In addition to new and returning customers, I've also gotten a lot of questions, both in-store and in e-mail, about the New 52. Now that September is in the books, I figured I'd post some general answers and information.
(I want to quickly thank loyal employee Brittany, her paramour Garrett, and miniature artist extraordinaire Mark Lake 2.0 who went to New Orleans for some game thing, and brought me back a hand-rolled stogie.)
So, *lights cigar*, it's the weekend, let's do this.
Q: You guys ordered a lot of the New 52. How come you have more than other stores?
A: I can't speak for the ordering practices of other businesses. However, my sense is that a lot of comic stores played their numbers close to the vest. They didn't think this was going to do well, or they didn't have the cashflow to go in deep on the #1's. I can't blame them, noone gets rich off of comics anymore. The last couple years have been rough on everyone, it's a tough business.
Q: Why did you guys think it was going to succeed, and they didn't?
A: Because this was the first Action Comics and Detective Comics #1 in over 60 years.
Q: But DC and Marvel re-start all the tim-
A: Don't mean to cut you off, but that's not completely accurate. In the last 15 years, Marvel has gone to the re-launch well again and again. I think the Avengers books have been relaunched with 4 #1's since 1998? Maybe 5 if you include Heroes Reborn? Thor and Cap have gotten at least 3 themselves. Over at DC, Green Lantern got a new #1, Flash has gotten a couple (botched) re-launches, but Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman have kept their corresponding numbering for decades.
You can say that Marvel has been guilty of numerous re-launches (too many, really), but DC has not been as egregious in this area.
Q: So it was because of Action Comics and Detective Comics #1?
A: Yes and no.
Q: But you said-
A: I was being snarky.
A:... Is there a question?
Q: So why did you order so many?
A: John Rood convinced me.
Q: Who is John Rood?
A: Back in June and July, DC Comics sent most of their VP's (Including Jim Lee, Geoff Johns and Dan Dido) across the country to convince retailers to order huge on this and answer questions about the re-launch. I went to the one in Manhattan and came away feeling inspired. Everyone from DC was enthusiastic and you got the sense that it was "all hands on deck" for the re-launch. They were going to do everything possible to make this work, and if it didn't, people were going to get fired. That's not a joke; Didio laughed more than once about how his job was on the line.
But it was John Rood who got me thinking that the New 52 was going to be a success. Rood is DC"s Executive VP of Sales & Marketing. When it was his turn to speak, he talked about how DC was going to do newspapers, blogs, this and that, even some radio... and then he mentioned tv.
I sat up.
Over the last ten years, comics have gotten a tremendous amount of press in newspapers and magazines, but only the occasional mention on TV. Usually it's controversy, like when a Captain America comic criticized the Tea Party and Fox News gets upset.
But COMMERCIALS? On all of the Warner Bros. channels? That's a game-changer. Even with TiVO's and illegal downloading, lots of people still watch commercials.
That's when I knew this was going to be big.
There was also a number of returnability and cost-saving measures available to us from DC; that convinced David and I that we had a safety net to work from. If this didn't work, it wouldn't cripple the Den.
Q: So have you sold a lot of the New 52?
A: Tons. Just tons and tons and piles of comics. It's been heavenly.
Q: But you sold out of some..
A: Yeah, we're not perfect. We under-ordered on most of the Batman titles, and anything that ends with "-girl" or "-woman". Seems to be a trend, actually. In talking with other stores, the Batman titles were the first to go. Most of the first prints from the Batman family will be the hardest to find in the long run, I suspect.
Q: Do you think comic stores will go out of business like they did in the 90's, because of the New 52?
A: Not quite, no.
A: There were numerous reasons comic stores closes in the 90's: Over-reliance on variant covers, late comics from Image, the distributor wars, over-ordering on X-Men #1, the move from the back-issue model to the bookstore/Graphic novel-model, there's no one definitive reason for the bust period of the 90's; it was a perfect storm of calamity.
But the New 52 #1's were under-ordered. Supply did NOT meet demand. Not even close. Stores didn't order enough, DC didn't print enough. End of story.
Q: What about digital comics?
A: I think we're at least a full generation away from paper comics dying. DC has proved that there's still plenty of life in paper comics and comic book stores.
We're not going anywhere.
Q: Are you going to offer digital through your website?
A: At some point, yes. However, the business agreement to offer DC's New 52 through the web was... well, it wasn't very good from a retail standpoint. Not going to spend a lot of time on that, other than to say it was onerous. Not something I wanted our name attached to.
Q: How many of the #1's have gone to 2nd printings?
A: All of them.
Q: All? Wow.
A: Yeah, and Justice League #1 is on the 4th printing. Batgirl is on the 3rd. Detective will get another print, as will others.
Q: You reviewed all of the #1's?
A: Yeah. You can find the reviews for Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, and Week 4.
Q: Any stand-outs from the New 52? What else did you think about them?
A: I have lots of thoughts.
Q: No kidding.
I'll let that one go.
Some conclusions from the New 52:
* From a sales and creative view, the Batman family did fantastic. Thumbs-up across the board. Batman #1 and Batwoman #1 were great. I didn't like Detective as much as everyone else, but that's just a matter of personal taste.
* I think some of the costumes were a little TOO 90's-esque. See Deathstroke, Teen Titans (hate the Kid Flash and Red Robin re-designs)
* There were a bunch of surprises: Frankenstein, Animal Man, Demon Knights and Swamp Thing were all solid reads. Animal Man, especially, was creepy as hell.
* The Legion books were a massive disappointment: Legion Lost needed a re-write. Legion of Super-Heroes looked gorgeous, but was NOT a good #1. Not getting these books right was a missed opportunity.
* I confess, the Green Lantern books didn't do much for me. Yes yes, I know, I'm a huge Red Lanterns mark, but I thought that was the best of the GL books. New Guardians wasn't bad, but Green Lantern didn't feel like a good starting point for new fans, and Green Lantern Corps was just there. The days of GL being DC's best-sellers are over, I think.
* Superman, Action Comics, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and the Flash were all home-runs. Great books all around, but in different ways. The Aquaman scene (you know which one) was hilarious. Flash was gorgeous. Action Comics was Grant Morrisson doing his Golden Age pastiche. Wonder Woman was the first WW book I'd read in years that felt right.
* There's been some internet hub-bub about the sexual content in Catwoman and Red Hood. Between that and the violence in many of the books, I don't think most of the New 52 are appropriate for under-16 crowd.
* Great to see Justice League with Jim Lee on board, but it felt a little too decompressed. Not enough story for my tastes.
* Most of the New 52 ended on a cliffhanger. The era of decompressed storytelling is limping to a close, we're going to see more of this type of storytelling in the future.
Q: Speaking of Justice League, why does Hal have a ring there, but not in his own book?
A: One area DC really botched was explaining the timelines and continuity aspect of the New 52. In short: Action Comics is Year Zero for it's first story arc. Justice League is Year One for it's first story arc. Everything else is Year Five, or thereabouts.
Q: So what will happen with the #2's?
A: Well, we increased our order on some of them.
A: Yeah, and I ordered bunches of the 2nd printings, although I don't think they'll be around for very long.
Q: More sell-outs? Does this mean my comics will be worth more?
A: Ah, er, um.. well, look. I can't deny there's serious secondary market action on some of these titles, but anyone looking at these as an investment should remember the Death of Superman. Those books aren't worth much more than cover price anymore, if that.
Q: So that's a 'no', then?
A: It's a warning.
Gambling on collectibles is very risky. For my money, I'd buy the ones you enjoyed reading, stick 'em in a bag and board, and check e-bay once the collected editions come out. Or keep 'em forever. Or fold 'em up and put them in your back pocket. I've got a couple customers who do that.
Q: My last question is about Marvel.
A: Haha... yeah. Marvel.
Q: What are they going to do to compete?
A: Great question. Short answer: No idea. Long answer: They have to do something. They've been crowing about being the #1 publisher of comics for years and years. Those days are done, over, kaput. I look at my sales for the month, and every DC book outsold our best-selling Marvel titles (FF & Uncanny X-Force).
I also think there's something to be said about Marvel's $3.99 price point not matching the quality of some of their titles. Sometimes I read Avengers or a couple other Marvel titles, and put the book down 3 minutes later and say to myself "That's it? Really? Yeesh."
And I know I shouldn't say that (yet another reason why I don't review books much) but at the end of the day, I know that every dollar counts more than it has in years. I want you to enjoy what you buy, not make purchases out of inertia - aka "I've been buying this one forever", etc. I can always find a good comic to put in your hands, I promise. :)
Q: So what's next?
A: Next is Comic-Con in New York. The Dragon's Den will be in attendance. We'll be selling tons of games and gaming merchandise at Booth #2920. I'll be running around meeting people and getting publishers to buy me drinks. There's also a rumor we'll be giving away a complete set of the New 52 #1's. (I can neither confirm nor deny such a rumor.)
After NYCC... it's the holidays, and that's a whole 'nother level of craziness.
But in the meantime, it's an exciting time to be a fan of comics
(This post was written with the assistance of the music-based word editor OmmWriter and a well-rolled cigar. Thanks Garrett.)