You can probably tell that my monthly comic distributor orders are due tomorrow.

§ January 22nd, 2014 § Filed under retailing § 9 Comments

So a few years back I wrote this little piece about the Flash series publishing shenanigans, in which what appeared to be a relaunched Flash ongoing series ended up secretly being a mini-series, which was supplanted by a continuation of the previous Flash series that this new “ongoing” series supposedly replaced. The upshot of all that was, had I known it was going to be a mini-series, I would have ordered it as such, rather than ordering it as a supposed ongoing series with the potential for a longer back issue sales life.

Boy, times have changed. The announcement that Superman Unchained is ending — another huge launch that maybe I would have ordered lower numbers on had I realized it was going to be a nine-issue mini-series — reminded me that for most of my new comics orders, I’m ordering with the assumption that (in DC’s case) the title will probably be cancelled soon, or (in Marvel’s case) the series will be relaunched with a new #1. I’m not ordering with the assumption that there will be a long-standing interest in back issue sales on most titles.

That’s the really super-cynical way of looking at it, I realize, and I’m exaggerating to some extent. But a lot of these relaunches and re-relaunches and ridiculous numbering schemes aren’t helping any. That recent Avengers comic that was actually #24 but tried to kick off a soft-relaunch by emphasizing the beginning of a brand new storyline with big ol’ “#1” on the cover? I actually sold less of those than I did of previous issues. But I did bump my orders up slightly because I thought maybe sales would go up a bit, so Marvel got more money out of me, therefore this was a success for them, I guess.

But for a lot of these new Marvel relaunches I’m not ordering much more than what I’m already selling. Judging by Marvel’s…enthusiastic sales plateaus for the multiple variants they’re offering, it looks like they want me to order a lot more than what I have been, but I don’t see how a new Secret Avengers #1 is going to sell any more than the current Secret Avengers series which just debuted a few months ago. I did sell more of the recent Thunderbolts issue that brought in Ghost Rider, because people like Ghost Rider, but I don’t know if this new Ghost Rider series is going to sell. I can already hear the complaints: “This doesn’t look like Ghost Rider!” “Who’s this new guy? Where’s Johnny Blaze/Danny Ketch?”

I’ve said before we do good business in back issue sales. Even early issues of most of DC’s New 52 titles still move, so long as those titles are still producing new installments. So long as any of the titles on the stands are producing new installments, I can usually move the back issues for that series. But the likelihood of any title maintaining a continuity of issue-numbering, thus also maintaining that stretch of increased back issue demand, is rapidly decreasing, and I am ordering accordingly. A few comics I still order with the expectation that they’ll sell in the back issue bins, but those are increasingly the exception.

Anyway, I don’t have any terribly deep insights here…just letting my mind wander about on how the industry has changed so much. Not that pursuing short-term profits over long-term growth is anything new for comics, but I don’t recall it ever being so obvious. Well, maybe during the ’90s boom, but there was actual money to be made then, and not the pennies everyone’s chasing after now.

9 Responses to “You can probably tell that my monthly comic distributor orders are due tomorrow.”

  • Snark Shark says:

    “That’s the really super-cynical way of looking at it”

    but you’re 100% right- and it’s DC and Marvels fault!

  • Ray Cornwall says:

    Except it’s really OUR fault. Marvel and DC didn’t make all those Marvel NOW!/New 52 sales jumps- we as fans did. We like #1s, even if their significance is much lower than they used to be.

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    Even for those customers who want the back issues, the constant renumbering makes it difficult to locate them. I’ve often found myself trying to figure out where a given back issue might be located in a row of boxes–are they in chronological order? strictly by issue number? by volume number (and who can keep track of those?) some other method? what if the title subtly changed (i.e. She Hulk vs. Sensational She-Hulk vs. Savage She-Hulk)–and probably missed issues I was looking for that were actually present.

  • Adam says:

    I’m not gonna be the guy who whines that the new Ghost Rider doesn’t look Ghost Ridery (though a flaming car seems a bit less flexible than a flaming motorcycle) but I am a bit surprised (and disappointed) that they’d ditch Alejandra so quickly. I didn’t think she was a great character, but they didn’t exactly give her much of a chance. Introducing a POC female version of a legacy character and then getting rid of her two years later is … well, kinda unsurprising, I suppose.

  • The worst thing is that while enjoy some comic news/commentary sites, I don’t read a comic book (even a scanned, pirated, entirely free version) in three years. It went from not being worth my money to not being worth my time to not being worth the interest. And every thing I read about them make me want to read then less.

  • ExistentialMan says:

    Mike, I do so enjoy your commentary on the comics retailing business. You have a unique way of offering PR readers with an “everyman” perspective on the life of a retailer, providing intelligent and measured criticism of various publisher’s marketing strategies, and, through it all, maintain a level of professionalism that doesn’t result in a “biting the hand that feeds you” destructive spiral.

    Why the hell aren’t you a politician?

  • ExistentialMan says:

    Crap, my wife just socked me. That should be “everyperson”. Ugh, I really do know better.

  • Chris T says:

    I would have called the new series ‘Ghost Driver’ but what do I know.

  • Snark Shark says:

    ‘Ghost Driver’