FCBD: Inside, Outside.

§ August 16th, 2021 § Filed under free comic book day § 9 Comments

So yes, today was supposed to be the variant cover-age post, but between last week’s eyeball-related issue, and today’s Free Comic Book Day post, the variants posts have taken a brief break. I will have another one next week, so thank you for your patience.

Anyway, Free Comic Book Day. “How’d you do?” I’m sure you all are asking. And the answer is “very well, thank you!”

I had a changed set-up for the event versus previous years. I know that, after skipping having a specific day in 2020, the thought that an August 14th date would put up well past the COVID pandemic and everyone would be vaccinated and everything would be back to normal, but um, whoops. Needless to say, having a store filled wall-to-wall with customers, crammed in around tables and shelving, would be, if not a possible health risk, at the very least bad optics.

Thus did the comic tables go outside, with one table in front of my store and, thanks to the neighbor’s kind permission, two tables (one long, one shorter) in front of their shop (and the mailbox in the middle):

Now the plus side of this was not having to rearrange the interior of the store, which would mean unloading all the comic boxes from the wooden tables, pushing them into position, and then reloading the boxes so that I’d have room to run the FCBD display down the center of the store. (You can see what that set-up looks like in these pics from 2019.)

The downside is that I couldn’t have everything all set and ready to go the night before, since I couldn’t exactly put up the tables with the comics out front and just leave them overnight. As such, that meant getting all the boxes of the comics moved near the front door before I closed that Friday, and showing up athe shop bright ‘n’ early Saturday to start loading up the tables. After doing so, we just put some tablecloths over the comics and waited ’til opening time to unveil the goodies.

The big fear I had was that by dividing up the day’s main attractions, the free comics and the storewide sales, I wouldn’t see the actual cash business that FCBD usually brings…that folks would show up for the free comics, grab a few (or all), and then take off, never stepping through the front door. But I needn’t have worried. While some folks did pick up their books and leave (which of course is fine!) nearly everyone who came to the tables went inside to buy something. Or they went inside first before picking up the freebies. End result: my largest FCBD sales day so far, by a shockingly wide margin. That makes 20 years of Free Comic Book Days I’ve been involved with that haven’t lost money.

Crowds were heaviest in the first couple hours of the event, but the interior of the store never got so crowded that we had to cut access to the shop ’til folks filtered out and made room. It seemed like it was a pretty consistent flow of customers, with equal numbers coming in as going out. And I’ll tell you, I didn’t leave that register for a moment for those opening hours…just sale after sale after sale. That’s why I never was able to get out there and take a picture of the action. Ah well.

By the way, it wasn’t just me…the usual Free Comic Book Day Boys were on the job, pictured here (my dad, me, and pal Dorian):

…and they mostly kept an eye on things at the front of the store, with Dorian stationed at the tables and my dad at the door.

No real shocks or surprises this years…no weirdos attracted by crowds showing up and being stupid, no one angry or upset…just lots of people getting free comics, taking advantage of deals, and having a good time. No stress to be had, thankfully (though I did breathe a lot easier the moment the money take for the day passed the cost of the “free” comics).

I was expecting some pushback on one decision I made, but thankfully nobody yelled at me about this. The two most in-demand comics for the year were the Stray Dogs release from Image, and Boom! Studios’ Welcome to the House of Slaughter. Well, I’ve written before about the speculator market and its weirdly mercurial nature of late, and as noted a few posts back, House of Slaughter appeared to be the Investment of Choice this time ’round. Well, here’s what I had to say to that:

I don’t generally stamp the books, if only because I get too many and I don’t have the time, but I decided to make an exception. Have fun slabbin’ and flippin’ those. Yeah, I know, real Dick Move, Private Eye, but I wanted people to pick these up to read, not send to CGC. Hey, apparently nobody was mad about it, so it all worked out for the best, I think.

One of the more unusual things I had for reduced price inside the shop was issues of Batman: Three Jokers, of which I still had…quite a few. I mean, I still sold a few at cover price off the shelf, but at the time I decided to order quite a few others and take a chance in order to get all the variants and such. As it turns out, with the sales I’ve made on the regular issues plus the pricier variants mean that my overstock on these was all paid for. As such, out came the Three Jokers all spread out on a small table and marked “$1 Each.” Let’s just say I have a lot less backstock on that comic to worry about now.

Oh, I forgot to mention how was we opened the store and pulled the cloths off the free comics, someone shouted “are there any limits?” I of course said “NOOOPE, take one of each if you want!” As a reminder, at least in my experience, if you give people the option to take everything on FCBD…most people, left to their own devices, only take a few. Some do take everything (perfectly fine by me!) but certain not everyone. So there.

Okay, enough for today. If you have any questions about FCBD, drop ’em in the comments and let me know. Now, I have to concentrate on recovering so I can do it all again next year! And next year…yeah, I think I’ll have the free comics outside again. I liked how that worked. I especially liked not having to move my wooden tables around.

It’s Free Comic Book Day!

§ August 14th, 2021 § Filed under free comic book day § 1 Comment

I’m doing things a little differently this year by having the freebies outside at my shop, so I’m curious how everything will go. But I hope you all out there have a fun and safe Free Comic Book Day wherever you’re at! Get out there and get your mitts on some funnybooks!

Look, don’t bust me on the math, I’m writing this late and I’m tired.

§ August 13th, 2021 § Filed under retailing § 14 Comments

So Image Comics sent out a press release ballyhooing the immense order numbers for the imminent release of King Spawn #1:

“The recent launch of Todd McFarlane’s new monthly comic book, King Spawn #1, has shattered sales records. With just under a half-million pre-orders by comic stores retailers, this marks the single largest new superhero monthly title launch in the comic book industry in the past 25 years based on the standard sales formula of the comic book industry (non-returnable, non-retailer exclusive sales).”

Hi! I’m a comics retail critter what lived through the excesses of the 1990s. I’ve got a few words to say about this event.

Todd McFarlane, creator of Spawn, is quoted in the release thusly:

“‘The numbers that came in were much higher than what I had projected. With sales that now have a historical impact in our industry. It proves that the character Spawn and the world he lives in still resonates to fans almost thirty years after I first introduced him.'”

If I may offer a counter conjecture…I believe the high sales (nailed down to 497,000 elsewhere in the release) can be primarily attributed to the 1-in-250 edition of the book signed by McFarlane. In other words (for those new to this) a store has to order 250 copies of the normal covers in order to have the option to purchase the autographed copy.

Looking at recent-ish Spawn sales on Comichron, it appears sales on the title are generally in the 35,000 range, though #293 at the beginning of 2019 was about 25,000. Now, #300 topped over 260,000, driven by multiple covers and, at least in my experience, duplicate purchases of those covers. This issues also seemed to be one of those at least lightly targeted by the current and mercurial speculator market, given the number of advance orders I received from customers for specific, and multiple, covers. Plus, it was a three hundredth issue, heavily hyped, which can boost not just retailer orders, but actual customer purchases.

The following issue, #301, was also hyped as a special issue, which goosed the sales a bit as well (about 186,000). Oversized issues, multiple covers, supposedly surpassing Cerebus‘s number of issues (though technically Cerebus only had 299 individual issues in its run, with “#112/#113” being a single publication…let the nit-picking pedantry begin!). EDIT: BobH points out Cerebus had another double-issue, so that’s 298 individual publications in the main run.

Orders remain higher than normal for 302, at over 50,000, but was back down to the normal 35,000 or so range afterwards. So, under normal circumstances, that is about our normal level for orders on Spawn. I suspect most retailers are ordering just about what they can sell on each regular issue, with not much variation from month to month (outside the outliers noted above). Each issue of late has had three to four covers, and there is a non-zero percentage of fans who buy more than one cover (something I’ve been going on about in detail in my variant cover-age series of posts, starting here).

From all this we can guesstimate the number of actual readers (or at least collectors) who consistently pick up Spawn. And it ain’t a half million people.

Spawn’s Universe #1, released a couple of months ago and the first of this new line of Spawn spin-offs, also had order numbers much higher than your typical Spawn issue. The press release states that “the first issue of King Spawn beat that number [of Spawn’s Universe #1 orders] by two and a half times,” which puts Spawn Universe at just shy of 200,000.

A look at sold eBay listings shows Spawn Universe #1, which has a cover price of $5.99, regularly selling for less than that…several in the four to five dollar range, the occasional copy for $1.99, and yes, a few for about $7 or so, with the occasional outlier in either direction. That tells me this is a comic unburdened by scarcity. Retailers ordered high (given the number of variant covers, and no idea which one would be the “hot” one of choice, it’s no surprise) and likely had copies left over. Hence, you get what is effectively clearance prices online, trying to move excess stock…not premium pricing in a seller’s market, where demand drives up pricing on limited supply.

This post is basically a long, winding road to say “there’s gonna be a shitload of King Spawn #1s in the marketplace.” That’s not to say it won’t sell an enormous number to customers. There are multiple covers, many sales will involve the purchase of more than one cover, and more people will be attracted to this new first Spawn issue than normally read Spawn.

But like I said above, the main impetus for these sales is almost certainly the 1-in-250 edition signed by McFarlane. Going by the provided order numbers, that’s just under 2,000 copies to which ol’ Todd has to apply his John Hancock. And I’m sure the cost of 250 copies (or the balance of 250 copies above what a store was already ordering) is probably worth it to get their hands on that signed comic, which will be slabbed and put up for sale for thousands of dollars.

Did I take the bait, and get one o’them signed funnybooks? I wasn’t planning to, but I had a customer who had to have it, and we knocked out a deal where, without going into too much detail, the numbers and money involved worked out for everybody. Does this mean I’m going to have way more King Spawn #1s than I planned on being able to sell? Yup…look, I’m a small comic shop, surrounded on all sides by other comic shops, some of whom I’m sure also bit the bullet and got themselves a signed copy. There’s going to be no shortage of King Spawn locally. Do I have a plan to unload them anyway? Sure I do…I mean, I suppose I could have made the guy ordering the autographed copy take a bunch, but…nah, he didn’t really want them, and I can use ’em, I think.

I’m sure I’m not the only store that did this, though I’m sure there are plenty of stores in bigger cities or with more robust mail order divisions who sneer at a mere 250 copies, and can move them easily. But overall, given what we’ve seen in regards to current market tolerance for special issues of Spawn…we’re probably looking at a couple hundred thousand more copies at least than can be easily absorbed.

Do I want it to sell well? Of course I do. Maybe a half million people will suddenly decide they need to see this new Spawn comic. Or maybe ~71,000 customers will buy each of the seven standard variants (and ~10,000 people will buy the 1-in-50 variants). Or maybe not. But certainly it’s going to sell outrageous amounts to customers.

And even when sales dip back down to regular numbers, that’s still four (yes, four…there’s another Spawn spin-off coming) comics instead of one, possibly a net gain. You know, minus the people who say “look, I could follow one Spawn comic, but not four, I’m dropping everything.” Think that doesn’t happen? I’ve been in this business 33 years…I’ve seen it happen. Plenty of times. Over and over again.

Anyway, that press release of Image’s doesn’t look like the crowning achievement they seem to think it is. It looks like the 1990s, where Marvel trumpeted their X-Men #1 orders, and their X-Force #1 orders, without mentioning how many ended up being warehoused, buried in storage lockers and occasionally being dragged out into daylight and into shops like mine to unload. I am sure no one’s hoping for that fate, but…well, let’s be realistic. They claim success, but retailers can’t help but see the cloud in that silver lining.

Titillating the Tumbleweedsmania since 1968.

§ August 11th, 2021 § Filed under comic strips, tumbleweeds § 2 Comments

So my internet pal Adam was going through some of his stuff the other day when he came across a particular set of vintage items. Seeing this, he thought “why, there’s only ONE MAN in the world surely brave enough to have these in his own collection,” and that’s how I ended up with the Tumbleweeds fan club kit from 1968.

Sent away for by his father when he himself was only 16, he received in the mail (and given to me in the original envelope!) the following items:

The membership card, natch:

An official fan club certificate, suitable for framing and hanging up there next to your college diplomas and pictures of your family (click on image to eenlarge):

I like how cartoonist Tom K. Ryan is titled “Official Historian.”

And a newsletter (also clickable for resizing), welcoming you to the club, hawking some wares…

…and just generally making you feel inadequate when you find out the fella in charge here was only 17 years old:

All in all, a pretty neat find, and in shockingly good shape! Somehow Adam’s dad resisted scribbling his moniker into the spaces provided on these pieces of paper, and just left them folded in their delivery envelope, awaiting the day when some weirdo would scan ’em and put them on his site.

Yes, it’s my eye again.

§ August 9th, 2021 § Filed under eyeball § 3 Comments

Hi pals! My usual variant cover-age post for Monday is postponed due to more eyeball issues. As these things go, it only seems to be a minor bleeding problem in my left eye, the one with the stronger vision. Unfortunately, it happened just a couple of days before my next appointment where the preventative treatment would have stopped that from happening, but What Can You Do™?

Now, like I said, it’s only very minor…in fact, even as I type this, it’s barely noticeable, with only a minor haze in my vision, but it’s enough to keep me from reading fine print. However, sitting in front of my computer doing a long-form post that requires Research and lots of Looking at Stuff is probably not a good idea at the moment. I should recover quickly and I’ll be up and running again later in the week, with a new variant cover post for next Monday. In fact, a comment left on the last post gave me an idea for next time!

My doctor says that, after all the laser treatments and surgeries I’ve had, and with the continuing injections, the recurrence of bleeding in both my eyes should “burn itself out,” to quote him, but it might take two or three more years. Hopefully in the future we’ll have more luck getting ahead of these incidents rather than chasing after them. (By the way, I never closed my GoFundMe to help me deal with the costs of these treatments, so if you have a spare buck or three to throw my way, I certainly won’t say no! Or, if you want to give me a buck a month at my Patreon, you can do that instead. Or too! Or you can even buy comics from me at my store, I guess that’s also an option.)

Thanks for reading, pals, and I’ll be back Wednesday.

I have a question for you, again.

§ August 6th, 2021 § Filed under reader participation, retailing § 14 Comments

…Not like this question which kicked off a still-ongoing series of posts here, but something hopefully a little simpler:

How are the new comics displayed at your comic book store?

Now at my shop, I have a long, tall wooden rack with every cover full-face on display, side by side (pictured above).

I also have a standard spinner rack that I use to display the more all-ages books right by the front door, in which the covers overlap so that only the top half is showing. Here’s a stock image from Diamond’s site to show what I’m talking about, in the off-chance you don’t know:

The reason I ask is that the other day I was sorta runnin’ off at the Twitter about corner boxes on comic books:

As I said there, the purpose of these was so that should the retail establishment in question rack the comics so that they’re side-by-side and overlapping, the corner box would still clearly identify the title even if the actual logo is obscured. I contended this was more common in newsstands and grocery stores and the like, whereas the direct market comic shops were more likely to display comics full-face (or at least on spinner or wall racks that would at least present the full logo). As such, there was not much call for the practical use of corner boxes, relegating them instead to a nostalgic symbol.

“Hold yer horses,” came the reply, however, from a Twitter pal what also sells funnybooks for a living. “Some comic shops, like ours, still do the overlap thing” (paraphrased slightly) and I’m forced to admit I occasionally do so as well even on my big ol’ rack. Ideally I don’t, as I prefer to face everything out ‘n’ unobscured, but there’s always a small percentage of them being overlapped. Thus, I am forced to admit, #notallcomicshops have entirely eschewed the overlapping strategy, for both space reasons and the simple fact there are a hell of a lot of comics coming out. I thought my giant rack would give me plenty of room, but every week I feel like I’m trying to squeeze more material on there.

So, after that long preamble, my question is this: how does your local shop display their new comics? I’m not so much concerned about the actual fixtures themselves (though I suppose it would be difficult to extract that info from the answer) but rather: are the comics primarily displayed with the full cover visible, only the top half visible (like in that spinner rack pic), or with just the sides visible (racked side by side but overlapping)? Or, God help you, are they just dumped into some short boxes for you to flip through and no covers are displayed?

I know there won’t be many either/or answers here. My store is mostly full-face display, with a single spinner rack that shows top halves, and sometimes I have to overlap things on the main shelf so only the left half of the book is showing. But, despite all that, the vast majority of the books are full-face displayed.

So what’s your local comics emporium like? Don’t need to name names (especially if their display is…well, awful) but I am curious as to what folks are doing.

And knowing is 37.5% of the battle.

§ August 4th, 2021 § Filed under collecting, retailing, this week's comics, variant covers § 5 Comments

It’s a Special Album Issue, just like the good old days! Full-page illustrations combined with prose appearing in your otherwise regular Marvel funnybook…not a thing I’d like to see on a regular basis, but okay once in a while, especially if done well, like it is here, taking what could have been yet another Hulk-versus-heroes battle and applying some of the book’s usual levels of gravitas. One thing I liked is the opening (and continuing) comparisions between Bruce Banner and the Hulk with the Fantastic Four.

In an interesting confluence of events, Adam Warren, in his notes to Tuesday’s serialized page of Empowered, says

“…This does seem to represent a bit of a lost opportunity for superhero storytelling—that is, conveying how BLUDGEONING AND EARPIERCINGLY G-D LOUD that most cape-related conflict would be. Of course, the use of giant frickin’ sound FX and the like would burn up pagecount in a hurry, but this still seems like a narrative avenue worth exploring on occasion….”

And this issue of Immortal Hulk does just that, emphasizing the sounds of conflict, the drowned-out voices, et cetera…and given the illustrated text format of the issue, it manages to get around the sound effects problem that Warren posited. Thought that was a nice coincidence!

• • •

Joe mentions, like I probably should have in Monday’s post, that the double-covered #2s had been a prominent feature during the “Heroes Reborn” year-long experiment with the Image Comics artists. Not just on the Reborn books, but on new title launches like Thunderbolts (which I remembered) and he also mentions Deadpool, which I didn’t remember and can’t find that it had a second cover (beyond having a newsstand “variant” with the standard UPC…am I missing something? Wouldn’t surprise me! ). Anyway, I should have noted when the two covers for the second issue started, and thank you Joe for stepping in.

Matthew asks

“Years ago I remember reading that for some period of time the second issue of the GI Joe series that Marvel put out was actually more valuable than the first issue because there were so many fewer issues printed. Was that ever true? Is it still true?”

Other commenters provided their answers, but I thought I’d answer here, too. Yes, there was a time when the second issue of Marvel’s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero was commanding higher prices than the first.

Now I’m just working off my memories instead of, you know, doing research, but I believe the common belief was, true or not, that the second issue had a smaller print run that the first. And given that G.I. Joe was a relatively popular commodity at the time, it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that the first issue was in higher demand than expected, and retailers lowering the order on the second issue (without yet knowing how #1 would be received) resulted in the higher demand and comparative scarcity.

Contributing to this disparity in cover prices. Issue #1 was extra-sized and printed on nicer paper, selling at $1.50:

…and then #2 was the standard format comic at 60 cents:

If I had to hazard a guess, backed up by literally no evidence whatsoever (though maybe I can peek through my fanzines from the period and see what sales on these were actually like) beyond my own proclivities as a comics retailer…I’d say that $1.50 price tag on a cartoon ‘n’ toy tie-in, two and half times the price of a standard comic, may have kept orders lower on the first issue. I mean, no matter how popular the property may have been at the time, there was no guarantee that would translate to comic sales of any note, and that high a price tag might have made the buying decision for anyone on the fence about it. And with that seeming barrier to entry, there was no reason to expect much repeat business for the second issue, even at the lower price.

Now please note that at no time am I saying the comic wouldn’t have had strong orders, or that it didn’t…just that the cover price may have kept them from being even stronger. And as it turned out, the first issue was very popular, enough so that there wasn’t enough of the second issue to go around, therefore low supply + high demand = $$$ for somebody. As a result, the price guide regularly had #2 listed at a higher price than #1.

But enough time has passed, with most early G.I. Joes being in less reliable availability at your local comics emporium, that the whole “lower print run” thing, if it ever actually was a thing, is of negligible importance in today’s market. #1 and #2 are both equally difficult to come across, and with the back issue market becoming increasingly focused on “number ones” and “key issues,” it’s not much of a surprise that prices for that first G.I. Joe have zipped on past those for the second.

It’s the loneliest variant since the number one.

§ August 2nd, 2021 § Filed under variant covers § 10 Comments

In the late 1990s, Marvel had a publishing strategy designed to counter the dip in orders new comic series usually had with the second issues of their runs. And that strategy was, as you’ve probably guessed if you’ve been reading the Monday posts on my site for the last few months, variant covers.

The deal was, retailers would order relatively high on a first issues, as that seemed like a relatively safe bet. Back in the days when you ordered a new series as if they were going to be ongoing series (and not for all intents and purposes a limited series), you placed numbers with the expectation that, should the series continue for a while…and there’s no reason why a comic featuring A-listers or even B+ listers wouldn’t…there would always be demand for that first issue. People like first issues. Kids want to own “Captain America #1.”

Of course, the market has changed, with new series now being launched, ended, and relaunched, flashing by like strobe lights and new #1s piling up for every title under the sun. That kid who wants to own Captain America #1 currently has a dozen or two to choose from.

Currently, the back issue sales window for a #1 issue is about as long as the new series lasts, then attention shifts to the back issues for whatever series featuring the same characters/concepts that succeeds it. But a couple of decades ago, retailers still pumped up those first issue orders.

And then, to play it safe, order numbers would be pulled back a bit for that second issue. It was usually pretty safe to say (at least then) that many people would give a first issue of a new series a try to see if it was to their liking, or would just buy the first issue because, hey, it’s a first issue at cover price on the stands in front of me right now, I’ll buy a first issue, sure. And of the folks who bought that issue, only a certain percentage would come back for #2. As such, those second issue orders would drop, with the assumption that they’re not going to sell nearly the number they did on the debut issue. Then, by the time orders for #3 go in, hopefully you have an idea of actual realized sales on the first issue and you can adjust your numbers accordingly.

Of course, there’s always the problem — well, “problem” — of “what if it’s a hit?” What if you ordered what you thought was a sufficient number of #1s, but sold out due to the wild demand for that comic, and then #2 comes along and you don’t have nearly enough to go around? Suddenly #2 is a scarce commodity, and while you can raise your orders on later issues, will the demand continue if potential readers missed that second installment? All thoughts that you have to consider as you make that ordering decision.

So, to help avoid that second issue dip, here comes Marvel with two covers for the #2s of all their newest ongoing series. “Why not just order what you were going to order anyway, but split the number between two covers?” As I talked about early on in this series of posts, the particular evil genius behind variant covers like this is the possibility of getting customers to double-dip. Some folks won’t be able to decide between the two covers offered, so “buy ’em both!” it is.

As I recall from my previous place of employment, we did order relatively high on the second issues, compared to what maybe we normally would have. And we did have some extra sales to folks seeking both covers. Persuing the Comichron sales charts for ’97-’98, it looks like there was still that dip on #2s, but perhaps it wasn’t as big a dip as it could have been. Comparing to other percentage drops from other titles around the same time, from other publishers, shows about an equal percentage of dropped orders…but orders on those first Marvel issues were perhaps unusually high, due to increased interest after the wrap-up then-recent “Image Comics creators back at Marvel” experiment with most of these properties.

Ultimately, it’s hard to say just exactly how well this strategy worked to keep plenty of second issues available for sale (and more importantly for the publisher, to get retailers to load up on ’em). As I recall, on most of the second issues, especially on titles like Captain America and Avengers, we nearly sold out on those #2s, so even with our slightly higher orders, perhaps the variant covers helped to bump up those sales.

Regardless of how much this variant cover scheme did or did not help, it’s pretty clear it’s Standard Operating Procedure on nearly everything Marvel and DC publish today. Though I don’t see nearly as many people double-dipping on the regular and the variant as I used to. At up to $6.99 for that stiff cover variant DC provides, or the boggling array of variants Marvel can release for any given comic for any reason…it’s not a surprise. Not that there aren’t folks out there trying to get all those variants…I’ve got a few at my shop! But that multiple cover strategy is more squarely focused on the retailer trying to juggle his numbers every month. At least, that’s what it feels like to me as I’m hunched over the order forms.

Still holding out hope for Groo Vs. Spawn.

§ July 30th, 2021 § Filed under this week's comics § 11 Comments

Groo Meets Tarzan is a “crossover” in the same way that Groo Versus Conan mini from a few years back was — a fourth-wall breaking story in which the creators of Groo are the framing device for the book’s events. It’s a strange gimmick in which the adventures are explicitly presented as fictional constructs…I mean, yes, obviously, we know they are, but having two different stories with essentially the same hook relatively close to each other in this decades-long progression of Groo stories is…

“Mike, it’s just a comic book, mellow out dude.”

Yeah, okay. I believe Mr. Evanier said on his site that this will likely be the last of these crossovers with the large-nosed wanderer, and that’s probably fine. The melding of two very different styles of characters is too…”world-breaking” for Groo’s milieu except when presented, as they have been in the Tarzan and Conan events, within the narrative itself as “What Ifs” or “Imaginary Stories” or whatever other copyrighted term I can borrow from Marvel or DC. Because, obviously, as Evanier has said in the past, anyone with whom Groo crosses over would obviously be dead in short order if it “really” happened, and I suspect the various licensees involved would not be too pleased.

It is nice to have Groo back after too long a hiatus, partially due to the COVID-related delays. And the comic is funny, including a nice two-page Mad Magazine-esque crowd scene taking place at the San Diego Comic Con (where Mark and Sergio are present to talk about their Groo Meets Conan comic, drawn as only Mr. Aragones can do it. Detail for days in that spread. Groo and Tarzan are on their own separate threads in this first issue, with Tarzan looking for slave runners in his story, and Groo inadvertently menacing a couple of villages in the other, and you keep waiting for the two to collide. Alas, how do you keep a Groo fan in suspense? We’ll tell you next issue!

I get the feeling Strange Adventures will read better in collected form, or at least with all the issues in front of you to read in short order. I mean, the events of the plot itself are fairly straightforward, but many of the emotional ups and downs and the rationales of the characters involved can be hard to track issue to issue, particularly when they have a little extra time between releases. I mean, I’m not sure I like Adam Strange much in this story, which is certainly the intent. And some of Alanna’s reactions to Adam emphasize her “alien-ness” — I mean, yes, she’s basically human, but some of her comments about humans and Earth remind you that Adam totally married an extraterrestrial.

It’s a hard read, the fight between Adam and Alanna, but not hard in a bad way. It’s fascinating, it’s involving, and you keep waiting for a way out of this mess to show itself and hoo boy it does not. Only one issue to go, and while I’m usually of the opinion that drastic choices made with characters usually get undone or reduced so that other creators can play with the toys…I’m honestly wondering how this is going to end. And which comic creator’s quote will be on the last page…that’s been a fun bonus. May I suggest “It’s all just lines on paper, folks!” from a Mr. R. Crumb?

I honestly thought by this time DC’s usual rebootery/universe-rejiggering shenanigans would have done away with the biological sons of Batman and Superman, but here we are, years later, and they’re still hanging around as integral parts of their respective franchises. Damian Wayne feels like a more natural fit, a new somewhat adversarial Robin to his pops Batman. Jon, the son of Lois and Clark, seems a little less so, especially after the plot mechinations of one story aged Jon into his late teens.

But this new series seems to be heading in a good direction, giving Jon his own purpose as well as a couple of good scenes showing that he’d learned the right things from Pa El. Plus, I’m a sucker for the repurposing of the original cover for Superman #1. What a classic image that is.

I’m actually a lot angrier about this than it may seem in this post.

§ July 28th, 2021 § Filed under free comic book day § 7 Comments

Just wrapped up an extremely long day at work, dealing with both the new comics shipment and the Free Comic Book Day shipment, which amounted to an enormous number of shipment boxes I had to bust open and sort out. On the plus side, unlike the last few weeks, this shipment was relatively light in shortages and damages…in that I only had a few compared to the nearly unbearable amount of errors that had been the norm of late. On the minus side I got about at about 11:30 Tuesday night with more set-up waiting for me in the morning before I open for new comics day sales. Let me tell you, my boss sure overworks me sometimes.

During my open hours, one of my regulars happened to comment that he saw some of the current batch of FCBD offerings up on the eBays at ridiculous prices, which I’m sad to say doesn’t surprise me. It’s always something, each and every year, but especially not a shock this year, with Peak Speculation running rampant in the market and everyone trying to exploit a character’s “first appearance” or whatever it is that’s got ’em all riled up this time around.

I didn’t get a chance to peek at eBay ’til a little later, and friends, I’ll admit it really cheesed my crackers this time. Usually I just look at it and think “oh well, That’s Our Industy!™” and go about my day, but every time, every time, someone’s gotta take an opportunity to do some community outreach, a chance to build customer goodwill, and just throw it in the trash in exchange for getting ten bucks for a comic you’re supposed to be giving away for free.

That’s typical for our business, continually finding ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. I’m a huge advocate for Free Comic Book Day…I know I get the same questions every year about “how does this help?” and “do you get repeat business?” and so on and I really should just create an FAQ because boy am I tired of having to answer those every year.

Rest assured, yes, if you do it right, FCBD pays off. I make a big deal about how every FCBD I’ve participated in (and I’ve done it each year since it started), we ordered lots of comics, gave them away freely and without restriction, and we’ve never lost money on the event due to that day’s in=store sales. And all our customers went away happy. And yes, we’d have people come back and mention their FCBD experience as the reason for their return.

Even now, as a person running his own much smaller store than the ones I used to work at, I still manage to put out a generous spread. And not one of my customers walks about of a FCBD thinking “boy, that guy was sure stingy with the comics.” I give away as many as possible to as many people who want them. And (something else for the FAQ) with no limits in place, yes, some folks take one of each, but plenty of people only take one or two. It all balances out. And it really doesn’t take much to make it profitable…a storewide discount or two will encourage purchases.

But if you’re restricting distribution beyond reason (like, only offering a book or two per customer), or requiring a purchase to get the freebies, or selling the things on friggin’ eBay instead of handing them to someone who might actually read it…sorry, that’s doing it wrong. And I’m sure I’ll get some pushback on that, because I always do (sometimes even from comic creators, who should really know better). Seriously, though, the absolute bare minimum of Free Comic Book Day is “giving the comics away for free,” and if that’s too much for you, stop pretending to participate.

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