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Brian Hibbs Issues Open Letter to Marvel Execs over ComiXology Discounts

Once upon a time in 2002, comic book retailer Brian Hibbs of Comix Experience in San Francisco launched a class-action lawsuit against Marvel Comics over their lack of adherence to Diamond Comic Distributors' rules over comic books lateness. Marvel Comics was refusing to accept returns on books that shipped late or with creator changes that retailers hadn't been informed of in time.

He got his way. Marvel started the FOC system to allow retailers to make changes to any order closing to the shipping date, and to update the expected shipping dates and creator credits at those points as well. Eventually, plenty of other publishers joined the scheme too — and now it is the comic book industry standard.

Brian Hibbs Issues Open Letter to Marvel Execs over ComiXology Discounts

Well, he appears to have a new thing. After the Marvel Comics address to the Diamond Retailer Summit, he has written a new letter to the new publisher of Marvel, the new EIC and the less-new VP of Sales. The letter talks about the ComiXology 99 cent sales that have been running on all new Marvel trade paperbacks, hardcovers and collections on the same day that they are released, and before every comic store even has a chance to open. Bleeding Cool has repeatedly covered this story, which culminated this week with the $25 original graphic novel, Thanos: Infinity Siblings by Jim Starlin and Alan Davis offered for sale on release day for 99 cents.

At the Summit, EIC C.B. Cebulski said that this was not down to Marvel but down to ComiXology and parent company Amazon, and that they had been in talks to get this changed.

Bleeding Cool is running the letter in full.

* * * * *

To: John Nee, Publisher, Marvel Comics
CC: David Gabriel, VP of Sales
CC: C.B. Cebulski, Editor-in-Chief

An open letter.

I was extremely disappointed at Marvel comics' performance at the Diamond summit this week. NOT because of C.B. — he very obviously has a heartfelt passion and concern for the line — but because of the lack of preparation for, and proper response to, retailer's sincere and existential threat from the now FIFTH week of the wild undercutting on new-this-week book product coming from Amazon. It is utterly unacceptable that Marvel is allowing 96%+-off pricing on a brand-new book like INFINITY SIBLINGS.

C.B. says you're "trying to get to the bottom of" this, that you are "in talks". This, to me, is the kind of situation that gets resolved in absolutely no more than 72 hours (and that's 48 more hours than my heart tells me it really takes) because of the literal harm it is doing to an entire class of customers.

Because after FIVE weeks, five weeks where this has been reported FAR and WIDE, five weeks where that reporting is DRIVING customers to digital at the expense of print, I have decided that as of this FOC, I can no longer order new Marvel graphic novels, and have zeroed out my orders on all book format product published by Marvel at both of my stores. I DO NOT WANT TO DO THIS, but the way that Marvel has slow-walked this tells me it's the only thing I can do.

There's still time to change this. Ceasing this program, and coming forward publicly with a full and completely transparent accounting of what happened, and I'll happily reinstate those orders. Blissfully, even. But my economic power of purchasing, even if it's only a fraction of Amazon's, is the only power I have. And there are plenty of other publishers wanting to sell me books that are bending over backwards for me so that I will have no problem filling my racks.

I don't know everything about what Amazon does and why, but in years of watching them, what C.B. described does not match any known behavior that I have observed, nor what I have been able to discuss with other publishers about the behaviors THEY have observed. C.B.'s picture simply doesn't make any sense — Amazon does not take that kind of a loss on that kind of scale unless it is being made up in some other consideration from a manufacturer.

I hope this is dealt with both promptly and publicly; I'd like to keep ordering new Marvel book stock.

Thank you for listening,


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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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