Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Image Sell Outs - Quantity or Quality?

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.

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Nathan Aaron said...

I've picked up Undying Love (ANYTHING by Tomm Coker, at this point, makes it home with me. The man is a master!) and Nonplayer should be sitting snuggly in my pull box until this evening. I was tempted to pick up Butcher Baker, but both that and Carbon Grey had WAY too many boobs for me to get any enjoyment out of it (ha!) Blue Estate looks interesting (have I already missed this, or is it out this week? Never saw it on the shelves.) And as I usually do, I completely disagree (but kindly so :) on the art for Green Wake. It's probably the one reason why I'm passing on the book. But I've never been a Ben Templesmith fan (which this style is extremely similar to.) THOUGH I'm tempted to pick it up just due to hype. LOL Oh you evil hype, you get me every time...

Jon Q. Citizen said...

I bought and read Carbon Grey, it had great artwork but the story was a little slow...I'll be picking up the next couple of issues to see where it's going.

I've been collecting Elephantmen for absolute favorite comic book....

I think underprinting is good for Image. They are all creator-owned, and no one (including Image) is sure how much will sell, so printing a small amount then re-printing if it sells out makes sense.....saves them from having too much inventory, and creating too much debt.

That approach allows them to have successful monthlies that may only sell 3k-5k, which would be considered a disaster if they had printed 10k. Plus....there is always the great "sold out" press release!

SiD said...

that's cool, can qe have Fell back now ?!?


Anonymous said...

another (great) recent one you forgot: 'Who is Jake Ellis?'

maskedmanissue1 said...

Yep, and Who is Jake Ellis also sold out and went straight onto second printing. I am just curious about actual numbers, what are the numbers of a first print of Intrepids or Blue Estate, compared to the ones that had a (well deserved) hype campaign prior to release like Morning Glories or Butcher Baker? Are they the same? Do they put out the same numbers as they do for Invincible or Walking Dead?

Another recent Image piece of work that I was pleasantly surprised with was Daomu. Granted, it may not have the legs and longevity of the original series mentioned in this article, but definitely worth checking out.

Brian Lee said...

I've really been digging Who is Jake Ellis? and I just picked up Nonplayer today. I wanted to get Infinite Vacation (and still might) but when it came out I couldn't squeeze it into my budget. I might have to take a look at The Intrepids, too, based on good press here. I've been really impressed with Image's output lately. More and more, their titles are taking over my potentials list each week.

Anonymous said...

Image is great right now with the non-capes comics. These are all great reads, but gotta throw out there that none of those you mentioned even come close to the art and story of Orc Stain, in my opinion. Just pure vivid imagination on paper!

Ryan K Lindsay said...

@Nathan - man, if you just listen to me only once this year then make it about Green Wake. It is the best Image book right now, and I dug Undying Love but GW is just sheer brilliance. The writing is dominant. And Blue Estate did ship this week, yeah.

@Anon 4 - Man, how did I miss Who Is Jake Ellis? Rookie mistake, that book is very cool. I am digging it strongly, just wasn't sure it sold out, though a quick search surely would have let me know...I have failed...*seppuku*

@Sid - Templesmith stated recently that Ellis finally got the next script for Fell to him...didn't he?

@Maskedman - I'm not sure what the numbers on these series are...I'd certainly be interested to find out. And I read Daomu and didn't find it that great. There's one great action scene in the middle, the art really sold it, but the rest left me a little flat.

@Anon 7 - I haven't picked up Orc Stain...perhaps one day...

Oh, and everyone, BUY GREEN WAKE THIS WEEK! :) That is all.

Matt Duarte said...

I believe most of these Image books (judging on previous experience with sell outs) are probably orbiting somewhere around the 3-6K mark on the sales chart. Walking Dead and Invincible usually sell around 7-10 K if I'm not mistaken (that's not counting the trades)

brandon said...

According to ICv2's estimates of Diamond's sales to the direct market in North America (found here:

Walking Dead crushes all other Image books (including Spawn) - 27-30k for Walking Dead to 15-18k for Spawn.
Invincible is in the 15k area.
Morning Glories is in the 10k.

A lot of these other books don't even chart (like Elephantmen at times) which puts them at 3k or under.

Obviously the global "actuals" from Diamond are higher and the sell-through to customers is lower but this gives a good indication of where things stack up.

I read Memoir, Jake Ellis, Carbon Grey and Infinite Vacation and was underwhelmed. I havent found that next Chew yet. Though, I do love Orc Stain.

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Brandon Whaley said...

The only one of these I've read is Green Wake, which was awesome. Most likely I'll pick up Intrepids as well. Two of my top # books are Image books (Skullkickers and Chew) so I'm happy to call myself an Image fan these days.

googum said...

Really enjoyed Butcher Baker, and I've got Nonplayer waiting for me. Blue Estate looks tempting, though...

Nathan Aaron said...

Ryan, you beat me down! LOL I went NUTS yesterday with the Image stuff. I picked up Blue Estate, Green Wake,and Nonplayer. I've only read Nonplayer (which was GORGEOUS, but the story didn't really go anywhere, yet. Not even sure what it's about, but with that artwork, it might not matter.)

Have yet to read the other two, but I decided to give them a try! :) I'm an old school Vertigo fan, and a lot of reviews are comparing Green Wake to a Vertigo title.

I picked up the first issue of Who Is Jake Ellis? because I love the artist. But the story was just ok. I've looked through the next two issues and is ANYTHING happening in that book? It's only a five issue mini for goodness sake.

Also, this is SO not an Image comic, but in terms of new title debuts, anyone who is a fan of Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol run MUST pick up the new Xombi series from DC comics. Amazing first issue, getting rave reviews!

Servando Gomez said...

I'm happy for Image with the sell out news. Its their good choice taking the chance in publishing these content and in keeping their comics prices in reason. I'm sure the price hike up since I bought my last floppy but when marvel was selling their comics for 4 dollars with ads a few months back, there was Image with their 3 dollars comics with no ads and better paper to boot. I would like to think that this is a contributing factor as to why they sell out.

btownlegend said...

I am trade waiting almost all of this. Just like I trade wait Chew and Morning Glories.

maskedmanissue1 said...

Brandon (and others), thanks for that link! So interesting that the new books we are talking about are in the 3-4K neighborhood when they sell out.

And that Walking Dead Weekly (forget Walking Dead at 30K) consistently sells higher than these books at 6-7K each! At four issues a month, that's easily matching the 30K of the ongoing WD series.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

@Nathan - cannot wait to hear what you think of Green Wake. I will take all credit :)

@Servando - Really good point. Image comics have generally been holding a pretty staunch line. It does make a difference.

@btownlegend - Man, I just dropped trades for floppies on Walking Dead and have never been happier, and am going monthly for most stuff I like, but so long as you get it eventually, and enjoy it, shine on, man.

As for Jake Ellis - man, I really dig this book. It's now expanding into a 12 or 13 issue maxi series. And I think it will only get better for it. The book is good fun and the art is amazing.

brandon said...


It is worthy noting that Walking Dead is the only book (from any publisher) that shows an upward trend for 6 months, 1 year, 2 years and 5 years.

While some books (like Amazing Spider-Man) will spike up for events or big stories, they drift back down. Walking Dead consistently trends up. I believe its original print run for issue #1-6 was somewhere around 2,500 for each and it didnt sell out right away and never went back for a second print.

Walking Dead is the exception on a lot of levels.

Tony Soldo said...

Green Wake was good, not my favorite book this week. But the art and story is good. Image is my favorite publisher, and its great to see them continuing to get recognition for the great stories and creators. I read so many Image books, and my favorite writer is Kirkman, so with all these new books coming out, I'm having a blast. Nonplayer was f**king gorgeous. The only new Image book I didn't like was Memoirs. Stopped after one issue.

Nathan Aaron said...

Ryan - Sigh. LOL Ok,I sincerely wanted to love Green Wake. Seriously! :) But after one read, I don't know, man. I'm SUCH an artist type guy, and that art was really difficult for me to get passed (even though people seem to love it for some reason, so I must be in the minority.) I'm ALL for scratchy messy artwork (Hello, Dave McKean, Bill Sienkiewicz, Ashley Wood, love'em!) but I don't know... one reviewer said "and the art is up there with the best of Ashley Wood." I think Ashley should be greatly insulted by that comment. LOL That's harsh, I know. I just can't get into it for some reason,though...

BUT, I'm gonna give it another try. Honestly, it didn't make much sense to me, so I'm gonna re-read it with fresh eyes, and see what I think a second go around. :)

Blue Estate actually intrigued me, to my surprise. It reminds me of a less crazy version of Ginger Fox at the moment (a comic from Comico, by the Pander Bros.) I think it's the crime noir and Hollywood connections; but the art on Blue Estate is also a bit out of the norm, which I think also leads to that comparison for me.)

Neither of these books are what I normally read, but I'm glad I've at least given them a try! I'll have to see if I stick around with them...

Nathan Aaron said...

I hadn't heard about Jake Ellis expanding. I think it's funny that USA Today announces the mini-series now as an "ongoing series" with at least 14-15 issues, maybe more. LOL Is it a mini, maxi, or ongoing? No one knows. I might have to pick it back up now!

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed Green Wake. Great substitute while I wait for more Fell.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

@Nathan - I'm happy you just tried it. Thanks, man. I never push books onto others but I believe in this one so thoroughly.

I also think Rossmo's work is on par with Ashley Wood and Ben Templesmith, but I guess you have to like that style to appreciate it. I'm curious, which artists would you say are your favourite?

Clifton Comics & Games said...

As a comic store owner, I wanted to say I've had Image's back for years. They do not underprint. What you have is numerous comic shops that order zero of a book until someone asks for it. Then they flood Diamond with reorders and probably angry emails, quickly sucking up what little overprint is made after covering actual order numbers. Still, look at the other books Image has put out in the last five years, not everything is a hit. And when you realize just have low Marvel has sunk in creativity, it's no wonder so many fans are seeking out something new and turning to Image. Again, just as Image can't take a risk on printing way over what was ordered, neither can your local comic shop. So the best advice I can ever give is make it a habit to have a regular conversation with store staff, check out Previews, and comic fansites for upcoming previews.

Nathan Aaron said...

Ryan, in my humble opinion, Ashley Wood is an amazing artist! He's had a tendency to sorta get a little loose and messy lately (his earlier work, say on Hellspawn, was simply stunning!) but he's still top of the line! Ben Templesmith TRIES to be Ashley Wood, but fails. Because he just doesn't have the depth of illustration knowledge that Wood has. And then there's Rossmo's work, which is trying to be Templesmith, which is trying to be Wood.

I think (if my memory is correct) we pretty much disagree on artists almost 100%. LOL I'm really into the grim and gritty type stuff (which is why I'm starting to hate ole' Celebuski over at Marvel, as he's hiring all these manga/cartoony artists and they're taking over all my titles! But I digress. :) My favorites would be Butch Guice, Lee Weeks, Tomm Coker, Alex Maleev, Michael Lark, Steve Epting, Bill Sienkiewicz, Dave McKean, Ashley Wood, John Romita Jr. (before poor Klaus Janson started killing his stuff), José Luis García-López, George Perez, Phil Jimenez, etc.

Though I have grown to like what I call more cartoony style artists, on some titles. Paolo Rivera blew me away on the One Moment in Time issues, and I've loved his work ever since. Marcos Martin and Javier Pulido are great. I couldn't stand Skottie Young on superhero work, but the Oz books are so perfect for his updated style that I'm just loving those. And I'm liking what Goran Parlov has been doing on some Marvel books lately. So whew, that gives you an idea!

BUT, no matter what style art everyone likes, it's just great that there are fans out there for them all!

Thanks for asking!

Ryan K Lindsay said...

@Nathan - that's a lot of Daredevuil artists, nice. You've got some good taste in there, man.

But I still love Rossmo's work. Especially in Green Wake, not always so much on CNV, seemed like there was too much shorthand in that title half the time.

I'm glad then that it seems we're both excited for the new Daredevil title, because the rotating art roster is going to be the business!

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