§ January 28th, 2013 § Filed under retailing § 11 Comments

So one of the great challenges in the world of funnybook retail is trying to figure out how the comics you are ordering right now are going to actually sell when they come out two or three months from now. Now, if you’ve been keeping track, you should have months, if not years, of sales data available to you at your shop, not to mention your general “feel” for customer interest and reactions, to help gauge how any particular comic is going to sell. On top of this, Marvel, DC, and other publishers allow retailers to adjust their initial order numbers on items a couple of weeks prior to their release.

Even so, there’s a bit of guesswork involved, particularly when it comes to new title launches and relaunches and, especially of late, line-wide company reboots. DC’s “New 52” relaunch was a bit worrisome, given the number of new-ish properties with no reliable or recent sales data, but DC offering retailer returns on about two-thirds of the titles afforded us the ability to err on the side of caution. And, as it turned out, we needn’t have worried, as the media coverage and customer interest and the sheer novelty of it all ensured sell-outs on just about everything.

The Marvel NOW! relaunches, which, unlike their DC counterparts, are being rolled out over several months, which perhaps cost them the “feeding frenzy” sales advantage of ALL NEW #1S ALL THE TIME ON THE SHELF RIGHT NOW!!! that gave the New 52 that solid kick in the pants. Of course, Marvel’s making up for it by putting out some of these new titles freakin’ weekly, but I’ve complained about that already. The ordering on these was a little tricky as well, combining sales histories with the possible sales bump from having a new #1, as well as considering creator involved, et cetera et cetera. Most times I ordered dead on (like for the Avengers or All-New X-Men), some titles didn’t do quite as well as I hoped (like Avengers Arena), and some titles didn’t change their sales levels at all (lookin’ at you, Iron Man).

And then there are the titles where I ordered crazy numbers, hoping 1) customer interest would lead to high sales at least on the first issue, and 2) premium sales on the assorted “limited” variant covers would help subsidize the higher order numbers. In this case, I’m specifically thinking of Superior Spider-Man, where, after selling all the variant covers at certain price levels, I only had to sell a relative handful of the regular cover to break even…and in fact, at this point I’ve sold enough of this comic that I could throw away the copies I have left and still show a significant profit (and much more profit than I would have made if I’d just ordered the exact number I’d actually sold). There are a couple of other forthcoming titles we’re trying this same sales strategy on, with Uncanny X-Men likely to follow suit, and Guardians of the Galaxy which, um, well, we’ll see how that one goes.

And then there’s basing your orders on a dream.

Perhaps I should explain that a bit.

So a few months ago, IDW’s My Little Pony comic turned up in the order forms, with multiple covers and limited edition variants and all that hoohar. We ordered a certain number…high for what was nominally a “kids” comic, but high enough to account for the cross-market interest in the property. And that’s where we let the number sit.

It had been at the back of my mind that maybe the number we ordered wasn’t enough, but I had other store stuff to worry about, and I didn’t particularly dwell on it or anything.

And then one night I had a dream. And in this dream, I was at the shop, looking at the sales of My Little Pony #1, and how quickly it had sold out, and I was lamenting how I didn’t raise the orders when I had the chance, the stupid thing had multiple covers on it, didn’t I realize people were going to want to buy full sets of all the covers? Plus, the Bronies. THINK OF THE BRONIES.

I awoke from this horrible nightmare, immediately sitting straight up and gasping for breath, heart racing, just like people never do when waking from nightmares except in movies, but that dream brought my concerns about the My Little Pony orders to the forefront of my thoughts. Yeah, there are multiple covers, and this is just the thing where the fans would buy one of each cover, and besides, this pony thing’s huge, it may be worth the risk to order crazy numbers on this thing. And, after talking it over with folks at the shop, and putting out feelers for customer interest, when it came time to do the couple-o-weeks-prior-to-release adjustments, crazy numbers were placed, nearly quadrupling our original order.

I have to admit, when the My Little Pony #1 finally showed up at the shop, I looked at the towering stack I pulled out of the shipping carton and thought “what have I done?” But I racked the things, separating out each cover to hold its own slot, and hoped for the best.

And I am happy to report, after pulling the #1 for back issues after its new shelf sales cycle (usually a month, though I left MLP #1 on the rack for a couple of extra weeks), all I had left from my initial triple-digit order was about a half-dozen copies. Heeding my dream warning paid off!

Okay, basing orders on dreams is likely not a solid business practice, but in this case it certainly made me reconsider something I’d otherwise put on the backburner. Would I have been as intent on increasing orders if I hadn’t had that dream-experience of being so disappointed in not getting enough copies in the shop? Maybe, maybe not…probably having the actual order-adjustment right in front of me may have triggered something. But in this case, if I may quote Adam West as Bruce Wayne: “Of what use is a dream, if not a blueprint for courageous action?”

So there you go…your pal Mike had a dream about My Little Ponies. That’s probably better than my usual work dreams about having to move comic boxes from our old store into our new store (something I did back in 1997), or dreaming about having to move our entire current store into our old, old, circa 1990 location (about 1/8th the size of where we’re at now), but it’s still a My Little Pony dream, though I’m sure none of you will make fun of me for it.


  • Randal says:

    You didn’t have a dream about My Little Pony.

    My Little Pony spoke to you through your dreams.

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    Clearly you’ve been in the business long enough that you can now order based completely on sub-conscious impulses. I think in the future you should turn to automatic writing and drip painting when filling out the order form.

  • swamp mark says:

    you gotta follow this up with a story about a dream or “feeling” that went totally wrong.I know you’ve mentioned some before,but what’s your absolute worst instance of over-ordering.I bet that’s a good story!

  • Andres says:

    Morrison’s Animal Man #19 is what I’m imagining your dream was like. I CAN SEE YOU!

  • ExistentialMan says:

    That was no dream, sir. That was sheer retailing gut-check level genius.

    And if anyone cracks wise, ya’ can laff at ’em all the way to da’ bank.

  • Joe says:

    The MLP discussion hereabouts went a little something like this:

    Owner: Why did you order so many copies of My Little Pony?
    Me: Remember how you didn’t listen to me about Adventure Time?
    Owner: Yeah, okay.

  • Sarah says:

    “I have to admit, when the My Little Pony #1 finally showed up at the shop, I looked at the towering stack I pulled out of the shipping carton and thought “what have I done?””

    I suspect this will turn out to have been your finest sentence of 2013, Mike.

  • Snark Shark says:


    I’d prefer NOT to.

    ” this pony thing’s huge”

    That’s what the PONY said!

  • Abberation, The says:

    I love how MLP and Adventure Time sales have basically proven true that “Shortpacked” comic about TV Starfire vs New52 Starfire (“DC: Bad at Math”).

    And good for you for writing an article mentioning Bronies without making a single joke about any nonsense the angry little children of 4chan yip-yip-yip about every waking moment. (A mental health diagnosis from /co/ is worth less than the political opinions of Donald Trump.)

  • Michael Grabowski says:

    I love reading these retailing columns. Keep ’em coming.

  • IT says:

    Well, I guess friendship really *is* magic.