You Are Not Owed Pre-Orders Because You’ve Been Around Before
Do most readers know who the Badger is? With help from Wikipedia and the GCD, I found out that the superhero was first published in 1983 by the short-lived Capital Comics company. Later, his series ran 66 issues from First Comics, ending in 1991, with revival attempts at Dark Horse (1994), Image (1997), and IDW (2007).
This is a lot of publishers for a character I can tell you nothing about. According to the Wikipedia character bio, Norbert Sykes was a formerly abused child; a martial arts expert; a Vietnam veteran suffering from multiple personality disorder; and a superhero vigilante defending the innocent, particularly animals. This sounds like a checklist of indy “mature readers” comic cliches.
The Badger is coming back again, with a five-issue miniseries solicited through Devil’s Due/1First Comics starting in February. Apparently, preorders were “pathetic”. I’m not surprised — too many of these nostalgia projects don’t bother to tell current readers and customers why they’d want to start reading something that first appeared over 30 years ago. They seem to rely on “it’s back!” as enough of a message, but over the decades, audience members who knew or cared about the character have drifted away. I’ve talked about this before in terms of reprint projects, but it applies just as well to relaunches of long-existing characters.
It doesn’t matter that this guy has been around for decades. (That may actually be a detriment.) You still have to sell him to an audience that has a ton of choices every month, and many of them seem more relevant to their interests. What effort did the publisher and/or writer put in to showing retailers and readers why they’d want to spend $3.99 an issue for this story? Not much information was in the Previews solicitation:
Fans have demanded it and now, at long last, the Badger returns! A brand new story ripped from today’s headlines, from the inimitable Mike Baron! Badger as you’ve never seen him: Raw! Furious! Crazier than Randy Quaid! Jim Fern’s art will astonish! With a killer variant cover by Paul Pope!
I’ve been paying attention because the character and creator, writer Mike Baron, are from Madison, Wisconsin, where I live. (The local University of Wisconsin team is the Badgers.) But I don’t care much about “crazy” as a selling point.
At the time of this writing, the publisher’s website has a big banner ad, shown above, that links to the Previews order information, but nothing else about the comic. (Their titles page is about three months behind current date, listing items in store last September and October.)
Turns out that the five-issue miniseries will have three different artists (Jim Fern, Tony Akins, and Val Maverick), a curious choice, but now I’m just looking for things to pick on. Let’s get back to the ordering question. The piece I linked to about the book deserving more orders got a response from a retailer who made some good points:
Should the creators of The Badger be upset over initial orders of their books the first question they should ask is, “What have I done to promote this book?” Was there any outreach to retailers? Advance .pdfs? Discount incentives? Promo posters? Not that we saw. As a sizable shop (we currently have about 450 active files, 110 of which get Previews, and only 1 file subscribed to it), we saw nothing of this title other than its listing in Previews. From a purely business sense, I don’t see a demand (or support) for this book so why would I invest money into it?
In short, what did the creator do to build or demonstrate demand for the book? Besides throwing it out on the market in a world where the monthly ordering catalog tops 500 pages of items competing for attention? Famous friends are plugging for it, but again, without saying much about why someone would want to read it or what they like about it. I’m still not sure what makes this character more than just another indy superhero, or why I (as a customer) should commit to spending up to $20 on a story I know nothing about.
The Badger is an old favorite of mine, having greatly enjoyed the Capital Comics and First Comics runs. The series that came later were…not so good, unfortunately (and even Baron admitted they weren’t up to snuff in last week’s Comic Shop News interview). Despite this, I am looking forward to the new series, but as you say, nostalgia isn’t enough of a marketing push any more, and I have no idea if anyone’s going to go for it who doesn’t already have some fondness for the character. Hopefully once I read it I’ll be able to recommend it to my customers, but we’ll see.
> This sounds like a checklist of indy “mature readers” comic cliches.
For what it’s worth, I suspect that The Badger may have played a major role establishing those cliches.
Oh, and I wanted to pop back in and say that description of the Badger doesn’t particularly do justice to the series, especially the earlier, better issues, in that the tone of the book was very off-kilter and amusing. It had more in common with Baron and Rude’s NEXUS than the “dark and gritty” type of book that description is implying.
Only time I have read his appearances in the Nexus Omnibuses, and (just as the characters did) I found him really annoying. I don’t buy from shops I buy a few digital issues, then except for a few things I wait for tpb. I got too much going on to keep up monthly. (if things go right) Let me read it all at once.
A personal favorite. A mentally ill martial artist that calls EVERYONE Larry. Even though he has a circle of friends with distinct characteristics, his mental illness says that they are all Larry. Simple. Something to relate to. And obviously lives in a different world than the clowns that use him. The badger is pure class. People trying to figure out his ROI and marketability are completely missing the point of the character. Fine. They don’t deserve him anyway.
I ordered this new series as I remembered the original fondly. It saddens me that talents like Mike Baron and Val Mayerick (I still recall Void Indigo) are not the draw they used to be. In my mind, this book should be doing decent sales numbers, but not huge numbers. Hoping it will see the light of day and not be cancelled.