The first reports are in, and Walking Dead #100 is being touted as the best selling comic since the speculator bubble burst back in the 90’s.  Major Spoilers’ own Stephen has been saying damn near forever that the industry needs to diversify it’s output away from Spider-Man and the JLA (but probably not Batman, ’cause that guy is awesome) and the super-hero tributaries, and the success of this book seems to bear him out.  For my part, I can’t help but look at the book’s dozen variant covers and remember the sales gimmicks of the 1990s as well as the dozens and dozens of copies of 1991’s X-Men #1 still lurking in my comics cave and quarter bins across the nation.

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) heard something by the barn, and is gonna go check it out, asking:  Is this a sign that the industry is returning to the successful days of years past, or could we be on the verge of another boom of speculator inflation?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

Previous post

On the Next Major Spoilers Podcast: Cow Boy

Next post

REVIEW: Swamp Thing #11


  1. Dr. Bolty
    July 16, 2012 at 1:36 pm — Reply

    The key problem with the early 90’s, as I understand it, was that people were hoarding comics that they didn’t even *want*. Dazzler #1 is frequently mentioned as the first example of speculation driving sales, as well as frequently mentioned as a comic that few people truly cared for. Walking Dead, on the other hand, is a series that is tremendously popular, largely because zombie stories were really hot when it first came out, and partly because its TV series has brought more attention to it.

    So I’d say this is unambiguously a good sign! It says that a lot of people *care* about a comic (that isn’t about superheroes) and therefore want to read it.

  2. July 16, 2012 at 2:27 pm — Reply

    WD #100 has 9 covers, and is a milestone book. The sales numbers for #100 don’t mean much unless they hold for the book with, say, #110. That might indicate a trend, otherwise it’s milestone coupled with gimmick, and not much else.

    • July 16, 2012 at 3:48 pm — Reply

      That’s how it seems to me. I think that the fallout of the 90s boom has damaged the sales model too much for it to ever reach those days in the mid 80s where every book sold a ton.

  3. HipHopHead
    July 16, 2012 at 2:28 pm — Reply

    I don’t believe this a return to 90’s speculation or a return to successfully selling over 100,000 of single issue every month. I think this is a sign of the READERS wanting to obtain a significant issue (#100) AND television viewers jumping in on a nice round number.

    The number of issues sold (aka ordered) from #101 going forward will be a better indicator of speculation or resurrection of the comic industry.

  4. July 16, 2012 at 3:56 pm — Reply

    A little of both.

    I think to a certain degree, comic books are a fad. Whether that fad is going to last one year or five years is anyone’s guess, but there is a time limit on the instant popularity of superhero franchises and comic book properties. However, we’ve seen this fad before – in the 90’s – and I think comic books will certainly survive.

    When the fad ends, I don’t think the industry will fall as much as in previous years. I think we’re past the point of people snidely asking “You read comics? What’s wrong with you?” Comic books have proven themselves as a viable, mainstream art form. Comic books might be seen as passe for a few years, but never infantile.

    Either way, I think it’s good for the industry in both the short and long term.

  5. Pidgeonman
    July 16, 2012 at 6:06 pm — Reply

    Hopefully no one is thinking that they can put their kids through college by buying twenty copies of The Walking Dead #100. It’s good to see a book that’s been successful in multiple forms of media based on crazy things like actual storytelling and consistency enjoying this kind of success. I can’t help but wonder if the super hero books took an approach like that instead of an endless series of meaningless crossover fights they might see better sales to.

  6. Joe
    July 16, 2012 at 6:35 pm — Reply

    I think this is definitely a sign of speculation creeping in. I’ll bet a lot of those copies sold can be attributed to non-comics fans seeing the success of the TV show coupled with the hype around issue 100. (Speaking of hype, all those covers is definitely a 90s era gimmick)

    People probably walked into a comic store for the first time, picked up a dozen copies, and are now hoping to turn them over on eBay. Of course it’s speculation. It’s ridiculous to think that such a huge surge in “readership”, in the middle of an ongoing story no less, is NOT directly caused by the issue number 100.

    It’s ironic because early issues of Walking Dead are some of the few comics that actually DO sell for big bucks, but that’s because few people bought the first four issues and it had a low print run.

  7. Joe
    July 16, 2012 at 6:36 pm — Reply

    Few modern comics, I meant to say.

  8. ~wyntermute~
    July 16, 2012 at 11:39 pm — Reply

    Speculatorism might not be a word, but it is TOTALLY back now that “comic book properties” seem to be the Hottest Things Evar To Entertain Us. Like, back in the 1970s when “Star Wars” was king, the speculators got into lunchboxes and action figures and anything they thought they could sell to a “Star Wars Fan” at some point down the road; this is what I like to think of as the “There’s Somebody With Money Who Will Buy This” syndrome.

    Now that “comic book geeks” are getting rich from the software/whatever-else-geeks-get-rich-at industries, there are a lot of speculators snapping up goodies so that they can make their profits there. Basically, it’s sort of “whatever is popular will attract speculators”, and right now there seems to be NOTHING more popular than “comic books” whether they’re indie OR Big Publishing House”.

    There’s no money in baseball/football/whatever cards, because “geeks” don’t buy those things (unless they’re “Collectible Card Games”, it seems). They don’t want “antique furniture” (unless it’s from the set of some movie they love), or “fine art” (unless it’s of a character they know & love from some anime/manga/comic/movie) or any of the other things that Rich People traditionally used to spend their fortunes on. They want “actual WORKING Spider-Shooters” or “The First Edition Omnibus Edition of [insert trendy comic here]”, etc.

    So blame whoever you want, but don’t blame the speculators for capitalizing on the supply/demand chain. Whenever something goes “mainstream”, there’s always a few suckers to be found in the stream — and that’s where the speculator comes in: catching suckers. ^_^

    • Joe
      July 17, 2012 at 7:29 am — Reply

      I don’t know. My first experience with speculation was some friends who somehow ended up with dozens of copies of Nova 1, Howard the Duck 1, Ragman 1, Black Lightning 1… That never panned out.

      Flash forward to Spawn 1, XMen 1, Spiderman 1, Superman 75… And the story is still the same. There’s no money in comic speculation. The only suckers are the speculators themselves.

      When Prophet 21 came out some jerk bought every issue as soon as the store opened. Then last month at Wizard World I found a box of them for $2.

      I’ve seen people asking $400 for Walking Dead 1 on eBay, but I don’t know if anyone is paying.

  9. Xian
    July 17, 2012 at 8:52 am — Reply

    I don’t think it’s either of the options (proof of return to glory days / proof of a speculator bubble).

    The Walking Dead is an outlier which doesn’t represent the industry as a whole.

    The main benefit of the Walking Dead’s success is that it means that comics are still relevant as commercial properties- the way young fiction turn franchises like Hunger Games / Twilight / Potter / etc.- meaning the medium can’t be totally disregarded / discarded and that there are people who are still comic literate (being able to navigate comics takes literacy beyond just the text)… and while “a rising tide raises all boats”, I don’t really see Walking Dead’s success translating to the industry as a whole.

    It seems more like, like with young fiction, there’s a certain saturation point where only a certain book or series can be the “it” title for a while. Not to say any other books are not as good or worthy, but becoming the “it” title is less about intrinsic quality and more about collective appreciation of something… more people would rather read something relevant to their ability to interact with others, appreciate pop culture, etc. than something maybe slightly better which is completely unknown and leads to no further discussion or public interaction.

    When the Walking Dead passes, something else will take its place.

    But by keeping comics in the loop and training new generations of people who can appreciate comics, while I don’t think it necessarily leads to a speculator boom, it does mean you’ll have another pool of buyers for at least another generation for your foil chrome holographic glow-in-the-dark cardstock covers.

    • Xian
      July 17, 2012 at 9:07 am — Reply

      btw, this isn’t to say I don’t think things might be improving, I just don’t think Walking Dead is the reason or indicator of it. If anything, the glut (and I mean this in the most delightfully gluttonous way) of superhero media, from videogames, loads of animated series, and feature films, are what is going to drive the next wave of comic buyers.

      Indie represents a certain level of artistic integrity, sure, but the commercial backbone of comics is still the big properties. However, the IP is only as valuable as people perceive it to be and much of that value is driven by familiarity, nostalgia, establishment, etc. Snapple can enter the market, sure, but Coca-Cola will always be a beverage stronghold. To that end, Marvel and DC are aggressively ensuring their brands, their properties, their IP is not forgotten.

      The price of comics more or less kicks kids out of the equation, but nonetheless they can consume all this media and grow an attachment to pop-culture icons today if they’ll sit through some advertising, pay a movie ticket, or rent a game. Marvel and DC won’t necessarily see comic reader returns on such investment immediately, but in ten years, twenty, or more? That kid in front of the tube, who watched Avengers, who played Marvel v Capcom, etc. with a few bucks to spend from a job laden with responsibilities, might just want to spend those dollars on something familiar that brings him or her back to a time with fewer responsibilities.

      When comics were cheap, they could, themselves, be the low barrier to entry… now that they’re not, they’re almost an arcane self-flagellating exercise in nostalgia, however the real value is not so much the medium itself but the characters / IP, so to decrease the barrier of entry to that Marvel and DC have evolved to release free television, must-see blockbusters, and must-play AAA game titles. So I expect comics to remain “healthy” if not grow in the future mostly because of the media mining and explosion we’ve had.

  10. zebsdead
    July 17, 2012 at 9:29 am — Reply

    Other factors are at work here. The TV show’s enormous popularity is the elephant in the room (or fridge, depending on the state of one’s butter), combined with the lure of a major turning/jumping on point. The alternate covers have always bothered me, and are indeed a sign of that odious spectator mentality creeping back into comics. DC’s new 52 (and whatever Marvel is planning) are examples, albeit to a lesser degree, of that drive (see: capitalism, marketing, and all those other Artiste-snubbed elements that make this industry work) to make waves, sell comics, and nurture a secondary market where these items have lasting value, however illusory that might be.
    My 1-in-137, die-cast, Rob Liefeld variant Crystal Ball tells me that this is a bit of both (and that people will not need ankles in the future, although pouches will soon be out of hand), while my limited-edition, hologram-enhanced Deadly Viper eyepatch compels me to add that it is not a perfect split. The issue itself, nine covers or not, is only part of the equasion. We will see some of the Good Ol’ Days come back around, but where it goes from there is largely up to the secondary market, and the comics industry’s response to it’s own growth. As one cannot have The End without The Beginning of The End, i would say this indicates an era of increased responsibility among companies and creators to make sure that the content of these issues lives up to the hype.
    My 40% chromium bending unit says we’re probably boned.
    Related question: How much influence should adaptions of comics into other media have on the source material itself?

    • zebsdead
      July 17, 2012 at 10:20 am — Reply

      In the interest of both more accurately representing my position and not sounding like a calloused Doomsayer, allow me to state that i live in the hope that the myriad of factors that led to the near-demise (or at least extreme nadir) of comics in the 90’s were an isolated incident. Comics are more accepted, as has been stated above, and we’ve already seen what happens when everyone chases sales with cheapened clones and “storytelling” as a tissue-thin excuse for flashy horse$*!+ and the latest round of “I Am The Biggest BAMF.”
      Events are inseperable from the times that produce them, and these are different times indeed. My own filters lead me to say that this is a bad sign, but i will be ovejoyed to be wrong. But, i was only eleven when i started falling asleep to old Carlin records, so what the seven words do i know?

  11. Joe
    July 17, 2012 at 10:17 am — Reply

    For me, the bottom line is that I have serious doubts as to whether the majority of those copies sold will actually be read.

You know you have something to say, say it in the comment section