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  1. #1
    Mild-Mannered Reporter
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    Default Tilting at Windmills - Sep 13, 2012

    In light of a recent debate amongst retailers, Brian Hibbs tackles the touchy subject of variant covers -- and how publishers, retailers and readers are all complicit in their growth.


    Full article here.

  2. #2

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    I am glad you guys started running comedy bits on here. I couldn't stop laughing throughout this whole thing. The part where he implies that ethics have anything to do with running a business was hilarious. making money is clearly the only goal that is important when running a commercial business and any implication otherwise is laughable. also, whining about entries in your sales database is childish and makes you look silly.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by veryunderstated View Post
    I am glad you guys started running comedy bits on here. I couldn't stop laughing throughout this whole thing. The part where he implies that ethics have anything to do with running a business was hilarious. making money is clearly the only goal that is important when running a commercial business and any implication otherwise is laughable. also, whining about entries in your sales database is childish and makes you look silly.
    I'm hoping you don't run a business. If you do, please tell me what it is, so I can avoid it. (Though I guess that would be too "ethical" for you.)

    I'm proud to have been a customer of Hibbs' for the decade-plus I lived in SF -- exactly for reasons like this column.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by qnetter View Post
    I'm hoping you don't run a business. If you do, please tell me what it is, so I can avoid it. (Though I guess that would be too "ethical" for you.)

    I'm proud to have been a customer of Hibbs' for the decade-plus I lived in SF -- exactly for reasons like this column.
    This. Not everyone is as morally challenged, at least. Capitalism without ethics is a real threat to this country. More so than any terrorist could ever hope to be. Too bad the most ethically challenged capitalists have moved off the street-run shill games up to a corner office on Wall St., instead of into a jail cell where they belong.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by veryunderstated View Post
    I am glad you guys started running comedy bits on here. I couldn't stop laughing throughout this whole thing. The part where he implies that ethics have anything to do with running a business was hilarious. making money is clearly the only goal that is important when running a commercial business and any implication otherwise is laughable. also, whining about entries in your sales database is childish and makes you look silly.
    The size of the database is indicative of the added expense in having to deal with the variants. Part of making money is minimizing unnecessary expenses. It's not childish whining it's part of his argument that variants are bad for business.

    Then again such lack of business knowledge isn't surprising from someone who seems to have learned all he knows about business from soap operas.

  6. #6
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    Default We don't neeed another variant

    Brian I'm glad you finally raised this since it's been the comic industry's "elephant in the room" over the past decade.

    I can't believe publishers/ retailers haven't learned the lesson of the 90s where variants, etc. saturated the market leading to its eventual collapse. Are they trying to bait it occurring again. Life can only be lived forwards if it is remembered backwards.

    Am I being a devil's advocated suggesting we start a campaign called "We don't want no freaking variants"?

  7. #7
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    This is a really great article. I wish my LCS had the ethics not to charge $15.00 for a variant cover. Don't worry I've never paid more than cover price for a new issue.

    I'm glad the article anticipated the "business shouldn't be constrained ethics" arguments that someone always brings up when we try to hold businesses accountable for their actions. (In fact it was the very first post in this thread.) What these people don't seem to realize is that short-term greed can harm the ability to make money in the future. To use an environmental example if you overfish a region then soon there won't be any fish left to catch and sell. I hope that comic book industry can keep sustaining itself so that I can continue to buy physical issues of comics for decades to come.

    Another related issue that I would add is that variants confuse new readers. A few years ago when I resumed reading comics (before I became the grizzled veteran comic buyer that I am today) I saw an issue of Ultimate Spider-Man with a zombified Spider-Man on the cover; there was no regular cover on the shelf. Naturally, I assumed that the story involved a Spider-Man zombie, and I was intrigued and bought it. I was really disappointed when I got home, read the comic, and discovered that the cover had nothing to do with the contents of the issue. (Although Marvel might have been trying to confuse readers on purpose, which makes me feel like a sucker.)

    Furthermore, the cover is supposed to entice the reader to buy the comic. Usually the coolest covers are the rare variants, which means that the publishers are trying to use mediocre covers to sell their comics and create artificial scarcity around the cooler variants. It doesn't make sense to me not to have the best cover possible on every single comic book.

    Ultimately all industries are better served by having ethical business practices and respecting their customers by not trying to exploit them.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrnewto View Post
    Brian I'm glad you finally raised this since it's been the comic industry's "elephant in the room" over the past decade.

    I can't believe publishers/ retailers haven't learned the lesson of the 90s where variants, etc. saturated the market leading to its eventual collapse. Are they trying to bait it occurring again. Life can only be lived forwards if it is remembered backwards.

    Am I being a devil's advocated suggesting we start a campaign called "We don't want no freaking variants"?
    I agree with you but I've also seen a different take nowadays on the people who buy variants. I don't think we're ever going to get that 90's problem with them again because for the most part the people buying those really rare variants are the ones who have the money to burn to afford them.

    Its not much of an upside, but at least it doesn't appear that many of the retailers are ordering them solely on the hope that they'll be sold. They're getting them because they know they have that absolutely completist who will and does buy them. And they can offset the cost of ordering all those extra copies because of it.

    I'm not saying its that much of a good thing, its just a matter of saying no one's getting stuck with that much leftover stock anymore. Whatever is left they know they can strip and return via Diamond it seems.

    Irregardless, I do think the whole variant craze does need to stop its definitely going overboard.

  9. #9
    IMPERIUS REX!!! Rheged's Avatar
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    I agree that the number of variants is just ridiculous, and I personally don't buy them.

    However, a 1:200 variant didn't cost the retailer 1.50. It cost him that, PLUS the 200 extra copies he had to buy to get that one variant. Well, maybe not the full 200, since presumably the retailer was going to order some copies of the book. But if you have more than one customer that wants the variant, it certainly adds up to more than a 1.50 for the "rare" variant.

  10. #10
    Web Guru Brian Garside's Avatar
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    I don't normally agree with you (heck, I RARELY agree with you), but you're spot on with most of this.

    We got out of the variant game in February 2009, and have not looked back.

    Up until then, we only did variants as a special order, and we're explicit that people would have to float the difference between our order and the qualifying, plus ten bucks (for the logistics). If the qualifier was 25 copies, and we ordered 8, they would need to pay cost for 17 copies plus ten bucks. That extra ten spot wouldn't even cover shipping really. We rarely sold ANY of those extra 17 copies in the first 60 days, and they would end up in dollar bins, or being given away to charities.

    So the cost of a variant is higher than half the cost of a comic. You yourself have lamented that each unsold copy on your shelf takes about 2.5 copies worth of profit (I've calculated it closer to 3.8, but your number is reasonable).

    Soooo, for that 200 copy book? Assuming the retailer can sell 100 copies, and the cost was $2.00 on a $4.00 comic? Well the actual cost to the retailer on that is closer to $500. Due to the 100 copies of unsold inventory. So of the retailer charges $200.00 on that book, they're still in the red to a tune of $300.00 even though it looks like they marked that comic up by 1000%!

    I wrote a blog post about our decision here: "It's What's Inside That Counts", and our decision to only order variants that we qualify for with initial orders, and randomly distribute them, was met with decent success.
    Brian Garside
    brian.garsideweb.com

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by veryunderstated View Post
    I am glad you guys started running comedy bits on here. I couldn't stop laughing throughout this whole thing. The part where he implies that ethics have anything to do with running a business was hilarious. making money is clearly the only goal that is important when running a commercial business and any implication otherwise is laughable. also, whining about entries in your sales database is childish and makes you look silly.
    I've been running what's been voted best comic shop in Orlando for six years now, ethics matter. If you weren't laughing you might have got that it's the culture of the shop that creates a sustainable business model. The culture and community you create in a shop that's about everyone enjoying comic books for their entertainment value, not a haves-and-haves-not chase variant competition, makes more money.

    What needs to be emphasized here is comics are a periodical industry. It's not like selling cars where the customer won't likely make another purchase for years. Our customers have to trust our word, opinions, and advise week in and week out or they stop coming (or stop taking our advise- then we lose money by not selling great stuff we ordered because customers no long trust our recommendations). If I were to mark a rare variant cover at $100 and sell it, only for the customer to see on ebay that it was closing for $15 two months later, I'd lose credibility in that customer's eyes. If I were to sell him all five volumes of Locke & Key for that same $100, he'd be back begging me for volume 6. Since that's not out yet I'd sell him the Cape, he'd be likely to try it after the enjoyment he got from my previous suggestion.

    It's laughable to me that you imply ethics is somehow mutually exclusive to making money. I make plenty of money ethically. I wouldn't choose the term "ethics" or phrase "moral high ground" , I would simply say the culture and community you create for your shop will make you more or less money in the long term. I see variants as making more in the short term at the expense of the long term.

  12. #12

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    damn, this got me to make my first post and I've been a member of the forums since 2006!

  13. #13
    Critical Critic nosocialize100's Avatar
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    I agree with this line of thinking. I'm actually surprised variants sell as well as they do considering you can see almost all variants online a week in advance. After peeking at it does anyone have any desire to purchase it? Over at my site (link below) we do a preview each week of the comics coming out. I decidedly delete all "variant" issues off the list. It not only clutters the list but is kind of pointless. People want a list of what's available, not a list of variants they have to sift through.

    Well done article!
    I write comic book reviews every Wednesday using pages from each book. Check it: Is It Good?: All the Best Books of the Day Reviewed!

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by EMeadow View Post
    I'm not saying its that much of a good thing, its just a matter of saying no one's getting stuck with that much leftover stock anymore. Whatever is left they know they can strip and return via Diamond it seems.
    Just for clarity's sake, that second sentence is 100% factually wrong -- all Direct Market purchases are firm sales, and there is no returnability.... unless there's something inaccurate about the solicitation, or something physically wrong with the copy. And, in the former case, some publishers, like Marvel especially, use FOC to get around any responsibility for changing creative teams.

    -B

  15. #15

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    Much ado about nothing. If people didn't buy them they wouldn't be produced. Sellers should charge whatever the market will bear. Sales are consensual. Nothing unethical about making a profit selling someone something at a price they are willing to pay regardless of what you paid. Buyer sets the value. Unless the seller is commitning some type of fraud or witholding a life sustaning necessaity then ethics are satisfied.

    As the retailer above noted- he doesn't engage in variant selling so his customers are free to go elsewhere if they want to spend 10xcover for a 1:10 cover. Sounds like they don't. But that's his risk to take.

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