‘JLA/Avengers’ Hero Initiative: A Wonderful Idea But One With A BIG Problem

by Richard Bruton

The JLA/Avengers reprint made a lot of news this week, a wonderful idea, a tribute to George Perez and the 7000 print run raising funds for the Hero Initiative. But there’s a problem…

The announcement of the 7000 copy print run of the 2003 Kurt Busiek and George Perez Avengers/JLA book was great news, of course, with the profits going to the comics charity supporting creators in need, Hero Initiative.

But it was immediately obvious, both from the general online chatter and from just thinking about it for more than a few seconds, that it was something that was going to create a few problems. For starters, the obvious question – how the hell is 7000 copies going to cover demand?

Yes, it’s a book that’s been out before, but the sad news of George Perez’s illness and the scarcity of the original print-run means that there’s going to be many, many thousands of comics fans who want copies and won’t be able to get them.

And early anecdotal evidence tells us that’s absolutely right. The ever-illuminating Brian Hibbs, owner of San Francisco’s Comix Experience, recently posted up on Facebook that, in just ONE day, he’s already got, “about 19 people asking me to buy a copy… and that’s in email, so my awesome staff at the shop face-to-face are probably also at an equal amount. This is insane relative to how superhero comics generally sell now. There is a CRAZY demand for this book, and one that has absolutely existed for years, long before the wretched news of George Perez’s illness.”

It’s worth going there and reading the whole thing, but Hibbs succinctly points out that 7k is nowhere near the potential audience who want to get hold of the book – he’s quoting approximately 3200 Diamond accounts, making that 7k print run stretch to 2-3 copies per store. Hibbs reckons he could easily shift 60 in the first week of release and at least that again in the first year.

Now, Hibbs knows what he’s talking about, he’s long been one of the most insightful and forward-thinking of comics retailers. Which is why, when he sounds the alarm in this way, we ought to listen.

And then, of course, there’s the other BIG problem with such an in-demand book with a small print run. Those bloody flippers.

As Hibbs goes on to say:

“We’ve already had to start sending out messaging that the nature of this book is that flippers are going to try to buy up every copy at $30, so they can sell it for ~$100. But, seriously, FUCK THOSE GUYS.”

Sadly, for the idea of this book and the laudable reasons for re-publishing, it’s bound to attract those looking to make a very quick buck. I reckon Hibbs’ estimate of $100 for a copy of this $30 book is wildly underestimating things. And that’s a damn, damn shame. It’s a book that’s adored, from a creator who’s beloved, and funds going to a great cause, helping those comic creators who fall on hard times. To think of those parasitic flippers making a huge slab of cash from it is just obscene.

Thing is, like Hibbs, unless the print run increases, I can’t see a way to make it work that doesn’t penalise the genuine comics fans who want to do the right thing, want their copy, want to contribute, and want to see George Perez’s name further immortalised.

Hibbs’ possible solution he mentions, of selling the book on eBay themselves and then donating all the proceeds to Hero Initiative, is certainly one potential solution, just not one that means that all the fans who want it will be able to get it.

Hopefully, we’ll see the print run of the book increase. Because if it doesn’t, there’s going to be a hell of a lot of disappointed fans out there and a hell of a lot of money that could have, should have, gone to Hero Initiative rather than lining the pockets of the very worst of the comics industry.

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