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And don’t get me started on that whole “Gold Lantern” nonsense.

§ August 5th, 2020 § Filed under retailing § 8 Comments

So theoretically on sale today at a comic shop near you:

Thor #3 3rd printing, already listed on eBay for anywhere from $8 to $13, though some deals are still to be had

Thor #4 2nd printing, selling for between $10 and $20 on eBay, with a “virgin variant” listed for $50

Star Wars: Bounty Hunters #1, also on the eBays for between $10 and $20

I was getting calls for all of these starting, of course, a day or two before release, too late for me to adjust orders for demand. And look, I’ve said it before…it’s not how I collected comics, but if you’re into it for speculation, well, it’s your money, you know? However you want to enjoy the hobby, fine.

But I wonder if this isn’t sabotaging some of these series. Like, if you want to read the new Thor title but came to it late, unless you’re specifically asking the shop to hold those issues for you, you’re not gonna get your mitts on the reprints of whatever you’re missing if you just take your chances wandering into the shop. That’s bad for the store, because if potential readers can’t catch up on a title they’re interested in, they’re not going to continue reading it. And the folks buying those reprints just to flip them online aren’t going to continue buy the series, so it’s not like they’re going to make up for lost readership.

(I know the solution for consumers is to buy digital — fat lot of good that does me — or waiting for the trade, which isn’t as popular a solution for folks wanting to buy the periodicals as you might want, or hope, to think.)

The answer would seem to be “order lots more of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th printings” but that’s a good way to waste money on dead stock if the whims of the marketplace don’t dub said reprint a “collectible.” And honestly, it seems almost random. A look at eBay listings for Star Wars: Darth Vader #2 2nd printing, also out this week, are mostly at cover price or less (though at least one outlier is going for $7).

I mean, I suppose it’s not entirely random…that Bounty Hunters comics has a cool Boba Fett cover, pictured above, and Mandalorians are all the rage right now. And those Thor #4s are being pushed as “1st Black Winter,” so I guess it’s mildly important, or something? But it’s hard to tell what’s going to get pointed at with the magical investment finger, turning something from “should sell okay, for a reprint” to “comic-shaped cloud of dust left on the rack where those comics used to be.”

And yes, I know there are sites and apps that do this sort of thing, which is what’s encouraging this kind of comic shopping. But even if I kept tabs on those, it still wouldn’t help because any increased demand those may inspire doesn’t materialize until, as I noted above, a day or two before the comic is actually due out. It would still be a crapshoot of “should I order more of this? Or more of that?” and hope I pick the right ones.

In conclusion, that sounds like a lot of griping, but mostly I just wanted to describe some of the thoughts I have to have when ordering comics. It’s a lot of juggling of numbers and potential scenarios and basically a lot more effort than a reprint of a two-month-old comic would really warrant, but that’s why they pay me the big bucks, I suppose. And if you’re wondering…yes, I ordered just a few extra of those Thors, as I’d been noticing that demand for them. Now did I get enough to satisfy the investors and have enough left over for the readers? I don’t know…we’ll just have to see.

The joke could very well end up being on me.

§ August 3rd, 2020 § Filed under retailing § 7 Comments

So ordering this Batman: Three Jokers series reminds me to some extent of what I went through when I was ordering that first issue of Superman Unchained at the previous place of employment. In short, I was attempting to balance what I was spending on a larger order versus the money I could make selling the comic including the premium values obtained by selling the rare-ish variant covers (the 1 in 100s, the 1 in 300).

Ultimately…I don’t remember exact numbers, but yes, the large amount of this book I ordered did turn into a significant profit, especially with the added sales of those pricey variants. It did leave us with some excess of that first issue, which left me wondering if perhaps I ordered closer to the bone, worrying less about the variant covers, I could have still achieved a similar money spent vs. profit made radio. Probably less money made overall, to be sure, but leaving us with less waste (especially since Superman Unchained had a short run and now when was the last time anyone asked for back issues on it?)

I don’t like taking big risks like that. In the case of Superman Unchained #1, I worked out numbers ahead of time and felt like, maybe on this rare occasion, we could possibly stick our collective neck out a bit and go for the variant gusto. But by and large, in a marketplace that is still in some sense recovering from the excess of the 1990s boom and the following crash, “ordering too much shit” is not a strategy comic shops should really be practicing. The advantage is, well, not having too much shit left over. The disadvantage is when the investor apps and sites call out “HEY! Unicycle Tragedy #87 features the first appearance of Some Guy in a Red Shirt in panel 3 on page 10″ and suddenly customers who had never even heard of Unicycle Tragedy before this are calling and emailing the day before release to get 5 or 10 copies of that issue…well, needless to say, you don’t have the stock to fill the demand.

As such, my general ordering style is “don’t go crazy, and if it sells out and you need more, order more.” And if you need to get second or third or fourth prints, so be it (assuming they’re not snapped up by investors, too…see current reprints of Thor).

But once in a while, you gotta take a chance on something, and this time around it’s this Three Jokers thing. …For those of you who don’t remember, and who can blame you because it was like three Justice League relaunches ago and at least one line-wide reboot, there was some League/New Gods hoohar where Batman gets hit butt into Metron’s Mobius chair and asks its all-knowing computer “what is the Joker’s real name?” and the chair tells him “whoa, dude, there are like three Jokers” and yes I’m paraphrasing. Also, Batman didn’t ask how many Jokers there were, we wanted names, man, so the chair should have just spit out three names, right? Right. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

Anyway, this was somehow only four years ago, but feels like an eternity, particularly since 2020 alone feels like its entering its second decade. But here it nearly is, the long-awaited series that’s following up on that Justice League plot point. And boy, how to order this.

Let’s keep in mind I’m a smallish shop, surrounded on all sides by shops in neighboring towns (and also surrounded by elephants, but that’s another story), so my initial estimate on sales for this book, in the now semi-popular Black Label Format That Batman’s Penis Built™ were higher than normal for that line from DC, but not excessively so.

Then DC had to go and gum up the works by offering variant covers. Yes, the usual 1/25 variant, and the 1/100 variant…plus the standard issue, order ’em at whatever quantity you’d like, variants , of which there are two “main” covers. Okay, that’s all well and good, but they’re also offering “premium” variants. I go into this on some detail on my store’s webpage, where you can see the covers for #1 plus my hardsell to get folks to buy ’em.

The deal with the premium variants is that unlike the ratio variants, you can just order want you want on each…so long as you order a minimum of a certain number of copies of each of the three premium variants. That may not seem like a big deal to the bigger stores and chains, but getting so many extra comics on top of the numbers I was already planning on ordering…well, that seemed a bit much. And if enough stores in the area do it, Three Jokers will be flowing freely through the streets.

But then I saw the covers, and I thought “ah geez, if I don’t have these on my rack, someone else will,” and besides, now that I’ve see the covers…I think these are probably going to sell great. Plus, it’s Joker…Joker comics always sell. I can see these selling off the shelves for quite a while. I’m particularly taken with that Red Hood variant pictured above, which will likely be my cover of choice once I get to pull a copy for myself.

And like Superman Unchained, I can subsidize the cost with the rare variants. So…I mean, this isn’t a sure thing. If the local market is flooded with these, I may not sell my stock on these right away, though if you followed the link to my site you saw how I’m already asking people to pay ahead of time for sets of these, and I’ve had a few takers, so there’s that. But I think these should do well. And if they don’t…well, assuming the first issue isn’t late, I’ll still have time to adjust orders on #2 if the debut installment is a dud.

I’ll tear off those sketch cover overlays to get a sale, I don’t even care.

§ July 13th, 2020 § Filed under marvel, retailing § 6 Comments

So over the last couple of days I’ve been grading and pricing a big ol’ pile of Thor comics spanning over the last couple of decades. Some of them reminded me of that period of Marvel (mostly improved now) where the covers were just generic images of the hero, indicating nothing of the story inside. It’s like Marvel was resigned to the idea that the only people buying their comics were the people who were going to buy their comics anyway. They might has well have had a generic of Thor on the front and just changed the issue number with each new release. (Amazing Spider-Man had a problem with that, too.)

Well, this new variant cover style, debuting this week from Marvel, has me wishing for the Good Ol’ Days of “Cover #14 in A Row of Spider-Man Swinging on His Web” —

Um…that’s not terribly inspiring. I saw some folks online (and one of my customers, who called me Sunday to ask about these) saying they thought this was just a fill-in graphic, holding the space in various catalogs and online databases. But nope, that appears to be the actual cover.

This was probably information that was revealed a while back, but I’ve been otherwise occupied and didn’t follow up on this whole “On Sale Wednesday” variant stuff after first seeing them as line items on an order form. I don’t tend to order a whole lot of Marvel’s “free to order” variants anyway, since most folks just want the regular cover, so I shouldn’t be stuck with too many of these. I did mention on the Twitters that maybe these’ll be like the “sketch” cover variants, with just an extra wraparound cover stapled over the regular cover. If that’s the case, and the “On Sale Wednesday” covers do end up not selling, I can just tear off the overcovers and vee-ola, Regular Cover Amazing Spider-Mans for sale!

And anyway, what exactly is the point of these? Marvel thumbing its nose at DC because DC changed their on-sale day for new products to Tuesday? A reminder to customers “hey we’re putting out new comics again, come get them every Wednesday unless the shipping company delayed the package or the distributor shorted the retailer copies.” Not sure how much of a burn it is in the former, and, well, kinda preaching to the converted in the latter. But here’s Yet Another Variant™ to order, because goodness knows there weren’t enough already.

I have no idea if Gilgamesh II is even still available.

§ June 8th, 2020 § Filed under dc comics, fakeapstylebook, real world stuff, retailing § 10 Comments

So…it still feels weird to be writing about comics right now. Things continue to be in a huge state of upheaval, folks are remaining angry (and rightfully so) and even as changes to the system are appearing to be slowly progressing, the pushback is still hurting folks and costing lives. If you wish to contribute to resources helping out Black people, this list is a good place to start (which also includes support for the gay and transgendered). There may be organizations local to you that could use help as well. I know wallets are pretty much emptied after months of state shutdowns, and you might not be able to donate. At the very least, promote resources like those linked above, and be vocal in your support of those in need of it.

• • •

So the comic news that’s kinda hard to ignore even with everything else going on is the fact that DC Comics is bailing entirely on Diamond Comics as a distributor of its product.

Okay, when DC decided to start distributing their items through a couple of other sources during Diamond’s shutdown, I figured things were going to change for the industry. Mostly I thought we’d see a lot more publishers, mostly indie types, deciding to either split from Diamond themselves, or at least wholesale their items directly to retailers in addition to offering them through the usual system. Mostly, I anticipated having to go through a half-dozen catalogues and cut separate checks to everyone every week, like The Good Ol’ Days. However, I didn’t anticipate DC leaving Diamond entirely. That came as bit of a shock.

Still not sure what the ultimate impact of this will be to the industry as a whole, or to me personally. I mean, aside from not knowing when the new DCs will arrive each week. Hard to meet DC’s new Tuesday on-sale time when I don’t get the books ’til a few hours before closing that day. The actual process of ordering from this other distributor is fairly easy, and I noticed they changed the user interface to make things more organized and convenient. Items don’t always get listed in alphabetical order, which I would prefer, but they weren’t at Diamond either so I’ll live. [EDIT: Oh wait, now that I look at the new distributor’s website with newly cleared vision, following the most recent eyeball procedure, I can see there are teeny tiny buttons that let me change the ordering of the lists. NEVER MIND]

Plus, I’ve yet to experience a single damage or shortage on DC product from this other distributor, so that’s a nice change. I am curious about backlist titles, as so far the only older items the new distributor has is whatever they had come in since they started shipping out DC books to retailers in April. I presume eventually more books (and older comics) will move over there, but far as I can tell I can still order that product from Diamond. Wonder how long that’ll last? Will DC buy it all back from Diamond to move to their other outlets, or is Diamond going to be stuck trying to sell those Gilgamesh II graphic novels ’til the end of time?

Also of concern is the financial impact on Diamond. With the loss of one of its two biggest vendors, that’s gotta cause the ol’ pursestrings to be tightened a little. I presume that means fewer employees manning phones and packing/shipping product, but there’s also less product to be packed/shipping, so maybe it’ll all balance out? I suspect we’ll see soon enough. I know Diamond told retailers directly that losing one vendor, even a large one like DC, is something they could ride out, and I can believe it. So long as Marvel doesn’t Heroes World-it again and also depart, I suspect we’ll still have Diamond to kick around a while longer.

On the personal side of things, my business has been doing…okay so far now that I’ve been able to reopen. Most days have been having normal business, though my Wednesdays have been pretty short of what they once were. Almost by necessity, since new comic shipments are only a fraction of what they once were, and Marvel’s only shipping a handful of titles every other week. As my former boss Ralph once told me, decades ago, “as Marvel goes, so goes the industry,” and it certainly feels like it’s Marvel that drives the folks in the door each week for their fix. Anything else can wait ’til it’s convenient to show up, but the new Avengers and Amazing Spider-Man must be bought right away.

The big question coming up is Batman #92, which prior to the COVID-19 shutdowns was The Big In-Demand Comic, what with that issue’s focus on the new villain Punchline. I’d actually ordered quite a bit on that, expecting a rush, plus having to meet the demands of advance requests for multiple copies, etc. Now I’m wondering it that same demand has maintained itself over our extended break? I’m curious to see. I’ve also noticed a decrease in Random Hot Books, where there’s one comic nobody expected, or ordered a lot of, that suddenly everyone wants so they can flip it on eBay or whatever. Last week was the first example of this in a while (the “B” cover for most recent installment of Blackwood, selling for around $30 online the day of release). Oh, this crazy business.

• • •

In other news, Fake AP Stylebook has come back for the nonce, in our time of greatest need. Yes, I’m writing for it again. Probably not getting another book deal out of this comeback, but that’s okay, we’re doing it out of love. And bitterness. And just pure, unadulterated sarcasm. Anyway, no one stopped us, so it’s back. We regret nothing.

For the loosest definition of the word “lucky.”

§ May 29th, 2020 § Filed under retailing § 3 Comments

So it’s been a week since I was allowed to reopen my shop to customers, and so far, so good. Everyone’s being careful, maintaining distance and wearing masks, and happily shopping. I’m not quite as busy as I was before the shutdown at the end of March, but I’m still doing fairly good business.

One problem is that I’d been adjusting orders on my comics based on being closed to public access. Being told Thursday of last week that I could open again caught me by surprise, so I don’t have quite the amount of new stock that I would prefer to have for folks browsing the shelves. That’s not to say I had nothing, but my stocked copies on the new arrivals racks were perhaps not as deep as I would have liked. Now as it turns out, and as I noted, I’m not getting the foot traffic I normal get just yet, as folks are gradually getting used to the idea of venturing outside their homes again, but I did have to place a handful of reorders just to make sure I got the demands of the walk-ins I do have covered. It’s a fine line I’m walking here.

Speaking of orders, Diamond’s shipments for these last two weeks have been relatively small, so this week’s New Comics Wednesday was not the usual Big Register Take that I’m generally used to, but that’s okay. My Diamond bills aren’t all that high either, so as long as the sales on the new books pay for themselves, I should be in good shape.

Now the DCs…as you’d likely heard, DC started using alternative distribution outside of Diamond to start getting their books into shops a few weeks prior to Diamond’s reopening. And the distributor I’ve been using I’m mostly happy with. No damages, no shortages, good customer service, bulletproof packing…the only problem is the shipper they’re using. This distributor’s comic shipments are supposed to show up on Monday, so that the DCs may be put out for sale on Tuesday. I think I’ve had one of their boxes actually show up on Monday once. In fact, this week, I didn’t get the new DCs until several hours into my Wednesday. I like the idea of having alternatives to Diamond, but I’m going to have to transition my new DC orders back to Diamond just so there’s a better chances of having my books on time. I’ll likely do reorders and such from the other distributor, but time-sensitive stuff needs time-sensitive service, and I’m just not getting that.

When it comes to the actual racking of the new books, it’s a little trickier I have one shelf on the rack for the “New This Week” books, and the two shelves beneath hold all the books that came out the last week of March (the last Diamond shipment before their shutdown, released a week after I had to close the store’s doors) through New Comics Day of last week (which turned out to be the last day I had to be closed). I plan to continue racking things this way for a could of weeks so that as my customers return, they’ll have an easier time picking out what they have have missed while I was closed and they were away. Thankfully I have sufficient shelving space to accommodate this sort of behavior.

So, all in all, I seem to be doing okay and heading back to at least semi-normal business. I don’t want to say for sure my business made it through this crisis, because it ain’t done yet (and may not be for a while, if the folks demanding they be allowed to be disease vectors get their way) but there’s reason to at least be a tad hopeful.

• • •

IN OTHER SITE NEWS: Okay, there was a typo in Monday’s post title. It’s fixed now. And there are probably typos in this week’s post. COLLECT ‘EM ALL

Also, I did have a post ready to go for Wednesday…but I scheduled it way ahead of time, never bothered to check if it did load, and when I logged into my admin pages, I got a notice that publication failed for whatever reason. But it’s up now in all its glory. …So, two new posts for today! Ain’t you lucky?

I know I promised something funny this time.

§ May 22nd, 2020 § Filed under retailing, sterling silver comics § 10 Comments

So Wednesday afternoon, a lady from the city came by to make sure my store had all the proper COVID-19 awareness signage and procedures in place, telling me that she hopes to get the go-ahead to let stores open to the public again by the weekend.

Thursday morning I received an email from the city, telling me “so long as you did [all the things the lady on Wednesday told me to do], open on up.” And that’s how Sterling Silver Comics is once again open to walk-in business, so long as you’re wearing a mask and trying to stay at least six feet away from anyone else.

I mean, that was a complete surprise to me. It was only a week or so ago that we got the okay to do curbside pickup. I was sure I’d have to keep my doors locked during the day for about another month or two. Huh, go figure. At least now I have a fightin’ chance at paying those invoices I was worrying about last time.

It’s welcome news, I mean, at least financially for me. But it’s really going to depend on how well people continue to protect themselves, and not get lax about it just because things look like they’re returning to some semblance of “normal.” First guy in the door on Thursday, a longtime customer of mine, didn’t have a mask…I told him next time he’s gotta wear one, and since he’s not one of these “BUT MY FREEDOMZ” disease-vectoring yahoos I’ve been seeing on the news, he agreed. Rest of my customers that day were sufficiently covered however.

All this said, I’m still offering curbside pickup and mail order as options, if folks would rather not venture in public spaces, which I totally understand. Plus I’m still doing these 30 for $20, or 75 for $45, packs of random comics, because I’m trying to clear out my backroom. And I’m taking your want lists, and I’m still putting stuff up on this Google sheet in lieu of an actual database, so let me know if you want anything off there.

Look, I wasn’t trying to trick you into reading an ad for my store. But these are hard times for comic shops, and even though I was lucky to hang in there so far during this epidemic, I still need to shore up the ol’ cash flow.

Sigh. You know, when I first started this blog I wasn’t planning on ever bringing up that I worked in a comic shop. Now look at me.

I’ll try to post something funny next time.

§ May 20th, 2020 § Filed under retailing, sterling silver comics § 1 Comment

This is the week that the major comics distributor, Diamond Comics, is starting up said distribution again, getting new comics into shops. After having relatively small shipments of just new DC Comics over the last few weeks from an alternative distributor, I suppose it was time to start gearing up the shop for these larger shipments coming in…though as it turned out, even Diamond is moving slow at first, easing back into the business.

Now Diamond wasn’t shut down entirely over the last couple of months, as they were still distributing reorders so long as you asked for them to be directly shipped from the warehouse…as opposed to having them sent with your regular weekly shipments, of which there had been none of late. My mistake, of course, was that the day before Diamond announced it was putting their weekly shipment on hold, I put in a largish reorder that I asked to have sent with the weekly deliveries. And of course there were lots of special requests in that reorder, so I had a lot of apologizing to do to those customers (all of whom were understanding and patient, thankfully).

The big issue is being able to take in enough income to cover the invoice costs each week. Not a problem right now, with small shipments (in fact, pretty much covered the week’s new comics costs with just my Tuesday sales), but based on coming weeks, it looks like New Comic Days will be approaching pre-shutdown levels. The trick here is that my store, like many retail stores in California (and elsewhere in the country) I’m closed to public access by government decree. I can do curbside pickup, so I’m very much encouraging folks to take that option and get their comics right quick so I can keep paying those gimmicks they keep sending in the mail called bills.

Again, not much of an issue now, but if I’m gonna be getting new larger Diamond invoices and I’m still keeping the customers out..well, that’s gonna be rough. The good news is that I did finally receive some financial assistance from the Binc Foundation…not, like, enough to keep my store afloat for months or anything, but hey, it ain’t nuthin’ and it’ll come in handy. Now if I could get that Paycheck Protection Program money or that Small Business Administration disaster relief grant, I’d be in a lot better position. Pretty sure cruise lines got all the PPP money, but maybe they’ll find some spare change behind the cushions in the chairs in their lobby to cover my payroll…which is, like, me. I’d like to, you know, maybe pay myself again someday.

Okay, it’s not quite as dire as all that…early indications are that my good and kind customer base are all ready to throw their comic dollars at me to keep me around, which is nice. And I’m keeping a close eye on orders, making sure things are cut down enough to not overwhelm me with costs, but not so much that I don’t have anything to sell. It’s a tricky line to straddle, but it’s gotta be done.

I mean, with any luck, like Diamond’s promotion for their return says, my comeback will be bigger than my setback, but it’ll take a while to get there. Like I said when all this started, I think for me, personally, Diamond ceasing distribution for a brief period was the wise choice, as it didn’t stick me with weeks and weeks of full orders I wouldn’t be able to move and fulls invoices I wouldn’t be able to pay. But I know that likely stuck stores that were still able to remain open with vastly reduced incomes while having to make rent and payroll and pay utilities, etc. Not sure Diamond had a whole lot of options, and I’m sure none of the options they did have would have made everyone happy.

As far as I can tell at this point, my business will be able to make it through this, which is very lucky for me. A lot of other comic shops, and just businesses in general, won’t, and it’s just a damn shame things had to get this bad.

A few years ago we could’ve called it the “Curbside New 52 Pickup.”

§ May 8th, 2020 § Filed under retailing, sterling silver comics § 2 Comments

So the big news is that California is entering “Phase 2” of their gradual reopening of the state, allowing certain low-risk businesses to partially reopen, so long as they follow certain restrictions and guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.

What this means is that I can now offer curbside service to customers, allowing them to drive up and pick up comics and whatnot that I can carry out to them. It’s going to be a slightly convoluted process as I juggle taking payments and handing out product, but I don’t expect it’s going to necessarily be a lot of pickup service until the new comics start coming out in force later this month. It’s good that I have an additional option outside of mail order to make money, as those new comic shipments come with new comic invoices that I’ll have to pay. But, I’ve been watching my order numbers, trying to keep things down to a dull roar, and hopefully I can ride things out ’til people are actually allowed in the shop again (which I’m sure will come with its own parade of regulations to which I’ll have to comply).

Speaking of mail order, I’m of course still doing it, shipping out to environs far and wide, and close to home to if you don’t want to venture out of the bunker to get yer funnybooks. And I recently expanded my 30 for $20 random recent-ish comic deal, announcing on Twitter my 75 for $45 offer. Yes, that’s a (slightly) better per-unit price! And again, this is for recent stuff, not, you know, 75 copies of Silver Age X-Men or whatever. I recently added a whole bunch more stock to the piles from which I’m pulling for these packages, so if you’ve ordered before, feel free to order again! Help me clear some boxes out of the back room! PayPal all your money to mike (at) sterlingsilvercomics (dot) com! (Prices include domestic shipping…offer available outside the U.S., but contact me first re: shipping.)

And I’m still slowly added comics to this Google doc, so you can least get an idea of what back issues I have. Again, this is just going through the new arrival boxes so far, and I have lots more than what’s just listed here. Feel free to send me your own want lists and I’ll check through ’em fast as I can!

Okay, sorry, this post turned into an ad, pretty much. But I am concerned about generating some income, especially with new invoices heading my way on a regular basis. Even with curbside sales, that’s still just one more barrier between me and the customer, and even the slightest obstruction between “I want to buy comics” and “I want to sell you comics” can slow sales down significantly.

Thankfully, however, my customers have been helpful and generous and staying in contact with me, and that certainly means a lot. Not just for keeping my business afloat, but for making me feel like my weird little business is still important.

Anyway, if you’re in my store’s neighborhood, drive by! Let me throw some comics through your car window!

Look, just go read the entire Wikipedia article on Deathmate.

§ May 1st, 2020 § Filed under market crash, publishing, retailing, valiant § 4 Comments

So the other day I saw that comics artist Dan Panosian had posted a photo from the Deathmate promotional tour he and other artists did in the 1990s. (Here’s another pic showing more of the particpants.)

For those of you who weren’t there in the comics field during the ’90s, or were there and have since buried those memories. Deathmate was a high-profile intercomany crossover event between Image Comics and Valiant Comics. It…had some scheduling issues, shall we say, mostly on the Image side, with one chapter (Red, as they were IDed by color not issue number) coming out after the Epilogue. End result…sold well at first, then customers just kinda gave up on it partway through, leaving retailers with plenty of unsold copies.

I’ve noted Deathmate on this site here and there before, mostly in the context of how it was a symptom of/contributor to the comics market crash of the ’90s. I remember having boxes of these things in the back, and aside from a very brief flurry of interest in Deathmate Black due to it having an early appearance of the now mostly-forgotten Gen13, there were no aftermarket sales. Well, okay, that’s not entirely true, at one point at the previous place of employment we brokered a deal to sell 100,000 copies of our overstock to someone-or-‘nother for literally pennies apiece, and thus were we rid of these things. We got a nickel each, and we were glad for it.

Anyway, back to the tweet…I retweeted Mr. Panosian’s tweet with the comment about how “I’m here for Deathmate content,” which amused him. In the ensuing exchange we had (in which I assured him I wasn’t making fun, I’m genuinely interested in this period of comics) he asked “did it ever finish?”

Okay, you know publishers done screwed up when the folks who worked on the comics don’t even know if the series ever completed. I let him know “well, yes, technically” and that was that.

What amazes me most about Deathmate is how it should have been a slam dunk. Valiant was red hot, Image was red hot, a series pairing up all their characters written and drawn by strong creative teams (and they were!) should’ve sold like each copy was bagged with an original Incredible Hulk #181. And as I recall, the initial installments sold very well…and dropped off almost immediately after that. Even I tried only the first couple of issues and gave up (I think primarily because I was interested in the Valiant characters, but not so much the Image ones). The long delays on many of the books didn’t help, and despite it being emphasized that you could read the installments in any order, that apparently wasn’t true. All in all, it turned out to be a huge mess, and you should really read former Valiant honcho Bob Layton’s thoughts on the topic.

I am curious if any of you folks out there braved the entire series. My opinion of the project is based somewhat on those two issues, but mostly on the retail end of it, where I could probably have built a house using the leftover copies. I’m also curious if anyone is trying to revisit it today, as Valiant is a current thing again and, I don’t know, maybe someone out there has an interest in early Image publications? (If so, send them my way, I’ve got some Spittin’ Image to sell them, too.)

One last thing…as I was looking up those tweets, I found this one where I posted a pic of an original promotional poster for the Deathmate event. Being the wag that I am, I noted the optimism of the poster declaring the event as taking place “over the summer.” But then Twitter pal Corey outwagged me with “they didn’t specify only one summer” and fair play, sir. Fair play, indeed.

What? A guy who likes comics, nostalgic about something? You don’t say.

§ April 29th, 2020 § Filed under collecting, investing, retailing § 4 Comments

So I was digging through more decades-old comics promo stuff and came across the above flyer for Battle Axis, an indie comic released in 1993 from Intrepid Comics.

I’d posted this to the Twitters with the comment that this was “Comics in the ’90s, everyone,” and boy, was it ever.

First, the promise that the print run of the book would be capped at “100,000 copies per issue” which of course nowadays is a pie-in-the-sky number even most Marvel and DC titles can’t reach. Back then some comics easily blew pat that number…or they had been, given that this is around the time of the market crash. I wonder how many copies of this specific comic were ultimately ordered?

The second point is that the reason the print run was “limited,” was to protect your “investment,” to make sure the market wasn’t flooded with too many copies and that your own copy (or copies because let’s face it, you were buying more than one) would someday put all your kids through college and also pay for your comfortable retirement.

Now literally referring to your comic as “an investment” isn’t a tactic I saw too often from publishers. I’d see it heavily implied of course, with phrases like “limited edition” or whathaveyou, but far as I recall most drew the line at “buy this comic, it’ll be worth money someday.” And of course I don’t need to tell you that the end result was that this comic wasn’t an “investment,” it’s not worth anything now, and I’m not even sure there was a second issue. I can’t even remember my former place of employment even carrying it (though it probably did).

It reminds me just a little of the black and white boom, where publishers were cranking out piles of rip-offs of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with the sort of implicit understanding between those publishers and retailers/fans that “Turtles were hot, these might be too!”

And today publishers don’t even really need to do that sort of implicit encouragement anymore, as there are plenty of buyers out there who’ll do it do themselves. For a while there it seemed like every Image #1 that came down the pike wqs snapped up immediately by folks looking for that next Walking Dead #1, with sales on #2 immediately sinking to nothing. And then there are the apps/website encouraging people to invest and hoard certain weekly releases, sometimes for seemingly random reasons, and are just as often than not self-fulfilling prophecies. “This hot comic is hot because it’s hot!”

• • •

Speaking of hot comics, I was in a nostalgic mood, thinking about the Omega Men last night. Well, just kinda going on about it on Twitter, while procrastinating about writing this very post you’re reading now. Anyway, I starting thinking about that sci-fi superteam DC published in the early ’80s because I was going through some boxes at home and was pleasantly surprised I still had my copies of Green Lantern from when I was about 10 to 12 years old. I’d thought I’d long discarded them due to them being in poor condition or whatever, but nope, there they were, about issue 130 or so and on. Definitely reader copies, not valuable investments like Battle Axis, but I was glad to see them.

It’s in this run that the Omega Men first appeared, in issue #141 from 1981. And as I recall, the Omega Men were bit of a hot commodity, eventually getting their own title as part of DC’s more upscale line of books printed on better paper, available only through comic shops, and perhaps being slightly more mature in content.

I’d never really thought about why it was hot, ’til I was asked on Twitter “was it Lobo that made them hot?” And honestly, I don’t recall Lobo being a big deal until that first Simon Bisley-drawn series in 1990. Once that happened, it was only a matter of time before his first appearance in 1983’s Omega Men #3 started to be in high demand, and today is pretty much the only issue of that series that sells anymore.

No, I’m pretty sure what made the Omega Men hot was the New Teen Titans. Their own title has just started a couple of years prior, and as “DC’s X-Men” is was the company’s most popular title. Sold great, fans loved it, back issues were in demand, it was a comics industry phenomenon. Marv Wolfman, the writer on New Teen Titans, was also the writer of Green Lantern at the time, so it never really dawned on me that, duh, the writer of the Big Hot Superhero Team Book introducing a New Superhero Team might have been a big deal. Kind of like those folks casting about looking for whatever was going to be the next Walking Dead, fans may have jumped on the Omega Men thinking it would be the next New Teen Titans.

Plus, it was tied to the Titans comics as well, made easy by Wolfman working on both, in that they hailed from Vega, the same solar system that Starfire of the Titans was from. So I guess technically, if you squint a bit, Omega Men was a NTT spin-off, maybe absorbing a tiny bit of that title’s hotness to capture fan attention.

As noted above, they did eventually get their own series, a Direct Market-only comic printed on that fancy white Baxter paper. However, early on it did engender some controversy for its depiction of violence, with the primary example being a particuarly gruesome on-panel death of the child of one of the main characters. As we all know, controversy in comics never helps sales in the slightest, he said sarcastically.

Sales did peter out eventually, it seems, as the title took a drastic turn from mostly superhero-y type stuff to weird sci-fi when Todd Klein and Shawn McManus took over the book…that kind of change usually doesn’t come to a series that’s, you know, doing as well as hoped/expected. And the series eventually ended with #38 in 1986.

So, you know, a five year run for the characters from their debut to the cancellation of their own series based in that initial burst of popularity. And they’re still around today, being used to great acclaim in that 2015 series by Tom King
and Barnaby Bagenda. But that Titans connection seems to be long gone, aside from that shared Vega origin with Starfire. Not htat it’d help anyway, since the Titans property itself isn’t what it once was.

Not sure entirely where I was going with this, beyond perhaps a reconsideration of what makes a comic property “hot,” especially an oddball collection of sci-fi heroes that I originally enjoyed reading as a 12-year-old until its conclusion before I finished high school.

It was, overall, a good run of books. No collection was ever produced, far as I can tell, and it seems unlikely, barring a movie or something, there will be one. But it’s worth seeking out, as the individual issues should be mostly cheap. Except that Lobo issue, of course. I understand that issue is hot, hot, hot.

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