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Vertigo: an observation

Brian Hibbs

I’ve had Point-of-Sale installed for just over 3 years now. One spiffy thing is that it is pretty easy to pull out sales data in specific and in general.

So, I yanked all of my book format sales for DC this morning (no comics included!), and found out that over the last 3 years I’ve sold ~$183k in dollars of DC TPs.

Of that, $88k is from Vertigo branded books. $68k is from books with the DC bullet on the spine. $25k is WS, and the various imprints there. $2k is from “other” imprints (Piranha, Humanoids, and so on)

If you were to divide the WS books into “closer to DC” and “closer to Vertigo” (ie: PLANETARY, PROMETHEA, ASTRO CITY, EX MACHINA, and so on going in the “Vertigo” pile, AUTHORITY and all of the cape books going in the “DC” pile) about $21k of WS’ business would be on the Vertigo side, with $4k on the DC side.

This would put “Vertigo-esque” material at roughly 60% of my DC book sales. That percentage probably flips entirely the other way when looking at periodicals (actually, probably worse — maybe as high as 80/20, though i don’t feel like yanking that data out)

About 11% of my “DC” book dollars, however, are from WATCHMEN alone. It has the DC bullet on the side. If it had been published after Vertigo existed, I suspect it would have Vert branding.

Another note: I have to purge somewhere between 10-15% of my DCU books each year when they go 12 months without selling (and we’re racking, at this point, maybe 60% of each month’s brand new DCU TPs?) — I’ve purged like five Vertigo titles ever for lack of sales (and I rack 100% of what they release)

Anyway, Vertigo books are far more important to my book-format bottom line than DCU books.

Just sayin’

-B

(PS, I’m stuck at the store for 8 hours tomorrow, so I’m going to try hard to do a comprehensive week-in-review column for this week’s comics then)

12 Responses to “ Vertigo: an observation ”

  1. Brian –

    If I can ask, what are the five or so Vertigo titles you dropped do to low sales? I’m dead curious to know what couldn’t sell even in a Vertigo-friendly environment.

  2. I’m not sure if I have an easy way to mine out the specific books (I’m sure I could figure out a way, but that’s more brain power than I wanted to put into this thought exercise, I think?), but from my memory it was largely abandonware books? Maybe CROSSING MIDNIGHT, or something like that?

    And, actually, I cheat because I know I’ve liquidated copies of most V HCs once they went to SC editions, though that’s really more course-of-business than lack-of-interest, per se…

    More V books have left my shelves by slipping out of print than I have cut from lack of sales, that’s a certainty.

    -B

  3. I think Vertigo has had a longstanding “no superheroes” policy, so I’m not sure how helpful the Watchmen or Astro City comparison is.

  4. this does not surprise me. Vertigo’s quality control is through the roof.

  5. Pallas, Vertigo is more defined by it’s tone and approach (which reflect a truly mature take on subject matter, as opposed to Loeb and Millar-style BLOOD! GUTS! SEX!) than whether or not its characters wear capes. Watchmen is much closer in tone to Vertigo than anything at Marvel or DC.

  6. @pallas: Vertigo has definitely drifted away from superheroes in recent years… but “weird” superheroes initially helped defined the Vertigo brand and those titles still get still reprinted with VERTIGO branding — even in cases where the original material came out under the DC Comics bullet.

    For example, all of Grant Morrison’s run on ANIMAL MAN was printed before Vertigo existed. The book didn’t become a Vertigo title until #57 — 30-some issues after GM left it. But the ANIMAL MAN trade collections now have the Vertigo imprint. Similar situation with the Morrison DOOM PATROL and the Alan Moore SWAMP THING run. Even Alan Moore’s “other” post-modern superhero graphic novel V FOR VENDETTA has been published under the Vertigo banner — after initially coming out as a DC miniseries. So Hibbs’ comparisons to ASTRO CITY and WATCHMEN makes a certain amount of sense.

    I think the unspoken thing here is a disquieting suspicion raised by the shuttering of WildStorm and Zuda, and the night of long knives in the Vertigo editorial department.

    It certainly *appears* that the instinct of the new DC regime is to cut down the divisions of the company that tend to produce more offbeat, self-contained, creator-driven works — precisely the stuff that can have a long afterlife on the shelves of a retailer like Hibbs.

    There’s a difference between an actual *publisher* and an Intellectual Property machine that exists solely to breathe editorially-mandated new life into old trademarks and license the results. With ventures like Paradox, Vertigo, Helix, etc., DC kept trying to be bigger than JUST the superhero universe… It looks worryingly like they’re contracting. I’m left wondering if the knee-capped Vertigo is going to end up functioning like Marvel MAX and Icon — ventures that seem to exist mostly as lures to reward “hot” creators for signing exclusive deals to reanimate the trademarked spandex.

  7. I think Steve D’s prognosis of Vertigo is pretty on-point. It seems like the new regime at DC is taking a step back and looking at what has “worked” at Marvel. Other than Icon and the occasional literary adaptation (a recent product for them) it’s superheroes all the time, and it appears that’s where DC is headed. Whether that’s for creating buzz around a character so it can be licensed/adapted or just simply because, having been a retailer for the last ten years, that’s really what the market demands.

  8. On a somewhat related note, I just noticed earlier today that, outside of a couple of collections, nothing is shipping from Vertigo this week. Is this normal? I always been under the impression that there was at least one floppy (or pamphlet or whatever they’re called now) from them every week.

  9. Mike : It’s a five-week month.

    Also, of the three Vertigo monthlies which usually ship on the last week of a month, Jack of Fables is on a skip month, and both Scalped and Madame Xanadu are late and slipped into next week.

  10. Squares with what I know. With the exception of All-Star Superman and (the very disappointing) Power Girl, I don’t think I’ve bought a non-Vertigo/adult DC trade since the first year I started reading comics as an adult (2005). Since I stopped buying off the rack altogether, something like a year ago, I’ve just bought Vertigo, Icon, MAX, and WildStorm trades instead, and also Mike Mignola’s Dark Horse when I want something a little lighter. I don’t even look at DC or Marvel’s ‘regular’ offerings anymore. Hell, most of MAX and Vertigo are shit anyway.

    I could see myself buying a Jonah Hex trade, I guess. That’s probably why I was so disappointed in Power Girl, as though it was a surprise that no talent on Earth can rescue that basically disturbing character.

  11. Mike, I think they’ve always been called comics, haven’t they? :)

    If DC needs to contract anything, it’s their superhero universe. There is no true longterm interest in the superheroes (as in “grabbing old trades”) compared to the interest in something self-contained. Why can’t American publishers take a look at what’s being done across the ocean and try to be as diverse as possible?

  12. [...] Hibbs looks at his Vertigo sales (computerized data is cool!) and concludes that “Vertigo books are far more important to my [...]

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