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Well, “sorta friendly” anyway.

§ November 30th, 2022 § Filed under retailing § 9 Comments

So this is what I’ve been busy with at the shop since Sunday…a sizable collection acquired from someone just trying to clear out space in the house. It was something inherited from a family member and that he didn’t really have any use for, thus it was to his local friendly neighborhood comic shop for unloading.

This ended up filling about four and a half long boxes, having been delivered to me in a variety of plastic storage bins that, I should remind you, are not the ideal place to keep comics. I could tell a lot of time was spent sorting, organizing, and cataloguing these comics, but alas not as much attention was spent to keeping them in nice condition. They’re…pretty rough, by and large. Intact and readable, but…well, I’ve already processed a big stack of these and the highest grade I’ve given to anything so far is a single VG+.

It’s mostly late ’70s/early ’80s, but it’s material I’ve been short on from that period. Lots of Spider-Man, Jonah Hex, Warlord, war comics, that sort of thing. While low grade, it’s all sellable goodies and even if they average out only a buck or two apiece, I should do pretty well on these. The trick is finding the time to get them all processed…I’ve been spending pretty much every spare moment I’ve had trying to work on these, but spare moments can be hard to come by, especially with holiday traffic.

But that’s a big part of why I like running a comic shop: getting to play with old comics! Even if they’re a little beat up, they’re still deserving of some love and a good home.

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.

Please don’t leave a comment under the name “Big Poopypants.”

§ June 24th, 2022 § Filed under cerebus, retailing § 5 Comments

A couple of questions from last Friday’s posting:

Ray Cornwall comes in from the sea to ask

“How many issues of Cerebus from 1-25 do you have? I was heavy into Cerebus for a long time. I’ve kind of walked away from Sim a bit, although I do have the Alex Raymond book here to read at some point…”

Yeah, I have that same book, too, on the ol’ “to read” pile. Hey, did I ever tell you guys about getting a phone call from Dave Sim? He was calling comic shops to plan in-person visits to drum up interest in that very book (The Strange Death of Alex Raymond, it’s called)…he started to introduce himself and what he’s done, and I was like “I’ve read all of Cerebus, don’t worry, I familiar with you!” which amused him. When he started describing the book to me, I asked “is this including any of the material from glamourpuss (which featured strips about cartoonists including Raymond), so I also surprised him with the fact that I’d read all of that series, too.

Anyway, we set a date for him to drop by, and then COVID happened and alas, it never came to pass. Which is too bad, because I probably would have asked him to sign the issue of the Howard the Duck magazine he’d worked on. Ah, well. I still ordered copies of the book, and yes, I sold a copy or two.

But back to your question. A couple of years back, I decided that, despite having the first 25 issues of Cerebus reprinted in the Swords of Cerebus trade paperbacks (now themselves supplanted by the first Cerebus “phone book,” containing all those stories*), I wanted to see if I could track down the individual issues. My posts leading me into looking at eBay and picking up some of those comics can be found here and here.

I’ve probably bought about…8 or 9 issues of those pre-#26 Cerebuses so far, though I haven’t picked any up in a while. I also have issues #1 and #2 in deluxe Kickstartered reprints, which I think are probably going to have to do unless genuine copies slip through the front door of my shop someday. (I write about that #1 here.)

I really need to get my comics at home in some kind of order before I start going on the back issue trail, fillin’ them holes. I’ve said that before and I never seem to find the time to do it. Dealing with comics all day at work usually means not wanting to deal with them at home, so there you go, I guess. But I would like to have a complete Cerebus run in comic format (even with a couple of reprint ringers) someday. The aesthetics of the covers just tickle something in my brain.

• • •

Daniel asks some very good questions, for which I don’t have very good answers

“RE: Tim Sale, did you ever get a sense of what your customers thought of his work? His art was so wonky and esoteric that it always struck me odd that he became so popular with the mainstream. He was never a natural draftsman, but he had such an exceptional design sense that he was able to more than compensate for whatever he lacked as a traditional figurative artist. A real talent. He’ll be missed.

“I guess that’s a broader question: When accounting for the era in which each was at his/her creative peak, are stylized, design-centric cartoonists (Sale, Simonson, Kirby, Mignola) more popular with mainstream customers than traditional, naturalistic draftsmen like Neal Adams, George Perez, John Byrne or any of their imitators? Or are consumers more conservative and literal in their tastes (not that that’s a good thing or a bad thing)?”

Like I said, good questions, and unfortunately I don’t have any real good answers for you. To respond in very, very general terms, if I received customer pushback it would be against comics that looked “weird,” and if I received specific customer approval for comics art, it would be for those drawn in a more typical, representative manner. (Talkin’ superhero comics here, in case that needs to be made explicit.)

This always varied by customer, of course. Most customers seemed to enjoy Sale’s work…unusual it may have been by typcial Marvel/DC standards, but being the artist on a very popular Batman storyline (“The Long Halloween,” natch) helped “sell” him and his style to those members of the comic-buying public who may have been on the fence about that work. But there were also customers who rejected the art as being “too cartoony” (you know the drill, he’s not the only one).

If I had to hazard a guess, there’s more tolerance for the wide variety of styles available on superhero books than one would expect. And for every comic art style out there, there’s always someone who’s gonna love it and someone who’s gonna hate it. And what I consider “good” won’t be someone else’s taste…had a customer once come in and say “I’m looking for comics with really great art, like [x]” where [x] was, in my mind, a pretty terrible artist. Like, “blind people can tell the art is bad” terrible. But I choked down my bile and proceeded to find comics illustrated in a similar vein.

For the general non-usually-reading-comics public, I maybe have a slight sense that comics that don’t look like what they think comics normally look like may appeal slightly more? The Long Halloween and Superman: For All Seasons didn’t look like normal superhero comics. In fact, a person new to comics might look at it and say “ooh, this is pretty” in a way they wouldn’t if they looked at, I don’t know, a comic filled with fights and cramped panels and whatnot.

But on the other hand some newbies looking for comics want a comic book that looks like what they think it should look like, and the more Spider-Man punching the Rhino in this issue, the better.

So Daniel, I may need to think about this some more. This isn’t much of an answer, but I hope it gets across the ambiguity and difficulty of really trying to answer it.

But it does get me to thinking…who’s the one superhero comic book artist everyone can agree on. I mean, agree is good. I’m guessing George Perez, or Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. Who doesn’t love George or Jose? Big poopypants, that’s who.


* I don’t believe the phone book contains the new “bonus” material that was included in the Swords volumes.

“Money? Oh, no thank you.”

§ June 20th, 2022 § Filed under marvel, retailing § 5 Comments

The last time we had a comic book tie-in to the Fortnite video game, we were mostly caught offguard by its immediate and immense demand from customers, mostly from lots of new faces who wanted the codes inserted into the issues for the game. The end result was reports of shortages and price gouging, lots and lots of desperate phone calls looking for the comics, and DC reprinting the issues multiple times.

In the usual comic marketplace, second (or later) printings don’t see anywhere close to the same demand as the first printings (except sometimes from speculators who from all appearances randomly pick certain reprints as being “valuable” and snap ’em up for eBay sales). However demand for DC’s Batman/Fortnite reprints remained very high, often selling out as quickly as the first printings.

Sales on the series did become less frenetic eventually, as retailers were able to adjust their orders on the first printings of issues 3 (I believe) and above after seeing demand for the first two issues. As such, eventually there was plenty to go around (particularly in areas like mine where there is a high incidence of comic shops) and the desperation to track down these comics decreased. Plus, there was the hardcover release that not only collected all these comics together, but also included a code for all the items previously offered as well as a bonus item.

When the later printings came into stock, the primary thing I was asked about them was if the codes were still included. That these were reprints made not a difference to most of these customers, only that they could still get these game codes. As I recall, the people who did want first prints were almost exclusively existing comic collectors. The new customers, the ones that entered the shop to get added material for their video games, they couldn’t care less what printing it was so long as the codes worked.

Which brings me to the Marvel Fortnite: Zero War comic.

This was a slightly slower burn than the Batman/Fortnite book, at least for me. Probably several reasons for that, like being the second major publisher out of the gate to do this gimmick. Also, that initial order numbers were probably much higher this time, resulting in more copies to meet demand (again, especially in locales like mine where there are plenty of comic stores). My own order was…pretty high, but on its Wednesday release I began to think “uh oh, I may have made a mistake” as sales were not encouraging at first. That changed quickly, and by the weekend they were gone…and I’m still getting calls for them.

That I’m still getting calls now even after what I presumed would be a much higher print run and much higher local availability tells me demand likely exceeds those Batman sales. Maybe it’s just more people want “Spider-Man Fortnite” (which is how I’m hearing it referred to) than Bat-Nite, maybe it’s that we’ve had a year or so for awareness of “codes can show up in comic books!” to percolate throughout Fortnite fandom. Regardless, demand for these comics is still being driven by the inserted game codes, nearly all these new customers citing the codes are reason for their purchase.

Which is why it is exceedingly baffling that the second printing for this first issue will not contain the code. Quote from the solicit: “PLEASE NOTE THAT EACH SECOND PRINT ISSUE DOES NOT CONTAIN A REDEEMABLE CODE TO UNLOCK A BONUS DIGITAL COSMETIC IN FORTNITE.” (EDIT: originally used other solicit info which was vague; this is the info from the Penguin Random House solicit)

Now it’s possible I missed and/or forgot the announcement that only the first printings would contain the code. I’ve had a lot on my plate lately, so I wouldn’t put it past me to have overlooked it. I still ordered lots of the first print #1, so I did okay. And all the solicit for the first printing said was, quoting again, “Each first print issue contains a redeemable code to unlock a bonus digital cosmetic in Fortnite!” Doesn’t explicitly say “not in the reprints!” but, well. Again, could’ve missed that notice.

Still doesn’t make this any less stupid a decision. It’s the codes driving these sales. The vast majority of people buying these, in my experience, was the codes for the game. If they’re reading these comics at all, it’s a secondary concern. Nearly everyone who asked about the Batman reprints asked if there were still codes. When I suggested that the first issue of this Marvel series would be reprinted, I was asked “would it still have the code?” Nobody is going to buy this to keep up on the story.

BEFORE YOU COMMENT/SEND IN EMAILS, I know I’m making some blanket statements here. There are always exceptions. As a Twitter pal noted to me, maybe the reprint is for “the discerning gamer whose only in it for the lore.” And I’m sure that’s the case. I HEREBY ACKNOWLEDGE THAT NOT EVERYONE IS BUYING THIS FOR THE CODES (OR SPECULATION).

But most are. As was also pointed out, maybe the decision to omit codes in reprints might not have been Marvel’s decision. Or it could have been Marvel’s strategy to get higher orders on first prints to avoid having to do reprints. I have no idea. But it’s a regrettable decision that’s going to disappoint a huge new audience coming into comics, even if only fed in by a gimmick…but that’s still money that a tiny industry like comics can’t afford to lose the trickle-down from a business that makes some real cash.

“This series will be HOTTER than anyone knows!”

§ June 3rd, 2022 § Filed under retailing § 6 Comments

Now, onto the rest of that June 1983 order recommendation sheet!

The interesting thing about the Ka-Zar entry is noting the possible impact of competing newsstand sales. I can’t recall that being much of an issue for us back in the day when “comics selling on newsstands” were a thing. If anything, they might get people interested in comics and lookin’ for more, eventually leading them to a dedicated funnybook store. Which is a heck of a business model, I realize, but it did happen at least a few times. I mean, that’s more or less how I ended up going to comic book stores.

The note that Daredevil sales were going to slump after 200…well, considering I recently acquired seven copies of #201 in a collection, somebody was still buying the book. But with nice covers an’ stuff, I imagine sales probably stayed more or less stable until the eventual, if brief, returns of Frank Miller to the series.

Doing these two tipsheets I have in reverse chronological order is a little revealing about how fast things can change. Last time in the entry for New Mutants #11, our Tipstar was recommending dropping orders. This time, for New Mutants #10, we’re being told it’s still a strong title, order big! Not sure what happened exactly to cause the change in attitude here, as just content-wise the comics don’t appear to have had any kind of serious content change (not like a few months later when Sienkiewicz comes on). Just maybe a natural correction from retailers cutting orders to have less stock for back issues? Readers deciding 9 or 10 issues were enough? I don’t know.

Still consistent, however, is the “NOT PAUL SMITH” warning that we got for the later issue of Falcon last time. I think “NOT PAUL SMITH” should just be appended to all comics not actually by Paul Smith. Oddly, doesn’t turn up later in this sheet….

There’s no real explicit recommendation in the Captain America #288 entry, aside from an implied “(shrug) just order what you’ve been ordering, I guess.” Odd that they wouldn’t mention “AWESOME MIKE ZECK/JOHN BEATTY COVER,” because, c’mon:

Also, part one of the story had this cover:

“This story should be flying off the shelves. ORDER LOTS”

Now, Star Wars Annual #3 was a standalone story drawn by Klaus Janson and, if you haven’t read it, is pretty good. Plus, it had this Darth Vader cover, one of the few to nicely exploit that year’s annual “image framed in black” format:

…it doesn’t surprise me that orders would be bumped up for this. No idea if it actually sold that much more, if at all, than the regular series, but I certainly can’t keep them in stock.

Forgot how Magik (called “Illyana and Storm,” actually “Storm and Illyana” on the cover) was a “HOT” book at the time. In 1983, we weren’t yet quite overwhelmed with X-Men tie-ins, so a mini like this has more of a chance to catch on. Also, this was in the days before every title was essentially a mini-series, an actual mini was still a novelty.

I presume the S.H.I.E.L.D. comic referred to here is the Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD mini reprinting Steranko comics. And the Warlock #6 is from this reprint series of the (mostly) Jim Starlin material. As it turned out, there was enough demand for those Warlock reprints to be reissued a decade later. I can’t get a sense that similar demand is rising for the Nick Fury series, but if you’re having a hard finding ’em, blame the Tipster!

Oddly, the note for Uncanny X-Men #176 doesn’t say “NOT PAUL SMITH,” but I assume Smith leaving the book with #175 got enough attention at the time. And was it true that sales went up every time the artist changed? Weren’t sales just generally increasing as the series went on and grabbed more and more readers? Or did retailers bump up orders specifically on issues with new artists just in case it became “hot?” In the latter case, that would read as an aberration, a small spike in numbers before settling back to the typical overall increase in numbers. Anyway, our Tipster was right to note that John Romita Jr.’s popularity was about to change.

Cloak and Dagger – still hot! They’ll always be popular!

Mixed messages on the Krull #2 suggestion, saying order like any #2 (same or lower as #1, presumably), but then saying “hey #1’s beginning to sell!” Especially to whoever this guy was that bought 83 copies of the damned thing:

(Sorry, early pic from the site, I know it’s too small.)

I do get occasional demand for Marvel’s 1980s movie adaptations, including Krull, but more for Labyrinth and Dark Crystal, movies that still have followings, versus Krull and 2010. Though to be fair 2010 did have a peak in interest about, oh, 12 years ago.

• • •

Okay, that’s all I’ve got for these tipsheets at the moment. I’ll dig through my boxes of promo stuff as I get the time and see if I can track down any more. Thanks for your enthusiasm for these…they were fun to look at!

“She’s daring. She’s dramatic. She comes from China.”

§ June 1st, 2022 § Filed under retailing § 7 Comments

Well, you folks seem to like these distributor order-uggestion fliers, and I only wish I had more than the two I’ve got.

First of all, in regards to that mystery Mantis #1 listing noted by The Tipster, it’s Daniel T to the rescue with this entry in Marvel Age #7 (October 1983):

Denny O’Neil and Val Mayerik, eh? That would’ve been something. Note there’s no inker listed, which certainly makes it sound like whatever they were working on here wasn’t ready to go. Not quite like the books that have “TBD” [“To Be Determined”] listed all over the credits, but at the very least the entire creative team hadn’t been put together yet.

Now we need to find any art/mock-up covers that may have been produced.

Anyway, at least Marvel gave themselves an out here:

And Matthew Murray had a couple of notes to add:

“took the note on the issue of Peter Parker to be that it should sell for 25% more as a back issue. (So price it at $0.80 instead of $0.60?)

“Though looking at that issue, it was drawn by Fred Hembeck for Assistant Editor’s Month. Clearly that’s the real draw for that issue!”

I don’t get the feeling that our Tipster is talking about secondary market prices on any these. I think s/he’s strictly discussing initial order numbers.

And I keep forgetting the Marvels for the period under discussion are mostly Assistant Editor Month titles! For those who don’t know, “Assistant Editor Month” supposedly involved the Assistant Editors taking over the titles and doing wild things with them while the folks in charge were away at convention, or something like that. The results were mostly entertaining, none more so than Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #86, drawn by the legendary Fred Hembeck:

It seems weird that the Tipster would note “Black Cat appearance” and not say “oh, also it’s drawn by Hembeck,” as I feel it may have been noted as “it’s a goofy gag comic, not a ‘real’ issue, don’t raise orders.” Which would be foolish, because as can plainly be seen, this issue is awesome.

Okay, let’s move on to the other Tip Sheet I have here, this one dated June 1984 for books cover-dated…well, looks like between December 1983 to February 1984, based on the few I spot-checked here. You get another cool logo:

“Remember kids, be cool and smoke like Wolverine!”

It looks like the Tipster here is referred to as “our phantom writer,” which isn’t capitalized or anything so I don’t think that’s his intended nomme de distributing, so “Tipster” it remains here in this blog, nigh four decades later.

And dipping into the cover price thing…Batman went to 75 cents cover date November 1983. Uncanny X-Men went to 65 cents cover date April 1985, and 75 cents cover date October 1985. So Marvel held the line at “cheaper than DC” for a little while, anyway.

It feels a tad amusing to see the worry over comics going all the way up to 75 cents, in this time of everyone cranking out $5.99 books at the drop of a hat, but I’m sure it was still a matter of concern. My old boss Ralph likes to tell the story of going to the market with a dime to buy a new comic, only to discover they were 12 cents now. He had to root around in the vacant lot nearby to find a bottle or three to recycle to make up the difference. I don’t think too many people buying their comics in late ’83 were quite as inconvenienced, but I’m sure at the very least it was a little annoying.

And for the first batch of listings I’m presenting today:

…it’s not quite as info-packed as the last couple of entries, but that Batman and the Outsiders bit does remind us of what an influential sales giant New Teen Titans was at the time.

Looks like big dips recommended on DC’s two fancier-format, mature audiences titles Vigilante and Thriller. A tiny bit of a surprise here as I thought the Vigilante was something of a hot character then, having spun out of the aforementioned New Teen Titans book. Order drops on second issues are par for the course, but back then a 40% reduction probably meant cutting dozens of copies. Nowadays it’d be more like, I don’t know, 4 copies on some of Marvel’s slower movers.

And this Detective Comics listing finally makes it clear where The Tipster stands on the art of Gene Colan. Honestly, in that other flier I just couldn’t put my nickel down on what was being said.

That’s enough typing for now…come back Friday for the rest of this flier!

That Power Lords math works out, don’t question it.

§ May 30th, 2022 § Filed under retailing § 11 Comments

I did you folks a disservice last time when I started talking about this sheet of distributor ordering suggestions by not presenting the logo:

Very charming!

Anyway, before we get into part two, let me address this note from DonaldG:

“Avengers Annual #7 came out years earlier than the other comics on this list. The real Avengers Annual for 1983 was Avengers Annual #12.”

True facts, #12 was the one due out in January 1984. Well, despite all appearances I didn’t invent typos, and this anonymous tipster obviously was afflicted with brainfartitis and mixed up the Avengers Annual number with the X-Men Annual #7 on the very next line. Ah, well, worse things happen at sea.

And Matthew Murray had some questions about comic sales of yesterday as compared to today, plus ordering strategies and cutting/raising orders at the time, and I feel like that’s a longer post than just a quick response here. Let me ponder it a bit.

So here’s part two, with some straggling Marvels and the notes on DC boks:

Okay, first off, let me skip ahead just a tiny bit and say “um, Mantis #1?” Far as I know, Marvel didn’t release a solo title for (presumably) the Avengers/Guardians of the Galaxy character. I presume one was apparently announced and on the schedule but pulled at the last moment. I checked through the “Coming Comics” sections of Amazing Heroes from that period and didn’t spot it in the listings, but maybe it was mentioned in one of the news sections? Something to check when I have more time. Or maybe somebody with the first year of Marvel Age can check for references to the title there?

Backing up a bit, I guess Black Cat was popular enough to be a sales incentive to bump orders up 25%. The character had only been around for about four years at that point, so, you know, I guess? This seems to suggest she was a hot commodity, which I didn’t remember but certainly not out of the question.

I wonder if there was a specific reason for The Defenders to suddenly bump up in sales this late in the run. Maybe the cover on #125 attracted new readers and they stuck around a bit?

Also, definitely pick up Dreadstar #7 and #6, as they had Bernie Wrightson back-ups. Also, #6 (which I bought because of that back-up) is a good jumping-on point for Dreadstar as a whole, apparently, since I read the lead story and had to read more.

Okay, to the DCs!

Atari Force: Aimed at kids. Order like G.I. Joe #1 sold.” I’m having trouble parsing this, because in usual comic shop parlance of the time (and sadly even today), “aimed at kids” means “ain’t gonna sell to your regular customers to don’t order a lot. But…G.I. Joe #1 did well, didn’t it? Also, Atari Force wasn’t necessarily “aimed at kids” as such. It was a solid science fiction adventure book with great writing and that wonderful, wonderful Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez art saddled with a baggage-laden name.

The advice for DC Comics Presents #65 may be why I used to find this issue in bargain boxes all the time. That’s how I got mine. Also, good issue. That Gray Morrow art is beautiful.

The “NOT [Pat] BRODERICK!” warning on Firestorm was sort of unnecessary, as the artist who took over, Rafael Kayanan, was honestly close enough. Book was still good, hadn’t hit the doldrums of the saggy middle of this 100 issue run yet, and it also had this striking cover.

Batman #367 did have a nice cover, and also it’s Poison Ivy. I don’t know if Ivy was much of a sales-bumper then but boy, given the number of requests I get for Ivy comics now, ordering up on the issue would be a no-brainer.

The reprint warning on Flash is definitely a sign of the times. That sure seemed to happen a lot, and I hated when I got hit with one of those. There was an issue of Green Lantern around this time that kind of annoyed me. Anyhoo, in this case the Comics Tipster may have gotten his/her wires crossed, as the previous month’s issue was the one with the reprint with the new framing story. #329, the one with the January 1984 cover date like the rest of the books listed here, is all new. Or maybe it was another last second schedule change swapping the order of release on these.

The Omega Men entry reminds us that this was once A Hot Title, particularly early on when it was somewhat controversial for its violent content (which I think would barely be noticed today, frankly).

Now I don’t recall lateness with the Green Lantern/Green Arrow reprints, as I was buying it at the time. In fact, checking the Grand Comic Database listings, the release dates for each issue were consistently a month part. Are those dates wrong, or did everyone just assume Adams was going to be late?

Harsh words for Power Lords from our tipster friend. I was going to say “and nobody still cares” but I looked on the eBays and someone managed to sell a set for $20, which is about $25 more than I expected. So what do I know?

I believe most retailers did indeed “GET THIS!” when it came to Thriller #3, as it was one of them newfangled “Comics Aren’t Just for Kids!” titles from DC on the nicer paper and also it was getting some play in the ‘zines. …Unless the store was one of those that didn’t order DCs, which, I don’t know, I kept hearing about stores like that but have never actually seen one in practice.

New Talent Showcase I have to admit, that’s a toughie to order. Even when DC did it again not so long ago that was tricky to order, even with loading them with regular DC Universe characters.

“[Gil] Kane is not the artist for Superman.” Oh, how very dare you, sir or ma’am. Don’t forget those issues of Action. Revel in them, SING THEIR PRAISES

“Pencils by [Gene] Colan” on this issue of Detective. “Need we say more?” Um, well, yes, I think so. I don’t know if you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I assume it’s good, but then I think about it a little longer and start to wonder “is s/he warning us?” Anyway, after the Kane comment, there’s no telling.

World’s Finest – “[Ross] Andru is a weak penciller. Keep it low.” Okay, now them’s fightin’ words.

Redeemer actually finally came out, kinda sorta, so I can’t bust out any gags on it being vaporware, I suppose. I don’t even know how to respond to the art comparison between Kubert and Byrne/Miller here, but I will say “DC hasn’t let us down yet!” — um, weren’t you just busting on Power Lords?

Okay, I found one more sheet of these tips to look at, so I’ll go through ’em later in the week. I’m glad you folks seem to be enjoying these as much as I do!


§ May 27th, 2022 § Filed under retailing § 13 Comments

So here’s a thing I found in one of the many, many boxes of old promo material I inherited from the previous place of employment…a sheet of ordering suggestions sent out by a distributor:

These seem to be all for comics with a cover date of January 1984, which means they were released a couple of months before that, which means this sheet was sent out mid/late-ish 1983.

Now, I love stuff like this…I immediately scoured the boxes and found only one or two more of these. But it’s a great insight into what the comic market was like at the time, outside of just order and sales numbers. This is why I also like period fanzines, in that you get the opinions of the time, what people were anticipating, what reactions they had to new projects, that sort of thing.

Reading this now, we have the advantage of hindsight, like with the note that New Mutants was beginning to drop in sales. We know seven months later that the very artist this writer was ballyhooing in the Dazzler entry, Bill Sienkiewicz, would be taking over and revitalizing the book. Also, I may be reading a bit into this, but I feel like there’s an implied “GOOD” response to the dropping sales, as I seem to recall some resentment at the time from X-Men fans that the very idea of having to buy a second X-title was such a burden. Anyway, they didn’t know how lucky they had it.

Other observations:

I think time has shown that Machine Man was “the worst mini-series yet” is WRONG WRONG WRONG. Also, the idea that Hercules was a low-selling series surprises me, as I thought it’d been relatively popular. Or maybe it was, just graded on the Marvel sales curve it’s still way below X-Men. Anyway, both of these were good comics and strong back issue sellers for a long time.

The “woof woof” on the Marvel Fumetti comic was amusing. I suppose it must have seemed like just more Marvel rack-crowding by pumping out junk, but I bought a copy of that when it was new, and it’s cute and funny! Plus it’s nice to see even black-and-white photos on newsprint of the Marvel crew.

Uncanny X-Men Annual #7 sure seemed like a big deal to this writer, I guess, spurred on by the artwork of Mike Golden. This annual was the goofy Impossible Man story, and yeah, it’s a consistent seller today, only because demand is way up on X-Men as a whole.

The Cloak and Dagger entry is a nice reminder of how hot the comic once was.

I guess this writer’s dog shared the byline, as here we are in the Sub-Mariner #1 entry with an “Arf.” Truth be told, this is like one of the forgotten Sub-mariner titles.

I’m glad the Aunt May/Galactus team-up in Marvel Team-Up #137 got the positive nod. I presume fans were probably amused by the very idea, and I know I certainly bought one. It was also part of the “Assistant Editors Month” event, with crazy things happening in each comic. I’m sure the sales bump was a good idea.

Part two on Monday, where we look at what we should be ordering on DCs! Plus, a mystery title?

Yes, I promise I know it’s spelled “Serji-X Arrogantus.”

§ April 22nd, 2022 § Filed under retailing § 4 Comments

Just noticed I typoed the last name of Sergio Aragonés in Monday’s post, and didn’t notice it ’til now. I assure you, as a fan of the man’s work for, what, over 45 years, and having interacted with him in person many times starting over 30 years ago, I know how to spell his name! All I can say is that I must have been pretty tired Sunday night when I was writing that entry.

EDIT: And I typoed his FIRST name this time. “Spelling Sergio Aragonés correctly” is the second thing to go, apparently. Fixed now, hopefully.

And I’m not much less sleepy now, but the blog must go on! Let’s continue addressing some of your comments from the last few days:

Joseph P Gualtieri notes

“Questioning whether or not Turok #1 was a sales success is a good reminder that sales charts for comics only show how many copies retailers order, not how many copies fans actually bought. A success in one doesn’t mean success in the other. See also, dead or discounted stock ordered to get variant covers.”

The “ordering to get the variant” really came to a head with the recent autographed Spawn comics, where the publisher shouted from the rooftops their inflated order numbers. As I talked about relatively recently, a customer wanted that autographed King Spawn, and paid enough for it that I was able to sell the regular covers for about a buck a pop as a special promotion. I’m juuuuuust about out of ’em now, but I’d probably still be sitting on boxes of the things if I had them priced at full cover.

And Marvel’s no stranger to this, if I may quote the above linked post:

“…Marvel trumpeted their X-Men #1 orders, and their X-Force #1 orders, without mentioning how many ended up being warehoused, buried in storage lockers and occasionally being dragged out into daylight and into shops like mine to unload.”

I think, nowadays, this sort of order-padding to grab benefits like “more variants” is not as common as it used to be. Shaving orders a little closer to the bone feels like the preferred strategy, especially in this market (which alas encourages speculation on a randomly-picked “rare” comic each week — uh, buddy, they’re all rare). But there are always exceptions, and once in a while even I’m like “well, I’ll just order a couple more to get that ratio variant.” It’s going to happen, but I don’t chase the variants with my order numbers like I used to, unless I’m darned certain it’s going to be worth the money I’m spending.

• • •

Chris G wants to know

“Let’s say I have a lot of comics stacked in boxes at my parents’ house and they’re starting to talk about downsizing. And given that the books in question have been sitting there largely unread for 20 years, it seems the best thing to do would be to sell them. I don’t care about making a ton of money, and few are bagged and some are very well read. But I also don’t want to get nothing for them. So I guess my question is: What are the two or three least effortful things I can do to goose any offer I might get from a shop near my parents by a couple bucks?”

Some minor things that might help:

Make sure they’re clean…boxes not covered with dust and cat pee and just general crap.

Have the books in relatively decent order…not like everything has to alphabetical or anything, just have all copies of the same title together. And all facing the same direction in the box..don’t make me constantly flip things over.

Make sure they’re accessible…don’t bunch together a dozen or so comics into a magazine bag before sealing it up. And if they’re in crummy plastic bags sealed with tape that’s going gooey with age, and you have to literally peel comics apart to look at them — man, I’m dealing with a collection like that right now and it sucks. I have to cut comics out of their bags, it’s terrible.

Basically, make it easier on the person looking at your collection to actually look at your collection. It may not bump up the moolah you receive for your books by much, but it surely won’t hurt. And the other suggestions from your fellow commenters in the thread are pretty good, too.

• • •

Chris Gumprich enters the following inquiry

“How is it that your store (started in 2014) has such an amazing stash of promos from the 1980s and 1990s? I know I personally have bought a number of promo posters from you — including such 80s classics as normalman, Thriller, and Mr.X — and yet every time I look at your ebay listings you have more up.

“Did you find a lost cache of promos from a store that went out of business in 1987 and has laid undisturbed ever since?”

Oh, huh, I thought everyone know, but maybe it’s been a while since I’ve said and some of us, Chris, may not have committed my entire website to memory like everyone should have from now.

My former place of employment was a comic shop that had been active since 1980. After the complicated semi-change in ownership of the shop (detailed here), my old boss still had all the old promotional material he’d accumulated over the decades. When I opened up my shop, he sent over all the promotional material and had me sell it for him on his behalf. That’s kind of it, really. I’ve got boxes of this stuff, and I go through it when I can.

Interestingly, I also “inherited” a few boxes of old comic distributor invoices and order forms, going back to very nearly the beginnings of the old shop. I keep meaning to do a little data-mining on those, but I’ll occasionally look at one, think “we used to order that many of The Flash, and then just be depressed. Ah well.

Taxing your patience with more comment responses.

§ April 18th, 2022 § Filed under retailing § 6 Comments

Yes indeedy, you folks keep bringing up topics in the comments that I want to answer here. And also yes, someday, I will get back to variant cover-age — I’m not done yet! — but I want to get to these responses out while we’re all still young and hearty.

First off, from not too terribly long ago, the King of the Moon crowned me with

“I used to pop in on my LCS during weekday times I knew would be slow because it was the best time to get good conversation and recommendations from the person behind the counter who was also a ;’well known comics blogger'”

Aaiieee, keep your fingers away from that blogger’s gnashing teeth, they’re all pretty much like Gollum.

Anyway, I literally have no idea if that was a veiled reference to me personally (I mean, a guy working in a comic shop who has a blog? How many of those can there be). But yes, a vital part of working in a comic shop is chatting with the customers, helping them find books to read, that sort of thing. There is a balance to strike, though, in between being “Helpful Dude at he Shop” and “Oh God He’s Coming to Talk to Us About Swamp Thing Again.” I may have told the story about going into a watch store at a mall (remember malls?) and trying to find a gift, but the employees there would not stop trying to chat with me and I couldn’t focus on shopping. I ended up bailing on that store and buying a watch elsewhere.

That’s really what I’m trying to avoid. I mean, that’s different from a customer coming up and talking to me and asking me stuff and engaging in conversation willingly, which is more what you’re talking about.

I think those of you who read my bloggering here on the site and then meet me in person are a tiny bit surprised at how relatively taciturn I am compared to the endless typing I make you all endure. Not that I don’t say anything, just I’m not quite as…verbose, or even semi-eloquent In Real Life as I am online. Over the years I believe I have become a little better at yakking it up with the folks in the shop, if only because I’m the captain and sole crewmate of the good ship Sterling Silver Comics and if not me talking, then who?

However, I believe it was our pal Tegan O’Neil who once said I write like I speak. I’m pretty sure that was meant as a compliment, but perhaps that also means my perception of myself as a tongue-tied funnybook purveyor is a bit off.

• • •

JohnJ does declare

“Your mention of Swamp Thing makes me ask if you’re aware of Rifftrax and the Kickstarter for this August’s Rifftrax Live! showing of Return of Swamp Thing. They’ve got a cool t-shirt designed for fans with art of Swampy carrying Heather Locklear. You don’t mention that movie nearly as often as you plug The Spirit (Frank Miller’s unauthorized Daredevil movie, I’ve always thought) so I just thought I would mention it.”

Yeah, I do lean kinda heavily on the Frank Miller’s The Spirit thingie, only because that’s funnier. I mean, it’s funnier to me, which is the only valid metric by which such things are judged.

But yes, I am absolutely a proud Kickstarter backer of the Return of Swamp Thing Rifftrax edition:

I am a long time fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, from which Rifftrax was born, and I have enjoyed plenty of Rifftrax’s offerings as well. For those unfamiliar, Rifftrax offers downloadable “commentary tracks” of movie-mocking jokes you can listen to while watching the mocked movie in question…or you can get the movies with the humorous tracks already embedded in the soundtrack. Return of Swamp Thing will be one of the latter.

In fact, like it says in the pic there, it’ll be a live show, recorded from a theatrical performance where they “riff” the movie in front of an audience. I found during MST3K creator Joel Hodgson’s simliar project “Cinematic Titanic,” I enjoyed the live performances quite a bit more over the studio ones. I liked the studio ones fine, but I enjoyed hearing the audience laughter, the occasional flubbed line from one of the performers, etc. Same with the Rifftrax output…the live stuff just feels more organic. Yes, I know it’s all equally scripted, but I like hearing the audience laugh, what can I tell you.

I didn’t support the Swamp Thing Rifftrax at a level that would have put my name in the DVD/Blu-Ray’s credits, but I will be getting the t-shirt (don’t wear t-shirts much any more, but I’ll still love to have it!) and the enamel pin, and the Blu-Ray, plus all sorts of digital downloads and extra material (including other riffed shorts, and I think an audio riff track for Cats). Anyway, they really piled on the extras, so I’m looking forward to all this nonsense.

• • •

Daniel wonders

“If you hadn’t gone into comics retail as a career, do you think you’d still be a comics fan/reader today?”

I’m pretty sure I still would be. I’m interested enough, invested enough, in certain creators and comics that I would keep following them, even if maybe the books would be harder for me to track down. I’m always going to want to see what Sergio Aragonés and the Hernandez Brothers are up to, for example. And I’ll always follow Swamp Thing comics, and Hulk stuff, Green Lantern, and the Superman books (though to be honest the whole Warworld story in Action, now entering its 34th year, is beginning to wear a little).

I don’t know that I’d read as many comics as I…try to do, anyway. I’m going through bit of a thing lately where I still have a large backlog of books stemming from that period where my eye problems were keeping me from reading anything. While I’ve had good luck of late in preventing any rebleeds in my eyes from happening and obscuring my vision again, my vision is impacted enough to where I can’t read nearly as quickly as I used to.

Combined with the fact that I don’t even have as much time to read them anymore, that backlog isn’t getting any smaller. I try to read all the new comics I pick up now, but even as few as they may be, that doesn’t leave much time for digging back into the older pile. I may be just cutting my losses and returning stuff to the shop. I’ve no idea.

That’s getting a little off topic from your question, Daniel, but it’s just stuff I’ve been thinking about lately. I like reading comics, but one of the ironies of owning a comic shop is having less time to read comics, even if you don’t have eyes that explode on you on occasion.

But yes, I’d still read comics if I didn’t work in a shop. Would I still be a comics blogger? All my early online stuff, on local BBSes and early AOL message boards, stemmed from my working in a comic book store, so I feel like my comic book internetting is heavily tied to that. Maybe I’d been involved in the online comics community in some respect, but as just a mere commoner, not the high falutin’ comics retailer whose majestic presence is before you now.

• • •

Roel thus spake

“What are the logistics for transferring a pull list? Is there a payment for each customer name?”

Roel is referring to my previous place of employment sending its pull list customers to another shop near its location, due to shutting down. I’m not privy to the details, so I don’t know if there was a specific price attributed to the customer base for the pull lists, or if it was just kinda lumped in with everything else. To be honest, I’m not sure how I would price that out if I were selling my business to another company. There is a value, but what is it? Do you charge $(X) for this one customer, but $(5X) for that customer who gets a lot more set aside for him? Or just make a rough estimate based on the pulls in total.

When I opened up my own shop, a number of the pull lists there came with me. Mostly mail order pulls, plus a handful of pulls from customers who lived closer to my shop than the old one. They were basically just handed over to me out of good will. Maybe that happened in this newer case, just handing the info over and making sure the customers had a smooth transition, figuring it’s just part of the lump cost of the business’s sale. Again, I haven’t the foggiest.

Okay, that’s enough typing for now. Thanks for reading, pals.

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