Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Solicit Problems...

The biggest problems for comics retailers is that books are solicited 2-3 months in advance. That means, before issue #1 has even hit the stands, they have to determine their need for issue #2. This can cause some serious shortages if the book is a break-out hit. The fist example that comes to mind is Ultimate Spider-Man (USM). USM started off back in 2000, when Marvel began their "Never Reprinting" rule, before they did the political "Well... I guess if we print it with a different cover, it's not the same, right? So we're really NOT re-printing! Heh-heh ::wrings hands greedily::" move.

Now, USM was something that had been done a few times: re-tell the Spider-Man story without having to worry about how many times he's fought who or when or which lady he was with at the time. Not knowing that Bendis was about to become a hit mainstream writer, and not knowing they had a slightly fresher take on the concept than any bland Spider-Man Year One kind of deal, comic shops didn't order too many of issue #1. Then they cut orders on #2, since it lacked that big shiny #1 which seems to move comics. Seeing this, Marvel cut the print run on #5, which was about to go to press.

Then #1 made it to the stands, and KA-BOOM! Home run for Marvel. However, the demand for #5 FAR out weighed the print run... check out the Price Guide for Ultimate Spider-Man. Look at the price for #5. It's higher than #3 & #4 combined! So because everything's done so far in advance, things can get way out of whack.

Enter Previews.

Previews is the monthy book put out by Diamond, the company that, in all honesty, has a monopoly on the comic book distribution across the country. In previews, they give cover art, hints and things to come, and slightly dodgy plot summaries of up-coming issues. They try to keep it vague because, hey, owners are readers too!

Now, as you may have noticed, I've reached a certain point in comics nerdity, to the point where I, say, keep a blog about them. I read the previews each month to make sure that nothing I'm excited about slips under my radar. And sometimes, I find something expressly cool that maybe isn't getting the full media blitz of a publisher like the "I think I'm too cool for school" Nextwave is.

With all the changes going on in the DCU, it's pretty dangerous to read the solicits, since they're ads for books during the One Year Later period, and pretty much HAVE to reveal who makes it out... if they're advertising a Green Arrow issue with Ollie Queen on the cover, then hey, I bet Ollie doesn't buy it in Infinite Crisis.

So what have I done for my Previews fix? With nothing earth-shattering going on in the coming months, I assumed, wrongly, that the Marvel previews would be safe... Now, if you don't care about spoilers, by all mean, click THIS. Daredevil is the book I'm furious about.

Bendis still has an issue left on his run, Brubaker's first issue hasn't even hit stands yet, and they're giving away this MAJOR event in Daredevil's life! I understand that it's a catalyst for the story to come, but COME ON! Give us a chance to be suprised, moved, and hurt. Whatever drama was packed into the moment of revelation on the page has been stripped away and left us just turning pages until it happens. I've seen an issue of Previews where Marvel blanked out a cover of Amazing Spider-Man because it had the face of Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborne's illegitamate child on the cover. That horrible secret required protection and this didn't? This is the same fury I'm filled with when I see movie trailers, that instead of hinting at the film and giving us a taste of the flavor, simply spoil every detail of the plot up to the climax.

I know these aren't really meant for fan consumption, and are a tool for the retailer... but again: the retailers are fans too. And the reality of the situation is that fans DO read them, and I've found it's a great tool for finding out when things like trades are coming out, or again, little books that I might have missed. They even put an order form for people with Sub-Boxes to give to their local shop's owner to make sure they get exactly what they want.

So at what point is it the responsibility of publisher to warn us of spoilers, how explicit should these solicitations really be, and at what point do we just give up reading Previews?

Tonight, or tomorrow if I can't get to it, my picks from last week and this!


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