by Leo McGovern, Crescent City Comics
Greetings and salutations, Beat-readers! My name is Leo McGovern and I manage a comic shop in New Orleans, Louisiana called Crescent City Comics–next month we’ll celebrate our fourth anniversary in our current Uptown location (we were out of business for a few years following Hurricane Katrina), near Tulane and Loyola universities and on a street that’s experiencing exponential growth, with restaurants, art galleries, coffee shops and music venues arriving since we’ve opened, providing nice foot traffic on a regular basis.
I love foot traffic (it’s the biggest difference from our pre-Katrina location) because it gives me and our staff ample opportunities to proselytize comics. Our favorite question is “What should I be reading?” because it gives us a chance to shill Hawkeye or Blacksad or Scalped or…I could go on all day, and that’s why I love my job. When someone returns to our store to grab up volume two or the next issue of whatever we recommended–that’s my fanboy glee, right there–I know we’re representing comics well.
The opposite side of putting books into new or soon-to-be-formerly-lapsed reader’s hands is fulfilling the expectations of our regular customers. I’ll focus on the New Comics aspect of this, because the topic hot on my mind right now is DC’s Villains Month and the story that the 3-D covers each book has been solicited to ship with will suffer from allocation, meaning your store may receive as little as 50% of what they ordered on some titles. This revelation comes weeks before the first books are to ship and only a few weeks since our initial orders were due.
What makes me feel worse is that, at C2E2 (where I attended this year’s Diamond Retailer Summit), DC’s Bob Wayne pointed out that the print runs on these 3-D covers had to be set before orders were due and suggested that we’d better nail our orders from the get-go, because FOC couldn’t be counted on for additional orders. Only now the orders we worked so hard to figure out are essentially meaningless–and it looks like retailers will discover how many 3-D copies they’ll receive whenever DC decides to let us know via e-mail, or on August 28th, which is when invoices for September 4th (Villains Month: Week 1) will go live on the Diamond website.
The allocations can especially hurt retailers who didn’t buy the hype and ordered closer to their regular numbers. If a retailer regularly sells 50 copies of Batman (a likely title to be allocated, in my eyes, as it features the Joker and is the Villain Month book I ordered heaviest on) and they upped their orders by only, say, 5%, it’s possible that retailer will receive as few as 26 copies of the 3-D cover for Batman #23.1. Even if that retailer ordered 150% of their regular Batman sales and expect 75 copies to come in, they may only get 38 3-D covers and twelve regular readers won’t get the 3-D upgrade (and they’d have every right to expect that, as Batman is already a $3.99 title).
Now, I don’t want to go all Marc-Oliver Frisch on you, but this entire turn of events is ridiculous on DC’s part. When a publisher like Marvel or DC “warns” retailers that we haven’t/won’t place big enough orders on a particular issue or event, I want to know why they want us to order more heavily. Is it content-based or do they want us to increase orders so they can more easily make their sales quarter? It’s a fair question to ask when the Big Two are only parts of multi-media conglomerates.
The DC 3-D covers are a money grab–why else would they abandon their lesser-selling titles in favor of four inexplicably-numbered #23 issues of top titles? At least September 2012’s #0 issues were presented as jump-on points for readers or integral back-stories (not that they all satisfied that definition) for existing and soon-to-be-launched titles–I haven’t been able to give customers a viable explanation for why there’ll be a Batman #23.3, or a Batman: the Dark Knight #23.4 other than “That’s what they decided to do.” If someone has any creative-related reason for this, I’m all ears, but it sounds like B.S. to me.
[In addition to running Crescent City Comics, Leo McGovern is the publisher of Antigravity Magazine, and a character in Josh Neufeld's New Orleans After the Deluge.]