Comic Store In Your Future: The Secret Empire Sales Drop

Rod Lamberti of Rodman Comics writes weekly for Bleeding Cool. Find previous columns here.

It didn't surprise me to read that July 2017 saw the first drop in overall comics sales of the year. A drop in sales did happen. This summer was weaker than last summer sales wise for us. Rebirth last year was a big seller. Our orders were lower than last year reflecting less demand for comics.

Secret Empire

Secret Empire is following Civil War II in terms of sales for us. Started out with people being interested. The zero issue and first issues of Secret Empire didn't blow out the doors for us, but people started picking up both issues up after they had been out for a while. Then, as the limited series went on, people lost interest. Did anyone enjoy the ending of Civil War II? As for Secret Empire, Barf is not the breakout character of 2017.

DC stayed the course. Their big thing was the four-part button crossover between the Flash and Batman. DC is now starting their big Metal crossover. Which has started off exciting readership. We will have to see as time goes on how well it will go. It has been somewhat confusing for some, with two one-shots leading up to the crossover.

Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man's first issue was number one on the sales chart the month it came out. Though as with Champions and many other Marvel titles, they start off on top of the sales charts, but quickly take a nosedive.

Valliant's XO Manowar has been a bright spot for us. It managed to increase sales here in store. In the current crowded marketplace, that is no easy accomplishment.

Marvel's All-New Wolverine has stabilized and sells roughly the same amount each issue — which again is no easy accomplishment.

Why the drop?

Lots of reasons in my mind. Some of the reasons I will go over with later on.

Will the drop be permanent?

No, in October Marvel will see a sales increase thanks to their lenticular variants. Some stores have chosen not to order them, which will make the variants rarer.

When DC first had their lenticular variants a few years ago, not all the comic stores received what they had ordered. There were shortages. When something is truly limited or people feel it is, often times people want it even more. Demand went up due to having less available product.

Marvel has already announced that their lenticular covers may be allocated in the previews ordering. So, they may be shorting stores product, which will drive up demand even more. If that does happen, I will not be happy. Their overly complicated order guidelines force comic stores to up their orders just so they have the option of ordering the lenticular covers.

Now, after October, there could be a big drop. There will still be lenticular covers coming out the following month by Marvel; though if they do not sell well, we could see a heck of a drop in the future. This means stores will be tying up their money in non-returnable product, often ordering more regular cover versions of a comic than they can hope to sell.

The stores that are not ordering Marvel's lenticular covers are playing it safe, and they are not doing anything wrong by any means. My thought process is: I am ordering them simply because I feel I have to. We have six other comic stores in central Iowa. If we don't carry the lenticular covers, then the people that want them will go elsewhere.

Turning people away that want to spend money is not the best option for us. As I have stated before, as of now we hope that some people that want the lenticular cover will also buy the non-lenticular cover, both for cover price, and making it a rule to help us balance out the over ordering to get the lenticular cover. That may change.

Variants are not long term sales solutions. After Marvel's renumbering and variants, there could very well be another big drop. Marvel better be going big in 2018, because right now, 2017 for Marvel is not the year that the company is going to be remembered for good storylines and positive news.

DC You was not a hit for DC. For the most part it had been forgotten until DC Mystic U was announced as actually going to see print finally under the new name of Mystik U, since it was originally a part of DC You. DC's Rebirth has shown that a company can turn things around quickly. From a zero to a hero in no time.

The market will have trouble as long as it is filled with so much material.

Right now, an anything-goes attitude doesn't help. There doesn't seem to be standards. A Marvel-way standard for writing or artists. Or the DC, IDW, Valiant, or whatever way be for any company. My Little Pony and The Simpsons have art based on what they look like on TV. The rest of the books by the various publishers change art styles with nearly every different artist.

Standards for writing. Is there such a thing? Is an editor able to tell a writer "No"? Are editors able to improve a story? In the Bane limited series, Batman seems fine with Bane killing people. Even the villain points it out to Batman himself. The Bane limited series should sell a lot better, though it seems to have nothing to do with his recent previous appearance in Batman.

Barf is going to save the day in Secret Empire? Seriously? No editor thought that might be a bit much? I am supposed to promote this? A possible new comic reader walks in and I am going to sell him on "Barf"?

With Marvel jumping ahead with their numbering on various books, it looks like people are treating them as first issues. The greatest drawback when Marvel has first issues or renumbers their titles for me is that no one cares about the previous issues afterwards. And I mean no one. Who wants Venom #1 through #8 now that it's past issue 150? Same with all the previous renumbered series. No one cares.

Other than Batman and Wonder Woman DC's New 52, comics are dead in the water now for us. People are focused on the current Rebirth series. That includes the writers and the readers. When a new writer comes on a book and doesn't even acknowledge a past writer's work on the character or characters, even in a single panel, that shows the writer doesn't care. So why should the readers?

Editors need control on the books they are on — the ability to push a writer and artist to be better. To produce a better product. I try to push my employees all the time. A comic book is a team effort. Someone on that team has to make tough and unpopular calls. Not every writer has nonstop great ideas just because they are a writer. Pointing that out without fear of the writer crying "creative freedom" would be great.

These writers are writing characters they do not own to make money. Being surprised when their boss acts like their boss is very odd. Someone has to be concerned if the book will sell. Right now, there are so many books that people have forgotten about due to such low reader interest. Dollar bins are filled with material that no one cares about. Over the last few years these titles come to mind as titles that are just literally litter in comic bins due to no demand. All-New Inhumans, Avengers World, Black Panther: the Crew, Black Panther: World of Wakanda, Black Widow, Catwoman, DC Universe Presents, Elektra, Firestorm, Generation Next, Green Team, Hawk and Dove, Hyperion, Hawkman, Justice League United,  Kingpin, Nighthawk, Mockingbird, Omac, Omega Men, Prez, Secret Avengers, Slapstick, Solo, Starbrand and Nightmask, Uncanny Inhumans, Unstoppable Wasp, Wacky Raceland, and a heck of a lot more.

Instead of an anything-goes mentality when putting out new comics, how about a standard test? Will this book have a following? Should it just be a limited series (Mr. Miracle just showed that a limited series other than a Star Wars-related one can sell) to test demand? Should the book not be published yet to wait on a better creative team? Should a few issues be completed before the first issue actually comes out? Can the writer at least include in one panel an acknowledgement of the previous writer's work on the series? Give at least the illusion that the writer cares about the comic's history?

What is the current standards for having an artist on a series? Anything goes? They're good as long as the deadlines are met?  If they work for cheap they're hired?

Raise the standards for comics and then see the rise in interest on what is being published.

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Rod LambertiAbout Rod Lamberti

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