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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.
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?
“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.
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.
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.
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!
A couple of questions popped up in the comments to my last post:
“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.
“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 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
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.
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
#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
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 every
thing, 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.
When I initially opened my shop, I was primarily feeding the back issue bins with comics from my own collection…sure, there was the odd long box or two I picked up along the way, but a lot of the books were collected by my own hands, picked up once a week at ye olde comick shoppe (later ye olde place of employmente). I was, and still am, by and large, okay with parting with most of the stuff…I’ve read and enjoyed it all — well, enjoyed most of it, anyway — and I don’t mind it going to new homes for new folks to enjoy. And some stuff (like, say, Preacher) I can always get in reprint form.
I’ve noted before that not everything went into the shop. Obviously I kept my Swamp Thing comics…I mean, duh. My Don Rosa Disney comics I didn’t have otherwise reprinted. My Groo the Wanderers. My Cerebus. That full run of Yummy Fur I finally finished and am selling over my dead body. And so on.
But there are a few things that I put on the tables at the shop that I kind of regretted, and as I’ve acquired more collections and filled up more of the store with a wider selection of back issues (and not just “whatever Mike was reading when he was in high school”), I’ve felt like I can take back some books I planned on sacrificing to the greater good and return them to the personal collection. Not that I’ve done it very often…the odd book here and there, DC’s Who’s Who, that’s about it. Not anything that was really selling at the shop anyway.
…Like, as I said above, Dr. Fate.
I doubt there will ever be an extensive reprinting of these particular comics, unless DC decides to counterprogram Marvel’s Doctor Strange movie with a Dr. Fate film and merchandise appropriately, and I will go to the hat store, spend an hour picking out a hat, buy said hat, take the hat home, gently remove the hat from its packaging, cook the hat for about an hour and a half at 350 degrees, take the hat out, let the hat sit for about fifteen minutes, garnish the hat lightly, and then eat the hat if that should actually happen. Anyway, I really enjoy this particular run of the book, from the ’80s into the ’90s, starting with this three-issue reprint series:
…which includes a Golden Age Fate story, plus a kick-ass story where Fate fights a mummy, as drawn by Walt Simonson:
The remaining two issues reprint the Dr. Fate back-ups from The Flash
…which features Keith Giffen’s art to better effect on the nice white Baxter paper than it did in its original newsprint presentation, which had lots of color holds and heavy inks and other visual hoohar that kind of got lost in translation initially.
A little bit later was this all-new mini-series establishing a new status quo for the good Doctor, again illustrated by Giffen, who’s joined by J.M. DeMatteis:
With DeMatteis along, things get a little more spiritual and mystical (even for a character already mired in magic, that’s quite the trick), and occasionally a bit abstract:
…which makes complete sense in context, I promise.
DeMatteis continues to bring his more introspective perspective to the character in the follow-up ongoing series, primarily illustrated by one of my favorite artists, Shawn McManus:
That’s not a typical cover for the series…usually it’s line-drawn images, but I always liked that weird cover so there it is, representing the ongoing series on this here website.
With issue #25 William Messner-Loebs, Vince Giarrano and Peter Gross come on board, and…if memory serves, it’s not quite as bonkers the preceding 24 issues, but it’s still not bad. Can probably stand to reread the series and refresh my recollections of it, but if only I had a full run of…oh, wait, I do! I can’t believe my good fortune.
…Of course, this will be the week someone charges into my shop, waving a fistful of hundred dollar bills in his hand, demanding that he be able to buy full runs of the above Doctor Fate series right this instant.
So here’s another comic forgotten by time: the green-hued second printing of Supreme #41, the beginning of Alan Moore’s run on the series:
Here is the first printing’s cover (well, one
of them) for comparison:
It had totally slipped my mind that this even existed (the second printing, that is, not the series itself) until I came across it while processing a collection. There aren’t scans of it on the main comic database
sites, I haven’t seen any listings for it on the eBay, and it’s not mentioned in the Overstreet price guide. I do sort of remember it now, as Moore’s involvement with the character did result in a bit of an increase of demand, necessitating a reprint of his debut issue. We probably could have used reprints of the next couple of issues, too…though maybe there were, and nobody remembers those, either.
I don’t really have much to say about this, other than wanting to rescue this particular cover variation from obscurity. I do have one specific memory about Alan Moore’s Supreme, in that not long after it started I had a customer complain at length that Supreme had been his favorite Image comic book, and now that it had gone “all weird” (i.e. from typical early Image “gritty/edgy” superhero to Silver Age Superman pastiche) he didn’t like it any more. I don’t know, I thought it was an improvement, but different strokes an’ all that.
Supreme #41 (August 1996) – cover art by Jerry Ordway
- Ordering for DC’s Convergence event is a problem, in that I’m being asked to place numbers on what will essentially be a few dozen out-of-continuity short-run mini-series that will either 1) attract a lot of fans interested in new stories featuring pre-New 52 versions (or approximations thereof) of their favorite characters, or 2) will be skipped entirely by folks more interested in following current continuity rather than flashing back to what’s gone before. (Or, of course, 3) used as jumping-off points for readers looking for good stopping points.)
The solution, of course, is to order in conservative excess. I’ll put my smallest giant to work on it right away.
- Marvel’s Star Wars franchise kicked off to huge success, as I’m sure everyone noticed, as that first Star Wars #1 blew off comic shop shelves and into second and third printings. The success of that initial first issue was early enough for retailers to adjust orders on the then-forthcoming Darth Vader #1 accordingly, so as a result there are plenty of those to be had everywhere, most likely. But I’m already seeing the sales normalizing on these…that Star Wars #1 sold largely on its “historical” value as the first Marvel Star Wars comic in a couple of decades. There’s already a large drop-off on the second issue, and Darth #1 didn’t see the same sort of rack sales either. Plus, I’ve already sensed some resistance to the forthcoming Princess Leia series, whether it’s because “a third series?” or just disinterest in the character.
Now, I’m not saying any of these post-Star Wars #1 releases are tanking…they’re all selling great, just not at the levels of that initial release, but there are always dropoffs after debuts. So long as they don’t sink down to the levels of Dark Horse’s run in its latter years, which shouldn’t happen if they can avoid oversaturation of the market. But then, it’s Marvel…they’re the House of Oversaturation.
- The announcement from Oni Press that they’ll be publishing an Invader Zim series, based on the cartoon by the Johnny the Homicidal Maniac creator Jhonen Vasquez, is welcome, but to my mind about a decade too late. Back when I could still get, rack and sell JTHM comics on a continual basis (as well as similar titles like Lenore), one of the things I was regularly asked for was an Invader Zim comic, based on the then still-running (or at least still existing in recent memory) television series.
Now, years later, long after the demand (and reliable availability) for those comics has dwindled, and requests for Invader Zim comics have died away, now comes the Zim comic. I feel like this will be aimed at nostalgic adults like a number of other decade-old cartoon properties on the comic shelves, but after a brief discussion (read: rant) on the Twitter about this, some of my few remaining Twitter friends informed me that they still see kids wearing Zim shirts and that perhaps there’s access to the cartoons via various streaming services, so maybe kids are still aware of the property.
I mean, I hope so. I want an Invader Zim comic to do well. I want every comic to do well. I like making money. Just…well, just wish the timing was better.
I am reminded of my long-ago times in comics retail, back when I was a young Mikester and my hair was naturally this color instead of being chemically enhanced, when we had customers clamoring for Simpsons comics. Every day, “where are the Simpsons comics?” “where are the Simpsons comics?” This when on for like a year or so, and then the demands dried up.
And then a Simpsons comic was announced. “Oh, great,” I thought. “Where were you a year ago? It’s too late now…nobody’s looking for Simpsons comics anymore.”
Turns out I may have been incorrect about that. Maybe I’ll be incorrect about the timeliness of the Invader Zim comic, too.
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