Marvel Comics Blame Retailer Woes On Returnable $2.99 DC Comics – Do They Have A Point?


There are many issues that are causing comic book retailers problems today. Increasing cost prices, a static market, increasing rents, reducing store sales, moves online, discount competition, everyone is feeling the pinch.

Marvel Comics has been criticised by some for overpriced comics, with $3.99 across the line with $4.99 and $5.99 issues, becoming more and more common, while the comics have become less recognisable to the base comic book buyer, leading to customer fatigue.

But at ComicsPRO, retailers knew exactly who Marvel were blaming. The distinguished competition.

We mentioned a snippet of this over the weekend. But I have received a number of missives from retailers stating that Marvel Senior Vice President — Print, Sales & Marketing David Gabriel told them, through a number of conversations, that competitors' move to $2.99 across their line (and still being kept for the twice-monthly titles from April) has taken money off the table. That other companies' sales may be up, but not by enough to combat the reduced income, and the extra expense of printing, distributing, and selling the extra copies.

Added to that, the introduction of three months of returnable comics, has seen retailers order high, sell fewer than anyone expected, while delaying repayments to retailers who return stripped covers, effectively causing a cashflow crisis, and reducing retailers ability to order enough comics across the board, affecting everyone. And Marvel's overprint was there to help retailers have enough comics in stock to get them through this difficult time.

I am told that this caused considering eyeball rolling amongst retailers. One very prominent retailer told me,

Most retailers in the room groaned audibly at the less than subtle jab at DC, though he never mentioned their name he was clearly of the belief that they were the problem.  I spoke to many retailers who held the exact opposite opinion, that the failure of Civil War 2 to capture readers and the reliance of multiple off shoots to the event gave readers event fatigue.  Most believe Rebirth and its returnability to have been a resounding success for them. It brought people to the store and when there they bought more because there was more available to buy. Yes, 4th quarter was slower than normal, but the majority didn't believe that DC caused their problems.  I do like Gabriel, I think he tries his best to be honest and helpful, but I also believe his hands and his mouth are tied.

But this may be one of self-selecting group of retailers who wanted to contact me. Other people's mileage may vary.

Such as Dennis Barger, of Quickstop Comics/Wonderworld Comics in Detroit whose video here, about nine minutes in breaks down the problem with retailers, returnability and the performance of DC Rebirth.

And he breaks it down for me.

Batman #48 cost $2, cover $3.99 order twenty sold 16 $40 cost $66 collected $26 profit Batman#16 cost $1.50, cover $2.99 order twenty sold 16 $30 cost $48 collected $12 profit

Ok twice monthly!!! $24 profit, still $2 less monthly profit on DCs best selling book…to pay employees, pay rent, feed family, try new Indy books that might sell better. But how the hell is double monthly still equally the same lower market share D.C. has been showing???

Less titles, same low sales numbers and twice monthly. I think if you divide D.C.'s monthly market share in half it shows the real answer. Selling the same or lower overall, twice a month at a lower price.

Selling the same or lower overall, twice a month at a lower price.

Personally I think many of the pro-DC retailers are trying to self-assure themselves that backing the the latest desperate attempt was "fruitful" but the numbers don't lie, you can't self-affirm "alternate truths" you tell yourself.

David does have a point that D.C.'s bait of 2.99 to lure back fans left money on the table forcretailers

I think by concentrating on Batman, he misses out the greater impact on the likes of Superman, Flash, Wonder Woman and more. I asked Dennis about that and he broke numbers down for me, saying,

Batgirl, birds of prey, Hal Jordan, Action, Supergirl, Superwoman are all down, Titans and Detective up, not enough to cover all of those huge losses. You get my point, small gains in mid books don't match with stagnate growth or huge losses on big books at a lower profit margin.

So it does give a retailer perspective that matches that of David Gabriel. And a little bit of balance…

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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