That specter of death on the cover of Book of Death #1 from Valiant may as well be looming over my fan status. The marketing stunt Valiant is launching in relation to this book is causing me to pull back and NOT buy every Valiant comic for the first time since their relaunch.
Valiant fandom is a funny thing, it falls into a few categories:
Hard-Core Fans: These folks buy everything Valiant puts out. And I mean everything. They collect all the comics and more, they collect all (or many/most) of the myriad variant covers Valiant puts out every month as well.
Dedicated Fans: I put myself in this category. I buy all the Valiant comics, but I don’t buy all the variant covers. I have been known to occasionally double or triple dip and get multiple covers to the same book, but not all the time, and not as much lately since I’ve been pulling back on variant covers in general.
Casual Fans: They “buy what they like”. They get a handful of books and go on and off books. They may read monthly comics or they may just pick up the stories in collected edition form.
It’s funny, because for most other companies “buying every comic they publish” would make you a hard-core fan. Not so for Valiant. I see them at cons and when I see how the really hard-core fans collect, I realize that me just buying 1 copy of each comic makes me a mid-tier fan at best.
So, what was the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back”?
BOOK OF DEATH: LEGENDS OF THE GEOMANCER #1 (of 4)
A special BOOK OF DEATH retailer incentive! The true history and lineage of the Geomancers – revealed here in an all-new series of never-before-seen stories from New York Times best-selling writer Fred Van Lente (IVAR, TIMEWALKER) and artist Juan Jose Ryp (Ghosted) that won’t be collected for the trade paperback!
• SPECIAL ALL-NEW LIMITED SERIES!
• QUANTITIES WILL BE LIMITED!
• NOT AVAILABLE DIGITALLY!
• WON’T BE COLLECTED FOR THE TRADE!
• ASK YOUR LOCAL RETAILER HOW TO ORDER!
If you order from DCBS like I do, it will cost you $20 to get this comics that is “all-new” and won’t be collected anywhere else (or so they say now). This is issue 1 of a 4 issue series. I love Valiant, but I am NOT going to pay $20 for a 24 page comic. And it’s just the 1st issue of 4. I’m not going to pay potentially $80 for the entire series. There are a LOT of other comics I’d rather buy for $20 to $80.
EDIT: Some people have been confused. The normal Book of Death series is not $20. It is the Legends of the Geomancer mini-series that is a Retailer Incentive book and will cost whatever your retailer decides they need to charge for it. DCBS is charging $20.
I am also told that #1 is 1:25 and #s 2-4 are 1:10 so will likely be more like $10 each. So ~$50 to read this mini-series.
I’m curious on the blow-back this may have with fans of all categories. Maybe no impact for casual fans, because most won’t even notice what they’re missing. Maybe other dedicated fans will just shrug their shoulders and say “Oh well, I guess I just won’t get this one, but I’ll still get all the others”. Hard core fans? Some may see this as yet another badge to show that they are the ultimate Valiant collector, superior to lesser fans. Others may begrudgingly buy it and be a little bitter about Valiant reaching into their wallet.
If you’re not a completist like I am it may not bother you at all. For me, once I cross the line of “I’m not getting them all” it’s a short trip to “I’m not getting any”. This has happened to me before when Publishers pushed me away from collecting everything by making some elite items unobtainable by normal means. When I cannot collect everything without digging down deep and paying a lot of extra $$, for me personally it gets me thinking that maybe I can just do without a lot more than just the special thing they are making super-collectible.
Since I’m not getting this, I will instead go “All Out” on the Book of Death event. I will just skip the DCBS “all Valiant bundle” for the very first time. That is 8 comics Valiant will not be selling me from July to September. Moving forward, I may never go back to getting all the Valiant books. What this means is I won’t buy every book automatically just because I’m getting the “Valiant bundle”. I know I’m not getting Book of Death, beyond that, every book will need to stand on it’s own merits, which is probably as it should have been all along, but doing a blind “I’ll get them all at a 50% discount” (the DCBS bundle) was very compelling up to this point.
Is it just me? I asked some people what they thought:
I’m only in on a few Valiants right now, I stopped a bit earlier and hearing great reviews on Rai got me back in. I was thinking maybe I should get “all in with” Book of Death but I may just stick with the few titles I’m reading.
Like many shops, mine barely pulls Valiant. There’s no way they would order enough to get this book. I know, I talked to them about it.
I save enough money on my DCBS order overall that I will be getting the exclusive books anyway, despite my reservations. There are plenty of people that will neither have the access or the money, so I’m lucky in that respect. And I’ve spent that kind of money on regular variants without new story.
The comic shops are stuck in the middle: They potentially get stuck with piles of unsold comics and/or they have pissed off fans who either don’t get a comic that they want or feel like they were ripped off paying a high price for it.
EDIT: I am told that the Book of Death comics are “fully returnable” so if a comic shop orders 25 to get the Geomancer book they can return the unsold copies. That said there is always a cost. Labor. Possible return shipping fees. Something. Many shops will not want to bother with this and would rather just skip dealing with it.
I talked to my Local Shop AFTER Atom! Freeman had a chance to personally call them with his Book of Death sales pitch. They told me they already support Valiant. There are already Valiant comics on the rack for people to buy (I know this is true, I see them when I go in there) so people are not missing out on Valiant because there are no books to buy. If they wanted to get enough of the Geomancer books so customers who wanted it would get copies they would have to order several hundred more copies of Book of Death than they can sell that they know they would have to return. They didn’t think just having 100s of extra comics on the rack was going to translate into 100s of extra sales. They have copies for people to buy now that do not sell. They’ll up their orders a bit, still not have enough Geomancer books for people who want it, and will sell it for somewhere around $12-$15 (or whatever the ‘market price’ settles down to when the book comes out) and it will sell on a first come first served basis. This seems fair. Since I don’t go to the shop on Wednesday and also won’t pay even $12 for this comic, it means I’m not going to get a copy.
I’m not a fan of “manufactured collectibles” in comics, and this may have unintended side-effects for Valiant. Instead of building their fan base, this could help tear it down. Maybe I’m wrong. I hope I am because I really like the guys at Valiant. But I’m not letting them reach into my wallet on this one.
EDIT: There has been a LOT of blow-back on this already. I have been told by some that I am an ‘entitled fanboy that just thinks he should be able to get any comic he wants’. I do think I should be able to buy any story a publisher puts out and making this story manufactured from the get-go to be read by only a handful of fans is an ill-conceived idea on the part of Valiant.
Turning fans into part of the sales force to badger their shops into buying 25-packs of Book of Death so they can get a copy of the Geomancer book for themselves is a really bad idea. But that is just my opinion.
So, I used to just get the Valiant bundle from DCBS and order everything they put out. My May Valiant order is as follows:
IMPERIUM #6 CVR A EATON
IVAR TIMEWALKER #7 CVR B LIEBER
NINJAK #5 CVR B JOHNSON
UNITY #20 CVR A BERNARD KANO
X-O MANOWAR #38 CVR C CAFU
I still like these series and will continue to read them. I’m skipping Book of Death just on general principles. It may be a great story, but I am not going to support something with a marketing campaign as divisive as the one dreamed up for this series. If this is a successful campaign I would fully expect to see other Publishers replicating it (it may be replicated even if it fails for Valiant). I was not crazy about the first issue of Bloodshot Reborn, so I’m dropping that title. I’m not ordering any more issues of the Dead Drop mini-series until I read the 1st issue.
Will Valiant win me back full-on at some point? Time will tell. For now, they are losing me as an “all-in reader”.
Bob Bretall: firstname.lastname@example.org
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