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.