View from the Tipping Point

I want to believe this time it’ll be different, that we won’t go through another boom and bust, our current economic bubble won’t burst and sustainable growth is possible, but it’s getting harder all the time. Make no mistake, I was sufficiently in the moment to be just as unhappy about the Captain America #25 situation as the rest of you, but I was also thinking backwards. About the death of Superman, its aftermath, and the fact that Marvel continues to publish more comics than the market can bear, certainly more than Dark Star can shelve and our customers can buy.

It’s not just that they’re publishing too many comics, they’re also publishing the wrong kind. When it comes to diversity it’s nice to see Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, Marvel Illustrated: Last of the Mohicans and Legion of Monsters: Morbius on the March schedule. But with Avengers: The Initiative getting upgraded into a regular series, there are now three monthly Avengers titles (four if you count New Avengers: Illuminati), two Punishers (three if you count Punisher Presents Barracuda Max title) and in spite of it being over we’re getting still more Civil War titles.

Maybe it’s just me, but it’s starting to look a lot like 1995.

I’ve read all the comments retailers have posted on ICv2 but with the perspective of a couple of days I think I’ve come up with a couple of fairly simple ways Marvel could improved the situation — and a modest proposal.

If they couldn’t trust us with the pulse pounding conclusion of Captain America #25 they always could have…

Overshipped.

Say 50% of a shop’s initial order of the comic; sure, it would have come as something of a surprise to retailers (until the phone calls started pouring in), but ultimately it would have been a pleasant one.

Overprinted.

No, I mean really overprinted, to the degree there would be sufficient copies in comic book shops on Wednesday March 14th while there was still some chance of taking advantage of the hysteria (as opposed to having to another two weeks for the second printing).

Marvel did neither of those things because, let us face it, they had no interest in selling more comic books; that’s not what this was all about. It was about generating an enormous amount of free publicity to jumpstart the Captain America brand, making it easier for someone to green light a long in development movie.

This is yet another example of the company’s utter contempt for the direct sales market which not so long ago saved its business, pays their salaries and helps create the brand name recognition for their characters that allows them to become summer movie blockbusters in the first place.

They don’t listen and won’t learn so now it’s just a matter of what we’re going to do about it. I mean, there is something we can do, right? Because we can grumble about how “they can’t do this to us” as much as we’d like but they’ve demonstrated they can, as much and as often as they like.

Marvel Comics requires an object lesson, a demonstration that there are consequences for bad corporate behavior, bringing me to my modest proposal:

The Order None Initiative

No, I’m not asking you to cut off your nose to spite your face (e.g., not order X-Men this month, but have any of you been reading it lately? You might be doing your customers a service if you did), merely to do something every retailer in America already does–not order every single Marvel Comic. Come on, I’m sure every month there’s at least a couple of Marvel comics you don’t order, that won’t be missed if they never make it on your shelves, ones not connected to some “epic” that no has down on their pull list.

So what if, for just one month none of us ordered the same Marvel comics? And since it’s my idea, I’ve nominated the following titles from the March Marvel booklet:

Spider-Man Fairy Tales #1

(I mean, you’ve got to be kidding me)

Annihilation Saga

(Remember all those Annihilation comics? Well, here’s a 32 page, $1.99 recap)

Marvel Spotlight: Civil War Remembered

(The only further Civil War title I wanted to see is Marvel 2099: Civil War Re-enactors, where we get see a bunch of pudgy accountants and dentists squeezed into spandex arguing about which block it was that Clor got his face smashed in).

Marvel Magic Handbook

Understand I have no delusions that every retailer in North America will actually do this, that the numbers will actually be zero (though, it’s nice to think about). But if enough do the orders would be too low to justify publication and Marvel would have to pay for material they couldn’t print (not in North America anyway). And if we could do it one month, we could do it the next, and the next, until we had caused them sufficient financial pain they’d actually start consulting with us instead of dictating to us.

If anyone has a better idea, I’d like to hear it.