op-ed

by Colin McMahon, owner of Pittsburgh Comics

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Retailer Brian Hibbs did a Tilting at Windmills Column yesterday about variants

Bleeding Cool reported on a interview Diamond did with Marvel’s SVP Sales, David Gabriel

A few weeks ago I think I mentioned during a podcast that I was giving up on reaching for Marvel variants because they pushed me too far and it was no longer worth the effort.  Both of these articles made me want to further explain my position.

A caveat up front: Variant sales are not guaranteed. Just because there is a 1:100 variant, it does not mean that that is a guaranteed $100 or $50 or $25 sale. I see a lot of comments on the articles that “a retailer can recover the extra expense by selling the expensive variant.” Not necessarily.

Over the years, Marvel has developed a pattern where, in order to be able to order a variant cover or get a special sale price, you have to exceed you order number of some prior book. My favorite is when you need to order more copies of #4 than you did of #1. Rarely do books sales go up between 1 and 4. 99% of the time they go down.

Last month’s Previews kind of did me in. It was the end of AvX and the beginning of Marvel NOW! These 2 things made my head hurt and caused me to give up.

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AvX #4 Variant by Patrick Zircher

AvX Consequences:

  • #1 1:20 variant
  • #2 1:25 variant
  • #3 1:30 variant
  • #4 1:40 variant
  • #5 1:50 variant

So, if someone wants all of the variant covers to this series, I need to order 50 copies of #5. Looking at history, the point 1, 2 and 3 of Fear Itself sold about a third of what Fear Itself sold for me. I was selling 100 copies of AvX through the first 5 and it has dropped since then. #10 only sold 73.

50 copies of Consequences #5 is very unrealistic. And since I can’t get the last variant, there is really no reason for me to bother worrying about any of the others.

So, I ignored the variants when ordering this one.

Uncanny Avengers #1.

The first Marvel NOW! book.

Olivier Coipel's variant comic books

Olivier Coipel’s Uncanny Avengers #1 Variant

It has 11 variant covers!
Blank (order more than AvX #5 – 101 copies for me)
Avengers Var (101 copies)
Uncanny Var (101)
Deadpool Call Me Maybe Var (101)
Pichelli Var (101)
Young Baby (101)
Acuna (1:50)
Granov (1:75)
Coipel Var (1:100)
Coipel Sketch Var (1:200)
Cassedy Sketch (1:300)

Unless someone tells me that they want all of the variants, how do I order these? If AvX won’t be selling 100 copies for me at the end, do I bother ordering high to get the ones that I have to order 101 for that will just sell for cover price?  And how many of each of those do I order?

Because for most of those, the sale of the variant will take away from the sale of the regular cover.  So if I sell 25 variants, my potential sales of the 75 regular cover I am expecting suddenly becomes 50 and I’m left with an extra 50 copies of a $4 book. And as Hibbs says, I have already spent far more time thinking about how to order this that I should have to. I should just order the 75 I think I can sell and move on to other things.

joe quesada cover retailer incentive

Iron Man #1 Joe Quesada Sketch Variant

In the new Previews here’s what I am looking at:

  • Avengers #1 – 4 variants
  • Indestructible Hulk #1 – 6 variants
  • Uncanny Avengers #2 – 2 variants
  • All New X-Men #1 – 5 variants
  • All New X-Men #2 – 1 variant
  • Iron Man #1 – 6 variants
  • Iron Man #2 – 2 variants
  • Thor God of Thunder #1 – 6 variants
  • Thor God of Thunder #2 – 1 variant
  • A + X #2 – 3 variants
  • Captain America #1 – 6 variants
  • X-Men Legacy #1 – 3 variants
  • X-Men Legacy #2 – 1 variant
  • Fantastic Four #1 – 6 variants
  • FF #1 – 4 variants
  • Deadpool #1 – 3 variants
  • Deadpool #2 – 1 variant
  • Avengers Assemble #9 – 3 variants

So, for 18 books, there are 63 variant covers, 81 covers in all. I’m sorry, but that’s insane.

What are your variant buying habits? How much are you willing to pay for a variant you REALLY want?

Let me know below in the comments section.

Is it just me or does it feel like Marvel is trying to mess with the comic book collectors by moving the issue numbers all around the covers? I just wish that they would leave it where it used to be at the top-right corner of the book or at least somewhere at the top. This really screws with the comic book collectors out there because when using comic boxes, we have to pull out every issue to see what the page number is.

I understand when they are trying to be artistic and they have to move it for an issue, but the majority of new covers for Marvel NOW have all of the issue numbers at the bottom of the books. DC Comics has stuck with a uniform logo and issue number for all of their books post New 52. Why does Marvel insist on jumping the number around?

Sometimes I feel like Marvel doesn’t want people collecting comics. They sometimes decide to created a book out of some other book and then bring back the original later on. For example, Fantastic Four ended and turned into FF #1, then they brought back Fantastic Four from where FF last left off and made the spin-off FF book continue with something else. DID YOUR BRAIN JUST EXPLODE! THAT IS INSAIN! So I can’t keep my FF books together because they tie into Fantastic Four and by that time I just canceled both books and went to go read Batman.

The thing is, if you make things complicated for your customer, then they are going to lose interest. When something that is meant to be fun, all of a sudden becomes work, then what is the point. I believe in the K.I.S.S. method. Keep It Simple Stupid. Stop making collecting so complicated.

-Adam Russell

Two weeks ago I decided to evaluate my comic book pull. It started when I was bagging, boarding and boxing book. I noticed how I was going through bags and boards while storing away some books that I only want to read but have no interest in collecting. Would the value of some of these books really go up because of me bagging and boarding? Well, probably not.

The first thing I looked into was DIGITAL! Yes, blasphemy! The accursed digital format! The way I saw it was that this was the best way to read books that I didn’t really care to keep them. A good way to just read the story and that is it, leaving no stack of books. DC digital isn’t bad. The first month it is priced same as print, but after one month the price usually drops a dollar. So, I told myself, “You can wait one month”. Marvel on the other hand does not drop their price for a long time. Did this keep me getting Marvel in print format because the price is any different? No, I just canceled most of my Marvel list because they can’t work with me. My father has a good example for this. He says that people will complain about the price of brand cola, but will immediately breakdown and buy it anyway. The best way to send a message is to attack their wallets. More people just have to do it.

The only books that I left on my pull list were books that I collected, books that I really like. The main books that I love are Spiderman and Batman. Now, I kept a few books besides those two on my list, but those were the main ones that I couldn’t stop collecting. Other books that I kept were Animal Man, Swamp Thing, Action Comics, Earth 2, Adventure Time (guilty pleasure), and The Walking Dead. Just looking at this list makes me laugh. 5 years ago, my list consisted of all Marvel titles. Now I have such a different mix of comics. Animal Man and Swamp Thing are the most different super heroes you can find in DC, Earth 2 doesn’t take place on the same dimension as the main DCu, Adventure Time is my only all ages book, Action Comics is a Grant Morrison book (which is all I have to say about that), and The Walking Dead is in a realm of its own. This leaves The Amazing Spiderman and Batman as my only “Super Hero” books. This is a big change for me.

Sometimes when collecting anything, you have to set yourself a limit. You have to ask yourself if some of the things you get are stuff you really want and enjoy, or are you getting them just to collect books. It’s not easy to break away from something you’ve been collecting for such a long time, but truthfully, it only makes reading the books you really love that much sweeter.

-Adam Russell

I couldn’t figure out a concise way to organize these ideas this week, so this is going to be pretty ranty.

This partially comes from a conversation with my brother-in-law, who likes comics a whole lot but can’t get into superhero books. He loves the characters, but digging through continuity is work for him and turns him off to most of the genre.

So, what’s the point of a #1 issue? To bring in new readers to a new series. But how much continuity is draped on that #1? For DC’s New 52, not a whole lot, but there are still holdovers from the previous continuity. “Green Lantern” especially. Marvel, too. They’ve relaunched a dozen or so series in the past year or two, but a lot of them are just spinning out of an event or crossover. “Journey Into Mystery” and “Uncanny X-Men” come to mind.

If there’s going to be a new #1 every time there’s a creative change or a “shift” in status quo, why not just publish miniseries instead of ongoing series?

Today’s mainstream books aren’t even written episodically anymore. It’s nearly impossible to just “jump on a book” in the middle of a story because writers usually have a thematic endgame or plot in mind, and it’s usually somewhere in the range of six to eight issues in length. So, why even bother going up to #600 or #700? Why bother renumbering a new volume of a popular character back to its original numbering if the book is just going to start over at #1 again a year or two later?

Here’s the idea – A miniseries will last as long as the creators pitch their stories to run. If it’s pitched as six issues, it runs as six issues. If they have another story to follow it up, there’s another miniseries. This could allow for a publisher to have different creative teams on different characters without the need to “tie in” to other books, thereby leaving a series uninterrupted.

As for a reading order or a continuity, would it really be so hard for publishers to make a story map or a timeline for these books? Dark Horse kept a timeline for its Expanded Universe Star Wars comics. As I recall, it was printed on the inside cover of ever book and gave a loose approximation of when every story happened in relation to the movies, previous series, and other important events.

This miniseries approach leaves out collectors who live for #1 special editions or #700 anniversary books, but does that really drive the industry? If the publishers really want new readers, young or old, they’ve got to make things easy to follow and figure out. People don’t want to work for their entertainment.

-Sarge