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Tilting is up!
Posted by: Brian Hibbs on January 13, 2012
Tags: Brian, Tilting
It’s the newest Tilting at Windmills!
You can of course comment here if you don’t want to comment there!
Yay for Corey (Ottawa)!
Though, that said, the link on “this phrasing” just leads back to your article and should be fixed?
[...] you’d like to comment, I recommend you do so at Brian’s site instead of the CBR forums — they’re right now all people bashing Brian for not liking [...]
retailers really should support Brubaker’s creator-owned work, because he includes very appealing extras in the monthlies (the back-of-the-book essays) that he does not reprint in the trades or in digital form. I’m buying mostly digital these days, but I would never do that for Brubaker’s work because those extras are so attractive, just as the letters pages edited by James Robinson in Starman and Garth Ennis in Preacher used to be an attraction in and of themselves.
It’s also worth noting that the Marvel projects that have the potential to be perennial sellers are often either out of print or released in such a haphazard fashion as to be off-putting: Compare Marvel’s treatment of Born Again over the years with with DC’s careful curation of Batman: Year One. I haven’t seen the new Born Again hardback, but the previous trade collecting the story was garish to the point of being distracting, whereas DC went to the effort of recoloring Year One, adding extras, and getting Chip Kidd to design a beautiful package.
Is Elektra: Assassin even available as a standalone trade?
ELEKTRA: ASSASSIN is *finally* coming back into print (scheduled for 2/1) after being out-of-print as a stand alone volume for at least as long as I have had a POS system (7/07) — there was an Omnibus in ’08 that had E:A, as well as ELEKTRA LIVES AGAIN, a BIZARRE ADVENTURES and WHAT IF?, but that went OOP within a year. Plus, it was $75, ow!
I wish they’d go back on LIVES AGAIN, as well, at it’s original size and paper stock. God, that was a lush-ass book.
Indeed it was. The larger size is the reason I keep it and “Daredevil: Love and War,” despite both being reprinted in a DD omnibus I own.
The collections where Marvel’s practices really confuse me are the Visionaries trades. I would think that you would always want to keep Frank Miller Daredevil, Walt Simonson Thor, John Byrne FF, Peter David Hulk and others in print, as this is your premium stuff, runs that a retailer can send someone to and be sure they’ll be entertained. But all of them have gaps, the release schedule is anything but predictable, and they still haven’t finished David’s run.
I agree that Marvel seems to have placed little focus on evergreen standalone volumes. There are comparatively few Marvel books I would think to give someone as their first comics reading experience. DC is better by leaps and bounds, but they also have their lapses. I think they recently let Superman: Secret Identity go out of print, which seemed like a perfect addition to their many other evergreen title.
The many, many changes in format and trade-dress you mention are off-putting to the folks who just want something that won’t look like a mess on a shelf. I really liked Marvel’s policy quite a while ago of a very quickly-released bare-bones softcover of approximately six issues, followed by more permanent oversized hardcovers collecting approximately twelve issues.
I don’t think all books need to be kept in print. I think there is value in bringing out collections of lower-interest material and then letting it expire once the audience in that format has been sated. Having three volumes of New Excalibur in print near when the single issues were coming out makes sense, but the world does not need them available in perpetuity.
I was a bit perplexed at the mention of Marvel’s “policy of immediately reprinting a significant proportion of its monthly output in collections”. The vast majority of their books aren’t collected anywhere near immediately, usually taking at least a few months to be published in expensive premier hardcover volumes and one year to finally reach softcover. This is a far cry from titles like Walking Dead which are reprinted immediately. The only books Marvel collects in softcover with anything I would term immediacy are the big event crossovers and their spinoffs, usually over a period of two months a month or two after the main crossover series has finished.
I’ve thought for a long time that it might be wiser for the indy publishers to rather than create and distribute a brand new book for the entire direct market on FCBD to instead lavish attention on either stores local to them or stores that they know really support their output (ideally these would be the same). By attention I mean donation of overstock and focused creative appearances. Particularly, I’ve thought of Avatar as they’ve skipped FCBD the last few years in terms of having a book in the mix.
Brian, has your store have (or had) ongoing relationships like the ideal your describing? The Brubaker example is a good one but it sounds like that was just a one off when he was launching Criminal. You citing it year later though shows the impact that lone outreach initiative had; I imagine something publisher funded and ongoing could be dramatically greater.
You seem to be splitting hairs when you say, “The vast majority of their books aren’t collected anywhere near immediately, usually taking at least a few months to be published in expensive premier hardcover volumes and one year to finally reach softcover.”
Most would consider the Premiere Hardcover volumes a ‘collection’. I prefer collections so I know that, generally, Marvel will issue a hardcover 3-4 months after the final issue, with a softcover within 4 months of that. DC, then starting with hardcovers first, takes about six months (on average) and then it’s about a year after that before we see a softcover release.
I don’t know much about Marvel’s collection habits, but it does seem to be sporadic at best. I have a collection of Frank Miller Daredevil comics from a few years ago and they seem like the sort of thing that would always be in print. Why wouldn’t a publisher want to keep their premiere work in some sort of perpetual availability? At least print on demand or something….
Geez, it took me forever to remember stand-alone Marvel titles, and most of them were from the Epic imprint and about 20 years old! Moonshadow, Elektra: Assassin, Stray Toasters…Marshal Law?… yikes.
Oh, DC is definitely worse (imo, though some probably say better) in the timelines of their collections. They usually take 1.5-2 years to come out with softcover collections. One recent example: Batman & Robin v2 came out in November 2011 collecting issues that last came out in July 2010. I remember years ago when the Johns’ Green Lantern franchise was getting much good word of mouth, the collections were lagging by a similar amount. [Quick check: GL Rebirth finished in issues in May 2005 and the collection appeared in March 2007] It seems clear that DC intentionally chooses such long delays to try and force people to buy the single issues. They are wrong to do that and deserve derision and lost sales.
Brian, yes I make a distinction between luxury hardcovers targeted at hardcore readers and affordably-priced softcovers.
Marvel evergreen standalone titles are a rare breed. Marvels obviously, but after that… In post-Harras years there were some attempts to create books to fill that gap (Loeb/Sale “color” books, Wolverine Origins, Punisher: Welcome Back Frank) to varying degrees of success. Of course they were also hampered by not having had a division analoguous to Vertigo for twenty years (and MAX was a poor imitation).
Hey! Corey (Ottawa) got mentioned in dispatches! Kudos to you, sir!
Marvels’s collections policy is weird. How’s a retailer supposed to sell stuff they can’t get? The other thing is their pricing of what is actually in print. It is crazy high! As a result of all this it’s like they are actually fending customers off with a big stick or something. How does that make sense?
So, yeah, the usual informative and great read, Mr. Hibbs!
@ Mr Hibbs, Jeff and John K(UK):
Thanks gents! Very flattered. I would have wished to get picked up for something OTHER than being worried about Marvel killing both the floppy format and the TP market.
I think it is EXTREMELY noteworthy that DC, as the Nu52 roll around, are NOT collecting everything. GL, JLA, Batman, Wonder Woman. That’s it. The winners. Four titles. Big tentpole titles. No Superman even.
All those who wanted to read Mr Terrific or OMAC in TP….you’re out of luck. The series are dead and there’s no collection. Probably never will be. JL Dark? No collection either. Demon Knights…well. Insert your favorite UNBOUGHT series here too.
I am NOT sure why this should come as surprise, but corporate giants who see that nobody is buying their floppies have decided NOT to invest in collecting them into trades. Barring buyer interest. The sense of market entitlement by the consume needs to end. Not buying today, to MAYBE buy tomorrow is a failing strategy for growth, or even for sustenance.
See you all Wednesday! I love comics and so should you!
“I think it is EXTREMELY noteworthy that DC, as the Nu52 roll around, are NOT collecting everything.”
DC has at least announced plans to collect everything actually. Whether they do or not is another thing. – http://dcu.blog.dccomics.com/2011/11/09/dc-comics-the-new-52-hardcovers-coming-in-2012/
“Not buying today, to MAYBE buy tomorrow is a failing strategy for growth, or even for sustenance.”
So is trying to force customers to buy your product in formats or at price points they don’t like. People trade wait for a reason maybe instead of trying to trades less attractive in order to force people to buy singles, comic companies could try to make buying singles a more attractive option? Of course, some people just aren’t going to buy singles so maybe comic companies should try to rework their business model reflect a changing market instead of just blaming the customers.
Hey, if I can’t get a TP of OMAC they’ll likely be available in my LCS’ discount boxes or Half-Priced Books or a couple other second-hand bookstores or the quarterly hotel comic sales or eBay for like $1 per one of these days.
As far as I’m concerned, paying retail for a single issue comic is like going and seeing a movie opening night and paying top dollar–and I haven’t done that but a handful of times in the last decade.*
They can try and herd people into a specific format but I think for many, the single issue format has become untenable…especially if the page count shrinks and the price goes up.
*see also When I Had Kids
Given the returnability on OMAC #1-6, you actually *shouldn’t* be able to find those in bargain boxes, ever — retailers can return them to DC for ~$1.50 a copy….
I remember Moonshadow! Damn, that was a good book….
‘To say, “No, this is the book you want; that’s going to make your day and bring you bliss!”‘
Makes you sound like a drug dealer Hibbs. Or a fascist. Not sure which.
“Given the returnability on OMAC #1-6, you actually *shouldn’t* be able to find those in bargain boxes, ever — retailers can return them to DC for ~$1.50 a copy….”
Thanks for the tip. The LCS’ bargain boxes are sort’ve a last option these days anyway. The secondhand stores and eBay have been much more productive the last couple years. It’s probably a result of deals that you describe.
I thought this post summed things up nicely (different medium, same problem): http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2012/01/scarcity-is-a-shitty-business-model.html
Corey, not out of luck, as they will be available digitally ‘forever’, for some version of forever. As far as buying goes.
And entirely possible that sometime in the next year there will be a Comixology OMAC 99c sale!
This explains why I could never get Agents of Atlas or Atlas trades not too long after those came out.
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