Hey everyone. In the past few months I’ve received quite a few questions and comments from readers about the seemingly ever-changing comic book release dates I list on my blog (on the right panel in case you didn’t realize). What I typically hear is that my dates are not aligning with those from another source or that I keep changing the dates and they can’t be relied upon. I’ve even heard from individuals that checked my site one month and then the next month wondered why their shop didn’t yet have the issue in on the date they had expected.
Many of you may be new to comic books or you just weren’t aware of how things operate and the logistics involved. So, I thought maybe it would be a good idea to just post some of what I know about the comic book and printing industry here to help you understand how things typically work in regards to release dates. Hopefully this will put you in the mindset of the publishers, artists, writers, etc. of your favorite title and what they must do to get a comic book printed and distributed. With that said, I fully understand that the release information is puzzling a lot of times…after 25 years around comic books I still can only make educated guesses for a lot of it. Although it can be confusing (and frustrating) when you see different dates listed from different sources, hopefully some of what I share here will help you understand the “why.”
To start, let me work my way backwards a bit from the point where all of us comic book enthusiasts actually order our books. Initially, the date I post when listing new TMNT comic books on my site is the date that Diamond Distributors (the comic industry’s ONLY distributor) lists in their monthly PREVIEWS publication. PREVIEWS is the order catalog for comic books planned to be released 2 months from the PREVIEWS catalog month. Comic book retailers (local comic shops) then order from that catalog. The comics listed in PREVIEWS are called “advanced solicitations” and PREVIEWS is a compilation of everything the comic book publishers (DC, Marvel, Image, IDW, etc.) have communicated to Diamond that they plan to publish for the month in which the catalog is for. So, to use a real-world example, the February 2012 edition of PREVIEWS is for comic books planned to be released in April 2012.
Now, here’s the part that many forget about. If Diamond publishes ordering information 2 months in advance of planned release dates, they need time to compile, layout, and print the information in catalogs to meet that date. This means that they require that publishers supply the information about their planned comic book titles at least a month or more prior to the date the catalog will be published. Using the February 2012 PREVIEWS again as an example, comic book publishers would have had to communicate their planned April 2012 publications (a.k.a. solicitations) along with the planned release dates for each back around January 2012 (or even December 2011). That’s 3-4 months prior to the comic even existing.
Now, let’s go back a step further. Think about the extensive administrative planning that has to be done for every comic book…the story-lines need to be created and planned out…then the artists, writers, etc. need to be coordinated and deadlines set. Think about all the people required to put just a single comic book together…the artists, writers, editors, etc. All these people come together to schedule everything out for an issue and then deadlines are set for all the people involved (typically very aggressive deadlines). Then, the time it takes to print the comic book and get it to the distributor is added into things and a target release date is set and communicated to Diamond. Great! Now, ideally, you want things to go as planned but does everything you do go as planned? What could possibly go wrong in a 3 month time frame with tens of people involved, all with multiple consecutive and overlapping projects, along with personal lives, etc., etc., etc.? Well, if Murphy’s Law holds true…”anything that CAN go wrong WILL.”
So, now you have a bit of understanding of what goes on behind the scenes…here’s how all that shakes out to the comic book distributors and to people like you and me, just waiting for the next issue of TMNT. The release information I post for the TMNT comics comes from a collection of web, vendor, and distributor information which very rarely jives. In addition, each week Diamond releases information about new comics that didn’t make it into the PREVIEWS catalog for the month; this is called PREVIEWS Plus. Add to that the updated information supplied by Diamond every week regarding Shipping or Product Updates, Cancellations, and New Printings / Variants. This is all information provided by Diamond that they are aware of at the time they release information each week (and, from much experience, I’d say it’s “iffy” at best). Then, from there, sites like ComicList and Comixology also publish release dates but these dates are very frequently different from those that Diamond publishes. For instance, at present, PREVIEWS has both Leonardo Micro-Series and #9 listed for 18-Apr. Both Comixology and Comiclist have #9 for 18-Apr and Leo for 25-Apr. Add to this that we just heard from Bobby Curnow at IDW that the plan is to release Leo before TMNT #9. Now, for that to happen (depending on what information you go by), either #9 gets “delayed” a week, Leo gets advanced a week, or there’s a combination of the two. And, after all that, even if all deadlines are met on IDW’s end, if there’s a hiccup at the printer or the distributor then you can throw all communicated dates out the window. So, who to believe?
Well, I’d say, “all of them and none of them.” Sounds vague, right? Well, yes. My best advice to everyone in regards to release dates is three-fold. If you follow this simple guide I think you’ll be much less frustrated at the perceived delays of comic books.
- First, allow for a 2 week cushion on either side of what is communicated at solicitation (in PREVIEWS). The best advice I ever received was to look more at the month of release instead of the specific date of release (e.g., April vs. April 11).
- Second, check the sites (or sources) you trust on a routine basis (i.e., at least weekly – dates change weekly) and then continue to monitor them. Don’t take any date as a hard and fast date until about 2-3 weeks prior to that date (as this is typically the time frame where a book has been – or is being – printed and delivered for distribution). There are so many variables to consider and things that must all come together at the right times and, as I stated before, even then things can get delayed at distribution.
- Lastly, set up a pull list, subscription, or hold slot at an online vendor or local comic shop where things get automatically ordered for you based on genre, title, or whatever you want. This way, when you show up at your shop you just pick up what was released. As long as you’ve either ordered your copies or trust that your shop has done so on your behalf then, regardless of the date, they’ll eventually show up. Personally, I use a mixture of the two. I use my local comic shop for the regular covers of TMNT (using a pull list on Comixology) and then use a larger online vendor for the Retailer Incentives or more expensive hardcovers. This serves two purposes. First, I want to support my local comic book shop. The brick & mortar shops are where my collection started 25+ years ago. I want to ensure that some of my collection continues to come via this source and if everyone buys online the local comic book shops will disappear. Second, I rarely want to buy 10, 20, 25, or even 50 copies of a certain comic in order to get the Retailer Incentives for a certain title. Most local shops typically don’t have the bandwidth or customer base to justify purchasing 10+ copies of most comics. To get them locally I’d have to agree to buy all those copies it would take to get an incentive in their door (or pay the exorbitant after-market prices – which I also don’t want to do). Larger online shops order in such bulk that many of them allow consumers to purchase the incentives individually for a small markup. These are free to them anyway so they make a small profit while absorbing a lot of the personal cost and risk of having to buy additional copies. Plus, their online venue allows for future sales of those additional copies to a wide audience that didn’t pre-order them (which is very typical).
Well, this post is much larger than I first set out to write but I hope it has some good information for you. As always, I do my very best to stay on top of the TMNT release dates for all the comics. While I can’t ensure perfection, I can promise you that I do my very best to stay on top of all the latest news regarding the TMNT comic books (whether that be covers or release dates). Feel free to email or post a comment if you ever have any questions.
Have a great St. Patrick’s Day weekend!