Comic Store In Your Future: Marvel Will Have Its Big October, But What About After That?

Rod Lamberti of Rodman Comics writes weekly for Bleeding Cool. Find previous columns here.

I have already written about Marvel's lenticular covers before, but felt the issue could be revisited.

The orders are now in for Marvel's lenticular covers due out in October. My hope was Marvel would abandon their crazy-high thresholds on ordering some of the lenticular covers. I have ordered them and will hope they do well. The current plan, which easily could change, is that non-pull customers who want the lenticular covers will need to buy the non-lenticular version along with the lenticular variant. Or, at least, a non-lenticular cover that is the same price. Why? Because I ordered more lenticular covers than regular covers. This could be an adventure in itself.

The variables are many, such as: what are the other comic stores going to do with the lenticular covers? Charge over cover price for them? Treat them as a normal sale by letting the customers buy them like a typical new release? I have no idea. Whatever they decide to do is their business, and there is no "right" or "wrong" way. I may be forced to change my plans, and hopefully will know more closer to October.

Why Marvel set ordering for the lenticular covers in such a way I do not understand. The Thor lenticular cover and non-lenticular cover are both priced at $5.99 each. Marvel wants stores to order more of a $5.99 cover priced comic than stores did of a $3.99 Thor issue that came out months ago just to be able to order the lenticular cover.

Spirits of Vengeance #1 has guidelines to order the lenticular cover that, oddly enough, ties into a past Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider issue. Ben Reilly is a low-selling title for us, so it is very easy to meet the requirements for it.

Marvel made this so complicated that explaining it to customers is often awkward and leaves them confused. Not every comic fan stays up to date on every bit of comic news. Our average comic customers just want to come in, buy what they want, and go home and read without hearing all about what's going on the industry. In no way do I blame them. When I go buy something, I often just want a simple transaction.

Online, I have been reading about other stores simply not ordering them. I do not blame them. This is non-returnable product that Marvel wants stores to spend money on. To say DC's returnable program for Rebirth tied up a store's money and then do this is a slap in the face.

The lenticular covers, in my mind, will sell. DC's lenticular covers in previous years, along with this year's Button crossover, did. There was no need to make stores drastically order more than a store is able to sell when these would have sold just fine. The lenticular covers and regular covers are priced the same simply because Marvel wants to make sure they count as one comic on the sales chart. DC didn't get the number one spot thanks to the Button issues counting as separate issues due to having different cover prices.

Lots of variables are coming in October.

Oftentimes when customers think something is rare or hard to get, they want it even more. All this talk of some stores not getting lenticular covers could make them even more in demand. So one possible outcome is the lenticular covers become very much in demand come October.

This is Marvel's first big jump in lenticular covers. There could be shortages. Allocations may happen — it is stated on the Previews ordering site when ordering each of them. If word gets out that there are shortages, then odds are there will be even higher demand. Then stores get to worry that they overlooked a typo or did the math wrong for ordering the lenticular covers. I can just see being one short of being able to order Amazing Spider-Man's lenticular cover and not getting them, while still getting the full order of regular covers that I will lose money on. Mistakes happen.

I may not like what Marvel is doing, but this latest order is one of the highest Marvel orders I have done in the years we have been open. Right now, DC is only up by less than 50 cents over Marvel on my ordering for October — which changed a lot over the days, debating how much to order. It could increase or decrease still, because I am still debating.

October is quite the expensive month. DC's few lenticular covers had no restrictions, so I ordered a ton. Also, the Metal covers by DC have proven to be popular so far. Variants are pushing the whole market for the month of October. Not readership, though, which means this whole Legacy hype is a smokescreen. By doing variants, Marvel is trying to cash in on current customers. There will be far more speculators buying up the lenticular covers than new readers — if any new readers even show up.

I see October as being a big sales month for Diamond, Marvel, DC, and Image. Why Image? Even though Walking Dead variant theme covers have been drowned out news-wise by Marvel's lenticular covers, I still see them selling well.

If stores gamble on the lenticular covers and people decide they are not getting them, then there could be some stores in trouble. Some of the cover art for the lenticular covers is not a hit with people. Lenticular covers have been done before. DC will be releasing some in the same month.

Overall, the first week of Marvel's lenticular covers in October could do well, while interest could drop during the rest of the month.

But Marvel wanted a big month, and they will get their big month. They will be able to brag about being number one again. They may make plans to do this again after getting the sales figures. Yearly lenticular covers may replace Marvel's obsession with first issues for every year.

That said, the downside may be a steep drop in orders in a few months. Sales drops. Stores trying to recover from having to much stock they were forced to over order and take a loss on.

How many stores are having fun trying to explain Marvel's lenticular cover guidelines to their customers?

The greed button has been hit hard. My store is along for the ride. I was tempted to not order Marvel's lenticular covers. But the dice have been rolled, and come October, we will see Marvel celebrate. And months after October, we will see the true effects of what Marvel has done.

My worry is: will Marvel do this again? Or get even crazier with their ordering guideline? Double the requirements? Triple? Make stores display 90 percent of only Marvel products in store? Make store owner's bark like a dog and post YouTube videos stating how great Marvel is? It sounds crazy; though so does what Marvel is currently doing.

Did anyone think this would be possible a year or more ago? Stores that do not order Marvel's lenticular covers are indeed sending a message to Marvel that they will not play this game. So why am I playing their game? Not having these covers on hand means sending customers elsewhere. Turning customers away is not ideal. But spending money on product that will not sell is not ideal, either. Simply marking up comics right after they come out runs the risk of looking like the price gouger of comic stores — especially if other local comic stores do not do the same. Marvel is making this a tough situation for a lot of stores.

An open plea to Marvel: please don't do this to the stores again unless you make your product returnable. If this is to make sure stores have enough of your product on hand to meet what you believe will be the demand, then put your money where your mouth is instead of forcing stores into such an unwanted position. The odds of Marvel offering returns is about the same as me hitting a lotto jackpot, but I have to put it out there.

Comic Store In Your Future: Marvel Will Have Its Big October, But What About After That?

About 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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