Origins of Theory

I have no idea what this means (although many, many other people seem to think that they do) but Diamond went from just over 10,000 copies of Wolverine Origins #1 in stock on Sunday to sold out yesterday afternoon (expect the press release once another variant cover has been created). I've heard through the grapevine that in store sales have been very strong which was what I anticipated, what with an alternate cover and it being a first issue of a new Wolverine series and everything. Clearly the variant cover is boosting sales, but there are definitely other forces at play here. For once, it seemed as though Marvel had overprinted enough to at least last a few days after the title hit shelves. Instead, it lasted a few hours. Some believe that the overprint is being bought up by e-Bay warriors hoping to make a few extra bucks by marking these books up but that seems fairly unlikely on that large of a scale. Another popular theory posits that retailers as a group order incredibly tight initially in order to guarantee selling out within the first week of sales but at the last minute realize there is more demand than they will be able to meet and their advance reorders eat up the overprint.

I don't know what caused the overprint to disappear so quickly, but the fact that it did leads me a conclusion: some long established stores are limiting their growth by not increasing their orders by at least some significant percentage above guaranteed or even predicted sales. What this leads me to believe is that those stores are not particularly interested in growing their comic sales, unless that growth is in the form of a boom. Let's be honest, at minimum a quarter of direct market stores use comics as a secondary or even tertiary income stream (I'm going to go out on a limb and guess it's closer to half). Those stores are, somewhat understandably, more interested in devoting capital to growing their most profitable product lines rather than devoting that capital to a market that can be as difficult to gauge as the comics singles market. That's not to say that those stores ignore demand for a "mainstream" title like Wolverine Origins, though, so when they see that they're selling many more copies on day one than they thought, well time to get on the horn to Diamond and get some more copies in the shop pronto. Problem being, of course, that comics singles are sold as a periodical and the majority of a title's sales momentum is built in that first week. By the time an issue hits shelves, it's almost too late to increase the number of copies of it a store will be able to sell. We routinely order at minimum two or three copies more than we believe we can sell with the idea that we aren't fortune tellers and there are likely markets out there for books that we haven't entirely predicted are there. And we're a small store (growing slowly) where singles are barely a quarter of our total sales.

In fact, as of this moment, we have sold a grand total of zero copies of Wolverine Origins #1. It's being roundly trounced by Daredevil, Justice and New Avengers, not to mention weeks old books like Fables and Emo Boy. This says much more about MacGuffin than it does the book, of course, but I still find it unusual. Despite the fact that sales continue to climb in every category, we've developed only a handful of regulars and most of those regulars are coming in for a graphic novel/trade or two a week. Outside of our reserve members, sales of our singles are primarily to customers either browsing or looking for a specific issue that they can't find anywhere else.


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