Just when I thought I’d never use the “SMALLVILLE” category tag again.

§ February 9th, 2012 § Filed under retailing, smallville, watchmen § 12 Comments

So I was just going to leave this post (and my smartypantsiness on the Twitter) to be my comment on the whole “Before Watchmen” prequel thing, since that’s been discussed to death by everyone already. But (and you knew there was a “but” coming), I did have someone come into the shop a couple of days ago to buy a copy of the Watchmen trade paperback, telling me the specific reason he was buying it was because of the prequels announcement. “The prequels look interesting,” he said, “and since I never did read the original, I thought I’d better get it before those prequels started coming out!”

Now, for us, sales peaked on the Watchmen trade just prior to the movie’s release, then dropped to almost nothing as soon as it was out. (You know, as usual with comic book movies.) We used to reorder the book every week prior to the movie ever being a factor, ordered tons of the book when the movie was a Big Deal, and now if I reorder the book more than once every few months, I’m surprised. The local market may just be saturated after the big movie-inspired sales bump, on top of the fact that we’ve been selling the darn thing for twenty five years and most comic fans who had even the vaguest interest in giving Watchmen a go have already went.

On the other hand, we may be experiencing a Howard the Duck event, in which the reputation of a once highly-regarded comic has been supplanted by the reputation of a not-so-regarded film adaptation. Any new customers spotting Watchmen on the shelves will think “oh, yeah, that dumb weirdly-violent movie,” not “hey, isn’t that the ground-breaking deconstructionist comic about the state of the superhero genre as it stood in the mid 1980s?”

I’ve no idea how sales on the Watchmen trades have been overall. I can only go by how things are doing at our shop. Maybe its sales haven’t dropped as drastically everywhere else as they did for us, but this is a quarter-century old comic that’s been consistently available for sale, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it isn’t moving like it used to.

So there you go: the Watchmen prequels could very well get those last few stragglers who haven’t picked up Watchmen to maybe try it out, bumping up interest in an item that may have hit some rough times in its post-film adaptation era. I’m basing this entirely on the single data source of our store, and on one customer transaction, but I’ve written posts for this site on shakier foundations, so why would I stop now.

But of course it’s promotion to help keep one of DC’s most famous evergreen graphic novels alive, but going from one famously self-contained graphic novel to, eventually, a shelf of eight graphic novels could be more of an imposing detriment than a long-term sales boost. I guess we’ll see.

Now speaking of which…I have no idea how to order on these prequel mini-series. I’m hoping DC will make the first issues of all of them returnable, so I can order high in case these really take off, but not get stuck if they receive the “check this out, comics based on that crappy movie” reaction. Yeah, yeah, I know everyone online threw a huge shit-fit when “Before Watchmen” was announced, but if actual sales were tied to online reaction, All Star Batman and Robin wouldn’t have been the best-selling comic on our shelves in any given month it deigned to come out.

I suspect they’ll sell reasonably well, but I don’t expect they’ll have the life expectancy of the original, which probably didn’t need to be said but I said it anyway. At the very least, however, it’ll hopefully get a few new people gaining an appreciation for Moore and Gibbons’ Watchmen…even if it’s only by comparison.

I realize none of this gets into the moral or artistic issues of whether or not DC should be doing publishing new Watchmen comics. There are already plenty of other folks arguing about that right now, and maybe I’ll discuss it in a later post, if I feel like getting more grey hair.

For another look at this whole prequel hoohar, here’s the presumably-pseudonymous Sleestak with the article “Controversy as Advertising.”

• • •

In other news, I was looking at DC Comics’ site to check some info on the Watchmen stuff, when I saw this headline:


OH GOD NO…oh, wait, it’s just a Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8/9-esque comics-only follow-up. I hope it’s just page after page of never quite showing heavily photo-referenced drawings of Tom Welling in his Superman suit…like, he’s always in shadow or behind potted palm trees or something.

12 Responses to “Just when I thought I’d never use the “SMALLVILLE” category tag again.”

  • Mike Zeidler says:

    Speaking of that Watchmen movie…

  • Mikester says:

    Mike – I’m actually about to rewatch it soon, with the intent of blogging about it…somehow!

  • Casey says:

    The Watchmen movie was not that bad. There, I said it. If not for the weird action/horror movie touches, it would’ve been just about the best adaptation we could have hoped for. Zach Snyder did a pretty good job for someone who clearly had no idea what the novel was about(“like a watch without a craftsman, or something”). His cavalier approach to murder does concern me in regards to what direction he intends to take the Superman movie, but the use of the Earth 2 superman symbol does a lot to assuage my fears.

  • Nimbus says:

    According to Diamond, Watchmen still comes in at #29 of the top selling GNs of 2011. This is about 2 years after the movie was released and before all the recent “Before Watchmen” hoohah. (‘before “Before Watchmen”‘…sounds weird)

    So, yeah, it’s sales are still very healthy. People are still interested in it, are still buying it and are still keeping it in print so that Alan Moore can’t get his mitts on it.

    Surely by now *everyone* has a copy of it?!?

  • Nimbus says:

    Oh, and I enjoyed the movie as well. Other than swapping the other-dimension alien for Doc Manhattan and a disappointing Veidt, I thought it was pretty good.

    Smallville season 11? Is it the beginning of April already? ;-)

  • Dave Carter says:

    According to my (admittedly somewhat suspect) estimations, Watchmen was the #20 best seller on Amazon for 2011. That’s down from #11 in 2010 and #2 in 2009, but still nothing to sneeze at.

    I suspect that a good deal of the sales these days are to college kids who are required to read it for a class, as it sees seasonal spikes on the Amazon charts along with books like Persepolis and Maus (though not as hefty as those two).

  • I have some expectation that Pere Perez won’t try to go for photo-referencing exactly, but maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

  • Mikester says:

    Casey / Nimbus – I considered including a disclaimer in this post about how I did sort of like the movie (flawed, but had its moments).

  • Bruce Baugh says:

    Mike, I got to “behind potted palm trees” and my mind raced to The Adventures of Arte Johnson, When He Was Just a Boy! I blame you.

  • Tom Wu says:

    Before Watchmen bothered me more than I’m happy with, and I got steamed up about the film. I think of myself as an urbane, sophisticated graphic novel reader, perhaps perusing one while listening to jazz and smoking a hand-rolled cigarette, but under than thin veneer there’s an angry geek screaming abuse at those who despoil the idols of his youth. I’ve blogged about it but, y’know, caged monkeys throw crap.

  • Wriphe says:

    This won’t help you calculate your order, Mike, because I don’t shop at your store, but I really won’t be buying any of the Before Watchmen series. I burnt out on throwing away money on DC’s hype-festival tie-ins years ago. I’ve bought the WATCHMEN trade 4 times and given it away to people I thought would be interested in literary comics, but I can’t imagine that Before Watchmen series are going to help me initiate unaware fans into the glory of sequential superhero comics.

    However, that’s not the motivator for this post: When a local comic shop (Atlanta) closed its doors years ago, I took possession of all the books on its New Releases shelf. There ended up being a full short box of ALL STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN #3. This was the issue after the introduction of the “GD Batman” meme, and the store manager apologized to me that sales had fallen off a cliff for the then-current issue. (Sales were NOT the reason the store was closing: they had sold their building for a pretty penny and were satisfied to retire from the business.)

    I can’t say that there was a direct correlation between the laughably offensive dialogue and “plot” and buyers jumping ship, but that’s what I’ve always blamed it on.

    After that, I’ve always wondered what portion of the market drove sales for the series so high in Diamond’s rankings. I can’t say as I know anyone who admits to buying the series after issue 2, though I am getting to be a bit of an old fogey myself. Could Frank Miller be a high priest of youth culture in the 21st century?

    Anwyay, I eventually gave the box away to another store. Better to clutter their back stock then my basement! For all I know those books could have all been snapped out of that back-issue bin by middle school children in the years since.

  • IvoryTower says:

    I read the comic, and refused to watch the movie because of the comic. Not because I liked the comic, because I *disliked* it so severely. Sorry, if I wanted a dystopian future where I despise everyone, I’ll go read… well, nothing, because I tend to hate that kind of thing. But I’ll go read 40K. In the grim darkness of the far future, there are only overgrown man-children with storm-grey eyes. Thanks, McNeill. <3