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And also carry stacks and stacks of All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder.

§ June 29th, 2022 § Filed under publishing, question time, retailing § 13 Comments

Twitter pal jd asks the following not-easy-to-answer question:

“…Why do some comic shops succeed and some fail? What are the major factors that go into longevity?”

Egads. Where do I start? Where do I end? Where do I go in-between?

The barest minimum answer I can give to “why some succeed and some fail” is “the businesses that make enough money to pay expenses and provide a living for the owner/employees succeed, and the ones that don’t fail” which, of course, applies to pretty much any retail business you can think of. But what is it specific to comics that feeds the rise and/or falls of those stores?

In slightly less general terms, I think a long-standing store should have

1. Knowledgeable, friendly employees

2. A wide and relatively deep range of stock

3. Some measure of cleanliness

…which again isn’t exactly comic-specific, but I think these are the positive qualities for a comic store to be around more than a year or two.

Those are just the things within the control of the store itself. That doesn’t take into account things like your potential customer base, the quality and proximity of competition, the overall health of the comics business, etc.

This is immensely simplified. Factors such as “expanding too much just as the market downturns” can take out a shop. “Being in a bad location,” or “being a good store but being outcompeted,” or “having the building you’re in get bought by a new owner who promptly prices you out by raising the rent too high,” “the partners who own the store got into a fistfight and now that store’s shut down,” “owner dropped dead” — could be anything, really.

I know during the ’90s boom a lot of shops opened up and I’m sure many of the proprietors smelled some easy funnybook money and dealt heavily in “hot” books. Once the fad died and the market crashed, all those “hot” comic customers dried up and without any longterm committed clientele, many of those shops vanished.

And this isn’t even touching really on distributors suddenly going under, taking retailer money and product with them, leaving stores in the lurch. Which is what has me wondering if we’ll see a return of that particular problem in this new no-longer-beholden-to-Diamond-Comics direct market world.

Ultimately, all I can do is control my store and do what I can to keep it vital. I’m not the biggest store around, or the fanciest, or the most monied, but it’s operating at a level I’m comfortable with, one that pays the bills and affords me a living and the occasional eye injection, and is (usually) stress-free, despite my distributors’ best efforts. But I try to be helpful and friendly, try to stock what I can (and am willing to reorder what I don’t have), and have fair pricing on my back issues.

Now if someone were to open a big ol’ comics emporium right across the street from me, I might take a hit, but I’d like to think I’d engendered enough loyalty to keep at least some of my customer base. I mean, I’ve been doing comics retail for three and a half decades now…it’s too late to go find a real job.

Oh oh oh, I forgot one…a store should have some kind of internet presence. Without going into too much detail, there was a shop I knew about that, when I went to look ’em up online, the only thing I found was a mention of their shop on someone else’s Instagram. Anyway, that shop wasn’t around too long.

• • •

As long as I’m taking Twitter queries, here’s one from a couple of weeks back from Joseph Z:

“What is the most reprinted comics story of all time? Story, not issue. My guess would be Spidey’s first appearance from [Amazing Fantasy] #15.”

That’s certainly a contender, and I’m presuming we’re not talking print runs but rather “most individual reprints of the same story in different comics or trade paperbacks.” I feel like the first Batman from Detective Comics #27 may be a small contender, though the look of the story hasn’t aged well and likely wouldn’t appeal to most modern audiences.

Now a while back I listed off the various House of Secrets #92s I had. I admittedly had too many and have more on the way. Thus, that was 8 reprints of the original Swamp Thing story…with more acquired since this, and more about to arrive. So…a dozen or so now, 15 maybe?

I’m hard pressed to think of an individual story that comes close (and also it’s super past my bedtime right now)..if you’ve got an idea, throw it into the comments and we can do a little digging. It’s probably going to end up being something at Disney or Dell, isn’t it.

The internet is now a little more stuffed.

§ January 7th, 2022 § Filed under pal plugging, question time Comments Off on The internet is now a little more stuffed.

First, the big news:

…Yup, just like the little stuffed fella says right up there, Bully the Little Stuffed Bull’s blog “Comics Oughta Be Fun” is back in action after being shuttered for a bit. The primary focus is currently “Today in Comics History,” but boy, Bully has an endless variety of goodies to give you under that theme. So pop by, say “welcome back Bully” and tell him his pal Mike sent you!

And some site news here: my variant cover-age is going to be on hiatus for a couple of weeks as I start looking back at your comic industry predictions for 2021 (and a reminder: I’m still taking your predictions for 2022!). I received a lot of predictions last time, so it may take me a bit to get through them all, but I’m looking forward to it!

Before that happens, let’s see if I can’t polish off a few more of your questions:

Rob S. steals the show with

“Does your store have a convention presence? (In normal times, that is.) If so, what goes into prepping & transporting inventory for a con?”

Not as such, since I’m pretty much a one-man operation here, though I suppose I could wrangle one of the Legion of Substitute Mikes into running the shop while I manned the table at a show. But…I’m not really much into working cons, frankly. I don’t mind attending them, on the rare occasion when I do, but I don’t want to have to stand there all day watching people around me having fun while I have to work. Sometimes it’s easier to just stay at the store and let anyone attending a local convention come to me, as they invariably do.

Since I’ve opened my shop, at the very few local conventions we’ve had (which have been…not top tier, from what I’ve been told by attendees of same) I’ve had folks passing out flyers for my shop, so, you know, there’s at least that. And in my days at the previous place of employment, the shows we worked required picking out a selection of back issues to bring with us (the pricey case comics, the more popular “hot” stuff, some oddball stuff just to show some variety), tossing them into our respective vehicles, and hauling them over. And then…stand at the table working while watching other people have fun.

• • •

Smicha1 smacks me with

“Well this is a two-part question not two questions, hope that’s okay. And they are both fairly easy to answer I hope.”

What? How dare you.

“What percent of your sales would you say comes from new-on-the-shelf comics? And not counting current comics or trades (back issues still count) what product brings in the most money? I don’t mean an individual product but more like ‘t-shirts’ or ‘Funko toys.'”

Well, I don’t know what the exact percentage off the top of my head, but I will say the majority of sales come from the new comics. That’s the big draw, especially in a store like mine that’s pretty much just comics, with no Pokemon or D&D or stuff like that. Is it half? Maybe it’s half, followed by trades and back issues.

And if I’m understanding the second part of the question, back issues would be the biggest non-new-comics-or-trades product line. But excluding comics altogether…like I said, I’m mostly just comics, so I don’t have many other product lines to sell. I suppose “toys” would be the one, which would include Funko Pops in my mind. Perhaps between Pops and other toys, Pops have the edge. Which surprises me they’re still coming out and are still in demand, but hey, that’s fine.

• • •

philfromgermany asks some germane questions with

“Hey Mike, how are you?”

Fair to middlin’.

“Is that alt-right comic nonsense still going on?”

Oof, yeah, probably. I don’t know, I don’t try to pay any attention, which is usually easy since a number of their comics turned out to be vaporware, right? Anyway, not a thing I have to deal with on a regular basis, thankfully, and it’s not like I have customers beating the door down for this stuff.

• • •

Carlos has designs on me with

“I was curious how well Savage Dragon does at your shop/in the area? I have a sub & enjoy it, but don’t see it on shelves of other shops I visit (in TX). It seems that back issues are hard to find and getting pricy because people are now trying to complete the run. Thanks!”

Savage Dragon, going on for over a couple decades and still by Erik Larsen, God bless ‘im. It hadn’t sold for me at the new shop in a while, aside from pull lists, but I’m beginning to get a little more interest lately. Not a lot of copies, mind you, but at least there’s some interest where before there was none.

And yes, the back issue market on this series is pretty off the wall. I suspect sales at most stores are like at mine, with very small rack sales and the majority of copies going to pull lists. With such small print runs, if an issue is missed then it’s to the eBays to look, where the sellers are not kind in their pricing. I know my pal Cully missed a copy at his local shop a while back, and was calling all over (including my store) trying to find it so that he didn’t have to pay the buck wild price being asked for it online. (He eventually bit the bullet and paid a sliightly less than buck wild price for it.)

But I’m all for the Savage Dragon series. One creator doing the same book forever…just imagine if Rob Liefeld had stuck with Youngblood the same way, for the same length of time, and how amazing that would have been.

• • •

MisterJayEm dashes out this question:

“What do you recommend to uncles(52) looking to buy comics for their precocious nieces(7) and nephews(4)?

“It’s hard to peruse those books without looking like a possible creepo, so I prefer to have a plan before I approach the kiddie section of the funny book store.”

If you’re just talkin’ plain ol’ floppy stapled comics, I always recommend the Scooby Doo books for kids. Those are top notch, fun, and likely recognized by children as they never quite seem to go away, despite it being it as old as both of us.

For a four-year-old, Scooby Doo may be a bit wordy, so some of those comics by Art Baltazar (like Tiny Titans) may be cuter and a litle more accessible. Or there’s Owly, which is wordless, but still good and fun comic booking.

• • •

Michael Grabowski slaloms down the following

“I snagged the last copy of the new Usagi Yojimbo comic this week at an LCS. It got me to wonder: does a retailer such as yourself like selling out completely of a title like that during the first week or would you prefer to order enough to have, say, 2 or 3 left over for more occasional customers to discover?”

Ideally, I’d like to have exactly one copy left of everything I order at the end of the sales cycle to go into back issues. Of course, it doesn’t work that way, usually, but I try to cut it as close as I can.

But the answer to your question is basically “it depends.” Some comics die once they’re not longer visible on the comics rack and in the back issue bins. Those I want to sell out of completely on the shelf, whether it’s the first week or over the month. I mean, I suppose I wouldn’t want them to disappear entirely on the first week so that folks who don’t make it in every Wednesday get a chance at them, but there are a few titles where I’m good with them clearing out fast to make room for other new books. Again, it’s a case by case thing. Sometimes I want them to stick around a bit, sometimes I want them to clear out and get out of my hair, sometimes I want a copy or two for back issues, sometimes I don’t want any in the back issue bins because no one will ever buy them there.

Does that make the monthly comic order complicated? You bet it does.

• • •

And BRR freezes us out of the latest batch of questions with

“Would you consider doing an update to your classic 2005 post on best mailing practices? I would be interested in a permalink at your store’s site, perhaps with a sponsored link to your preferred bag sealing scotch tape alternative. Unless this is a trade secret to be kept from competitors and comics distributors.”

Good gravy, was it that long ago? Long enough that flat rate shipping in the envelope was only four bucks? But yes, maybe some updating is in order, as I do tend to ship comics a little differently now (using some of those solidly built comic mailers that Diamond offers, plus more emphasis on heavier protective cardboard, and more box shipping with bubblewrap). None of it is a “trade secret” or anything, but some common sense and a desire to have comics shipping to me the way I ship comics to others.

That post, by the way, was inspired by my own ordering of a run of The Minx off eBay that was shipped to me in the most ridiculous way possible. And the fella was going to charge me some bonkers amount for shipping that I told him “hey, that’s bonkers.” I wish I’d taken a picture of the box they were sent in…or rather, “boxes” as it was some giant monstrosity cobbled together from multiple containers. For eight comics. Well, I guess they did show up intact, so who am I to complain?

• • •

Okay, that’s it for the most recent question-fest…it’s on to 2021 predictions on Monday! Thanks for reading, everyone!

We got some work to do now.

§ December 22nd, 2021 § Filed under question time § 4 Comments

Trying to run through the rest of the latest batch of questions before the end of the year! But before I do that, don’t forget to leave your 2022 comic industry predictions!

Thom H. this to say

“What’s the one book no one’s reading that everyone should be reading? Any hidden gems in the current marketplace?”

This is always a hard question to answer, because I don’t want to bum some poor creator out by saying “oh yeah, no one’s reading your book.” So let me alter the parameters slightly and give you this answer. I think a book more people should be reading but aren’t because they think it’s “just” a kid’s comic is The Batman Scooby Doo Mysteries, which is just about to wrap up. It actually sells reasonably well for me, and kids enjoy it, but I keep thinking one of the best kept secrets in comics is that DC has published multiple Scooby Doo comics over the years, and they’ve all been really good. Funny, clever, perfectly okay for young’uns (well, maybe not Scooby Apocalypse, also good but for the grown-ups) but enjoyable by older fans too. Even by someone like me, who is exactly as old as the Scooby Doo cartoons themselves.

• • •

James G drops this question

“Since you’ve been writing about variants for a bit now, something I’ve always wanted to know is: how does the way variant covers are distributed and sold to retailers affect your business? How have the ‘minimum orders to get a certain cover’ requirements changed the work you have to do for the store? How has it changed the bottom line?

“So that may be three questions, but I think it’s one question with refinement. :-)”

ALL RIGHT, MR. CHEATER-PANTS, I’ll let it slide this time.

I went fairly deep into the business end of ordering these variants a couple of years ago. Also, I was planning on another deep dive into the whole situation once I started wrapping up my variant cover-age and circled back to this first post and started addressing your feedback there.

To sum up: it affects my business in that I have to think long and hard about the numbers I’m going to place on these books. Is it worth it to get a few extra copies of something into order to reach the ratio variant plateau? What if then I don’t sell that comic for a premium in order to make up that extra cost and then some? Or those free-to-order variants…usually “lots of cover A and then just a few each of covers B and up” works okay, but for seemingly random reasons sometimes one of the variants becomes the in-demand item. It’s just a constant balance of ordering what you think you can sell, versus taking an occasional risk for extra profit.

When it comes to just pure numbers vis-à-vis profit and the bottom line, it’s not much different from taking a risk on a new first issue, or an otherwise “special” comic. You think about what you’re likely to sell, you place your orders, and either you sell enough to make back your money plus some extra, or you don’t make the money back. That happens regardless of variants or not. The tricky part mostly comes in trying to guess which variant will be the most popular, and trying not to get stuck with too many extra copies of any cover.

Also, refer back to previous installments of the variant cover-age to see specific ordering thought processes in regards to specific variants.

• • •

DavidG gives me the goods with

“Do you think that Diamond can survive losing the big 2, especially as you seem to think their service is pretty bad as well?”

I don’t think their service is perfect, no, but I do have to admit the vast majority of items I order show up with no problem. But every shipment seems to have some annoying and usually avoidable shortages and damages. For instance, this week was the third week in a row of not receiving any of my Dynamite “cosplay” covers. Maybe that doesn’t seem so bad, but those are the covers of their books in the highest demand.

As to surviving…I haven’t looked into it, or even heard, if Diamond has done any restructuring or scaling down of their company to reduce costs. I do still get quite a few books from them, even if my invoice costs aren’t nearly as large as they used to be.

On top of that…they haven’t necessarily lost Marvel as such. Retailers can still get Marvels from Diamond, just at a lesser discount than what they’d been used to. I imagine there are plenty of retailers who didn’t want to jump through the hoops to sign with Marvel’s new distributor Penguin Random House.

But a few smaller publishers have been slowly moving to other distributors. Again, for the most part you can still get them from Diamond, but I moved orders on those companies over elsewhere soon as I could. I feel like if Image ever decides to bail, that would probably be the catalyst for everyone else jumping ship, leaving Diamond as your exclusive Be@rbrick supplier.

• • •

Chris B be askin’

“Are you ever going to update your ‘The Chosen of God’ list? Most of those listed haven’t posted anything in years.”

In the blogging heyday, I used to go up and down the list of bloggers, checking in on their sites to make sure what I was planning on posting about wasn’t duplicating someone else’s content. Nowadays, of course, I just repeat stuff I already said over and over again and call it good.

And yeah, a lot of those bloggers ain’t bloggin’ any more, having wised up and found something better to do with their lives, leaving me to fend for myself. But you never know when someone might come back…or when one of the links will suddenly go to a squatter’s page or a site filled with text in an unfamiliar language. Or both!

Yes, I do someday have to perform a little maintenance on that sidebar (and the links page). Honestly, though, I hate the idea of deleting names and links…just perusing the list now brought back some memories of The Good Ol’ Days and I’d hate to lose those. Maybe some kind of In Memorium page, sorting the list of blogs into “Defunct but Still Online” versus “Now Selling V1aG4A.” Or possibly even “Actually Still Blogging,” but what are the chances of that?

“Squid Games” is my favorite Ceforeignalopod album.

§ December 17th, 2021 § Filed under question time § 4 Comments

Back to the ol’ question mine for today’s post! But don’t forget to give me your predictions for 2022’s comic industry!

Dave Carter is an unstoppable question machine with

“Who is your favorite Legionnaire? (i.e. member of the Legion of Super-Heroes; not e.g. your favorite enlistee in the French Foreign Legion…) Explain your answer.”

Dangit Dave, I had Jean Genet all ready to go before you threw your little caveat in there. FINE.

Anyway, it’s a question that’s come up once or twice here on Pugressive Rune, and this post from, egads, four and a half years ago, answers and explains:

“I’d like to see a Brainiac 5-centered Legion relaunch. Brainy as the cool, rational, scientific center surrounded by the utter madness of ‘Bouncing Boy’ and ‘Matter-Eater Lad’ and so forth, just trying to do his job despite all the crazy nonsense in which he finds himself mired.”

Um, not quoted is my writer suggestion, which, shall we say, hasn’t aged well. But I think Brainiac 5 is just the right mix of seemingly normal but weird enough to be interesting. He has a long history behind the character tied to Superman and L.E.G.I.O.N., even given the various continuity shenanigans. His scientifically advanced inventions (and lest we forget, time travel) have a lot of story potential. I’ve just always liked him, what can I say. And I think one of the times I brought up that he’s my favorite Legionaire, I was hit with the response “he’s everyone‘s favorite Legionnaire!” So let’s get that Brainiac 5 solo series out, already.

• • •

ExistentialMan exists only to ask this question

“Here’s a quick, classic one: Flight or Invisibility?”

Flight, natch. Invisibility feels like would wear out its novelty after a while. Unless of course you use it for nefarious means, like, for example, sneaking into movie showings for free AND NO OTHER REASON, and who needs the temptation?

I mean, flight would be awesome. No more traffic jams! (Just fines for violating aviation rules!)

• • •

William Burns fires up the ol’ keyboard to ask

“Do you think Marvel will ever bring back those True Believers $1 reprints (or a similar cheap reprint format)? Those were fun.”

It’s be nice, but I don’t see ’em in any forthcoming orders. It could be that paper shortages/increased costs have made them not financially viable for the moment…I mean, less so than they already were. They were certainly popular with my customers, so hopefully they’ll return. I know there’s still the occasionally “facsimile” edition (like this week’s Conan the Barbarian #1) issued at full current cover pricing, but even those seem less frequent.

• • •

Chris Gumprich has Martin Landau ghost the following question for him

“I’m not up on the current comic zeitgeist anymore so this might seem a ‘duh’ question. In your experience, do buyers still follow characters above all or has the momentum shifted to creators? Is it more ‘I will buy everything Ed Brubaker writes’ or ‘I’m going to keep buying SWAMP THING even though I haven’t liked it in years?'”

To the best of my observation, it’s mostly readers following characters. Though, sometimes when there’s a creative team change with an accompanying premise change for a character, like with the recent transition from Immortal Hulk to the new Hulk series, some folks dropped off. Though that may be more about people jumping on to the highly regarded Immortal Hulk series, and leaving once that story was over.

But by and large, I haven’t had many customers zeroing in specifically on creative teams over the actual character(s). There are still a few, of course, looking for “all Ed brubaker” (to use your apt example). They’re far outnumbered from the people who want, like, all Green Lantern appearances. Or even weirdos who want all Swamp Thing appearances, what’s up with those crackpots.

• • •

Bob Stec goes this way with

“Are you watching Squid Game on Netflix?”

I’ve heard of it, of course, but I don’t think I’ve seen a single frame from it (unless I saw one on, say, Twitter, and didn’t realize what I was looking at). As far as I know, it’s about squid playing football. I’d totally watch that.

I was as surprised as you were that I actually had a category set up on those old posts.

§ December 1st, 2021 § Filed under question time § 9 Comments

Time more more answering of your questioning!

Paul fills my comments with this inquiry

“Will you be having a giant store window display of Bill Griffith’s BUSHMILLER BIOGRAPHY?”

Actually, I’m going to order enough to form a giant throne, upon which I may sit and issue my comic proclamations.

But seriously, I am looking forward to it, and will absolutely carry it in the shop, and feature it prominently.

I do have some in-store Nancy displays…a framed blow-up of this cover above my register:

…and I have a similar large print of a Nancy Dell Giant cover in the front window…but darned if I can remember which one now! What a weird thing to forget. I’ll try to update once I return to the store and actually pay attention.

• • •

Vic Sage sages

“One Question per person. Take that Greg Rucka!”

• • •

Thelonious_Nick steals in with

“You expressed admiration for the Fantastic Four #35, the 60th anniversary issue. I read it last night and found it to be probably the best superhero comic I’ve read this year. What do you think are the best comic anniversary issues ever? Is FF#35 one of them? How about Fantastic Four #236? Detective #500? What others would go on the list? Do any of the #1000s make the grade?”

When I was but a mere mortal non-comics retailer, back in the early ’80s, I would regularly grab the extra-sized anniversary issues of just about any comic book. Not just the ones I normally read, but from titles that were new to me. Always thought they were good samplers, and issue #175 is what got me reading Uncanny X-Men for a time.

I was thinking about that just this week as Avengers #50 came out, wondering if this issue would have sparked the same weird “need” in me as those other anniversary issues from four decades ago. A quick flip through the book didn’t grab me (no offense, just haven’t read Avengers in forever) but I thought a few of the covers were nice.

A long time ago on this very site, I did a series of posts about my favorite anniversary issues. One of them was in fact Detective Comics #500 from 1981, which is still a favorite of mine. I often opine on the Twitters that this comic should get the hardcover treatment from DC. What a great mix of stories and characters.

That’s #2 on my list. The absolute #1 anniversary issue for now and ever more is Justice League of America #200 from 1982:

Multiple chapters, iconic characters drawn by iconic artists (Flash vs. Elongated Man by Carmine Infantino! Batman vs. Green Arrow and Black Canary by Brian Bolland! Green Lantern vs. the Atom by Gil Kane!) all with wraparound chapters (and great cover) by George Perez! Each chapter with a big ol’ splash page feauturing the heroes squaring off! It really is one of the most spectacular capital-C Comic capital-B Books of all time. And yes, another that could use a standalone hardcover reprinting.

As far as more recent anniversary issues…yeah, I enjoyed Fantastic Four #35, which had some cute touches like those period covers as chapter breaks. As far as DC’s issue #1000s for Detective and Action…I actually haven’t gotten around to reading the Detective yet, but Action was…fine, I suppose. I liked the Mxyzptlk story drawn by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. Looking over the contents I feel like I should remember liking the comic overall more than I did, so maybe I’ll give it a revisit. The different covers were mostly nice…this is the one I kept for myself.

But…boy, I do still love those old anniversary issues. Aside from what I’ve already discussed, the Fantastic Four #236 you mention is a good’un, and I always like the Superman’s life story we got in Action #500. There’s the game-changing Incredible Hulk #300, the artistically dynamic Superman #400 (with the gimmick of featuring artists who hadn’t drawn Superman before…or at least not much before), and the history-spanning Legion of Super-Heroes #300 (with some special cameos).

Anyway, anniversary issues are great. The new ones don’t grab me quite as much as the older ones did, but they still sell well so they’re certain getting someone’s attention, which is nice. May they find the wonder and enjoyment I had as a young Mikester, biking around to the shops and springing those extra few cents to get those extra-sized comics.

Time, time, time, is on my side, yes it is.

§ November 19th, 2021 § Filed under question time § 3 Comments

Back to doin’ the Question Mash as I take on another of your queries!

Daniel T bones up on

“How much extra time does having three main distributors cost you? If dealing with Diamond took (x) amount of time, how much does Diamond, Lunar and Penguin Random House take?”

Well, yes, as you’d expect having the number of primary comic distributors suddenly treble does impact my workday, primarily when it comes to entering the monthly comic order. Diamond takes less time than normal, naturally, as I’m no longer ordering several product lines from them (DC, Marvel, Ahoy, Scout, a couple of other publishers). Ordering those now missing products (save Marvel) from Lunar doesn’t take any longer from them than it did from Diamond. And doing the final order cutoffs for Diamond/Lunar (where I can adjust my initial orders just prior to items going to print) hasn’t really been impacted timewise either. Just doing the same thing, only on two websites instead of one.

But Marvel over at Penguin Random House. Hoo boy.

The retailer website isn’t quite as streamlined as Diamond’s or Lunar’s. Placing initial orders takes forever…I can pretty much forget about doing anything else with my day if I’ve decided to enter the monthly Marvel numbers. Things work very slow there with order entry, and that’s not even talking about the seemingly random “log out due to inactivity” no matter if you’ve been typing numbers into the damned thing for the past hour. We’ve been promised ease-of-use changes for a while, but it’s got a long way to go before it works as smoothly as the other two distributors.

And the final order cutoffs…Diamond and Lunar present your order numbers on every item eligible for alteration right in front of you, and you can enter new lower or higher amounts for each item as you wish. PRH doesn’t give you your numbers, meaning repeatedly referencing past paperwork. And you can only add to orders on your own…if you want to drop any numbers you have to email a sales rep with a list of item codes and your adjustments and have them do it. So, yes, it takes quite a bit longer to do those for Marvel, too.

The other big change is in taking in the orders, breaking them down, and then doing the weekly comic pulls. When I used to get everything from Diamond on Tuesday (assuming no delays and no missing boxes), breaking down the pulling the order was often an all-day job, possibly lasting way past closing time. Going home at 10:30 or 11 at night wasn’t unheard of. Opening up the Diamond boxes, getting everything into some kind of order, checking it all off the invoice (if they remembered to pack one into my shipment), noting all the damages and shortages (of which there always were), then doing the pulls…it made for a full day.

When Diamond and DC split up, I started getting DC a little earlier in the week to accommodate their new Tuesday on-sales dates. Which meant having to break them down earlier and getting the pulls done…and since Lunar’s shipments, with very very rare exceptions shows up with no damages or shortages, and almost always already sorted to some extent, it takes a lot less time to process the DCs (and the other publishers once they started to add them to the distributor’s roster).

As such, I’ll do the DC pulls on Monday, then do the Diamond breakdown/pulls on Tuesday…with Diamond taking a little less time now that the DCs have already been handled.

And now that Marvel has also been separated out from Diamond, it also takes less time to process. They now show up, also mostly presorted and, at least for me, only with very rare shortages and damages (neither of which I’ve had for the past three or four weeks, after the pretty awful first couple of weeks). Like the DCs, I check them off the (slightly less readable) invoice and get ’em pulled for for the comic savers in relatively short order.

Thus, when the Diamond shipment comes in on Tuesday, the Marvels and DCs for the week have already been done. The leaves me with a much simpler task that day, getting everything sorted out and having more time to deal with damages and shortages. Overall, despite doing pulls three times a week instead of just once, it takes less time. One, it’s kinda easier to do pulls a company at a time for me. Two, a lot of the work before was untangling the mess of books that were packed with no discernible rhyme or reason in Diamond’s boxes, meaning more time to straighten everything out and putting them in an order where I can easily check them off the invoice. With Marvels and DCs now separate and mostly sorted, that means less set-up time. And few damages/shortages means less time spent sending in those reports (and making notes for the comic pulls on comics they have have missed due to those errors).

So overall…yes, probably more time spent once you add in the extra work dealing with PRH, but the perceived workload is lessened due to being able to split the burden of new comic shipments over a couple of days. Trying to do it all in one day was a real bear, but now it’s a lot less stressful. You know, so long as everything shows up on time and very little is missing or damaged.

Strong to the finich.

§ November 3rd, 2021 § Filed under question time § 14 Comments

You probably thought I forgot about your questions! Let’s jump back into a couple of them!

King of the Moon declares

“How often does Olive Oyl slip some spinach into a dish on date night?”

First, how very dare you. Second, given all documented evidence, Popeye’s strength and stamina are increased by the swallowing (if not the digestion, since there’s barely time) of spinach, As such, I suspect the temptation on Olive’s part is not insignificant. However, one should refer to Larry Niven’s famous essay about Superman’s theoretical existence as a sexual being, “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex,” for the potential danger to Ms. Oyl, despite the astounding amount of resilience she’s shown over the decades.

• • •

Walaka of Earth 2 crosses the dimensional barrier to ask

“Mike, what’s the best way for someone who is a wait-for-the-trade type to work with their retailer to get the books they want? Sometimes I see a first issue, and know I am not going to buy the monthlies, but really want to get the trade when it comes out. Is there a way to do a not-published-yet pull slist or something?”

Well, the way it’s always worked with me is…just ask! If it’s something that’s eventually coming in the not too distant future, or even the not-not too distant future, let me know and I’ll put it in my pull list file. And if I need to, I’ll make sure to make a note to order the thing in case it’s not already in whatever distributor’s system from which I need to obtain it.

Now that’s just me, and I’m very simplistic in my technological solutions…some stores have more elaborate systems in place that probably make the process even easier. But the upshot is…there should be literally no problem.

• • •

JohnJ jingleheimers the following schmidt

“Mike, Do you have a wish-list of a few titles from the 50s-60s that you’d like to see reprinted but don’t think either of the Big Two will ever actually publish?”

Since you specify the Big Two, Marbles and Duh-C, I’ll stick to titles from them, and friend, number one with a bullet on my list is this comic book series right here:

Okay, that’s a little later in the run, where things went…off the rails a bit, but still absolutely wonderful. The earlier issues were a little more what you’d expect from a comic starring Ol’ Ski Nose:

I want them all. In freshly-scanned and recolored oversized hardcover volumes. I know due to licensing reasons and, well, potential audience (are there enough weirdos like me out there to justify the cost of any reprinting, much less a refurbished one like I’m asking?) I don’t think we’re ever seeing it again. And to think…at the previous place of employment we actually had an Adventures of Bob Hope #1 just sittin’ in the case forever. I coulda started my collection there! Anyway, it’d be great to have these and the Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis book in print somehow as well.

Another book I’d like see and is also hindered by having been a licensed property, were the Fox and the Crow comics:

…based on a pretty much forgotten series of animated shorts that stopped being produced in 1950. The characters went on a while longer in the funnybook biz, appearing in other anthology titles at DC as well as having their own self-titled series as shown above.

Running as a back-up in later issues of Fox and the Crow were “Stanley and His Monster,” which eventually took over Fox and the Crow as the title characters for the last four issues of the series:

There’s no licensing agreement keeping this from reprinting, as far as I know, but again, demand probably isn’t there. When they had that Phil Foglio mini a couple of decades back, or where they showed up in those Kevin Smith issues of Green Arrow, that would’ve been the time for reprinting. But alas, that window has likely passed.

In addition, I’d like to see reprints of all the Sheldon Mayer stuff…we got that one Sugar and Spike Archives and that was it. But I’d also like to see Three Mouseketeers, Scribbly, all the short funny animal features that popped up here and there.

Okay, that was all DC stuff. I couldn’t really think of an Marvel book I’d like to see collected. Maybe Casey Crime Photographer?

I mean, sure, why not. I mean, aside from also being licensed.

Floors sticky with X-Men comics.

§ October 15th, 2021 § Filed under publishing, question time, retailing § 7 Comments

So in answering Alan’s question about what the comic industry might have been like with the success of superhero (read: Marvel) movies, I completely missed the forest for all them cut-down-to-print-Unstoppable Wasp trees. Chris V points out

“I’m pretty sure that if the superhero movie craze was a flop, Disney would have never bought Marvel and Marvel Comics may be on the verge of bankruptcy by 2020, if not already bankrupt before 2020.”

Er, yeah. Marvel was pretty much selling office furniture to keep the lights on in the mid-1990s. There was a very good chance they would have been dead and gone without income from films, and as has been said, “as goes Marvel, so goes the comics industry.” The comics market as we know it might have survived, but almost certainly it would have changed drastically. Well, drastic for people like me working in direct market retail, not so much for all the manga being sold through regular bookstores I’d imagine. At the very least, I wouldn’t have that giant cardboard Groot standup in my store’s front window.

There was also a lot of talk in Wednesday’s comments about what Disney could and should do in regards to helping direct people going to their Avengers movies into stores to find Avengers comics.

There are a couple of things to note about that. First, there’s the thing I said in Wednesday’s post, and that I’ve said plenty of times before: reading serialized comics is pretty much a lifestyle choice. It requires coming to a shop on a regular basis to pick up each new installment. (Or, heaven forfend, if you’re getting them digitally, it requires accessing them on your tablet/phone/whatever and keeping up with them.) That’s not necessarily a habit that comes naturally to people who aren’t already in a comic book reading mindset.

The other issue is another I’ve pointed out from time to time, that for most folks, all the superheroin’ they need is about one movie every few months. They don’t need a regular print diet of of Thor when a Thor movie every few years does ’em fine. They might enjoy paging through a single comic as a novelty, but they’re not going to set up a pull list or anything.


…there is a non-zero percentage of folks introduced to comics via the movies who do become comic fans. I know. I sell comics to some. We’re not going to get an influx of millions into comic shops because people liked Ant-Man, but we’ll get a few people. And a few is better than none. Maybe some fraction of those will become weekly regular funnybook fans. Maybe some will just pop in to try out a graphic novel or two on occasion (or maybe even once). Or maybe they’ll just become aware there is such a thing as comic book stores, and they’ll know where to go when they need comic-related stuff (for gifts or whatnot).

Disney itself doing anything to directly help comic shops beyond not shuttering Marvel’s publishing division entirely and giving the IP to the merchandising department is, well, unlikely. Like I said in a comment in Wednesday’s post, they’d be more likely to open their own Marvel-exclusive comic stores. And by “more likely” I mean “when pigs fly above a frozen-over Hell.” Any cross promotion between theaters showing superhero movies and comic shops will have to be done on their own. I’m sure some folks have had success giving away comics at theaters, but I’m just imagining that much more stuff for those poor theater employees to clean up off the floors between showings.

A couple things Marvel tried to do to get some of that Marvel movie audience to pay attention to the comics: one was a short X-Men comic in the July 2000 issue of TV Guide:

…and I gotta be honest, I don’t recall that working very well, mostly just being derided a bit. And though I know I read it, I don’t remember anything about the comic itself beyond thinking “this probably isn’t a good introduction to the X-Men.” Ah, well.

The other thing Marvel did was create the “Ultimate” line of books, basically giving fresh starts (and the occasional goatee) to their mainline characters for anyone new to the medium.

I don’t know how many new-to-comics readers they acquired, or if they just gave already-committed Marvel fans more books to read per month.

This all sounds sorta bitter and negative, and…well, okay, maybe I am being so. But all this isn’t to say outreach via movies and such does no good…just probably not as much good as you think it would.

Not to mention we never would have had Frank Miller’s The Spirit movie.

§ October 13th, 2021 § Filed under question time § 13 Comments

Okay, let’s take another question, this time from the ever eternal Alan David Doane:

“Hey Mike!”


“How would you assess the effect on comic sales and/or the general direction of the industry in the wake of 20 years now of spectacularly popular superhero movies? Would comics retailing look any different in a world where the Sony and Fox Marvel movies and the MCU had no more impact than David Hasselhoff’s SHIELD TV movie?”

Y’know, I never did ever see that Hasselhoff Nick Fury show. Most I ever saw was a promo still with the Hoff in an eyepatch. I’m sure I missed a vital cultural artifact.

Anyway, Alan, I’d been thinking about your question ever since I saw it posted. It’s a tough one.

My initial kneejerk response would be “barely any effect at all.” It’s not like everyone who saw, say, Iron Man suddenly ran into shops to start reading Iron Man comics, pushing its print run into the 20 millions and making it the most successful American comic book of all time. Heading to the shop once a week to pick up your new funnybooks is, as I’ve said many times before, a lifestyle choice, a commitment to following the serialized adventures of the characters you like, plus associated spin-offs, etc. For most people, for whom one Marvel movie every few months is all the superheroin’ they need, that level of involvement is a pretty big ask.

That said…it’s not as if the movies or TV shows have had no effect. People have come in looking for comics…not in that they became regular customers with pull lists or anything, but sometimes they’ll have seen some superhero media and want to see a little more in its original stapled-paper context. The most popular trend of late is folks looking for anything Wandavision-related, so of course all those trades are out of print. Luckily I had plenty of back issues featuring Vision and/or the Scarlet Witch to satisfy those cravings.

Another phenomenon I’ve noticed is old comic readers returning to the fold after decades out of the hobby, specifically citing the prevalence of superhero media for their comeback. Not being able to swing a dead Uncle Ben around without hitting something broadcasting a Marvel movie at you can’t help but remind some folks of the comics they thought they’d left behind. I’ve had more than one customer who’d once collected in the ’90s (including a few to whom I used to sell) tell me the Marvel movies got them poking through their old comics out in the garage or wherever, and the next thing they knew they were back haunting Ye Olde Comick Shoppe every week.

And plus, there’s just general increased awareness of comic books and their characters out there in the “real” world now. I didn’t expect to live in a time where grandmas knew who Rocket Raccoon was, but here we are. But that awareness means more people seeing comic books as an entertainment option…maybe not a regular every Wednesday thing, like I said above, but I’m certainly more likely to see a parent pop in with a kid looking for a Black Panther comic than I ever was in the previous decades I’ve been in this business.

So my initial kneejerk, and somewhat cynical, reaction of “nah, made no difference” is wrong, in that the business did see benefit from the films and TV shows…just not in the way that we comic book lifers are used to interacting with the medium. Also, personally I keep judging things by how the 1989 Batman film really shoved people into comic shops in droves, which is a mistake. That was a faddish influx caused the film’s novelty which went away almost as fast as it came. The slow and steady influx of new readers and returning fans is, I would think, a healthier reaction. A gradual build of interest and goodwill is better for the industry as a whole.

How would comics retailing look in a world without these successful Marvel movies? Well, I imagine a lot of the effects I just noted would not have come into play. Certainly no one would recognize my giant cardboard Groot cut-out in the window…in fact, that cardboard Groot wouldn’t even exist!

As far as other effects for retailing…hard to say, really. Fewer shops due to less demand/awareness of comics? Fewer comics published for the sole purpose of tying into the movies, even just barely? Less tail wagging the dog, with characters avoiding arbitrary change to more closely resemble their multimedia counterparts?

This is something that’ll require a little more pondering, I believe. Maybe look for a part two of an answer down the line.

Thanks, Alan…and if you want to submit a question, just drop it here in the comments and I will get to it!

Not mentioned in the post: the Christmas-themed Tank Girl window painting we had in 1991.

§ October 1st, 2021 § Filed under question time § 1 Comment

Hey, I’m bugging you, the folks what still read the blogs, for your comic industry/medium/hobby related questions…put ’em in the comments for this post and I’ll get to them! Well, eventually!

For example, that accursed will richards (as Dr. Doom would call him) says

“Hi Mike, hope the peepers aren’t giving you too much gip.”

Holdin’ together so far!

“I just wondered if you’d had much interest in British Comics (other than 2000ad/Dredd) in the shops you’ve worked in? Thanks”

The 2000AD family of publications and characters do cast a long shadow over the American comic business. If you ask your average comic reader to name a British comic, yeah, chances are they’d say “Dredd.” Possibly Britain’s most mainstreamed comic book character in the U.S. is a British satire/parody of the U.S., which is somehow fitting.

Once the “British invasion” of the 1980s happened in the comics industry, it felt like your general comic reader perhaps got a little more interested in where all these English folk came from, and you started seeing folks trying to track down, say, Alan Moore’s work before he turned up on Swamp Thing. (Not at all pulling from personal experience for this by the way, says the fellow with the full set of Maxwell the Magic Cat.)

There was some increased interest in the UK comics magazine Warrior, for example, the source of Marvelman AKA Miracleman comics that Eclipse started reprinting in the 1980s to huge success. Warrior would feed other U.S. reprint series, like Laser Eraser and Pressbutton, which had a slight following at our shop as well.

Should note now, better late than never, that this isn’t going to be a comprehensive cataloging of every comic with British content that turned up around this time. Just trying to focus on the big ones, and boy howdy Miracleman was one of the biggest ones.

A little bit later at our shop, we stumbled onto a British magazine that a mix of comics and prose articles about music and other pop culture. Several of the strips inside tickled our respective fancies, making us fans of artists like Philip Bond and Jamie Hewlett. In particular, we became big proponents of one of the mag’s stars, the character of Tank Girl:

That’s the first issue from ’88 pictured there…unfortunately, we didn’t get in on the ground floor there. Deadline had been around a year or two before we realized what a goldmine of cartooning it was. I eventually made the drive down to this one store in Los Angeles and made a deal with the folks there for many back issues of the series, going back to that first issue. Just through word of mouth we turned a number of our customers onto the mag (and especially Tank Girl) and we now had quite the demand for this material.

I feel like those are the two Big Ones when it comes to customer interest in British comics. Not to say there weren’t other British comics and graphic novels and such that had a following at our shop (I personally was a huge follower of Eddie Campbell’s Bacchus and related comics) but outside of the 2000AD family, Miracleman and Deadline were the main attractions. I mean, we did try The Beano for a bit, but I don’t think our clientele was ready for anything quite that British!

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