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Pipeline, Issue #229

WHAT WENT WRONG WITH HEROES?!?

[Heroes]The orders on the Marvel HEROES book were shockingly low. Of that there can be no doubt. Just look at the facts as we have them:

The first printing of the book was 100,000 copies.

Marvel over-printed by 50%. In other words, only two-thirds of the orders were from retailers. The rest were printed on Marvel's dime in the interim. That puts initial orders from retailers at about 67,000 copies.

ORIGIN #2 and ORIGIN #3 were the top 2 books for the month of October in pre-orders. They sold 120,000 copies each, give or take. That's nearly twice as many orders as for a book at the same price being done for charity with amazing mass media promotion that even non-Marvel readers are going to want.

Based on pre-orders for the rest of the books in the month of October, HEROES wouldn't even crack the top 10 on its first printing.

There will be a second printing of the book that will more than double the number of copies in print. By the time the second printing is done, 250,000 copies of the book will be out there.

Retailers guessed they could sell 67,000. We know that 100,000 have already been sold and that there were at least another 20,000 orders placed on the day of the book's release. Furthermore, Marvel thinks that a total supply of 250,000 copies will sell out over a given period of time. So, retailers so far look to be only off on their orders by 183,000 copies. The direct market is in trouble. (And for what it's worth, I'm all for some sort of system of limited returnability.)

It's a pretty weak showing by comics retailers across this nation. I can understand that there are always going to be a few bad seeds. I know that mistakes happen. Orders get screwed up in the computer, or a mailing to a retailer gets lost in the mail. The extent of this screw-up, however, is too large to blame even on chaos theory.

Marvel's Bill Rosemann said in a press release:

"Even though Diamond Comics Distributors contacted retailers in many ways -including a cover feature and solicitation in Diamond Dateline, a prominent listing in the Previews order form, a mass e-mail, and a major telemarketing effort - some retailers either missed the ordering deadline or somehow hadn't heard of HEROES."

In other words, you'd have to be deaf, dumb, and blind to have missed hearing about this title. Yet later in the Marvel press release, one such story is relayed. I have to think that it's the only possible explanation for the pathetically low sales on the book. The only thing that makes sense to me for pre-orders of the book being less than 100,000 copies is that half the retailers on Diamond's mailing list were having their mail forwarded to Outer Mongolia, their e-mail forwarded to /dev/null, and their phone calls forwarded to Domino's Pizza.

Now for the dirty little unsaid thing of this whole thing. The printers, the distributor, etc. all donated everything to the first printing of this book. It won't be happening to the same extent for future printings. By the gross under ordering of the first printing of the benefit book, moneys that could have gone to charity are now lost.

Some advice for retailers on the future charity books: There are at least two other major books planned. (One is DC's, and the other is the 9-11 indie deal.) The orders on those won't be as high as the orders on this Marvel book. Their price points are looking to be higher. Their list of talent – as good as it may be – won't be enough to match HEROES. Their timing is coming months after the event. And I doubt they'll get the same kind of major media coverage that Marvel got on this one. So don't go ordering 1000 copies and then sticking your tongue out at me when they don't sell.

One other thing you might want to think about: Marvel doesn't do re-orders on its titles. They're encouraging you to order extra out of the starting gate, and promising quick trade compilations further on down the road. The HEROES book was announced as a book that would have multiple printings and re-orders. And look at how pathetic the orders were for the book. Sales will be lost now as impulse buyers – such as those who walked into comic shops after seeing Joe Quesada on the TODAY show – forget about the book.

I just hope the retailers across the country make up for this mess when BATMAN: THE 10 CENT ADVENTURE book comes out in January. After all, it's their dream book – the entire risk and all the financial loss on the book will occur on the publisher's side.

REVIEWS AND A PREVIEW

[Creeps #1]CREEPS #1 is a beautifully rendered horror comic. My basic problem is that I'm not a horror fan, per se, and I'm definitely not a gross-out fan. Booger jokes do nothing for me. I take no giddy pleasure out of seeing a character pick his nose and stand around in green fluids. Seeing an obscenely obese person suck people into the folds of her stomach fat is neither exciting nor disgusting to me. It's not my thing.

That's my basic problem with the book, written by Dan Mishkin and drawn by Tom Mandrake. Mandrake's art is, as always, beautifully done. Mishkin's story falls into the dreaded first issue syndrome in which everything is teased, but very little happens that makes sense to the new reader.

I get the feeling that this book will appeal to the younger set who are into the same kind of gross out "fun" that my generation had with Garbage Pail Kids cards.

Thom Zahler does the lettering by hand. It's not the slick style you're used to in comics these days. It's got a very 1980s indie feel to it that I like a lot. Even Frank M. Cuonzo's colors are dark and understated enough to convey much the same feeling. It feels as if First Comics should be publishing this book.

The first issue came out a couple of weeks ago. The series is starting on a bi-monthly basis, so the next issue should be out in early December. If the story gets chugging in the next issue, it might be worth checking out if you're a horror fan. Otherwise, I think I'm skipping it.

More info can be had at the official CREEPS web site.

I think I'll be charitable and say that SOJOURN #4 is the breather issue before the big storm. If I wasn't feeling so charitable, I'd say that nothing happens in Ron Marz's story. It begins with six (!) pages of exposition to recap the previous three issues (plus Prologue). The next four pages are the main characters arguing idly amongst themselves. Then we get a flashback (5 pages) to explain a crucial part of the back-story. The next five pages continue the characters talking to each other, and the last two pages set up the next issue. Not much going on here, sadly.

I have to think this is part of the unanticipated popularity of this title. The Prologue and first issue were reprinted together in a package last month to attract new readers. It only makes sense after that to recap what's happened since for the benefits of new readers who may have missed issues 2 and 3. Of course, that's what the text page on the inside front cover is supposed to be for, so this issue gets to feel real superfluous fast.

Greg Land's art sure is pretty, though. (Drew Geraci inks and Caesar Rodriguez colors.)

NIGHTSIDE debuts from Marvel this week. It's a creator-owned book from Robert Weinberg, with art by Tom Derenick. Avalon Studios colors from Derenick's pencils, while Jon Babcock letters the book in something other than a rehashed Tom Orzechowski style.

Weinberg's story is set in a world where all sorts of dark horror characters fill the city of New York and come out at night in social settings. This sub-culture of underground fantasy characters is divided into five territories, not unlike a mob situation. When the bosses of those territories start getting picked off, Dr. Sydney Taine is called in to find out who's responsible. She's a private detective and, it would appear, has some powers of her own, although they're not specifically mentioned or shown in the book. Maybe her power is the ability to wear that skintight suit and tease her hair like that…

The draw of this book for me, at least, is Derenick's art. He's been doing original pin up pieces in this full-pencil style on eBay for quite some time now. His forays into more traditional pen-and-ink art on X-Men fill-ins didn't showcase his art the way they could have. For this book, he's back to his full pencil style, with coloring from Avalon Studios. Avalon does a fine job with the colors, but I can't help but wonder if this book wouldn't be stronger if it remained black and white. Some of the coloring in the first issue has the same appearance as the color in a colorized Ted Turner movie.

Derenick's strong point is in drawing beautiful women, and he does that well here. But there are cracks visible in the armor. Some of the character acting needs work. The best example I can give you is on the very first page. The policeman there is looking up and explaining the situation while writing in his notepad at a precarious angle around his belt. It looks odd. There are also issues with props in the issue. Sometimes they don't appear to mesh well with the character, or sit on the page awkwardly. It's the kind of thing that's necessary for strong storytelling, but that Derenick's previous artistic leanings haven't allowed him to concentrate on. He's learning in front of our eyes, then, and doing a good job at it. These flaws I bring up are relatively minor and the book is quite enjoyable on its own.

Like I said in my CREEPS review, I'm not a horror fan. This book is more a crime comic with elements of horror in it. There's also no gross-out stuff going on here.

Weinberg does a good job in presenting an interesting and involving first issue. He keeps things focused and solidly sets up the story arc that this series will explore. It's not a series of teasers of multiple characters. Everything occurs through the viewpoint of the lead character, Sydney Taine. That makes it really easy for a new reader to get immersed in the new world, and Weinberg tops that off by neatly explaining things as the story progresses.

It's not the kind of first issue that's going to have me banging on drums and throwing around copies to potential readers. I'm not going to be putting this in my Top Ten Favorite Comics. But it is an entertaining book and something with break-through potential down the road.

Coming up on Friday: An important plot point missed in FROM HELL. A review of KIMOTA! THE MIRACLEMAN COMPANION. Some COUSCOUS EXPRESS. And, just to keep you from thinking I've become a complete elitist comic reading snob, I'll be talking about STAR WARS some…

You can e-mail me your comments on this column, or post them for all the world to see and respond to over on the Pipeline Message Board.

More than 250 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically. The first 100 columns or so are still available at the Original Pipeline page, a horrifically coded piece of HTML.

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