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Your Friendly Neighborhood Comic Shop: If I Were the Emperor of Comics... (Part 3)

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Rain Partier

Postby LOLtron » Wed Aug 21, 2013 10:15 am

Your Friendly Neighborhood Comic Shop: If I Were the Emperor of Comics... (Part 3)

Matt Johnson's back to talk about variant covers in the latest installment of "Your Friendly Neighborhood Comic Shop".


We're into Week Three of my reign as Emperor.  I feel I've been fair in my rulings.  So far, I've demanded more kids comics and slashed the total overall number of titles published, especially by the Big Two idiots.

This week, I'm doing away with Variant covers.  Gone, as though they never were.

I want you to remember back to an era when there were no Variants.  It's further back than you thought.  Comics were published because they were read, and though people collected them, it wasn’t some kind of speculator haven.  You can go back through every era and find an instance of  speculators corrupting the industry by exploiting shortages or even creating them, but at least we didn’t have companies publishing twelve covers for the tenth anniversary issue of a comic that's truly terrible.  (Yes, The Walking Dead is not a very good comic, I said it.)

Getting rid of comics would stop shops from buying fifty, one hundred or five hundred issues of a book more than they need, all to get that one variant cover they can sell to recoup the cost of the those – now completely worthless – other copies… and also inflate the order numbers for the company that you ordered from.

Recently, Image and Vertigo – who were never ones to do too many variants on most of their books – have moved to a much better way to get retailers to order more: Returnability.  They offer us a deal, “order X percentage over a book you have ordered in the past – usually about 110% - and you may return all unsold copies.”  This, to me, is no risk ordering.

I get to order AND STOCK my shelf with extra issues and have no risk in trying to get more people to buy them.  Sometimes it works great, with books like Lazarus, Collider, er, FBP, The Wake and Trillium, and sometimes it doesn’t, like Satellite Sam or Sidekick or Ghosted.  However, even with the latter books, the number of copies I would have ordered (like Satellite Sam) would have been less than what I sold.  So, in the end, I win because all those extra issues get returned and Image wins too, because I now have double the copies I am ordering when we move on down the series.

Returnability is much better than terrible variants.  I hate them because of wretched speculators, but I also hate the fact that it takes money away from people buying more comics. 

Comics are for reading.  Collectability, CGC grading, slabbing, all of this crap, diminishes our medium and reenforces UNWANTED stereotypes that we've been trying to get away from for decades.  If killing the variant cover kills just a part of this awful side of the industry, send it to the arena and let the lions, who are hopefully not too gorged on helpless Christians, devour them.

AH, Yes… The arena.  I had nearly forgotten.  I want to provide games for my citizens and as the past – and present - shows, a distracted populous allows leaders to rule without prying eyes interfering when unwanted change is being brought about.

So, let's bring back gladiatorial games too!! 

First will be the Comic Distributor Chariot Races!  (I might not have thought this one through).  See, Diamond is the only distributor of merchandise to the direct market and by definition this monopoly has no competition, so, that makes for a very boring chariot race and insanity for the retailers.

Let me explain.  One definition of insanity is doing something over and over, but expecting different results.  Why does Diamond cause retailers to go insane?  Take direct ship reorders for instance.  It's exactly what it sounds like: a reorder of product directly from the warehouse.  I do one of these almost every week.  If comes from Diamond’s largest and most incompetent warehouse outside of Memphis. It's a good site in the sense that the shipper they use, UPS, has a major hub in Memphis.  However, the other warehouse Diamond has is in northern New York State.

If you come in and say, “Yo, Dude, do you have that obscure copy of that trade from fifteen years ago?”  I'll say, “I’m sorry, valued and important customer, I don't but I can order it for you.  I do reorders on Sundays and can have it in on Wednesday.”  The reorder system should allow me to get product in faster and at no real increase in cost in shipping. 

The alternative is ordering the product, which is then shipped from Memphis (the giant warehouse) to Plattsburgh, New York, where it is held for the next weekly shipment and then packed with it.  Then that weekly shipment is sent BACK to Memphis to be shipped to us in Iowa!  So without the direct ship reorder, a product can take as much as three weeks to get to us and you, the valued and important customer.

However, these direct ships repeatedly have something wrong with them.  Missing product, damaged product , product dropped from said shipment before it even has a chance to get to us OR – the worst part – the direct ship is late.  Diamond’s policy is if a reorder is in by 4:00pm on Sunday it's supposed to reach you on Wednesday.  In my case, the last two weeks have been late.  Not due to UPS, but due to Diamond's shipment not leaving the warehouse on time.

But what's my other option?  I guess insanity.  Sorry, for the long explanation, where were we?

Oh, boring chariot races.  Hmmm, the populous is displeased with this one man race as well.  Not even Chuck Heston could save this one.

As the Diamond Distributor roles up in front of my viewing area, I give the thumbs down signal, lions are brought out and they are fed to them.  The crowd goes wild, and everyone goes home happy.  Well, everyone except the Diamond warehouse staff.       

Written or Contributed by ThanosCopter

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Ray Van Horn Jr.


Postby Ray Van Horn Jr. » Wed Aug 28, 2013 6:15 am

I agree wholeheartedly that variant covers are no better a huckstering gimmick than the foil and embossed covers of the nineties. I just recently came back to the medium after being lured in by Simone's Batgirl and I was so refreshed by that series my passion was stoked again...until I found all these danged variant covers that are a freaking nuisance. That's nice there's "risqué" alternate covers of Warlord of Mars and its tie-ins, but if your identity is that, then go all-out or quit posing. Stinks, since I like what Dynamite's done with John Carter. Ditto for Red Sonja or Miss Fury, great books, but really, do we need four or five different covers each month? Or Aphrodite XI and Screwed, indie titles I've jumped onto recently? Annoying you have to discriminate the covers and beware of grabbing deuces (unless you're a fortunate soul with the bread to buy all of them as "collector's" items. It's the fantastic writing and art across-the-board that's ultimately selling these things, so shitbag the tricks, already. Too much of a good thing creates a glut and as you pointed out, a mess for retailers who get stuck holding onto "rejects" of the great cover wars...depending upon the distributor's return policy, of course.
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Whale Castrato

Postby glasgowceltic » Wed Aug 28, 2013 6:34 am

You're bang on RE: variant covers! Its the same thing that has happened to records going into the digital age -- physical medium became limited, coloured vinyl, variant sleeves, hand numbered etc. etc. All just distractions from the music.
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Motherfucker from Hell

Postby Regulator » Wed Aug 28, 2013 9:40 am

The only time I had a problem with variant/gimmick covers was when my only experience was as a kid thinking I had to get them. Now that I'm an adult, they don't bother me because I have self-control and the sense that there's no reason to buy more than one copy of a book. If you can't help yourself, it's your fault not the variant covers.

I agree about CGC and speculation, but slabbing is for reading. I want my comics to last so I can read them years from now, and let my kids and their kids read the stuff I have. The old newsprint comics aren't going to last unless you take care of them.

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