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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 When the solicitation for this hardcover popped up in Previews, noting that it included the previously-unpublished 40-page conclusion to the series…well, Fan Mike outvoted Retailer Mike on this one and made sure I ordered a copy for myself.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.

“Yes, yes, but do you accept Bitcoin?” “(sigh)”

§ July 17th, 2015 § Filed under retailing § 35 Comments

So a question that’s popped up from new patrons to my store with surprising frequency over the past few weeks is “do you take credit cards?” Now, maybe it’s just a strange question to me from my particular position, in that I see that the majority of my business is done via credit and debit cards. For a lot of people, it’s just more convenient to have their spending cash accessed that way rather than making sure they have actual folding money on them.

Anyway, I thought it was odd, since, well, wouldn’t it make things that much more difficult in a retail setting by not offering credit card processing? Over the years I would dread any time there was some kind of glitch in the credit card machine, requiring resetting or, God help us, downloading a program update on its .003 baud modem, forcing us to delay or even turn away credit sales for a time. And that was just for a few minutes…I couldn’t imagine not having a card machine in the store at all, given the large percentage of customers who pay with cards aaaaand that’s pretty much it.

I wondered about this on the Twitters, and a few folks responded back, with one letting me know he was in a comic shop that didn’t take cards just within the last month, and another saying that the only places he encounters no-CCs-a’tall are some cash-only eateries and, yes, comic shops. (And blogging brother Tim brought up the point that we’re lucky we’re not all still using cash boxes instead of registers…which reminded me of Marvel’s early 1980s program of actually assisting comic shops with purchases of registers, but that’s a story for another time, I think.)

I mean, I suppose I can see the upsides to not taking credit cards: getting your cash immediately instead of waiting for a day or two to deposit; no fees; no worries about your credit card machine going kaput and taking that financial hit until you get it fixed; electromagnetic waves from the CC machine leeching away your precious humours, and so on. But considering that lots of people depend on using their cards for transactions, the advantages of not accepting cards is far outweighed by the inconvenience for customers.

This could be a regional thing, too…dependence on cards may just be greater in my general area, but in other parts of the country maybe most people still just prefer cash transactions. Or maybe the comic shop is small, with a limited clientele and smaller transactions and folks just find it easier to deal with cash instead of credit, and can’t afford taking any kind of hit from the fees. Or maybe the owner didn’t want to jump through the hoops to apply (or couldn’t jump through the hoops) to get approval for a credit card machine…it was bit of an annoying process to get one for myself, involving several phone calls and the occasional warning that they might not want to give me a machine. I even had someone from that bank send out an inspector to confirm I actually was a physical store.

There are also little card readers that plug into smart phones and iPads and whathaveyou, so there are still options if you can’t get a dedicated machine put into your shop.

As I’m sure some of you know, I’ve been at this comic retail thing for a long time, so I do remember a point at my previous place of employment when we also didn’t have a credit card machine. But, dependence on cards for transactions wasn’t quite at the level that it is today, so I don’t think it hurt us too badly…or maybe it did; it’s not like anyone was going to shout “WHAT? You don’t take CREDIT CARDS? I’m taking my $10,000 credit limit elsewhere!” as they stomped out the door. But the time did come when we had the machine put in, and…well, I’d like to say “suddenly people started spending a lot more money at the shop, so convenience for the customer does improve sales!” but I honestly don’t remember any specific alterations in buying habits at the time. Just, as time went on, cash and check transactions gradually dropped as credit card sales gradually rose and, like I said earlier, the majority of sales nowadays, at least around here, are via card.

I do remember telling a customer at the other shop way back when that we were going to get a credit card machine put in, and the customer basically harumphed at me and declared “that’ll be the day when I buy comic books with a credit card!” …Pretty sure that day came for him sooner than he expected.

A little survey, if you don’t mind: don’t mention store names or locations, other than maybe a state — don’t get people mad at your pal Mike for no reason! — but let me know in the comments if your local shop accepts credit cards. And again, this isn’t me trying to be a jerk about it…it may seem strange to me to not have a CC machine, but what may be right for me in my particular circumstance may not be right for someone else, so I’m curious as to how other stores are handling things.

That Bill Murray didn’t reprise his role as the Human Torch from the Fantastic Four radio show is our greatest shame.

§ July 10th, 2015 § Filed under retailing § 1 Comment

I wanted to thank you folks for helping out Fred with his GoFundMe campaign…especially one of you who made an especially generous contribution. Most kind of all of you. If anyone still has a spare dollar or two to pass his way, please do so if you can.

In other news…perhaps you’ve heard that the San Diego Comic Con is goin’ on at the moment. You know, that place where half the folks are all “gah, it’s not about comics any more!” and the other half are all “man, too many new comic book series are being announced!” and the other, other half are dressed as, I don’t know, “Steampunk Firefly” or something. But the one thing I was worried about was that, given my store’s relative proximity to the proceedings, I was wondering if business was going to take a hit this week. Sometimes at the previous place of employment things would take a little dip from the regulars who headed to the show, but then we’d have folks traveling through town on their way to the ‘con who would stop by and do a little shopping, and that would make up for it.

So far, I’m doing okay…in fact, business is up a little over previous weeks, so maybe I worried about nothing. And I say “maybe” because I still have Friday, Saturday, and Sunday ahead. Let’s see how things go…but just in case, do you want to look at my eBay auctions, perhaps?

I’ve been keeping tabs on some of the stuff that’s going on down there, and yeah, there’s the typical Batman movie news, and a whole bunch of Vertigo titles headed our way, and, um, Bill Murray, apparently, but the only news worth reading is, of course, Jim Starlin doing a new Dreadstar comic. No publisher as yet, but with the possibility of a TV show, hopefully it won’t be too difficult to find someone to handle it.

I have been asked quite a bit if I was heading down to San Diego myself, and sadly, that’s not going to happen this year either. Previous years the Comic Con always seemed to come at a time that was inconvenient for me to go, and this year is no different…particularly if I’m there, no one will be at the shop to run it, and your pal Mike makes no coin of the realm in the process. Maybe next year, if I can find a sucker employee by then, I’ll make the trip. I’d better get my Slave Leia costume ready, just in case.

Also, I’m still a little mad that the most recent She-Hulk series was yanked just as it was finding an audience again.

§ June 19th, 2015 § Filed under retailing § 2 Comments

Collected Editions dropped this in the comments to Wednesday’s post:

“The new JLA clearly seems to me a miniseries posing as an ongoing, unless it’s a case of ‘we suspect Bryan Hitch won’t write and draw this series forever but we haven’t quite worked out when he’ll stop yet’ kind of thing. You mentioned Superman Unchained as one example, which at least ended when it ended; Batman: The Dark Knight was another one of these, meant as a David Finch vehicle, which unfortunately DC wouldn’t kill long after it had died and so it lumbered around eating brains for a while after the fact. I’d as soon that kind of thing not happen again.

As a retailer, do you find that there is some benefit in this miniseries fakery, in that customers are more likely to buy something they think is an ongoing series than a miniseries? I’d think DC could put Bryan Hitch’s name on a Justice League miniseries, let it be known that the story is generally in-continuity-ish, and get the same effect as releasing it as a series (and maybe save themselves some bad blood with customers), but maybe I’m wrong and that wouldn’t sell as well.”

I think there is some level of consumer decision-making based on…necessity, maybe? Like a JLA mini-series, even if marketed as being heavily tied to continuity, wouldn’t “count” as much as an ongoing series, and thus wouldn’t attract as many readers? Or would it go the other way, with readers more inclined to pick up a mini-series, because they know there’s an eventual end to it and they’re not committing to another indefinitely-lengthed ongoing. I don’t know.

It’s especially hard to gauge orders nowadays, with series stopping and restarting at the drop of a hat. I think the Big Two companies are teaching the customer base that everything is more or less a mini-series, and it’s getting harder to determine which series may be likely to gain reader support or which series will get the response of “eh, why bother, it’s not going to be around very long anyway.” How many of the new series launching after Secret Wars are going to be around more than a year before being retooled again, for example? How many of the new ongoings DC is currently in the midst of launching are going to be around next summer? (Not a criticism of those titles in the slightest…just the realities of a difficult market.)

The days of ordering heavily on the early issues for years-long back issue demand on a potentially long-running series is over. It used to be that we would order assuming a certain measure of back issue sales over a certain period of time, and that’s no longer the case. Once a series is done, and replaced with a new series, if it’s replaced at all, the back issue sales for that series will drop down to nearly nothin’. We can’t order assuming long time health of a series and its building an audience. We have to order based on “who will buy it RIGHT NOW.” Sure, maybe a few extra for those folks who may miss a month here and there, but deep-stocking a comic because you think it’ll still be around five years from now and people will still want those issues…probably not going to happen.

…This is perhaps going a little far afield from what you asked, Collected Editions, so let me try to pull it back together. This new Justice League of America series is tied to DC’s current push of new comics that aren’t explicitly tied to In-Continuity World Building, that are more focused on doing their own things via the creators’ individual visions. You still have the other Justice League title if you want your DC Universe tie-ins, but this new book isn’t explicitly referencing outside continuity beyond featuring the current versions of the JLA members. It’s a cool looking book, with a Big Name and a specific hook (“massive widescreen action”) and it’s a first issue of a Justice League title, so I ordered a little more than I would have of, say, some random issue of a Green Lantern ongoing. But I went into it thinking:

1. The purpose of the book is to feature this creator.

2. My assumption is that book will continue to be written and drawn by this creator for about a year.

3. Once the creator is off the book, it’s either canceled or assigned a new team who doesn’t attract the same attention as the original artist.

4. People looking for the early issues will peter off about six months from now, as a hardcover or paperback edition approaches, so order extras accordingly.

Now the comic has been on the shelf for a whole two days, so I don’t know what the actual sales on this will be for me…so far, it’s doing well, but I can’t tell if I’m going to sell through most of the copies, or if I’m going to get stuck with some. I’ll find out as the month progresses, and I’ll figure out how to order on future issues. I do have folks asking me if it’s an ongoing series, and my honest reply is “as far as I know, yes,” since my assumption in #2 above is just my retailer sense tingling. But in this particular case, I don’t think it makes any difference, at least on the customer’s part, if it’s a mini or not. They don’t need to worry about rack sales or back issue sales or any of that stuff I have to lose my luxurious blond mane of hair over. They just have to worry about “will this comic give me my money’s worth” (in this case, $5.99 — yikes) and it looks like, for a lot of my customers, the answer is “yes.” It doesn’t have to be around forever, with an unchanged creative team, to be enjoyed right at this very moment.

Anyway, that’s a convoluted answer to your simple question, C.E. — well, at least, I assume an answer is in there somewhere!

Bit late to the whole “Shazam” name-change thing.

§ June 5th, 2015 § Filed under retailing, this week's comics § 6 Comments

A couple of questions popped up in the comments to my last post:

From Thelonious_Nick:

“Here’s something I’ve long wondered: Why are so many variant covers so much more awesome than the regular covers for that issue? If the company really wants to sell more comics, shouldn’t they make the variant cover into the actual cover, and make the boring one the variant?”

I’ve wondered about that myself once or twice over the course of this here weblog — on one occasion wondering why some Star Trek comic decided to use the amazing Gorn photo cover for the limited variant instead of slapping that sucker on the regular edition and selling a ton of copies. The answer is almost certainly aimed at enticing retailers into ordering more copies, which for some publishers may be a safer bet than hoping enough readers will be attracted by the better cover. A retailer orders a certain number of a book, sees a cool-looking variant cover that s/he could get for the shop if orders were raised just a smidgen to a particular sales plateau, and bumps orders up accordingly.

Same goes for those comics that have five, six, a dozen different covers, that are all equally available for order by retailers. They’re not necessarily there in the hopes that customers will buy one of each cover (though that does happen, of course). They’re there to get higher initial order numbers from retailers. Instead of ordering 10 copies of one available cover of Mistress Bikini-Armor #1, a retailer might instead order two each of all six variants for Mistress Bikini-Armor #1, just to make sure there’s enough available of each variant to meet theoretical demand. It’s not much of a bump, probably, but in this marketplace every little bit helps.

From d:

“So how did Convergence and its various tie-ins sell, now that it’s all over? How do you think it will compare with Secret Wars?”

Overall, it did…okay, I think. Some tie-ins did especially well (like the Shazam! one) and some just didn’t do anything for me (many of the Justice League-related titles sold far less than expected). The actual Convergence series itself actually sold very well, surprisingly for a weekly series. In the end, maybe a shorter main series and fewer tie-ins while not putting everything else on hold may have been preferable, but I didn’t seem to experience any kind of decline in revenue while the event proceeded (despite some sky-is-falling scaremongering by certain online gossips).

Compared to Secret Wars, Convergence seemed to lack some measure of cohesion and direction, beyond “here are a bunch of cities from parallel Earths crammed together on one planet, and they have to fight each other to see who survives.” The upshot of the series is that it…undoes Crisis on Infinite Earths which had already been undone, I think, or otherwise just ignored, and, well…maybe if the series had been a more focused 4-part mini instead of a bloated repeating-the-points 9-parter, we might have been better off. In addition, I think Marvel managed to push Secret Wars as something Marvel fans had to read, explicitly tied to the Marvel Universe’s overall continuity, whereas Convergence never really felt like more than “here’s something you might want to read for a couple of months, we hope.” However, I do appreciate that the creators of the series managed to trick DC fans into reading what was essentially a Warlord comic for an issue.

Speaking of Shazam, as I was just a couple of paragraphs back (go ahead, check, I’ll wait) here’s one thing I had noted on the Twitterers the other day:

I’d love to see more only slightly-tangentially related to the wider DC Universe Captain Marvel adventures like in Convergence and Multiversity (and both series showed how the Shazam Family can play nice with other superhero milieus without losing the ol’ Shazam charm), instead of seeing the Big Red Cheese squeezed into the grittier ‘n’ darker comics where he never quite fits in. I know the temptation is to contrast Cap’s innocence with the “real world” of the regular DCU (like in this week’s Justice League, where Cap is distraught at having seen a dead body for the first time…hey, kids, comics!) but it would be nice to have him star in, and be the hero of, his own series, instead of the odd-man-out that he almost always is everywhere else.

I suspect once the always-forthcoming Shazam movie finally does come, and if it’s successful, it’ll establish which tone the comics will follow. Probably more “New 52” and less “C.C. Beck,” if I were to hazard a guess.

And yeah, I keep calling him “Cap” or “Captain Marvel,” the name he retains in the retro-style Convergence and Multiversity comics, but as since been discarded in favor of being called “Shazam!” for ease-of-licensing-and-market-exploitation-that-doesn’t-conflict-with-Marvel-Comics purposes. I mean, I can understand why DC would want that change, and it looks like they wrote around the old Marvel Family issue of characters who can’t say their own names without switching back to normal humans. But “Shazam” as a name just by itself seems nonsensical…”hey man, why are you called ‘Shazam’?” “Well, it’s the magic word I use to turn into a superhero! The ‘S’ is for ‘Solomon,’ the ‘H’ is for Herc…hey, where are you going?” Personally, I would have gone with “Captain Shazam,” so at least you could still call the character “Cap” or “The Captain” and retain some connection to the Captain Marvel of old. That wouldn’t be any more ridiculous a name than, say, “Batman.” But nobody asked me. Nobody ever asks me. (sigh)

• • •

In completely unrelated news, I was convinced to read the new Airboy #1 from Image that came out this week, in which creators James Robinson and Greg Hinkle tell a story of themselves trying to come up with an angle on an Airboy reboot. SPOILERS AHEAD: Horrible things are done over the course of the story, with drink, drugs, sex, and more drugs, while the creators, Robinson especially, uncomfortably assess their comic-creating careers. It’s probably the last thing you’d expect in an Airboy comic, and probably some 80-year-old somewhere is really pissed off that this was done in a comic named after his favorite comic book character, but it really is a compelling read. And, if you’ve read ahead to solicitations for future issues, you already know that by the end of the comic, somehow Airboy himself appears to Robinson and Hinkle, disgusted by their debauchery.

And what that reminded me of was this comic:

Airboy and Mr. Monster (1987), another comic where an apparent apparition of Airboy appears to help a comic creator through a time of trouble. In this case, it’s the fictional Everett Coleman, whose failed career and torment by some of the evil characters he’s drawn over the years eventually leads to other characters he’s drawn coming his assistance…including Airboy. Now, Airboy is just one of an army of characters who pop up in this book, making the implied team-up of the characters in the title only just technically correct. It’s still amusing that Airboy, of all characters, has now been used twice in these mildly similar fashions.

Special “Retailer Trying to Figure How Many to Order of Each Cover” Variant Cover Month!

§ June 3rd, 2015 § Filed under retailing, this week's comics § 6 Comments

And here comes another month of people seeing the variant covers and thinking one thing and requiring me to explain “no, no, it’s just a variant…the cover image doesn’t reflect the contents.” So, sorry, kids, no Superman versus Joker, no Joker wearing Green Lantern’s ring, no Joker pierced with Green Arrow’s arrows, etc. etc. Also, despite the actual story in this comic taking place after the events in Superman #41, despite Superman #41 being referenced in a footnote in this story, you didn’t miss Superman #41 since it’s not coming out ’til the 24th of this month. Just for your information. …The comic does do a very good job of making you curious about just what did…er, will happen in Superman #41, however. It’s a weird mix of the story being very outside the typical Superman formula, but feeling like it builds on the Superman we know, rather than the “let’s do Superman, but different!” throwing-at-the-wall-to-see-what-sticks that characterized most of Superman’s New 52 existence.

We’re getting three Star Wars comics this week…the regular series, Darth Vader, and Princess Leia. That’s a bit much, almost Avengers-esque in its scheduling, but I do have an awful lot of customers who are interested in just the Star Wars books, so getting all three at once won’t be that much of a burden. I don’t know if I’ve said it on my site already, but the timing and success of the Star Wars books vis-a-vis the opening of my own shop was very fortuitous: the release of the new titles driving new customers into shops, causing them to seek out and find my store, was a strong financial influx just when my young store needed it. In fact, at one point I had double-reordered the first Darth Vader by accident, to which I reacted with “I’m never going to sell all of these.” Of course, they sold out and now I wish I’d triple-reordered them.

I don’t have a dog in the Secret Wars race, and while I appreciate the strong sales on this series and most of its tie-ins, but I don’t have any particular interest in it (but I’m still getting this). Which is fine…nobody can be a fan of everything, and I’m certainly not against it by any means. Between this and Convergence, though, that did leave me trying to figure out order numbers on a bunch of oddball titles at about the same time I’m still trying to suss out the buying habits of my new customer base, and believe you me, my friends, that took all of my comic book retailer super-powers to tackle that particular task. But I’m mostly managing, with a couple of hiccups (who knew people would want that Ultimate End comic, after years of Ultimate comics just not selling). But anyway, I did buy that Future Imperfect tie-in, because it’s Peter David revisiting that old mini-series of his that I enjoyed so much. I guess the Maestro (the evil future Hulk, for those of you who don’t know) has also popped up in David’s recent Spider-Man 2099 run, so I guess I’ll have to look into those, too.

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