Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sometimes it feels like Marvel and DC have forgotten the early 90's

                        For those of you that may not realize, I was around in 
the early 90's, running the Frankfort store.  Back in 1991 we had just opened the Frankfort location, the second in our chain.  The first couple years were a real learning experience for me, I was new to the whole comic retail thing.  I had been a fan of comics for years, but managing the shop threw me into the fire so to speak.  I was a manager at Waldenbooks, before  coming to the dark side of comic book retail.  Some of you have been shopping at the Frankfort store since it opened, so you may well remember what was going on at that time.  Let me tell you, the comic book world was VERY different in 1991, vs. today's landscape of 2009.  For whole days at a time, it would be just me and "the boys," meaning no other female would step in the store, sometimes it would be a week before I saw another pretty face.  Now, there are girls and women all over the place, which I am quite happy about, but just picture the whole scenario back in the day.  I was young and pretty surrounded by men 24/7 while at work.  Let's just say, I was never lacking suitors.   Those early years at the shop were a hell of a time to "learn the ropes" of comic book retailing because we were in the middle of the speculation years.  Crazy, crazy times.  I have some records from back in the day, and let's just say, I still can't believe that I was selling 75 copies of Darkhawk, and this was when the store was in its infancy.  I could not sell 75 copies of Darkhawk today, unless Morrison or Ellis or Lee decided to do something with him.  So it was  "boom" time, but that era killed many a shop.  Amazing Fantasy survived, even thrived at this time, opening at least one other location during those years.  Pictured at the top of this post I have some prime examples of books that were considered "hot" back in the day.  Hm...X-men #1, with 5 different covers, and yep people did buy all 5 or sometimes 5 of each cover, or a case of each (honest to god).  Then the "classic" Death of Superman issue.  Hey, at least we knew about it BEFORE it happened.  We all did pretty well with that one I'm happy to say.  Of course, that isn't the case for the folks that bought into the whole "death gimmick" hook, line and sinker.  Those people are still living under the delusion that somehow, someway they will be able to sell their copies and make a ton of money.  There was just a glut of marketing ploys from both of the big two at the time, and then when Image joined the mix they came up with their own line of bullshit to sell us.  Anyone else remember the 13 covers to Gen 13, #13 if I'm not mistaken?  Not to mention all the other multiple cover gimmicks,  die-cut covers,  foil covers, holofoil covers, hologram covers, or any combination of the aforementioned covers.  And the sheer number of books being pushed out was unbelievable.  Marvel especially was pushing them out like mad to try to choke the retail shelves in order to lock out the "new" competition of the new creator-owned properties at Image etc.  The sheer number of craptacular 90's mini-series is astounding.  I see these books on a regular basis because every week someone is trying to sell me a long box or two of this over-printed, on average, poorly written and drawn drivel.  Something I DO remember quite fondly, a side-effect of the speculative market was Vertigo's heyday.  Good stuff being pushed out in a big way, I'm talking Sandman of course, Death, Shade, Kid Eternity, Black Orchid, Sebastian O, Swamp Thing, Hellblazer, and more.  I've never seen Vertigo numbers so high.  Nothing comes close to the launch.  I was selling something like 75 copies of Sebastian O for god's sake, come to think of it, it may have been 100 copies! Flash forward to 2009, and it seems that both Marvel and DC have forgotten the insanity.  We really DON'T need that many Batman books on the shelf or, or for that matter, that many Wolverine books on the shelf.  If you've been reading my blog regularly you already know where I stand on variants.  I go back to what I've been saying over and over, just because you CAN publish something, doesn't mean that you SHOULD.  If both of the big boys, would just cut back on the sub-par books and concentrate on a smaller number of quality books, I think everyone would win, but what  do I know?  I'm only a comic book retail veteran of 18 years.  In these tough economic times, the retailer and the consumer don't need MORE titles to spend their  hard-earned dollars on, how about just a great book?  You know one of those "I can't believe I have to wait a month to get the next issue" type of books?  Remember those?  There are still a few of them today, such as Walking Dead, Fables, Batman and Robin, or my new favorite Unwritten.  They are not the norm, but I would like them to be.  Am I asking for too much in this age of boards of directors and digital downloads?  I would really like some reassurance from all the major publishers that they HAVE NOT forgotten the 1990's.  We can only learn from our mistakes if we remember the mistakes in the first place.  


  1. Oh God, you just remionded me that I probably bought no less than 10 copies of X-Men #1 from your store. And every single Image #1 that was put out, even Prophet. I feel unclean.

    Also, not appropos to the discussion, but I jsut found something that you'll be happy to see: Now with 30% more zombies!

  2. I agree with your point in the abstract, but I'm not sure we are approaching anywhere near early '90s behavior from the big two at this point in time (though you would know about that far better than I). First of all, I think the overall quality is better right now. Second of all, my fear would be that if Marvel or DC did decide to scale back their lines, it wouldn't be the umpteenth Batman or Wolverine book that gets the axe, it would be high quality but lower selling books (look at what has already happened to Captain Britain and Young Liars, two great books that apparently didn't sell enough to continue).

    I don't think we are really in danger of "Return of the '90s" quite yet, but I think you are right in the sense that both Marvel and DC would happily return to that way of doing business if there was another speculation craze and numbers started jumping sky-high again. What is holding them back now is the lack of speculators who really think it is a good idea to buy a case of a new comic (seriously, that is INSANE - talk about something worthy of use for insulation and nothing else).

  3. X-Men #1 and Spawn #1 each sold in the multiple millions of copies. Aw, I remember it as if it were only yesterday the clerk at the LCS I was shopping at at the time telling someone right in front of me in line that the HUGE stack of comics he was trying to buy, the store's ENTIRE stock of one issue, and nothing else would have to go back as there was a 10 copy limit… 10. Yeah, miss those days.