It’s been a busy couple of months, so I haven’t had the chance to write about something that caught my attention a while back … the fact that IDW Publishing’s Orphan Black #1 was the highest-ordered comic in February of this year.

This reveals what very well may be a serious change in the industry, one that may influence things for a long time to come.

WHAT IS ORPHAN BLACK?

IDW Publishing, Orphan Black, BBC America, Star Trek, Star Wars, Darth Vader, Tatiana Maslany, Loot Crate, trade paperback, Nerd Block, John Fawcett, clone, Graeme MansonBefore I start talking about Loot Crate, it’s important to know just what Orphan Black is.

Here’s the basic premised as described by imdb.com: “A streetwise hustler is pulled into a compelling conspiracy after witnessing the suicide of a girl who looks just like her.”

Since the show is about to enter its third season before long, I don’t think I’m spoiling much to say that clones are heavily involved in the series.

You can often find Orphan Black on the BBC America cable channel here in the States. It’s well written and has a strong cast of actors. However, the person who should get a lot more attention than she does is Tatiana Maslany, who breathes life into Sarah and the various clones, giving each her own accent and personality. Sometimes I forget that it’s the same actress when she’s “talking” to herself/other clones.

If you haven’t been watching it, now’s a good time to catch up by watching previous seasons via DVD/Blu ray or Amazon Prime and other services that show TV programs for a fee.

Be sure to listen to the Dueling Review of Orphan Black #1! That first issue was written by John Fawcett, Graeme Manson and Jody Houser. Art was provided by Szymon Kudranski, and the cover came from Cat Staggs. Here’s the issue’s description: “One. Of a kind. Sarah’s life was changed dramatically after witnessing the suicide of a woman who looked just like her. Sarah learned that, not only were she and the woman clones, but there were others just like them, and dangerous factions at work set on capturing them all. Now, the mysterious world of Orphan Black widens, with new layers of the conspiracy being peeled back in this miniseries by co-creators John Fawcett and Graeme Manson!”

You can even read Matthew Peterson’s review of the second issue now!

WHAT IS LOOT CRATE?

What catapulted Orphan Black #1 to the top spot in February may very well have been Loot Crate, an online subscription store that sends clients a box full of product that has a monthly theme to it. For instance, the theme of the box that included Orphan Black #1 was “Covert.” Past themes have included “Heroes,” “Villains,” “Play,” “Galactic,” “Fear” and “Battle.”

Depending on how many months you sign up for, a crate can cost you $19.95 a month or lower. If your book gets included in the theme, each box sent out includes a copy of that comic. Fans can select other items them want sent to them that month.

There are other companies that provide services like Loot Crate, including Nerdblock.com. I expect more to pop up very shortly.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

Let’s be real here – Orphan Black, as good as it is, isn’t as well-known as Star Trek or Star Wars, for instance. Comics based on those vastly better-known franchises don’t sell nearly as well. The premier issue of the comic based on Black seriously outdistanced Darth Vader #1. The final numbers for Black were 497,002 copies shipped. Vader, which placed second that month, had 264,399 copies shipped, or nearly half that number.

IDW Publishing, Orphan Black, BBC America, Star Trek, Star Wars, Darth Vader, Tatiana Maslany, Loot Crate, trade paperback, Nerd Block, John Fawcett, clone, Graeme MansonThe difference was Loot Crate, apparently. Although I couldn’t find out exactly how many, they ordered so many copies of Orphan Black #1 to fill their boxes that it pushed the comic up into that lofty top sales position. And their influence is only going to get bigger given their current success. This Orphan Black total makes it possible for Loot Crate’s order to account for as many as 400,000 copies — more than double what they were able to do a year ago.

This also means that the vast majority of the copies of the bestselling books may no longer be ordered by comic shops. Instead, they’re could be placed by Loot Crate and probably other similar operations.

With nearly half a million copies shipped, IDW’s Orphan Black #1 will likely rank as the fourth best-selling comic book in the recent Diamond Exclusive Era, behind Star Wars #1 in January (also a Loot Crate addition), last year’s Amazing Spider-Man #1, and Amazing Spider-Man #583 from 2009. It’s the third time a comic book has topped the charts likely due to the huge size of Loot Crate’s order, according to comichron.com, a comics research website.

If this trend continues, more and more fans will be getting their books sent to them in monthly boxes instead of visiting their local comics shops.

Since I don’t subscribe to Loot Crate, I’m not sure if the books arrive in good condition or not. If you’re a collector, that may weigh heavily on your decision to place an order with them. However, they may bag and board each book, which could help keep comics as collectible as possible. Maybe some of you can update us on that in the discussion space below!

IS IT THE END OF AN ERA?

I don’t mean to sound like a harbinger of doom, but I constantly fret over the future of comics shops. Friends of mine will tell you that I was very worried when trade paperbacks first came out. I was concerned that fans would only go to their local Barnes and Nobles and the like to buy their comics reading. Shows what I know! It’s gone the other way instead, with many bookstore chains vanishing from the landscape. There are fans who only pick up trades every couple of months, but they still go to the local comics shops.

My first thought on finding out about Loot Crate was that same feeling of dread. Would the nearby comics stores be a thing of the past, like when CD’s replaced plastic albums in the music industry? I didn’t go to a local music store for a month or two, then when I did, there wasn’t an album anywhere to be found! Instead, I had to go out and buy a CD player. (Guess that example once again really dates me!)

Past experience has taught me that my fears are probably not well-grounded. I think the local store, which can be a hub for friends who have similar interests, will continue on. I do, however, think that online shipping services will wield a lot of influence in the years to come. We’ll just have to see what happens next, including how all this affects digital comics like those from comixology.com!

What’s been your experience with online shippers of comics, if you’ve bought books from them? Why did you decide to buy from them? Do you think they’re better or worse than your local shop? Be sure to share your experiences below!

 

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The Author

Wayne Hall

Wayne Hall

Wayne Hall creates the Wayne's Comics Podcast. He’s interviewed Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, John Layman, Kyle Higgins, Phil Hester, Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray, David Petersen, Christos Gage, Mike Grell, and Matt Kindt. Each episode also includes reviews, news and previews. On this site each week, he writes his "Comics Portal" column (general comics comments and previews) and reviews comics.

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2 Comments

  1. Cody
    March 23, 2015 at 8:30 pm — Reply

    The comics in loot crate are bagged(bag is a thinner plastic and sealed) and boarded and mine have come in great shape since they make sure there’s not much empty space in the box.

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