Here’s the list of comics and new items shipping next week!

What looks good to you?  (I’ll give you a hint what the best book on the list is…it rhymes with “Shmarman Shmonibus”)

(Note: This is only the expected list of total books shipping.  Not all books will be available in all stores, and changes can happen due to problems in shipping and packing.)

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #652

AVENGERS ACADEMY #8

AVENGERS VS PET AVENGERS #4 (OF 4)

BATMAN #706

BATMAN STREETS OF GOTHAM #19

BLECKY YUCKERELLA GN VOL 04

BOYS #50 (MR)

BRIGHTEST DAY #18

BRIGHTEST DAY #18 VAR ED

BUFFY VAMPIRE SLAYER #40

LAST GLEAMING PT 5 (OF 5)

CASANOVA TP LUXURIA VOL 01 (MR)

CHARMED #5

PHOTOCLASSIC MARIO 5-IN AF ASST

DARKWING DUCK #8

DEADPOOL CLASSIC TP VOL 04

DEADPOOLMAX #4 (MR)

DETECTIVE COMICS ANNUAL #12

DEXTER COLOR CHANGING MUG

DISNEY FAIRIES GN VOL 04 TINKER BELL TO THE RESCUE

DO ANDROIDS DREAM DUST TO DUST #8 (OF 8)

DRAGON AGE SER 1 ACTION FIGURES

DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS #3

FARSCAPE ONGOING #15

GARTH ENNIS BATTLEFIELDS TP VOL 06

MOTHERLAND

GFT MYTHS & LEGENDS #1

GI JOE COBRA II #12

GOON TP VOL 10 DEATHS GREEDY COMEUPPANCE

GORILLA MAN #2 (OF 3)

GREEN LANTERN CORPS #56 (BRIGHTEST DAY)

GREEN LANTERN CORPS #56 VAR ED (BRIGHTEST DAY)

HELLBLAZER #275 (MR)

HOUSE OF MYSTERY TP VOL 05 UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT (MR)

IDES OF BLOOD #6 (OF 6)

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #500

JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL TP VOL 05

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #53

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #53 VAR ED

LEGION OF SUPER HEROES #9

LOCKE & KEY KEYS TO THE KINGDOM #4 (OF 6)

MASS EFFECT EVOLUTION #1 (OF 4)

MEMOIR #1 (OF 6)

MICKEY MOUSE #304

MORNING GLORIES #6

NORTHLANDERS #36 (MR)

POWER GIRL #20

RAT CATCHER HC (MR)

SCARLET #4 (MR)

SIMPSONS COMICS #174

SMURFS GN VOL 04 SMURFETTE

SONIC UNIVERSE #24

SPAWN ORIGINS TP VOL 09

SPIRIT #10

STAN LEE SOLDIER ZERO #4

STAR WARS LONG TIME AGO OMNIBUS TP VOL 03

STARMAN OMNIBUS HC VOL 06

STEVE ROGERS PREM HC SUPER-SOLDIER

SUPERGIRL #60

SUPERIOR #4 (OF 6) (MR)

SUPERMAN BATMAN #80

TANK GIRL WE HATE TANK GIRL TP (MR)

THOR #619

THOR FIRST THUNDER #5 (OF 5)

THOR RAGNAROK TP

TINY TITANS #36

TOYFARE #163

TRANSFORMERS PRIME #3 (OF 4)

TRANSFORMERS SECTOR 7 #5 (OF 5)

WITCHBLADE #141

WOLVERINE #5

WOLVERINE & JUBILEE #1 (OF 4)

X-FACTOR #214

X-MEN LEGACY #244

YOUNG JUSTICE #0


A quick note on this post by Mark Millar today that ties into the digital chart discussion.

“Also, and perhaps the most worrying question of all, how do we know what we’re selling? It’s quite hard to fake what comics are doing as you can check with the printers, distributors and a number of places. Official, quite accurate numbers are printed online. But I checked several sources last night and nobody could tell me what my download numbers were for these supposed record-breaking numbers of mine. Just their chart position. I’m really not liking this at all.”

Not even Mark Millar, King of All Media, who is the creator who owns the rights to the Kick-Ass comics in these top ten charts can tell us what the download numbers are on his own book.  How can any of us possibly draw any conclusions about the state of the market as a whole?

 


Several people have referred me to this article over at Comics Alliance that lists the Top 10 comics of 2010 for ComiXology.  Others in the blogosphere are also discussing this article, with the hyperbolic title “The Dramatic Data About Who is Buying Digital Comics – and What They’re Buying.”  Ooooooh!  Dramatic!

Before I get into details of this article, I have to point out one basic point.  Lists of this nature only exist for one reason: marketing.  The NY Times Bestseller list, Diamond’s own monthly comics charts, the weekly round up of the top grossing box office movies, any list that you see released to the public is only done so for marketing purposes, period.  None of them ever give us any hard data about the items being listed, except for the weekly box office, and even then, the success of a movie has relatively little to do with the weekly grosses.  These lists are a combination of showing off for the people producing the material, and who has paid for placement on those lists.  If you follow Hollywood at all, you will read about how fights will break out over the top five movie list as studios try to get the publicity that goes along with being the fifth highest ranked movie versus the sixth, since most major media outlets report the top five movies each Monday morning.  This marketing focus also leads to inane statements in advertising like the Yogi Bear movie being the “#1 family film in America!”, in spite of it being 8th in the charts for the most recent weekend.  DC and Marvel are in a constant fight over having the number one comic, or the most comics in the top ten, and for no other reason than bragging rights.

Don’t take this to mean that charts are worthless entirely.  Charts give people a handy way to discover things they might not have checked out otherwise.  This is why you see lists being produced anywhere they are possible.  Looking at digital apps, there’s several lists that are available for people to read from bestselling single book, to best selling series, to bestselling books within a company’s given line and so on that allow someone who is interested in a given book or company or creator to more easily discover other books.

Now, back to the post at hand.

The lists quoted in this article are Top Ten Bestselling Comics (by Unique Series) (whatever the heck THAT means) and Top Ten Series (Units Sold).  The author then spends a few thousand words drawing conclusions about the markets based off of these two lists and contrasting them with the Diamond Comics Distribution Top Ten list for 2010.

The first big problem with these lists is there is no actual data or qualifiers presented here.  Time for a pop quiz.  What was the #1 comic in terms of units sold to comic stores in the Direct Market in 2010?  You’re wrong.  Unless you listed any of the Free Comic Book Day books as your answer, you were wrong.  The #1 comic in terms of units purchased by More Fun Comics and Games was the Iron Man/Thor FCBD book.  I’m willing to bet that this, or some other promotional comic, was easily the #1 book in units in 2010.  Diamond does not list books like this on their charts, and with good reason.  They also stopped listing books that had promotional cover prices like the Batman 10 Cent Adventure because they warped the lists as well.  Diamond has several conditions that are well known that can change the status of a given book on a list.  For example, DC has had several weekly books whose first twelve issues are partially returnable, and Diamond adjusts their reporting for those books accordingly when they announce the top lists.

My point is here that the ComiXology charts do not appear to take any kind of promotional pricing schemes into account, outside of creating a separate list for books that are free.  I should note here that I’m only aware of the “free” lists by doing a little digging on ComiXology’s site myself.  The author of this piece didn’t bother to share this data with us.  Is it fair to compare a book that is selling for 99 cents versus one selling for $2.99?  And does including an $8.99 collection in the same list as several books that are $2.99 or less make much sense for any reasonable analysis?   Of course not.  Fairness isn’t the goal here, though, it is marketing.

As mentioned in the article by David Brothers and on ComiXology’s website, these lists only count the books sold in the main ComiXology app, disregarding the sales of comics through the branded Marvel and DC apps that are managed by ComiXology.  Given that information, the fact that these lists are dominated by some of the most well-known non-superhero books on the market becomes much less surprising.  In fact, I’m trying to figure out how Civil War even got on these lists, to be honest.  A search of the main ComiXology site doesn’t even show Civil War as available to purchase at this moment.

In addition to this, you’re now talking about a list that is showing such a narrow picture of the digital market, any data that it provides quickly becomes almost meaningless.  This list is akin to what would happen to the weekly box office charts if you based them off of the ticket sales of a single movie theater in California.  The results would become wildly different, skewing heavily towards the demographics of that specific theater.  If you’re trying to gather meaningful data from which to judge how the market is doing based off of these ComiXology lists, you’re really wasting your time, because there is so little meaningful data to be had.  Plus, as illustrated by this post at The Beat there is scads of contradictory lists and data floating around out there, which are all as narrow as the lists in question to begin with.

All of that doesn’t stop the author from trying to make broad conclusions about the digital market, though!  He says early on “ If you go by the top ten series, the Big Two are responsible for just 30% of ComiXology’s units sold. This is a sharp drop from the 77% they control in the Direct Market.”  My first response?

 

I simply am in awe at that statement and its emptiness and lack of context.  How any reasonable person can type that statement and expect to be taken seriously is dumbfounding.  We have no idea what the number of units are per item sold given the data available.  If item #1 sells 200 units and unit #10 sells 32, that statement falls apart at Flash-like speed.  Do I need to repeat what I said about the narrow scope of these charts and the sales they represent?  Trying to say that DC and Marvel are much smaller players on a list the precludes the primary sources of purchasing the products they sell is an obvious one.  He continues to make broad statements like this in the article, continuously ignoring the statements at the beginning of the article that lay out the limitations of these numbers.

Not that a sense of reality or scope will let our author draw his conclusions as he sees fit!  He even says so when he says “The data we have is clearly incomplete. We don’t know how well the branded ComiXology apps, which include Marvel and DC, are selling, but looking at this data, we don’t really need it.” (emphasis mine)  At this point the article has to be a level.  There’s no way this author can be serious.  He is saying without hesitation that we don’t need critical data to come up with conclusions on the demand for comics in the digital market in general.  Please, no one ever let this guy near a scientific research lab.  His disregard for data (or the acknowledgement of the lack of said data) that doesn’t fit his conclusion is, again, dumbfounding.

Just to belabor the point (both mine and his), he says, in conclusion “Regardless, these sales show that brands work differently online. Marvel and DC are playing second fiddle to companies that they dominate in the Direct Market, and Image is going for the crown.”  He is saying that the companies who command enough market attention to demand their own branded apps that keep their sales data separate from the rest of the market are playing second fiddle to the rest of the market, where everyone else goes through one general market app.

I’m not saying that I know any better for certain.  What I can say, and will readily admit to, is that I do not know, and I’m not going to even attempt to draw concrete conclusions of any kind based off of data that is so incomplete.  I think it is a great thing that these comics are finding their audiences, even if it is through the digital platform.  However, I’m not going to play the part of a blind man trying to describe an elephant with a single touch and report my description as some kind accurate statement as to what the elephant looks like.


Part of comics activism on your part is understanding that your shopping habits have a big impact on the store or stores you frequent.  As many of you are aware, this isn’t a business where every store has every new comic 100 copies deep.  It simply isn’t feasible.  While a large amount of this work definitely is on the shoulders of the store, customers can do small things to help their local store out!  I’ll be discussing various ways you can be a better customer for your favorite store throughout the year, starting today!

My first tip: Open up a subscription box at your local store!  Sometimes referred to as a pull and hold box, the idea is that you let your local store know which monthly comics you would like to pick up each month, and they pull and reserve a copy so you can come pick it up at your leisure.  The rules governing these things vary a great deal from store to store, so be sure to check details with them.

How does this help your store?  Comic stores order well in advance of the release of the comics sight-unseen, and without the ability to return unsold copies.  These circumstances make correct ordering both very important, and rather tricky.  Subscription customers help take a little bit of the guesswork out of the equation.  Not only do they give us an idea of the demand for a given title, they also can help us gauge demand for related titles.  The number of subs I have for Batman helps me gauge how many copies of the Batman Holiday Special, Batgirl, Red Robin, and any number of Bat-related titles I can expect to sell.  My Walking Dead subs help me gauge demand for other horror comics, zombie comics, or even other Robert Kirkman projects.  Even if you only subscribe to a single comic, all data is helpful on our end!

Besides, at Keith’s Comics and More Fun Comics, a subscription gets you on our mailing list so you’re first to know about sales, special events, and other awesome things!

On the flipside of this, another thing you can do to help your local comic store if you have a sub box is to….close it!  By this I mean to say that, if you need to stop picking up your books, let your local store know.  Every decent store is run by a businessperson who understands as well as anyone that we all have financial and time constraints sometimes.  If you hit a situation where you can’t afford your sub books any longer, a simple five minute visit or phone call to let the store know you need to close your sub box is actually doing them a big favor.  The all-too-common alternative is when people simply disappear, and don’t pick up their books at all.  What happens is many of the books set aside for them could have been sold had the store known that the sub customer didn’t need them any longer.  The demand for books is highest in the first week or two, missing that window makes a big difference.  By letting your store know in a more timely fashion that circumstances are forcing you to cut back, you actually give them a better opportunity to sell the books you don’t need any longer.  I’ve had plenty of people that come in and mention they need to shut off their box, and I just let them know that they’re welcome to come back if things change again for them.  It is a win-win situation for all!


Here’s the list of comics and new items shipping next week!  What looks good to you?

(Note: This is only the expected list of total books shipping.  Not all books will be available in all stores, and changes can happen due to problems in shipping and packing.)

ALL NEW BATMAN THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #3

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #651

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #651 TRON BROOKS VAR

AQUAMAN FUNKO FORCE BOBBLE HEAD

BATGIRL #17

BATMAN AND ROBIN #19

BATMAN AND ROBIN #19 VAR ED

BATMAN FUNKO FORCE BOBBLE HEAD

BATMAN JOKERS ASYLUM TP VOL 02

BATTLE ANGEL ALITA LAST ORDER TP VOL 14

BIRDS OF PREY #8

BLACK PANTHER MAN WITHOUT FEAR #514

BLACKEST NIGHT SER 7 BALANCED CASE ASST

BOOSTER GOLD #40

BPRD HELL ON EARTH GODS #1 (OF 3) RYAN SOOK CVR

CAPTAIN AMERICA KORVAC SAGA #2 (OF 4)

CAPTAIN AMERICA MAN OUT OF TIME #3 (OF 5)

CASANOVA GULA #1 (OF 4) (MR)

CHAOS WAR DEAD AVENGERS #3 (OF 3)

DAREDEVIL REBORN #1 (OF 4)

DARK TOWER GUNSLINGER JOURNEY BEGINS PREM HC

DARK TOWER GUNSLINGER LITTLE SISTERS ELURIA #2 (OF 5)

DARKCHYLDE TP VOL 01 LEGACY & REDEMPTION (MR)

DAYS MISSING KESTUS #1 (OF 5)

DC HEROES WAVE 15 BATMAN SIN CORPS AF

DC HEROES WAVE 15 STARMAN MODERN AF

DEADPOOL #31

DOC SAVAGE #10

DOCTOR WHO SPECIAL #27

DODGEM LOGIC MAGAZINE #6 (MR)

DONALD DUCK AND FRIENDS #362

)DR WHO MAGAZINE #429 SPECIAL

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS DARK SUN #1 (OF 5)

FANTASTIC FOUR RESURRECTION GALACTUS PREM HC

FEEDING GROUND #1 (OF 6) (MR)

GOLD DIGGER #124

GREEN LANTERN EMERALD WARRIORS #6

GREEN LANTERN FUNKO FORCE BOBBLE HEAD

HACK SLASH ME WITHOUT YOU (ONE-SHOT) LEISTER CVR (MR)

HALCYON #3

HALO TP HELLJUMPER (RES) (MR)

HEROES FOR HIRE #2

I AM AN AVENGER #5 (OF 5)

INCREDIBLE HULKS #620

INFINITE VACATION #1

JOHN BYRNE NEXT MEN #2

JOKER FUNKO FORCE BOBBLE HEAD

JUSTICE LEAGUE GENERATION LOST #17

JUSTICE LEAGUE GENERATION LOST #17 VAR ED

KNIGHT & SQUIRE #4 (OF 6)

MOUSE GUARD BLACK AXE #1 (OF 6)

NEW AVENGERS BY BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS PREM HC VOL 01

REBELS #24

RED ROBIN #19

SECRET SIX #29

SIEGE DARK AVENGERS TP

SIXTH GUN TP VOL 01

SPAWN #200

SPIKE #4 (OF 8)

STAN LEE STARBORN #2

STAR WARS KNIGHT ERRANT #4

SUPER HEROES #10

SUPERMAN #707

SUPERMAN #707 VAR ED

SUPERMAN FUNKO FORCE BOBBLE HEAD

SUPERMAN LAST STAND OF NEW KRYPTON HC VOL 02

THOR MIGHTY AVENGER #8

THUNDER AGENTS #3

TITANS #31

TRANSFORMERS PRIME #2 (OF 4)

UNCLE SCROOGE #399

UNWRITTEN #21 (MR)

WIDOW MAKER #3 (OF 4)

WONDER GIRL #1

WORLDS GREATEST DC HEROES FLASH RETRO AF

WORLDS GREATEST DC HEROES WONDER WOMAN RETRO AF

X-MEN FOREVER 2 #15


When I started writing this a while back, Bleeding Cool hadn’t informed us all that DC Comics is bringing the letters column back to their comics.  So I had to rework this column a little bit and add a few things in light of the news.  Everything I thought still stands, and I’ve added in a little bit addressing some of the snarky comments I’ve seen on the net about the columns coming back, too.  Without further ado….

There’s a lot of discussions about how to save comics nowadays, as if they’re some damsel in distress tied to a train tracks crying as they’re about to get liquefied by an oncoming freight train.  Personally, I don’t think things are THAT dire, nor do I think that the hyperbole is particularly productive.  I think things are changing, sure, but a little foresight and work can help the business as a whole survive and, possibly, thrive.  Realistically, it is more about evolution and change than it is about strictly survival.  However, who would read a series of articles called “How to Manage the Oncoming Change in the Future of the Comics Business?”  No one, that’s who.  Just that line sounds like an obnoxiously boring business seminar.  Powerpoint anyone?  Heck no.

So on to the actual business at hand.  Saving comics.  On the monthly comic side of things, it is no secret that monthly comic books haven’t been exactly selling at historical highs for quite a while now, especially when it comes to the non-superhero side of things.  Getting people to read monthly comics, especially in the age of waiting for the trade, becomes a matter of creating a monthly package that people are compelled to buy.

The comic companies have done themselves a bit of a disservice by having monthly books often become simply the individual chapters that are then eventually put into a collected edition.  On top of that the collected edition then ends up often being cheaper to purchase than the individual issues contained within, and often contain “extras” that weren’t printed in the monthly comics.  Then the companies wonder why the sales on the monthly comic has lagged so much over the years.

One of the ways to make the monthly package compelling is to deliver compelling content.  This is more than just telling a great story within the pages of the comic.  For example, you can try to make things exciting on a weekly basis so people want to stay tuned in every week and see what is happening.  However, there’s other things you can do.

Like bring back the letters column.

I’ve been telling anyone who would listen to do this for several years, especially on DC’s Vertigo line.

Letters columns do many things to make the monthly book more interesting.

Letters columns add more reading material and insight to the book in your hands at a relatively low cost to the publisher.  Having even two pages of comments by other fans to read as well as comments by the editors and creators that give some insight into the book that a reader may not have thought of before adds a different kind of entertainment to the package.

Letter columns add to the sense of community surrounding a given book.  They encourage people to provide feedback in the hopes of getting their letter printed.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that two of the bigger success stories of the indie comic scene of the last 10 years has been Invincible and Walking Dead, which feature letter pages as a significant part of their monthly package.

Some naysayers insist that the existence of the internet and forums makes the letters column obsolete.  They’re wrong, for two primary reasons.

Everything on the internet is worthless.  Psychologically, people value things not according to the actual value that any given item provides to their life, but according to what they have to give up in order to acquire that thing.  Accessing online comments is completely free, and anyone who has frequented internet forums or comments threads of any stripe will tell you that those areas are less than worthless on the whole.  (Yes, that worthlessness extends even to this blog, but I like typing a whole lot of words, so here we are.)  People inherently will place greater value reading a letter or opinion that was screened by an editor and then printed in a physical comic than they would value that exact same letter or opinion.  They also don’t have to sift through 300 posts in all caps going “LOLZ SUPERMAN IS DUMB” to find a post of any quality.

I don’t expect anyone here reading this to agree with, or possibly even understand this point, but the truth is, there are people out there who have zero interest in wading onto the internet to discuss comics.  I have customers who spend all day in front of a computer at work, and when they get home, the last thing they want to do is continue to do so.  I have others who are far enough out in the suburbs that they don’t have a decent connection, and others who simply can’t afford an internet connection.  There’s more to the world than the echo chamber of the internet, and letters columns printed in the books allow those customers more of an opportunity to appreciate the community aspect of being a comics fan.

Finally,on a related note, a few people I know have complained about two pages of story being replaced with the letters pages in DC Comics.  I’m willing to bet that the real choice isn’t between two pages of story and two pages of letters.  It was likely two pages of letters or two more pages of ads.  I applaud DC for going with the former.

If you don’t care about the letters pages, then this won’t really bug you and you can ignore this whole thing.  However, I’m certain there’s quite a few people out there for whom the re-introduction of the letters page will bring more value to their experience, and I’m all for it.


I managed to read a few books yesterday including the Congorilla/Starman Special.

I can’t blame you if you see this team up and scratch your head a bit.  If you haven’t been reading Justice League for the last year and a half or so, you would have missed this pairing’s first get together in Justice League: Cry for Justice.  That said, this book is actually pretty good.  The story is framed in a good, compelling sequence that leads to some funny moments, and I think it did a good job of establishing a lot of characters that most people simply aren’t familiar with in a way that will be appealing to new readers.  If you’re looking for somewhere to jump into the DCU, this is certainly a good book to give a try!

That was contrasted by the Steel One Shot.

I am barely even sure what was going on here.  Doomsday shows up punching stuff.  Steel starts punching, too.  Steel is knocked out.  End of story.  It felt like reading the Death of Superman from 1993…in all the wrong ways.  For being a supposed genius, John Henry Irons deciding to take on Doomsday on his own without calling in any backup seems a great deal less than smart.  Why is Doomsday back?  Who knows!  Reading solicit material, apparently this is supposed to be a mystery.  I guess they’ll explain it at some point in this “Reign of Doomsday” story line.  Not the best start ever, though.

Finally, I read Weird Worlds #1 yesterday as well!

This anthology book has three short stories in it that are a bit uneven.  The opening Lobo story is pretty stock  material, nothing to get excited about.  The second part is a new (as far as I know) character called Garbage Man.  The art by Aaron Lopresti is gorgeous, evoking classic Bernie Wrightson Swamp Thing art, and the story is…well, only ten pages.  It is incomplete.  At first I thought it was a complete lampoon, but the story gets a little more focused as the pages progress.  Finally, we have a ten page story of a character called Tanga set in space.  I’m not sure where this one is going either, but I don’t particularly care because it is drawn by Kevin Macguire!  There’s a couple funny moments here, but clearly some work is to be done to finish this story.  In the meantime, I’ll continue enjoying Macguire’s always gorgeous art.  All in all, this issue is also worth a peek.