“…With a kung-fu grip that don’t even work.”

§ May 12th, 2021 § Filed under retailing § 6 Comments

Monday I started getting emails and Facebook messages and stuff from folks asking for G.I. Joe #281, releasing this Wednesday from IDW. I sighed just a little, because by now I know what this means…some member of the elite comics-noscenti somewhere on an app or on the YouTubes has singled out this issue as “a hot collectible” and here we go again.

And sure enough…checking eBay right now, Tuesday evening as I type this, the “regular” covers (the freely-orderable A & B variants) are selling for between $10 and $20 or $30 or so, and someone has the 1-in-10 variant up for a C-note. When I checked on eBay Monday, when I first started receiving the requests, the regular covers were still at cover price, so things changed fast. (The 1/10 variant was listed for high prices then, too, to be fair.)

Why is it in demand? Well, it’s the typical trigger for speculation of late: the “first appearance,” this time of a new Joe named Sherlock. Haven’t seen a picture of him yet, and flipping quickly through the book didn’t reveal anything obvious. He might even be on one of these covers, I have no idea. I’m just hoping it’s a guy in your standard military fatigues but wearing a camouflage deerstalker cap.

So here’s the thing. This is issue 281 of a regular monthly series. It’s been going on for, like, a decade, picking up from the original numbering (and continuity) of Marvel’s G.I. Joe run. Most retailers have plenty of sales history on this book.

Meaning…I suspect most retailers didn’t order too far above what they actually sell. I know that, for years, I have sold essentially the same numbers on this title month-in, month-out, with maybe a one issue variance. After pulls, I’ll have one copy left on the rack. Most of the time it goes unsold and into the back issue bins. Once in a blue moon someone will buy it. Thus, at best, I’ll have one extra copy not spoken for.

Therefore, the second trigger for speculation is in place: scarcity. Probably the big mail order houses stored up some extra stock, but plain ol’ shops like me weren’t about to load up on it. Even if you told me months ahead of time “they’re gonna introduce a new Joe!” who would have thought “oh, yeah, issue #281 of this series, that’s the one that’s gonna attract all the attention!”

Sometimes you take chances on orders, but they have to be reasoned, educated guesses, based on what you know, not based on whether or not some random issue is going to attract the attention of investors. I actually ordered a bit higher on Batman/Fortnite than I would have of a Batman mini-series, or of a video game tie-in book. I’ve had customers over the years ask for Fortnite comics, and I knew that game was popular, so I gave it a shot. Turned out, this time, I was thinking in the right direction but not nearly enough…could’ve used a lot more copies. Apparently I was better off than a lot of stores, though.

At the previous place of employment I did the same with My Little Pony #1. I figured “this is a hot property, we have lots of kid customers…I’M GOING FOR IT.” I ordered a ton, and they all sold. Then again, I thought Superman Unchained would do better than it did…lots of great variants, Jim Lee art, the whole shebang. Now, as it turned out, we didn’t lose money on the comic, but we had plenty left over.

Those were decisions based on what I thought I could realistically sell, given the nature of the comics themselves, and what I thought would be our customer base’s response to them. It’s nearly impossible to anticipate fluke demand, that suddenly everyone’s going to decide they want the same single issue of a comic they’d never wanted before.

Even if you decide “a-HAH, I’ll just order more of every first appearance!” or “I’ll just order more of what these YouTubers/apps suggest!” that’s no guarantee those sales will materialize. In fact, quite the opposite…as I said, one of the triggers is scarcity. This speculative demand isn’t going to show up for a title sitting thick on your shelves. It’s going to show up for your G.I. Joe #281s, that you barely ordered to fill your pull lists and had one left over for the shelf in the off-chance someone else wanted it.

ADDENDUM: a while back one of my regulars dropped G.I. Joe from his pull list, after having it on there for many years, even dating back to when he was my customer at the previous place of employment. Figured I’d finally have to adjust my G.I. Joe orders for the first time in forever…’til about a day later someone started a new pull with me primarily so he could start getting that G.I. Joe series.

I called this the “Law of Conservation of G.I. Joe.” Please keep an eye out for my TED talk.

6 Responses to ““…With a kung-fu grip that don’t even work.””

  • Robcat says:

    Good: “Law of Conservation of G.I. Joe.”

    Better: “Law and Order: G.I. Joe.”

  • That’s Sherlock on the cover, between Hawk & Stalker, so you might not want to say “he.”

    >Then again, I thought Superman Unchained would do better than it did…

    Even though Jim Lee had done Superman before and it was *ahem* not well-liked?

  • Snark Shark says:

    *still doesn’t know what “Fortnite” is*

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    Snark Shark: A fortnight is a period of two weeks.

    So, obviously, a comic called “Batman Fortnight” is a biweekly Batman series.

  • Brian says:

    I can only imagine how hard it was not to say “no sh!t, Sherlock” somewhere amidst this.

  • Adam Farrar says:

    As a Larry Hama GI Joe fan, I’m one of the approximately 6,000-8,000 people who buy this series regularly. I’m a fan of whatever math IDW uses that says keep making this book. I don’t care about other relaunches or crossovers or whatever else IDW tries because this Hama is what makes this work. This is the format of GI Joe that I find interesting. Anyway

    What’s strange about this is that new characters are constantly being created in this series. There have been other new Joes in the last few years. And those issues are just as scarce because again, it has rock solid sales in that 6-8k range. But why do speculators buy a first appearance? Because the character will eventually raise in prominence and have a devoted fan following? This isn’t an obscure Marvel character who will get a big role in a movie adaptation. What do speculators think will inspire people to hunt down Sherlock’s first issues? How is a minor selling book about a franchise that has been running on fumes for the last decade going to ascend to a high enough prominence that this comic will be worth something?