Someone put out a video talking about how Man of Steel #2 (1986) is a hot collectible…I’ve got dozens of those to move.

§ February 21st, 2020 § Filed under retailing § 2 Comments

So I had a work dream the other night, in which I was explaining to someone that the demand for a random issue of Amazing Mary Jane was so through the roof that they actually pulled back all the copies intended for newsstand distribution to meet the needs of retailers in the direct market.

Now 1) that’s not how any of that works, and 2) ha ha “newsstand distribution,” but I think that I had a dream like that at all tells me that trying to stay ahead of the almost seemingly arbitrary and unpredictable floods of requests for specific issues of comic series. Or specific variant covers. And almost always at the last second, long after the orders have been locked in and it’s too late to get in any reorders.

The latest example was just this week, when word got out that a new character (“Punchline,” a new Harley Quinn-esque lady partner for the Joker) was to appear in Batman #89. Now, it’s more of a cameo, really (like, half her face in one panel, if I saw correctly) but that was enough for the YouTube videos and the “hot comic” phone apps to push the comic into stratospheric demand.

Those of you who’ve been around these here bloggin’ parts a while may remember this post of mine, in which I try to explain why ordering for a limited series is different from ordering for an ongoing series, in terms of deciding how much back stock you’d want on hand for future sales to readers new to the series. An ongoing series would probably require slightly deeper backstock, as theoretically you could have people looking for the first, second, etc. issues for years on end. A mini-series you might want just enough back stock to meet needs for the duration of the series, and perhaps a little after. There are exceptions, of course, but in general that would be the respective cases.

When I wrote that back in 2007, we didn’t quite yet have the marketplace we do now, where titles end and relaunch with new #1s whenever, I don’t know, a character gets a new haircut and now suddenly everything is New and Different! In 2007, while relaunches had happened, of course, it wasn’t the norm it is today. Any title can stop and relaunch with a new #1 at any time, and when that new series starts, demand for back issues of preceding series will drop off. I can still sell plenty of the original Batman series, but New 52 Batman, once a hot commodity, barely moves now that it’s been supplanted by Rebirth Batman.

The end result: everything gets ordered as a mini-series. Just enough back stock, if any, to meet demand right now, and hopefully not be stuck with more than a copy or two, if any, of each issue when the eventual relaunch comes. Even something like the current Batman, which is nearing issue #100, which even somehow managed to change writers without a new #1, you kinda still feel the need to order close to the bone because you can no longer plan on the long term health of its sale of back issues.

And the end result of that end result: if something suddenly and without sufficient warning becomes “hot,” there’s not going to be an excess of stock floating around to meet that excess demand. I know this exact thing happened with Batman, judging by the increasing desperation of phone calls throughout my Wednesday from folks trying to locaste copies. Pretty sure most people were caught off guard. I had so many phone calls prior to that Wednesday from customers asking for that very issue that I opened my doors on New Comics Day with no copies of this issue for the rack. And I order a not-insignificant amount of Batman comics. Even at a limit of one per customer (sorry, you don’t get 10 copies, guy on phone I’ve never spoken to before) I was plain ol’ outie.

I realize I’ve typed about this sort of thing in the past. And I’ve said before…I’m glad to see some excitement in the direct market, and you can enjoy the hobby however you want to enjoy it. But things aren’t like they were back in the early ’90s, when you had to have reasonably deep stock for purt’near everything to meet current and future demand. “Surprise” titles like Batman #89 is usually met by stores who ordered just enough for their weekly pulls and the usual rack sales.

I mean, sure, I’ve been doing this a long time, I sometimes can properly anticipate higher than normal demand for certain comics. For example, I ordered extra copies of the J. Scott Campbell cover for Star #1 from Marvel, and was rewarded by a quick sellthrough. But then, I also ordered extra on the Gwen Stacy #1 with the Campbell cover and sold pretty much all of its variants except that one. Oh well.

You can also try following the same apps/sites/videos the customers do, assuming they give you enough lead time to adjust your orders. And assuming all their hot comic suggestions work out, which all of them won’t. And if you can stand watching a YouTube video with someone talking about what future comics will be investible without getting a nosebleed.

Or you can just order what you need to order, as trying to second guess what comic will be “hot” or “collectible” is a quick way to fill up your back room.

2 Responses to “Someone put out a video talking about how Man of Steel #2 (1986) is a hot collectible…I’ve got dozens of those to move.”

  • Thom H. says:

    What a bind to be in as a retailer. It would be great if circumstances allowed a little more wiggle room in ordering so you could capture some of those “HAWT” collectible sales. I wonder how many more comic retailers would still be in business if their sellthrough numbers didn’t have to be a tight rope act every month.

    Also, I love the thought of “counterfeit” collectible videos on YouTube. Start with Man of Steel #2, move on to…CyberForce #1?

  • Allan Hoffman says:

    About those calls, I wonder what the ratio is between people who just want a copy to flip and those who just like reading Batman but for whatever reason don’t have a pull list and just buy it off the rack?