“Leaps and bounds” — I see what you did there.

§ February 13th, 2019 § Filed under fantastic four, marvel, promo § 8 Comments

From Marvel Comics Retailer Spotlight #16 (August 1990), here is the hype for the Walt Simonson/Art Adams “New FF” run on Fantastic Four #347 through #350:

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s what the first issue looked like:

Now, it’s been a long time, and I think in 1990 I was still in the “huh-yuk, I’m a’sellin’ comic books!” starry-eyed haze and not worried overly much with the behind-the-scenes ordering hoohar that the boss concerned himself with, so I probably didn’t know at the time that this first issue was in fact returnable. (Returnability is only occasionally afforded to retailers on certain books today, but it was a real rarity back then.)

As it turned it, it sold extremely well, eventually going to a second printing (also not a very common occurence in those long-ago Young Mike days). I know we didn’t have much backstock on it, and we’d buy back copies as they came in collections. This was quite the popular item for some time after its release, and even still today gets an inquiry from curious fans here and there.

It’s an interesting look at the cross-promotion and sales strategies used for a comic that one would think would almost sell itself anyway. This was during the big 1990s comics boom, so something like this seemed like it was almost guaranteed to outsell the Bible anyway, but even in those times when the gold poured out of the rivers and the oil flowed freely, no one was going to take any chances. Even dragging in ol’ Fin Fang Foom and referencing the rest of the Marvel Monsters to get that crowd (you know, “them”) shows the extent of hype for this book.

The listing of each guest star and why he’s of import is certainly a sign of the times, when any of these characters popping into any book usually meant at least something of a bump upward, if not necessarily in rack sales, but at least in retailer order numbers. It may still sorta be true today, but not nearly to the extent it once was, a combination of readers being a little choosier with their comics money and the fact that “Special Guest Appearances” of “hot” characters are no longer the huge sales pull due to overuse and overexposure. Wolverine’s “sales power,” once taken for granted as shown here, is no longer the sure thing.

I think most interesting to me is the characterization of this storyline as a “fill-in,” which I think maybe surprises me a little. It never felt like a fill-in, like some inventory story or reprint pulled out of storage thanks to the Dreaded Deadline Doom. I mean, it was the same regular writer and a special guest artist…it may have interrupted the main storyline, but it didn’t feel intrusive (like a fill-in in the Simonson run a couple of issues later, which was…okay, but it was a real case of “well, I guess this’ll do ’til Simonson’s back”).

Anyway, this is one of those few cases where the publisher was all “better order lots of these!” and being correct. It was quite the item, and stil is today, thanks to fans with long memories or a deep interest in comics past. Also a rare encouragement to stock up for later back issue sales, which you don’t see too much of anymore. (I think Crossgen was the last company to really push the “better have back issues for new fans!” thing.)

But as far as that advice to place copies of this comic “all over [our] comic racks” — yeah, I know one of Marvel’s publishing strategies was (and maybe still is) to make a retailer fill up his/her shelf space with all the Marvel product they could possibly carry, and crowd off everyone else. I mean, I get it, they wanted copies of this next to Ghost Rider, etc. However, I’m pretty sure we just had them up on the rack under “Fantastic Four,” and it seemed to do fine.

One last note…as to this being the Punisher’s “most unique” role…yeah, I think there’s a challenger.

8 Responses to ““Leaps and bounds” — I see what you did there.”

  • BRR says:

    Apologies, Mr. Sterling, for adapting your intellectual property:


  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    I can see why this issue sold, it looks intriguing. For whatever reason I didn’t pick it up at the time, I think I may have cut back to only X-Men titles at that point. (But the Wolverine cross-over!? Maybe I was just short of cash that month.)

    But man, that is one jumbled cover. The profusion of floating heads and colors and what’s going on with the Thing’s chest (oh, it’s another body) and what the heck they’re lying on, which I’m still not sure about (a trampoline? with chains?)…. It took me a minute of study just to figure out what’s going on there, and not in a good way of wanting to see all the details.

  • Ryan says:

    This is back when I was buying Fantastic Four from the newsstand at the grocery store. This arc was very exciting. Some of my friends were disappointed that the real FF didn’t stay dead and allow these guest-stars to keep the book longer.

    Also, if I remember right, the Punisher’s appearance is about three panels at the end of the third issue.

  • Kurt Onstad says:

    These were the very first comic books I ever purchased. I got them as back issues from Ralph’s, after buying the Marvel Universe trading cards, one of which featured this storyline and got me curious.

  • philfromgermany says:

    Dear Mike, please let me know which characters voice I should use to hear the line “Huh-yuk, I’m a’sellin’ comic books!” in my head. Is it Cleetus from the Simpsons, O’Shaughnessy from Stanley and his monster,
    Samuel L. Jackson from Hateful 8 or some other character alltogether?

  • De says:

    I remember being slightly annoyed at this storyline appearing during the highly enjoyable Walt Simonson run at the time. While I did find this fill-in fun, I wanted to get back to the FF proper.

  • Thom H. says:

    I wonder if this story was (at least part of) the inspiration for New Avengers. Or if this FF arc and New Avengers were just two separate versions of the same “let’s put all of our most popular characters in a book they’ve never appeared in!” mentality.

    I also wonder if New Avengers marks the time when guest appearances by Wolverine and Spider-man became less appealing to collectors.

    Also, I know drawing Spider-man like that makes him look more like a human spider, but I always just worry about his pelvis. How is it still attached to his spine?

  • Jack says:

    @Thom-I am reasonably certain that the difference here was that Simonson was sending up the practice of characters who were red hot making guest starring appearances all over the place, which was already up and running even then, while New Avengers was an attempt to do what Morrison did with the JLA, only bigger and more cynical. Especially given that the FF story seemed to be done very quickly, almost off the cuff-I had no idea it was coming, and was puzzled that it happened-while New Avengers was in the works for months and hyped to the nines.

    I mean, yeah, I’m sure that part of Simonson’s calculation for the story included “and it’ll sell like CRAZY”, but New Avengers was a far more cynical exercise.