ready to go with new Badger comics, and it’s very possible it’ll be a return to form for that character. I certainly do hope so. As such, I ordered on this forthcoming Badger series as I did on that IDW Grimjack, suspecting the majority of sales will be to folks who remember Badger from before, with a few sales from new readers giving it a try. It does help that there have been Badger series within relatively recent memory, so it’s not coming to the comic racks completely cold, but, like Johanna noted, it’s still just one title among hundreds of monthly titles.

At the very least, I’d like it to do well for entirely selfish reasons: I want more Badger comics. Especially if they’re good. And I’m hoping this one is.

• • •

In other news: the latest Trouble with Comics Question of the Week is up, and it’s regarding our favorite use of sports in comics. Why not click on that link and see what my response was?

By Her Cathy’s Special Request.

§ November 30th, 2015 § Filed under retailing § 13 Comments

So pal Cathy (AKA the mistress of medical mini-comics Metrokitty) complained upon the Twitters the other day about how she purchased issues #1 and #2 of the new Howard the Duck and, as it turned out, due to recent rebootery, they were two issues from two different series starring said Duck.

This caused Cathy to ask me:


And yes, this can be quite the boondoggle. I remember, as the New 52 relaunch over at DC Comics was looming, having to plan for new back issue dividers for all of these series. I decided that, to differentiate between the previous iteration of titles and the new New 52 versions, I would add “[NEW 52]” to the title dividers after the series name. This is a no-brainer, surely, but necessary for organizing the backstock so that an actual human could find what s/he is looking for.

When it comes to things like the Marvel relaunches, usually adding years to the dividers does the trick (like “UNCANNY X-MEN [2011 SERIES]”). And if the series is done, maybe altering the tag to “UNCANNY X-MEN [2011-2013 SERIES].” Sometimes, if there’s a real chance of confusing the multiple series, some kind of notation on the price tag may be necessary as well, particular with titles like, as Cathy noted, Howard the Duck, which has had two series launches in the same damn year. I’ll have to mark the tags on those “1st series” and “2nd series” — and even that isn’t technically correct since there was a prior color series in the 1970s of some note, but marking the tags for the two different 2015 series “2nd series” and “3rd series” is just going to confuse and WAAAAAUGH it’s enough to make one lose his tailfeathers.

Plus, do I really want to create a separate title divider for each of the new 2015 Howard the Duck series? Should I just file them in the same slot, so long as I have the price tag clearly marked as to what series it is? Having too many title dividers in your back issue bins, while certainly keeping things organized, can turn some folks off, especially for lots of tiny sections all crammed together. And those plastic title dividers do cost money, but there’s no real alternative…cardboard title dividers can get worn out right quick and start to look really ugly really fast.

To some extent, the back issue problem is sort of becoming a moot point, as the recent spate of relaunches tends toward cutting demand for previous iterations of the said title (a phenomenon I first discussed a while back). The goal now is to have as few left over comics from the new shelf as possible, especially on Big Two titles (and especially-especially on Marvel books), as who knows when the next relaunch will come along and kill demand for that particular back issue?

Don’t get me wrong…I still do some brisk business in back issues, and in recent back issues, not just, say, the old comics people always look for. But there is a definite difference in back issue sales of a book that is currently running and one that is over, even if just recently, unless the word “Batman” or “X-Men” appear in the title somewhere…and maybe not even then.

That’s probably a real “no duh” assumption, as defunct series don’t tend to sell as well as whatever’s new. But, let’s take America’s favorite romance comic book series Unicycle Tragedy Funnies. Now, if this series started in 2010, and continued to this day, I might still be selling copies of the early issues from 2010 to people picking up the new issue off the rack. But, if Volume One of Unicycle Tragedy Funnies ran 13 issues from 2010 to 2011, and then Volume Two ran 10 issues from 2011 to 2012, Volume Three 8 issues in 2013, and Volume Four from 2014 to present…most of those back issue sales are going to just be from the couple dozen issues for the most recent volume, since those stories from waaaaaay back in 2010 don’t have any direct bearing on the stories currently being offered in new issues.

And the frustrating thing about all those relaunches of Unicycle Tragedy Funnies is that there was no real reason to keep restarting it with new first issues. For one thing, that sales bump publishers and retailers hope for on the first issues grows less and less every time, as it becomes obvious that the sales bump is primarily retailer driven and doesn’t actually reflect the customer base for Unicycle Tragedy Funnies, which at best remains steady, or slightly declining. Attempts at tying in Unicycle Tragedy Funnies with line-wide publishing strategies, such as crossing over with the big Secret Velocipede Crisis event series, only serves to alienate the casual reader and drop sales even more, causing yet another relaunch to get sales back up, if only temporarily, again.

And so on.

In reply to Cathy (remember Cathy? It’s a song about Cathy) I suggested that the one way we can get around this is just by doing away with issue numbers altogether, and going to a straight Month/Year on the cover, since first issues are less of a market force now. Okay, I don’t seriously expect that to happen, but Bully, the Little Numbering Bull, suggested the European style of year/issue number (“2015-11”) which I like a lot. I also suggested doing nothing but number ones, a new one-shot for each character/franchise every month because sometimes I delight in being of no help at all.

So anyway, that’s my post on Stocking Back Issues for Constantly Rebooted Series. I hope that helps, or at least amusingly muddied the topic.

Of course the Atom would be in a mini-comic.

§ November 27th, 2015 § Filed under batman, pal plugging, retailing § 2 Comments

dkiiicvrSay what you will about Dark Knight III, and boy howdy you sure have, but it certainly brought customers into the store specifically for just that book. Now the real trick is “will they come back?” and of course I’ve had a customer or two ask the very astute question of whether or not this series will be released in a timely fashion (if it is, this would be the first Frank Miller-involved Dark Knight series in history to do so). And of course, there’s been some curiosity from parts hither and yon as to how involved Miller actually was in the series.

Having read it, I personally feel that this is definitely an interesting Brian Azzarello-written take on Miller’s Dark Knight-iverse, if not as quirky and strange as the previous installments. It lacks the wild shifts of tone in a lot of Miller’s work, from straight-up satire to dead seriousness, which is probably fine since trying to duplicate that particular balance is a chump’s game. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing more, but I’m not feeling the Dark Knight-ishness of it quite yet. The inserted mini-comic with the Atom comes close.

As a retailer, I gotta complain about that cover, though. I’m trying to convince people they’re getting unique “FINGERPRINT SMUDGE” variants, but I think they’re beginning to catch on.

In other news:

  • Speaking of Miller’s Dark Knight, Alan over at Trouble with Comics has a somewhat more critical look at the Dark Knight Saga than I tend towards, but still an entertaining read nonetheless. All Star Batman is a saint, I tell you…a saint!
  • A wee bit of Star Wars comics history for you…here’s an old SW toy ad drawn by Rick Veitch.
  • Can you believe that I’ve had to explain to people just who the Star Wars rabbit is? Oh, how very soon they forget that minor character from a handful of Star Wars comics published nearly four decades ago.
  • First, read this Nobody’s Favorites post by pal Andrew about a certain superhero named Static…no, not the Static people like, the other one. Pay close attention to the lettering in those panels, and then look at this Twitter post I made a while back and tell me I’m wrong.

Puma, man.

§ November 18th, 2015 § Filed under collecting, retailing § 9 Comments

So early on in my store’s history, I made a crack or two on the Twitters about now being able to get all the comics I want for freeeeee, about loading up on DC Archives, etc. which alarmed a couple of retailer pals. I promised them I was only joking, that I’d be a responsible consumer. In fact, if anything, I’m probably getting fewer comics now…I’d rather leave ’em on the shelf for customers. (For example, see my answer to the first question here.)

That goes for graphic novels/trade and hardcover collections as well. My plan was to replace some of the comics I gave up to the shop (like Preacher and Invisibles) with the reprint collections eventually, but I’m in no great rush. Those particular titles aren’t in any danger of going out of print anytime soon, and even if they do, they should be in enough supply that copies will probably be available on Amazon forever.

As for new collections, I’m trying to restrict myself to items I’d already been acquiring, like the Complete Peanuts books. Only one volume to go in the series, kinda dumb to stop now. There are collections I’d love to own, like the Eightball slipcase, but I already have all the comics (which I didn’t give up to the shop!) so I’ll just leave that on the shelf for someone else.

But once in a while, I gotta splurge, as I did for the complete Puma Blues hardcover this week:

Look at the size of that thing. Here’s a better look at the cover, from Diamond’s site:

This is an beautifully-illustrated ecological sci-fi adventure/treatise/poem-kinda-sorta by Stephen Murphy and Michael Zulli (and a small bit of material by Alan Moore) published in the mid-to-late 1980s. Some folks may remember the comic as being a bit of a pawn in a battle between its publisher, Dave Sim, and Diamond Comics.

It had been a while since I read it…in fact, I’m not sure I sat down and read it as a whole since it was originally released. I bought each issue as it came out, and, as I recall, I found it to be a challenging and enjoyable work. It’s one of those things that had always been in the back of my mind to revisit someday, as it’s still sitting there in one of my remaining back issue boxes at the house. When the solicitation for this hardcover popped up in Previews, noting that it included the previously-unpublished 40-page conclusion to the series…well, Fan Mike outvoted Retailer Mike on this one and made sure I ordered a copy for myself. (And one for the shelf, too…I don’t know if any customers will go for it, but I like having it there, so that’s good enough reason.)

And, well, here it is, in my hot little hands, waiting for me to peruse it. Also included is the Puma Blues #24 1/2 mini-comic, which I seem to recall having some copies floating around my old place of employment, though for the life of me I can’t remember how we got ’em. I have a vague memory that they were distributed with one of the original Puma Blues trade paperbacks. At any rate, I never got one, so that’s a little more added value to the book.

Just briefly glancing through it, the reproduction seems nice and clear…no idea if it was shot from the original art, or scanned from printed pages, but it looks nice, especially now that it’s on white paper instead of newsprint (not that the newsprint was all that egregious). The original color covers are not reproduced…in fact, I’m not sure if the covers are in there at all, which is a shame as they were quite lovely. But overall, this is quite the tome and I’m glad to have it.

Swamp Thing Day may not go over so well since I won’t give up any of my Swamp Things.

§ September 28th, 2015 § Filed under retailing § 5 Comments

bdcomicSo Batman Day fell this year on its traditional date of September 26th, just like last year when it fell on the traditional date of July 23rd, and…boy, I was trying to remember what we did for 2014’s Batman Day, and I couldn’t remember a single thing ’til I looked at that DC press release. And okay, yeah, now I remember the Detective Comics #27 reprint giveaway (featuring Bill Finger’s first cover credit on that particular story, I believe) and the Bat-masks and such. I don’t think we made much of a big deal around it at the time…just gave away masks and the comic to folks who popped by and that was that.

I have to admit, I didn’t think too much about this year’s Batman Day. I mean, I ordered the free comic (pictured to the right), and I took advantage of Diamond’s special deals on stocking lots of graphic novels, but…I didn’t really plan too far ahead on this event beyond a general idea of making a small Bat-display in the shop and putting the free comics on the counter next to the register. I didn’t even get around to putting the Batman Day poster up right away, because…well, I have no really good reason. I just kept getting distracted by other stuff, I guess. I finally put it up a week or so ago, and I guess I really should have started earlier because it immediately got customers to ask me “just what is this Batman Day business, anyhow?”

Of course, the go-to gag explanation is “DC’s trying to introduce folks to this new Batman character” — a variation of which appeared on my store’s website — and…well, it’s not much more than just basic promotion, and a way for DC to move some graphic novels and such. If they can make this a regular day during the year, and not just moving the date around to tie into other Batman events, like, say, the launch of a Bat-related show’s second season, maybe it can build up to something. And maybe create “days” for other characters, too. “Come Celebrate Vibe Day at Your Local Shop!” “…I beg your pardon?”

Given the number of folks that were asking me about Batman Day, I decided I’d better do something a little more than just putting up a shelf of Batbooks and hoping for the best. Now, I didn’t do a whole lot…aside from spending a few days plugging it in the shop and on my site and Facebook, I didn’t get a lot of promotion out for it. I set up a big table inside the store, with all my Batman graphic novels at discounted pricing, four boxes of Batman-related comic books I was selling for a dollar each (got my hands on a bunch relatively inexpensively, so I wasn’t losing money, believe it for not), gave away the free comics at the counter, and that was that.

And I did okay. Even with the last minute effort, with Batman Day (rightly or wrongly…mostly wrongly) low on the list of priorities, I was still able to put together something that made a lot of customers happy and brought some income into the store. As I said on the Twitters, it was no Free Comic Book Day, but it still got people in the door, looking for that free Bat-comic and finding some good Bat-deals in the process. And though, in discussion with a little stuffed bull friend of mine, I had said that Batman Day wasn’t really A Thing yet, so I wasn’t expecting huge crowds of people. But I did get some people, and a lot of them even dressed for the occasion in their Batman t-shirts, so, you know, maybe it’s becoming A Thing after all!

I did get one phone call from a person asking if they had to dress as Batman to get the free comic. This close to saying “Yes, yes you do” just to see what would happen. …BUT I DIDN’T, I was a good comic shop owner. This time.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, but when next year’s Batman Day rolls around (in, like, April or November or something) remind me to plan things out a little earlier. And yeah, I know I’m basically dancing to the tune of a large conglomerate…but it is customer outreach, and it does bring people into the store. While the character probably doesn’t need promotion as such, the comics medium can use all the help it can get, and this is the sort of thing, like Free Comic Book Day, that reminds folks that, oh, yeah, comic books exist. And every little reminder like that helps.

I’m really not kidding about Sugar and Spike.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does whatever an iron can.

§ August 17th, 2015 § Filed under retailing, self-promotion § 7 Comments

So here’s something that happened a few times this past weekend that I’m surprised hasn’t popped up more often in recent months: customers looking for the latest Avengers or X-Men or whatever, and I have to tell them most of Marvel’s Big Name Series are currently on hiatus while the Secret Wars event is underway. I also let them know that new series for most of these titles are on their way, but, unfortunately, that doesn’t do any good right this very moment.

Reactions are mixed. Sometimes the customer will try out one of the Secret Wars tie-ins that’s related to the character/team requested, or s/he’ll buy some of that character’s back issues, or some non-Marvel book will be bought instead. (Or maybe the customer will try to opt for no purchase, but no one gets out of my store without buying somethin’, see.) As I said, this hasn’t been a big problem, but I had enough people bring it up in a short period of time for me to realize, oh, hey, yeah, having all the standards on hold while doing your big event could cause a minor issue.

Related: I was discussing with some fellow retailer pals this forthcoming Invincible Iron Man #1 that’s part of Marvel’s post-Secret Wars publishing initiative. Yeah, there’s a whole slew of new #1s headed our way…and to be fair, a lot of them look like they’ll be pretty good. That new Extraordinary X-Men by Jeff Lemire and Humberto Ramos, for example, seems like it’ll be fun, so long as they can hang onto that creative team. Anyway, I digress…our concern with a new Iron Man series is that Iron Man comics have, of late…underperformed, shall we say. And I would love, love, love a great selling Iron Man comic to burn up my racks, but conservatively-ordering this particular series seems like the smart move. I hope I’m wrong, and that everyone rediscovers their love of four-color Tony Stark, but recent sales history shows otherwise.

Now since I’ve had that discussion, the very high order numbers (relatively speaking) of that particular issue of Iron Man became a bit of a news item. That linked article mentions it would be the highest-selling issue of Iron Man in years, and, well, highest-selling to retailers, sure…whether those retailers can in turn sell those comics to customers is another story entirely. We’ll see soon enough. Like I said, I hope it sells great. There certainly won’t be any shortage of them.

I’ve been asked why I think Iron Man comics haven’t been selling as well as they could be, especially since they’re the basis of an extremely popular series of movies. That could be the problem: the movies deliver a more visceral thrill, present a more relatable cast of characters, than the comics can, and the comics suffer as a result. Oh, and also, most people who see Iron Man movies don’t read comics. And on top of that, Iron Man, in the comics world, is still kind of a…well, “second-stringer” seems a bit harsh. Maybe “one-and-a-half stringer” is closer to it, and the comics sales just reflect that status.

Or maybe people just didn’t like his comics. Hey, it happens. Maybe this new series will be the Iron Man comic everyone’s been waiting for.

• • •

This week’s Trouble with Comics roundtable question was “what makes a perfect comic shop?” and while the temptation to answer “having me running it!” was strong, I put a little more thought into it than that. You can read my responses, and those of my fellow Troublemakers, right here. Given as how I’ve devoted a lot of the past 11+ years of my site to this very question, not to mention this retailing column I wrote, you may find some of my answers familiar. But hey, I’m old now, I’m allowed to repeat the same ol’ stories over and over.

Back to Trouble with Comics: you can see what those folks have been getting up to over the past week in this summary post.

We now return to Progressive Ruin, which is already in progress(ive ruin).

§ July 21st, 2015 § Filed under retailing § 5 Comments

Sorry I missed Monday…was too beat Sunday evening to work my little typin’ fingers.

Anyway, judging by the response to this post, most comic shops do carry credit cards (with one or two minor exceptions). That’s good to know, though I’ll tell you, over the weekend I had several more “do you take cards?” inquiries. Maybe I need to start asking these folks if they’d been to comic shops that didn’t sometime recently…or maybe they hadn’t been in a comic shop in 30 years. Who knows?

Walaka asks:

“On a related note, aren’t most of them debit cards now, or are folks actually putting comics on credit?”

It’s a pretty good mix of both, I think…people paying for their comics directly out of their checking account, or (hopefully) paying off their credit cards at the end of the month. I think it leans heavier towards debit cards, if I think about it.

That Augie De Blieck Jr. character wonders:

“There used to be a law against minimum credit card purchases. Not sure if that was a state or federal law, but it seems to have slipped away over the years. Either it changes, or so many businesses started to ignore it that it wouldn’t matter.”

There wasn’t a law as such, I think*, though the merchant agreements from the various cards prohibited setting minimum purchases. Though, as is implied in your statement, enforcement was a little lax. And eventually, a law was passed allowing minimum purchase limited, so long as it wasn’t more than $10, and as long as it was applied solely to credit cards. You still can’t put minimum purchase limits on debit cards. Here’s one place where the law is discussed.

*A CAVEAT: I could have sworn California did have some kind of law on the books preventing minimum credit card purchases at one point, but my brief Googling about didn’t turn it up. Though it doesn’t matter now, as per above.

Jim Kosmicki relates:

“…Saw a note taped near the cashbox/register stating that there would be no more loans made from the cash register.”

EGADS. I’m assuming that was for the employees. Just trying to picture customers walking in and asking “hey, can I borrow five bucks? I’ll pay you back next week!”

Will H queries:

“But who still takes checks?”

I do! Well, mostly it’s just from one fellow, and it’s a guy I’ve had as a customer for 20+ years, so I figure his checks are probably okay. Aside from him, I’ve probably only had…two or three other people write checks to me? Not a common payment method nowadays, though as I related to someone on the Twitters the other day, as a business owner I still write a few checks, for rent and utilities and such.

This reminds me of a customer we had at my previous place of employment who always paid with a check. That wasn’t unusual, except the only personal information he had on his check was his name. No phone number, no address, no driver’s license number, nuthin’. And he invariably made purchases in the hundreds of dollars, breaking a thousand bucks at least once in my memory. The first time I dealt with him at the register, I was about to get his ID and my old boss waved it off, saying “he’s fine, don’t worry about it,” implying a relationship that preexisted my employment. And sure enough, for the rest of the years I was there, and with all the checks the guy wrote us, every single one was good. Plus, in later years I got to tell other employees “yeah, his check’s good, don’t sweat it” and have them give me the same look I probably gave Ralph all those years ago.

Former Employee Nathan tells us:

“I *do* get asked pretty often ‘Do you accept cards?,’ but that’s very likely a regional tic, as [San Francisco] has a rather large number of cash-only restaurants and specialty retail stores.”

Huh, that’s a good point, given your location. I’m pretty sure that’s not what’s going on here, unless the bar down the road is cash only and I’m getting lots of traffic from there.

Brad smashes Big Brother with:

“Sure, but do you take Apple Pay?”

I’ll trade comics for iPhones and iPads, sure.

• • •

So long to Alan Kupperberg, who passed away at the too-young age of 62. That man wrote and drew one of my all-time favorite oddball Marvel comics, and bless him for it.

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