Tuesday, June 17, 2008

In Stores Now

The Vinyl Underground is a comic that has encountered the same fate as many others that have come before it. It opened with little fan-fare and promotion and subsequently has seen the small sales one would expect from a title that hasn't been properly marketed by the publisher.The Vinyl Underground is a Vertigo title and like most other books published under that imprint, it is a damn good series. Written by Si Spencer and illustrated by Simon Gane and Cameron Stewart, The Vinyl Underground follows the adventures of an unlikely quartet of occult investigators. The primary players are Morrison Shepherd - a former drug addict D-list celebrity party-boy, Perv - an ex-con who has psychic visions, Leah King - a morgue worker with a degree in forensic science who has a side gig as Juicy Lou - the only internet porn star who never goes all the way, and Kim (Abi) Abiola - an African tribual princess in exile and Morrison's former girlfriend. Morrison, Leah, and Perv have worked several cases in the past. Abi enters the mix when a young boy is found dead and her father is accused of the murder. The initial story arc in the first collected volume follows the group as they run up against racial tensions, neo-nazis, and drug traffickers in an attempt to clear Abi's father. A secondary plot that runs into the second story arc has Morrison trying to discover what happened to his mother (who disappeared several years previous).
One of the more interesting aspects of this title is the role reversal of the characters. Most of your standard titles feature the male characters as the main muscle of series. In The Vinyl Underground, the muscle of the team is the blond, lissome Leah. She doesn't strike a very imposing figure at first glance, but she can handle herself in a fight. In fact, she comes to Morrison's aid early in the story and saves him from a beating at the hands of a couple of skinheads (and hands them a beating they won't forget). She gives a good accounting of herself later in the story as well when the group runs afoul of the drug traffickers. Morrison functions more as a manager than anything else by assigning tasks and pointing teh group in the right direction where necessary. Perv is the research specialist. He digs up info using the internet and sometimes via drug-induced visions as well. Abi is still kind of feeling her way with the group (being the newest member). She's seems to have established a little bit of a rapport with Perv, which is a good thing for him as he's a little bit gun-shy in regards to personal contact with other people.
I really like this series. I like all of the characters, including some of the supporting cast (such as Detective Caufield, who is most often the beneficiary of the group's investigative endevours). They are interesting and have their own little quirks that differentiate them. Of course, my liking it is essentially the kiss of death. It is another underpromoted imprint title from the vast publishing house that is DC comics that could easily be doing respectable sales numbers if they actually put some time and effort into marketing it. Unfortunately, it seems like DC all too often takes a 'if we build it, they will come' approach to their imprint titles. They have a lot of quality books they put out under the Vertigo imprint, but it sure seems like a lot of people don't know about them because the sales numbers are not there for far too many of these titles.
What is really bothersome about this particular title is the first trade (collecting the first five issues) just hit stores this past week (and at a VERY reasonable price point of $9.99). But they are soliciting for the 12th issue in next month's Previews (titles due to ship in September) and they've already dropped the axe on it. They didn't even really give it a chance to get into people's hands in collected form and see if perhaps some buzz might start generating. I just don't understand the gameplan at all. I know the numbers are abysmal --- but what do you expect when there is essentially zero promotion? And then you don't even give people a chance to read the first collected edition before you pull the rug out from under the whole thing. Perhaps they would be better served if they turned their trade collections around a few months earlier. Certainly they would generate more interest if they actually promoted some of these titles outside of your typical comic avenues. Maybe consider trying some print ads in magazines (or seeing they can 'plant' some articles about some of these books)? Or do some sort of viral marketing on the web? Can they try product placement in some WBs produced television series? Obviously what they are doing now isn't working because few of these titles are making it long terms. The current strategy (whatever it actually might be) is broken. It is time to try something different.
So I know the book is cancelled and all, but that doesn't make it any less good. And you have to admit, $9.99 for a collection containing five issues is a relative bargain (the individual issues would have run you $14.95). There are a lot worse ways you could spend 10 bucks. Why not pick it and give it a shot? Your local comic shop might not have it, but you can always get it via Amazon.com or Instocktrades.com (and actually you can get it for under 7 bucks -- before shipping -- from Instock Trades). Read something good that you probably didn't know about because DC didn't get the word out. And if you enjoy it (which I think is likely), you can help get the word out to a few more people, and maybe they can do the same, and perhaps enough of those trades will get moved and DC might realize what they've really got here.
4 1/2 zombies (out of 5)

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