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Comics at Barnes & Noble: June is an Interesting Launch Month

The Internet is alive with the leaked news that Barnes & Noble will be carrying a (theoretically) wide assortment of comics.  The bottom line is that B&N has over 700 stores, so if they order 5 copies per store, that’s 3500 copies of a comics.  Granted, we don’t know if these orders are returnable or not… but take a look at the ICV2 estimates sometime.  3500 copies is a huge percentage bump for a lot of titles.  Image, Boom, Dark Horse, Vertigo, etc., etc., etc.  A healthy audience engagement could make a world of difference for smaller titles… and the B&N audience may not be as strongly a superhero audience as the direct market.

But speaking of superheros, June is an interesting month to be launching comics if you have any intention of leading with the traditional best sellers.  As we all know, the current comics market is driven by crossovers… and the crossovers aren’t starting in June.

Fear Itself has already started.  The supporting mini-series start in May.  Iron Man has already theoretically starting its crossover, though the April issue was a more of a prelude than a real set-up.  A number of regular titles start tie-ins with Fear Itself in May.

Over on the DC side, Flashpoint starts in May, but at least their massive output of tie-in miniseries don’t start until June.

Still, Barnes & Noble may run into a little problem, depending on whether they have back issues, when in June they launch and whether they launch with the most recent issue of a title they’re carrying or just start carrying titles as the next issue is release.

Or, to put it another way, if B&N launches their comics expansion on June 1 with the current issue of each title, they’ll have Flashpoint #1.  If they just stock the titles as the next issue comes out, Flashpoint #2 arrives on June 8.  B&N launches comics on June 15 without back issues, I don’t think you see Flashpoint #1 at all and you might not see it until issue #3.

On the Marvel side, Fear Itself #3 is slated for June 1, so if B&N doesn’t launch on the first and waits for the next issue, they might not start getting it until issue 4.  Never mind all the other mini’s and tie-ins will be well under way.

If you’re already getting your comics in the direct market, this isn’t such a big shock.  If you’re just shopping at B&N and say “hey… those are comics,” you might be a little perplexed that everything is in the middle of a big event and you don’t have the beginning of said event.

Yes, all of this will even out eventually.  But it wouldn’t surprise me if the comics are a little slower launch if the big events are already underway and people want to start with the beginning of a story.  (At least DC seems to be limiting Flashpoint tie-ins to minis, Marvel has a LOT of titles crossing into Fear Itself.)

I still think this is a good thing, but we may well be in for a short term illustration of why comics tended to have a lot of single issue or two part stories before the advent of the direct market and the easier availability of back issues.

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  1. 1) most superhero comics are soap operas, events or not.

    2) if the writer does his/her job, every issue is accessible and tells What Has Gone Before.

  2. Accessibility is always greater in issue one, with people writing for the trade paperbacks more and more. Besides, who really wants to jump on something that part 2 of 7 or part 3 of 6? It will all even out over a year, though. Also an opportunity to push the tpbs on the general audience as catch-up.

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