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So in response to yesterday’s post, Adam says
“I would think 2 copies of Infinity Man and the Forever People would have covered your demand and left you with a spare stock copy.”
…and then Jer says
“Did you have high hopes for Forever People based on the bust-out sales success of OMAC? Or was it Didio’s run on Phantom Stranger that convinced you to go big?”
Har har, you cut-ups. But no, you’re probably not wrong…based on how sales of the regular Infinity Man issues have been, erring on the side of “barely ordered” would likely have worked out okay. But as I ordered the 3D cover version, I had no idea how it was going to sell…to use the examples cited by Jer, OMAC actually did reasonably well for us, though apparently not everywhere since it was one of the New 52’s early casualties. And Phantom Stranger…okay, to be honest, I didn’t make the connection between DiDio’s involvement in its early issues with his involvement with Infinity Man, since I was going more by the properties than the creative teams in my ordering strategies.
Now, with Phantom Stranger, the sales on the regular series were pretty much in the toilet. I mean, I liked it, but I also liked Frank Miller’s Spirit movie and I think we all know how that worked out. But I ended up selling about eight times as many of the Futures End 3D cover than I did of the last issue of the regular series. I mean, relatively speaking that was one of the titles I ordered the least numbers on for this Futures End hoohar, but octupling my sales is nothing to sneeze at, either.
When it comes to Infinity Man…well, I didn’t order a lot of the first issue, but I ordered based on my hope that some of the local OMAC sales would follow through to this new series. They didn’t, at least not entirely, and I ended up having to cut orders right quick. But when I ordered the Futures End tie-in way back when, I suppose my thinking was “okay, the series probably isn’t going to be a gangbuster, but people may pick it up because of the novelty cover, and what if there’s a rush on the covers again? WHAT IF?” and I ended up picking a number to order and hoping for the best.
It’s not as bad as all that…I didn’t order a lot of them, and it’s in the lower range of numbers I’ve ordered on the Futures End books. But it’s not moving quite as quickly as its 3D brethren, though I’ll see exactly how well or not well it’s been going when I go over stock numbers in the next week or so. Without having an exact count on hand, my feeling is that it sold more than the regular series has so far, but not enough to be in any danger of selling out anytime soon.
“I’m pretty shocked because they’re selling terribly at my store here in AZ. It’s a very heavy superhero crowd, but they have plenty from last week and it looks like they’ll have plenty from this week. Can I claim DC Fatigue based on two anecdotal examples?!?!?”
…and then Corey says
“Yeah, they’re not exactly flying off the stands at the shop I work at. I think the Death of Wolverine series has stolen DC’s thunder, because people are going nuts for that instead.”
I am curious about how orders and related sales on the Futures End event are overall. If fairly moribund sales are the case generally, then the next time DC does this (if they do it again) everyone will under-order and we may have a repeat of the panicked buying from the first year. Or nobody will care. I am throwing my money down on one of those two extremes…don’t tell me I can’t make the hard choices. I do believe that these will be okay sellers in the long run, even if they don’t fly off the shelves right this very moment. They are neat looking covers, and sometimes that’s enough to get people to yank them out of the back issue bins weeks or months down the road.
Corey’s reference to Death of Wolverine reminds me that I let myself get suckered into buying enough of the regular cover in order to match the sales plateaus required for the Skottie Young and Deadpool variants (more on that sort of thing here). However, in this case, it paid off…I sold those 1/100 and 1/75 variants for pretty good money, which helped pay for all the regular covers I thought I was getting stuck with…but the regular covers are selling really well, too, so I’m not going to be stuck with as many as I thought. Or, perhaps, any at all, ultimately. If anything, I’m wishing now I ordered more of #2, which is also flying off the shelf. Of course, everybody is sort of half-mocking the gimmick of the character’s supposed “death,” and yeah, we all know he’s coming back in another big ol’ event series down the road, but that’s not getting in the way of people being excited about the “Death of Wolverine” story itself. And, you know, that’s great. It’s been a while since people have been excited about Wolverine, based on how the fourteen recent different monthly series have been selling, so it’s nice to have a reminder of the days when Wolvie could appear in a comic, and by God, that comic sold.
So far it looks like I’ve done…reasonably well on the ordering of this year’s batch of DC’s lenticular covers. The first week releases have not sold entirely through yet, though a few titles did sell out (and are surprisingly available for reorder, which tells me that plenty of copies were printed). And, the titles for which I do still have leftover copies, the leftovers are within reason and will likely sell through eventually, even if it’ll be out of the back issue bins. In short, I don’t feel like I was stuck with too much overstock, and I don’t feel like too many people missed out due to quick sellouts.
In even shorter, getting the numbers I actually ordered resulted in successful sales and happy customers.
Of my worries from the beginning of this post, the actual answer appears to be “everyone ordered enough, or at least there’s plenty still available to order” and thus no shortage-caused rush like last time. The novelty of the covers themselves still holds its appeal, and I do have several customers asking for one of each. Frankly, I don’t think the covers this year are quite as eye-grabbing as last year’s, as reducing the main image to a smallish box surrounded by a frame isn’t as impressive, but they don’t look bad by any means.
Plus, it didn’t seem to matter that the one-shots are nominally tied to DC’s New 52 Futures End weekly series, which is just sort of dragging along saleswise, at least in these parts. In fact, it seems like the tie-in is mostly name only…and thematically too, I guess, since the weekly and these one-shots take place five years in the future. The one-shots seem mostly standalone, at least the ones I’ve read. Swamp Thing was pretty good, but of course I’d say that, and Batgirl allowed Gail Simone her coda to her run on the series. I hear tell Grayson was pretty good as well, though I haven’t looked at that one yet.
It’s too early to say how the second week’s run of one-shots are doing, though so far, so good. They’re not “sell the second the doors open on Wednesday” so much as “will sell steadily over the next couple of weeks or so.” I expect them all to sell within my expectations…
…except, um, Infinity Man and the Forever People. Someone invent a time machine and go back and tell the Mike of four months ago to knock that order down a dozen or two.
So last October I said that a year from then I’d probably look at the aftermarket on those special 3D covers DC released to much wailing and gnashing of teeth mostly due to their botched distribution. Okay, it hasn’t been a year yet, but, you know, close enough, and also I suspect once this year’s batch of DC’s 3D books get released I’ll have a whole new array of problems to complain about without having to worry about reflecting back on last year’s as well.
Anyway, I’m not going to go through every single 3D cover and its pricing because that’s crazy talk. My initial assertion was that the panic pricing and profiteering that resulted in books only out on the shelves for a few days getting priced at two, three, five times cover price would eventually settle down, with the 3D editions maybe going for five or ten bucks at most. Let’s pick out just a couple and do about 10 seconds of eBay research for each, starting with the one that was probably the biggest: Batman: The Dark Knight #23.4, introducing the Joker’s Daughter.
In fact, as I was Googling up the exact issue number, since I’m old and can’t remember exact details like that any more, one of the first results is a message board query asking why this particular comic was so rare, and if DC deliberately kept the print run on that low. Well, the answer is “yes,” actually, but not for the reason this person is likely thinking. Not to go into the full details again, but DC more or less set print runs based on each book’s sales history, and Dark Knight was not exactly a top-seller. It wasn’t limited in that DC was trying to create a “hot collectible” (an accusation that gets leveled at publishers quite frequently, even though they don’t directly benefit from aftermarket pricing) and what I think this particular message boarder was implying.
But, let’s look at pricing. The Joker’s Daughter issue was hard to find and in high demand (either because it was in short supply or because it introduced a Joker spinoff character, or even perhaps possibly both), and it was commanding some fairly dear prices right out of the gate. I recall seeing prices upward of $40, if not more. Now…well, my previous Googling also turned up an Amazon page for the comic, where prices start at about $37 and run all the way up to $85. This is for copies for sale, not sold, so some of those higher prices may just be wishful thinking. A look at eBay reveals copies having sold for anywhere from $10 to $30, with “pro-graded” copies sealed in those plastic containers selling for much more, with one copy selling for $66. [NM price in the most recent Overstreet Price Guide: $12]
To take another of the “hot” covers, let’s look at Detective Comics #23.2, with Harley Quinn. This was one that was generally selling in the $20 range, as I recall, though to look at eBay now, copies have gone for as little at $13, and topped out at $36 (with at least one slabbed copy going for $125). Most seem to be in the $20-ish range. [NM price in the most recent Overstreet Price Guide: $12]
At the opposite end of the scale, let’s go with the one 3D cover we were actually allocated more copies that what we were ordered: Justice League #23.1, featuring Darkseid. That goes for a whole $3 to $6, with the slabbed copies going for stupid money, as usual. Anyway Overstreet has this at $5.
One more: Batman #23.1, with the Joker (the one I wanted to order a billion of because it would sell forever but my nefarious plans were curtailed by DC’s printing problems) seems to go for about $10 to $15 on eBay…mostly closer to $10. Guide price: $5.
A quick glance at some other titles on eBay show some 3D covers, like Flash or Aquaman, selling for as little as $1, plus, you know, $5 shipping, so I guess you should probably factor that in. Plus, a general search shows that most of the other 3D covers seem to be around $1 to $5 or $6 as well. For the most part, there are plenty to be had at several mostly inexpensive price points. The expensive ones (aside from the copies in the plastic slab thingies) are the exception, not the rule.
Breezing through some of the price guide entries seems to show that, aside from the exceptions noted about, most of the 3D covers are listed at about $5 or so. That’s what we’ve been selling most of ours for over the last few months (though Joker, Joker’s Daughter and Harley do sell for a little more) and that seems to be a good price to keep the sales going.
Anyway, I guess I was mostly right back then, noting that price guides would reflect marginally higher prices on the 3D covers versus the issues around them (I mean, duh), and that I would be surprised that any of them were selling for over $10. I mean, that the Joker’s Daughter issue is still moving, in some cases, for around $30 is kind of a shock. Higher prices for the Harley and Joker issues aren’t that much of a surprise, since those characters are perennially popular.
In conclusion, sometimes hot market prices settle down to more reasonable numbers. I know, I’m as shocked as you are. And we’ll see in a few weeks if history repeats itself with DC’s next batch of 3D goodies. I’m guessing “no,” but we’ll find out soon enough.
So reader Chris asked in response to Wednesday’s post:
“I’ve found myself doing double takes recently a couple of times in local comics shops, not so much because I think that certain items shouldn’t be sold, but because I question how they are shelved/displayed in a way that seems to draw kids’ attention. Once was on Free Comic Book Day when a copy of a ‘Hentai Hotties’ anime DVD was on display right behind the artists doing sketches for kids. Ahem. The other was when I saw the Image ‘Sex’ title shelved on a low shelf (eye-level for 6-7 year olds, probably), adjacent to all the superhero shenanigans books, with no signage or indication that you might be veering into less family-friendly waters. Just seemed to be inviting trouble, somehow, or at least some unexpected conversations for an unwitting parent.
Which makes me wonder, Mike–how *do* you display the more adult-themed titles you sell? Am I being overly cautious in my concerns?”
A while back I did briefly discuss new comics racking, but I didn’t specifically address what we did with the more explicit, very adults-only titles.
For the adult-y titles like Image’s Sex, or Marvel and DC’s adult imprints Icon and Vertigo, I keep those on the top shelf, out of the reach of the yung’uns, with tags on the shelf stating “hey, this is the 18+ section.” In the indie books section (again, see this post for a brief description of our screwy but still operable set-up), where the subject matter generally skews a little higher, the more adult-ish titles will be racked alphabetically with the rest. If the content is a bit much to where I really wouldn’t want any younger patrons to be exposed to it (like, say, Tarot) we’ll bag up the comic with an “18+” sticker on the front cover. Not so sealed that an adult-type person couldn’t pop it open and briefly browse it for a purchasing decision (ideally), but sealed enough that we’ll notice if someone’s breaking the seal. And, hopefully, sealed enough so that any concerned citizens worried about this material can see we’re making some attempt at controlling access. (‘Course, if they’re really that concerned, just having anything naughty in the shop is enough to bring out the torches and pitchfolks, but that’s a discussion for another day.)
There are some instance where the covers on the comics are just a little much, and not something I’d particularly want on display to shock the sensibilities for the overly sensitive and the youthfully impressionable. I don’t use these very often, but occasionally I’ll need to bust out the “privacy bags” that Diamond has available, that black out most of the cover while keeping the logo visible, to protect the casual customer from the hideous filth and carnality presented for all to see:
Now, for the titles that are just straight-up porn, I’ve got the secret naughty box that I keep on a counter with all those comics, sealed in the privacy bags and monitored. Not that “straight-up porn” comics are quite the deal they were back in the ’90s, when smutty funnybooks were all the rage, but there are still a few being unleashed on the market once in a while and I need a place to put them that isn’t next to Wolverine
, or even Tarot
• • •
That Caleb guy asks:
“How different is [the birth of Miraclebaby] than the image of Prince Robot’s son being born in a recent issue of SAGA (other than being a human birth, instead of a gray-skinned, blue-fluid-filled royal robot birth, of course)…?”
Well, that’s probably the main difference…I haven’t seen the Saga sequence, so I don’t know if it was as anatomically explicit as the Miracleman scene, and having that extra…layer of separation, I guess, of being in a sci-fi setting with non-humans? That might have been enough. Plus, this wasn’t out of character for Saga as far as I know, whereas Miracleman up to that point had been a slightly more violent than average superhero comic with no distributor-disturbing gynecological details. And then there’s the fact that the threat of “LOOK AT WHAT YOUR KIDS ARE READING!” news stories doesn’t loom quite as large over the industry’s consciousness now as it did back then, so folks aren’t quite as uptight over content as they used to be.
Like I said in my last post, there’s still some worry out there, otherwise Marvel wouldn’t have started bagging Miracleman months ago in preparation for this issue.• • •
Alan writes about the seeming lack of coverage over Marvel’s rerelease of Miracleman, which does seem a bit peculiar at least from the perspective of old fans of this material (like Alan and myself). In my head, I’m thinking “hey, this is Miracleman! It’s been out of print for ages! This is where all the ‘dark ‘n’ serious’ superhero comics you’re reading now come from! YOU SHOULD BE BUYING THIS!”
Part of the problem is the botched release of this material, coming out in dribs and drabs in an overpriced package stuffed with extra material most readers don’t care about, and in some cases (cough the classic Marvelman stories cough) openly resent. Yes, the hardcover collections are nice, but their sales aren’t a patch on the single issues. That may very well have turned off any folks who were likely to have discussed this series.
There’s also the fact that this project is maybe just a little too late…Alan Moore isn’t the red-hot comics star he once was (yes, his name’s not on the current comic anyway, but everyone who cares knows he wrote these), Miracleman is a forgotten obscurity, and a lot of people who were reading comics back when it was coming out are likely no longer buying comics. It’s a lot smaller marketplace now than in the ’80s and early ’90s, it should go without saying.
I suspect that as we approach the release of new Miracleman material, especially given that it’ll be written by Neil Gaiman, who arguably still has more cachet in the current industry than Moore, we’ll see increased discussion of this project. Or maybe when we get to the John Totleben-illustrated run that wraps up Moore’s tenure, which is gorgeous and I hope for good things with its reprinting, people’s minds will be sufficiently blown to ramp up interest.
Of course, it may be as simple as no one having much more to say “oh, hey, another Miracleman reprint is out,” which is a shame. Maybe once it’s complete, assuming it will be completed, we’ll see more new discussion about its overall impact on comics. Maybe I should be discussing it more, outside of retailing concerns. I am not unaware that I’m part of the problem. Outside of some facile, jokey commentary I don’t do a whole lot of comics reviewing or essaying in regards to content. I’m generally more focused on the business side of things, when I decide to peer more closely at something in my meanderings here. For a while there I was attempting semi-regular reviews of selected weekly releases, though I’ve fallen out of the habit. I should fall back in, I think, and include Miracleman in those overviews. It really is an excellent comic, and deserving of your attention, despite those formatting barriers seemingly designed to keep you away.
So I just threw a bunch of Avatar variant covers on the eBay, since I had a few sittin’ around the shop that hadn’t moved out just yet. The threshold to order these is actually pretty low, so it’s sometimes too easy to check those off on the order form. It can be a real guessing game on these variants, the Avatars in particular, in that I know there’s a chance I won’t sell them, but I can’t sell them if I don’t have them in the first place. They sell more often than not, but there are always leftovers. Especially now more than ever, since everybody’s cranking out variant covers as quickly as they’re able.
Some cases, it’s not so much a big deal. There’s that coming Deadpool variant with the 3D cover, in the style of DC’s event debacle from last year that, with any luck, will be less of a debacle this time around. Anyway, even as regular Deadpool sales seem to be dipping due to oversaturation (example: one of Deadpool’s every-three-weeks monthly issues, an issue of the weekly series, and Deadpool Vs. X-Force, all coming out last Wednesday), its variants still maintain strong demand, and that 3D cover will likely sell for crazy prices.
Oddly, more difficult is ordering DC’s latest variation (har) on variant covers, which unlike the usual method of operation in which the variants are tied to specific order plateaus (such as 1 for every 25 of the regular cover), DC’s recent “Bombshell” and “Batman 75th Anniversary” and the coming “Selfie” covers were orderable in any quantity. What makes this difficult is trying to predict if a) folks are going to buy both covers, or b) buy the variant instead of the regular cover (or vice versa), or c) buy just the variant because they’re collecting the variants on titles they don’t ordinarily buy, or…ugh. There’s no consistency across the board, as it turns out. Options A, B, and C all seem to apply, depending on which book it is, what the cover looks like, etc. Harley Quinn and Wonder Woman variants are easy sells regardless, but there’s a lot of looking at variant covers and comparing them to the regular covers and trying to decide what my customers were going to prefer months (or weeks, in the case of the Final Order Cutoffs adjustments I get to do after placing initial orders) from now. Sometimes comic ordering is an art, not a science, and alas I’m a bit sloppy with my paint sometimes. And my analogies, come to think of it.
And that’s fifteen minutes. Also, I’m doing this again which can get pretty dark. That’s a feature, not a bug.
So we’ve been receiving giant box after giant box from this one gentleman at the shop, each one filled to the brim with comic books, children’s books, toys, what-have-you, dating mostly from the late ’60s through the very early ’90s, with a few from earlier still. One unique element of this collection, very seemingly out of place amongst the ’70s Archie comics and miscellaneous Disney merchandise (including a – gulp! – $300 Donald Duck statue and an Uncle Scrooge “Gold Train” set that is probably even more expensive), was a pile of bagged ‘n’ boarded Silver Surfer #50s, approximately 100 in number, and you can see Employee Aaron with a small selection of them in a photo I posted on the store’s site.
Now, some of the items we didn’t really have any interest in or need for, mostly the children’s books, but this fellow who was selling them to us is in the process of moving and didn’t really want any of this stuff back. Thus, anything we didn’t end up buying, we ended up getting anyway. Alas, one of the reasons we didn’t want many of the children’s books was because, due to poor storage, the majority of them were water-damaged and / or moldy or otherwise just too damaged to be salvaged, and had to be discarded. As a former librarian, and as a lifelong lover of books, I hated disposing of them, but there was no helping it.
Some of the books were able to be saved, and I ended up taking home a bunch of them for myself…and in that pile was this little hardcover book (with dustjacket) from 1940:
About 40 pages or thereabouts, with little black and white illustrations and about three to four jokes per page, most of them about as good as this:
Yup, just full on making fun of overweight people, and
making sure to explain the pun with a parenthetical aside just in case you didn’t get it.
Okay, it’s not all terrible. I really like this dumb joke, although you would probably get punched for telling it and rightfully so:
The book also gets all religious-y on you out of nowhere, while simultaneously denying the ineffable essence of our cetacean brethren:
And just to emphasize that inherent superiority of soulful humans, here’s a joke that utilizes stereotyping of Chinese people:
That’s one of two
jokes in this book based around our Chinese friends, who are the only ethnicity singled out, surprisingly enough.
And, um, well:
Here’s a joke that probably got a whole lot funnier not much later:
The judges would also have accepted “Timothy Leary.”
The inner flap of the dustjacket features a short introduction to this volume, ending with
“This is a good size book to slip into your pocket and produce at a moment’s notice in order to confound your friends or superior adults who we guarantee will never be able to guess the answers.”
Well, yes, they’ll certainly be confounded:
There’s an extra helping of mental trauma in that joke, Little Billy! Enjoy your next meal!
So it sounds like, based on reports of order numbers, the forthcoming Rocket Raccoon series has achieved that perfect storm of movie tie-in combined with variant cover availability based on exceeding certain percentages of orders of previously-published strong-selling comics, resulting in what sounds like an enormous amount of copies about to flood the market in just a few months. Oh, those variants should sell out just fine, they usually do, assuming their prices aren’t hiked up to ridiculous heights. But the regular cover editions…well, you know how hard it is to find a copy of the regular cover for Superman Unchained #1? There you go.
Of course, it feels like those percentages we have to beat are creeping up ever so slowly, but that may just be my innate paranoia from being in this business for too long. To get those “Deadpool Dressed As Princess Leia” variants on Ultimate Slapstick #1, you have order numbers on the regular cover that either meet or exceed 125% of your orders on Man-Thing Team-Up #17, and of course that was the issue you ordered extra on because, go figure, Man-Thing was teaming up with Deadpool in that issue. So, you have to order lots of Ultimate Slapstick because if you don’t get those “Deadpool Dressed As Princess Leia” variants, the store in the next town over will, and people will go there to get their comics if they think you can’t get them, and you can’t have that.
And then, a couple of months down the road, the debut issue of This Will Be A New Marvel Movie Soon, We Hope #1 will pop up in the order forms, and to get the “Wolverine in Various States of Undress” variant cover, you’ll have to exceed 125% of your numbers on Ultimate Slapstick #1. And so on, and so on, until all the trees are gone and the Lorax departs the Earth in disgust.
Now, it’s not necessarily chained like that, with one book you need to inflate your orders on tied to a previous order-inflated book…I’ll need to go back and do some of that “research” I’ve heard so much about. However, every time I see that “exceed X%” instruction, I feel like I’m being taken for a ride. Of course, nobody’s forcing me to do it, but like I said, if I don’t, another shop will, and in the current comics marketplace, you don’t want to give your customers a reason to not come to your shop.
The only way to fight back is for no shops to order any of these types of variants, but that’s not likely to happen. Or maybe to wean the direct market off dependence on Marvel and DC [imagine hysterical laughter here].
I’m not entirely unsympathetic to the publishers. The whole variants scheme is to keep numbers up in a marketplace where retailers would prefer to keep their overhead low, by encouraging orders to maintain at certain levels. Sure, you could order just 20 copies of this, but there’s a special 1 in 25 variant cover you can probably sell for a premium, so why not just bump up the order just a bit, why don’t you? Thanks, you’re a pal!
Some of the smaller publishers, like Boom! and Dynamite, have order percentage incentives as well, but it’s more along the line of “we’ll give you an extra discount if your order on this issue of this series matches or exceeds 90% of the previous issue,” and that seems a little more reasonable to me. Or, in some cases, matching orders on a previous issue would result in returnability, which I’m pretty okay with, too. I’d love if the returnability option was a little more widespread with Big Two releases, but I suspect the discounts we enjoy with them would shrink by a considerable margin once those publishers start shouldering more of the burden of unsold stock. It’s more in the publishers’ interests for the retailer to warehouse their books, whether they sell or not.
In conclusion, I think that Rocket Raccoon comic actually sounds like it’ll be a fun read. I certainly hope everyone will want to read it. I mean, we pretty much need them to.
So one thing that occurred to me recently, and may have been brought up somewhere on the Internet since DC launched its New 52 initiative three years ago and I missed since I can’t read the entire Internet, is how this “The New 52!” slug that’s slapped on all of DC’s covers is like one more barrier to new readers. It’s a very minor
barrier, and one that’s easily explained if someone in the know is around to explain it, but it’s still one more bit of weird information, the meaning of which is not immediately obvious, one more thing that says “this is an indicator for people already in the club, and not for people such as you.” “52 what
?” I’ve heard more than once.*
We’re probably stuck with that “The New 52″ logo for the time being, even as others have noticed that the majority of the original 52 titles DC launched in September 2011 have since been cancelled, or at least retooled and restarted. Abandoning the New 52 idea would be tantamount to an admission on DC’s part that the publishing initiative was a failure, and I don’t expect that to happen. More likely is that, assuming Warner Brothers would want to continue publishing comics and not just turn all those properties over to the toy companies and animation departments, there would be a new rebranding of DCs publishing line, and yet another overhaul of their books. It would allow them to save at least some face to some extent, by spinning it as not giving up on the New 52, but instead moving the DC Universe forward to…the Great 38! Or, you know, something like that.
Since DC is stuck with the New 52 concept, I would almost prefer that DC would fill out their line of non-Justice League/Batman/Superman/Green Lantern comics with mini-series. I mean, intentional mini-series, marketed as such, not just planned ongoings that get canned after eight months. There’s no shortage of characters and concepts in DC’s vaults that could stand to be aired out a bit…put ‘em in a series for six to twelve months, collect it into a paperback when it’s over, and now DC has something to show as a pitch for a new movie or TV pro…I mean, something they can sell in bookstores. And if it sells really well…what the hell, then make it a new ongoing series. I realize that’s more work, editorially, but if books are getting cancelled left and right anyway, might as well jump up right after falling down and declare “I meant to do that!” (And it would make my job a little easier, since problem I describe here is now comic-ordering status quo.)
Going back to what I was talking about at the beginning: a lot of what we, folks what read the funnybooks on a regular basis, take for granted is confusing to the uninformed. They are confused that there can be more than one ongoing series starring the same character, each with its own storylines and continuity, but they sometimes the series do tie in together, but not all the time. Batman and Detective are two entirely separate series, except when they’re not.
The very idea of issue numbers can be confusing. It’s such an obvious thing to me, and to you, that I don’t know how they can be confusing, but to someone not used to the vagaries of comics publishing, they are. That there are so many different series, several of them at least superficially no different from many others (“all these say ‘Avengers’ on them…they’re all the same, right?”), with so many numbering schemes, with so many restarts and reboots, it’s…well, it can look like bit of a mess.
The alternative is no issue numbers (at least on the cover…one could be present inside with the copyright information), and emphasizing the cover date, maybe. But that would create new problems, with people looking for, I don’t know, the April and May 2014 editions of Hawkeye, for example.
And then there’s the series within the series:
That’s Action Comics
#32, but it’s also “Enemy of the State Chapter 1″ and it’s part of the “SUPERMAN: DOOMED” crossover event. But it’s not Chapter 1 of the SUPERMAN: DOOMED event, since we just wrapped up the “Infected” segment of DOOMED that ran through all the Superman books. It helps that DC put the additional visual cue of the border around the edges of the cover to clue people into the idea that all these comics with similar borders are related to each other. But that’s still a lot of information to throw at someone not used to comic book company design and marketing decisions.
I mean, I get it. In this marketplace everyone’s struggling to make their comics stand out, and making each issue part of some crossover event or special storyline is an attempt to make that comic seem like essential reading, like you’re missing out if you’re not grabbing the latest installment of this exciting adventure!
Of course, this assumes that new, uninitiated readers are taking in all this information being shoved into their eyesockets and trying to parse it. Sometimes it’s just enough Batman is on the cover, and that’s all the information they need.
* At least “Marvel NOW!” seems a little more obvious in meaning and intent, if not any less coated in flop-sweat.
So on Friday I sat down and started crunching some numbers on how to order the coming Futures End 3D covers. As I’m sure you remember, the last time DC tried 3D covers, it turned out production time was longer than they expected and they couldn’t fill initial orders. This time around, however, retailers are being asked to send in orders well in advance of release to allow (hopefully) sufficient lead-time for DC to print enough copies.
Last time, sales were driven by demand created by news of short supply. People were more or less interested in the 3D covers as it was, but the news that retailers weren’t receiving full orders created a huge buying frenzy, much higher than anyone would have expected. It’s hard to say, had initial orders been filled in full and no short-supply sales frenzy had ensued, just how accurate my original estimates of sales would have been. I think I would have been close…numbers enough to cover pull lists and rack sales and then a reasonable number of extra copies to handle what I guessed would be the additional sales the fancy covers might have attracted. There was no way to predict that 1) DC would end up allocating orders, and 2) that panic buying would have resulted.
This time, my planning includes numbers enough to cover pull lists and rack sales and then a reasonable number of extra copies to handle what I guess may be the additional sales the fancy covers will attract. The comics won’t be here for four months, two more months than the usual gulf of time my precogniscent comic-ordering abilities normally have to span, and if I have trouble predicting an out of the ordinary comic-buying frenzy two months out, I don’t have a chance at four months.
Now, it’s not hard to guess on some titles. The 3D covers for Batman and Harley Quinn and Justice League and other top-tier titles will probably sell great, and will continue to sell for some time to come, assuming no panic-driven immediate sell-outs. Orders for other titles, like Trinity of Sin: Pandora, with readerships about half that of my grocery lists, can probably safely be ordered at significantly lower numbers. Again, assuming no panic-driven immediate sell-outs.
Perhaps you sense a recurring theme. “I should have enough, assuming something I can’t reasonably predict doesn’t happen.” I can order enough to cover regular sales. I can, in general, guesstimate orders on enough extras to cover additional sales driven by interest in the 3D covers. I can’t guess if there will be, say, a mass media driven frenzy from people who don’t normally buy comics coming into stores to grab what they can. Or, some other kind of interest spike that will come as a surprise.
Will this be Superman #75, the Death of Superman issue, where retailers’ orders of lots of copies were completely overwhelmed by an insane amount of consumer demand? Or will this be Adventures of Superman #500, the “sorta the beginning of the return of Superman,” which retailers ordered huge numbers on, anticipating an demand equal to that of Superman #75, and, well, go ask some retailers how many unopened cases of that book they still have. But not me, or I might throw an unopened case of, um, a certain unnamed book at you.
There are lots of outcomes here. Given the extra lead time to print these new 3D comics, every retailer should get what they order. But will too many retailers order well in excess of what they actually need, assuming a demand similar to what happened with the 3D covers last year, resulting in a flooded marketplace and depressed sales? Will retailers order too conservatively, with the possibility of perhaps supply only just meeting, or just barely not meeting demand, giving the impression of more shortages which will cause, like last year, a spike in demand for books simply because they’re “hard to get?”
And there is that unpredictable factor I mentioned several times already, that a huge demand will come out of nowhere, or at from outside the usual comics-buying market, outstripping anyone’s guesses or predictions, causing the 3D cover supply to dry up yet again.
My best guess right now is that, this year, everyone will order just a few too many, that there should be plenty to meet expected sales, and there probably won’t be an unpredicted excessive demand stripping our shelves of these books. But, as mentioned to me by Ralph…remember Ralph? co-owner of the store and owner of all the old comics Ralph…if everyone orders too much this year and gets stuck with copies, then if they do this again next year, everyone will cut orders, and there won’t be enough to go around, and I’ll have to go through this again but with any luck I’ll finally be in my dream job of deep sea fishing by then and won’t have to think about any of this.
Regarding this year’s crop, however, we’ll see how I did on my ordering in a few months. Hopefully at that point this site won’t turn into “Mike Sterling’s Progressive 3D Cover Marketplace” where I try to get you guys to buy a different Futures End book each day. On the plus side, that’ll get me back up to posting seven days a week.
• • •
Between my writing this post Friday night and finishing it Saturday night, there was of course that terrible shooting in Isla Vista
. I attended UCSB in the late ’80s/early ’90s, and would regularly wander through I.V. between classes, have lunch, shop at the record and book stores, or just hang out. It was an interesting and crowded
community, and to hear about this awful tragedy there was just sickening. My sympathies to everyone there, to the victims of the violence and to their family and friends.
1. Thanks to everyone who helped support us in the wake of this really quite annoying act of vandalism…it means quite a lot to us. And our new window should be installed today!
2. I’m beginning to get inquiries for our Retailer Edition of Valiant’s Armor Hunters…it seems only about 45 retailers reached the order plateau to receive the personalized covers, and some folks are trying to get all of them. …After looking at the others, I suppose I should have put a wee bit more effort into ours, but it has Seth’s name and Ralph’s cool logo by pal Tom, along with the website address and the all-important “since 1980″ so I guess it’s okay. But it was literally like “hey, we need the art in a day or two” and I was all “(gulp) oh, yeah, art” and I had nuthin’. Next time, I’ll have something fancier ready to go!
3. So I finally got to the Steve Ditko “Killjoy” back-ups in my E-Man reading. Those comics may be the best thing I’ve read all year.
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