Whatever else you might think about these comics, Spitfire and the Troubleshooters was actually a pretty good name.

§ October 4th, 2019 § Filed under retailing § 4 Comments

Just a quick follow-up to the recent New Universe post…I did indeed talk to my old boss Ralph about how things transpired regarding the sales of Marvel’s 1986 publishing initiative. I told him I had to ask him about it since I hadn’t yet entered the world of comics retail at that point. “You weren’t around for that?” he asked, and I replied “no, but I was around for its ending…I’m sure there’s a connection.”

Anyway, yes, when the New Universe started it sold great…but tapered off fairly quickly at the shop. Some titles maintained reasonable sales…Star Brand probably being the strongest, with Justice and D.P. 7 following, which likely probably doesn’t surprise too many of you, since those seemed to be the most traditional, or traditional-seeming, of the bunch. The others settled at sales levels that were…not so great. They had their fans, but it was pretty clear, at least at this one retail outlet, the New Universe wasn’t the overwhelming success Marvel was hoping for. Oh, and apparently of the bunch Kickers Inc. was a non-starter…maybe the first issue sold, but folks decided right away that’s not the comic they wanted. Again, probably not a surprise to most of you.

As the initiative dragged along to its eventual demise in 1989, there were a couple of upward bumps in sales. As expected, John Byrne taking over Star Brand did increase sales on the title at the shop…not a lot, but, you know, not nothing. And then when the retooling of the New Universe began with everyone’s destruction-of-Pittsburgh comic The Pitt, sales were pretty good on that one-shot special as well, spurred on by curiosity about what exactly they were going to do to the New Universe, as well as, Ralph recalls, actual media coverage because they were, you know, blowing up Pittsburgh.

The Pitt‘s sales, unfortunately, didn’t transfer over into the follow-ups The Draft™ and The War™, which didn’t sell very well at all.

And shortly after that, the New Universe died, never to be seen again except for several more times in various comics over the next couple of decades.

So there you go, straight from Ralph’s beard and onto my webpage. Try as I might, I can’t really remember any specific memories about the New Universe from that period, where my first couple of years behind the counter overlapped with the last couple of years of that imprint’s lifespan. Probably too busy fielding endless phone calls about Batman stuff to pay attention to much else. Ah well.

4 Responses to “Whatever else you might think about these comics, Spitfire and the Troubleshooters was actually a pretty good name.”

  • NATHAN C SOLLOWAY says:

    I was super excited about the New Universe and collected every issue off the newsstands for about the first year.

    As you mention, before Image or Valiant, this was a BIG DEAL

    I got to talk to Jim Shooter for a good while a few years ago. It was right around the time Heroes was on television. Among other things we had a good chat about how much New Universe was ripped off by that show.

  • John Lancaster says:

    Marvel should let Garth Ennis relaunch Spitfire and the Troubleshooters as a War book set in WWII around an RAF crew. Wouldn’t even need to change the name.

  • Possibly Sue says:

    I was pleasantly surprised to see the familiar faces of the New Universe in Marvel Comics #1001.

    I’m still a sucker for whenever the Star Brand shows up periodically.

  • Voord 99 says:

    My friends and I, being very young, completely bought all of Shooter’s hype about this being like being around in 1961 for Fantastic Four #1, and made an agreement that we would each buy one or two New Universe titles so that we all could read everything.

    Mine was Kickers, Inc. And in the way of children, I could not just admit to my friends that it wasn’t very good, and instead scoured it every month for anything that I could point to and say, “Look, look, this bit isn’t so bad, is it?” While secretly longing for it to get better.

    My memory is that it did have one or two better issues towards the end, after DeFalco and Frenz left and it was switching writers and artists more-or-less every issue.

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