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By which I mean “who wouldn’t want ME to make more money?”

§ January 3rd, 2018 § Filed under retailing § 3 Comments

So there’s been a lot of talk of late (particularly on Twitter) about comic shops struggling, about how folks with pull lists at their shops should drop in before the end of the year and pick up their stuff (especially if it’s been a while), and about how some shops are getting stiffed on pulls that aren’t picked up.

Now, to the first part, on a personal level, my shop is doing fine. Sure, I’d like to make more money, but who wouldn’t? However, I’m paying bills, I’m paying myself, I’m socking a little away, so I think I’m good. And I haven’t nailed down all the numbers yet, but I’m pretty sure business has increased for me over this past year. It was hard going, particularly given certain publishing “events” and relaunches and whathaveyous didn’t take off as everyone was hoping, but overall, I watched my order numbers and expenses and I think I did okay. Plus, I’m a new store and am hopefully still in the “upswing” part of the sales curve. Nowhere to go but up! …Unless it goes down, of course, but not so far!

What makes it rough is the latter part of the first paragraph here, and that’s the comic pulls. Like I said, there have been a number of Twitter reminders to people to go get their comic savers, which I dutifully retweeted because I’d like that to happen at my shop, too, but this one in particular sorta set me off. No particular reason why that one got me going, but I did a little mini-Twitter rant in response and support of that person’s tweet.

It’s nothing I haven’t said here before, I’m pretty sure. Basically, “pick up your pulls, or keep in contact to let them know you’ll pick up your pulls, or let them know if can’t get your pulls and you need to stop.” …Pithy and catchy, right? Really, all it takes is a call or an email, particularly if I’m calling/emailing you and trying to get you to come in for your stash.

As I noted in my Tweeterings, I had a couple of recent comic saver accounts that I had to cut off. One person I managed to reach a couple of times, got promises that he’d be in to pick up his stuff, and then…nothin’. Another person I could only get the answering machine, and never got a single call back from any messages I left. I wasn’t mean about it, just giving friendly reminders at first, and then the friendly “if you need to cut down your pull or stop entirely, just drop me a line, no problem!” But still, nothing.

These were two regulars, by the way…folks that had been with me since just about the time I opened my shop. Dutifully came in on a regular basis until they didn’t, which is why I maybe let their pulls go a little longer than I should have. (I’ve had a few other pulls that went south right quick over the last few years, but I caught on early enough on most of those that it wasn’t much of a problem.) In these two cases I’m talking about, a lot of the comics involved were Star Wars titles, which thankfully I still have a pretty good market for, so mostly I can reabsorb the stock on these without much difficulty. But, of course, there’s always the stuff in the pulls that have now missed their sales opportunity window, so that’s lost income for me.

Now, I don’t know what occurred in these customers’ lives. I know crap happens, and suddenly your income is cut in half or lost entirely, or you’re going through (shall we say) domestic changes, or there’s some emergency, or something. And as I said in my Twitter thread, calling your local comic dude is probably very low priority if you’re dealing with some serious crud. But at the same time…I’m not asking for much. If I’m contacting you repeatedly (not nagging, but, like, a phone call once every couple of weeks or so) at the very least spend 30 seconds on the phone or the email program of your choice and talk to me. I’ve got my own life (and business) to lead, and don’t want to put a dent in my income, and also don’t want to screw you over if you genuinely are eventually coming in for your books.

So anyway, be nice to your local comic book person, especially if it’s me. You need to cut the list down, or cut it entirely, or put it on hold so you can catch up, or need to make arrangements to pick it up a bit a time…I swear, I will work with you! Just don’t vanish and leave me pulling books for you each week that you’ll never buy and then I’ll never be able to sell.

• • •

Your reminder that I’m still taking your comic industry predictions for 2018 right in this post here, so post ’em if you got ’em! (Remember to follow the rules I have in the main body of my post, please!) I’m going to start going over your 2017 predictions next week, so let that be a warning to you all.

I sort of preferred Marvel using “Distinguished Competition” as a nickname for them.

§ November 27th, 2017 § Filed under collecting, marvel, retailing § 7 Comments

Occasionally the One Remaining Comic Book Distributor in the U.S. will run some deep discount sales on stock for retailers, and recently they unloaded a bunch of Marvel’s Omnibus editions and Marvel Masterworks volumes for prices ranging from “well, that’s a little less than normal wholesale” to “whoa nelly that’s cheaper than a cheap thing that’s cheap.” So natch, I loaded up on a few items for the shop and offered them at discounted prices, and everyone’s happy.

I’m especially happy, because a couple of the items offered were of particular interest to me, and at the ridiculously low sale price I picked them up for myself. One is the Howard the Duck omnibus, including the entire original series (including the couple of later issues released around the time of the movie), his previous appearances in Man-Thing comics, that one treasury edition, and something from Foom magazine that I haven’t looked to see what it is yet. I’d actually been on the lookout for discounting on the HtD book after getting my giant-sized Man-Thing omnibus on the cheap a while back.

Now, I have an ulterior motive for this…primarily, getting these reprints in a nicely-printed permanent edition frees up the actual comics from my collection, allowing me to put these out for sale in my shop. You’ll notice that post about the Man-Thing omnibus went up around the time I was beginning to open my store…well, suddenly, I had full runs of two Man-Thing series, a bunch of issues of Fear, some Giant-Size Man-Thing, and other odds and ends I was able to turn around for the most part. It more than covered the cost of the omnibus, and provided some sorely-needed store-opening cash besides.

Thus, theoretically, I should soon have a full run of Howard the Duck plus Asst. Materials for sale in the shop…though I 1) already have a number of those issues in the store right now, acquired from other collections, and 2) I kinda wish I kept those Man-Things now that they’re gone. Logically, I have all the stories, so I don’t really need them, but there was some small measure of sentimental value to them. Plus, omnibuses are a lot harder on the scanner if I need to grab any images out of those comics.

But hey, that’s life, so I’ll get those Howards into the shop regardless.

The other book I acquired for Low, Low Pricing from that recent sale was the Marvel Masterworks edition of Not Brand Echh. That’s another series I have all the issues for…in fact, this was the first series I completed a run for that had come out (almost) entirely before I was born. (Not sure about the last issue, with the May 1969 cover date…given cover date shenanigans, it may have actually come out just prior to or during my birth month of March ’69.)

Now it’s been a while since I’ve read my run of it, but getting a hardcover volume with the artwork printed on paper that isn’t slowly turning to dust has inspired me to dip into this zaniness again…as, you know, time permits, since I’m constantly behind on reading everything. And what I’ve read so far is very funny…very early Mad Magazine-ish in that every square inch is filled with a joke of some kind, and all the more remarkable that it was the very creators of the comics themselves doing the parodies. Yes, it’s the dreaded “Official Parody” that should be toothless and boring, but Not Brand Echh often reads like Stan and Jack and the rest of the gang blowing off some steam after toiling away at the Marvel Universe for so long.

My favorite panel so far into my rereading is this one…it’s specifically mocking the Fantastic Four storyline where Dr. Doom tricks Silver Surfer and steals his powers, but the way Stan ‘n’ Jack exaggerate Doom’s strategy of “pretending to be nice” is hilarious:


The more I look at this panel, the more I think there’s no way on God’s green Earth that anyone could have come up with a funnier book for Doom to be reading than “Butterflies I Have Loved.” I don’t know why that puts a stupid grin on my face every time I see it, but good gravy that one panel alone is funnier than entire issues of supposed humor books I’ve seen of late. Those Lee and Kirby kids, they’ve got some talent.

The actual title of the comic itself, Not Brand Echh, is charmingly dated as well, reminding us of a simpler time when products would be advertised in comparison to competing items, but the competitors would be described as “Brand X” or something similarly obfuscatory. You know, not like today, where commercials are basically “BURGER KING SUCKS, EAT AT ARBY’S” or something equally straight-forward. “Brand Echh,” of course, was Marvel’s nickname for their crosstown rivals DC Comics (putting a Mad-esque twist on “X” for the grosser-sounding “ECHH”), and when the title of the series was combined with the blurb just above it (“Who says a comic book has to be good??”) the cover of every issue was a slam at their competition. That’s…got my respect. I think the closest DC ever got to lobbing that ball back into Marvel’s court were some Marvel parodies in Inferior Five, though there were other minor gags/references in various DC titles here and there. (Wasn’t there a direct swipe at Spider-Man in Legion of Super-Heroes? Maybe someone can remind me.)

And now that I have this book, a run of Not Brand Echh should be making it into the “New Arrivals” back issue bins at the store as well. If, of course, I can convince myself to bring them in.

“It is also worth your while to rack this issue as part of (or near) your ‘Acts of Vengeance’ display.”

§ November 6th, 2017 § Filed under marvel, retailing § 3 Comments

Still going through old boxes of comic book promotional material of decades past, and one item I found was a Marvel Comics retailer letter with suggestions on how shops could market a particular comic book to its customer base. The comic in question: The ‘Nam #41 (February 1990):


This of course is the issue of the ongoing mostly real world-ish Vietnam War comic that guest-starred Marvel super-heroes. Now, it’s not as egregious as it may sound…the premise is that a U.S. soldier in Vietnam imagines how conflict would go if Iron Man and pals were around, and, you know, a guy imagining what that would be like is at least within the realm of possibility. It’s not like, say, the Punisher showed up or anything. So the premise doesn’t really break the main conceit of the book, that it’s a dramatized “realistic” retelling of the war, from the points of view of the men on the ground.

Of course, in execution, it likely plays out differently. In context of “this is all in a fella’s imagination” it may be, but it’s still pictures of superheroes fighting in the Vietnam War in a comic that had eschewed that sort of imagery.

Anyway, whatever, that’s fine. If they needed the occasional story like this to goose sales a bit (and I’m assuming sales might have needed bit of a boost) so they could keep telling the superhero-free stories they wanted to tell…I mean, sure, knock yourselves out. But what I wanted to mention briefly were the sales tips in the above scan. I’d posted this pic initially on the Twitterers the other day, and as Bully, the Little Shelving Bull, pointed out, “Put it near What If? so nobody can find it!” appears to be one of the suggestions. Frankly, that sort of racking strategy would probably create more confusion for sales…”Hey, why is The ‘Nam in the Ws?”

The suggestion that bothers me the most, however, is the idea that retailers should tell customers “hey, that Sgt. Fury comic with Captain America is worth a lot now, wink wink, nudge nudge,” implying that surely this comic will be a highly sought-after expensive collectible in short order as well! (Recent sales on eBay: one copy at 99 cents.) If you’re trying to convince customers to buy a comic for its possible investment opportunity…well, I never ever ever do that. Partially because I want people to read and enjoy their comics, but mostly because I don’t want someone to buy three dozen copies of something on my investibility precognitive knowhow, only to have said items turn out to be a bust and suddenly the buyer’s back in my shop with, like, one of these.

Also, that Sgt. Fury comic is from the mid-1960s, and features an early Silver Age appearance of Captain America. Not quite the same as a boom-period comic with reworked Romita Sr. drawings, when it comes to demand.

• • •

I do plan on going back to that post about the Boris the Bear variants/flyer, so keep your comments there comin’, if comments you do have!

And don’t get me started on “Copper Age.”

§ October 13th, 2017 § Filed under advertising, batman, publishing, retailing § 5 Comments


Found this in the boxes o’old promo stuff…an ad slick for the videotape release of 1989’s Batman, since we were talking about that very thing a few days back. (The reverse side of the page is a larger, greytoned version of the ad.) If I remember correctly, when I put a reserve on a copy at our local video shoppe, I paid $19.99…saved a whole $4.99 like the bargain hunter that I am! I believe I still have my copy of the video around here somewhere, in case I feel like having a Pan ‘n’ Scan Party in the entertainment den.

Anyway, let me take care of a little business right now, so y’all can go on and enjoy your weekend:

  • Alas, looks like the End of Civilization for this month will in fact be postponed ’til next time. Sorry, my free time was less free these last few weeks, so it’s the blogging what pays the price when that happens. This is also what put a crimp in my Patreon plans this month…Swamp Thing #8 is the next issue to be covered, and it will be covered, I promise. Just gotta clear the schedule.
  • From the comments section for my October 9th post, rag notes

    “[Seventh Generation] sounds somewhat similar to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twilight_of_the_Superheroes

    Yeah, that was brought up to me on the Twitters as well. For those who don’t know, that’s an Alan Moore proposal for a company-wide event at DC Comics, in which shenanigans are afoot in a dark future for Earth’s superheroes, and part of the plot involves characters coming back to the past (our present of 1987 or so) to prevent whatever was going to cause said dark future. Or you can just read the Wiki link there. That’s not an uncommon trope (like I mentioned, it’s happening in the Justice League comic right now), but funny that it popped up twice in two different DC event books, neither of which ended up happening. Maybe the descendants of Dan DiDio traveled back from the 23rd century to prevent those series from getting published. And if so, why couldn’t they save Frank Miller’s All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder?

  • Jmurphy quite reasonably wonders

    “Mike, there was an omnibus of some kind released on the 4th. Will we be hearing about it here?”

    Yes, yes indeedy. The Swamp Thing Bronze Age Omnibus (and part of my brain still rejects the “Bronze Age” label as a dumb marketing term to help make those old issues of Human Fly seem sellable) is in my hands and ready for my perusal. But, related to those “free time” problems mentioned previously, I still haven’t even removed the shrinkwrap. But there it is, staring at me from atop the pile of comics from the last few weeks that I also haven’t read. However, rest assured, Jmurphy, that the Omnibus is on my Omni-genda.

  • From the comments for October 11th, Zoot Koomie zoots

    “I’m curious about the New Universe cancellation story. How was the implosion of that imprint covered at the time? Was information about the behind-the-scenes turmoil leaking out or was it just hype about line reconfiguration around the Pitt crossover?”

    It was just a short article about how four titles in the New Universe line were cancelled due to poor sales, and would be replaced by as-yet-undetermined new series. The replacement of the editor for the imprint was also noted, from which one may infer behind the scenes troubles, but nothing was explicitly detailed. As far as more general coverage elsewhere in the Comics ‘Zine-a-verse…I don’t remember. I’ll have to look through the Amazing Heroes and Comics Journal collections to see what at least the general tone there was. …Actually, I can probably already guess.

  • DanielT cashes in with

    “Any particular reason your eBay prices are all $ xx.97?”

    Well, as you know, if you price something at $9.99 instead of $10, the $9.99 price point looks like it’s a whole dollar cheaper, right? Well, that $xx.97 price is me undercutting everyone listing things at $xx.99, like the crafty capitalist storeowner that I am, as opposed to those sons-of-bitches undercutting me with their $xx.96 prices, the jerks. How dare they!

  • William Burns fires me up with

    “They have comics in Japan? What ever happened with that?”

    Japan? Never heard of it.

  • The JRC store called, and they said

    “I always like CSN, especially the semi-regular oversized season preview issues that covered the coming quarter/or six months.

    “I was surprised, shocked really, to get a copy a few months back when I happened into a previously unexplored shop.

    “It is little more than reprinted press releases, but there’s still something neat about holding a newsprint style paper in hand.”

    I wonder just how widespread the distribution is on Comic Shop News. I know some stores don’t carry it, which seems weird to me given its low cost and its usefulness to customers, which I’d mentioned in that post. But they must be doing okay…I did a little searching on the Diamond website, and it looks like the per-bundle cost has only gone up a dollar in the last few years, which seems reasonable enough. I know the number of copies per bundle dropped a little bit at some point, but that was prior to the oldest entry I could find in Diamond’s database. I’ll take that to mean that orders on CSN are holding relatively steady. Or they’re charging more for ads to subsidize the price, one of those.

    I’m glad they’re still around. Yeah, it’s a lot of press releases, but as mentioned that’s how many customers get their comics news, so that’s okay. It’s not like there are any other print mags or ‘zines covering the current market, or at least nothing with the reach of CSN. It’s hard to beat “free at the store’s front counter” for distribution.

    And there’s more than just press releases. You get those great Fred Hembeck covers on the special issues, there’s the occasional “Red K” awards issue that pokes fun at recent comics industry hoohar, there are interviews, and of course there is the surreal experience of the Spider-Man newspaper strips that are reprinted therein. How can anyone do without those?

Okay, pals…thanks for sticking with me. Back with More Stuff™ in short order.

There’s probably an issue -1 somewhere in these boxes.

§ October 11th, 2017 § Filed under promo, retailing § 4 Comments

Okay, so I knew I had this in my possession…I’m pretty sure I’ve posted a pic of it on this site at some point in the last nearly-fourteen years I’ve been blogging here. It’s the first issue of the Comic Shop News weekly newsletter, published 30 years ago:


…and amazingly, it’s being published even today, in this age of widespread online availability of this sort of content, and that’s because the customers still like their weekly news freebie. It’s convenient, it’s cheap for retailers to carry, and I do have folks using it to keep informed and to plan out their future purchases. Not every fan spends all their free time looking around on the internet for comics info…I mean, who’d want to do that? Crazy people, that’s who.

Anyway, of late, I’ve been going through boxes of old store materials (as I mentioned Monday) that belong to my former boss Ralph, looking for items to eBay on his behalf. There’s a lot of promotional posters, company flyers and newsletters, distributor packets, all kinds of goodies. I’d been posting lots of pics of them on my Twitter account, a few things have gone up on the eBays, and a handful of items have, of course, been put aside for display right here on this very internet thingie before your eyes right now.

Which is a long way of getting to the point, which is that in one of these boxes was the previously-unfamiliar-to-me Comic Shop News NUMBER ZERO:


This was sent out to distributors/retailers only as a sneak preview. Four pages long, with some sample news stories (like the one pictured, and “4 New Universe Titles Cancelled” and “Trade Paperbacks Big Sellers”) and come-ons for the newsletter itself, like ad rates, and a full back page detailing reasons to carry CSN.

Now I’m not planning to sell this particular item on eBay, though looking there I see much more recent issues going for some premium prices. I am curious what an actual #1 or #0 would go for, but…I don’t know. Maybe I’ll list ’em for $2000 each and see what happens. Hey, it only takes one person who needs them that badly…!

I’m not going to say how many different Legends of the Dark Knight #1s I bought for myself.

§ September 25th, 2017 § Filed under batman, retailing § 8 Comments

And so BAT-MONTH CONTINUES…okay, maybe it won’t be the whole month, but I am still going back and addressing some of your comments to my previous posts (1 2 3 4). I’m not addressing every single comment made, but if I skip yours, I still like you, I just didn’t have anything to add.

AWAY WE GO:

Bryan sez, he sez

“My recollection is probably skewed because a comic book store opened within a ten minute walk of my house in the spring of 1989, so I could suddenly go all the time, but I certainly remember ‘The Many Deaths of Batman’ (John Byrne and Jim Aparo! Together!) and ‘Legends of the Dark Knight’ (I don’t even want to think about how many different colours of that first issue I bought) and the ‘Arkham Asylum’ graphic novel, and the computer-drawn Batman GN that was heavily promoted, made the summer to late fall of 1989 feel like something huge was happening with the character, and DC was really able to piggyback the success of the movie to make me want to buy anything Batman.”

So I’d been wondering, since we last spoke, about whether or not I was overstating how huge of an impact that first Burton Batman made. Keep in mind at the time I was only about 20 years old, give or take, and thus squarely in that demographic Makers of Big Blockbuster Films prefer to target, and also I was, y’know, working in a comic book store, so maybe my awareness of said Bat-film was somewhat predetermined.

Now a lot of your comments seems to be supporting my asserting that the Batman movie was huger than a huge thing that’s huge, at least as far as cultural influence goes, so it’s not necessarily my biased memory coloring my recollection of history. One specific thing I remember is hearing radio deejays chatting about Batman and Batman comics and whathaveyou between songs…you know something’s big when Richard Blade is talking about Dark Knight Returns during his KROQ shift.

And yes, Bryan, as you say, DC Comics wasn’t bein’ run by dummies…they were squeezing every Bat-cent out of the character that year and pumping out all kinds of stuff to exploit interest in the character. The “computer-drawn” graphic novel was Digital Justice, and people sort of derided it at the time (while still selling well in the way all Batman was selling well), but I guess that book had the last laugh since computers are used in pretty much every aspect of comic creation now. And comics fandom. In fact, a computer is writing this very blog right now beep boop.

Some of those other books bring back a few memories of the time, too: like first issue of the “The Many Deaths of Batman,” which was dialogue-free except, I believe, for the very last page (or panel), which actually caused a customer to call the shop after he got home and read the issue, believing it was somehow misprinted and all the captions and word balloons were left out. Well…that sort of wordless storytelling was pretty unusual in superhero comics (though the famous G.I. Joe silent issue was about five years previous), so I guess I can’t blame the person too much.

The different covers on Legends of the Dark Knight was one of the early examples of multiple-cover variants in the industry, and at a time when nobody was quite used to the idea, the reactions were very mixed. There were the folks mad that they had to buy one of each version to keep the collection complete. (Keeping in mind the only difference was border colors.) There were the folks asking which one was the rarest, and therefore destined to be the most valuable. There were the folks who just thought the whole thing was a scam. And so on. Still sold of lot of them.

The Arkham Asylum graphic novel was greatly anticipated, and we had a waiting list at the shop that I can almost still mostly picture in my mind. I mean, not the names on it, of course, but I can still remember pulling that sheet out and adding names and phone numbers to it on a relatively regular basis. I was still going to college at that time, and working at the shop in the afternoons, so on the day of release, between classes, I got on a payphone (hey, it was 1989) and called the shop to make sure those jerks held a copy of the book aside for me. Guess I should have added myself to the waiting list. More fool I.

• • •

Jack notes

“My local comic shop, which had been doing okay but not world beating business, had a massive uptick in business. So big, in fact, that they moved out of the tiny location they were in to a much bigger one across the street, where they still are to this day. (They survived the 90s crash by pivoting to card games, and were ahead of the curve big time on the Pokemon phenomena.) Saying that the country had Batmania in 1989 is not an exaggeration, if anything it doesn’t do it justice.”

I believe it was in the very next year, 1990, that the shop moved across the street to its GINORMOUS location, easily 3x the size of the little shop we were moving out of, and we would never, ever fill up, never in our wildest dreams…so of course a few years later we completely outgrew that location and moved into a spot twice as large next door, where the shop still exists now.

In 1990, the boom was still booming. In, I believe it was 1997 when we made that final move, the business was…well, the crash had crashed, but I think things were slightly improving at the time. At the very least, we had adjusted to this new post-crash comics economy and were more or less ordering, planning, and spending accordingly. Plus, a full half of the store was dedicated to gaming (role playing and Magic: The Gathering) and that certainly helped the cash flow. Like Jack mentions about his shop, having differing stock lines (like the card games) at our store helped us ride out the lean years, though we still attracted plenty of comics business simply by reputation of having a large selection of new and old material.

I’m guessing the ironic result of Batmania was in encouraging stores to expand like we did, only to have the following market crash leave owners with newly-expanded locations they could no longer support. We were lucky that we were able to muddle through as well as we did.

• • •

Longtime customer and pal Casie (to whom I probably sold comics when she was 11!) relates

“I was 11 when the movie came out. Only read a couple Batman comics at that time but only knew the Adam West version which was colorful and fun. Had no idea what to expect from the 1989 movie. The whole dark side of Batman was new to me. After seeing it I was smitten.”

And related, from Dean:

“From what I remember as a tiny child at the time (I was 12 years old) this ‘dark, serious’ take on Batman was HUGE. This was before we realized that Burton Batman was just as goofy and stylized as Adam West Batman, just with the lights turned down.”

I think that was one of, if not the major elements, to what attracted people to this movie, that we would finally be getting the dark and gritty Avenger of the Night we deserved this whole time, the one we knew from the comics, and not that silly old TV show Batman. And like Dean says, these Burton films are camp in their own way (or rather, they’re Tim Burton films more than they’re Batman films), but there are still moments of darkness mixed in with all the goofy stuff. When we first see Batman capture those ruffians, with his gruff “I’M BATMAN” — it’s been mocked a bit since then, sure, but it’s still an effective introduction to the character. And that scene in the “doctor’s” room, pleading with Napier that he’s done all he could, just look at the tools he has to work with (quick shot of bloodied knifes and other instruments), the swinging lamp, only seeing Nicholson from behind…it’s a nightmarish scene, probably the best in the film.

The sequel, Batman Returns, is notable for turning up the darkness — turning down the darkness? you know what I mean — maybe a bit too much. There were complaints about the Penguin maybe being a little over the top in grotesquery, for example. Can’t say if the inherent goofiness in the film was also increased accordingly, as it’s been a while since I’ve seen either film. I’ll have to put that on the list of things to do When I Have Free Time, Maybe After I Break A Leg or Something.

• • •

More Bat-talk to come! Can you believe your luck?

“…And that’s how pogs saved our bacon.”

§ September 20th, 2017 § Filed under batman, market crash, retailing § 5 Comments

Okay, still trying to extract some old Batman ’89/early comics retailing memories from my head to supplement the last couple of posts. A few of you have contributed your own memories, and I shall be commenting upon them soon, oh yes, so prepare yourself for that.

As it turned out, I was talking to my old boss Ralph the other day and pestered him a bit about the impact the first Tim Burton Batman movie had on the shop. In line with what I told you the other day, Ralph said that business had pretty much exploded what with all the excitement over the film’s release, and while lots of different things were doing well, Batman comics and merchandise were of course doing the best. One thing he mentioned that I should have remembered was what happened to prices on the 1970s Joker series, which suddenly skyrocketed. Prior to this period of time, you could get them dirt cheap…I’d bought a copy of #1 for one slim dime at a comic book convention, and Ralph had issues scattered throughout his 50-cent bargain bins. Ralph recalled that when the Bat-craze hit, and prices shot up, he dug through the bargain bins to pull out all those Joker comics. Of course, one or two got missed, and Ralph would just have to cringe inwardly as he sold the $20 comic (or whatever it was) for four bits.

On a related note, I had asked Ralph what his invoices were like at the time…I had vague memories, but wanted some confirmation. Ralph said that during the boom years, the weekly comics invoice would easily reach several thousand dollars, at a time when DC and Marvel comic book prices were still, what, about $1.50 each, and indies were $2 to $3? Ralph said he was ordering hundreds of copies of several books and mostly selling through on them…and the back issue market was still strong enough that we were selling a lot of back-numbered comics as well. So basically money was just pouring in the door, to the extent that Ralph had bought a new truck about that time and paid for it entirely in cash. That’s the sort of thing that would probably set off alarms today, but back then, in the wild and crazy days of the late ’80s/early ’90s, ’twas no big deal.

As I’ve said in the past, when the crash came, it came quick, and we didn’t know it was a crash at the time. We figured it was a brief lull in sales, and that folks would be back, and orders continued to be placed as if sales would be back up shortly…and it eventually became fairly evident that wasn’t happening. For business to go from doing so well to [crickets] was a shock, and the store had nearly died before orders could be adjusted back to realistic levels. One specific example Ralph gave (and gave me permission to relate here) was having a new comics invoice that cost about $12,000, and then making only about $7,000 for that week. As you can imagine, having too many weeks like that could drive any business into the ground…and it did, for many comic shops at the time. We were able to ride it out, once we scaled orders back, and plus we had game products in the store that supplemented our income, and we were still the biggest comic shop in the area, so we still did some comics business. Oh, and pogs helped too. No, really.

It was a strange time to live through, and one that I hopefully learned from as I run my own store now (he said, juggling numbers to get those Marvel lenticular covers). Anyway, next time I’ll talk more Batman ’89 and less “I SURVIVED THE ’90s COMICS CRASH AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS FOIL-LOGOED SHADOWHAWK T-SHIRT.” If you have your own Batman ’89 memories, feel free to chip in!

Somehow I avoided using the expression “going batty” in all this.

§ September 15th, 2017 § Filed under batman, retailing § 13 Comments

I know I already talked about this on my Twitterers, but I wanted to preserve the moment here as well, when I encountered something at the shop that I hadn’t anticipated.

Now, most of us of a certain age who remember, or even some younger folk who are a little more aware of the comic (or even film) industry’s history know what kind of impact the first Tim Burton Batman movie had back in 1989. It. Was. HUGE.

Now, I’m not going to get sidetracked here into a discussion of whether or not it was any good, or whether it’s aged well. That’s beside the point. What I’m talking about here is how it seemed like this new Batfilm just exploded onto the scene, and suddenly there just wasn’t enough Batman stuff in the world for all our customers to buy.

This was just after I began working in comics retail. Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen had just, not too long ago at this point, informed the general public that Comics Aren’t Just for Kids™, so there was still some measure of interest because of that. And the first big hoohar I was directly involved with on the other side of the counter was “A Death in the Family,” the Batman event where readers could call a phone number and vote on whether or not Robin the Second Boy Wonder Oh Goodness Not Dick Grayson We Wouldn’t Risk Him would LIVE or DIEEEEEE.

But it seemed like it was that Batman movie that really kicked off the big Comics Boom of the late ’80s and early ’90s. Well, sure, there were other factors as well (a crashing sports card market seemed to drive a lot of investors into comic shops in the ’90s, buying first issues and asking for “Comic Book Becketts,” but that’s another story), but it seemed like this film was the dividing line between the Comics Market As It Was Before, and the Comics Market As It Was After At Least ‘Til It Crashed Again. Batman comics, Batman books, Batman tchotchkes of all sorts, and Batman clothing…I mentioned on Twitter that we had enormous waiting lists of people special ordering Bat-shirts. I can still vaguely recall the full color flyer that we had with all the available designs our customers could pick from. I even got in on that shirt action, since back then I still wore t-shirts on a semi-regular basis, and acquired one of these snazzy numbers (image totally stolen from an eBay listing);


I think I liked it because Batman wasn’t on it, that it was a tad more evocative of the weirdly mysterious nature of the Caped Crusader…or I just liked bats. Something like that.

Anyway, the Batman movie was big, and had a hugely successful impact on our shop, is what I’m telling you. I’ve been trying to dredge up more specific memories of that particular period, and there are a couple of vague impressions. I remember being slightly frustrated by the parade of people coming through the store declared that they’d seen the film, and I hadn’t had a chance to make it yet. There were the folks, prior to the film’s opening, skeptical of Michael Keaton’s ability to properly represent the Dark Knight. (A common lament, one I can say I witnessed firsthand.) There were those who hoped that the movie would treat Batman with the seriousness he deserved, and that it could escape the long shadow cast by the ’60s TV show. (Again, this was back before we all remembered that Adam West Batman was Good and Perfect.) There was, again as related on my Twitter — y’know, you should just follow me on Twitter already), the young college student who was basically giving me her dissertation on Batman’s influence on modern pop culture…while she was waiting in line to buy a Batman shirt, of course.

Whenever a person drops in nowadays and remarks on their perceived notion that the current onslaught of superhero movies must generate extra business for comic shops, I think back on that first Batman film, probably the one time that a superhero film did directly contribute to an enormous increase in sales. Later movies would sporadically encourage some sales on items, particularly on graphic novels prior to the related film’s release, and then drop like a stone once the movie is out (which happened to me with Sin City, Hellboy, Watchmen, etc. etc.). Or it would sometimes goose some investing (like the guy who bought us out on the 60 or so copies we had of Amazing Spider-Man #252, the first appearance of the black costume, in advance of anticipated demand by that costume’s appearance in the third Spider-Man movie). And then there is just an increase in basic awareness of characters…I wouldn’t be selling Rocket Raccoon or Groot comics to kids if they hadn’t seen those characters in Guardians of the Galaxy movies, for example.

So why am I bringing all this up? Well, I had a young man, probably in his early 20s, come into the store the other day and ask me the very question I was just discussing: do superhero movies boost sales? When asked that, I usually say “yes, a little, not as much as you might think,” and bring up the example that it mostly creates awareness of characters not already familiar to the world at large…you know, like Groot, or Iron Man. But, for whatever reason, I mentioned that one time a movie really boosted the comics marketplace…that first Tim Burton Batman.

An incredulous look crossed this young man’s face. “Really? People got all worked up over that?”

Well, of course he’d think that. He wasn’t even born yet when that happened. It’s hard to explain how everyone lost their minds over what is now just one more piece of background noise in our cultural landscape, when back then it was New and Different and comics fans had pinned their hopes on it, and it turned out other people liked it too. I had just taken for granted that everyone knew what that Bat-film had done to our little industry, but time passes, and people forget, or never knew in the first place.

I still remember, however, at least this little bit, of sitting in the theater, listening to that stirring theme music, watching the Batman logo slowly reveal itself during the opening credits, and thinking “at last, everyone will finally take comics seriously!”

I’m pretty sure I was right about that. Don’t tell me if I wasn’t.

Which isn’t to say I didn’t put ’em on eBay…look, I’ve got bills to pay.

§ September 6th, 2017 § Filed under publishing, retailing § 1 Comment

(EDIT: I spend a lot of time in this post complaining about something that isn’t a thing…turns out the extra pages are from the following issue due in a month’s time, so wherever I complain about that here, just ignore it. Thought about just deleting the whole post, but let it stand as a warning against other publishers thinking about making new story material difficult to find for the fans, and as a warning against jumping the gun on writing complain-y blogs.)

So a few months back I placed my orders for the current issue of The Walking Dead, due out in your local funnybook venue this week. And then, a few weeks back, said issue of The Walking Dead turned up on the Final Order Cutoffs, where retailers get a last chance to fiddle with their order numbers before print runs are committed. At that time, as happens on occasion, additional items not offered in the original catalog are put up for order…in this case, a variant cover by Lorenzo de Felici was added that was “free to order” (as in “I can order as much as I’d like,” as opposed to “order 10 of the regular cover, get 1 variant!”). I placed my numbers and that was that. (As an aside, I got so used to ordering two covers for each Walking Dead a while back that just ordering one cover throws me off!)

Tuesday, I received my weekly Diamond shipment which included these two Walking Dead variants, broke everything down, sorted ’em, counted ’em, pulled them for comic savers, etc. At that point, I get a call from another comic shop owner, someone I’ve known for decades, who wanted to give me a heads up that there’s a rare variant of this new issue of Walking Dead. At first I thought he meant the de Felici variant just on its own…I’m sure some retailers may have missed ordering it when it came up on the Final Order Cutoffs (or wherever else it may have appeared…there’s more than one place for these things to be added after the fact), but I didn’t think that was enough to make it rare.

My friend explained further, that the variant itself had a variant, that a minor visual cue on the variant’s cover indicated interior variations…specifically, the letters pages and other editorial content were replaced by an additional seven pages of story not in the other versions of this comic, either the regular cover or, um, the regular variant cover, shall we say.

I know this is being compared to comics like that Team Titans #1, which had multiple variations of its contents, each featuring a different short story in addition to the main feature which was the same in all versions. But that had sufficient warning…people knew DC was going to pull that stunt ahead of time, so it wasn’t a surprise to find different/additional content in each issue, and if you wanted all versions, they weren’t hard to get. Or even Thump’n Guts by Kevin Eastman and Simon Bisley was mentioned to me, which had multiple variations on content, but even that was marketed as a part of the gimmick for the book.

But doing this to Walking Dead feels like it’s a little more frustrating. Yes, I’m sure the pages will turn up in the trade paperbacks, but the folks reading the monthlies don’t necessarily get the trades as well. Making part of the story an exclusive “chase” variant is different from just doing rare covers…basically it’s telling fans who have been following that particular franchise “hey, we’re hiding some of the story from you!” …Maybe it’s not as bad as all that, and I’m sure there are…illicit methods of finding those pages, but I’d rather not encourage that behavior.

My hope is that those extra pages turn up in a later issue, so people who don’t want to buy the trades ,and don’t want to go on a scavenger hunt to piece together the entire story, can read ’em. I know I’d be put out a bit if a comic I really liked suddenly decided to sneak extra pages past me so that only a lucky few got to see them. …Are they in the digital version? Maybe someone can let me know.

Anyway, here’s hoping they don’t do that again. I know they probably meant well and wanted to do something different and have fun and make people excited, etc. etc. But this can easily turn into an aggravation, and nobody wants that.

And I mean, like, the Wonder Woman #1 from 1942, not the Pérez one, you wiseacres.

§ August 25th, 2017 § Filed under legion of super-heroes, retailing, the eBay § 4 Comments


So kind of the last thing I expected on the most recent New Comics Day was for someone to walk in with a shoebox containing about a dozen and a half comics, with that comic pictured above right on top of the stack. For the two people reading this site who don’t recognize the significance of that particular issue, that is Adventure Comics #247 from 1958, containing the first appearance of the long-running DC Comics team the Legion of Super-Heroes. And yes, that is a scan of the actual copy that I received in that collection.

I was particularly surprised because, at my previous place of employment, my old boss Ralph would often note that this comic is one that he never had show up in any collections. People would bring in runs of Adventure, but #247 was always skipped. Third or fourth appearances of the Legion, sure, but never this first one. In the time I worked for Ralph I’d seen multiple Amazing Fantasy #15s, and Amazing Spider-Man #1s, X-Men #1s, a Wonder Woman #1 here, a World’s Finest #2 there, but nope, never that elusive Adventure comic.

But there it is, at long last. In my hot little hands. Sure, it wasn’t in the best condition, but all the pages were there, and it was completely readable. The cover had seen better days, and the spine was about half-split, and the centerfold was loose. What I presume were the owner’s initials are right there on the front cover, as they were on some of the other comics in this collection…well, either initials or some elaborate hand-written arrival date scribbled on there by some newsstand operator. Not a great copy, but better than no copy.

Anyway, I put it on the eBays…I was planning to put it up for one price, thought “well, let me try for a slightly higher price,” and I guess I should have put it up for a much higher price because it was listed literally for about two minutes before someone bought it.

And that’s the tale of how I owned Adventure Comics #247 for all of about half an hour, forty-five minutes tops. Where was this comic a month ago, when I was talking about that exact story of the Legion’s first appearance? Ah, well…I probably would have been too afraid to scan that panel out of this comic anyway.

Here’s hoping whoever bought it doesn’t try to send it back…I’ve already spent that money on hooch, dice, and other sinful pleasures. Besides, I took a whole lot of pictures of the book’s problems to accompany the listing…I probably spent more time taking those pictures than the comic actually spent on eBay. There shouldn’t be any surprises.

Now I need to actually process the rest of the books in the collection: some late ’50s/early ’60s Detectives, a couple Brave and the Bold issues with Cave Carson, a beat-up Action #300, an even more beat-up Atom #4, a couple of other things. But this is one of the real perks of the job…getting to enjoy lots of old comics. Even if certain comics only stick around for about half an hour.

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