Man of the Moment

Sean William Scott

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Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Short Subjects 

1) Kids and Comics: Here We Go Again...

I'm always slightly skeptical when I hear someone say that there "no comics for kids." Because it's a manifestly untrue statement. There are plenty of comics either specifically aimed at children or are written for all age levels to enjoy.

What is usually meant by the statement "there are no comics for kids" is the somewhat narcisstic "the kinds of comics I read as a kid aren't being made anymore." And I say narcisstic, because such a statement presupposes that children today are going to want the same things out of their cheap, disposable entertainments that children 20, 30, 40 years or more ago wanted. It's the commen Baby-Boomer fallacy (though it's a thought process that certainly isn't confined to Baby-Boomers, they just epitomize it so well) that everything was at it's best when they were kids, and everything that has come after, or was around before, is somehow inferior.

Likewise, I take with a grain of salt the statement that "kids comics don't sell." Because kids comics do sell, and sell quite well. What is really meant by that statement is "super-hero comics for kids don't sell." Which is fair enough. Kids don't really want super-hero comics unless there is some sort of tie-in to other media, such as movies or television. Right now, for example, I'd like to slap silly whoever decided to rate "Aliens VS. Predators" PG-13 and push it heavily to kids, because I'm seeing a bunch of kids coming into the store looking for Aliens comics, Predator comics, and Aliens Vs. Predator comics, and now I have to explain to parents that the content of the books is more in keeping with the R rated original films than the apparent kid-friendly current film. (Which I have apparently been drafted into taking my 10 year old cousin to. Pray for me.)

As for kids comics not selling, well, it's certainly not super-hero fans in their thirties and forties who are fueling the growth in manga sales.

In fact, the biggest obstacle I see to getting comics into kids hands is parents. I've had parents complain about "inappropriate" sexual content in reprints of Lee/Ditko Spider-Man comics. I've had parents refuse to buy Uncle Scrooge comics for children who were begging for them because "comics aren't for kids." I've had parents balk at paying a whole $2.19 for a Sonic the Hedgehog comic (damn those greedy bastards at Archie for charging so much for a comic book!), because, you know, God forbid something cost more now than it did when you were a kid. I've had parents refuse to buy a back-issue for their kids because "those are collectables" (No, ma'am, it's last months issue of Batman Adventures, I think you can trust little Timmy with it). And thanks to what was probably one kids over-protective parent, kids can no longer buy Shonen Jump at school book-fairs.

So, there are plenty of comics that are okay for kids, and comics for kids do sell. Can we please move on to more important subjects, like who will Bendis kill next in Avengers?

2) Speculators: Here We Go Again...

I've noticed a sharp increase lately in the number of people investing in comics lately. More and more people are coming into the shop, taking every single copy of a comic off the rack and inspecting each one carefully to discover the one copy that is minter than mint.

I blame Marvel for this. The "no reprints, no over-prints" policy has encouraged panic buying in some customers and retailers. "If we don't buy it now, it'll be gone and we'll never get more." It was a brilliant strategy on Marvel's part to boost their across-the-line sales, because no retailer wants to be caught short on a book that's in demand. And on those (increasingly) rare occasions when a Marvel book actually does sell well enough to sell out in many stores, back issue prices have risen ridiculously. Of course, none of those books will retain those inflated prices, but try explaining that to people and they look at you as if you've gone insane.

And then, just when the market starts to stablize, Marvel springs their hare-brained variant policy on us. "Buy X copies of a book nobody would ever in a million years want, let's say Amazing Fantasy just as a hypothetical, and you can order Y copies of a variant cover for a book you are already fairly certain is going to sell well." Well, why can't we just order the variant directly, and let our customers choose which cover they prefer? "No! You have to buy X copies of a book no one is going to wnat!" But that doesn't make any sense... "Look, do you want to sell any Marvel comics or not?"

And now other publishers are getting in on the act. I can't really blame DC, as so far they've just filled the variants based on inital orders on a 1/1 ratio. I'm okay with that. It causes a slight bump up in orders, as there are plenty of people who will want both covers, but it's a bump up in orders we can live with. Devil's Due, on the other hand, needs to be slapped. Doing four variant covers on the first issue of Army of Darkness was excessive, especially when it turned out that the only cover anyone wanted was the J. Scott Campbell one. What we've managed to sell of the other covers is due largely to, you guessed it, speculators hoping to resell the covers they're buying in order to afford the Campbell one. But then, Devil's Due sprung two "incentive" variants (I'm still not sure what arcane formula they used to determine who got how many of which incentive) and a " retailer thank you" variant (which I don't get the logic of at all, unless it's to make up for the consternation retailers have had to put up with as a result of dealing with all these stupid variant covers).


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