Justice League #4The news from retailers at the end of the first week of DC's New 52 initiative was so positive that it's hard to believe they'd report even higher sales two weeks later.
Well, believe it. Retailers are reporting the momentum is actually building and sales of DC #1's are continuing to rise.
But that also means books are selling out, which is starting to become a problem in some stores.
"It's been a landslide," said Matt Price, owner of Speeding Bullet Comics in Norman, Okla., as he spoke of this week's sales. "Keeping up with product has been tricky, but that's a great problem to have. This Wednesday, we had the most people in that I can remember outside of an event or signing. And next Wednesday could be even bigger."
"Hard to believe, but the second full week of DC books saw more enthusiasm than the first, with many books selling out on the first day even though we had upped our orders by five-to-10 times what some of those books sold pre-relaunch," said Cliff Biggers, owner of Dr. No's Comics in Marietta, Ga. "I think a lot of that enthusiasm was amplified by the high quality of last week's books -- people liked what they saw, and they were eager to read more!"
"Customers old and new are now pre-ordering the following week's books causing what can only be described as a comic book frenzy!" said Mike Wellman, co-owner of The Comic Bug in Manhattan Beach, Calif.
"We’re had an increase over last week and easily the best Wednesday we’ve had all year. About 80 percent of our sales this week were DC 52 comics," said J.C. Glindmyer of Earthworld Comics in Albany, N.Y.
"As busy as we were last week, we are even busier this week," said Gerry Gladston, co-owner of Midtown Comics in New York City. "It’s a madhouse, and we’re lovin’ it."
But all the excitement is tempered by the realization by retailers that their orders for this month's DC titles -- which they thought were high -- were actually way too low. And although DC titles are going back to print, the wait for those restocks means the DC new title shelves at some stores are empty.
"These situations are always a mixed blessing," said John Robinson, co-owner of Graham Crackers Comics, which has nine locations in the Chicago area. "Selling everything within the first three days is great for the incoming cash flow, but you want to be able to take care of everyone, and at this point we just don't have enough product to meet the demand.
"I thought ordering five times my normal DC numbers would have been enough," he said. "I needed to think more like 10 times."
Stephen Mayer, assistant manager at Acme Comics in Greensboro, N.C., said even the titles he expected would sell fewer copies are in high demand. "I never would have thought we would sell out of Deathstroke in an hour after we ordered 10 times what we would have of another Deathstroke-centric book before the relaunch initiative," he said.
"I've re-ordered and 'advance' re-ordered all of the DC New 52," said Joe Field, owner of Flying Colors Comics & Other Cool Stuff in Concord, CA., "and I thought my initial orders were very aggressive! We are getting a fair number of fans coming in telling us their regular stores sold out too quickly, and I get that, because I feel surprised by Flying Colors selling out of some titles much quicker than I thought."
"[I'm] trying to keep up with demand!!" said Jason Pierce, owner of Alter Ego Comics in Muncie, Ind. "I'm ordering second prints and sometimes third prints the same day the first print is released! I have reordered every single New 52 title."
"We have been in a unique situation with the closure of Atomic Comics," said Mike Banks of Samurai Comics in Phoenix, since he opened an additional location to help alleviate the closure of several Atomic Comics stores in town. "We've continued to help other stores in the Phoenix area by supplying extras to them. Justice League #1 for example, was one that we distributed nearly 300 copies to other stores, thinking we had plenty of copies to last us for the next six months. In retrospect we should have held some more for ourselves -- we are already sold out at all three of our stores!"
But Dennis Barger, owner of Wonderworld Comics in Taylor, Mich., said the shortage on the comics may be making things worse because he suspects there are "speculator purchases," or are planning to resell copies at higher rate because of the shortages. As a result, his store is limiting purchases to one per person.
And Ralph DiBernardo, owner of Jetpack Comics in Rochester, N.H., said he still has every issue in stock, but he knows that's rare. He's seen customers drive from far away to get these comics because he's got them in stock, and he's thrilled at all the traffic. "It's fun watching people walk the new shelf and just pile each book on like an assembly line," he said.
Charlie Harris, owner and operator of Charlie's Comic Books in Tucson, Ariz., said the frenzy for the titles at retailers nationwide has him concerned that Diamond can't get restocks out quickly enough to meet the demand. "I'm still selling out of everything and the second printings are put on back order on the day the first printings come out. I haven't had a confirmed order for any second or third printings yet," he said.
Wellman agreed that it's a struggle. "We're doing everything we can to stay organized and take care of as many people as we can," he said. "Sell-out books are great and all, but not at the expense of a patron with a frown on his face."December's
Detective Comics #4Ryan Seymore, general manager of Comic Town in Columbus, Ohio, has reordered just about every #1 issue from DC, but when he's sold out, he tries to take care of customers any way he can to maintain their interest in comics.
"Guests are freaked out when we ask if we can call other stores or give them the address to other stores when looking for titles that we are sold out of," Seymore said. "It's hard for people to get past the thought that a store would actively 'lose' a sale where we look at it as helping some one who has the same potential passion for the hobby as we do make sure they get the books they are looking for."
Seymore said that even extends to digital comics. "For me, the most interesting thing has been people that are lapsed readers tracking me down on Facebook and asking if we do mail order or have a digital store front for the DC titles," he said. "I immediately direct them to comiXology and thank them. Anyone in this industry is blessed to be able to get to know his or her guests on a level where that sort of thing is even a possibility. DC is doing everything right with this relaunch as far as I'm concerned."
So what do all these sell-outs mean for the DC returnability offer, where retailers have the chance to return unsold copies of many New 52 titles?
"We will not be returning anything," Gladston said with a laugh of his New York locations.
Most of the retailers we surveyed echoed Gladston's humor, saying there will be few, if any, returns of the first month's comics. But Field, who also serves as president of the retailer organization ComicsPRO, said returns may come in later months.
"I seriously doubt we'll have any returns from the first month," Field said. "The goal DC is implementing with the returnability is for retailers to find their own sales ceiling for each title and the safety net of returns allows that. So I'd expect that we will have some returns during the second, third and fourth months of the New 52."
This week also marked the first "final order cutoff" deadline for October comics. And most retailers said that number is being bumped up significantly from September's order levels.
"Our FOC numbers were adjusted up across the board, even though we were fairly aggressive with our preorders," Banks said.
"Basically we had to double all of our September initial or orders for October," Seymore said. "I think we will see a slight drop off as far as people buying multiple copies of books for investment purposes, but as far as people buying the books for entertainment, I feel it will only be minimal.
"As long as the books come out on time and maintain a quality level that will sustain interest, I believe there will be very little drop off in readership," he said. "The ball's in DC's court as far as getting the reprints out fast enough to not lose new reader interest and keep that quality level high."
Most of the retailers said they weren't seeing any of the sales increases spilling over to non-DC titles, but they have hopes that the new customers will sample other things once they're hooked.
"I haven't truly seen any affect on other companies sales," Seymore said. "We're still selling roughly the same number of copies for each title as before the relaunch. If anything, iconic characters for other companies such as Spider-Man, Captain America and Spawn have picked up a little with lapsed readers coming back in to try the DC line and revisit old favorites."
"I haven't seen a significant increase on other titles," Pierce said. "Once I get to talk to those returning customers, I will get a gauge on what they like to read and I can get them into all kinds of books."
"The DC hype has clouded interest in other non-DC titles, but it's too soon to say if it's just a delay in sales or loss of sales," Robinson said. "I'm hoping these people will still pick up Hellraiser and HERC next month when the hype is done."
DiBernardo said he's seen fans of formerly independent creators try out DC comics because they recognize some of the names or are attracted to the different genres. "I just hope that the indie guys, that have joined the ranks of DC, will be able to continue to produce their own books as well," he said.
Perhaps most encouraging to retailers we surveyed was that they're continuing to see a lot of new faces in their stores the last two weeks.
"It has been exciting seeing and talking to new people, or people that were lapsed readers," Pierce said.December's
Batgirl #4"A long-time customer had given up on periodical comics many months ago, saying he would only buy the occasional self-contained graphic novel," Field said. "Then, on August 31st, after not seeing him for a few months, I welcomed him back and he told me 'this is just too cool to sit on the sidelines.'"
Retailers are also getting feedback from readers about what titles they're enjoying.
"Most people seem to be talking about Animal Man and Swamp Thing," Mayer said.
"Animal Man, Action, Justice League, Swamp Thing and Resurrection Man have been the gems here so far," Harris said. "A large amount of defectors giving up on the expensive and weak 'Fear Itself' and 'Spider-Island' tales and switching to DC totally."
"Action, Batgirl, Detective dominated last week in sales and with customer word of mouth," Glindmyer said. "This week it’s Green Lantern and Batman and Robin. There was a lot of positive feedback about Animal Man and Swamp Thing. Mostly people will buy a few of the other titles in addition to the main ones and a few people return a day or two later to get some of the other DC 52 books."
- Top 10 Questions Raised by Week 1 of DC's NEW 52
- Ten NEW 52 Titles Exceed 100k, DC Touts Sales Success
- August 2011 Comic Book Sales Charts & Market Share