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Good thing there wasn’t a Swamp Thing one, else I’d be traveling across the country looking for it.

§ July 16th, 2018 § Filed under dc comics, publishing, retailing § 8 Comments

(NOTE: I’ve been told that these aren’t actually “digest-sized,” which for some reason I got into my head these actually were, similar to the ’80s DC digests. This is why I wanted a copy to look at for myself! Also, I’ve heard from various sources that they’re racked “with the Pokemon and Magic cards near the registers,” and, um, my local Walmarts don’t appear to have those either, unless I’m really missing that particular series of shelves.)

(NOTE TO MY NOTE: So, uh, just ignore every time I call these things “digests,” okay? Thanks!)

So I’ve been trying to track down copies of those Walmart-exclusive DC digests, mostly to have just at least one sample copy I can look at and discuss here on the site, before passing it on to a niece or nephew. Like, I wanted to know the actual dimensions of the thing, its readability at that size (likely extra problematic for me, Mr. Gots Eye Troubles), the paper quality, the story selection, etc. And as it turns out…no dice at two of the Walmarts in my immediate area. Not that I found the DC Digest display bereft of copies, sitting on a shelf somewhere…I couldn’t find any sign that there were any on display at all.

Now, given the, um, state of said local Walmarts, “not finding something” could be said to be the default result of any product search, and it could very well be that they were there, somewhere, diplayed in plain view in a disused lavatory with a sign that read “BEWARE OF THE LEOPARD” Douglas Adams-style, but I checked all the usual spots and didn’t find a thing. So, let us hope that this was a case of the comics finding their target audience (i.e. not me, Elderly Comics Guy) and the empty displays were removed to make room for economy-sized tins of mixed nuts, and not, as was suggested by some Twitter pals, disappeared into the hands of speculators, a possibility I honestly hadn’t considered but…well, yeah, that could’ve happened.

I mean, it’s just as well…these digests are not for me, but to get kids to try out comics. Despite my near-despotic command over comic sales in my area (via my foreboding Camarillo headquarters at Sterling Silver Comics) I realized not every young’un will come through my doors to discover the sublime delights of Swamp Thing and…well, pretty much just that, but kids like comics and if you get them into their hands, they more often than not will devour them. I mean, read them, but get ’em young enough they may very well eat them…it’s just paper, they should be okay. So yes, I’m very much for the idea of getting comics into the hands of new readers via publishing initiatives such as this one. I have zero idea if it’s actually happening around here, since I don’t know if our local Marts of Wals even had ’em, but they’re out there somewhere, presumably getting into young people’s hands and not just being mailed off to Comic Slabbers, Inc. to get graded and traded.

I heard about some comics collectin’ and retailin’ folks getting bent out of shape over these things even existing, for some reason. I mean, yes, there are new stories mixed in with the reprints, but, c’mon, it’s not like DC is going to sit on that Brian Michael Bendis Batman story…that’ll be a trade or a mini-series or something down the line. Or it could just be “there’s something out there I can’t have!” — how dare there be a Collectible Issue #1 of Something we can’t order through our shops. (‘Course, if it were, then we’d hear “$4.99 for a new 12 page story and a bunch of reprints? BAH!”) I mean, whatever…the good these could do versus…basically no valid argument against, I think. Get kids used to the idea of reading comics…that’s a net gain for the industry as a whole! And it’s not like Walmart’s going to “steal” your customers, since most of those kids weren’t going to your shop anyway, but now, maybe, if they decide they want more comics, maybe they’ll seek you out. You never know. And besides, just given my personal experience seeking them out, it’s not like you’re going to find well-curated permanent comic racks in these shops directly competing with you.

Going back to that DC Comics release, i can see a lot of the actual contents of the initial digest wave right there, and it looks like a pretty solid mix of recent-ish stories. Now, the old ’80s DC Comics digest fan in me was kinda sorta hoping for some Silver Age-y or even Bronze Age-ish reprints, but I realize those may come across as a little old fashioned. But man, at the very least I hope they drop some Neal Adams Batman stories into some of these digests, just to blow some kids’ minds. Here’s that Shirtless Batman fighting Ra’s al Ghul you’ve been waiting all six years of your life to read, Little Billy!

Anyway, these digests are fine in theory (assuming others have better luck than me finding them). If it gets some kids to realize that, oh, hey, these just aren’t movie characters, they came from somewhere…good. I hope whoever got their hands on these reads the hell out of them, leaving it with tattered covers and bent pages and happily awaiting even more.

Let me just end this on saying that this pic of an empty digest display pocket (courtesy Twitter pal Joe) leaves me in deep appreciation of some designer’s dark sense of humor, considering the source of the image:

\
“For all my super-speed I wasn’t (choke) fast enough!” …Me neither, Superman — me neither.

Even that first copy of Adventure Comics #247 I ever bought felt like I’d seen it plenty of times before.

§ June 18th, 2018 § Filed under retailing, what is it good for § 13 Comments


One strange aspect of being involved in comics retail for so long (officially 30 years this September)


is that despite all the old comics and collections that have passed through my hands, both at my previous place of employment and at my own shop


and how familiar to me many, many individual issues and covers of other genres of comics have become, DC Comics war titles always seem fresh and new to me.


I’ve held multiple copies of Amazing Fantasy #15, but I’m pretty sure it’s the first time I’ve ever beheld many of these recent war comic acquisitions in person (such as this copy of DC Special Series #13 from 1978).


DC’s war comics don’t turn up in collections very often or in much quantity, at least compared to their superpowered cousins


whether it’s due to copies not surviving, readers not giving up their copies, or simply scarcity from comparatively lower sales (particularly in latter-day examples).


Even the rarest superhero comics have a feeling of “been there, seen it” that the war comics do not, possibly due to the extra coverage they get, the extensive reprinting, the familiarity of the characters and situations.


Occasionally I’ll even find one in a collection I want to keep…the irony, in regards to this discussion, that the comic in question prominently features superhero covers is not lost on me.


But as much as I get that “new to me” feeling from individual DC war issues I rarely encounter, don’t get me started on the Charlton war books.

No, I don’t have a scanner at the register to keep track of sales for me, because I’m an old-timey general store owner from the Wild West.

§ June 15th, 2018 § Filed under market crash, retailing § 3 Comments

So as I was talking to my former boss Ralph about Miracleman orders, as I mentioned last time, I also had a question or two about the actual process of ordering the monthly comics back in the long-ago days of the early 1980s. You may recall that I’d been going through boxes and boxes of Ralph’s old comic company promotional materials from the early days of his shop (something I need to get back to soon, in fact). In the process of doing so, I found several retailer packs filled with order forms and publisher promos and such…no single Previews catalog like we have now, but rather pretty much every publisher supplied their own individual fliers with product information. You’d go through all these, figure out your orders, write the numbers down in the order form supplied by the distributor, and send that in.

I asked Ralph if that was as huge a pain in the ass as it seemed, and he said that, actually, no, it wasn’t. For one thing, there was a lot less monthly product to be ordered. There weren’t hundreds and hundreds of pages to plow through…I don’t have one of those old retailer packs right in front of me at the moment, but if I had to make a rough estimate, at the absolute high end all those different fliers and info sheets probably didn’t total up to more than about 100 pages. In addition, orders were probably a lot more consistent from month to month…no reboots/relaunches/crossover events/variant covers/whathaveyou making you have to ponder and re-ponder your numbers. You’d have to pay attention to things like “who’s drawing this issue?” and “is Wolverine guest-starring?” more than “how many more readers are going to bail on the book with its fifth consecutive first issue in as many years?”

Now, with the Previews catalog slowly becoming multiple booklets (as I somewhat sarcastically commented upon at the beginning of this End of Civilization post), it’s like we’re slowly returning to that time. I only half-jokingly suggested that Dynamite and IDW and so on would get their own separate product info publications…that’s how things used to be done, and maybe could again. At least, until it all goes entirely digital, and I’m squinting at an endless series of downloaded order form PDFs on my computer screen.

Anyway, one thing Ralph mentioned about ordering comics way back when was, a thing that made the actual process easier, was that with the smaller product line it was easier to keep track of things in his head, versus maintaining extensive cycle sheets, on which you could keep track of each title’s orders and weekly sales. That was fine up until the late ’80s/early ’90s comics boom, when numbers on a lot of titles suddenly exploded, and instead of 20 or 30 copies of something, you were suddenly ordering 300 copies. Even at that point, it was theoretically possible to just mentally track the numbers, but once the comics market crash hit…hoo boy.

Now keep in mind that we didn’t know that the crash was “The Crash” as it was initially happening. After a couple of years of huge, nonstop sales — “it’s like our Christmas rush never ended!” I remember saying to someone at the time — a sudden downturn wasn’t seen as an immediate problem. It was like, “oh, That’s Just Retail, it comes and goes, the customers will be back” and orders stayed up…and up, and up, and eventually the lightbulb clicks on over your head and you realize “oh, wait, this is bad.” Particularly with a two or three month lead time between making your orders and receiving them, at a time before distributors had the “Final Order Cutoffs” for retailers to adjust orders on some products a little closer to the actual release dates.

If you look back in my “market crash” category, you’ll see me talking about this sort of thing. What I haven’t mentioned is what my former coworker Rob and I used to do was make notes for Ralph in the Previews or Capital City catalogs (which by this time did exist as a retailing tool, versus all the separate booklets) and make notes next to specific title that we felt had desperately egregious differences between what was ordered and what was left over. In other words, basically saying “for God’s sake, order fewer copies of Spider-Man Unlimited” or whatever. It was this sort of thing that eventually brought us to adopting the full-on cycle sheet method of keeping track of orders versus weekly sales, rather than just depending on memory and the now completely gone consistency of numbers from month to month. Gone were the days of bumping up numbers because “if it doesn’t sell on the rack, surely it’ll sell through as back issues,” which may have been sorta true during the boom, but “cutting numbers to the bone” was the strategy of the day after the crash took full hold.

Today, at my own shop, I use a combination of methods…I don’t necessarily use full cycle sheets, but I do keep track of certain items of note, do regular checks of what is and isn’t moving on the new shelf, and otherwise just keep a close eye on sales. It’s a bit easier when I’m the one man on the job, there every day, seeing how stuff is selling. Everything that leaves the store passes through my hands (well, I mean, let’s hope) so I am directly witnessing how product is moving. It’s still tricky…sales on the previous Venom or Hulk series wouldn’t have given me any clue as to how the new relaunches would sell, for example…but for the most part, everything’s more or less consistent and I’m not having too much trouble staying on top of everything. Now, if there should be another big comics boom, I’d definitely switch everything over to detailed sales tracking, which would be a lot more work, but, you know, a good problem to have…while it lasted.

It’s a miracle I’m still talking about this, man.

§ June 13th, 2018 § Filed under miraclemarvelman, retailing § 1 Comment

Just a brief follow-up on MIRACLEMAN TALK (from this day and this other day)…I did ask my former boss about the comic and the relative scarcity thereof, and once again I called upon his powers of recollection regarding his comic orders from decades ago.

To the best of his memory, while in general his Miracleman orders had dropped as the series went on over the years, his numbers hadn’t varied that much during that end run by Moore and Totleben. In other words, he didn’t suddenly cut orders on #15, purposefully making that the “rare” issue. While delays and such did affect sales a bit, Ralph said that he quite liked Miracleman and wanted to support it. It was generally agreed that the likely explanations for that one issue’s relative scarcity was the reputation it had garnered when it was new and on the shelf, thus bumping up sales to curious readers who hadn’t been following the title before, and in the years that followed said reputation kept the comic out of circulation as, to repeat what I’d said before, it was “hot and rare” because it was “hot and rare” – an assumption of collectability that fed into itself.

Related to the former assumption that some of those #15s that were bought as one-off samplings of the series by folks who didn’t otherwise read the comic is the idea that many of those particular comics were just simply lost or discarded — “ah, I just have the one” [tosses it into the trashcan], that sort of thing. Or perhaps they’re still there, buried in neglected short boxes out in the garage, with tools and pieces of wood and that old tire pump that doesn’t really work all that well but you never seem to get around to buying another one so the old one will do for now, all piled on top of the lid. That’s just talking about the people who dipped in and out again buying the one issue, inflating those rack sales…I’m sure there are plenty of full runs of Miracleman out there equally languishing. I mean, I know I have a set of the series tucked away for another reread after I actually catch up on all the recent comics I’ve not had time to read yet.

Anyway, the scarcity of #15 was borne out by his recollection (and mine, from my years tending the comics mines at that shop) that as far as backstock storage went, Ralph still had leftover unsold stock on most of the Miracleman issues, but didn’t have any #15s. Without cycle sheet information tracking sales at the time, that was our only real indicator of the increased demand for that one issue over the ones around it. Now, whether that was specifically from rack sales or just secondary market demand, that’s hard to say today. (Eventually most of the rest of the stock was sold off, too, as Miracleman went through occasional fits of demand over the years…and of course with the advent of eBay, the stock depleted even further).

So there we go…plenty of assumptions and some distant memories…nothing but the coldest, hardest facts here at Dubba-U Dubba-U Dubba-u Dot Progressively Ruined Dot Weirdcountrycode. Also, as I was talking to Ralph, the topic came up of, as I said, cycle sheets, plus the actual process of ordering back in Ye Olden Dayes, so look forward to that, and more Comic Crash Talk, in the next day or so.

“BLOGGER SHALL NOT KILL BLOGGER.”

§ June 5th, 2018 § Filed under blogging about blogging is a sin, marvel, miraclemarvelman, retailing § 2 Comments

It’s been a long week for me already, and it’s only Monday night/Tuesday morning as I write this, so…well, let me just cover a couple of things:

First, regarding the seeming scarcity of Miracleman #15 that I was discussing when last we met, a discussion with pal Andrew on the Twitters put me onto the Google search for any print run information. This site here seems to have come up with what they call a “rough estimate” of 37,000. Not sure entirely how they came by that number, but it seems reasonable enough to me, given the publisher, the time period, and so on. Now, how many of those copies are still extant, or even in circulation, I’m not sure…that website labels this particular comic as “common,” and I suppose, despite the relative difficulty in the past of turning up copies in stores, there always seem to be plenty on eBay, and I suspect after all this time the number of people looking for it has declined, while the number of available copies have perhaps increased. I mean, I’ve seen two copies pass through my store within the last year or so, while is quite the improvement over the past decade or three of my observations.

Second, speaking of rare comics:


Definitely the first time I had one of these in my hands. Was looking forward to having that iconic cover in my case, but didn’t have it in my possession nearly long enough…like, a few hours at most? Anyway, it’s off to a happy home, but it was neat to have it around at least for a little while. There was an original Hulk #6 in the collection too that also sold, but alas, didn’t have time to take any pictures of that one. As per usual for the original Hulk series, it was a little worse for wear…I bet some mint copies exist somewhere, but never among the many copies I’ve seen over the years. Ah well.

Third, I may again be a little light on content this week, for which I apologize. Still more health things I’m addressing, but I should have another post on Thursday, and then with any luck, a new End of Civilization post next Monday. There, I’ve typed it, I’ve gotta do it now. THAT’S BLOG LAW.

Your regular reminder that I have to sell these things for a living.

§ April 20th, 2018 § Filed under nancy, pal plugging, retailing, superman Comments Off on Your regular reminder that I have to sell these things for a living.

To follow up on my last post, I appear to have ordered just about the right number of Action #1000s, at least to cover the initial rush of sales. The main cover, the one by Jim Lee, was the first…well, second, after the “blank” variant…to sell out, and I had several more requests for it after it was gone. Luckily, that cover (and the blank one) were still available for reorder, so I have more coming in. The other variants, I did have a request or two for them after they were gone, but by and large people just bought one (or, um, two or three) of whatever variants were left. And, right now, I have one copy left of the 2000s variant as I head into Friday. Ah well, I’ll have more early next week, and I expect this will be a consistent seller for at least a little while. But if I hear “do you have any Action #1000s left?” all weekend, I may have to reassess my “ordered about right” assumption.

Now the question I have is “will any of this translate to sales for when Brian Michael Bendis takes over the Super-books,” assuming people like the little taste o’Bendis they got in #1000. I have to place orders for his weekly Man of Steel mini-series right quick, and I’m not entirely sure what they’re going to be just yet. Not like this slew of new Marvel #1s in the same order form, where I’m about 90% certain that we’ll see a small bump in sales on those first issues, then we’ll be right back where we were before. Except maybe Thor, which has a $5.99 price point on that first issue, so Dedicated Fans Only Please, Sorry New Readers Who Might Have Picked It Up. Sheesh.

Anyway, can you tell I spent a chunk of my Thursday working on the monthly orders? Yessiree, I certainly was.

Oh, right, back to Action #1000. Pal Matt pointed out a strange anomaly in the Bendis story from that issue, where the villain of the piece refers to Supergirl as Superman’s “cousinsister.” I noticed that when I was reading, and my initial two thoughts were “maybe that’s supposed to represent some quirk in whatever translation device the alien is using to speak to Superman” (except I don’t see any other examples of that in the dialogue) and “maybe there’s something going on in the Supergirl comic I’m not reading that justifies this strange combined relationship term.” Or, as Matt suggests, just an editing error, but it seems weird that something this blatant would be missed. I mean, it wouldn’t even get past the spellchecker, you’d think. Or it could very well be foreshadowing for some kind of revelation down the road. Whatever, it’s strange and it stood out and maybe there’s an explanation coming, I don’t know. Maybe somewhere Bendis is laughing at us…”how cute, they think that was a mistake!” he chortles.

While we wait for our answer to that, in the meantime why not read the beginning of a new series of articles by one of the best writers I know, pal Andrew, as he starts his look, in his own inimitable fashion, at the Charlton Super-Heroes. This is gonna be good, pals, so get in on the ground floor, Mike said cliché-ishly.

And in other news, a couple of folks dropped a link in my comments section to this article on people arguing over the new Nancy strips I mentioned. Basically, it’s about people who realize current Nancy is very good, versus people who are wrong. That has been the way of the world for decades, I’m afraid.

And to be honest, I’m not 100% sure of “1,006.”

§ April 18th, 2018 § Filed under dc comics, nancy, retailing, superman, swamp thing § 9 Comments

Yes, it’s Action Comics #1000 week, marking the 1,006th issue of that series, including issues #0 and #1,000,000 from the pre-New 52 series, the second New 52 #0, those four lenticular issues #23.1-23.4, and am I forgetting something else? Yeah, probably, but here we are, a Superman comic with #1,000 on the cover, which ain’t nothin’ to sneeze at. I’ve taken a copy home (as promised, the version with Mike Allred’s 1960s tribute cover) and I’ve read it…it’s a nice anthology book, with little space wasted. And yes, the red trunks are back, in every tale in this issue, though their return is never really explained. It is commented upon in the Bendis story, using a variation of a joke I made here and I’m sure was made by everyone else on the planet as well. I hope they never explain it, any more than “eh, I just felt like puttin’ ’em back on. LEMME HAVE MY SPACE PANTS.”

Now, beyond the content, I’m just worried about how it’s going to sell. I won’t go into it all again (that first link above has more detail, if you’re interested) but I ordered what I think should be plenty. I filled the large number of preorders I had, and now, assuming the normal level of extra interest this would attract amongst my regular customer base, I should have enough, unless everyone decides that they have to have the same specific variant cover and shun the other nine covers…then I might have a problem. Or if there’s a news story extolling readers/viewers “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD GO OUT AND BUY THIS COMIC,” in which case I’m totally not prepared. Well, we’ll see. Hopefully reorders will be available if necessary, because a $7.99 price point is a bit too high a price point to be taking a lot of ordering risks.

• • •

Oh, hey, I guess Steven Spielberg is finally going to be making a Blackhawk movie. Pretty sure he first made some noise about this in…the early 1980s, I think? And while I said on the Twitters that I’m hoping for some War Wheel action, I think you’ll all agree with me that what we really want from a Blackhawk film is WEIRD MUMMY INSECTS:


I mean, do you want Just Another World War II movie, or do you want that? Or this? You’re reading this site, I think I can guess your answer. Or your other answer.

• • •

So a while back I was told a new creator took over the Nancy comic strip, and when I looked then it didn’t do anything for me…but it’s starting to grow on me. I think it’s improving, actually, and this nicely Bushmiller-esque strip from the other day has been making the rounds. Granted, there’s something unnatural about Nancy and Sluggo referencing the internet, but then most of Nancy and Sluggo’s world is nightmarishly unnatural, so, you know, what else is new?

• • •

Oh, almost forgot to mention…Swamp Thing will be appeared in Scooby-Doo Team-Up #40 this July:


My Swamp Thing love is so strong, the actual editor of the comic made sure I heard the news back in January. I am genuinely excited about this.

Things to Do in Southern California When Your Power is Out.

§ April 9th, 2018 § Filed under fantastic four, retailing § 4 Comments

Yup, came to work Sunday morning only to discover there was no power coming into my business. Now, for me, that’s not as big of a deal as it could be, since I can still sell comics and make change out of the register and such, so long as things are reasonably visible inside the building and, you know, they could pay cash and not by credit card. Several of my neighbors, what have to prepare food for their clientele, were not so lucky…particularly the Chinese restaurant just next door that was expecting a party of about 50 people. Oof.

Anyway, stuck it out as long as I could, but alas, the shadows encroached too far and it was time to depart. And looking at the parking lot when I left, I was one of the last holdouts. Ah, well, power should be reinstated by 11 PM this evening (as I type this, it’s about 5 PM), so we’ll see what happens.

• • •

So it was announced that the Fantastic Four comic book is coming back, and whether absence has made the heart grow Fantastic-er and people will go for it this time. I would certainly hope so…I would like to read a Fantastic Four comic again, and I’ve had a little feedback from customers along these lines as well. The current Marvel Two-in-One series, featuring the FF’s Thing and Human Torch (and also will continue alongside the new Fantastic Four series), has been doing quite well, particularly for a recent Marvel series launch, which tells me there’s at least some demand for half of the FF, at any rate.

A couple of years back, I wrote a bit about a feasibility of a new FF comic, and about the line one must straddle between “doing new things with the FF which make them feel NOT like the FF” and “oh there’s Dr. Doom and Galactus again.” It’s a weird running-in-place that, to some extent, all mainstream superhero comic have to do…”the illusion of change,” as has been said, and when they do BIG changes, like marrying Spider-Man and Mary Jane, or giving Superman a son, it’s an even bigger to-do to get things changed back, a constant stuffing of worms into their cans.

Not that the Fantastic Four really did go through any kind of big change like this…it felt more like they just kinda wore out their welcome, that nothing was really grabbing folks, so it was time to shuffle them off the board for a while. Now why them specifically and not, say, the Avengers, which could also have used a little time off (aside from the whole movie thing), given that many of Marvel’s longstanding properties could use a bit of rebuffing. One clever way of doing so was “retiring” characters without necessarily retiring them, such as having new people take over as the title character (as in the recent Thor comics) to rebuild interest in a property that had sort of felt a little moribund.

They couldn’t do this with the Fantastic Four, really…the FF is specifically Those Four People, and occasional rejiggerings of said Four usually just serve to remind people, oh, hey, why isn’t, oh, Mr. Fantastic around? (The one possible exception to this was, outside the deliberately-gimmicky “New Fantastic Four” with Ghost Ride an’ such, was She-Hulk’s inclusion on the team.) My idea in that old post I linked was what would have basically been a Thing solo series, with the rest of the FF as back-up characters…maintaining the team dynamic, but making one character the focus and giving at least what would feel like a different perspective on the group. This is sort of what we got in the new Marvel Two-in-One series, with the Thing and Human Torch supposedly seeking the other lost half of their family…it’s a new take on the FF that doesn’t have the “Fantastic Four” logo on the cover and thus doesn’t feel burdened with the expectations that title brings.

That’s a long way of saying “the creative team on this new Fantastic Four have their work cut out for them.” I want it to be good, and I have no reason to think it won’t be. Now will it do well, that’s harder to say. The comics market is still a bit unstable, and new titles, even with long-established characters, are struggling to survive. I’d like to think a comic starring the Fantastic Four, as quote-unquote “Marvel’s First Family,” would be above such economic concerns, that they would always have a starring role with the publisher, but sad to say the world doesn’t work like that. I really do hope for the best here…I’d love a good Fantastic Four book on the stands again. We’ll just have to see how everything shakes out.

And yeah, I know, it’ll have a big ol’ “#1!” on the cover. What should the actual issue number be now? It’s #646, I think…unless they want to add all the Future Foundation comics to the total and get it closer to #700 before going to #1. I mean, at this point, why not?

Yes, “buck” is supposed to be singular.

§ March 28th, 2018 § Filed under blogging about blogging is a sin, retailing § 7 Comments

Hey, I keep forgetting to mention that Mike over at Zombie Cat Bacon is doing a rundown of comics blogs linked at a couple of the weblog update sites (such as the immortal Comics Weblog Update-a-Tron 3000) and seeing who’s active, who’s not, who’s moved on to other formats, who’s transcended this world of pain, who’s naughty, who’s nice, and so on. That link up there goes to the most recent post, but the previous installments are mostly on the main page and the next page back.

It’s interesting, if a little…I don’t know, melancholy I guess, since a lot of the folks I thought of as “my fellow comics bloggers” have, probably wisely, found other things to do, leaving me and a few others as the last standing members of the old folks…er, old guard still doing whatever it is we think we’re doing. Meanwhile, you young folks with your Tumblrs and your Mastodons and your Snapgrams will forge ahead with your New and Now comics commentary while I’m still posting about how comics aren’t like how they were back when I was a kid, while trying to open up my Geritol with my weak, gnarled hands.

Of course comic blogging is all going to end with Johanna and I fighting each other with broadswords on a desert plateau somewhere, while Neilalien looks sadly down upon us from whatever multidimensional plane to which he’d long since ascended.

• • •

Here, let me write a little about comics so it’s not just blogging about blogging again:

One of the recent comics retail phenomenons is of course the recent increase in demand for issues leading up to The Big Anniversary Issues, Action Comics #1000 and Amazing Spider-Man #800. To a small extent, some of the sales increase, at least in the case of Marvel’s books, may be attributable to the gradual rise in purchases due to the recent, and already about to be rescinded, “Marvel Legacy” initiative, as I wrote about here. In the case of Spidey’s book, however, the primary reason seems to be a combination of whatever is going on the Green (or, rather, Red) Goblin, a new evolution of a classic Marvel villain, plus the fact that Amazing Spider-Man sales had been kinda eh lately which means a “scarcity” of copies in comparison to the number of people trying to get their hands on them. They’re Hot, They’re Rare, People Snap Lots of Copies off Shelves, They’re Even Rarer and Hotter Now. You know the cycle.

Action Comics I’ve certainly noticed a small bump in sales as we approach #1000, but not quite the same “hotness” since I’ve had pretty good luck getting reorders on recent issues. A nice side effect is that the lenticular covers for the “Oz Effect” storyline, which, er, I may have had a few extras for and thus left on the rack, are selling again.

Now the trick of course, as has been noted, is trying to figure out how these titles are going to sell after hitting the big double and/or triple zero milestone…made especially trickier as we’ve got some changes in status quos coming to both (yet another relaunch for one, Big Name Writer for the other). As I’m pretty sure I’ve already discussed somewhere already (oh, wait, it was here), the relaunched Spider-Man I’m going to have a lot easier time figuring numbers on (the assumption being that ASM sales will likely shrink back to where they were before), while for Bendis coming onto Superman, I’m going to have to extend all my sales-estimating powers. I think it’ll do well at least at first, but how well, for how long? That’s what they pay me the big buck to figure out, so let’s hope I can.

For the love of God, I hope they’re not eating the gum.

§ March 19th, 2018 § Filed under retailing, trading cards § 6 Comments

So I haven’t done a whole lot with trading cards at my store since opening up a tad over three years ago. I think I maybe a box of some Marvel set in 2015 that slowly, eventually sold out. It was a trend I noticed at the previous place of employment, too…the nonsport cards just weren’t doing all that great for us. I mean, sure, the game cards did fine, your Magic and your Pokemon and your Spellfire and your Galactic Empires, that’s a different story. But your “110 More Tiny Pictures of Wolverine” card sets, those just seem…passé of late.

I mean, nothing against them. I’d like them to sell, and new sets still come out once in a while, so they’re selling somewhere, but it’s not like how it was in ye olden dayes. (Okay, yeah, I know, comics themselves don’t sell like they used to, either.) But we’re a long way from when we’d get in multiple cases of whatever the newest Marvel Universe set was, and we’d just put a stack of full boxes of packs up by the register and watch the impulse buys happen and that stack disappear. In the ’80s and ’90s, it seemed like everybody bought cards. I even still have a few binders of sets I put together back then…the all-chromium set of Golden Age comic book covers is still a weird favorite of mine.

For the longest time, the nonsport cards…well, okay, let me stop being coy, specifically the Marvel cards…were like sports cards. Lots of people coming in and asking about them, but never because they wanted to buy any. It was almost exclusively “what are mine worth?” and “will you buy them?” Rarely did the words “Boy, I would sure like to purchase any available sets of Marvel Universe Series IV you may have!” echo throughout our showroom, which didn’t exactly encourage us to stock card sets in any kind of depth. And we did have card sets (again, still talking about the previous place of employment)…had a small glass case with a number of sets and chase cards prices out and displayed, but only rarely did they move.

Shortly after I opened my new shop, I had someone bring in a collection of still-sealed boxes of nonsport cards (Marvel and otherwise) that I did okay with selling online. Usually not for a lot of money, but they sold, so the demand was there…the boxes just had to be cheap. And recently, an old friend of mine began to liquidate some of his collection, and asked me to sell his card product: full boxes, autographed cards, and even some of those slabbed, graded single cards. It was from his collection that I obtained this box of Dune cards you may have seen me post about on the Twitters:


…which ended up selling for about $40, which…well, that ain’t nuthin’, but when first I saw that I figured “ah geez, a hundred bucks easy!” until I looked at the eBay card market and eh, that wasn’t going to happen. But still, that’s $40 we didn’t have before, and for a full box of relatively recent trading cards, that ain’t too bad, I guess. I sold a bunch of boxes of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? cards for about $15 each, which doesn’t seem like much, but eventually you’d just rather have the $15 a pop than multiple boxes sitting in a storage room somewhere.

Just the other day, my friend brought me another box of unopened card boxes, including this set which I don’t even remember:


I mean, I imagine I would have remembered at least the typo on the lid (“FANS-tastic,” indeed) but it’s possible that 1) it was a while ago, and there’s probably plenty of card product I just don’t remember, or 2) there was so much card product that we couldn’t order everything, so we passed on this one. As far as I can tell, there weren’t even fancy chase cards randomly packed in this series, which would have been especially odd in 1991, I think. Anyway, like most sets from the manufacturer Comic Images, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of “collectors’ market” online demand for sealed boxes.

However, the new few sets seem to do have demand, selling for…well, not quite original retail, or maybe thereabouts, but certainly not the $1.29 I’ve seen some other card boxes sell for (Desert Storm cards, anybody?).

I remember the Marvel Masterpieces cards being quite the hot ticket back in the day:


…as people were really taken with the look of these cards, and, as I recall, they were quite nice. Seeing the full, sealed box like this does twinge the ol’ nostalgia nerves, I have to admit.

The thing about the next two sets:


…is not just that the design and color of the boxes attracted attention, but the size. This goes for that Masterpieces box, too…these were wee little tiny boxes, palm-sized and basically just shouted to customers “Look how small and cute we are! C’mon, don’t mess with packs, just buy us by the full box!” I can’t help but think this really encouraged the impulse buys at the time…just made them psychologically easier and more appealing to justify purchasing, over the big ol’ unwieldy Comic Images boxes with the 48 fat packs and a not-zero amount of air.

And as it turns out, there’s still a pretty good aftermarket for these as well. Not that I’ve sold mine yet, but sales histories for the sets seem to show that there have been multiple sales at significantly better than close-out prices, so with any luck it’s just a matter of time.

None of this means, of course, that there’s any sort of potential improvement in the marketplace for new trading card sets that’ll sell to store walk-in traffic. Those are different circumstances, but still, maybe I’ll try out a new card set or two just to see how they do. The 1990s market is never coming back, but it shouldn’t hurt too much to poke at the edges of the 2018 market. so long as one pokes wisely.

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