Saturday, August 11, 2012
I know Marvel's 2001: A Space Odyssey has some rights issues that keep it from being reprinted, and I'm pretty sure Rom, the Space Knight does as well. Marvel also can't reprint their adaptation of the Wizard of Oz movie despite having access to the Oz stories because the movie version specifically is owned by MGM. They're effectively in the same boat as MTIO #21: if you want to read these, start digging through the back issue bins. There are other similar cases from different publishers, I'm sure.
Historically, not being reprinted has meant not being re-printed. As in, ink and paper and a physical copy being produced. Now, of course, reprinted can also mean a digital file. Publishers are slowly starting to realize this, I think, and are catching on (slooooowly) to the idea of selling their entire back catalog of material. We're definitely not at the point where you're a few clicks away from reading anything Marvel or DC has ever published, but I don't think it's that far off a prospect either.
Except for these types of stories with rights issues attached. Until/unless those legal issues are addressed, those stories will remain out of circulation. Both in print and digital venues.
Which leads me to speculate on the market for them. Comics shops used to thrive on the back issue market, but they don't use them nearly as much these with the number of reprints and digital copies being made available. Why bother paying an arm and a leg for Amazing Fantasy #15 when you can get a hardcover edition that also includes the first several issues of Amazing Spider-Man for a fraction of the price? Or, for a fraction of that, get a digital copy online? It's easier than ever to get a hold of that story.
But those issues that still have a market value based on their unique quality, do they retain a higher collectible value because of it? Sure, copies of Amazing Fantasy #15 are scarce, but the story inside is not. Rom #1, on the other hand, is scarce issue (though not as scarce as Amazing of course!) AND it's a scarce story. That should, in theory, increase it's collectible value.
So I wonder about the market for those comics. I think it's doubtful a comic shop could make a living just selling those types of issues, but they're not making much selling back issues in general. So if comic shops are shifting focus to collections, where do these obscure stories get sold?
I don't have any real answers tonight, just some idle wonderings.