A couple of news bits and a personal announcement to tackle this week, so let’s get right to it.
About a week ago, Marvel started to make a big deal over Star Wars #1 eclipsing 1,000,000 pre-orders from various retail outlets. While the company hinted at some of this quantity coming from less traditional sources, the number is still quite impressive, boasting the best direct market numbers for a single printing of a single issue in over twenty years. Despite all of the headache inducing rabble that I’m about to detail, that’s a number everyone involved with the creation, sales and marketing of the series should be proud of.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to pound my head against my keyboard while I detail the variant structure of this particular release.
As you’ve probably heard by now, there are an impressive amount of variant covers being produced for this comic. To start, Marvel tossed a grand total of 13 wide-market variants on top of the regular comic for all retailers to order and obtain. These 13 books had qualifiers that ranged from “1 for every 15 copies ordered” to “1 for every 500 copies ordered”. Four of them required retailers to exceed 200% of their Original Sin #8 numbers in order to get any books in – which is probably the clearest indication of where Marvel wanted the book to be in terms of sales. Original Sin #8 clocked in at an estimated 90,478 copies sold, which means they were probably aiming at the 200,000 as a “worst case scenario”.
These alone wouldn’t have brought Star Wars #1 even close to the 1,000,000 mark – so where does all that extra push come from? Many are pointing in the vague direction of alternative distribution and awaiting news on what nerd box corporation sprung for a few hundred thousand copies – and while that’s probably part of the answer, a good chunk is also coming from the retailer exclusive variants Marvel offered retailers.
In one of their missives to the retail community, Marvel let it be known that any retailer or retail group could have their own variants produced. These variants would be completely unique and would potentially utilize some big name talent to create a unique image that would appear on a cover exclusive to that retailer. The catch? You had to order at least 3,000 copies and order 200% more of the regular cover than you did for Original Sin #8. It appears quite a few retailers have taken them up on this offer, as the total of variants floating out are currently sitting at 57. Now, some of these are black and white “sketch” variants of the retail exclusive variants, which you could seemingly produce as little as 1,500 copies of, but the point remains: Marvel went full variant crazy when pushing this book. Will it work for them? In the short term, of course. They’re going to have one of their biggest January’s in a long time thanks to Star Wars alone, probably, and there will almost assuredly be enough product on the shelves to meet whatever demand might arise. In the long term? When a company digs this deep into variants and qualifiers, I always worry about the long lingering after effects. The practice of asking retailers to potentially overextend themselves to chase rare items almost always ends with product chocking out storage space and back issue bins. It manipulates the regulatory curve of supply and demand, and takes cash on hand and turns it into dead weight that’s harder to turn over, both of which can and will result in various levels of hardships. Too much of this and a store, a company, or an industry breaks. And wouldn’t that be fun.
FAILURE TO LAUNCH
Last week, the DC solicitations for March revealed a culling for the company, and the internet had some words about it. Because of course it did. The company is heading into their big move across the country with quite a few stagnant books and a line-wide crossover eating up their publishing schedule. In short, it was the right call to dust a large portion of their books in order to arrive back in June with a refocused creative direction. That said, the sheer volume of titles on the chopping block still makes this feel like a defeat of some kind.
What DC needs here is for their PR department to pick up the copious amount of slack that’s roped on the floor. I know they’re already having a hard time convincing people that Convergence is going to be a big, important thing with the structure they chose, but they really shouldn’t be spending too much time and effort on that. Convergence is a crossover series, and it’s been designed as a two-month respite from The New 52 universe. Each and every one of their 40 two part minis seem to nudge the reader in the ribs and say, “Hey, remember when this was happening?” – and it’s going to do very little in the way of drawing a wide audience. June, on the other hand, stands a chance to be spectacular, and the company should be teasing it now. As it stands, DC looks like it’s flailing as a large chunk of their newly launched books limp to an end, and others that were a bit long in the tooth drop along side them. They need to come out and say this is all in service of something, or else people are going to run with a less positive narrative. It’s all about perception, and right now, DC is losing the battle. Here’s hoping they win the war.
ON A PERSONAL NOTE
As of December 31st, I will no longer be the manager of a comic shop. After spending a little over 8 years at Wizard’s Comics, I’m moving on to a different role within this great industry. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what that is yet – but I thought it would be pertinent to let you all know of this change, as it will clearly effect what I write for this site. A hint regarding the future: while I won’t be a store manager, I will still be writing similar articles about the industry for Comics Beat, and they will start on January 12th. You might be surprised. You probably won’t be.
Until then, you’ll probably see me contribute the odd news post or opinion piece here or there, but otherwise, I will be busy putting together the next phase of my life – so if we don’t talk until then, have a fantastic holiday season!
Brandon Schatz and Danica LeBlanc are the owners of Variant Edition Comics + Culture located in Edmonton, Alberta. They specialize in matching people with the comics and books they never knew they wanted. In their spare time, they write articles and produce podcasts at Submetropolitan.com