Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Image have just dropped news that five of their titles have sold out and reprints will be available in about a month. This is five titles all in the one week. That's pretty impressive but what does it really mean?
I wanted to discuss the whys and wherefores of the sell out status of Blue Estate, Green Wake, Nonplayer, Undying Love, and the second printing of The Infinite Vacation. This also comes hot on the heels of other Image sell outs Butcher Baker, Carbon Grey, and The Intrepids. If you look at the numbers, and the reviews, Image comics are big business right now.
I want to know if you got your hands on a copy of any of those titles, and what you thought of them.
If your comic sells out then that must be good, right? Generally, the answer to this question is, YES!
A sell out means fans wanted your comic. A sell out means you're getting paid. A sell out means you're getting preview attention and buzz. But if your comic is so awesome then why isn't Image printing more of them? There are two reasons for this.
Image may be underprinting their comics to ensure a sell out. It would be dastardly practice, but also shrewd. By underprinting the comic it's almost guaranteed to sell out (at least with the quality and buzz of all the books mentioned here) and a sell out generates more press. It makes the few copies possibly still sitting on stands 'worth more' in the eyes of readers, and collectors. Issues of Nonplayer have apparently been fetching prices over $20 on eBay already. Demand is brewed up because people always want the next big thing and they also want what they can't have.
On a side note, this always amuses me because I live in Australia, and my LCS rocks hard, so whenever I hear about Diamond level sell outs I go to Impact Comics and nearly always find enough on the stands. They're awesome at ordering everything and plenty of it. Maybe there are sell outs because Australia hordes an unfair proprtion, ha. (Note: Not my real theory)
As for the theory of Image underprinting, that is not what I believe. Sure, they might round the number down on occasion to help the buzz, but generally it helps to have your comic in the hands of the fans who want to read it, right?
It does help that second printings often come around just in time for readers to then pick up the second issue the week of, or after, the reprint. It offers a nice little one-two punch.
Another theory can be that comic shops only order as many issues of these books as they wager they can sell. This number is largely generated by the amount of pre-orders lodged and then possibly topped up with a few extras for the shelves. Some stores are known to not stock any independent publisher books on the shelves; you either pre-order or you don't get the option. Harsh, harsh but fair.
Image then print as many comics as they think they can sell based on LCS orders. Could these comics sell out because not enough people are ordering them in advance. Do comic fans not pour through the 3 month-in-advance solicitations and instead get the buzz of books in the month lead up to publication, which is often too late to get your LCS to place an order and the book is already off to the printer? It's highly possible that people aren't adding these books to their pull list in time but are then wanting a copy, and so, bingo bango you've got yourselves a sell out.
In recent history, Image has sold out many of their debut issues, aside from today's news of Blue Estate, Green Wake, Nonplayer, Undying Love, and The Infinite Vacation, there was also Butcher Baker, Carbon Grey and The Intrepids a few weeks ago. 27 sold out its debut before shipping. Chew sold out twice, from memory. The sell outs generally tend to be successful comics overall, as well as being very high quality products (except for 27, man I did not dig on that comic at all).
Having read every one of the comics that have sold out through Image in the past few months, I am interested in the quality of the product. Across the board, except for the aforementioned anomaly, these comics are all good. At least 3.5 stars out of 5, or a Buy It rating on TWC, for all of them. Many are Must Read material. That's a high level of quality from one publisher. Some of these comics are amazing and I want to quickly discuss below:
Green Wake - I've mentioned it too many times, this book is my favourite thing in 2011. It's a horror-noir tale of Cronenbergian levels of disturbance with gorgeous art and haunting words. It's brilliance, perfection, and pure awesome wrapped up in a single issue for you. If you haven't found a copy of this book yet keep looking. Also check my interview with writer Kurtis Wiebe all about the book: Part 1 and Part 2.
Butcher Baker - A funkadelic mash up of American testosterone and actual brains - such a rare and precious combination.
Blue Estate - This book shocked me with how good it actually is. The creative team is as long as your arm but they work in concert to get the job done. For those sick of the current trend of crime comics to lean towards the noir end of the gritty scale this will please you. This isn't bleak, it's like Elmore Leonard, it's still violent but it is decidedly fun.
Nonplayer - This is the book that's received the most amount of hype and for fairly good reason. This tale of MMORPGs gone wrong is gorgeous to look at, if you dig on digital art, but it didn't strike a chord with me. I can tell it's good but it just wasn't my second coming. Plenty of others disagree, listen to them if you please.
Undying Love - This vampire love story is pretty damn fine to look at. The story is also interesting and this issue sets up a big confrontation straight away. This deserves to be read.
Carbon Grey - A very strange future Nazi, chick assassin, hyperviolent comic that completely succeeds at what it sets out to do, no doubt about it. I think it's just a matter of taste as to whether it's your particular delicacy.
The Infinite Vacation - Billed as a sci fi romance, 500 Days of Summer through Philip K Dick, this book delivers. It's quirky and interesting and the sort of thing comics can get greenlit better than any other industry.
The Intrepids - A retro-spy take on mission team ensembles, but with kids. This comic is just enjoyable. The story is nice, the art is amazing, and you find yourself bopping along and having a great time within pages. You can also see me chat with Kurtis Wiebe about this title, too.
You can see a common trend - all these books are good. That's the first thing you need for a sell out. The second thing is that all have really good art as well as good writing. It's the one-two punch that delivers the KO. These comics are all gorgeous to look at and that should be appreciated. The last thing you'll notice is a decided lack of capes and spandex. The one that comes closest to superheroes is Butcher Baker and I wouldn't exactly say it's a glorification of the genre. Not if you read deep enough.
I think it's great that Image comics are selling out so frequently because they're certainly putting out the best line-wide content at the moment. Lately, all we hear about comics is that sales are in decline and that the industry is about to implode. Hearing about a few sell outs from Image might not turn the tide on this multi-million dollar entertainment sector but it does give me faith that people are still buying, and creators are still generating unbelievable levels of quality content.
What say you, fair people? Which of these Image sell outs did you get your hands on, and what did you think of them? Did anyone line up outside a store in their sleeping bag (as some reports hinted might occur)? Let us know your thoughts in the comments. I'm still putting my money with Green Wake but there must be something said for all the other comics, it's a damn fine time to be an Image reader.