There’s been a bit of speculation ON speculation as of late. I’m speaking of comic book speculation, of course.
It seems that there are a few of those on the publishing and retailing end of the direct market that believe that we are about to step back into a little taste of the mid 1990s. A time when comics were thought to be the answer to putting everyone’s unborn child through college. Well, it’s ten years later and all of those comics are laying dormant in warehouses, stuffed in dusty back issue bins or have been destroyed.
The days of seeing every comic book creator you know on QVC or Home Shopping Club are over?for the most part. I remember those times well. I was the head of marketing and promotions for all of Image Comics at the time. I was a part of that sideshow we now call the ruination of comics. Then again, most everybody had their hand in it. I can name names if I have to. I still have 20 years worth of memos, letters, faxes and meeting notes. I know where all the bodies are buried. I even have a rack of recorded tapes from meetings and phone calls from my time at Image. All done of the up and up?of course. There are a batch of people in this industry that would love to see these tapes go up in flames.
Anyway, back to speculation. I didn’t think it was a good idea then and I don’t now. There is a weird fine line between something being collectible and something being deemed as a “lottery ticket to wealth”. Growing up I always bought the Overstreet Price Guide. I never sold any of my comics, but it gave me a guide to the worth of my comics and made me fell a little better about having thousands of them stuffed in boxes. When someone would dare ask me why I had so many I could give em’ a menacing glare and tell em’ they were worth thousands. It shut em’ up and all was good.
The problem back in the mid-90s was not enough people sold their variant, foil, chrome, glow in the dark comic right then. Most held on to them thinking that 10 years from then they could sell it for thousands. Wrong. Sell fast. Later is no good.
Same today. There is a buzz about variant covers and those sketch covers given out to retailers at the retail summits. Get those books and sell em’ as fast as you can. It’s the only way you’re gonna make money. Ten years from now you’ll be re-reading this column saying “Beau Knew”.
The comics that are truly going to be worth something are the ones that introduce a new character that goes on to be an icon. It’s going to be the comic that had the really low print run because no one ordered enough of them. Then that same comic becomes hot and somewhat iconic and makes those low-print runs really worthy. A recent example would be IDW Publishing’s 30 Days Of Night. If memory serves me right the print run for that first issue was some where between 3,000 and 5,000. Yeah?that is rare. Even going back into the 90s, At Image we did a special Angela / Pirate Spawn retail incentive comic with two covers. This was in Spawn and Image Comics glory days. The print run on that was only around 8,000. We also did a very rare retailer incentive called Total Eclipse where we re-introduced all of the Eclipse Comics characters (Airboy, The Black Terror, etc) that Todd McFarlane bought when he bought Eclipse Comics as well as other Spawn characters. Print run on that comic was on 3,000. Those came out when Spawn was selling around 300,000 a month. I’d say those were rare issues.
I don’t think anyone even lists those in their price guides. They could be the collectibles that slipped through the cracks.
In the reality of collectibles the low print run comics should be the ones that are worth the most as time goes on. They are harder to get. Sometimes we see this happen with books like Miracleman. Those Eclipse Comics from the 80sreally bring a nice chunk of change now. They not only had great art, but the stories stand the test of time as well.
Granted, not all comics with low print runs or variant covers have become big ticket items ten years later. It helps when it’s a good comic book like Miracleman, American Flagg or Nexus. As I said, I worked for Image then, we had our share of 85% pretty art and terrible stories. Same with Valiant Comics. Lots to look at , but not much that sticks with you. If you were a kid or growing up during that time then those comics will have some special meaning to you. The things that were special when a person is 12 years old always remain a classic drenched in sentiment. That still doesn’t make it a good comic. I loved Showcase Comics with B’Wana Beast, but that doesn’t mean it was a good comic. It wasn’t, but I loved it and still do. Thing is I know why I love it.
I don’t think we’re heading for another time like the 90’s with speculation. I think there is going to be a certain percentage of fads like variant covers. Our printing technology in comics can only go so far at this point. It’s variant covers now, but that could change as soon as someone figures out the next way to get some quick money through a short-term incentive like this.
Make no mistake; these are short-term incentives. They are not the big picture to a long and money making future for comics. The bigger picture is going to have to be a joint effort in planning what we publish, how it’s best distributed with maximum effect and how it is presented to the consumer through the widest reaching retail venues we can find.
Variant covers and or their future forms are here to stay. They will mutate and change, but they will always be here as long as the direct market wants to keep the bleeding at bay with a band-aid instead of using surgery to really fix the problem.
Publishers shouldn’t speculate on how small they can make a print run on a Variant cover, but they should try a little harder to see how big a print run they can sell to more consumers.
Funny how guys like me with columns like to tell everyone else what to do, isn’t it?
In my case, check my resume’. I DO know what I’m talking about.
From The Ranch
Thanks for sittin’ in with me another Busted Knuckles. I hope that all of you continue to send in your emails and letters. I always try and answer em’ all. I appreciate your input and you sharing your opinions.
Beau Shows You The Manly Way To Stalk…Er…Uh…Protect Pretty Women.
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