Stops and Starts: Exploring the Impact of Delays on Single Issue Comics

I remember exactly where I was when I first read the debut issue of Nate Simpson’s Image Comics series Nonplayer. I was on a bus in Australia taking me from Brisbane to Noosa, a small surf community on the Sunshine Coast. The site I was writing for at the time, Multiversity Comics, had received an advance review copy, and our editor-in-chief Matthew Meylikhov sent an email hyping it up. It was the real deal, he suggested, so before the bus took off, I downloaded the PDF onto my iPad so I could read it in transit. Nonplayer #1 absolutely blew me away, with Simpson’s art and the inventive, engaging story sucking me in instantaneously. That was in March of 2011, a month before its release.

The next issue of that title arrived in June of 2015, the month I launched the original iteration of SKTCHD. I loved the second issue as well, and after having Simpson on Off Panel, I was hopeful to someday see the conclusion to this series, even if it would take a while. I’m still waiting, as there’s been no indication that a third issue is coming over four years later.

Nate Simpson’s cover to Nonplayer #1

While delays like that are extreme, any lapse in schedule can generate consternation amongst a fan base. When it stretches even further, frustration can mount. That’s not to say the average title doesn’t have legitimate reasons for delays. They almost universally do, from health problems to any number of life or creative roadblocks. But conversely, it’s understandable that readers feel as they do. The frustration is an extension of their passion, as emotions with stories get tangled up together. Whatever the reasoning on each side, it’s a complicated relationship, and one that doesn’t seem conducive to the long-term health of a title. After all, delays kill comics, right? I’ve heard that a million times, and it’s an accepted truth within comics, I feel.

But is it true? Here’s a quick example to illustrate how murky and inconsistent the impact of delays really can be:

  • Nonplayer #1: 8,869 copies ordered 3
  • Nonplayer #2: 13,507 copies ordered

That’s weird, right? That’s more than an additional 1,000 copies ordered for each year the title was absent. One example does not make a trend, though, and frankly, Nonplayer’s length of delay was so extensive that each issue dropped during wildly different times in the direct market, at least from a health perspective. It’s so unusual it’s a complete outlier. This does show, however, that there’s no single answer to how the market responds to a variable like release schedule. But maybe given a little exploration, perhaps we could see a little bit more of a trend. So with that in mind, I’m going to examine the following question: Are single-issue comic orders significantly affected by delays? Let’s see what we can find out.

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