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Whatever else you might think about these comics, Spitfire and the Troubleshooters was actually a pretty good name.

§ October 4th, 2019 § Filed under retailing § 4 Comments

Just a quick follow-up to the recent New Universe post…I did indeed talk to my old boss Ralph about how things transpired regarding the sales of Marvel’s 1986 publishing initiative. I told him I had to ask him about it since I hadn’t yet entered the world of comics retail at that point. “You weren’t around for that?” he asked, and I replied “no, but I was around for its ending…I’m sure there’s a connection.”

Anyway, yes, when the New Universe started it sold great…but tapered off fairly quickly at the shop. Some titles maintained reasonable sales…Star Brand probably being the strongest, with Justice and D.P. 7 following, which likely probably doesn’t surprise too many of you, since those seemed to be the most traditional, or traditional-seeming, of the bunch. The others settled at sales levels that were…not so great. They had their fans, but it was pretty clear, at least at this one retail outlet, the New Universe wasn’t the overwhelming success Marvel was hoping for. Oh, and apparently of the bunch Kickers Inc. was a non-starter…maybe the first issue sold, but folks decided right away that’s not the comic they wanted. Again, probably not a surprise to most of you.

As the initiative dragged along to its eventual demise in 1989, there were a couple of upward bumps in sales. As expected, John Byrne taking over Star Brand did increase sales on the title at the shop…not a lot, but, you know, not nothing. And then when the retooling of the New Universe began with everyone’s destruction-of-Pittsburgh comic The Pitt, sales were pretty good on that one-shot special as well, spurred on by curiosity about what exactly they were going to do to the New Universe, as well as, Ralph recalls, actual media coverage because they were, you know, blowing up Pittsburgh.

The Pitt‘s sales, unfortunately, didn’t transfer over into the follow-ups The Draft™ and The War™, which didn’t sell very well at all.

And shortly after that, the New Universe died, never to be seen again except for several more times in various comics over the next couple of decades.

So there you go, straight from Ralph’s beard and onto my webpage. Try as I might, I can’t really remember any specific memories about the New Universe from that period, where my first couple of years behind the counter overlapped with the last couple of years of that imprint’s lifespan. Probably too busy fielding endless phone calls about Batman stuff to pay attention to much else. Ah well.

Yes, I know Shatterstar was in the movie too.

§ September 30th, 2019 § Filed under collecting, retailing § 4 Comments

So I got a set of these in a collection the other day:


…and by “set,” for those of you who weren’t around in the early 1990s to experience this particuliar phenomenon, I mean “all five initially released versions of X-Force #1, each prepacked with one of five different trading cards sealed within the polybag.”

Now your pal Old Man Mike was there manning the comic shop front lines when this comic was unleashed. We had tons of them, and as I recall we set up a table near the front of the store to put them all out for easy access, divided up by inserted card. Which means, yes, we had to go through the cases and divvy ’em up.

The point is, we ordered a lot, and we sold a lot. And yes, I know you bought them. Yes, you, right there, reading this blog post right now. I saw you do it. We caught it on camera. WE HAVE EVIDENCE. Anyway, plenty of copies got circulated out there, and we had a reasonable, and surprisingly not overwhelming, stock of copies of that first issue stashed away for future back issue sales.

Well, things go as they go, and what was eventually became not, and X-Force and its ilk fell out of favor…as, well, did most comics as the ’90s wore on, in favor of pogs and Magic: The Gathering. And back issue demand for that particuliar first issue of X-Force did trail off, even as the series kept on keeping on.

It never fell entirely out of awareness, of course…X-Force #1 remained a notable artifact of the excesses of comic collecting in the 1990s, a cautionary tale along with the 5 covers for X-Men #1 and the “bagged” editions of Spider-Man #1 and thankfully the industry has learned its lesson and no longer depends on multiple variant editions of its publications to shore up sales.

The end result was that, for many years, X-Force #1 was not generally traded in the aftermarket for premium prices. If anything, it was slash-priced, marked down to move, for the love of God please take these off our hands…dollar boxes aplenty were fed by copies of this book across this great nation of ours, and that’s just how things were. Not to say that some venues didn’t keep copies in the bins marked at ye olde Overstreet prices, and they did sell occasionally, but its star had long since faded.

CUT TO: your pal Mike, getting a collection of comics over the weekend…some good stuff, some stuff basically dumped on me, but most of it still usable. Within was that set of X-Force #1s that I mentioned about 4 or 5 thousand words ago. I’d been literally turning these down as they showed up in the hands of hopeful sellers coming through my door, but, eh, here they in this box of stuff I got, might as well price ’em up and put them out.

And evidently it’s been a while since I’ve had the opportunity of price this issue, because imagine my surprise to find out the guide has the version with the Deadpool card priced at $18. The one with the Cable card is priced the same. The other three card variations are a somewhat more reasonable, but still seemingly optimistic $6.

I feel like, at some point during one of the three or four previous times that Deadpool’s popularity peaked, that I did check our price guide and/or online sales to see if there was any increased demand for the Deadpool-card version of X-Force #1, and at that point it was big ol’ “nobody cares.”

But, obviously, things have changed. My initial thought was my pet theory about things that used to be common and in deep stock at stores through the ’90s boom period have suddenly become harder to come by, as shops from that era die out and, sometimes, take their stock with them. Or that copies that did make it into the hands of collectors were either damaged due to poor storage (a not-infrequent problem, even with the hardcore collectors at the time) or just discarded outright (after losing interest and/or failed attempts at recouping their money via resale back to shops that either didn’t want them, or offered only a pittance).

Mentioning this on Twitter, I received this response from Tony:

“They are everywhere and people will drop $5-10 easy on them. Its shocking. It’s a mix of the age of the book, new fandom from the popularization of Marvel movies, and those early 90s fans that are now wanting to rebuild their collection.”

And yes, those are factors as well. I know “age” doesn’t always equate with “price,” but I’ve seen demand for the novelty publications (bagged, like this X-Force, or foil/chrome/die-cut covers) from customers who hadn’t even been born yet when these items were in their heyday. And, like Tony mentioned, I’ve had customers who did collect these as they were new, who had since lost or discarded their collections and now want to reconstruct them. Never underestimate the power of nostalgia, friends.

The actual pricing seems pretty…extreme, and my response to Tony that it might be a case of “hot because it’s hot.” Not priced according to any supply/demand thing, but because “Deadpool is in a movie and these should be hot now.” The X-Force #1 with the Deadpool card is priced a little higher than normal, people notice, start picking them up, which encourages more up-pricing, a self-fulfilling prophecy that cycles on and on.

This is not to ignore that variation with the Cable card, also priced at $18 in the guide, which surely must solely be the fault of the character’s appearance in the Deadpool movie. That they’re both $18 makes me think it was specifically the movie causing the price bump, since in comics alone Cable isn’t nearly as popular as Deadpool, unless I’m about to hear from the International Cable Fan Club in my comments here.

So anyway, that was quite the shock, mostly because I’d expected this to happen a while back, it didn’t, I figured that was that, then suddenly IT HAPPENED. Don’t know how many people are actually successfully selling these for nearly $20 a pop. A quick look at the eBay shows it trading for far less than that…there seems to be more interest in issue #11 of the series (the “first appearance” of the real Domino, as it had been an imposter Domino in the comics prior to that…um, SPOILER, I guess).

Still not sure what I’m going to price my copy at. Maybe $100, really screw the curve there. But while I think about that, here’s a picture of me holding that bountiful treasure of X-Force #1s, as taken by the Mighty Matt Digges:


Hey, if you buy all these from me, maybe I can afford a razor to shave my face!

(PREVIOUSLY ON PROGRESSIVE RUIN: would you believe I’ve written about X-Force and the Deadpool card before? Here and here? I can’t believe it either. Look for my next post about this in 2022!)

Maybe if the Champions showed up in the Life of Pope John Paul comic.

§ September 6th, 2019 § Filed under all star batman, marvel, retailing § 7 Comments

So Marvel’s been teasing an upcoming series/event/thingie that involves a murder, prompting folks to draw comparisons to DC’s recently concluded murder mystery even comic Heroes in Crisis. Which, you know, fair enough…there’s no shortage of times Marvel’s copied something successful of DC’s, and DC’s copied something successful of Marvel’s. I’d just mentioned Marvel Comics #1000 a few days ago as a very recent example.

This time around, the general assumption seems to be that Marvel is biting DC’s recently concluded mini-series Heroes in Crisis, which also centered around a superhero-related murder mystery. I saw the reaction online from here and there wondering why Marvel “didn’t learn from DC’s mistake,” why they would model one of their own projects on something their competitors did that was “bad” and a “disgrace” or whatnot.

The answer, of course, was that Heroes in Crisis, despite what anyone may have thought of it online, despite what perhaps you thought of it…it still did very well. Sold well enough for individual issues to go into multiple printings to meet demand. And just from personal experience, many of my customers were really into it and greatly anticipated each succeeding issue. It had a base of readers who did like it quite a bit.

Despite online grousing, was well received by the comic buying public. Of course other companies would take inspiration from it. It has nothing to do with how good or bad you might think the actual story is — and personally, I thought it was 5 pounds of story in a 30-pound bag, with good intentions but questionable results — it made money, which is the most important metric for publishers.

Reminds me a bit of that classic Batman comic book series y’all liked so much, All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, nearly every issue receiving an enormous amount of derision online. And yes, and I even said this at the time, as I recall, at least at our store it was one of the highest-selling, if not the highest selling comic for that period. Outsold X-Men, the other Batman titles, Amazing Spider-Man, several others…lots of people hating on it online, but someone was buying it. And it wasn’t all bloggers picking up copies to scan and mock on their sites.

Anyway, if you find yourself wondering why a publisher puts out this comic or that comic, or why they’d emulate someething their competitor did that you didn’t care for…it’s all about the…Washingtons? Lincolns? I don’t know your youth slang of today. But you get what I mean.

It did get me thinking a bit about different publishers mimicking the sales strategies of others. Especially after reading this week’s new issue of Doomsday Clock — only one issue to go, where hopefully the previous 11 issues of set-ups and mysteries will get resolved in a normal-sized comic and not an 80-giant giant like it seems it will require.

But despite that, what I was thinking was what Marvel-published work that had previous been standalone, but also highly regarded, would be the equivalent of DC’s ,cite>Watchmen? And, would also be highly inappropriate to mix Marvel’s modern superhero universe with it. Most of the things I was thinking of were either under the Epic imprint and not technically owned by Marvel…like an Avengers/Moonshadow crossover or something…or like The ‘Nam, but that had a Punisher appearance of all things, so I guess that was kinda done.

Marvels doesn’t really count, because that’s just the regular Marvel Universe, told with a then-fresh viewpoint and art style. Unless Marvel took a month to have all their titles transform their contents into Marvels-a-likes. We did have Marvel’s anniversary celebration of that series with tribute variant covers, so we got kind of a taste of that, with mixed results.

So anyway, if you think of a good one, let me know.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned the giant stack of Amazing Spider-Man #129s we used to have, too.

§ September 4th, 2019 § Filed under batman, retailing § 3 Comments


Used to be I’d see these on a pretty regular basis at the former place of employment…copies of Batman #181 from 1966, featuring the first appearance of Poison Ivy, used to stack up on us. They were plentiful, they were not terribly expensive (particularly in the conditions they were usually found), and generally had copies available for anyone who happened by and asked for one.

Which is why I was a tad surprised when, after I received the copy pictured above in a collection, sold it within literally a minute after posting it to the store Instagram account. But then, the time of Batman #181s aplenty that I was reminiscing about above was sometime in the early to mid 1990s. The comic was only about 30 years old then. It’s closer to a fifty year old comic now.

Age, of course, isn’t the sole attribute determining a comic book’s demand and/or value, as anyone who’s had to respond to the assertion “it’s old, it has to be worth something” knows. But age can impact availability…the more time passes, the more older comics like these get absorbed into collections, or outright destroyed. Particularly nowadays, with the new influx of collectors seeking “key” issues, items with significant importance to the hobby (like, say, the first appearance of o villain for a major superhero character) are snapped up in short order, particularly if they’re “raw” (i.e. not already slabbed in those plastic cases with an “official” condition grade) and reasonably priced (as my copy here was, in my humble opinion).

Not to say they’re hard to find, which I realize I have been saying. You probably can’t swing a dead Catwoman around on the eBays without hitting a half-dozen or more of Batman #181s, sealed up in those cases and premium-priced. But the days of finding stacks of them, unslabbed, like at my old job back in ye olden tymes, are, if not gone entirely, at least far less common than they used to be.

That’s a lot of typing just to say “tempus fugit,” but fugit tempus does, and with me entering my 31st year of comics retail this month, I just got to thinking about how things have changed in this business. I mean, not big things, like “there’s only one distributor now” and “remember when comics used to sell” but minor shifts in collecting habits and back issue supply, like I was saying in all that stuff up there.

Also this post is perhaps a little self-congratulatory as well.

§ August 7th, 2019 § Filed under retailing § 8 Comments

So longtime tolerater of my site Thelonious Nick asks in the comments of my previous post:

“Just out of curiosity, what sorts of things do visitors from an adult day care center end up purchasing? Is it different than what the average customer buys? Or do they mainly browse?”

What the Thelonious One is referring to was a tweet I made the other day, where I said this:

“Had a nice visit from folks from a local adult day care center, who called and asked if I could open early to accommodate their group. Went very well, and they should be coming back on a regular basis!”

Okay, I know that’s a little self-congratulatory an’ all, but hey, what is Twitter for but tooting one’s own horn a bit, oh and also commiserating with our friends about our impending doom, but mostly it’s to talk about how great I am.

Like it says there, the gentleman in charge of this group of folks from the adult day care center gave me a call to arrange to visiting time prior to opening hours, which was fine…and apparently the intention is to make this a regular thing, about once a month or so, which I’m all for. It was quite a few folks from the center who paid a visit, along with a handful of chaperones who took plenty of pictures of them holding up the comics they were buying, or just looking around the store. It was a pleasant visit, everyone was nice and polite and I’m of course totally open to their return.

As to what they buy…well, first nearly all of them bought something. Even one of the chaperones bought something for himself. Mostly inexpensive comics…I have dollar boxes and plenty of cheaply-priced back issues, so there was no shortage of choice for those with limited budgets. So, lots of books out of the bargain bins, some of Marvel’s recent $1 reprints, a handful of ’80s superhero books priced to move (like Iron Man, even a Funko Pop. One of the older members of the group asked after Dennis the Menace comics, which I had plenty of, a fact that made this gentleman very happy. I did have another person splurge a bit on that recent Amazing Spider-Man #25.

So all in all…no, not a high dollar transaction total, but it weren’t nuthin’, and the comics they did buy made them happy, and they all seemed to enjoy their outing to the store. As I mentioned to someone else on Twitter, as a person with a mentally disabled sister, I am particularly willing to help out those with special needs. I know things aren’t necessarily easy for them or for the people who care for them at times, so I’m glad to help in my small way.

Nick also asked if it was any different from what my regular clientele buys, and…no, not really. In fact, one member of the group was one of my regulars, and likely the person who encouraged his friends and caretakers to make this trip. He would generally come in and buy inexpensive comics with his favorite superheroes, and this really isn’t any different from any of my customers who just have a few dollars to spare but still need some four-color fun. That’s why I always make sure to have inexpensive comics for sale, even cheaper than the new monthlies…not everyone is there to buy my Strange Tales Annual #2 for $225.

So big thanks to that center for bringing their charges to my shop…it was a completely fine experience and I look forward to hosting them again.

Please buy “Eyeballs and Dollars,” my new fantasy role-playing game.

§ August 2nd, 2019 § Filed under retailing § No Comments

I know I still have a post full of questions from you folks that I need to get to, and I will, but let me address a few of these from the most recent installment of ProgRuin.

First off, Thelonious Nick wonders

“…Why have an awesome variant cover that lots of people will want to pick up because it’s so awesome? Why not just make that your main cover?”

I’ve wondered that myself, on this very website more than once. The one specific instance I’m recalling is that a Star Trek comic of some sort had a 1-in-10 ratio variant that was a swell photo of William Shatner as whas-his-name, Captain Sheridan or whatever, and how that made for a spectacular and eye-catching cover. I don’t recall if I said “why didn’t they make that the main cover…what’re they afraid of making money?” but I should have if I didn’t.

And yes, a lot of the variant covers are quite awesome and I’ve love to be able to sell them in vast quantities to customers, and even take some home myself. But for some folks, part of the appeal of the limited variants is the fact that they are limited, and even a great cover might languish on the shelf if it were readily available, rather that being some rare gem that you’re lucky to get your mitts on. Anyway, I don’t know…it’s not like artists and publishers and such aren’t trying to make every cover attract attention and grab eyeballs and dollars. But the very existence of a rare variant could also result in the “grass is always greener” attitue…”why settle for this regular cover any common person could obtain? I want that special cover or nothing!”

Anyway, it’s a fine line to walk sometimes.

• • •

Allan Hoffman picks my brain with

“What are your thoughts on DC’s upcoming acetate covers?”

Well, it’s fine, I suppose…it’s the “regular” cover, and I’m going to have to guess if this will mean extra sales or if everyone’s burned out on the whole “gimmick” thing. I mean, if they look nice, I’m sure they’ll sell. At least they don’t cost more, which is the big problem with the recent “cardstock cover” variants, all of which cost a buck more and have been a big flop with my customers for that very reason. Since the acetate comics will be shipping with those pricier cardstock variants as well, I’ll likely be shifting by new comic budget away from one and toward the other. Which I’ve been doing anyhow, after seeing how those cardstock covers have been doing.

• • •

Hooper had this in the hopper

“I’m surprised they haven’t started selling collections of variant covers. I’d totally buy a nicely packaged colkection of the Lego Covers or that run of Darwyn Cooke variants.”

…and I planned on responding with this very book but Turan beat me to the punch in the comments there.

Occasionally there’s some kind of collection of variants…if I recall correctly, Marvel did a freebie reprinting all the hip-hop covers. And this isn’t quite the same, but Marvel’s doing something called Marvel Monograph, the first of which featured the cover art of J. Scott Campbell, and there’s many more to come with other artists.

In regards to the cover on that DC book, Hooper…there was a direct market variant, naturally enough, featuring Frank Cho’s art:


…so, y’know, there are options!

That Lego thing still burns me up.

§ July 31st, 2019 § Filed under pal plugging, retailing § 5 Comments

So occasionally my pals Chris ‘n’ Matt will put out the call for questions for them to answer on their War Rocket Ajax podcast, and this time, instead of breaking their wills with my usual Frank Miller’s The Spirit-related inquiry, I asked them:

“What are your thoughts on the vast proliferation of comic book variant covers?”

…and you can hear their response in this very episode (just under the wire at the one hour twenty-five minute mark).

You can hear what they said there, and I don’t disagree with any of their positions…and there are a few positions one can take on the whole “variant cover” thing. Yes, it’s good to offer customers a choice…if one cover doesn’t catch his/her eye, maybe another will. And it gives artists more opportunities for work, in an industry that’s often short on opportunities and, well, money.

But as Matt says, it’s probably not good to build a business model that depends on the sale of multiple covers to the same person, but in a way, that’s what I’m doing when I’m ordering them for the shop. Multiple covers are a way to push those numbers up…maybe not by much, maybe I’ll order 5 each of Unicycle Tragedy #18 if two covers are offered, instead of just 8 copies if only one cover were available, because yes, there is a percentage of customers who’ll buy one of each. Or if an incentive cover is avaiable…if there’s a variant that’s availble to purchase if you order 25 copies of the regular cover, and my order is at 23…well, maybe I’ll justify the extra expense.

So we’re not talking about big adjustments in ordering on a case by case basis, usually. But an extra copy here, an extra two copies there…it begins to add up, both in my expenses and in the publishers’ income. Every little bit helps them, and may actually help certain titles reach their bottom lines.

One clever use of variant covers was in the ’90s, when Marvel started to offer two different covers for the second issues of new series (of which they had several starting up at around that time). Traditionally, when a new series started, retailers would order larger numbers on the first issue, then cut orders on the second with expectations of a drop-off in sales. Marvel’s issue #2 variants countered this a tad, by offering different covers, which would encourage retailers to up their orders a bit in anticipation of, again, some folks wanting to own both versions.

Of course, that was back around the beginning of the end of retailers wanting to have lots of copies of the eary issues of new series around for future back issue sales. Now there still may be a drop-off with issue #2, but #1s are being ordered so close to the bone (given that there’ll be a new #1 for the same series sooner rather than later, killing back issue demand for the previous series) that just doing variants on everything is pretty much the only way to encourage any upward bumps in numbers.

Chris brings up that he would prefer that the covers actually reflect the contents of the book, and, yup, I’d have to agree. Though to be fair, that’s been a problem even without variant covers. How many Amazing Spider-Man covers during J. Michael Straczynski’s run were just “generic Spider-Man action pose #4” or whatever? Yes, I mean, sure, Spider-Man’s inside the comic, so at least the cover is that accurate, and they weren’t bad drawing by any means, but they revealed nothing about the story inside. Nothing telling the reader “hey, dig this crazy story that’s in this issue…can you believe what’s going on here on the cover? Better buy the issue and find out what’s up!” They weren’t all like that, of course, but enough of them were.

But the variants can be a problem, too, like the covers featuring characters that aren’t in the actual comic, but just on there to promote a coming event or movie or whatnot (like the current Carnage variants) or the covers featuing concepts people actually showed interest in buying ’til they saw the contents didn’t refect the image on the front (I’m looking at you, DC Lego variants).

And don’t get me started on when a specific variant beomes “The Hot One” for no real good reason whatsoever and people start calling the day before release for it. Which, of course, is usually too late to order more.

I mean, yeas, sure, many of the variant covers are nice looking, and folks put a lot of work into them. It can just be frustrating ordering these, and also adds an unnecessary level of consumer confusion to a product that’s already facing an uphill battle in obtaining and maintaining a customer base.

Thanks to Matt ‘n’ Chris for responding to my question.

This is a whole lot of typing about new comic shipments.

§ July 25th, 2019 § Filed under retailing § 6 Comments

Now the way it’s supposed to work is that weekly new comic shipment from Diamond would arrive on Tuesday, giving you ample time to break down the order, sort and count the comics, call in damages and shortages, and then do the pulls for your comic saver or whatever. And then, of course, get all the new product out on the shelves that evening (or maybe the next morning, as you’d like) so that everything’s good ‘n’ ready when you swing open your doors on Wednesday.

Unfortunately, stuff happens, as it did this week. As my business depends on getting my comics, obviously, I keep close tabs on the tracking information for each of the packages, starting Monday evening when said tracking starts getting updated. When everything’s going smoothly, my packages should arrive at a certain distribution hub near Los Angeles, before being sent to my local shipping station a few miles south of me, where, if things go to plan, the tracking should say “On Delivery Truck” or even better, “Out for Delivery” sometime Tuesday morning.

Well, this time around my packages went from that one hub near Los Angeles to another hub near Los Angeles, and I know from experience, if that happens, then it’s not going to the local center until the next day. Meaning, of course, no comics for your pal Mike on Tuesday…they’re a’comin’ sometime on Wednesday.

I did vent a bit about it on Twitter, mentioning the shipping company by name, which, I should have remembered, will alert whatever keyword-searching process they use and they immediately replied with “we’re very sorry, how can we help?” Alas, that help didn’t extend to getting my packages to me on time or even explain why my packages were delayed, but they looked like they were reaching out to help publicly, and I guess that was the important part.

Sorry, that sounds like I’m a bit annoyed. Well, I am, but mistakes happen, and it’s not the end of the world. But it did mean I didn’t get my comics ’til about 20 minutes before I opened on Wednesday, and was put in the absolutely swell position of having to tell customers, walking in the door with money to spend on new comics, “sorry, come back later.” To be fair, everybody was cool about it and they know it wasn’t my fault, and most everybody came back as they were able. Ended up having a pretty good Wednesday, in fact.

But I was stressing hard, powering through the comic sorting and putting some on the shelves while leaving a sufficient number aside so I can do my copious comic saver pulls. And doing it all as fast as possible. Me, the guy the doctor told to “take it easy” and “don’t stress,” so I don’t end up with, oh, you know, more hemorrhaging in my eyes. Particularly now that my eyesight is greatly improved.

So ultimately, I had all the new product counted and (what I didn’t keep aside for savers) out on the shelves by about half past noon. Comic savers were done in the mid-afternoon. All while I was running the shop and selling comics. This was not the slow and easy comic-selling lifestyle that the brochures promised.

Ah well. Luckily I’ve been at this for a while so I know how to make the best of the situation, and it helps that my customers are all so understanding. But really, I hope I don’t have any more problems. …Well, I mean, I will eventually but maybe I could have a week or three without ’em.

Before the day-early deliveries on Tuesday started, getting the comics Wednesday morning was the norm. It would of course depend on whenever the delivery truck arrived…we had the same driver for years at the previous place of employment, and he would often come very early, giving the (usually) three of us plenty of time to get that order sorted and counted and pulled. Though sometimes we’d have a substitute driver and, oh, hey, here are the new comics at 4 PM, thanks.

Near the end of my tenure there, our regular driver had retired, and our shipment arrival times were all over the map. Tuesday delivery was in place then, but still it was nice to get the books early so we could get it all done and, you know, call in the shorts/damages while someone was still in the office at the distributor. So, the alternative plan was put in place…since I drove by that store’s local UPS center on the way to work, we’d just have the shipping company hold those packaes there for pick up, where I’d grab ’em, take them to the store, and we’d work our magic on them. We got them at a consistent time every week, and we were able to properly plan our workday.

Used to be, in ye olden tymes, that our distributor, back when it had a warehouse in Los Angeles, would deliver the comics themselves, often arriving very early in the morning. And sometimes former boss Ralph would drive down to L.A. himself to pick up the comics, thus avoiding any of the misrouting issues that your pal Mike had this week.

And then long before that, we’d have the “regular shipping” comics and then the “air freight” comics, where select titles would arrive outside of, and earlier than, the normal shipping schedules, but now we’re getting to well before my comics retail servitude, so perhaps let’s leave it there for now ’til I can bend Ralph’s ear for more details.

So anyway, that was my day. Worse things happen at sea, I know, but late comic shipments are no fun. At least they showed up, versus just disappearing entirely, which has happened to me before, too. Not a recommended experience.

“This popular pet is the number one threat to your comic book collection!”

§ July 22nd, 2019 § Filed under death of superman, retailing, television § 4 Comments


So over thge years I have heard many, many times from folks who wanted to sell me comics that the items they were offering were “in mint condition, still in their bags.” And of course, while a comic bag certainly does offer better protection for the funnybook contained within than no bag at all, it’s obviously no protection from bending, stabbing, being set on fire, being chewed on by the pet llama, whathaveyou. (And no, even the addition of a backing board to your comic’s security may not be enough to help.) I’d say the vast majority of comics I’ve received “still in their bags” are nowhere close to mint.

Basically, what I’m saying is that it takes more than just sliding a comic into a bag and/or board to preserve its condition. It takes proper handling, storage, and distance from the previously mentioned pet llama. You can keep a comic inside a bag all you’d like, but that’s not a bulletproof container. And it’s not going to magicallly undo whatever damage you did to it prior to its placement in a bag.

This is all a roundabout way to talking about the comics pictured above, Superman #75 and Adventures of Supermnan #500 (and, by extension, other comics packaged by the publisher inside sealed opaque polybags like these). When it comes to pricing/grading these for in-store sale, there’s no real way to gauge the condition of the comic therein if the polybag is still sealed and, from all appearances, still new-looking and intact.

Emphasis on “looking.” Like the standard clear plastic bags used for comic storage, these polybags won’t protect from bending or creasing or the like, but if they are sealed, you aren’t going to be able to directly check the comic for any damage done. I mean, you can kind of feel along the spine and maybe along parts of the cover (working around the various trading card and poster inserts and such, of course) and determine if there is any phyiscal harm. But, again, without visual confirmation, it’s hard to nail down a grade.

So long as the exterior of the bag looks new, and if the item is sealed (and no damage is immediately detectable within the package) I generally just mark these as “MINT – SEALED.” In a way, it’s like Schrödinger’s Comic…so long as that polybag stays sealed, we have no exact idea what’s going on in there. It’s not ’til we open it up that the reality is solidified and we get a comic that’s, I don’t know, actually in FVF or whatever.

Now it’s possible the polybags themselves could do harm to the comics inside eventually. I’m pretty sure that’s not archival material used in the packaging, there, but on the other hand…I opened my personal copies of these when they were new, and just kept everything, comics and inserts and all, still inside those opened polybags and then inside one of your standard comic bags…and far as I can tell, no damage done by those wrappings yet. And if you remember that overflowing case of Adventures #500 I got a while back…people who’ve bought copies of thoese from me and opened ’em up didn’t find any problems.

If you’re really concerned, I guess you can just store the comic and its polybag in separate bags. As I somewhat recall, in the ’90s during the real heyday of publishers prepacking their comics in bags with goodies like trading cards and pogs and such, the price guides, of which there were many at the time, had to set down rules as to what would preserve the collectibility of these items. I think it was Overstreet which put its nickel down on the comic still being considered “mint” or whatever so long as the opened bag and contents were all present. And I think our attitude at the shop at the time was “okay, fine, but sealed copies are still going to sell for more than opened copies,” and lo, it is still true to this day. I don’t have my current copy of Ovewrstreet right in front of me to see if they still hold that position, if in fact it was them.

Anyway, just something I think about every time I get these in collections and have to price ’em up. I’ve written before, somewhere and at some point, about how a lot of those Superman #75s were purchased by folks who didn’t normally collect comics, so I suspect a large number of them had been stored improperly and damaged, or just outright discarded, over the years. There may not be as many sealed copies of this still around as we assume, so getting them at all is welcome. And they do still sell.

• • •

In some brief non-Death of Superman news, it was announced over the weekend that the DC Universe streaming service’s Doom Patrol series has been renewed for a season 2, to be produced in conjunction with Warner’s forthcoming streaming service HBO Max. The story says the new season will show simultaneously on both services, so that, along with the news of the DC Universe exclusive Young Justice series also getting a renewal, that this streaming channel will continue to be its own thing. The fear was that DC Universe would be folded into the HBO Max service, and sure, that could still happen eventually, but it looks like it’s still operating on its own for now.

Surprise!

§ July 8th, 2019 § Filed under retailing § 4 Comments

[SPOILERS for The Walking Dead…the comic book, not the TV show or video games or action figures]

So I’d raised my orders a bit on The Walking Dead #193, after being blindsided like everyone else by the events of #192, in which the main character, the focus of the series, the guy who’s been in the story since that first issue, was killed off. When word on #192 got around, folks started popping by the store, calling, emailing, all asking for that #192, sold out immediately because most folks probably just ordered what they were going to order and that was that. No reason to bump up orders, but with #200 approaching I’m sure retailers had in the back of their minds the forthcoming necessity to puzzle out the vast array of variant covers that were sure to be offered.

Anyway, #192 sold out, I raised my order on #193 assuming some spillover in demand, plus the additional sales boost of a new printing of #192 that would be available at around the same time.

And then #193 came out, but not until after the news stories were released that Tuesday, just before New Comics Day, that surprise! The Walking Dead was coming to an end with that very issue.

Now I suppose that retailers were informed that our orders on #193 would be returnable was a vague hint that something special was happing, but my assumption was that the issue would be a follow-up on the main character’s death, and Image wanted folks to bump up sales to take advantage of the sudden increased interest in the title. No clue this was going to be the end of the series, especially given issues past #193 were solicited in the order catalog (a trick I didn’t like with Malibu’s Exiles, and didn’t much care for it now).

I do get the creator’s reasoning, wanting to preserve the surprise, to not want everything showing up on the coomic rack to be “safe” and “predictable.” As a comics fan, I can appreciate that, and even admire the commitment to one’s artistic expression. As a comics retailer, I just look at all the people coming in and calling and emailing and asking for the long sold-out issue and wondering how much money I could have made if I’d known this was the final installment of a popular, long-running series with a huge public profile.

Okay, in fairness, I don’t know that I would have ordered that much more, but I would have bought more than I did. And a significantly non-zero percentage of the people coming in looking for #193 are only going to be interested in first printings. Throwing a different “commemorative” cover on the reprint may help, which it did with the second print of #192, but I had several folks turn their noses up at the very idea of setting for the later editions. I know there’s no predicting whether or not 1) real world news outlets would cover it, and 2) if anyone not already buying comics would care, but I think for The Walking Dead I may have taken a chance.

Oh well, What Can You Do? Again, I’ve no problem with the decision to end the series…I have half a notion that of all the things that have “THE WALKING DEAD™” slapped on it, the monthly comic book series probably made the least money with the most effort, so if that were the case quitting that to focus on other product lines may be the best move. (Then again, the “If Daryl Dies, We Riot” lanyard likely isn’t the money-maker it once was either.) Plus, there’s enough material already extant, packaged in the extensive trade paperback line, which can be (and has been) repackaged in multiple formats to continue selling and reselling. I wonder how long it will be before the inevitable “all your favorite The Walking Dead stories…now in COLOR!” announcement comes along? I’m sure they say “no” now, but wait ’til the income flow dips a bit.

The larger point, and one I’ve made before on this site, and almost certainly will again, is that it can be hard ordering comics. You never know what’s going to be hot or not, until it’s the day before New Comics Day and everyone’s calling for copies of, oh, just to pick a random comic, Marvel Comics Presents #6, a series that barely sells on the shelf and is usually ordered accordingly and thus there’s no way to fill demand. And there’s a second printing coming but that’s not what the demand is for. It’s for that slabbale, eBay-able First Print. Hey, don’t get me wrong, if that’s how you want to enjoy the hobby, more power to you. I’m sometimes just caught off guard by what market forces deem “The Hot Item of the Week!” and it can be a little challenging.

I know there are websites and apps and such that try to inform collectors what the Next Big Deal is, but planning your store orders around that sort of thing may pay off once in a while, but could also require you to expand your storage space to accommodate more unsold product. Betting on “sure things” is not a reliable business model. I already went through 1990s comics retail once, and that was enough. It’s fine taking ordering risks, but I prefer to do so based on information I have, and on what my store can handle, rather than on the assumption that this first appearance, or that variant cover, is going to be picked as the week’s golden ticket, with demand above and beyond reasonable expectations. Thankfully, a number of my customers have been giving me more advance notice on what comics they want and how many of each (I mean, beyond just regular pull lists) and that’s been helping a lot.

So in conclusion…probably could have used more The Walking Dead #193. But that’s okay…everyeone’s moved on to calling and emailing about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #95.

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