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On Learning of X-O Manowar Ending at 50

xomanowar0001I’m still sorely burned by Valiant over last year’s Legends of the Geomancer crap–burned, and still have not forgiven or forgotten. But I’m rather saddened to learn that apparently the current volume of X-O Manowar by Venditti is going to end at #50. With several specials/one-shots and an annual, about 56 total issues of X-O Manowar.

I’d rather see a creator choose to leave, or at least get to choose to end a story, and I cannot begin to even pretend to have any sort of behind the scenes or insider knowledge or such, but I’m just assuming he’s choosing to end his current run, rather than it being cancelled out from under him. And while this isn’t going to be the first "long time" series to end from the current Valiant, I believe it WILL BE the longEST running series they’ve ended. Of course, they’ve kept characters going and done new/related iterations of books (see Bloodshot into Bloodshot and Hard Corps into Bloodshot Reborn, as well as Harbinger into the followup mini and Imperium and such).)

xomanowar0035But that leads into the bigger problem for me: it solidifies that there is no point whatsoever for me to buy Valiant single issues! If it’s WORTHWHILE, it will be put into a "graphic novel" or collected volume and I can get an entire story in one go for a similar price, but without the wait, the variant covers, and all the crap involved in that whole side of things.

If numbers don’t matter or it’s "just a number" that’s replaceable and nothing is truly intended to be any sort of longer ongoing series with any real individual HISTORY…then there is no INCENTIVE for me to buy the single issues…especially not for $3.99 an issue, with the flimsy paper and often slightly "off" cuts and such (stuff I overlooked while they were on my good side, but just one more negative point once they burned me).

The "numbers problem" applies across the board, though–who would have EVER thought that SPAWN would be THE highest-numbered uninterrupted/non-rebooted American comic book being published in its time? (Though Action Comics and Detective Comics are "returning to classic numbering" this summer, their numbers are no longer pure because DC is counting 52 issues of the New 52 series as if they’d been sequentially-numbered issues of the continuing series for both).

Though I bailed on Valiant entirely last summer, and even got to where I was disgusted looking at my "new-Valiant" hardcovers in light of stuff…there was a part of me that still hoped to see something like X-O Manowar actually make it to some number above 50; maybe make it to 100.

Perhaps it’s the "changing world" of comics, and the "seasonal model" that Marvel especially seems to have adopted. Maybe it’s what I was already feeling was Valiant‘s own "spin" on stuff–that they weren’t "canceling" titles so much as cycling the properties, rotating stuff to keep things fresh. Whatever.

On the whole, there’s a continually-decreasing incentive to buy monthly comics…between price point, enjoyability, and the constant renumbering by publishers seeking the "in-the-moment" bump of sales that #1s seem to get. And whatever my positive feelings are for Robert Venditti (to whom I wish a long, continued successful career in comics), as far as Valiant itself goes, for me, this is another push away from their product, at least in monthly form (which is not good, if the monthly books are truly the absolute, core "lifeblood" folks claim they are in terms of anyone opting to "wait for the trade" or such).

If the X-O Manowar Deluxe Hardcover volumes are collecting about 14 issues apiece, that’d work out to 56 issues across 4 volumes…I can’t even recall if I got as far as getting the second volume last year, but while I might be inclined to eventually pick them up as a finite series, that does nothing for their monthly books.

I’m glad I’m not trying to be or be in charge of a publisher and having to make whatever decisions. But simply as a fan and NOT considering whatever focus groups or statistics or whatever… I’m annoyed and put-off by the constant variants, constant renumbering, constant spin; in this publisher’s case particularly I’ve also been burned by their 1:25 "incentive content" stunt last year…so, I bid farewell–again, and from afar–sorry to see the title go.

And sorry that it’s more reason for me to continue to stay away from the publisher’s product, as I still haven’t seen anything since walking away to truly be incentive to return.

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Alternatives to Content Held Hostage: LotG Didn’t Have to be 1:25

rune000Legends of the Geomancer #1 was offered–as an entirely unique issue–cover, content, everything–on a 1:25 ratioed basis to retailers, based on the quantity of Book of Death #1 they ordered. Things did not have to be that way–the content did not have to be held “hostage” to force fans to do the legwork of the publisher in trying to convince a local retailer to order more copies (that they probably would not be able to actually sell on through to other customers) of Valiant‘s latest event series.

Here are some alternatives That I can come up with–some based on recent things, others also rooted in the time of the original Valiant (the 1990s)–that could have been used as a means to make LotG a special book, a prize for collectors and an incentive to die-hard buyers-of-such-things WHILE allowing a basic/standard copy, the CONTENT–to be easily accessible to those who just want the complete story and do not care about variants and other such things.

DIGITAL CODES

There are several ways that I can think of–offhand–that would involve digital codes.

marvel_free_digital_copy_offer_sticker1. Get a code in BoD #1 and “combine” it with a code from ANOTHER Valiant book published in the same month. Go to a website, key in the codes, pay s/h, get 1 copy of Legends of the Geomancer.

2. Get a series-specific code, and combine one code from each of 9 or however many series, pay s/h, get 1 copy of LotG.

3. Some other combination to ensure LotG is rarer than any single issue, but someone buying multiple–or all–Valiant series would have no problem getting it, and would get different issues’ content rather than buying tons of copies of one specific issue.

BULK PURCHASE PACKS

There are several ways I can think of that would involve bulk purchasing to get more copies of stuff out there for Valiant.

rune000_coupon1. Make a bulk pack of 10, 15, 20, 25 copies of BoD orderable as a single line-item/SKU, priced at whatever the bulk/discount/eligible-for-returnability cost is for retailers. $19.99 or $24.99 or whatever. This shrink-wrapped/bundled pack would include 1 copy of LotG . The fan now has 10+ copies of the issue–they can give it away to their non-LCS-going friends or other channels, hoard them, or “give” them to their LCS to sell.

2. Make a bulk pack of the entire month’s books available at the end of the month that would include LotG . This might also logistically tie to codes for redemption.

These would either allow a fan to have ordered a PACK of comics including LotG without otherwise having to make special arrangements with a comic shop or to just order a pack of that month’s books. If a shop ordered the packs–for fans or for LotG it would get some titles onto the shelves that might not otherwise be ordered, yet would not screw the fans.

FLIPBOOKS

1. Make LotG a flipbook with BoD. For the 1:25, LotG is orderable as its own standalone issue.

2. Make LotG a segmented flipbook, with 2-3 page segments on the backs of the entire month’s worth of Valiant comics. Buy 1 comic, get a short segment. Buy them all, you functionally have an entire issue. For the 1:25 to BoD, retailers can order LotG as its own standalone issue.

rune003_ultraversepremiere001

3. Have LotG as a standalone issue, and 1:25 BoD there’s a flipbook edition with BoD and LotG combined…maybe an overlay cover or varied cover image for this edition.

This would allow for the creation of a unique edition/comic that would appeal to collectors as an incentive item yet allow someone otherwise soley interested in the content/universe of the story to also access that without being forced to a secondary market or otherwise far out of the simple enjoyment of getting their books as they have for nearly 40 months.

GOLD/PREMIUM EDITION TIED TO PREVIOUS ORDERS

1. Have LotG as a standalone issue, but for every 25 copies of BoD, retailers get a Gold edition of LotG

redeeming_marvel_digital_copy2. Have LotG as a standalone issue, but if a retailer orders twice as many copies of all the Valiant books as usual (min of 1 if they didn’t order last month), get a Gold edition of LotG

3. Have LotG as a standalone issue, but if a fan sends in a photo of BoD and other Valiant issues on display at their LCS, with a card/signed form that the shop did the display because of/with the fan, get a Gold edition of LotG .

This would reward retailers/fans for putting forth extra effort to promote Valiant while not interfering with fans who just want the content.

STICK WITH QUALITY AND DON’T SCREW THE FANS

1. Have LotG as a standalone issue, with a 1:25 variant cover tied to BoD. Let the market do the work from there, if any.

2. Quit screwing around with variants and false/artificial scarcity and collectability and HAVE PATIENCE for the fanbase to continue to grow, and don’t screw loyal but casual-ish fans that DO buy everything but aren’t militantly evangelical about your stuff.


Though ultimately, this is all a moot point–it won’t change the past, Valiant is not listening to me–and short of announcing LotG as something to be included in a Deluxe Edition hardcover, I’m done with buying their single issues, on principle.

I’m just still curious–thoroughly curious–at the result of their little experiment and how stuff plays out.

For better or worse, I get the impression that I am in an extreme minority with my stance, and not only will Valiant pull this kinda crap again, it’ll catch on with other publishers (like pullbox variants) and making content an incentive will be all too normal before long.

sludge001_freex004

Above: Sludge #1 and Freex #4, 2 of the October 1993 Rune month flipbooks. Below: Flip the books over for a chapter of Rune #0!

rune_a_rune_e

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!

X-O Manowar #37 [Review]

xomanowar037Dead Hand Part 4: Red Earth

Writer: Robert Venditti
Pencils: Diego Bernard
Inks: Ryan Winn w/Mark Pennington & Bit
Colors: Brian Reber
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover: Stephen Segovia & Brian Reber
Editor: Tom Brennan
Editor in Chief: Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant
Cover Date: June 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

While my feelings toward Valiant have taken a definite beating in the last few months, this issue reminded me why I’ll certainly be sticking with this SERIES even if I don’t stick with the entirety of Valiant‘s output.

We come to the conclusion of this Dead Hand arc, and we find things at a bit of a standoff. Authorities on Earth are quite alarmed at what might be coming, and seek to find out what they can of it. Meanwhile, as readers we see that Dead Hand has paused to consider how to proceed, taken aback by the sudden presence of a number of armors (that Aric has called to his side from throughout the galaxy) and then by their defense of life (Dead Hand having been programmed to eradicate the armors, all of whom were to be selfish things causing harm and destruction to life, not defending it). Of course, we get the predictable battle, with somewhat predictable results, then a bit of wrap up and an “out” to allow for future situations.

This issue truly felt like the end of an event series…yet it’s actually “only” the end of a single 4-issue story within the main X-O Manowar title, and there were no tie-ins, cross-overs, one-shots, etc. This was an organic follow-up to last year’s Armor Hunters, taking stuff set forth by that and exploring it further, adding to the X-O/Aric mythos, and serving as another off-earth “cosmic adventure” for our hero that makes SENSE. It also as an arc gave us some more characterization of and motivation to the Vine that will have long-lasting consequences in-continuity (say, like Marvel‘s Avengers‘ initial Kree-Skrull War).

A lot of my feelings come from the arc in general, and this issue lacks some of the core characterization and “moments.” We do have what I would consider a satisfactory conclusion to the arc, while leaving things open for later stuff to develop.

As the end of an arc, this is definitely for the continuing readers, and certainly not geared to be a jump-on point or a special singular issue (see the X-O Manowar 25th Anniversary Special for that or next month’s issue). If you’ve been following the title, it’s well worth getting this issue; any negative feelings I have come from external/”meta” stuff.

Venditti‘s writing continues to be strong, and with no less than 38 (37 plus the #0) issues CONSISTENTLY thus far to his name, has become the iconic writer of the character and book: with his name attached, it’s simple that the story works within its continuity and internal feel. The art is good as well, and I have no particular complaints with it.

In short, I enjoyed this issue far more than I expected to–both in and of itself as a single issue as well as the conclusion to a huge (but short) storyline.

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