Tuesday, August 24, 2004

"Don't bring the 'real world' into the ACTUAL comics."

While I'm waiting to be retrieved by my great-to-the-fifteenth-or-so grandson, Brian Hibbs is saying what I meant to say about Identity Crisis. Since I seem to be incapable of saying it myself (or so I must conclude), I'll point you there. Excerpt:
Execution, skill, craft, passion, this is clearly Very Good, but because the absolutely wrong set of characters were picked to tell this story, I also think it's Awful. I think both things at once.
I would only modify this to say that I am withholding final judgement until the miniseries concludes, just as David Welsh says I should:
You’re trying to judge the comic based on individual chapters: Obviously, this is madness. Sure, DC is publishing IC in a monthly format, but that doesn’t entitle you to evaluate it on a chapter-by-chapter basis.
(I should point out that Welsh intends this as sarcasm.)
Be reasonable. Spend $4 a month, just in case it might make sense later. It’s the least you can do. Then, after you’ve shelled out $30, you can say how much you hate it. You’ll still be wrong, but you won’t be hamstrung in this manner.
Tell you what, DC: Publish the collected trade first, I'll buy it, and then we'll both be happy, right? (At San Diego Comicon, DC said the trade is scheduled for November 2005.)

Maybe not. They keep claiming they don't--can't!--make money on the trades, that they only way the business model works is with regular monthly sales of 32-page pamphlets for $3. Or, in IC's case, 40-page pamphlets for $4, since Meltzer is a Real Author.

This needs some further thought.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Who's buying these things?

I'll never be as interested in comics as I was twenty years ago. There was a time I bought everything on the stands (much of which is still in my attic getting brown and brittle: it might be time to sort through it and hit eBay). These days, I'm much more selective.

You have to be. Batman alone, for instance, carries four monthly titles (about to be five, when the tie-in to his new cartoon show begins) and his "extended family" of books account for four more (not counting peripherals like "Birds of Prey" and numerous limited series). For Superman the corresponding count is 3 and 0, having been scaled back since his supporting cast is not currently considered strong enough to carry their own books.

This also doesn't count team books. Teen Titans (currently a three-title franchise, thanks to their cartoon show and "The Outsiders", which features most of the founding Titans under new names) could be considered a Bat-book, since Robin or Nightwing is the central character in all of them. Justice League (also with a second companion monthly based on the cartoon) features both Superman and Batman.

(I won't even talk about Marvel's EIGHTEEN X-men books.)

But DC's big success story, and it's current best seller, is Superman/Batman. For purposes of editorial jurisdiction, it's considered a Superman book, but Batman drives it, both dramatically and in sales. The fact that it's written by the popular Jeph Loeb doesn't hurt. (I'm dating myself when I wistfully wish that they'd called it "World's Finest", but that's a topic for another day.)

So, how well does it sell? Diamond International (comics distributors) doesn't like to say. Their monthly sales numbers aren't raw sales, but an index of how well a book sells compared to Batman (which is deemed for these purposes to be a rock-hard consistent seller, an assumption that raw numbers, when available, don't seem to justify). That is, Batman's index is always 100: Superman: Birthright's index this month is 49, meaning they sold forty-nine copies of Birthright #12 for every hundred copies of Batman #630. Or, put another way, about one copy for every two.

Could this be any more obtuse?

Anyway: Superman/Batman #11's index is 208. (S/B's numbers were always pretty good, but at the moment fan-favorite artist Michael Turner is drawing a six-issue arc featuring the introduction -- re-introduction? return? -- of Kara, the Supergirl from Krypton. I've mentioned it before. It's an eagerly-awaited story, and sales are through the roof.) But how many copies is that, exactly?

Fortunately, you only need hard numbers on one book to throw the whole chart into Excel, crunch the numbers and get sales for the industry. (I shouldn't have to do this. What other industry makes their sales figures so difficult to get?) Equally fortunately, icv2.com has already done this, and Comicon.com has generated sales and trends for DC for the last year (possibly Marvel, too, but I couldn't find that).

Superman/Batman #10 (the most recent for which this calculation has been done) sold an estimated 178,865 copies in its first month of release. Since DC does subsequent printings (Marvel doesn't: that too is a topic for another day), sales can continue past that point, bringing S/B's total to 192,570.

That's a phenomenal number for comic books these days.

Batman sold 72,020: Birthright sold 34,829. Batman Adventures (the cartoon tie-in) sold 12,042. Batman Adventures is #152 of Diamond's top 300 selling comics for the month. Can you imagine what sales must be like for the other 148?

In light of these sales figures, comic books achieve a disproportionate amount of media awareness. There's not a schoolkid anywhere in the country (and not many grown-ups) who doesn't know who Batman is. You'd think these books would be selling in the millions. They once did.

Elsewhere in the AOL empire, TIME magazine's circulation is about 4 million in the US, 5.5 worldwide.

Monday, August 09, 2004


Just in case you were under the impression that comic books were anything other than disposable entertainment for the kiddies.
Tampa Tribune | Comics Fans Entertain Fantasy At Convention
Kay Henderson knew she had something valuable among a stash of old comic books.

The 10-cent Dick Tracy comic, and a stack of Little Big and Big Big books were never going to interest her grandchildren.

"They don't know who Dick Tracy was," she said.

On Sunday Henderson collected about $200 for the Dick Tracy, which pitted Chester Gould's rock-jawed detective against a mysterious villain with no face. Paul Dyroff, a collector and comic book vendor from Lake Mary, said the vintage Tracy might climb to $300 on resale.

...Ethan Van Sciver, who was at Sunday's event, will also return. Van Sciver was chosen as the artist for "Return of Hal Jordan," a new Green Hornet comic. It is expected to create significant buzz among collectors, said Tim Gordon, the convention's organizer and owner of Tim Gordon Comics in St. Petersburg.

"This is a new Green Hornet story that brings Hal Jordan back to life," he said.

Oh, by the way, Ms Reporter Person: You've badly misquoted Mr Gordon. "Return of Hal Jordan" is not the name of the book: It's Green Lantern: Rebirth. It's not about the Green Hornet, and he wouldn't have told you it was.

I realize this must look pretty trivial to you, and on some level it certainly is. It's only a comic book. It's the kind of mistake you make when you aren't really paying attention to the person you're talking to. People do it all the time.

But these days, comic books aren't something you buy with the dime you save by skipping the milk with your lunch at school. The people who buy them are also the people who buy other things. Maybe even the people who make the decision whether to subscribe to a newspaper. And these people, people who'll spend $200 for a Dick Tracy comic, people who know the difference between a Hornet and a Lantern, well, they aren't going to subscribe to yours if they see this. If you got something this simple wrong, they'll ask themselves, what else do you get wrong?

It's hard to sell subscriptions: It's easy to lose 'em. How many subscribers can you afford to lose?