The All-New Progressive Ruin #1! (Six months later) The All-New, All-Different Progressive Ruin #1!

§ February 28th, 2018 § Filed under death of superman, market crash, publishing, retailing § 7 Comments

JohnJ Week continues, as he’s left another comment to which I wanted to respond:

“And you only get a month’s rest before you have to decide how many copies of Amazing Spider-Man #800, supposedly a big 80-pages for a whopping $9.99.

“My biggest screw-up ordering comics when I had my store was over the Superman-Lois wedding special. I thought it would sell in the kind of numbers the death of Superman could have sold in if I’d known that was going to be a big news item. But they tried too hard to coordinate it with the wedding on ‘The Adventure of Lois and Clark’ on tv, which really killed off interest in the comic.”

Now for me, Amazing Spider-Man #800 isn’t quite as difficult to order as you might think. Marvel’s past $9.99 books (almost entirely special issues in the Deadpool series) I’ve ordered reasonably okay on, as I’ve got some solid sales history for Deadpool to refer to. Oddly enough, the only $9.99 issue of Deadpool I sort of blew it on was #25 [EDIT 3/11/18: actually, it’s $5.99…still blew that order, though], where I got just a few too many for inexplicable reasons and thus I’ve just kept it on the shelf, selling a copy every once in a while.

Amazing Spider-Man sales of late have been slowly increasing, probably because of the impending 800th issue, partially because of the plotlines, and partially because Marvel sales have been slowly climbing for me just kind of across the board on many of their main books. Of course, that’ll come to an end when Marvel begins their next round of relaunches, killing that momentum, but hey, maybe I’m just being cynical and this eighth or ninth time really will be the charm.

Anyway, getting back on track…even though the increased demand for Amazing Spider-Man has caught a lot of folks off guard recently, after kind of bottoming-out for a while there, I think I may have kind of a handle on orders for it now and can make a realistic guess as to how #800 will do for me. And, historically, and even still today, “anniversary” issues of Amazing tend to sell well even as back issues, so if I still have a few left over on the shelves after the initial sales window is complete, I’m not going to be too worried.

Now, the next part of JohnJ’s comment had me wondering how our own sales on the Superman wedding issues were, back at my previous place of employment. I do remember, after being caught short on 1992’s Superman #75, the black-bagged “Death of Superman” issue, we ordered much higher numbers for 1993’s white-bagged Adventures of Superman #500…and so did everyone else in the country. We sold plenty of that #500, but still were left with a boatload of them in stock. So don’t feel bad, JohnJ…that was our own “b-b-but Superman #75!” foul-up!

By the time 1996 and the Superman Wedding Special came around, we were still trying to recover from the comics crash, and the excesses of the late ’80s/early ’90s were mostly behind us. But our comic sales weren’t doing too badly, and there was still the occasional rush from the general public into shops whenever any particular comic hit the real world news (though, as you noted, that’s not an occurrence you can ever predict or readily depend upon). As I’ve been typing this, I’ve been trying to envision the Superman backstock boxes in the old storage room, and if I recall correctly, we did have some remaining copies of the Wedding Specials (both the white-covered Direct Edition and the John Byrne-covered Newsstand Edition, though more of the former). It wasn’t a lot, and I seem to recall selling quite a few of them on the stands, and continuing to sell them over the subsequent years (at the very least, I do remember having to fish ’em out of the back room every once in a while).

I can remember that, I just can’t recall what our initial orders were…it was a pretty good number, I think, but not so high that we were stuck with an enormous number of leftovers. And I can’t even recall if there was the aforementioned rush of folks who heard about it on the Evening News or wherever. If only I’d known I was going to be starting my comics retailing blog a mere seven years later, I would have kept better notes. Ah well, I’ll be talking to my old boss Ralph soon, so I’ll ask him and see if he remembers.

As for the Lois and Clark TV show fouling things up a bit…yeah, I do distinctly remember when the plan was to separate Lois and Clark in the comics for a bit to forestall the impending nuptials even further, complete with solicitations for future issues to that effect. Then, when the wedding was announced for the TV show, that tail wagged the dog sufficiently to cut short that separation storyline in the comics and fast-track the four-color version of the super-couple down the aisle. You can read more about that in this column by my comic article-writin’ pal Brian. …Thanks, JohnJ, for your blogging-inspirational commenting!

Now let me go back to something I said earlier in this post, regarding the Marvel “Fresh Start” publishing initiative. Perhaps I came across a little…agitated by the whole thing. I thought the recent Marvel Legacy deal was a good idea…trying to wean themselves off the constant relaunches and new #1s, focus on the lengthy histories and runs on these titles, give readers some confidence that they can follow a story without thinking it’s just going to up and restart with a new first issue. And as I said, I was seeing some improvement on many Marvel books…even Doctor Strange and Punisher were slowly climbing in sales. Will those gradual increases carry over into any new relaunched titles featuring the same characters? I sure hope so, but I don’t know.

I think what set me off was the announcement of the “new ongoing” Immortal Hulk, launching with its first issue in a few months. That made me snark a bit on the world’s primary snarking service, Twitters Dots Coms, because honestly, is there going to be an Immortal Hulk issue number, say, 35 on the stands three-something years from now? Or by “ongoing” do they mean like the old “maxiseries,” which would run a fixed 12 issues, in, out, and done? Don’t get me wrong…I’m a longtime Hulk comics fan, and Immortal Hulk sounds fine and I look forward to reading it. But…any reason why this couldn’t have just been done under the title Incredible Hulk? Does relaunching a long-running title with a new first issue still have any kind of extra selling power? Does any kind of sales boost that results stick around for any period of time? Is there a long term advantage to doing that versus just building an audience on an established title without breaking momentum with forced cancellations and restarts?

I’ve said before, I want comics to sell well. I mean, more than just because that’s how I make my living. I want comics to sell well because I like comics. And I want other people to like comics. But every single time there’s a series of relaunches like this, it really does make things difficult. It can confuse and irritate customers, and as has been said so often, jumping-on points are also jumping-off points.

It’s…a weird thing to be concerned about, I realize. It doesn’t really matter what the number is on the front of the comic so long as you’re enjoying what’s inside. Like I said above, I’ve read Hulk comics for a long time, and I’ve read them through, what, a half-dozen restarts and renumberings? But part of comic collecting is the “collecting” part, and it’s hard to escape the issue numbering mindset. These constant renumberings do have an impact, and having a big new “#1 First Issue Collector’s Item!” on the front cover isn’t quite the sales ploy it used to be.

7 Responses to “The All-New Progressive Ruin #1! (Six months later) The All-New, All-Different Progressive Ruin #1!”

  • De says:

    A good friend received a collection from an acquaintance in a “I have to get rid of these before I move quick!” situation. When the 50 long boxes were delivered, 10 boxes were the white cover Wedding Special.

  • ADD says:

    As someone with a renewed interest in the Hulk after recent Marvel movies, especially Thor: Ragnarok, The Immortal Hulk is a non-starter for me. I’ve been re-reading Waid’s Hulk run and that is much closer to what I want to see. It seems like a bait and switch to finally bring back Banner and then turn him into Svengoolie or whatever.

  • Thom H. says:

    Here’s the thing that makes new #1s better jumping-off points than a new creative team on issue #35 of an ongoing series (in my opinion):

    The continuous numbering means that some thought has probably been put into continuing the story you’ve already been reading under the old creative team.

    The book is starting something new, of course, but maybe not *entirely* new. Or at least that’s a possibility, and it’s worth sticking around to see how much of the old stuff you liked is carried over.

    Whereas, with a new #1, anything and everything could be changed — the promise of continuity is broken in a bigger way — and there’s less incentive to spend some money to see how things turn out.

    There are examples that confirm and contradict my theory, I’m sure, but I have to say that sometimes in the current comics climate, the same character can seem completely different from one new series to the next.

    And that’s frequently even the point, whether the main character has an entirely new backstory (DC) or has been replaced by someone new (Marvel).

    So we’ve kind of been trained to expect that the story we’ve been enjoying is definitively over and will not continue anywhere, even in the same book’s relaunch or replacement on the schedule.

    As compared to an example from back in the day: When Grant Morrison took over from Paul Kupperberg on the Doom Patrol. Those two versions of the book couldn’t have been more different.

    But the transition was coordinated so that storylines flowed from one writer to the next. Maybe not in the way readers expected, but the point is: it wasn’t a definite end and a new beginning so much as it was a weird transformation in the middle of an ongoing saga.

    And maybe this is all completely obvious, but the lesson seems lost on comic publishers at the moment. Or, more likely, comics lifers like me aren’t the audience they’re courting anymore, which is a whole other ball of wax.

  • Brian says:

    My guess re: “But…any reason why this couldn’t have just been done under the title Incredible Hulk?” is that it has to do with the seeming work on rebranding Jennifer Walters as another ‘Hulk’ instead of ‘She-Hulk’ (both in terms of getting out of the She-Male Hero Name trap like they did with Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel and taking advantage of Marvel now tending to use DC’s trick of having two or three related heroes with the same name). We’ve already seen that she’s being referred to as such in the new AVENGERS title; I imagine that she’s either continuing her HULK title or getting a new INCREDIBLE HULK title. To give Bruce the classic title would (rightfully in a historical sense) establish him as the Hulk who readers should pay attention to at Jennifer’s expense as they work to rebrand her.

  • Daniel T says:

    I think it’s way past time we (and the comics companies) stop pretending genuine continuing series still exist. Since almost everything is written for the trade or relaunched it’s time the single issues reflect that.

    I’ve long thought instead of having a monthly (or bi-monthly) Batman title numbered 1,2,3…50,51, etc., they should do essentially continuous mini-series of whatever length needed such as Batman: The Joker-Calendar Man War #1-8 followed by Batman: The Joker-Calendar Man War Aftermath–Enter The Cavalier #1-5 followed by Batman: The Ballad of Crazy Quilt #1-24 and so on. The Batman logo would of course be far more prominent than the subtitle and the corner box could show the continuous numbering as a subset (so B:TJ-CMWA–ETC #1 would say “#9 in the series.”) BPRD used to do something like this, though it was indicated on the inside front cover instead of the front.

  • Brian says:

    I’ve long thought that comics, as periodicals, should simply be numbered in the indicia and on the cover by their months/years (including early/late for bimonthlies or dates for weeklies) like magazines. Then the cover could list another number based on ongoing storylines/titles or BRPD-style consecutive minis. But putting books in order could be done very simply by looking at the date in the corner box. Then the ‘volume title’ of the book could change (and a big #1 could appear elsewhere on the book) while there’s a date that separates the publishing of a continious book from the presentation of a noncontinuous storyline.

  • prabs says:

    So this is weird, but last night I got into a bit of a Twitter argument with @filmcrithulk over 3 Billboards and Get Out. Basically he posted a comment made by an anonymous Academy voter who kinda shit on Get Out. It was a bad take, for sure, but Hulk then ranted about how 3 Billboards was racist bullshit and Get Out was a masterpiece. I disagreed with his take (I thought Get Out was “okay a clever thriller, but shallow and full of contrived cliches), well, Hulk then proceeded to take me to task in a multi-part twitter rant and basically said I don”t know what I”m talking about, and that Get Out was a perfect movie that was “transcendent and literally had no plot holes. He then said there was no such thing as a plot hole and liked some column he”d written in 2012 to prove his point (I didn”t read all of it. It was written in ALL CAPS, but basically said you had to ignore bad plot points so the movie can tell it”s story I”m oversimplifying, obviously). When he finally asked me what my examples of plot holes were, I listed them off to the best of my memory, and he never responded. So yeah. I mostly respect him for his obvious passion for movies and for his political takes, but he can really lay on the hyperbole. He often comes across like a 20 year old, first-year film student who just discovered Quinten Tarantino and now wants to tell you how he”s changed the very fabric of cinema. BTW I”m @badbirdkc on Twitter.