Another Penguin-pocalypse Week for Marvel Comics and Comic Shops

This is the current message that reads up on the Penguin Random House retailer website.

***Thank you for reaching out and providing your feedback in regard to damaged product.  We appreciate your patience as our teams are working through the claims backlog.  Please be advised that replacement stock is limited.  We will work with all customers on resolution options.  We are currently reviewing our packaging and will be making changes.  Please know that above all else we are determined to get better and to provide the market with the level of service you deserve, and we expect of ourselves.***

Bleeding Cool has been covering the Penguin-pocalypse as the newly-exclusive Marvel distributor Penguin Random House delivers comics to comic book stores in rather bashed-up conditions. The first week of shipping was from all accounts a real disaster. PRH issued an apology, with replacement copy deliveries showing an improvement. But those improvements do not seem to have reached the regular deliveries, as this week's deliveries looked much the same – or worse.

MyComicShop, one of the larger comic book retailers followed DCBS's experience last week, tweeting out "If you noticed that our stock of new Marvel books for this week looks a little light, it's because we're waiting on/trying to locate our shipment for this week  Rest assured that we will have them up as soon as we possibly can!" followed by this image.

Another Week Of Penguinpocalypse For Marvel Comics and Comic Shops
Penguin Of Madagascar screencap

Acme Comics of Greensboro, North Carolina got their comics but "Not a lot of Marvel comics arrived in sellable condition as far as shelf copies. We tried our best to cover preorders though (another reason preordering is critical). I truly hate to disappoint someone standing in front of me making a reasonable request. But it's all in the game."

Burdin's Comics in Hamilton, Ontario, told us "First week damages I felt were not bad considering the flimsy box.  The box had very little damage to it but we still had 27 damages mostly to Amazing Spider-Man #75. I called today to find out what the status is on the damages. The rep said it was probably just completed or getting finished today.   But it's not just Penguin RH that has to work extra. We do too. I have a hard time copying down UPC numbers. I'm slightly dyslexic so I struggle. I have to recheck over and over. We have to take pictures.  I had to take 19 pictures. Didn't think my email would leave my inbox. It takes almost an hour to do them, more if they weren't all the same titles. I think out of my 42 damages today there might have been 14-16 different titles.  Maybe to slow this down they can put those honeycomb boards through the middle of the comics too not just the top and bottom.? But I'm also getting many rolled spine damages. Way more than from Diamond.

Online store Marvelous Comics told us "My first week of PRH was bad not nearly as bad as week two. My entire week had damaged corners and nothing changed from week one to week 2 in packaging. Plus I still haven't received any information regarding my previous week's claims. My notion now is to pay more and go back to Diamond."

Chimp's Comix in Warsaw, Indiana tells us "My second week with PRH was better than the first.  My packaging was still atrocious, but I got lucky and only 1/3 of my shipment was unsellable.  It's sad to say that this way.  Now with Marvel going through PRH, I'm noticing the same stuff happening with my Diamond shipments. Shipments are way smaller now and most of them are getting damaged.  Since Diamond is still charging high rates for shipping, this is killing any profit left if I ever get good undamaged copies.  Of course, it is extremely hard to get our voice heard by Diamond anymore. I preferred when it was all under 1 roof as I had less damages overall and it was easier to process the shipment. PRH invoices are a headache and add in if the retailer is ComicSuite from Diamond it becomes even longer to database a weekly shipment.  I was wondering if anyone else was reporting this stuff from Diamond lately.  Everything is coming in small boxes and once it gets dropped, I might as well forget most of the shipment.  It's making it very hard to actually have any profit left after dealing with shipping costs over and over on the same products." Well Rodman Comics, if Ankey, Iowa, who have had damages did tell us that this week he'd had more damages through Diamond…

Brian Hibbs of Comix Experience in San Francisco sums up a lot of feeling on this issue on his Tilting At Windmills column at Comics Beat, looking at the current distribution system split between three different companies, and all the hoops and difficulties comic book retailers are now experiencing with Penguin Random House.

It's just not fun to sell periodicals any longer – it is a nightmare of stress and contradictory systems and broken funnels of paperwork and package management. I've literally never hated the very core of my job more than I have today. And it does nothing but make it harder to sell comics, and so we're mostly all going to sell less in the face of this stress and aggravation. The system has been broken, and it's been broken by people sitting in offices who never have to sell a comic to any individual consumer themselves.

And the worst part of it, for me, is that PRH had six months to get this right before shipping a single book. Six months where scores of retailers worked tirelessly offering examples, offering suggestions, opening their internal systems for examination, spending endless hours writing essays or sitting on Zoom calls with PRH executives, and on and on and on. Hundreds and hundreds of person-hours were invested into trying to make this process as smooth and as potentially error-free as retailers could possibly make it… and at the end of all of that dedicated and focused effort, it certainly appears that ninety percent or more of our work was utterly wasted, as it was completely ignored up front and will have to be fixed now that we have a chaotic nightmare to live through.

Those sending in damage reports right now are told by Penguin Random House "We're sorry to hear that you've received damages. Our entire supply chain is aware of the packaging issue and we are actively looking at ways to mitigate it" but that the customer service team "are currently experiencing a backlog and response times are longer than normal." I just bet they are. Feel free to let Bleeding Cool know how your delivery is looking this week


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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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