Surprise!

§ July 8th, 2019 § Filed under retailing § 4 Comments

[SPOILERS for The Walking Dead…the comic book, not the TV show or video games or action figures]

So I’d raised my orders a bit on The Walking Dead #193, after being blindsided like everyone else by the events of #192, in which the main character, the focus of the series, the guy who’s been in the story since that first issue, was killed off. When word on #192 got around, folks started popping by the store, calling, emailing, all asking for that #192, sold out immediately because most folks probably just ordered what they were going to order and that was that. No reason to bump up orders, but with #200 approaching I’m sure retailers had in the back of their minds the forthcoming necessity to puzzle out the vast array of variant covers that were sure to be offered.

Anyway, #192 sold out, I raised my order on #193 assuming some spillover in demand, plus the additional sales boost of a new printing of #192 that would be available at around the same time.

And then #193 came out, but not until after the news stories were released that Tuesday, just before New Comics Day, that surprise! The Walking Dead was coming to an end with that very issue.

Now I suppose that retailers were informed that our orders on #193 would be returnable was a vague hint that something special was happing, but my assumption was that the issue would be a follow-up on the main character’s death, and Image wanted folks to bump up sales to take advantage of the sudden increased interest in the title. No clue this was going to be the end of the series, especially given issues past #193 were solicited in the order catalog (a trick I didn’t like with Malibu’s Exiles, and didn’t much care for it now).

I do get the creator’s reasoning, wanting to preserve the surprise, to not want everything showing up on the coomic rack to be “safe” and “predictable.” As a comics fan, I can appreciate that, and even admire the commitment to one’s artistic expression. As a comics retailer, I just look at all the people coming in and calling and emailing and asking for the long sold-out issue and wondering how much money I could have made if I’d known this was the final installment of a popular, long-running series with a huge public profile.

Okay, in fairness, I don’t know that I would have ordered that much more, but I would have bought more than I did. And a significantly non-zero percentage of the people coming in looking for #193 are only going to be interested in first printings. Throwing a different “commemorative” cover on the reprint may help, which it did with the second print of #192, but I had several folks turn their noses up at the very idea of setting for the later editions. I know there’s no predicting whether or not 1) real world news outlets would cover it, and 2) if anyone not already buying comics would care, but I think for The Walking Dead I may have taken a chance.

Oh well, What Can You Do? Again, I’ve no problem with the decision to end the series…I have half a notion that of all the things that have “THE WALKING DEAD™” slapped on it, the monthly comic book series probably made the least money with the most effort, so if that were the case quitting that to focus on other product lines may be the best move. (Then again, the “If Daryl Dies, We Riot” lanyard likely isn’t the money-maker it once was either.) Plus, there’s enough material already extant, packaged in the extensive trade paperback line, which can be (and has been) repackaged in multiple formats to continue selling and reselling. I wonder how long it will be before the inevitable “all your favorite The Walking Dead stories…now in COLOR!” announcement comes along? I’m sure they say “no” now, but wait ’til the income flow dips a bit.

The larger point, and one I’ve made before on this site, and almost certainly will again, is that it can be hard ordering comics. You never know what’s going to be hot or not, until it’s the day before New Comics Day and everyone’s calling for copies of, oh, just to pick a random comic, Marvel Comics Presents #6, a series that barely sells on the shelf and is usually ordered accordingly and thus there’s no way to fill demand. And there’s a second printing coming but that’s not what the demand is for. It’s for that slabbale, eBay-able First Print. Hey, don’t get me wrong, if that’s how you want to enjoy the hobby, more power to you. I’m sometimes just caught off guard by what market forces deem “The Hot Item of the Week!” and it can be a little challenging.

I know there are websites and apps and such that try to inform collectors what the Next Big Deal is, but planning your store orders around that sort of thing may pay off once in a while, but could also require you to expand your storage space to accommodate more unsold product. Betting on “sure things” is not a reliable business model. I already went through 1990s comics retail once, and that was enough. It’s fine taking ordering risks, but I prefer to do so based on information I have, and on what my store can handle, rather than on the assumption that this first appearance, or that variant cover, is going to be picked as the week’s golden ticket, with demand above and beyond reasonable expectations. Thankfully, a number of my customers have been giving me more advance notice on what comics they want and how many of each (I mean, beyond just regular pull lists) and that’s been helping a lot.

So in conclusion…probably could have used more The Walking Dead #193. But that’s okay…everyeone’s moved on to calling and emailing about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #95.

4 Responses to “Surprise!”

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    Though, there is also the question: Would there have been quite so much interest in #193 if the end had been announced well in advance? To my eyes, it is the surprise and not the ending itself that has been the focus of the reporting and the on-line discussions.

  • Allan Hoffman says:

    Talk of the 1990s reminds me, how are you doing with that box of Adventures of Superman #500?

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    So is it kosher to comment on the recent messages in your Twitter feed here in this comment section? I can never figure it out. Not on the Twitters myself.

    Anyway, what I was going to say, is that if Google and Major League Baseball are teaming up (hah) to assign you a new favorite baseball time, at least they picked one of the classier ones. You could definitely do worse than the Cardinals.

  • BobH says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see a colour reprint of TWD sooner or later. Many American genre comics that did well in b&w (so not literary works like MAUS and FUN HOME or manga), especially outside the direct market, eventually got coloured, including TMNT, BONE, SCOTT PILGRIM, Raina Telgemeier’s BABYSITTERS’ CLUB adaptations. Even FROM HELL is being coloured now, and USAGI YOJIMBO is coming up. TWD might even be better suited to colour than most, given the heavy digital greytones. If those are lifted out the original artwork would probably be nice and open.

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