Lies, damned lies, and comic books.

§ October 21st, 2019 § Filed under question time § 4 Comments

Time to wrap up the entries from the last Question Time post, don’t you think?

Dave’s not here, man, with

“What do you as retailer think about weekly books? I just picked up really nice run of just about every issue of ACTION COMICS WEEKLY back from the 80s and wonder if you had any thoughts about that book, the weekly concept (seems Busiek/Bagley book is largely forgotten) in general, as both a fan and a retailer.”

I’m…pretty okay with them, on the whole, so long as they’re not a financial burden on the reader (or, you know, the poor bastard who has to order them for the shelves). I think 52 at $2.50 was within reason. Doing one now at $3.99 or $4.99 per installment would be a tad on the oppressive side.

The content matters, too…I mean, duh, right? I think I’m more in favor of a weekly anthology title with multiple ongoing stories with varying durations (like the Action Comics Weekly you mentioned, and the biweekly Marvel Comics Presents) over one looooooong story. 52 worked out okay in keeping readers interested, I think, but a couple of the following attempts at a weekly or biweekly from DC felt like…well, one I called something like “10 pounds of story in a 20 pound bag.”

As a fan…I loved Action Comics Weekly. Couldn’t wait to read each issue…very few clunkers in there. That was also the only place to read new, ongoing Green Lantern comics for a while, which is weird to think about.

Marvel Comics Presents I didn’t read continuously, but picked up a string of issues here and there to follow certain characters and/or storylines. But I think the biweekly schedule is, perhaps, preferable, speaking as a fan and a retailer, in that it doesn’t feel like a constant conveyor belt of content being fed at you without a break.

I mentioned that I thought 52 was pretty good, but DC’s later weeklies/biweeklies weren’t quite up to that level. Again, not bad, just not…well, memorable. I read every issue of Countdown but I had to look up the title so I could type it here in this post. These other titles just didn’t feel quite as compelling, not the must-reads that would make you want to grab each new issue as it was cranked out each week/fortnight.

Would I want a new weekly series? I mean, a longterm series like the ones we’ve been discussing, not short-term weekly minis like Contagion where retailers could only cut orders on the fifth and last issue after seeing how that first one sold. I mean, sure, I wouldn’t mind seeing a weekly or biweekly anthology series along the lines of Action or MCP, but I feel like the way comic prices are now, a $3.99/$4.99 cover price would turn people off. If they could do it cheap…like, $1.50 for a 16 page comic with two or three stories per, that’d probably be acceptable, and probably the barest minimum of a format that customers would be willing to pay for.

• • •

Dave Carter, Warlord of Mars, Pennsylvania, asks

“Do you find that comic sales in your store eternally track with sales of the industry overall? Or are there some comics that are popular at Sterling Silver that barely make the Diamond charts (or vice versa)?”

That’s a good question, he said, stalling for time. …Well, actually, I took a look at a couple of Diamond “Top 100” sales charts, and yes, it looks like in gerneral, relatively speaking, orders/sales on my comics are about directly proportionate to the industry trends.

I mean, that makes sense…most stores are going to order heavier on Big Cosmic Hoohar That Changes Everything ’til the Next Hoohar #1 published by one of the major companies, while Unicycle Tragedy #47 from Sterling’s Poverty Publishing House gets a pity copy ordered by every fifth retail outlet.

But there are outliers, of course…I notice I don’t move, or at least order, as many copies of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at my shop as would be indicated by its position on that Top 100 list. Even now, while sales have bumped up a bit at my shop as it approaches its hundredth issue, my numbers aren’t even really close to put it up where it is on Diamond’s charts.

I don’t think I have anything selling way above and beyond its position on that Top 100. I do recall that time at the previous place of employment where we had a huge follwing for Evan Dorkin’s Pirate Corp$, spurred on my coworker Rob and myself…to the point where after we put in our monthly orders, someone at Diamond would call us up and ask, “uh, are you sure you meant to order this many?” Kinda my goal now to get someone at Diamond to do that to me on an order I placed. I mean, on purpose, not because I fumbled on the keyboard.

• • •

Come Clean turns on the heat with

“Be honest now: what’s the biggest lie you ever told a customer with a straight face? Was it worth it to hold on to his/her business?”

YOU GOT ME…I did it…I told a kid to invest in Warriors of Plasm because it was sure to be worth Big Money someday!

…Okay, not really. But, and I’m being as honest as I can about this, I don’t believe I’ve ever deliberately lied to anyone just to get their custom. I mean, I’m sure I’ve accidentally lied, because I was misinformed or mistaken about something, like when someone was going to take a title off his pull list, and I told him it was getting cancelled soon anyway if he just wanted to keep it on to the end…and the series went on for another, like, three years or something. I wasn’t trying to trick him, I honestly thought I read somewhere it was getting canned soon-ish, and I told him what I thought was the truth.

The one memory I have of deliberately lying to a customer was not to sell her something, but to keep her from buying something. At the old shop, a lady called and asked us to hold aside some…magazines, I think, that she’d purchase when she came through town in a week or so. However, a friend of hers called and said he was going to buy them for her and surprise her, and asked me not to say that the friend bought them, but that they weren’t held and they were sold out, so sorry for the inconvenience.

Now, this was a long time ago, I don’t recall exactly how this played out, and I do know now I wouldn’t put myself in this stupid position. I don’t think she was pissed (or at least too pissed) when I told her “UM SORRY I KNOW WE SAID WE’D HOLD THEM BUT OOPS THEY SOLD TO SOMEONE WHO TOTALLY WAS NOT YOUR FRIEND WHO ALREADY BOUGHT THEM FOR YOU” but presumably everything worked out in the end. Assuming that “friend” wasn’t some competing collector who tricked me into selling him the comics I’d held for her.

I know, Come Clean, this probably wasn’t the tell-all answer you were looking for, but I always tried to be honest with customers. Being dishonest would just create unnecessary complications and frankly, making a living in retail is hard enough.

4 Responses to “Lies, damned lies, and comic books.”

  • James says:

    Look, I’m not saying I’m disappointed, but Unicycle Tragedy #47 sounds like something I would be looking for on the stands.

  • Chris V says:

    ^It sounds like the title of an issue of Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children.

    In which case, it would definitely be worth reading.

  • Dave-El says:

    Over on Chris Is On Infinite Earths (https://www.chrisisoninfiniteearths.com/), Chris is in the middle of a long project of recapping each damn story in each weekly issue of Action Comics Weekly.

  • JohnJ says:

    I found a book collecting the Superman stories from Action Comics Weekly but I’m not aware of any other serials from the title being reprinted. I got a bug to look for a complete Wild Dog collection and found nothing. Anybody aware of any others from the title which were collected??
    I had my store at the time of Action Comics Weekly and remember some info about Marvel Comics Presents being planned as a weekly but Marvel switched to bi-weekly when they saw DC trying the weekly format first.
    About the Walmart exclusive Swamp Thing Giants, there was the Halloween Special first, followed by 7 issues of the regular title. The new, non-exclusive Giants are still showing up at Walmart, a few weeks ahead of their release to comic shops. Still waiting on Superman #16 as an exclusive, before it starts over with a new #1. I was so used to Walmart dumping all 6 new issues on the same week that it seems weird that DC seems to be only releasing one or two per week to the shops.

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