Crime Pays: Brubaker on Incognito's Sell Out

Incognito #1, 2nd Printing Variant

We first spoke with Ed Brubaker about Incognito back in September. Since then, we’ve checked in with him again, reviewed the issue, and now, we’re catching up with Brubaker again to talk about the same-day sellout.

Just to catch you up to speed, the new series by Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips, the same team that responsible for Criminal via Marvel’s creator-owned ICON imprint, tells the story of Zack Andersen, a former super villain turned file clerk due to his participation in a version of the witness relocation program that takes super-powered criminals, de-powers them, and “hides” them in civilian identities – and occasionally uses them for its own needs.

The idea has apparently struck a chord.

Newsarama: Ed, the announcement about Incognito selling out came out pretty quickly after the first issue shipped - what's that feeling like for you and Sean?

Ed Brubaker: It's a bit of a mixed blessing, because you never want the first issue to be out of print. But, that said, we overprinted a lot and sold through our backstock almost immediately. The book came out on Friday the 2nd, and it was gone by the end of the day on Tuesday. I thought we'd have enough to keep them in print for months. So that felt good, because clearly this wasn't just everyone under-ordering it, this was genuine reader and shopper enthusiasm.

NRAMA: When something like this goes down, what do you hear from Marvel? Does it just earn an e-mail of "Hey, we're doing a second printing" or is it more intense, and you've kept up to speed on declining Diamond numbers of copies in stock for re-orders, etc?

EB: I started being a bit concerned we'd sell out when I was getting emails from retailers within a few hours of #1 going on sale. Places that normally carry and do well with Criminal were selling out of it on the first day, even after upping their numbers significantly.

So I emailed Mike Malve at Atomic to see how he was doing, and he checked, and lo and behold, he was already sold out at all four stores... just four hours after putting them on the stands. So then I was pretty sure this wasn't going to just be a few stores here or there.

Pretty soon I was hearing from stores in L.A. even, that couldn't keep it in stock, and I was getting notes from readers scattered all over the country who were buying the last copy or waiting for a second printing... It was truly bizarre.

NRAMA: You've had books sell out before of course, but is it a different feeling with something like Incognito, especially on the first issue?

EB: Yeah, nothing will compare to the Death of Cap, obviously, but this was pretty big. Anything can sell out, but the sales velocity, and hearing from so many retailers that were shocked to see how quickly it was moving even when they were already planning to push it.

The most gratifying part so far, maybe, is the amount of reader feedback we're getting. So many of them who have never checked out Criminal, and now ordering the trades. That's cool. And some of the alternative comics crowd even got my meta-comics reference with Zack's job. He's a file clerk because I thought when you take someone from mainstream comics and hide them in Witness Protection, you put them in alternative comics... so he's got Harvey Pekar's job.

NRAMA: That was a nice nod. We know about actual numbers and how they’re never revealed, but can you ballpark us on the size of the print run that sold out? 3/4 a Daredevil or 1/2 a Captain America issue maybe? Anything that we can get our heads around?

EB: I'll put it in Criminal perspective, since that's how I can best reference it. Incognito’s final orders were about 25 percent higher than our average Criminal FOC numbers, and I sold another twenty percent beyond that on the overprint. Criminal's been an incredibly steady-selling book, too, and doing really well, especially for a crime comic... but Incognito is moving a lot more right now.

NRAMA: Does the instant success of this affect you in any way? Do you still get the "fishbowl" effect that you could get on the Death of Captain America with the notion that there are a lot of people watching?

EB: Not really. I'm just happy that people seem to be gravitating to our book, and giving it a chance. And I'm glad in this economy to hear about retailers reordering and not being able to keep a book in stock. I really want to be able to keep doing these kinds of comics with Sean, so I need them all to be successful so I can keep them going. We're a reader-financed venture really, after all, so I always want to keep our readers coming back.

NRAMA: We can't let you leave without a teaser, so where are things headed in #2?

EB: More evil... We're gonna meet the Black Death right away, and see the gears started to move against Zack. And some more noir seeps in around the pulp hero and villain action... Remember, noir stories are those ones where the main character keeps getting in deeper and deeper...

And we meet Zack's one friend in the regular world, and learn a bit more about the heroes of this world, and the government organization - the SOS - that runs them.

Incognito #1 – 2nd Printing is due in stores on February 4th. Issue #2 is dues in stores on February 11th.

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