Oh, man… I still haven’t made my way through this month’s Previews. But seriously, how great is it to know what’s coming in a few months? I bet you can’t wait to crack open that huge catalog and plan out what you’re buying and maybe justifying why you need that hardcover that’s going to tip you over your budget.
Previews serves a purpose. It’s a tool many readers can’t live without.
And I hate it.
Previews wasn’t designed for readers. We’re not the end user. The retailer is.
Many years ago there were three comicbook distributors: Diamond, Heroes World, and Capital City. Now, they weren’t the first, and they weren’t the only ones, but they were pretty much the last three standing. I’ve frequented enough shops over the years where each one was used. And if you were a reader in the 90s, it’s very likely you shopped where two distributors were used. There have been other, better written articles on the big distribution explosion, so I won’t go into too much of a history lesson here. Instead, I’ll write about my experiences.
Each distributor had their catalog. That catalog almost always had promotional items polybagged with it. Like a Marvel Masterpieces trading card. It wouldn’t be numbered, couldn’t simply be slipped into someone’s set. On the back was pretty much the same spiel you’d find in Fleer’s description of the new set in the trading card section of the catalog. Aside from trading cards – or the occasional uncut sheet of trading cards – there would be posters (the three-fold vertical kind that most shops would hang on the bathroom door) or a preview of a new title. Point is, there were things with that catalog designed to educate the retailer. Which they would eventually decide to sell. Because, hey, if you can make money…
Initially, location determined which distributors a retailer ordered and received from. Eventually, all that was left was Diamond. And now, every month, we get the Previews catalog. But like I said, it wasn’t always designed for us. I’m (still) used to snippets we would get from Coming Distractions in Amazing Heroes: issue, title, barely a sentence to describe the plot (often, the same information could be obtained by glancing at the cover) creators (including inkers. A practice I’m begging Marvel to institute in their solicits again), price, and newsstand date. Anything more than that benefits the person buying in bulk, at a discount, so they can order accordingly.
Keep in mind, back then, there weren’t retailer incentive variant covers. (Todd’s Spider-Man platinum cover wasn’t an incentive to order more comicbooks, it was merely a thank you to retailers from Marvel. I’m just using this opportunity to take another shot at Torment. DOOM, indeed. (It practically writes itself sometimes…)) Now, to grab any market share they can, every publisher is offering multiple covers for the same issue and because you know who the artist is, you have a shot of getting one, ordered just for you, making it not as rare as variants used to be. Which means the retailer has to order a butt ton of regular, non-variant issues and that leads me toward a topic I’m not ready to go toward just yet.
So, yeah. I’m of the mind that, in this case, too much information isn’t a good thing. I’m not trying to live in the past. Honest. I just feel we could get by with the bare minimum. Hell, I know I’d be happier. I wouldn’t dread having to find time to go through the catalog – time I could be spending reading comicbooks I ordered last month – or worry about turning a page and seeing a spoiler.
I know not everyone thinks like me. In fact, I know two people, very well, who love Previews and can’t wait to sit down and mark it and Post-it and god only knows what else to it every month. I’m pretty sure it’s the first thing they read when they open their boxes from DCBS.
You can’t put this genie back in the bottle. This is the way it is now. I get it. Times change. We’re a society that needs information. We thrive on knowing everything and think that we are entitled to know everything. And if Previews makes you a more informed consumer, allows you to make informed decisions and purchases, then all is right in the world.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to finish going through this catalog so I can finally get my order in for this month.
UPDATE: An earlier version of this post could be read to imply Spider-Man #1 was a retailer incentive. This is not the case. The letter to retailers accompanying the issue suggested the store could simply display it or “consider auctioning it off for charity”. I hope the rewording eliminates any confusion.