Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

December 16, 2004

Chris Butcher on Variants

Chris Butcher, one of the better comics pundits and an employee of the excellent The Beguiling bookstore in Toronto, fires up the plain-talk on the issue of variant covers, a mainstream comic book company strategy of goosing sales to collectors by publishing more than one cover on the same comic book.

Let me add my voice to Butcher's that defending such strategies by saying "people want them" is incredibly short-sighted if not willfully ignorant. The comic book direct market has enough history under its belts to judge the costs of giving the people -- a limited subset of the people -- what they want in this way:
(1) readers leaving the market due to lack of solid return on their purchases, a winnowing of their reading material and the vast majority of these perceived collectibles collapsing in real value; customers moving money from other purchases to the variant purchases

(2) massive strain on comic book retailers that are forced to expend extra capital or shift capital around wildly to satisfy customers whipped into a frenzy by company hype

(3) industry focus on short-term gains rather than long-term goals

(4) an insider's club-only perception being front and center on what should be one of the most accessible and new-fan friendly of all entertainment media.

This is a discredited way of selling comics, and companies falling prey to it again shows that the major players in the American comic book market will likely always hamper any overall growth in comics readership with pursuit of short-term goals.
posted 7:56 am PST | Permalink

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