Did you get the chance yesterday to read about Spider-Man saving the day at Barack Obama’s inauguration? No? That’s because the issue vanished from comic book store shelves across the country in a matter of hours.
We don’t always get to cover comic book releases here at Collider, but in making a cross-LA trek yesterday, I thought the story was worth an examination. Store after store, I found the same response: Sold Out. Many places, including the popular Golden Apple, were already taking reservations for next week’s reprint, featuring a slightly altered cover with yellow-instead-of-blue background at the regular cover price of $3.99.
Only one store still had copies of the elusive blue-Obama cover; Earth 2 in Sherman Oaks, but the going rate was $20 (though it did include a coupon for $5 back on a future purchase). Even at this somewhat inflated price, it comes nowhere near the current Ebay listings that average around a hundred dollars for the issue.
To get the inside story, I called up Joel Pollack, owner of the Washington DC area’s chain, Big Planet Comics. I’ve known Joel for some time and have always been impressed with the way he handled a similar situation when Captain America #25 (featuring the character’s death) hit shops under-the-radar. He never went above cover price and went out of his way to make sure store regulars could get a copy if they wanted one. What’s more, with the inauguration hitting next Tuesday, DC is just about the center of Obama-fever.
“Is this about Spider-Man?” he said, laughing, “Lord help me.”
Joel himself — like store owners across the country — failed to order enough copies to meet the unprecedented demand.
“Oh, it was huge,” Joel explains, “It was a big problem. Marvel made the whole thing really difficult to get. Which is to say that I screwed up and that Marvel gave me the perfect opportunity to screw up. I can’t blame this all on Marvel…I honestly just didn’t see the demand for this book. The solicitation came at a really busy time. It’s not a regular solicitation from Marvel. It was a special solicitation they did right before Christmas. “
Obama, a self-professed comic book fan, has already appeared a few times on store shelves. Last summer’s Savage Dragon #137 featured the lead character proudly proclaiming on the cover, “I’m Savage Dragon and I endorse Barack Obama for President of the United States!” Since then, Obama has also appeared in his own biographical comic from IDW. (They also published one for McCain)
With the second printing (already sold out at the distributor level) hitting the day after inauguration, a lot of fans are being turned away all over the country. “I think I got calls on this book starting last Thursday,” says Joel, “when the story broke in USA today. I’ve been getting calls every day, but today I fielded between 50 and 100 phone calls.”
Interestingly enough, the actual Obama-meets-Spider-Man story is easier to come by than just going for the coveted Obama cover. The regular cover for the issue still features the story, but instead depicts bizarrely Peter Parker with two women under his arms and the word balloon, “Face it, cougars — You’ve just hit the jackpot!”
“It was a hideously ugly cover!” laughs Joel, “[Obama] should have been the general cover and that one Marvel should have overprinted like crazy. There should have been tons of copies available.”