Thursday, April 14, 2011

Market Spotlight: Batman 2000!

As mentioned on the latest issue of Chronic Insomnia, I went digging into John Jackson Miller's website to see if I couldn't find some hope in the macro sales data.  Which I did.  Find hope, I mean.

The truth is we have some very real, very pressing issues currently with reader retention and the remarkable collapse of the top of the chart.  But we're nowhere near as far in the gutter as we were in 2000.  That was a bad time to be publishing or retailing comics.  If you're interested in retailer war stories from that era, I highly recommend Brian Hibb's book Tilting At Windmills.

Batman # 582
Anywho.  I dug into the data and discovered that yes, things were quite woeful in 2000.  Sales were way down, probably at historical lows. I got to thinking: "How can I make some money off that"?  That's because I'm a giant, giant whore.

It sounds counter intuitive, which is why I'm extra sure the play will work. Imagine life in the year 2000 as a comic book fan or retailer.  Everything is in the tank, and you might blame Marvel's bizarre Heroe's World distribution catastrophe on that.  But mostly you're still nursing the wounds attributed to a glut of chromium enhanced die-cut overprinted monstrosities.

Speculation?  Blasphemy.  The idea of comics as collectibles is anathema.  If you're seen with a bag and board, I imagine ruffians would instantly appear to punch you in the face.  You take great pride using your comics as toilet paper so that everyone knows you're a purist.  The poop stained pages are a badge of honor.

So not only are print runs as tiny as they have ever been in the history of comics, but nobody thinks of them as collectibles.  They're too new, and the whole concept is just out of vogue.  There aren't many comics from the year 2000 to begin with, and what's there isn't protected.

Batman # 588

Don't take my word for it, go visit your comic shop and try to dig some up.  Assuming that your LCS sells back issues at all.  Most don't, and for good reason - it's not a good value, pound for pound.  They take up a lot of space, and not enough people are interested.  There's just a couple, at least for now.  People like me, looking at Batman books.

In 2000, "No Man's Land" is just finishing up.  DC then changes the cover dress on both Batman and Detective.  I don't know if it's good or not, but it sure is distinctive.

Larry Hama gets first crack at Batman post-No-Man, and then they hand over the book to a couple mooks you may have heard of.  Ed Brubaker.  Brian Vaughan.  Greg Rucka, who also gets Detective.  It's like a murderer's row of the up-and-coming, on the the premier figure in the secondary market.

Listen, you may have noticed, but people like Batman.  He's going to be around for awhile, probably long after we have print comics being published.  That means there will be collector's, completists.  The myth right now is that the material is too new, too protected, and too plentiful to be worth bothering.

I think that myth is wrong on all counts.  Those books are eleven years old now, nobody would have been treating them as though they might be valuable, (which is exactly how things get valuable) and nobody really has them in any great quantity.  When the collectors come to reap these Batman issues, there won't be much wheat for them to harvest.

So I'm advocating a little speculating on Batman # 575-600.  You've got Batman, you've got premier writers, and you've got the entire collecting public thinking backwards on value.  I think it pays to be very picky on condition if you decide to get in on this.  VF is going to be all too common, which is why you're going to want to cherry pick better than that.  But the VF/NM and above?  I'd pay $3 an issue for sure, and maybe go up to $5.  I'd still load up on that run in the VF range if I could get them for $1.  I don't think it's out of the question to find some of this material in "buck bins" at your local convention at all, and I think they're a really nice long term investment.

- Ryan

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