Editorial: Thoughts on the Return of Bad Idea

The following first appeared Tuesday in the ComicsXF newsletter. Subscribe using the form on the right side of this page for our weekly editorial, a roundup of the week’s best content and our Staff Picks.

Christ, these guys again.

If you believed Bad Idea Comics was folding as a publisher in December 2021, you must have had rocks in your head. You also may have had the commemorative rocks Bad Idea gave to those few readers who traded in their First Customer Pins for being the first customer at their shop to purchase a specific Bad Idea comic on release day.

Friends, I’m three paragraphs into this editorial, and I already have a headache.

Anyway, while Bad Idea — the publisher founded in 2020 by a handful of Valiant 2.0 ex-pats — may have stopped releasing new comics to shops in early 2022, it left plenty of evidence that it was going to return, paying David Harper to continue to read ad copy on Off Panel, handing out doughnuts and invisible comics at conventions, and asking retailers in January to sign up to be destination stores for a then-theoretical second wave.

Now they’re back, announcing their return this month by encouraging readers to blindly preorder comics, publishing an eight-page comic in Previews and announcing a new list of Bad Idea stores.

In short: Bad Idea 2 will happen in two waves. The first will consist of seven comics of 15 total issues, to be published between November and February. Shops that carry Bad Idea comics will hold a special pre-order day Sept. 7. HOWEVER, what those comics are, who made them and what they’re about will not be revealed until Sept. 8, the following day. So you are being asked to order these comics sight unseen from one of 228 stores worldwide (worldwide of course excluding South America, Asia and Africa). The first 10 people at each shop to pre-order these comics they know nothing about will get a special sticker they can redeem for a “story choice,” whatever that is, in one of the as-yet-unrevealed books.

Did you get all that?

That’s OK, I didn’t either.

I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how “Andy Kaufman-esque bits” is a reliable business model. All I can think is that Dinesh Shamdasani and his mates at Bad Idea must have gotten some sweet-ass golden parachutes when they left Valiant in its 2018 acquisition by DMG, and this is how they’re choosing to spend that money. Either way, I find the simple act of reading these press releases — with all their talk of buttons and stickers and rocks and general hoop jumping just to read a comic I’m not even that interested in — exhausting.

I can only imagine what the people who buy and sell these comics must feel.

Hey, WMQ&A and BatChat co-host Matt Lazorwitz, buddy, you buy a lot of comics. You ever read one of these Bad Idea books?

“I don’t think I would have gone out of my way to get them, but one of the shops selling them was near my parents, which is a two-and-a-half-hour drive, so on the occasions I would visit them, on my way to or from, I would pop in and pick up a few of the books. Tankers and The Lot to be specific,” Lazorwitz said. “They were good comics, but I think if I had been driving that whole distance just for them…? Not sure if I’d have the same opinion.”

Two and a half hours? For comics? Aren’t comics hard enough to find, given not all localities have a comic shop nearby and ComiXology has gone out of its way to make itself harder to read of late?

Joker’s Child in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, is among the wave-one Bad Idea stores back for this second round. Asked what the appeal was to him as a retailer, owner Len Katz told ComicsXF: “They are not available through the regular distribution channel and are well promoted, making them sought after. It brings new customers in, which in turn increases sales.”

Hey, if they’re making shops money, that’s good. We want that.

It sounds like not every retailer has had the same luck though.

One wave-one Bad Idea retailer reached out to ComicsXF with a different story.

“I struggle with poopooing things that seem like bold, fun ideas in comics. But as a retailer I don’t think it was worth the headaches,” said the East Coast-based retailer, who spoke to ComicsXF on the condition of anonymity. 

“My shop was one of the first ‘destination stores.’ I had so much interest from new customers when ENIAC #1 was announced and came out. This new publisher seemed incredibly punk rock and fresh. 

“March 2021, Bad Idea started being shipped by Diamond and announced they wouldn’t be able to fulfill the orders placed for ENIAC 1. Why, in their model, if they weren’t doing trades or digital, didn’t they wait to print more first prints? Forced scarcity. Their ordering required I order the same number of [issues] 2-4 as I ordered for 1. Which left me with a bunch of dead stock on books that were simply being ‘key collected’ in my eyes. 

“They opened up in more shops local to me. So now my ‘exclusivity’ was gone. Then came my not receiving ‘Gold First Customer’ buttons. We had a customer certain we were hiding it and holding it for someone else, but we truly hadn’t received it. He called and emailed the powers that be at Bad Idea and had a hard time getting an answer from them for some time. 

“By the time it was ending, I had about 10 people very invested in collecting their series. I’m sure I could have approached selling Bad Idea differently, but we won’t be taking part in their next phase.”

We emailed Bad Idea with some questions, but the publisher declined to comment.

Given the hard times publishers like Oni Press and Valiant have reportedly been through recently, I’m not necessarily rooting for any publisher to fail. More publishers means more choice, more comics and more diversity of content.

That all said, if I wanted to buy comics without knowing what I was getting, I’d travel back in time to the mid-1990s and pick up one of those three-packs from my local CVS. At least then I’ll get a random issue of Ravage 2099.

Dan Grote is the former editor and publisher of comics news site WMQ Comics and now edits the indie corner of ComicsXF. By day, he’s a newspaper editor, and by night, he’s … also an editor. He also co-hosts the weekly creator-interview podcast WMQ&A with Matthew Lazorwitz. He lives in New Jersey with his wife, two kids and two miniature dachshunds, and his third, fictional son, Peter Winston Wisdom.