Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 2, Issue 10

As promised, today I'd like to go into Total Fanboy Mode, and talk about comics, comics, comics! And I'll start with a bit of a rant. It'll be a good one, too, since it's about a situation that made me pretty annoyed.

Last week, my LCS was shorted. Not by a few books, mind you, but completely shorted.

As in, the store didn't get ANY new product from Diamond. Lemme say that again. The store--the comic book store that sells comic books and related paraphernalia--did not receive its promised shipment of product from Diamond. On a Wednesday.

You know, when every store in the United States gets their books.

Now, you need to understand that, in my area, there are several comic book shops. They're not all right next to each other or anything--actually, they all have at least three cities in-between that act as a buffer to the next-closest store--but they are all within an hour's drive from one another.

Which means that, while there's some competition between the stores for new customers, each store has its own set of loyal (or as loyal as comics fans can be) customers that frequent the shop each week. Last Wednesday, my preferred LCS was the only store in the area that got shorted.

Which means that anyone who had a little free time this weekend probably went to a competitor to buy his or her comics.

Which means that my LCS will be stuck with quite a bit of unsaleable product come this afternoon. And comics are not cheap for the shops. Even though Diamond gives retailers discounts on their offerings, the average comics shop spends an astronomical amount of money on new product each and every week.

I'm talking in the thousands, by the way, for anyone unfamiliar with the cost of such things. And, I have to say, that amount is staggering to me. Every week, like clockwork, another (huge) bill is due to the distributor.

The goal in comics retailing--and in all retailing, I suppose--is to sell through your order numbers. Or to get as close to sell-through as is possible.

What sets comics apart, though, is the fact that stores cannot return unsold product. Unlike bookstores, comics shops need to eat any books that don't sell. And because of the perpetual nature of the floppy, the window for selling a new book is typically three days.

If it's not sold by Saturday, you can pretty much start making room for it in the back issue bins.

So, when a store over-orders by one or two issues of a certain title, it's not so bad because the excess product can be used as back stock. And, chances are, someone will be looking for (at least some of) it at some point. Or, if you're creative about things, you can offer recent back issues in bundles and sell them as your own "collected editions" before the trade ships from a publisher.

However, while one or two extra copies is okay (just not on every single book--think about the size of your LCS. Now think about one or two issues of every single title they carry. How long before there's just no room for them in the back issue bins?), anything more than that can seriously hurt a store's bottom line.

And with rent due each month for the vast majority of stores, a comics-less week is potentially killer.

I'm fortunate that the owner of my LCS is a good businessman, and he prepares for things like this. But there are many stores out there that live and die on the sell-through of their new books each and every Wednesday.

Actually, I'd say that's the case for most comics shops in the U.S. today.

So when I called last Wednesday to give my list of books to hold, I could hear the frustration, annoyance, and disappointment in the voice on the other end of the phone. He even told me that the next-closest store got their full shipment in, and that I might want to head over there when I got the chance.

Which is exactly why I would never do something like that.

Instead, I gave the man my list, and I told him I'd pick them up (today), with this week's books. I'm sure many customers didn't do that. I'm sure a bunch of them went to other stores. And, honestly, I guess I can't really blame them. I mean, if you're like me, then you have a very small window in which to read books, and it's something I look forward to doing every weekend.

But, still.

The store had a bad week. I think about all the times over the last few years that I was having a bad week, and how going to the store on a Wednesday afternoon made things a little better, if only for a little while.

So the point of this whole thing is, I'll be spending quite a bit of money on books this week. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

With that, let's get into this week's pile of books. We'll start with a pair of new trades shipping today--one from Dark Horse and the other from DC's Vertigo line. From Dark Horse (my favorite publisher of 2009, by the way) comes the latest piece of the epic puzzle that is Hellboy.
Creator Mike Mignola's current offering, entitled "The Wild Hunt," hits stands today and collects the critically acclaimed eight-issue mini series event that answered many lingering questions for longtime fans of the writer/artist's signature character.

For Mignola fans, this is a must-read story in Hellboy's ever-changing arc as new revelations about the character and his purpose are brought to light.

Here's the solicitation information from the publisher:

When ancient giants begin to reawaken in the British Isles, Hellboy is invited to join an ancient band of fellow monster hunters called the Wild Hunt and help bring them down.

But an unexpected betrayal sends Hellboy after a quarry far more deadly: the Queen of Blood, first seen in 2007's best-selling Hellboy: Darkness Calls. This newly reborn evil has her murderous sights set on all of humanity, and the only way Hellboy can stop her is to finally confront the truth about his own dark heritage.

For $19.99, this trade is by far the cheapest way to get all eight issues, and its price point represents everything that is so right with Dark Horse, and so wrong with the other big publishers. There's no fancy $25-to-$30 hardcover here, offered many months before the eventual release of the cheaper (but inevitable) trade paperback.

There's just the soft cover trade, and it includes eight issues and plenty of bonus content for a great price. The paper quality is extremely high, and the covers are always beautiful.

This is how you do collections, folks.

On that note, the second trade that's can't-miss this week comes from Vertigo--another company that gets it in terms of how to release collected material.
From creator Peter Milligan, Greek Street, volume one, ships today, and for Vertigo's obligatory introductory price of $9.99. This is a great story, and one that will appeal to fans of Greek mythology and hard-boiled crime fiction alike.

Here's the blurb from Vertigo:

"A reminder that some stories are too true and too dangerous to ever die...crackles with Promethean fire." – Grant Morrison

Boasting a "Greek Chorus" of sexy strippers, vengeful gangsters, a murderous youth and a disturbed clairvoyant teenaged girl, GREEK STREET is Peter Milligan's reimagining of the brutal and visceral tragedies of Ancient Greece played out on the mean streets of modern-day London. This first paperback collects issues #1-5 of the provocative new series.

As you might have figured out by looking at the cover image above, and by reading the description from Vertigo, this is a mature readers series and involves some graphic stuff. It's pretty much the standard Vertigo fare in that regard, though, so if you're familiar with the kinds of books they put out, then you'll be getting what you'd expect.

This series is interesting, entertaining, and, yes, sometimes disturbing. But it's incredibly well told, and the art is fantastic. It's dark and violent and something that stands out against the palette or brightly-colored spandex on the racks these days.

And, finally, we have something a little different. From Marvel, the first issue of Breaking Into Comics the Marvel Way! hits today, and it's piqued my interest.

For obvious reasons.

Here's the amazingly long blurb from Marvel:

Want to know what it takes to break into Marvel Comics like these guys? Then look no further than this two-part book which is a must-have for anyone wanting to be a Comic Book Breakout Star!

After traveling the globe and meeting scores of talented illustrators, intrepid writer, editor and talent manager C.B. Cebulski is giving twelve rising star artists the opportunity to do their breakout work at Marvel Comics!

But not only will BREAKING INTO COMICS THE MARVEL WAY showcase the work of these up-and-comers, C.B. will also provide an insider’s commentary on how these artists got their work seen and what it was that landed them the gig. And with step-by-step submission information and a sample Marvel Comics script, these books are MUST HAVES for anyone interested in doing their breakout work and breaking into the comics industry!

This issue is the first of two in this new anthology series. Basically, Marvel is teaming up unknown artists with proven Marvel writers in order to showcase the new talent.
It's a cool idea, and while it's artist-centric, it's something I wish more companies would do. We'll see how orders are on something like this, though. I'm figuring that most shops will have small quantities, but it might be worth seeking out. New talent is always fun to scope out.

Annnnd...that's all I've got today. I'm actually at the office, and I just realized I hadn't yet posted this. So, yeah. Please forgive any grammatical errors. Oh, and--what are you Waiting for?

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