Op-Ed: BAD IDEA?
#BadIdea might be something you’ve heard people in the comic industry talking about today. They dropped a little news on everybody’s heads and announced the start of a brand new comic book publishing company. That’s right, a new comic book publisher in a sea of comic book publishers. But, you see, there’s a catch (or a few, anyway) about this new little start-up. Do you remember the minds, and creators, behind a little thing called Valiant Entertainment, waaaay back in 2012? Names like Dinesh Shamdasani, Warren Simons, Atom Freeman, Lews Larosa, Doug Braithwaite, Joshua Dysart, Robert Venditti, Tomas Giorello and eventually names like Jeff Lemire, Marguerite Bennett, Eric Heisserer, Jody Houser. Remember that? Yeah, they’ve come together again after many left or were ousted by the new regime at Valiant for BAD IDEA. Now, if you ask me, I’m excited. After watching the magic that these people put together for Valiant I can’t help but be amped for this new venture.
Now, that aside, I want to say a few things about what they’re doing that’s different and maybe address some of the criticisms I’ve seen floating around since the big announcement this morning.
BAD IDEA is going to produce an intentionally limited number of series at any given time: no more than one to two single issues per month. Usually our first issues or totally mind-blowing one-shots – will be oversized with page counts far in excess of the standard 22 pages. But, no matter what, each BAD IDEA comic will have a standard $3.99 cover price.
I like this. Enough companies are producing 20+ books a month that we don’t need to be suddenly flooded with a huge new bundle to add to pull lists. As to the second point, who can complain about more comic in a single issue, especially with a standard $3.99 price point no matter what.
BAD IDEA’s titles will feature no variants, will not be offered digitally, and will not be collected into trade paperbacks, hardcovers, or other bookshelf formats.
It’s an interesting approach. Personally, variant covers can piss right off. It’s just not good practice and I feel that it doesn’t help comic shops who have to order insane amounts of issues (non-refundable) to get certain variants. The lack of digitals strikes me as strange as, to me, it seems digital is growing in a big way and might eventually overtake the singles market. This leads to the final part of no trades or collections of any kind. The digital world may overtake singles, but nothing up for a good, old fashioned hardcover collection. The smell, right? Glorious. I admittedly had a bit of a moment here as I read that a few times. I love hardcover collections and omnibus editions and library editions and all sorts of fantastic hardcover goodness. So to not get them, with a creator line up as they’ve announced and Odin only knows the ones they haven’t announced–and if you know these guys they have surprises for days in their back pockets–kinda bums me out.
But that makes each single issue special. That means those issues you pack away in plastic with a cardboard back might actually get reopened and reread and not just sealed away in a box at the bottom of a pile and not touched again for… who knows how long. Sure, maybe that isn’t everybody. I know I used to do that. Then I’d buy some hardcover and reread the collection and let the single issues sit alone in the darkness. So, this extreme change from the norm, while maybe not my choice, still intrigues me. It’s going to push me in a direction that I have never taken in my comic book collecting career (so to speak) and I applaud the bravery to attempt something this radical.
You will have to go to a comic shop to buy them, each and every month.
But here’s the rub: BAD IDEA’s new releases won’t be available everywhere. To get things going, BAD IDEA will be self-distributing its titles to a carefully selected roster of just 20 participating comic book retailers with more admitted on a rolling basis for a total of roughly 50 within the first year.
Each BAD IDEA store will qualify to participate based on a unique system of criteria that includes enhanced signage, promotional displays, and rules for stocking and selling BAD IDEA releases, including a strictly enforced “limit one per customer” policy on all BAD IDEA comics.
There is a lot to unpack here. A lot of the backlash–for lack of a better word right now–I’ve seen for Bad Idea has been because of the select stores will be getting these books. Before we dive into that, can I just say that in the absence of digital–potentially industry-changing or not–I like that this is going to force human interaction into the generally struggling brick and mortar comic book shops. It’s ballsy and it’s different. Now, back to the point below, there are hundreds of shops in America, Canada, the UK, Australia, and all over the globe. Many who, undoubtedly, will be clamoring for this new publisher’s books. I get it. I’m from Canada and I doubt that of the first twenty stores there will one near me. Maybe of these shops will have a mail order feature but that makes a standard $3.99 issue into… who knows. $8? $10? We’re talking special big two pricing here. It’s not ideal. Maybe the content will be so great that it won’t matter–I tend to be of this opinion–but I guess time will tell on that front.
To me, it feels like an attempt, paired with the “strictly enforced ‘limit of one per customer’ policy”, to reign in on the speculator market. Assuming the one per customer limit can be enforced–and maybe there will be legally binding agreements or some such to help with that. It’s hard to tell exactly how that will be enforced–and is honored by stores there should be next to no speculation on these books. There might be some that buy it, read it and sell it because of the rarity, but it won’t be as rampant as all the other publishers see. Even Valiant has quite the market on eBay–especially with the Bloodshot move coming later this year. Some are willing to read the books and ship them to people that are maybe unable to get to a store or don’t have a store within a reasonable distance–you can check out the Bad Idea Fan page on Facebook for those types of cool ass people–as long as they page cover price and shipping. But overall I think the market will be very minimal and I think it’s by design. I get the frustration over limited stores, as I’ve said, but these guys know what they’re doing. They’re starting small and working their way up. They aren’t just storming through the doors with 52 new books and yelling that everybody should be buying them. This won’t help their market share, sure, and it will take time to build up and get bigger and, I assume, be profitable–which is worrisome simply for the fact that I want to see what these people can do completely untethered by something that has come before (I.E. Valiant classic).
With that in mind, it seems like a no brainer to support this however I can. If I get the books, I’ll be over the moon, and if I don’t well, it is what it is. There are lots of things in this world that I want but can’t get for one reason or another. Such is life. But, man, when you do get your hands on one of these books just think about what a big deal it is going to be? How special that is going to feel, knowing that you’re one a limited number of people to hold that art in your hand. I can’t say I’ve felt that way in a long, long time. That is what I believe BAD IDEA is doing here, to break it down to a single point for argument sake: bringing that special feeling of having a comic in your hand back. It makes it an event; it makes it something to remember and cherish. I can’t wait to see what these folks can do, truly, and I can’t wait to see the coming announcments and learn more about the books and the company that has, seemingly, be working in the shadows for who knows how long now. It may change some minds–look at how far digital comes has come since it’s inception–not only in fan circles but maybe other publishers as well. I, again, applaud the sheer balls of this venture and, well boys, sign me up. Whether or not some of the ideas turn out to be, well, bad ideas we can experience and learn together. Bring it on, BAD IDEA, let’s see what you got.