Image Comics has revealed that February's planned 25¢ The Walking Dead #163 has received pre-orders from Diamond Comic Distributors' partner comic book retailers in excess of 730,000 copies. The publisher describes this feat as "the Direct Market's highest ordered comic in nearly 20 years" by excluding Loot Crate-style subscription box ordering, but a true comparison is hard to make due to the rarity of publisher releasing their full sales figures. Two other Kirkman-written titles will also be sold for 25¢ in February - Invincible and Outcast.
“The Direct Market helped make The Walking Dead, Invincible, and Outcast the successful series they are today, and acknowledging that support is a big part of our agenda as Image turns 25 this year,” said writer/co-creator Robert Kirkman. “Comic book stores have made it easier for us to accomplish everything we’ve done since our last anniversary, so giving back just makes sense, even though it means we’re not making a dime off these books."
Kirkman went on to assure readers that the work-for-hire artists who work The Walking Dead - Charlie Adlard, Stefano Gaudiano, Cliff Rathburn, and Rus Wooton - will be "compensated as usual for their contributions," but that neither himself nor Image will profit on the book due to the low price.
"As with most of our decisions at Image, we’re looking instead at the long-term benefits of getting more readers into stores and more of the world’s best creator-owned comics into those readers’ hands," added Kirkman.
Scheduled to be released February 1, The Walking Dead #163 kicks off a new arc titled "Conquered."
"When we first began discussing how to celebrate our 25th anniversary, one of the first ideas that came up was offering some of our best titles at 25¢ in an effort to reach as many readers as possible," said Image's publisher, Eric Stephenson. "We knew we’d be selling the books at a loss - no matter how high the orders - but our number one goal is always to get books in front of as many readers as possible, and the best way to do that is by giving comic book stores something they can quite literally put in people’s hands for pocket change.”
Image Comics originally intended to sell these issues at an effective price where retailers would have a sales loss as well - 20¢ plus shipping and handling - but have since amended their pricing structure after retailer backlash to be roughly half price.