“My favourite thing about Sundays”
– John Layman

Late For Court

Marvel has been shipping a fair number of comic books late for the last couple of years.

Hold the front page, huh?

Okay, okay, but here’s the thing. Doing a quick tot up of the ICV2 lists (which don’t count anything past advance orders or comics going anywhere other than the USA) that’s about 6.3 million dollars of comic books that have shipped 30 days or more than they were solicited for. With everything else combined, we could be looking at 10 million dollars worth of stock.

As a customer, should we care? I mean, we get the comics eventually, in a few years. When they’re collected, would we even remember? After all, those last two issues of Watchmen were terribly late, but does anyone even mind now? I’d certainly prefer my books to be good than come out on Thursday.

But, see, it’s not that simple with retailers. They’ve got this pesky thing called cash flow. This means they plan expenditure and expected revenue, and they work their business plans around them. That’s how they make money – by judging supply and demand for a certain week or month. Judging how the market will react for a certain product at a certain time of the year. When something goes wrong, it causes them problems. When a lot of things go wrong, it causes them real problems.

During the boom of the nineties when Image, Valiant and a bunch of other hangers on made millions, the late arrival of certain books killed them dead, but left retailers with piles of unsold comics. Deathmate. Wetworks. Turok. So new, more restrictive, shipping policies were employed by the main distributors, Capital and Diamond (and I should know – I was a publisher then). So that any book that shipped after 30 days would be made returnable – Capital even brought in a series of fines for late shipping product.

Even after the bust came and everyone went exclusive with Diamond, this system remained in effect. Publishers set their own terms of sale with Diamond that retained this clause, that if a book shipped over 30 days late or differed to how it was solicited, it could be treated as a sale or return item – and publishers could send unsold stock back for a refund–including Marvel.

Marvel’s terms of sale with Diamond and retailers reads as follows:

      Orders for Marvel products cannot be canceled or reduced except in the following circumstances:

      • Delivered more than thirty (30) days after the solicited on-sale date specified at the time of purchase.
      • Product contains significant editorial or manufacturing differences from the solicited content.
      • Product containing distinct seasonal or holiday content is delivered more than one (1) week after the close of the season or holiday.

Items which meet the above criteria will be designated by Marvel as qualifying for order reductions or returns through a DCD customer publication.

This clause is echoed in other exclusive publisher contracts, such as DC, Dark Horse and Image.

However, under the Quesada/Jemas regime, the company has not been making these late comics returnable–leaving retailers with stock they judged would sell in one month, but not in the next.

A run down of books that should have qualified for returns or order reductions over the last few months include New X-Men #119, scheduled to ship 17th October 2001, but shipped 28th November 2001, Elektra #8, meant to ship on the 13th of February 2002 but shipped on the 26th March 2002, and Origin #5 which was meant to ship on the 26th of December 2001 but shipped on the 13th of March 2002. These are a few of many titles listed. Indeed, a strange anomaly is the number of trade paperbacks, featuring previous produced work that, nonetheless ship months late, including Daredevil Visionaries Frank Miller Vol. 1, scheduled to ship on the 23rd of January but finally making it to stores on the 24th April. Other late trades include Daredevil Visionaries Kevin Smith, X-Men Vignettes and Dr Strange Separate Realities.

None of these titles was made returnable or qualified for order reduction.

Now, of course, it’s not like the comics retailers are actually stuck with $10 million dollars worth between them–they’ll sell plenty of it. Indeed, if all the books had shipped on time, it’s likely that they would still be stuck with some of that stock anyway. However, it’s still Marvel not living up to its word and breaching its own agreed contracts. Naughty.

I understand that, later this week, thorn retailer in Marvel’s side, Brian Hibbs of Comix Experience, is to launch a class action against Marvel Comics for breach of trade, on behalf of all American comics retailers. I understand that, clandestinely, he has a dozen of the bigger retailers behind him and more signing up.

Some people have said that All the Rage should be setting the comic industry agenda for the week. Well, I think this should be a good start?

This Has a Rumour Value of 8 out Of 10


Memphis Blues

Talking about retailer problems, the word “Memphis” is gaining legendary status among retailers at the moment. When Diamond closed a number of warehouses and concentrated a large number of retailer accounts being serviced by their Memphis warehouse, (see ICV2 article) affected retailers expected teething troubles. But not quite like this.

Reports of huge shipments going missing, constant mis-orders and a level of service below anything ever seen are common accusations. One shop owner was tearing his hair out when he was told that they’d lost his Transformers #1 and GI Joe #1 orders – and there was no chance of getting replacements.

Quotes from retailers include the following:

    “Memphis has so utterly destroyed our comic sales over the past 3 months (we’re down about 70% in comic sales) that I’m about ready to just give up on that side of the business until Diamond can get their warehouses in order.”

“Memphis pulled our books this week. You’ve never seen such a disaster. Missing titles everywhere. No Order. No Cage. No Howard the Duck. Only 1/3 of our Ultimates? Put it all together and I think, if I sell EVERYTHING I got in today at full retail, it’ll pretty much equal what I’m billed for this week.”

“According to our rep, EVERY account serviced by the joke-of-a-warehouse in Memphis has major problems.”

“This week, our first with the Memphis crew, we were short more than 900 (not a typo – nine HUNDRED) books”

“We had 85 lines of our invoice that were incorrect. We were missing about 65% of our reorders. Anyone need a case of Ultimate X-Men? It’s sitting in my back room waiting for a return slip.”

“In the future, I’ll just include the word ‘Memphis’ as an indication that an item didn’t arrive, or it arrived horribly mangled, or it wasn’t billed on our invoice but the rest of the world as well as asteroids visited by NASA satellites received it, or we only received four random pages of this comic, or our copies of the trade paperback were compressed into hard diamond-like lumps, or… Well, you get the idea.”

It’s not all doom and gloom however. One retailer writes:

    “A bright young woman named Jennifer who works the front desk at the Diamond Baltimore warehouse was absent this morning. When I inquired about her absence, I was told that she, along with many others, was sent to Memphis to straighten the mess out. I know that’s of little consolation to you who rely on Memphis for weekly orders, but I think that it’s cause for some optimism.”

Word is that things are slowly getting better – but in a year when the comic industry has started to take its first few baby steps into new growth, it’s a pity that part of it received such a heavy pruning.

This Has a Rumour Value of 7 out Of 10


Space Case

More confirmation of the already-ATR-rumoured cancellation of The Establishment, artist Charlie Adlard has agreed to start a new Astronauts in Trouble book, called AIT: Citizen Dave, in July. The book will be published by the end of the year.

This Has a Rumour Value of 8 out Of 10


He’s Baaaaack…

Bob Greenberger has been rehired by DC Comics as a Senior Editor for their Collected Editions group.

Greenberger left DC March 2000, joining Gist Communications, a dotcom, and then got headhunted by Marvel in January 2001. He was headhunted by Marvel Comics to tackle their serious problems with late shipping product. The word is that he made some serious dents in it, but seemed to be running a Red Queen’s Race. There were allegations at the time that he was fired for building power bases within Marvel outside his original job remit, and was dismissed at the same time a number of other Marvel employees were made redundant as part of an efficiency drive in January 2002.

And now he returns to DC – with a full working knowledge of how the competition works – especially their trade paperback program.

You can hear Paul Levitz humming from here, can’t you?

This Has a Rumour Value of 9 out Of 10


Imperious Rex

Steve Bissette, creator of Tyrant, publisher of From Hell and Lost Girls and artist on Swamp Thing has a new message board. And he’s being his own uncompromising self. Well, this kind of stuff:

      “Sadly, after that, Kevin (Eastman) never again treated me well. All my efforts on behalf of Tundra yielded nothing, save his acrimony; when I dared to speak out via my

COMIC JOURNAL

    interview, I heard from mutual friends Kevin was outraged (though his own subsequent interview with Gary Groth confirmed, almost point by point, my statements; I also found paperwork proving my statements about the Lovecraft project, and subsequently mailed those to Gary after Kevin’s interview saw print). I last saw Kevin and Julie at a Chillercon in NJ, and later that year at an insane party at a mutual friend’s home, wherein Kevin and Julie sat in one room, refusing any conversation with yours truly, and I and my friends ended up in another, as everyone else walked around as if on broken glass, skirting the weird vibes.”

Join in the fun, as Steve talks about horror, gore and Dave Sim, right here.

This Has a Rumour Value of 9 out Of 10


Small Print

This is a tiny thing. In an article in The Guardian newspaper earlier this week, concerning book clubs, the author wrote “These aren’t for people who really, actually read, who are all off curled up with Jimmy Corrigan, or House of Leaves, or A History of London’s Sewerage, or rereading What Katy Did or piling through the entire oeuvre of Raymond Chandler in a lost weekend or throwing The New Puritans across the room, all for fun, and none of which will be coming to a book club near you, ever.”

Like I said, a tiny thing. Just the first mention in mainstream media I’ve seen of a graphic novel being talked about as a book, without having to also be defined as a comic. Jumped out at me a bit, I think.

Just wanted to share.

This Has a Rumour Value of 9 out Of 10


Weekly Dosage

 

  • COMIC SHOP OF THE WEEK: Nexus, Reykjavik, Iceland.
  • HELPFUL BEAR OF THE WEEK: Alistair Pulling
  • COMIC OF THE WEEK: Fury, By Ennis, Robertson and Palmiotti
  • QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What, if anything, has anyone heard about a special relationship between Diamond and Dreamwave? Email me at twisting@hotmail.com
  • FILM OF THE WEEK: Bend It Like Beckham
  • TV OF THE WEEK: Mo Mowlam on working under Tony Blair
  • ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Modern Life Is Rubbish, Blur
  • MARCH OF THE WEEK: Sex Workers Pride, May 1st, Soho
  • WORD OF THE WEEK: Plinth
  • WEBSITE OF THE WEEK: http://www.ntk.net

     

 

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