Subject 8.1: Exclusive Variants Part 2
This is sort of a follow-up to my store exclusives article from over the summer.
So I’m sure you’ve all noticed this new trend of pre-sales on store exclusive variants. Pre-sales starting before the cover artwork is shown. It's a dangerous gamble for collectors in many cases. Some are going to be safe bets. Like honestly, when's the last time Dell’Otto really did a bad cover? Sure some may not be as spectacular as others, but Dell’Otto’s pretty much going to be a safe bet on these blind pre-orders… Maybe JSC, Hughes, Artgerm. Not all of them are going to hit. There's going to be risk.
Now some of you may be wondering “why” this trend is starting. There’s a few things happening here and I don’t really want to pull back the curtain too much. The reason these are blind pre-orders is partially because Marvel isn’t allowing the stores to show any of the preliminary art or sketches. The stores have to start taking pre-orders on these books as soon as possible.
Let's face it. Have you ever tried to sell 3,000 copies of a book? Probably not. It’s no small task even today with the internet… Especially with so many different variants competing for your attention.
From an investment standpoint it’s important to also keep in mind that in some cases you’re tying up money 2-3 months in advance before you even have the book in hand, much less seen the cover. Depending on your financial state, is that something you can afford to do? Sure if it sells out you could pre-sell your copies. As discussed before on the podcast, pre-selling something you don’t have “in hand” is unwise.
There’s definitely pros and cons to this new trend. It’s going to be a gamble for the fan/collector when having to buy blind. Both the Dell’Otto Venom’s have sold out in an hour. Waiting is also a gamble since once the image is released they could disappear in seconds, or not at all.
Some of these blind variants have finally been revealed. The Venom's, Doctor Aphra and now the Justice League vs Suicide Squad #1's have started popping up.
Like most variants, some are cool, some overpriced and some probably would have been better saved for a later issue. Just look at all the store variants out there collecting dust. That's right, looking at you Secret Wars 2015. Some of the Venom #1's and JL vs SS #1's will be too. Which brings me to this thought…
There is no way on earth anyone will ever convince me that the world needed 500K copies of Harley Quinn #1 or DK3 #1 printed with 20 odd covers!
Or that there will ever be 500K comic readers to buy them all. It's just not happening… Marvel and DC should NEVER allow 500K copies of any single issue of a book to be produced in a single print run. At least not until we have more than half of that buying and reading comics every week.
If I sell 3,000 copies of Harley Quinn #1 at $20 a book, my problems are over!
Do you sell 3,000 copies of Harley Quinn regular covers? No?! So let me get this straight, you can't move more than 25 of something at $4 but you're going to magically move 3K of a book at $20 because it has a special cover? Not to mention at the same time 20 other stores are trying to do the exact same thing? Yeah, you totally deserve to eat that mistake.
I have no sympathy for a shop that goes under because of DKIII #1 or Harley Quinn #1 variants they thought they could bank on. To be honest, the market will be stronger without them…
Which brings me to the “Glut”. Marvel and DC don’t care how many copies of a book are out there. That’s why DC was happy to sell an exclusive variant to any store who wanted to do a Harley or DKIII. Was it wise, HELL NO! They would have been way better off trying to get people to do a later issue. Like issue #3 or #4. They would have been far better off setting a cut off and retailers would have done better with a future issue and less competition. It would have provided a 3rd cover option. It's a lot easier to move 4,500 copies of something when you're the only “exclusive” variant for that issue.
As someone said on the Google + page, “When everything is special, nothing is” sadly that's true.
Harley Quinn Issue #4 sold only 73,678 copies, roughly. Pretty steep drop from the issue #1 with roughly 500K. Granted issue 4's typically have a lower print run. Now imagine if Harley's #1 500K print run was spread out. Would have worked better for everyone in my opinion. DC got a huge price break on printing that number #1 but would it have been better than selling 100K or 200K copies of each of the later issues over the next 6 months?
I’m not trying to throw salt in anyone's variant game here… But something's gotta give and folks need to wake up. When Marvel calls up everyone and their brother who has ever done a store exclusive, asking them to do a Champions #1 exclusive, there's something seriously wrong. The world doesn't need 329K copies of this book. If you need proof, check how many copies your LCS still has on the rack today. Half that number of copies would still have been overkill.
When I compare today to the 90's this is what I'm talking about…
A market flooded with books nobody wants and buyers leaving in mass.
That's the end result of the 90's crash. It doesn't matter if it's regular covers back then or variant covers today. When the market becomes flooded, people take their money elsewhere. The result is the same…
People not spending money on comics!
Which to some people isn’t an issue. However for the people who got stuck with them, paid double for what these books end up being worth…that’s going to sour people real quick. They will take their money and spend it on something else. Fewer people playing the game makes it harder to move books. A smaller pool of buyers equals less money, that hurts everyone long-term.
Is this new variant trend good or bad?
I don’t know that this is a good or bad question. It's more of a retailers and publishers needing to collectively smarten the hell up quick type situation. If they do, then it's good. If they blindly stumble down the path of shortsighted greed they are currently on… I think it's obviously bad.
One of the things that sunk the ship in the 90's was this equation. “If I sell out of Valiant books every month when I order 20 copies of each, if I order 200 copies of each it will solve all my problems.”
Pretty stupid logic, but there was a point in the 90's when that equation was very real and shops would do exactly that… Then wonder why they went out of business.
That's the same logic a single shop ordering 3,000 copies or more of an exclusive variant is using… Regardless of whatever rationality they've conned themselves into believing.
Shops with multiple locations should be able to swing it, shops working together as a group definitely can. However a single shop using eBay ain't going to cut it when everyone's doing it… Unless that cover was done by JS Campbell, Adam Hughes or Dell'Otto, Artgerm. You're fooling yourself getting a cover by “some random artist name on the approved list” and thinking you're selling out at $20 each, unless that cover is just the greatest thing since sliced bread. You're better off playing the lottery.
I said this over the summer in my article on store variants but I think it bears repeating.
Retailers need to start working together and not have upteen variants for issue #1's all at once. Spread it out and work together. One guy does issue one, another guy does issue 2, rinse and repeat. Some shops and online sellers are working together (you know who you are) and I think it's going to work out really well for them… And everyone long term. There's enough money in the market for everyone if some people would stop being so short sighted.
Till next week… Really, I'll be back next week.