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So much for a relaxing Easter.

§ April 20th, 2014 § Filed under idiots, retailing § 3 Comments


Well, someone overnight decided to bust one of our big windows in the front of the store, which is going to set us back a pretty penny…on top of some recent big Diamond invoices and other large expenses, this is almost a bridge too far, here.

So now would be a good time to take a look at our eBay listings, our Amazon listings, or just straight up call me at 805-653-2732 after noon today and order something.

I’m not terribly happy at the moment.

Gang of street toughs closely stalking the Black Cat, or promo image for a new wave band?

§ April 9th, 2014 § Filed under collecting, retailing § 6 Comments

…or, possibly, both:

Anyway, that’s not what I originally planned this post to be about. This image was taken from Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man #90, cover-dated May 1984, and is notable primarily for being one of the first appearances of Spidey’s then-new black costume.

The subject came to mind when, on our store’s Facebook page, a customer questioned an assertion I made on our regular website that Amazing Spider-Man #252 was the black costume’s first appearance. “Isn’t it Secret Wars #8?” he wondered, and I explained that even though Spider-Man is shown first receiving the costume in SW #8, that is actually a good seven months or so after the costume made its debut in ASM.

However, even that’s apparently not cut ‘n’ dried, since in Overstreet it’s noted that ASM #252, the aforementioned Peter Parker #90, and Marvel Team-Up #141 are “tied” (Overstreet’s terminology) for the costume’s first appearance.

Today’s Marvel is more than happy to crank out four or five or six Avengers or X-Men titles the same week, but it was my memory that wasn’t Marvel’s habit way back when, when all these comics were hitting the stands. So it had me wondering, even though they’re all cover-dated May 1984, did they all come out the same week, or on succeeding weeks, and which one was first?

Alas, though our store was open then, those invoices/cycle sheets/what-have-yous were discarded long ago. A little Googling finds some discussion (like this example), based mostly on “I-was-there” memories, plus additional blurring of the costume’s history with the inclusion of prior promo pieces from Marvel’s news/interviews comic Marvel Age and elsewhere.

A mention of Amazing Heroes #39 as a possible “first appearance” of the costume (speaking of blurring the lines) reminded me of a feature of Amazing Heroes, the “Coming Distractions” section, which would list all the new releases for that month, including specific release dates. Thus, I pulled out #40, the issue with the relevant information, out of the Vast Mikester Comic Archives, and here is what it says:

Amazing Spider-Man – “ships 1/10, newsstand o/s 1/31″

Marvel Team-Up #141 – “ships 1/24, newsstand o/s 1/14″ [typo - supposed to be 2/14...see below]

Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #90 – “ships 1/24, newsstand o/s 2/14″

And, yes, of course there’s that typo in the Marvel Team-Up listing, confusing things. But it’s certainly a typo: every other comic with a ship date of 1/24 is listed as being on sale on newsstands February 14th. (Both December 24, 1983 and January 14, 1984 would have been Saturdays, whereas every other date listed is on a Tuesday. In addition, no other book with a December shipping date is noted, so the 1/24 date doesn’t seem to be a typo.)

According to the information provided by Marvel, Amazing Spider-Man #252 was at least planned to ship out at least two weeks before the other books, making this the first in-story appearance of the black costume. This is of course assuming things worked out the way they should have. Shipments could have been delayed, books might have been late, etc. etc., so it is within the realm of possibility that some of the books may have been released, at least in some locales, simultaneously.

And then there’s the fact comic shops in the direct sales market received their books weeks prior to newsstands. I wasn’t on the business side of the counter in those days, but my memory is that direct shipping of new books wasn’t quite the exact science it is today, he said half-sarcastically, so again, it’s possible that even if the books stuck to Marvel’s schedule, who knows what order they showed up in which comic book stores.

On top of that, there was the usual speculation/hoarding shenanigans that turn up whenever something in the comic market smells like it could be “hot,” so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if some people remember seeing Marvel Team-Up #141 before Amazing #252, since all the 252s were immediately scooped up, bagged, boarded, and thrown in boxes marked “DO NOT OPEN ‘TIL EBAY.” And even beyond that, the disparity between new arrivals in comic shops and new arrivals on newsstands could have meant people spotting the latter Spidey books at their comic shops before seeing #252 pop up at the local 7-11.

Anyway, I wish I knew back then I’d be writing this blog today, so that I’d have taken better notes. As it is, at the time I did buy Amazing Spider-Man #252, from a newsstand no less, because I was semi-collecting that series anyway. I don’t recall when those other Spider-Man comics in question came out in relation to 252, since I wasn’t reading those at the time and didn’t pay any attention.

I was also going to discuss whether or not Web of Spider-Man #18 should be considered the actual first appearance of Venom, but I think we’ve all had quite enough of this sort of talk today. (And if you say ASM #252 is his first appearance, I’m gonna pop you in the nose.)

image from Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man #90 (May 1984) by Al Milgrom and Jim Mooney

Oddly, not all that much demand for Deathlok.

§ February 24th, 2014 § Filed under collecting, retailing § 4 Comments

So I recently acquired a few of these Whitman comic book three-packs (still sealed!), and this particular one has something I’ve never seen before:

…two copies of the same comic! That’s Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids #25 (from June 1978) on the front there, there’s a copy of Woody Woodpecker #168 on the other, and, in the middle, another copy of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids #25, espied by me by carefully separating the comics while still inside the polybag. Well, I don’t know about you, but if I shilled out my 99 cents and got two of the same funnybook for my troubles, I would have been a tad miffed.

I don’t know how common an error this was, as at the time these were in stores, I wasn’t going around from toy store to department store carefully examining each three-pack and doing a little amateur quality control. It was more like “MOM! Can I have this pack of Star Wars comics?” and the depth of my examination was mostly restricted to “do I already own the outer two comics visible in this package?”

Anyway, none of the comics in any of these pre-packed bags are in particularly high demand…I mean, there’s some demand for cartoon comics like Fat Albert, but the packs themselves as is will sell more quickly for us as novelty items than waiting for collectors to request the specific issues therein.

Of course, that’s not always the case. There are a handful of issues from various series that were only distributed via the Whitman three-packs and not as a racked single issue, most famously (and expensively) Uncle Scrooge #179. A copy we had about — oh, ten years ago, maybe? — sold in the $300 range on eBay, and it was around a Very Good to Fine copy, if I remember correctly.

Speaking of collectability and also awkward transitions, I’ve started to have some inquiries into the first issue of Preacher, a comic that long ago stopped having any back issue demand since the primary way anyone wants this series now is via the trade paperback/hardcover editions. Which is fine, I sell plenty of Preacher books, which has more than made up for any dead Preacher backstock we’ve had sittin’ around, but now that people are getting wind of a television adaptation, I’d better dust off that section of the back issue bins for the brief period of time that they’ll be sought after again.

Plus, the return of Doomsday is resulting in multiple requests for Superman: The Man of Steel #17 (Doomsday’s first appearance) and #18 (the start of the “Death of Superman” story). I assume that’s what’s causing it, and not some spontaneous uprising of Doomsday nostalgia. Or maybe he’s in that Batman/Superman movie and I haven’t heard about it? I mean, everyone else is, so why not.

I’m also looking forward to the eventual revival of interest in Heroes comics and merchandise. I mean, all you folks loved Heroes, right?

I have never spoken of Conan sales before. I have no tongue for it.

§ February 19th, 2014 § Filed under conan, retailing § 12 Comments

Señor Editor (who will always be “Professor Booty” in my heart of hearts) asks:

“Mike, how do Conan comics sell at your shop? That might be a weird thing to wonder about but I’ve been re-purchasing old Marvel Conan’s I used to own, as well as getting the new Dark Horse stuff. I like a lot of it, and I liked the recent ‘…and the People of the Dark Circle’ Conan miniseries a lot. Seems like Conan will be one of the more popular franchises Dark Horse has the rights to, once Star Wars is out of their hands. Do Conan comics sell well?”

Conan has always done fairly well at our shop, even during that weird period in the ’90s after Marvel ended their long-running Conan the Barbarian series and had like a dozen Conan minis and short-run series. They weren’t top sellers by any means, but they were solid sellers off the racks.

The Dark Horse Conan comics have also been regular, if not spectacular, sellers, with a dependable sales record that hasn’t seemed to fluctuate much over the years. That sounds like I’m damning with faint praise, but believe you me, in the current comics market I’ll take “consistent low-to-mid-range seller” over “spiraling into nothingness” (cough) iron man (cough).

As for taking over as Dark Horse’s Premiere Franchise after Star Wars is in the grips of Marvel/Disney’s tender mercies, well…maybe. I’m not certain. Star Wars has had its success at Dark Horse mostly because, despite the large number of SW books, not every fan felt obligated to buy every series. The franchise was wide enough to include a variety of titles with different settings and characters and timelines and so on, appealing to different levels of SW commitment. The people who are buying the current Darth Vader mini aren’t necessarily the same people who are buying the Legacy series set a century or so later after Return of the Jedi. Even the folks that have “ALL STAR WARS” on their comic saver lists at our shop usually have a list of exceptions after that notation.

Conan, on the other hand, doesn’t quite have that wide a range of readership that I’ve noticed. Whereas you can publish a bunch of SW books at once and not burn out their followers, since they’re not going to buy every series anyway, pretty much every Conan series will be bought and read by the same people. Conan doesn’t appear to have the same range of settings and characters that the SW comics do…I mean, by definition, they all star Conan. Sometimes Young-ish Barbarian Conan, sometimes older King Conan, maybe other Conans I don’t know about. But the readership mostly overlaps on all the Conan titles…you put out one Conan a month, they all buy it. Two Conans, they’ll buy both. Three Conans, they’ll probably buy all three.

And that’s probably pushing the limit right there. If you keep pulling more and more money out of the fans’ pockets every month by basically making them dish out to keep up with their franchise of choice, they’re either just going to cut back to just the main “flagship” title or just give up altogether out of frustration and economic necessity (Cf. The Avengers). There is a ceiling on Conan franchise expansion that is much lower than on the Star Wars franchise, so unless there’s suddenly an upswing in Conan popularity in culture at large (and there have been a handful of mostly failed attempts at it over the last few years), that ceiling isn’t going up any time soon.

This is all based on our local market conditions, of course, Maybe Conan is the biggest thing ever in, I don’t know, Fairfax, VA, and their incredibly high demand for Conan product is balancing out our mostly moribund demand.

Of course, new comic sales aren’t the extent of it. I do good business in Dark Horse’s trade paperbacks, primarily the books that reprint Marvel’s old material (the Chronicles of Conan volumes, and those big ol’ Savage Sword phone books reprinting the magazines). The actual original Marvel comics do well, too…not just the early Barry Windsor-Smith issues, which are sought out not just by Conan fans but by “Bronze Age” comic collectors seeking “keys,” but the later ’70s/early ’80s runs as well. Savage Sword of Conan mags move regularly, even the Conan Sagas reprinting old SSoC sell. This isn’t so much from new readers to Conan (though there are some!) but from older nostalgic fans buying up old Conans to enjoy again (or read for the first time, if they missed an issue or three back in the old days).

There doesn’t seem to be much overlap between the two audiences…the Venn diagram of “folks what are buying the new Dark Horse stuff” and “folks buying the Marvel stuff, via either back issues or reprints” would be a slim area connecting the two circles (and would include Señor Editor, whose question kicked off all this yakkity-yakking of mine). But at least there is still a market for our barbarian friend, even after all these years.

I want to believe…in secondary market values on comics from the 1990s.

§ February 3rd, 2014 § Filed under market crash, pal plugging, retailing § 3 Comments

So when Topps Comics released The X-Files #1 in the mid-1990s, about a year or so after the TV show’s debut, the demand for the comic caught us a bit by surprise. We ordered what we thought was a good number, considering the industry was well into its market crash at this point, but this was one of those comics that caught folks by surprise by managing to bring non-comic readers into shops. We sold out in short order, and proceeded to field requests the rest of the week from people looking for copies of that first issue, while thinking the whole time “if only we knew” which you can never really know for certain, really.

The upshot of all this is that X-Files became a “hot” item in a business where “hot” items were a pretty significant factor in almost destroying said business just a year or two earlier. And you can see a good example of just how “hot” it was if you cast your peepers back to the scan above and the price sticker visible therein.

That issue was among the many, many comics that came with this collection, and was one of the books that survived the sorting process as I worked through the boxes, throwing some into the bargain boxes and keeping some aside for potential use in the regular stock, or on the eBay. I haven’t dealt much with the old Topps run of X-Files…people poke through its slot in the back issue boxes once in a while, but it’s not like I’ve had a lot of demand of the series lately, even with a new series being released from IDW. At any rate, I’ve not really thought about the prices on this series in some time, and spotting the #1 in this collection, I pulled it aside thinking it was, if no longer at the $55 price it had been marked, surely it was probably still worth something.

Well, nope, not really.

A quick search of the eBay shows lots of the first three, four or five issues (including the first printing of #1, like the one I have from that collection) usually only sell for about five to ten bucks. The #1 by itself sold for as cheaply as $2, and I found one that sold for nearly eight bucks, which is more the exception than the rule, it seems. (A “slabbed” copy of #1, signed the stars of the TV series, sold for about $400, so I guess there’s that.) There are copies currently listed in the $10 – $15 range, but unless someone’s desperate to get a copy, they’re probably not going anywhere fast.

And I didn’t go back to double-check, because I’ve looked at eBay enough today, but my impression was that there were many attempts to sell the serial-numbered second printings as some kind of special big-deal thing, but no one cares too much about those, either.

The “too long, didn’t read” version: some formerly-hot comics don’t sell for what they used to anymore, which I’m sure comes as a surprise to everyone. And yet, even with this knowledge, I still don’t want to just dump this comic in the bargain bin. The days of getting $55 for this comic are long gone, but I might be able to get $5, maybe, if I’m lucky.

• • •

In other news:

  • The other day, when I mentioned how I thought a new Legion of Super-Heroes series would be best served by making the focus one character, with the rest of the cast as occasional supporting characters? Jer asked which one, and Casey in the comments suggested “Brainiac 5,” which actually was my suggestion, too, when I previously brought up the topic.

    Still think that’s a good idea. The team book version of Legion is not one people seem to want anymore, or at least no one’s hit on a version of the Legion that really does anything for anybody. There’s going to be another Legion book sooner or later, and it can’t hurt to try something different…I mean, what, you might end up with another dead Legion book if the idea doesn’t pan out? Or maybe you might have something that has a little staying power? What’s to lose, really? Other than money, creative efforts, market value of a DC property which has been adversely affected by yet another cancellation, so on?

  • Back to that collection: Wayne asks if we have to inventory all the toys that came with this collection. In this case…no, not really. Our perusal of the toys, an informal inventory, revealed a handful of figures sans accessories that we might be able to sell for a couple of bucks each. Haven’t really made the time or space to price these things up and put ‘em out for sale…they’re low cost, low priority items, which we got essentially for free, and we haven’t really dealt with them yet because there are always other things occupying our time at the shop. The investment in this collection, aside from employee costs in processing and space taken up by storing the boxes, is minimal.

    Having looked more closely at the toys, we’ll probably keep a handful of the usable stuff and dump the rest, either in the trash or in an eBay auction titled “BIG BOX OF CRAP – cheap! L@@K H@T” just to get it all out of my hair. Even the box of little accessories probably isn’t worth the trouble or mess, and may go on the eBay too. Someday. When I have the time.

  • Pal Dave is starting a new feature on his site: “I Had That!” Nostalgia ahoy from one of the best comic/pop culture bloggers out there.

“Ebon-Isz and Ivor-Isz / Live together in perfect harmon-Isz”

§ January 27th, 2014 § Filed under misfit toys, retailing § 9 Comments

So let’s gaze long into this abyss:

…which is just one of the boxes recently donated to our shop last week…the remnants of what was once another comic book store’s stock. The previous owners tired of these multiple boxes of comics and toys occupying space in their storage, and thus they now occupy space in our storage.

Well, okay, not all of the boxes. The acquisition of any large collection usually results in a small percentage of the received items being desirable, usable items, and the greater portion mostly being stuff like this. The jury is still out on how much of this collection will be of use to us, since we’re still going through it. My first pass through resulted in about half of the comics going straight to the bargain bins — so long, Brigade! — while we’re still going through the other half which is just on the threshold of possibly being sellable items. It’s mostly late ’80s – mid ’90s material, but there are plenty of Valiant titles, Amazing Spider-Man issues, some Deadpool, and other goodies that are in enough demand to warrant some double-checking prior to consigning them to bargain-box purgatory.

That’s just the comics. The toys, on the other hand, were packed haphazardly into a handful of beaten-up cardboard boxes, and if they were intended for sale before, the condition they’re in now make most of them pretty much useless. I half-suspect some rough playing with the toys occurred after the removal from the store, because there sure are a lot of limbless and otherwise busted figures in there.

But then again, that particular box pictured above was marked “ACTION FIGURE ACCESSORIES – $0.25 EACH” so maybe they just had a bunch of used toys they were trying to unload for anything, and now I guess it’s my turn. I briefly though about trying to match up some of the bits ‘n’ pieces in that cardboard box with the action figures in the other boxes, but I’m too close to death to use up my precious remaining minutes doing that.

The box did contain a few of these fellas:

…the Iszs or Iszes or Iszeseses or whatever from The Maxx, presented here in 1 1/4-inch tall bendable-arms form. These had originally been packaged with Maxx action figures, but I didn’t see any of those in the boxes. Apparently there was a bag of Isz figurines once available from the McFarlane Toys fan club, so maybe that’s where they all came from.

Also in the box was a canister of this stuff:

…and since the picture is a bit blurry, thanks to my fantastic camera skills, I shall read the label to you, which says “ALIENS OOZE PLAY GEL – slimy ooze traps unsuspecting prey!” Sadly, this item dates from 1994, and a perusal of the gel within:

…shows us that its slimy days of trapping unsuspecting prey are long behind it. Maybe you can bean your prey upside the head by tossing that hard-rubbery lump at it.

As long as I’ve got your attention, it occurs to me that it’s been a long time since I’ve trolled any of you. So…

…there you go.

Like I said, we’re still digging through these boxes, so I may yet find more goodies of interest to show you. Like this Image Comics editorial preview package from 1995:

…which should prove to be equal parts nostalgic, hilarious, and depressing, so let’s all look forward (or backward!) to that.

You can probably tell that my monthly comic distributor orders are due tomorrow.

§ January 22nd, 2014 § Filed under retailing § 9 Comments

So a few years back I wrote this little piece about the Flash series publishing shenanigans, in which what appeared to be a relaunched Flash ongoing series ended up secretly being a mini-series, which was supplanted by a continuation of the previous Flash series that this new “ongoing” series supposedly replaced. The upshot of all that was, had I known it was going to be a mini-series, I would have ordered it as such, rather than ordering it as a supposed ongoing series with the potential for a longer back issue sales life.

Boy, times have changed. The announcement that Superman Unchained is ending — another huge launch that maybe I would have ordered lower numbers on had I realized it was going to be a nine-issue mini-series — reminded me that for most of my new comics orders, I’m ordering with the assumption that (in DC’s case) the title will probably be cancelled soon, or (in Marvel’s case) the series will be relaunched with a new #1. I’m not ordering with the assumption that there will be a long-standing interest in back issue sales on most titles.

That’s the really super-cynical way of looking at it, I realize, and I’m exaggerating to some extent. But a lot of these relaunches and re-relaunches and ridiculous numbering schemes aren’t helping any. That recent Avengers comic that was actually #24 but tried to kick off a soft-relaunch by emphasizing the beginning of a brand new storyline with big ol’ “#1″ on the cover? I actually sold less of those than I did of previous issues. But I did bump my orders up slightly because I thought maybe sales would go up a bit, so Marvel got more money out of me, therefore this was a success for them, I guess.

But for a lot of these new Marvel relaunches I’m not ordering much more than what I’m already selling. Judging by Marvel’s…enthusiastic sales plateaus for the multiple variants they’re offering, it looks like they want me to order a lot more than what I have been, but I don’t see how a new Secret Avengers #1 is going to sell any more than the current Secret Avengers series which just debuted a few months ago. I did sell more of the recent Thunderbolts issue that brought in Ghost Rider, because people like Ghost Rider, but I don’t know if this new Ghost Rider series is going to sell. I can already hear the complaints: “This doesn’t look like Ghost Rider!” “Who’s this new guy? Where’s Johnny Blaze/Danny Ketch?”

I’ve said before we do good business in back issue sales. Even early issues of most of DC’s New 52 titles still move, so long as those titles are still producing new installments. So long as any of the titles on the stands are producing new installments, I can usually move the back issues for that series. But the likelihood of any title maintaining a continuity of issue-numbering, thus also maintaining that stretch of increased back issue demand, is rapidly decreasing, and I am ordering accordingly. A few comics I still order with the expectation that they’ll sell in the back issue bins, but those are increasingly the exception.

Anyway, I don’t have any terribly deep insights here…just letting my mind wander about on how the industry has changed so much. Not that pursuing short-term profits over long-term growth is anything new for comics, but I don’t recall it ever being so obvious. Well, maybe during the ’90s boom, but there was actual money to be made then, and not the pennies everyone’s chasing after now.

So we’ve pretty much cornered the local market on San Francisco Comic Book #5.

§ December 23rd, 2013 § Filed under retailing, undergrounds § 1 Comment

A few days back, a gentleman popped by the shop with a small handful of undergrounds…a couple copies each of Zap #9 and #10, three San Francisco Comic Book #5s, one or two other items. Some of them weren’t in great shape, but I always have demand for undergrounds, Zaps in particular, so I was willing to dole out a small bit of money even for the somewhat water-damaged copies. …Some of which, by the way, I was able to turn around and sell later that afternoon.

Anyway, after purchasing the comics from this person, he tells us that he has a few hundred more comics of similar vintage back home if we were interested. “Why sure!” we replied, and a day or two later the rest of his collection was in our possession.

And when he said he had a few hundred more, we didn’t realize that a couple hundred of those would be more copies of San Francisco Comic Book #5:

Well, okay, I exaggerate slightly, but that was a pretty sizable pile of SFCB, as I’m going to call it instead of typing that out again. There was also a nice stack of Zaps, such as these #9s:

…which, as you can probably see, are a little worse for wear, but I’m sure we can sell them. As Ralph (remember Ralph? This is a song about Ralph), owner of the Old Comics part of our business, put it, “everyone looking for undergrounds asks for Zaps. And almost everyone asks for Freak Brothers,” which, alas, this collection did not contain. But, yes, Zaps are the single most requested underground at the shop. For a while there, we had some very nice copies of assorted Zap issues going for some premium prices, but the vast majority of people asking for these aren’t looking for collectibility‎ or investment…they just want to read the darn things, and a bunch of “affordable” copies are exactly what we can use.

There were other Zaps in the collection…again, multiple copies of them, in varying conditions, mostly from the middle of the run. There were various other undergrounds, plus a bunch of more mainstream comics from the ’80s and very early ’90s that filled out the boxes, generally fairly common stuff in worn condition, thrown into the deal after we paid actual money for the stuff we could use. Nothing terribly exciting, save for a beat copy of an issue of Infinity Gauntlet that we gave to a customer gratis so he could complete his run and read the series.

Not quite on the scale of the immense collection of undergrounds we acquired a few years back (that we’re still going through, when we find the time), but it’s always nice to recover books like these from wherever they were being hidden, and getting them into the hands of more people who can appreciate them.

DATELINE: THE FUTURE – “The latest hourly issue of The Improbable Spider-Man is here!”

§ December 16th, 2013 § Filed under retailing § 5 Comments


  • The latest scheduling hoohar that really crumbled my crackers was this Amazing Spider-Man #700.x mini-series, with issues numbered #700.1 through #700.5 that I foolishly assumed would be released weekly. Well, ho ho, apparently “weekly” wasn’t fast enough, and after the solo debut of #700.1, #700.2 and #700.3 were simultaneously released last Wednesday, with #700.4 and #700.5 coming to your friendly neighborhood funnybook store this Wednesday. I’ve complained before about Marvel’s scheduling, in particular in reference to Superior Spider-Man, or Daredevil suddenly having four issues in a five-week period. Little did I know how good I had it with just “biweekly” or even “weekly,” now that “twice a week” is an option, apparently.

    All I can figure is that they wanted to get all the issues out prior to Christmas, for some reason. Oh, and each issue has two covers, too, in case any retailers felt like taking away even more rack space from any other series that month, which, well, maybe I’ve answered my own question about why this happened.

  • Also out next Wednesday is issue #1 of Harley Quinn, which I almost described as the debut issue, which strictly speaking it isn’t since we had that #0 just a few weeks ago, and also there have been Harley Quinn comics before, so it’s not a “debut” per se, I suppose. But anyway, I saw some discussion online regarding surprise at how well that #0 seemed to sell. My response in said discussion was that there’s been an uptick in interest in Harley Quinn comics over the last year or so, to the point of demand pushing up the prices on her previous comic book appearances. Her first print appearance in Batman Adventures #12 has suddenly become one of those new “hot” books, commanding crazypants prices and an increased number of inquiries at our shop over the last few months. (No, we’re out — sorry!)

    Part of this demand is driven by the fact that comic fans just plain like Harley Quinn. She’s also one of those characters popular with our lady customers, who have been the primary source of those back issue sales. It was a fairly easy decision for me to order big numbers on that new Harley Quinn #0…and apparently not big enough, since I did end up selling out. Luckily it’s available for reorder, with my restock due on Wednesday, along with that #1 on which I also ordered even more copies.

    The one thing that occurred to me to add to that discussion way after it was over was, again, that online response doesn’t always correspond to in-store sales behavior. DC’s New 52 may be the current online punching bag, maybe even deservedly so in some cases, but that doesn’t preclude the possibility that certain DC titles may be sales successes and enjoyed by fans.

    All that being said…I read that #0 (where the majority of the book is single page gags drawn by an army of artists), and it was silly and fun, and maybe a little too heavy on the self-referential gags, but I realize that’s a feature, not a bug. Solicitations for future issues seem promising, and the creative team (as long as it holds) will certainly do good work, so I’m hoping this series will slake that Harley desire our customers have.

    I expected some grumbling about the current costume design versus her classic look, but surprisingly that hasn’t been an issue. Also, in case you’re wondering, Suicide Squad, where she also appears, hasn’t been tearing up the racks, so it’s not like every Harley appearance = Big Sales. However, that recent Injustice: Gods Among Us annual featuring Harley vs. Lobo sure did well, much better than the actual Injustice title has been selling.

  • One final complaint: that Superman Vs. Mongul trade paperback coming out this week features, among other comics, Mongul’s appearances in DC Comics Presents, including his initial storyline in #27 and #28. That’s great and all, but that’s a three-part story, with #29 wrapping up the “Superman is full of himself” attitude-problem subplot that ran through the whole thing. Yes, Mongul doesn’t really play a part in that issue, but you’re still only getting 2/3rds of the story. I suppose I’m bugged by this because #27-#29 is one of my all-time favorite Superman adventures, with Jim Starlin being Starlin-y as all get-out. Maybe I’ll dig some copies of #29 out of the back room and bundle them with the trades.

    Of course, I haven’t seen the actual book yet, so maybe that was a typo in the solicitation information for Superman Vs. Mongul. If that turns out to be the case, well….

So let’s start off Year #11 with a post about X-Force and Deadpool.

§ December 9th, 2013 § Filed under market crash, retailing, the eBay § 10 Comments

It seems really almost like yesterday I was setting up a table near the front of the store to show off all the editions of the brand-new X-Force #1, drawn by red-hot young artist Rob Liefeld. Each factory-sealed in polybags with one of five different trading cards, stacked up high and waiting for us to open our doors for that new comics day.

And did they sell? Oh Lordy, did they ever. It was 1991, the Good Old Days of Comics Retail, and anything that even just slightly smelled of being Hot and Collectible was in high demand. As I recall, a number of our copies of X-Force #1 shared a particular printing defect, a thin dark line that stretched down the front cover, painfully obvious and not obscured at all by the polybag covering. We pulled these aside for replacement from the distributor, but again, as memory serves, such was the demand for the comic that we were even able to sell copies of these, perhaps under the customers’ assumption that the comic’s presence within that sealed polybag thus ensured it was mint, regardless of the item’s actual condition. We noted the damage, we may even have dropped the price a bit to account for the flaw, but still they sold.

And everyone bought them. Yes, everyone. I bought one. I admit it. I was caught up in the hype and the craziness and it’s not like this was the only time I apparently overlooked any kind of deficiency in storytelling in my funnybooks.

If you were around buying comics in 1991, you probably bought one too. You may have bought one of each, to get all the trading cards. …Hey, I’m not judging. It was a weird time, and a lot of us conspicuously consumed a lot more comics-related product than was probably healthy. I’m sure most of us have full sets of the first series of Marvel Universe trading cards, too. (Judging by the number of people who try to sell these sets back to us now, I suspect Marvel went door to door and gave a set to every U.S. citizen.)

Anyway, we sold a lot of X-Force #1s. I’m sure a good number of them went into the hands of kids and teens who dived into the comics collecting hobby during its peak faddish phase, who dived right back out again as soon as that fad was over. I didn’t sell any full cases of them to single buyers, but I’m sure they did somewhere. They sold and they sold and they sold, and sales on the book continued to be strong, as both current issues on the rack and from the back issue bins, and so it went until the comics market crashed a couple of years later, and well, you can read more about that if you’d like.

X-Force continued with mostly reasonable sales, relatively speaking given the state of the marketplace, ’til it finally wrapped up in the early 2000s after a dramatic revamping of the book (and restarting as X-Statix). It’s had the occasional relaunch since then, selling on a much, much smaller scale (just like everything else in the comics market nowadays, compared the land of good ‘n’ plenty back in the early ’90s). Unsurprisingly, back issue demand has dropped, and most people who were interested in those early issues likely bought them as they were coming out. Plus, tastes have changed…what was “hot” and seemingly cutting edge in 1991 is now dated, its shortcomings more obvious now that we have the perspective of distance.

I was looking at eBay the other day, specifically looking at entries for sold items featuring Deadpool. Deadpool, who had debuted in New Mutants #98, just prior to that title being retooled into X-Force, who has been experiencing something of a renaissance over the last couple of years in a handful of popular series. Of late, I’ve noticed that sales haven’t been quite as strong for us on the various Deadpool projects that have reached the stands. The trade paperback collections still move quite well, but the bloom appears off the rose for the actual periodicals. A temporary dip? Burnout from overexposure? Anticipation dying down from a supposed movie that never materialized? Who knows, really, but it’s a trend I’ll need to keep an eye on.

However, back to the eBay. I saw some eBay sellers trying to move those early issues of X-Force with liberal application of “DEADPOOL! H@T! L@@K!” shouting from the auction titles, a desperate marketing move to rid themselves of stagnant product, not too dissimilar from using the “Copper Age” label to get folks to oh God please buy some of these copies of Arak Son of Thunder. In particular, I saw one or two instances of X-Force #1 being sold with a “DEADPOOL!” notice in the title, and I, a proud owner of X-Force #1 as I have explained previously, could not recall Mr. Pool’s presence in said comic, beyond being on one of the prepacked trading cards.

Turns out, sure enough, there he is, in one of the Cable Guide files that filled some space not taken up by house ads in the back:

This does not appear to be a sales incentive, it seems. Even X-Force #2, plugged by many sellers as featuring Deadpool’s second (in-story, as opposed to trading card or Cable Guide page) appearance, doesn’t appear to be gaining any sales traction. That these comics originally sold in quantities probably far in excess of the actual number of comic collectors still remaining in the marketplace is the main reason. In fact, I suspect there’s some kind of economic concept regarding the supply of things and potential demand for them that covers the situation quite nicely. (On the other hand, the aforementioned New Mutants #98, which sold okay back in the day but not nearly close to X-Force numbers, currently sells for big money whenever you can dig one up.)

That’s not to say X-Force is now entirely unsellable. I’ve sold some of those early issues. There are still fans of that type of work. But it’s a weird sort of nostalgia that I get when I deal with these comics now, a reminder of a time when it seemed like the industry, the publishing industry itself, not the media adaptations, was an unstoppable juggernaut, an unending tidal wave of new comics and new relaunches and new #1s and Big Name Artists and new superhero universes and that we couldn’t see the bare ocean floor that wave was going to leave in its wake.

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