January 2017 Previews & the current state of the AE market

Diamond has updated Previews World with the January 2017 catalog. Scouring the full list this month shows no AE format solicitations, not a one. For complete details and daily updates visit our AE Index.

Publishers have been slowing down with Artist’s Edition format books throughout 2016, with Dark Horse only publishing one, Dynamite publishing one, Kitchen Sink Books publishing one, Graphitti Designs publishing three and IDW publishing eight.

That’s still fourteen books, but six more were solicited for a 2016 release and have failed to materialize. Fantagraphics is still working on Prince Valiant, but we should see that in a few months. Dynamite moved The Best Of Vampirella to March, and they have two announced volumes from 2015 that have yet to see a solicitation. There was a brief advance solicit from Titan but that never materialized.

And then there’s IDW. They have solicited at least one AE format book a month since 2013 but have only managed to get one book out the month it was solicited for; the average delay is two months. We don’t know the full details for every book, but most likely once solicited new material comes out of the collector community and we as the reader benefits from the delay. Or so I like to tell myself.

We’re currently waiting for five books to get an updated release date:

Frank Thorne’s Ghita, An Erotic Treasury Archival EditionTBD
G.I. Joe A Real American Hero Artist’s EditionTBD
Fantagraphics Studio Edition: Hal Foster’s Prince ValiantTBD
America’s Best Comics Artist’s EditionTBD
Alex Toth’s Bravo For Adventure Artist’s EditionTBD

It was six but Chris Samnee’s Daredevil looks like a firm release of January 4th. We know Fantagraphics’ Hal Foster is on the way after many delays, but this is their first volume in the Studio series and it’s also the largest original artwork to be published in this format. Hermes’ Ghita is another first-time publisher in this format and they’re a small publisher with a known record of late books. Scott Dunbier has said online G.I. Joe is on hold, but no reasons given. He’s shown advance copies of America’s Best Comics online so we should see that in the next quarter. No ideas on the Alex Toth volume.

Here’s what’s currently on the schedule that has a solicitation date:

Chris Samnee’s Daredevil: Artist’s Edition04-Jan-17
Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four Artist’s Edition18-Jan-17
Deadman: Kelley Jones Gallery Edition25-Jan-17
Steranko Nick Fury and Captain America Artist’s Edition25-Jan-17
Michael Wm. Kaluta’s Starstruck Artist’s Edition22-Feb-17
Reed Crandall’s EC Stories Artist’s Edition22-Mar-17
The Best Of Vampirella Magazine Art Edition29-Mar-17
Jack Kirby The Forever People Artist’s Edition19-Apr-17

I would expect Samnee’s Daredevil to meet that latest date, as well as The Best Of Vampirella. There’s no way we’ll see that Steranko volume in January; it’s the most delayed of any and I honestly just hope for a 2017 release. The rest are all at their original solicitation dates and I expect a delay for all of them.

In reality that isn’t a bad thing. I spoke with Dunbier at TCAF 2014 and he said the monthly solicit wasn’t his idea, and from the actual release dates it doesn’t work. I realize there are very few of us who buy all of them, but more than one a month from all publishers and my wallet cries.

Soliciting varied material at a steady rate makes sense for this material, as each volume will hopefully garner enough attention from that creator’s fans to make the book profitable. And since they need to appeal to a slightly different or varied fan base with each volume it makes sense to solicit at a steady clip.

The largest issue is still awareness. Until this year these books received little to no press and very little push from their publishers. Just this week I saw a fan ask Dunbier for an Ingels volume and he let them know it was already out. Every time he mentions a new book on social media the general consensus is no one knew it was coming.

I looked online for reviews and realized they were few and far between. A site or publication would review the book, spending most of the column discussing the format and talking little about the material, all the while only showing the cover. Talk online seems to be limited to a few message boards, surprisingly only one in English and the rest in French, Spanish and Russian. Publisher previews of the actual books are almost non-existent. Each gap in the AE market leads to missed sales for publishers, but perhaps a larger audience isn’t what they’re after.

Perhaps these publishers aren’t looking for customers to snap these up their release months, but to be available as a published collection for fans to discover as an evergreen product, or something that has shelf longevity. That sounds like a great notion, but since most are aimed at comic shops, these are large and expensive books that sell slowly and take a lot of retail space and budget. Maybe there will be more success online. The format is six years old and is still very much in its infancy, with a total seventy books from all publishers.

I started the AE Index because I wanted to know more about these books, and in doing so tried to provide as much information as I could. Through the AE Index I added reviews, news, previews and a podcast. I love original art and the affordability these books bring to the fan. Please let me know what else you’d like to see as part of the AE Index.