Is there a "risk" to picking up a series that's cancelled quickly?

Looking at all these forthcoming DC cancellations got me wondering, is there any sort of "risk" to picking up a series that's likely to get cancelled quickly?  Are we owed anything by publishers that break their marketing rhetoric or their "implied solicits"?  Should the big 2 publisher's output be treated differently in this regard than other publishers?

My knee jerk reaction has always been that the idea's ridiculous, if you enjoy the comic, just be happy you got what you got, but I'm wondering if maybe times have changed and it would be better to not even try something from the big 2 if they're not likely to last?  

Lets take Omega Men for an example.  DC promised that this run would receive 12 issues... it's going to get 7.  For starters, this is yet another item that shakes one's confidence in DC's implied contract to deliver what they solicit.  In this particular instance, the interviews led one to believe the writer had structured a 12 issue story, if that's the case, we're definitely not getting the spirit of what was solicited and we may not even get a complete story.  Further, twitter feeds referenced in this Beat article suggest the decision was likely made around the third issue mark, meaning prior to readers having any influence on product sales whatsoever, (unless you subscribe to the idea that the first month digital numbers contribute a lot).  So a different story than what we were expecting, essentially changed before consumers even got a chance to read it.

On another tack, Captain Carrot: and the Final Ark, (yeah, I know it's old, but it still irks me), Trinity War, and the Future and World's End series' all were solicited as finite series.  Finite in my mind implies they should have a beginning and an end.  Does anyone feel these series' had proper endings?  This again shakes my confidence in DC's "implied solicits".  (And though my examples are DC products, I don't think Marvel is any better.)

I understand being at the mercy of economics, but I wonder if, in today's world, (where the prices are high, the stories are longer. and the solicits are suspect), is a big 2 book, (where the creators are well down the decision making food chain), worth the "risk" of a tryout before you know what you're going to get?  

I'm not completely risk averse yet, but I'm more wary than I used to be.  What does everyone else think?

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I don't understand the question. A "risk" of ... what, exactly? That you won't see the full story because the book might get canceled?
I don't see where that's grounds to skip something you might enjoy.

I used the term risk because that seems to be the term that's used a lot on other message boards.  I guess what I'm asking is, have we reached the point where, (if a big 2 comic isn't a Batman or Spider-Man or one of the big properties), you're less likely to see the story completed than to see it cancelled?  And if that is the case, is it a worthwhile experience to buy an individual issue for a piece of a story that will never be complete?  Can the piece be enjoyed without a proper conclusion?

Alternatively, is this an exception that's blown out of proportion by the online news cycle?

Personally, I don't think we've passed the tipping point yet, but we're a lot closer than we used to be.  On a somewhat related note, I wouldn't read another DC maxi series until it's finished and I've seen a review that it has an actual ending.

In the direct market orders are sales for the publishers, so I suppose the companies basically have the sales figures when the orders are finalised, before the titles even ship.

I get that some fans get upset and feel betrayed when a favorite title is canceled but it is, always has been and always will be a business.  A comic book publisher is not going to keep publishing a title that doesn't sell well.  And the protests that, in this case, DC didn't wait for a title to find an audience are naive.  As Luke notes, the companies already have the sales information.  They know how many copies have been ordered.  And they know if retailers are selling through and asking for more copies which would justify an overprint or second printing.  The idea that DC canceled Omega Men before fans had their say is ridiculous.  And the accusation that DC "broke a promise" is childish. 

Look, I'm still disappointed that Phil Jimenez never got to finish his Otherworld limited series for Vertigo.  But I don't regret having bought those first issues.

In an ideal world, your favorite comic book would still be produced by your favorite creative team that ever worked on it.

Unfortunately, this is not an ideal world.

I've been a comic book reader (and I do stress the R word) since 1974. I have seen plenty of titles come and go, along with a few that left me scratching my head wondering "What the publisher was thinking?"

There have been plenty of rumors concerning woes at DC, supported by all the cancellations, replacement titles, and further cancellations, since the start of the "New 52". It is a sad testament that, considering how long I have been reading DC Comics (since Action Comics 434), that the only 2 titles I'm currently still following are Batgirl and Wonder Woman.

Chris Fluit is right. Treasure what you have read, and hope the future improves.

I'm not sure if it's entirely childish to hold DC's feet to the fire about breaking a promise in this case. From what I understand, that 12-issue promise wasn't made to us, the readers... it was made to the retailers, their business partners. That seems more serious to me, and I hope if DC saw the business need to break that promise to them, they would also find a way to make it up to them. And maybe not be so hasty to make promises they can't keep in the future.

As for books like Omega Men, if I hadn't heard about that promise, I would have expected it to last about 7 issues -- exactly what it's getting. I love the book -- it's introduced me to two great artists, and brought Tom King tom my attention as well. I'll definitely be checking out his Sheriff of Babylon series from Vertigo, which wasn't on my agenda before.

As King wrote on Twitter:

Yeah, I get that, but if you want to give it a shot, we're still going to try to get a good story out of what we have.

and

It's going to be tough, but you work with what you got or you don't work at all.

 

I'm sorry for the parts of the story we won't see, but I think he's approaching it with the right attitude. Enjoy what you have. Make the most of it as a creator, but also as a reader. If the issue in your hands isn't satisfying on its own -- not that it has to provide a complete story, but if it isn't a satisfying purchase in its own right, where you feel you got something for your money -- then you'd probably wind up feeling ripped off whether or not you got a conclusion as planned. But if you're enjoying every issue, as I have with Omega Men, then there's no risk at all. You bought a comic, you enjoyed a comic. 

Jay Faerber had a pretty good editorial in Secret Identities, a title he published through Image: 

Surprise!  Turns out, this is the last issue of Secret Identities.  Bet you didn't see that particular plot twist coming.  Obviously, we had bigger plans for the series, but as the reality of our sales figures settled in, we had a difficult decision to make.  We had scripts for issues #7 and #8 already written, plus an outline for issue #9.  Do we just pull the plug and end mid-story?  We never seriously considered that option.  That wouldn't have been very nice to do to you guys.  So we put all our heads together and figured out a way to wrap the series up in an oversized issue #7.  We strung together pieces of the original script for issues #7 and 8, plus new material and you know what?  We think it turned out pretty cool.  Is it the resolution we'd had in mind for the series?  Nope.  But that's the thing about writing- sometimes the curve balls you get thrown lead to some pretty interesting stories.

Am I disappointed?   Sure.  I was enjoying Secret Identities and I liked the new characters.  I had hoped it would last for several years like Faerber's previous superhero titles, Noble Causes and Dynamo 5.  Obviously, Jay and the rest of his creative team hoped the same.  But that wasn't the reality of the market (which, to be fair, is supporting his non-superhero Image title Copperhead quite well).  

That's the reality that DC has to do deal with as well.  I'm sure that they fully intended to publish 12 issues of Omega Men when they announced it.  But the title didn't sell.  DC isn't going to lose money on it, nor should they be expected to.  They gave the creators the option of wrapping up their title in 7 issues rather than cancelling it outright.  Is it ideal?  No.  But as a publisher, writer and fan, you make the best of a bad situation.

I probably wouldn't have tried Secret Identities is not for "Comics Guide" the week issue #1 came out. Cap or somebody said something that intigued me, so I gave #1 a try. I read #1-2 (and maybe #3, I forget), then fell behind. I continued to buy with the intention of reading the first story when completed, then making the decision to traidwait or not. (This process has become my new norm for new series.) I bought issue #7 this week and, flipping though it, noticed it said "The End." I was a bit surprised because I thought this was an on-going series. Guess this explains it. In any case, I plan to read #1-7 tomorrow. Will respond next week on "What Comics Have You Read Today?"

Chris Fluit said:

I get that some fans get upset and feel betrayed when a favorite title is canceled but it is, always has been and always will be a business.  A comic book publisher is not going to keep publishing a title that doesn't sell well.  And the protests that, in this case, DC didn't wait for a title to find an audience are naive.  As Luke notes, the companies already have the sales information.  They know how many copies have been ordered.  And they know if retailers are selling through and asking for more copies which would justify an overprint or second printing.  The idea that DC canceled Omega Men before fans had their say is ridiculous.

Quite honestly, I think your calling something naive is a shorthand way of justifying current practices as economic reality without any consideration of best practices.  DC's policy to me screams short term thinking.  When you attempt to get consumer buy-in, making promises you have no intention of keeping is not the way to do it.  In the short term, they've saved a little bit of money, in the long term, they've lost goodwill.  Some would say goodwill is priceless, but much of corporate america doesn't think so, they generally put a high valuation on it.  Now, one could make the argument that they feel marketing will trump goodwill with consumers, but as Rob mentioned, this affects their "partners" at the comicbook shops as well.  

 And the accusation that DC "broke a promise" is childish.

If you create an atmosphere where your "promise" or your solicits aren't to be believed, you've increased risk.  (This time I'm talking in the economic sense of the word.)  At this point, an implicit discount generally gets built into structures. You've devalued your product.  If a supplier can't be depended on to deliver, in the short term, you might demand a discount, in the long term, you switch suppliers.

Now comics are definitely a different beast than a widget supplier.  Marketing and a relatively inelastic drop off on titles, (not to mention the art factor), causes a degree of insulation from bad practices and short term decision making, but I'd argue, doesn't protect the company entirely.  If you make a practice of stopping something in mid-story, general consumer behaviour will change so that consumers are less likely to try something until it's collected and the product getting finished is guaranteed.  If a company facing this situation approaches things from a strictly short term perspective, this consumer cutback would lead to them cancelling more things quickly to avoid the short term loss and could lead to a downward, or in the extreme case, death spiral.

Is the current situation of say, Omega Men, analogous?  Of course not.  The story's being changed, but it's not being left "in mid sentence" so to speak.  However, the story won't be the story that was originally suggested in the "implied solicits".  IMO, the common storytelling styles of today, which probably includes Omega Men, (I couldn't really say as I didn't care for the preview and did not pick up the title), are less free standing, therefore, cutting off at any random issue is likely to prevent you from getting a satisfactory story.  Have we gotten to the point where a single issue without its peers is more of a frustration than a benefit?  I hope for its readers Omega Men isn't, however, I've read selected issues of other titles that don't work well by themselves but fit in well in an ongoing narrative; so, there are books like that out there.  

From a LCS' perspective, if you had your employees talking up items to increase sales, would you be more likely to have them spend time on items that had a stable outlook, (even if it's just a set number of issues or an exciting creative team), or on something you half expected to be gone or completely changed in two months?

My initial question was basically whether anyone on here felt we've reached a tipping point, it seems that no one here does, but I wonder if the younger generations might see it differently.

Mr Mutt, or may I call you Border?

I think your quetsion is a valid one indeed.

I ruminated on this and realise it is kind of the reason why i just do not buy individual comics anymore. I am one of those dreaded trade-waiters.

I wait for trades, not only as it's an easier way to buy, collect and read but in the case of new series to at least get a chance of a continuing narrative story!

case in point - Gotham By Midnight intrigued me when I first heard of it - but I waited for the first trade collection to experience a fair length story - I liked it and pre-ordered the next - only to discover it will be cancelled after that.

Prior to that - just as a for instance - I fancied 'Threshold' when it was solicited - I waited for the trade ...and by the time that came out I knew the series was cancelled and it dimmed my interest so I didn't even buy the trade!

 

 

Border Mutt said:

Marketing and a relatively inelastic drop off on titles, (not to mention the art factor), causes a degree of insulation from bad practices and short term decision making, but I'd argue, doesn't protect the company entirely. If you make a practice of stopping something in mid-story, general consumer behaviour will change so that consumers are less likely to try something until it's collected and the product getting finished is guaranteed. If a company facing this situation approaches things from a strictly short term perspective, this consumer cutback would lead to them cancelling more things quickly to avoid the short term loss and could lead to a downward, or in the extreme case, death spiral.

If a fan is considering ordering a mini-series, particularly of an unproven character, they will consciously or unconsciously decide whether they believe it will be completed. Back in 1969 when Anthro and Bat Lash were suddenly cancelled it was a shame but they were essentially free-standing done-in-ones. Does a fan in today's comics market, where done-in-ones are a rarity, really want the frustration of an incomplete story?

My wife and I are close friends with my LCS owner. When something is new and he gets a couple of customers ordering a copy he only buys that many. He can't afford to get stuck with non-returnable comics if he can help it. This translates into no shelf copies. No matter how magnificent the cover is the customers won't see it. Failure to publish an entire mini-series just adds to the suspicion that these will be unsellable comics dragging on inventory.

A company the size of DC should either commit to completing the miniseries or make the title returnable so that copies will be ordered and seen by the customers. If they have no faith in the comic why are they publishing it at all? A smaller company wouldn't be able to afford this but DC is not small, and losses can be written off their taxes. As you say, good will of the retailers and fans is priceless.

Good news, everybody! Omega Men is 12 issues again!

Of the other cancelled titles (JLU, Gotham By Midnight, Sensation Comics, Batman 66, Lobo, Doomed, and Green Lantern: Lost Army), only Doomed and GL: Lost Army are new titles that would have been covered by that 12-issue promise -- and I'm not even sure if there's been a definitive report that Lost Army is cancelled. 

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