The joke could very well end up being on me.

§ August 3rd, 2020 § Filed under retailing § 7 Comments


So ordering this Batman: Three Jokers series reminds me to some extent of what I went through when I was ordering that first issue of Superman Unchained at the previous place of employment. In short, I was attempting to balance what I was spending on a larger order versus the money I could make selling the comic including the premium values obtained by selling the rare-ish variant covers (the 1 in 100s, the 1 in 300).

Ultimately…I don’t remember exact numbers, but yes, the large amount of this book I ordered did turn into a significant profit, especially with the added sales of those pricey variants. It did leave us with some excess of that first issue, which left me wondering if perhaps I ordered closer to the bone, worrying less about the variant covers, I could have still achieved a similar money spent vs. profit made radio. Probably less money made overall, to be sure, but leaving us with less waste (especially since Superman Unchained had a short run and now when was the last time anyone asked for back issues on it?)

I don’t like taking big risks like that. In the case of Superman Unchained #1, I worked out numbers ahead of time and felt like, maybe on this rare occasion, we could possibly stick our collective neck out a bit and go for the variant gusto. But by and large, in a marketplace that is still in some sense recovering from the excess of the 1990s boom and the following crash, “ordering too much shit” is not a strategy comic shops should really be practicing. The advantage is, well, not having too much shit left over. The disadvantage is when the investor apps and sites call out “HEY! Unicycle Tragedy #87 features the first appearance of Some Guy in a Red Shirt in panel 3 on page 10″ and suddenly customers who had never even heard of Unicycle Tragedy before this are calling and emailing the day before release to get 5 or 10 copies of that issue…well, needless to say, you don’t have the stock to fill the demand.

As such, my general ordering style is “don’t go crazy, and if it sells out and you need more, order more.” And if you need to get second or third or fourth prints, so be it (assuming they’re not snapped up by investors, too…see current reprints of Thor).

But once in a while, you gotta take a chance on something, and this time around it’s this Three Jokers thing. …For those of you who don’t remember, and who can blame you because it was like three Justice League relaunches ago and at least one line-wide reboot, there was some League/New Gods hoohar where Batman gets hit butt into Metron’s Mobius chair and asks its all-knowing computer “what is the Joker’s real name?” and the chair tells him “whoa, dude, there are like three Jokers” and yes I’m paraphrasing. Also, Batman didn’t ask how many Jokers there were, we wanted names, man, so the chair should have just spit out three names, right? Right. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

Anyway, this was somehow only four years ago, but feels like an eternity, particularly since 2020 alone feels like its entering its second decade. But here it nearly is, the long-awaited series that’s following up on that Justice League plot point. And boy, how to order this.

Let’s keep in mind I’m a smallish shop, surrounded on all sides by shops in neighboring towns (and also surrounded by elephants, but that’s another story), so my initial estimate on sales for this book, in the now semi-popular Black Label Format That Batman’s Penis Built™ were higher than normal for that line from DC, but not excessively so.

Then DC had to go and gum up the works by offering variant covers. Yes, the usual 1/25 variant, and the 1/100 variant…plus the standard issue, order ’em at whatever quantity you’d like, variants , of which there are two “main” covers. Okay, that’s all well and good, but they’re also offering “premium” variants. I go into this on some detail on my store’s webpage, where you can see the covers for #1 plus my hardsell to get folks to buy ’em.

The deal with the premium variants is that unlike the ratio variants, you can just order want you want on each…so long as you order a minimum of a certain number of copies of each of the three premium variants. That may not seem like a big deal to the bigger stores and chains, but getting so many extra comics on top of the numbers I was already planning on ordering…well, that seemed a bit much. And if enough stores in the area do it, Three Jokers will be flowing freely through the streets.

But then I saw the covers, and I thought “ah geez, if I don’t have these on my rack, someone else will,” and besides, now that I’ve see the covers…I think these are probably going to sell great. Plus, it’s Joker…Joker comics always sell. I can see these selling off the shelves for quite a while. I’m particularly taken with that Red Hood variant pictured above, which will likely be my cover of choice once I get to pull a copy for myself.

And like Superman Unchained, I can subsidize the cost with the rare variants. So…I mean, this isn’t a sure thing. If the local market is flooded with these, I may not sell my stock on these right away, though if you followed the link to my site you saw how I’m already asking people to pay ahead of time for sets of these, and I’ve had a few takers, so there’s that. But I think these should do well. And if they don’t…well, assuming the first issue isn’t late, I’ll still have time to adjust orders on #2 if the debut installment is a dud.

7 Responses to “The joke could very well end up being on me.”

  • Mike, I love hearing about the minutiae of comics ordering from you, but I gotta say I am totally bored by anything Joker-related and completely uninterested in buying any of these variants or any comic that has the Joker in it. So you can adjust your calculations accordingly?

    Hope it works out for ya!

  • King of the Moon says:

    4 years just flies by doesn’t it?
    I would have bought this story if it had come out in 12-18 months since it was announced.

    But 4 years later? I don’t care enough to pick it up.

    5 years is the typical turnover for a comics fan, isn’t it?

  • Rob Staeger says:

    Good luck with these, Mike! I’m among the Joker-fatigued, but I *might* make an exception for this one, pending reviews.

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    I cannot help but presume that this “Three Jokers” business is a very large amount of effort spent on developing a premise that will dropped ten minutes after the next shake-up in the editorial department.

  • Dave-El says:

    I really desperately need to see an actual comic book series called “Unicycle Tragedy”.

  • Jack says:

    I…had completely forgotten the three Jokers tease by Johns. Wow. I’d hate to be trying to figure out orders on these.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “Quick, Robin! To the Bat-Unit!”

    “Uh… NO.”

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