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Soft Launches, Collector Mania, and #1s

Bobby DerieBobby Derie Registered User regular
So, the comic book industry has changed. Back in the Iron Age of comics (1990s), there was a spate of new #1 titles, often advertising themselves as eminently collectable, promoting new or minor characters, of dubious quality and quickly sinking into oblivion. Old titles with numbers into the three-digits were sometimes relaunched to cash in on the consumer craze for #1s.

Today in the Aluminum Age of comics (I like aluminum), things are a bit different. I don't think we actually have less #1s, but the majority of companies have learned some hard lessons. Outside of major universe relaunches (New 52), you've seen some really interesting strategies. Marvel has been pursuing soft-launches, where an established title transfers to a new character and the old character reboots on a new title, sometimes with considerable success - I think "The Incredible Hercules" did really well in this regard. There's still a lot of spin-off bloat from events, but by their very definition those titles and one-shots are of limited scope and duration, not intended to be ongoing titles.

Dark Horse I think has been most innovative, using their Dark Horse Presents anthology as a kick-off point for new series - and the series themselves have started following the Hellboy/BPRD model where for the most part the numbering is reset with each story arc, making for easily self-contained chain-of-miniseries comics that I think make some of these series easier to jump into. More #1s, but for reader appeal, not collector appeal.

One thing DC and Image have been doing that I rather like is the 99 cent loss-leader (actually, are they making a loss? Dunno.) #1 issues when launching low series, hoping that the higher number of people that start reading will lead to higher readership later on. Similarly, the re-issuing of cheap #1s to try and get readers interested in a series, as part of a "If you liked X, then check out Y" initiative. Dark Horse and Comixology have also been pursuing this strategy online, which I think is interesting and maybe more sustainable to catch people's interest; remember when Marvel released all those first issues for free and crashed Comixology's servers? While a bit of a black mark for Comixology (who couldn't handle the load), I think it was a terrific promotion by companies that sit on large amounts of intellectual property and sometimes seem to struggle with how to monetize them.

Now, there are the universe relaunches, and DC especially has had a lot of trouble maintaining interest in the lesser titles...and I think that as much as anything is a bald marketing ploy to collectors as much as anything. It would have been interesting if DC had maintained the 52 concept, but did softlaunches from their successful titles - Green Lantern Corps becomes Yellow Lantern Corps, for example, and then GLC relaunches as The Corps or something to replace a failing title. But that would require a fair bit of advance planning.

The Unpublishable - Original fiction blog, updates Fridays
Sex & the Cthulhu Mythos

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    Linespider5Linespider5 ALL HAIL KING KILLMONGER Registered User regular
    I think the entire collecting aspect of comics needs to go, if it hasn't gone already. Many forms of media trot out a 'Collector's Edition' but for something so eminently reproducible in this day and age, I find the entire concept of investing in comics to be pretty gauche, largely. The work that becomes collectible never, ever begins its life that way, and I find the practice to be, at best, a misleading, shortsighted business practice to drive sales, especially so in an entertainment center that relies so heavily on cultivating a devoted audience.

    I somewhat expect in thirty years' time the most valuable comic for collectors to have be something like Spawn #37. The comic collectors are chasing an old game that just doesn't exist anymore.

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    mrmrmrmr nameless protagonist Registered User regular
    I like to think my comics will be worth something (hell, anything down the road if I need some cash). I certainly like the idea of #1s but I know they won't amount to much. My collection doesn't go much earlier than the mid 90's because I only started "collecting" a few years ago.

    I like picking up issues that mean a lot to me though. For example, the first issue of X-Men from the 90's had four covers that made a scene when together. I didn't get them back when they were released because I was only 4 or so, but I want to pick all of them up and display because X-Men got me into comics. Ideally I'd get Claremont and Lee to sign them all across the covers in big letters haha. I also found the first issue of Morrison's run on New X-Men because his run got me BACK into comics. Other than that I've got a handful of #1s from certain runs with Clayton Crain as the artists because I really love his work (like Ghost Rider 1, X-Force 1, a variant on Necrosha 1).

    I think there will be a market for collecting comics for a while yet though. If nothing else for the Gold/Silver Age stuff that's already worth $texas. My friend and his dad have a bunch of old stuff like the early Lee/Kriby X-Men books and even Marvel #1 locked away somewhere. There are a lot of old issues I'd love to have just to put on display even, but the investment needed for stuff that old nowadays is beyond me.

    Practice Round, my blog where I talk (mostly) about comics.
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    Caveman PawsCaveman Paws Registered User regular
    I only purchase digital comics. As time goes by, the idea of purchasing a paper comic book will lose its allure to future generations who will have the Internet 24/7 via their contact lenses (or whatever).

    Basically; As long as civilization doesn't crumble, I'd hang on to those old paper funny books as long as you can.

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    WiseManTobesWiseManTobes Registered User regular
    Most comics aren't even worth the price on the cover anymore, the collectors market is about 95% dead.

    Steam! Battlenet:Wisemantobes#1508
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    Jam WarriorJam Warrior Registered User regular
    Anything people expect to be worth something to collectors down the line, very rarely is.

    Anything advertised as for collectors never is.

    Big value collectors items happen by accident, not design.

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    SatanIsMyMotorSatanIsMyMotor Fuck Warren Ellis Registered User regular
    I'll admit that I've sometimes used the comicswap subreddit on Reddit to sell some of my books. The reality is that I've started moving more and more to digital simply because I have storage concerns for physical books. If I can turn around and sell my books at a profit I'm happy to do so. A friend and I have made a couple of grand by selling our stuff.

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    Bobby DerieBobby Derie Registered User regular
    I'm not bitching about the collector's market quite as much as I'm looking at how comic book companies have changed their retail and creative models - Dark Horse being, I think, a real leader in innovation with the series-of-miniseries and anthology-launch concepts, Marvel a leader in soft-launches/title character changes/book splitting. Both are efforts to keep and grow an audience, and are substantially different from the wave-of-new-series approach of the 1990s...except, of course, for DC and the New 52, which is pretty much exactly a 1990s approach.

    The Unpublishable - Original fiction blog, updates Fridays
    Sex & the Cthulhu Mythos
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    ForarForar #432 Toronto, Ontario, CanadaRegistered User regular
    I haven't bought a comic issue in a good 15 years, far as I can recall. Aside from the issues that City of Heroes used to send me for my subscription, I stick to trade paperbacks and the occasional hardcover compilation. I can appreciate collecting things now and then and even some rare (or 'rare') items, but luckily comics never really got me that way.

    First they came for the Muslims, and we said NOT TODAY, MOTHERFUCKER!
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    Jam WarriorJam Warrior Registered User regular
    I can't be arsed with single issues at all. To keep my interest publish your trades promptly, don't leave stuff uncollected and for the love of Christ try to give me an idea of a sensible reading order without having to hit up Wikipedia.

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    AmiguAmigu Registered User regular
    I discovered the allure of single issues through Avengers Arena. I'm like constantly on the edge of my seat for the next floppy because I'm waiting for the next plot twist. It reminds me of how I used to feel about watching Hercules as a kid.

    BitD PbP Character Volstrom
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