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How to Lose Buyers and Alienate Readers

valiant_im_done

I bought X-O Manowar #1 the day it came out back in May 2012. I’ve bought at least one copy of every single (story) issue that Valiant has published for nearly 40 months. I’ve paid their $3.99/issue. I’ve had expensive overall comic weeks because Valiant insists on “clustering” issues, often leaving me with weeks with NO Valiant, while those others might have 3 books apiece.

I’ve bought issues for friends, to just GIVE them. “Here, try this, it’s good, I promise!”

I’ve talked Valiant up. Friends, coworkers. Made sure to reference them whenever there was opportunity. Pointing out how UNLIKE Marvel or DC, I could follow an ENTIRE COMICS UNIVERSE, and had been, since its inception. How unlike Image, the disparate books still functioned together as a universe, though they fit different genres.

I even pointedly bought the various vol. 1 editions to “support” those.

Aside from special oversized issues, in all this time, the cover price has been a standard $3.99. Since I don’t collect variants, since I have pointedly stuck to the advertised/standard/”A” cover, I’ve never had to “chase” an issue. Maybe I don’t have the “talking Aric” QR-code variant of X-O Manowar #1. Maybe I don’t have some “gold edition” Whatever #1. Maybe I don’t have the Whoever variant of Bloodshot #6, or Harbinger #7. But darnit, for that $3.99 per basic unit/issue, for however many issues in a given month (7-9ish), I was happy. I was entertained. I was satisfied.

I was following the ENTIRE STORY, the WHOLE of the comics UNIVERSE being laid out by a gradually-growing, major-to-me publisher.

So color me surprised and dismayed when–in some apparent bid to get their books in front of MORE PEOPLE, Valiant now PUNISHES buyers (fans, readers, collectors) like me, interested in the whole STORY, but making an ENTIRE SERIES ratioed-incentive-ONLY.

For every TWENTY-FIVE COPIES of Book of Death #1, a retailer could order ONE COPY of Legends of the Geomancer #1. Not 25 of BoD and then however many LotG. Granted, there’s some sort of discount in place, and returnability…and maybe on some technical, considering-ONLY-Valiant level it would “make more sense TO order 25 copies than less.”

My comic shop’s been burned in the past on the various Valiant events and stunt covers and such. Very few people with any interest at all (and I’ve seen recent issue tossed in the 25-cent bins, usually non-“A” cover variants, as apparently there’s really no back-issue interest/market for the things around here, either). Suffice it to say, not one copy of Book of Death on the shelves. I had a copy because of my “Every single-issue edition Valiant publishes” pull list.

But no Legends of the Geomancer #1. Don’t EVEN try to tell me to blame my comic shop. Don’t try to insinuate that it’s on the owner to cater entirely to ME. Don’t try to say I should have talked the thing up, clarified and explained stuff to the owner, DONE VALIANT‘S JOB of “selling” the owner on stocking the book in huge, unsalable quantities, just because I wanted–for myself, for my collection, because I have one copy of every OTHER story-issue the company has published–a copy of a single issue.

As said, I’ve bought at least one copy of every single issue they’ve put out for nearly 40 months. A complete run, a complete collection, a complete universe, something that meant something to me, that mattered in context, that I was satisfied with, that I enjoyed, that I was content to spend $3.99 per issue on despite loathing the price point. But…that streak is broken.

I will not pay more than $10 for a single standard-sized comic (outside of perhaps a TMNT comic, the TMNT stuff long being a very special exception). Certainly not for something with a $3.99 cover price.

And on top of the (artificial/intentional) SCARCITY of the issue…Valiant‘s had the gall over the past few weeks of putting out previews for the issue, listing it amidst its other issues, as if Legends of the Geomancer were something just ANYONE could simply, reasonably, get.

Look–when I’m consistently told by my local retailer that I AM his #1 Valiant customer, such that he’s handed me promo books rather than sell or put them on eBay, held copies of classic issues so I get first shot at them, extends a sale price to encourage me to clean out some of his classic Valiant titles–and I can’t even get a copy of the issue? There’s a problem.

For months now, since this was announced, I’ve had my feelings for Valiant shaken. There’ve been cracks in what was otherwise a great deal of good will and positivity toward the publisher. Whatever issues I had with them clustering titles, making use of variant covers to the point I had to SPECIFY that I only wanted “A” covers for my pull list, something being slightly “off” to their physical products compared to DC and Marvel and Image…I still had plenty of good to say about ’em.

I took to online resources–other shops, even eBay–to see what my chances were of getting a copy of the thing in the $10 range, and even half-flirted with the notion of going about $20 including shipping (in the heat of the ‘moment’). But I was met with asking prices of $30, $40, $50, even $80+.

Far beyond my budget and ability, let alone common sense willingness to pay. So, I don’t get the issue. I’m not able to get the issue in any reasonable fashion.

It’s not to be published digitally (through legal sources), nor is it to be reprinted in the inevitable Book of Death paperback collection.

I don’t have the issue.

I don’t have that story.

My collection as I see it, my having a copy of the entire STORY of the Valiant Universe…is incomplete.

Fine–the run is broken. So, no point in trying to keep up with everything, right? I don’t HAVE TO have every single Valiant issue ever published by this iteration of the company…I know that. I get that. I see that. I realize that.

But by being forced to face that, accept it in this manner, I just feel like I’m not the target audience for this publisher. As just some guy faithfully buying a copy of every single issue, pre-ordered sight unseen such that my local comic shop is at least ORDERING SOMETHING from Valiant off of everything they’re putting out as a single issue…

Why do I need ANY Valiant comics?

I’m being pushed away anyway, why not take a good, hard, long look…and hey! I don’t need to be buying Valiant.

I’m frustrated, angry, discouraged, upset….all these negatives…over A COMIC BOOK.

It’s not fun anymore.

And to me, continuing to support the publisher in the single issues format is to passively endorse their stunt. To say nothing of those negative feelings building up. Look at a Valiant issue, see anything about ’em and all the talk of that darned book that I couldn’t get?

No. No, thank you.

It’s a principle thing.

After stewing on it all afternoon and into the evening, I decided to hold to the principle.

I contacted my comic shop and asked to remove Valiant from my pull list.

I no longer want to have Valiant stuff waiting for me every week there’s something new from Valiant out. I’m no longer interested in paying $3.99 an issue for several issues at a time to keep up with ONLY “most of” a universe of story.

Does Valiant OWE me anything? No, they do not. NOR do I owe THEM anything. We had a good thing going, but they made their decision–whatever the motivations and expectations and intents…and I’ve made mine.

Am I SPITING myself? No–I can always track stuff down later in bargain bins or eBay lots, or some digital means (after all, by not KEEPING UP with everything, stuff’s gonna slip through the cracks, so no great “need” to get stuff in print). And I have loads of other stuff to read in the meantime. Shelves and shelves of collected volumes that have been neglected or languished lower in the queue. Stories I’ve “meant” to re-read for years. Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. Actual prose novels. Life to live.

Sure, I’m angry right now. And that’s prompted this disjointed, lengthy post. It’s prompted a decision that will leave me with 3-4 TMNT books being pulled for me each month, and pretty much anything else will be in-the-moment off-the-rack purchasing, if it’s actually stocked.

Despite this…I have little doubt that I’ll continue to seek the oversized hardcover “deluxe” editions. And who knows? MAYBE Legends of the Geomancer will be reprinted in the Book of Death deluxe edition someday–getting around the “not digital, not in PAPERback” phrasing. I don’t know, and I suppose I have a few months to a year to wait to find that one out. Kinda moot for now.

Marvel and DC have long alienated me, and Valiant was a sort of refuge. Now they, too, have alienated me, and lost me as a buyer of single issues.

But I’m pretty sure that all things considered? Life most certainly goes on!

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The Valiant #3 [Review]

thevaliant003Writers: Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt
Artist: Paolo Rivera with Joe Rivera
Letterer: Dave Lanphear
Assistant Editor: Kyle Andrukiewicz
Editor: Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant Comics
Cover Date: February 2014
Cover Price: $3.99

While it could just be that it’s the most immediate, this is probably my favorite issue of this mini so far.

The main thrust of the issue is that Gilad (the Eternal Warrior) has allied himself with a number of allies (basically, the rest of the major characters in the Valiant universe) to fight The Immortal Enemy, an entity as old as Time itself that is trying to kill the newest Geomancer. Gilad’s failed a number of times in the past to prevent this, but he’s highly determined that it will never happen again. Meanwhile, authorities behind Gilad’s group are working to get a mysterious box opened. As all this is going on and the heroes seem to be defeated, Bloodshot has been getting Kay (the new Geomancer) to safety and prepares to defend her if needed–he’s her last line of defense. The two learn more of each other, and Kay tests her powers…but the Immortal Enemy continues its path to the Geomancer.

I breezed through this issue hardly noticing the art, overall. In this case that’s definitely a good thing–it just fit the story, conveyed plenty, and didn’t really left me wondering what was going on. I don’t care much for lengthy “silent” scenes where I have to “focus” on the art to pick up on what’s going on. I far prefer to read a story and be able to “notice” the action going on behind the words…and this issue struck me as very well balanced in that regard. It certainly worked for me.

The story itself has shifted from what I’d thought was going to be an Eternal Warrior or Unity story to a Bloodshot story, and I think I truly like that. I’m further behind on a lot of my Valiant reading than I’d like to be, so I’m enjoying the Bloodshot emphasis all the more. I’m also definitely enjoying the development of something between Bloodshot and the Geomancer–the two are such different characters, and yet there’s definitely something quite interesting about them being “teamed up” and interacting directly with one another. I skipped the recap at the beginning of the issue, but had no problem “picking back up” with things, and am eager to get to the story’s conclusion despite knowing it leads into Bloodshot Reborn (as opposed to simply concluding as a 4-issue story that sits for a bit before being picked back up).

As a third issue of four, this is by no means a jumping-on point. But it certainly draws from what’s been set up in the first couple issues and leaves me looking forward quite a bit to the final issue, and with some suspicion that Bloodshot’s status quo has been significantly altered…and I’m hoping that Kay makes it through this story and would quite enjoy seeing her as part of the cast of the new Bloodshot series this spring.

I remember expecting skinny squarebound issues when Valiant announced the “prestige format” of the series, having gotten used to that for Marvel and DC “prestige format” comics in the 1990s. What I’ve got instead is a cardstock cover, endpapers, and a pleasant lack of ads. Best of all–the cover price remains “only” $3.99…and I count a full 22 story pages–making the physical quality of the individual issue(s) well worth the cover price, particularly compared against a standard issue. We also get “commentary” in the back with several pages of blended art, showing a few of the story pages divided in quarters showing the layouts, pencils, inks, and colors which is a neat effect…these pages overlaid with commentary in “narration boxes” from writer Jeff Lemire contextualizing some stuff about the issue (no need to have a smartphone with an app to pull up some video short that’ll eat into a data plan for a few words from a creator).

All in all, quite a good issue…plenty enjoyable, high quality, and certainly worth its cover price.

The Weekly Haul – Week of December 3rd, 2014

This was a decent-ish week, if a bit clustered on the Valiant side…

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Three $1 books, three Valiants, and three DC weeklies.

Sadly enough I have a lot of catching up to do, so it was really hardly worth hitting the shop today, and I think I did so out of habit.

Three Valiant books in one week, in a five-Wednesday month…even without the extra week, if that were consistent it’d suggest 12 monthly books instead of 9ish. Perhaps this is the odd week, though.

This Week’s Comics Haul (Week of 2/12)

This was another large-ish week for me…

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My standing hold of “all $1 books” holds, and has now resulted in my actually owning a My Little Pony comic.

Letter 44 is on the chopping block for me…much as I enjoyed the first issue and the overall premise…I haven’t read the previous issue yet, and here’s the next, so…we’ll see.

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From the quarter-bin, I snagged a mere 4 issues this week. I believe I’m now just missing Hulk 2099 #1 to have a full set of the main 2099 #1s from the quarter bins. I snagged the Wolverine and the X-Men Annual cuz hey…25-cents for the digital code!

I’m all about seeing as many digital codes as I can NOT go to waste…and snagging issues like this then make future 99-cent Comixology sales that much more likely to hook me, as it’s that many fewer issues to buy, and at 25 cents rather than “even” 99 cents.

Valiant’s Comixology Ads: Easily My Favorite Ads at Present

valiantpastandpresentadsI typically ignore ads in comics as much as I can, finding that more often than not they’re just not relevant or interesting to me. Sometimes an ad will really stick out to me, though–such as the ad for the Deadpool Corps series a few years back with the “Deadpool Corps Oath.” I’ve also posted before about quite liking the way Valiant was doing its back-cover house-ads; though the last few months they’ve shifted to a full-cover ad for Unity and such, with a two-page spread inside to advertise a month’s books.

I’ve also noticed–pretty much since the Valiant launch back in May 2012–the recurring Comixology ads in the various books. The ads are pretty much the same, except for the showcased covers. For each title, the ad changes to show the first issue of the original ’90s valiant series next to the (non-variant) cover of the first issue in the current series.

I’ve found myself enjoying these ads, and the sense of history they impart. If you’re a fan of the classic books “trying” the current stuff, they show that the classic stuff is available simply, through Comixology. If you’re just a fan of the current stuff, it shows what the original cover was, and offers a “way in” if you want to check out the original take on the character(s). Plus, to me, there’s just something about seeing the two covers next to each other that I like in each ad. (Though it also drives home my frustration at the abundance of variant covers from the current Valiant and solidifies my preference for the “standard” or “iconic” cover of a given book).

These also remind me THAT so much classic Valiant is now available digitally, and will certainly facilitate some of my reading soon, as I’m likely to grab the digital editions of early issues rather than wait til I can find the print editions (for stuff like Harbinger, X-O Manowar, and Rai in particular). It’s already allowed me to read what I believe is the entirety of the original Quantum and Woody stuff.

Anyway, as recurring ads go, or quasi “house” ads, these have gotta be my favorite since the various Superman house ads in the ’90s in the DC books.

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valiantpastandpresentad_archerandarmstrong

valiantpastandpresentad_shadowman

valiantpastandpresentad_quantumandwoody

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Thoughts on Last Week’s Comics: Week of November 20, 2013

X-O MANOWAR #19

xomanowar019I’ve said before–right now, I’m “all in” with the current Valiant. As such, I quite enjoyed that this is a tie-in to Unity. PLUS, it just makes sense: since Aric–X-O–is the inciting factor OF the events of Unity, it would be rather weird for this book to NOT touch on that. Where I’d thought Unity seemed like a slightly more epic issue of X-O Manowar, with a more expanded cast…this issue does a great job of re-humanizing Aric, keeping him relatable and not being some god-like faceless alien bent on conquering a country. Yet, after Unity #1, Nord‘s art here seems out of place and rather weird to me. The story continues on from earlier issues, and events have built rather organically, so nothing seems forced. I like the cover’s symbolism, as well as the design: the Unity Tie-In blurb is at the bottom of the cover, so looking at the cover, the info is there…but it does not take away from the Valiant trade-dress at the top, and in a typical comics-racking format, it’s probably not even going to be seen, and thus the book sells itself on its own merits without RELYING on being a tie-in.

BLOODSHOT AND H.A.R.D. CORPS #16

bloodshot016I continue to be impressed with this “new direction” and re-titling of the Bloodshot book. While I remember anticipating the supporting cast that I’d thought was being built to, the H.A.R.D. Corps angle is working really well for me. It feels like an organic development and mixing, and the characters seem to fit together quite nicely. Perhaps most of all I greatly appreciate that despite adding H.A.R.D. Corps to the title–literally–the numbering continues onward…Valiant clearly recognizes that the series doesn’t need to re-start to #1 again every few months. Seeing Bloodshot himself amped up with the tech H.A.R.D. Corps sports–albeit more powerful since he can survive stuff normal humans can’t–is an additional treat in finding out what the character can, can’t, and will/won’t do. I’m also liking the ongoing interactions with Harada, as it makes sense that someone like Harada would be involved in far more than just chasing down some kids. I’m hoping the H.A.R.D. Corps crew is around for quite awhile, and that this title keeps up with the quality. I’m certainly around for awhile yet!

ETERNAL WARRIOR #3

eternalwarrior003I noticed an “editor’s note” in this issue, placing the events of the issue/story before the events of Archer and Armstrong #5…and that one little note made me suddenly enjoy this story all the more. Instead of being just some random story, knowing it takes place before the other appearances of Gilad in the pages of Archer and Armstrong, X-O Manowar, and now Unity gives me more context to appreciate. This is in its own way an origin story for the Eternal Warrior…not so much how he came to be (that’s touched on in A&A) but how he goes from one status quo to the “present day” status quo of Valiant in general. I’m also quite appreciating the character interactions, and laughed out loud at the old lady trying to shush Gilad and his daughter for their arguing in public. I’m interested in the conclusion of this arc, but admittedly even MORE interested in #5, seeing the Eternal Warrior of the future…which is kind of a shame, given advance solicitations and “convention announcements” and such, as I’d have more preference on just anticipating the current arc.

TMNT NEW ANIMATED ADVENTURES #5

tmntnewanimatedadventures005I’m finding myself growing to PREFER Brizuela‘s visual style to the actual cartoon itself. The turtles look great in this issue–as they have in the previous issues. While Fishface is one of the more ridiculous concepts of the series, this issue shows what a threat he can be, and is maybe the first time I’ve come this close to enjoying the character at all. I’m drawing obvious parallels between this series and Archie‘s TMNT Adventures; both developing from tv series, both serving as an alternative for fans of the cartoon vs. just the comics. This series has yet to straight up adapt any episodes, yet it’s set in the same continuity, rather than developing its own universe. It works, I’m going to continue on with this title if only for the art…but unfortunately, some of the shininess has worn off for me, and I find myself preferring the regular ongoing IDW continuity. Still, fans of the show will appreciate this most likely, and it’s a good title of one-off/one-issue stories if you want to read something with the TMNT but not have to deal with a lot of continuity or related/tie-in issues.

BEN10 #1

ben10001I was originally drawn to Ben10 upon discovering Dwayne McDuffie‘s involvement, and watched a handful of episodes from a DVD I snagged sometime last year. I never managed to get very far into the series (and I think what I saw was the equivalent of a second or third season), so I’m not all that steeped in Ben10 continuity to know if this is a tie-in or continuation of the cartoon’s continuity, or just its own thing. I don’t suppose it matters TOO much…I zipped right through the issue and enjoyed it in and of itself. However, not being entirely certain of where this is in the larger Ben10 universe/timeline, I’m pretty sure I’m left “on the outside” just enough that I’m not really the target audience for this book. Still, it was worth my trying for being the first issue…but I rather doubt I’ll keep sinking $4/issue into this. If you are or have a fan of the show, I’d definitely say check this out…it’s the premiere issue, after all. But if you’ve never experienced anything Ben10, this issue doesn’t particularly fill you in on stuff so wouldn’t seem the greatest ‘first-introduction-to-the-series/premise’ story to dive in on.

DOCTOR WHO: PRISONERS OF TIME #12

doctorwhoprisonersoftime012I haven’t read issues 1-11, but I bought this issue BECAUSE it’s the last issue…also in anticipation of the Day of the Doctor 50th Anniversary Special. Story-wise, I was fairly lost…not having any details whatsoever of the previous 11 issues. I’m also a bit iffy on the art, with this issue having something just a bit “off” about the various Doctors. Despite that, I could recognize them all, and love the double-page spread of all 11 Doctors. That I could identify each is testament to how far I’ve come as a Doctor Who fan since March of this year. I’d figured I’d probably go for a collected volume of this series, but I’m pretty sure it’s being split into 3 books, so barring a single-edition, I’ll cut my losses with having this single issue that includes all the Doctors and be glad I only spent the $3.99. I imagine if you’ve been following the series to date this puts a nice cap on the series and possibly the entirety of IDW‘s holding of the DW license. In and of itself, I’m kinda “meh” on this…the issue wasn’t bad, but not exactly my cup of tea…yet I hope that’s more my lack of 11 issues’ context than anything of the series itself.

This Week’s Comics Haul (November 20, 2013)

I’m loving the $1 “promo” issues of late. At the LEAST they add “value” to the “stack.” I picked up Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time #12 (of 12) on a whim just to check it out since I haven’t a clue when I’ll get to read the entire series. And Ben 10 I figured I’d just try, see if I liked it. With only about 8 titles and at least 4 Wednesdays in a month, I haven’t figured out why Valiant can’t better “stagger” their books!

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Also hit the quarter-bins at JC’s in the Falls. Finally got Supergirl #1 (PAD’s run), couldn’t pass up Superman the Man of Steel #1 on principle (see upcoming Akron Comicon post from the con a couple weeks ago).

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And finally got Superman Red to go with my Superman Blue that I got a couple years ago. I’m re-realizing how much I like the pre-New 52 Tim Drake Robin character, particularly given my history with the character and comics in general (another story for another time). These figures will be coming out of the packages ASAP; to display with my other JLA figures, and the cards are slightly curled and just seem “worn” such that I might as well ditch the packaging.

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