Distrubution Wars: Episode II

Bill Jemas is a very clever man. Despite some of the “spin” we saw mid-week about Marvels’ delight to be back with Diamond again, it’s clear that Marvel were playing Diamond for every penny they could get. By going to other distributors like Client Distribution Services and threatening Diamond to pull out of Diamond Distribution – even the direct market as a whole, they’ve renegotiated a better deal and have forced Diamond to pay for setting up a bookstore distribution service. And by leaking news of the distribution wranglings to certain key figures, especially in retail, forced Diamond’s hand when the retailers started to get concerned that Marvel may leave them in the dust.

Bluff, double bluff and triple bluff. No matter how Bill Jemas might like to put on a foolish face, he didn’t get this job for nothing. He’s way cleverer than many people think. I still reckon he likes to eat trifle though…

One word of caution though – it may appear that Marvel’s extensive new trade paperback programme may have the effect of flooding the bookstore market – only now starting to burgeon. The last time this happened, on the back of Watchmen, Dark Knight and Maus, a lot of companies published a lot of derivative superhero drek, which sat on the shelves and did nothing, souring many bookstores to any graphic novels at all. If Marvel are really considering putting out all their monthly books in TPB form, its possible that short term gain for Marvel may lead to the long term loss for the industry as quality work is marginalised and the bookstores start to treat all product like it’s the latest Avengers TPB again.

I bet Warren Ellis is a little pissed off that he preached the benefit of the TPB market now. Currently ten out of top 100 selling graphic novels are by him. That won’t be the case for long…

Robert Boyd of LBC, previous graphic novel distributor for Marvel, posted to the Warren Ellis Delphi Forum. He wrote, “We offered Marvel an excellent deal, and we gave Marvel (and all of our publishers) very good information on their sales (how many books were sold into which stores, inventory levels, etc.) that was accessible by Marvel anytime through a user name/password system. Presumably Diamond offered something better, but what, I don’t know. Considering Marvel’s financial problems combined with their announced aggressive growth in trade publishing, my guess is that Diamond is financing Marvel’s trade publishing. They already finance many toy manufacturers, so it wouldn’t be a huge leap, although it will mean that Diamond has to tie up a lot of capital.”

He added, “DC’s dominance in the book trade is not based on high sales. It’s based on a huge frontlist and backlist. DC has more than twice as many books in print than any other graphic novel publisher. I feel reasonably confident in saying that on average, Dark Horse, Viz and Tokyopop each sell more copies per title than DC to the book trade. Marvel’s announced expansion of their trade program will put them close to DC in titles-in-print in a little over a year. I see no reason why Marvel’s titles will sell any worse than DC’s (I know exactly how well they sell now, which is comparable to DC’s per title sales), so they should be neck and neck with DC in about a year.”

This Has A Rumour Value Of 6 Out of 10

The Sane Non-Pulper

Well there’s a novelty.

I have been told that when Tangled Web: The Thousand #1 by Garth Ennis was mistakenly printed without the card cover and with lower paper stock, copies were still handed out to retailers as part of the First Look programme. Normally when this happens, the run is pulped and a new run is printed, turning up a week or two later, while the First look issue becomes a hot collectors item – see Universe X: Spidey or League Of Gentlemen #5.

This time, however, it appears Marvel intend to distribute the lower-quality printed book for free at conventions or other events as part of a promotion. Triple sanity all round by the sound of it.

That didn’t stop one wag telling me that it was pulped because a character’s hair resembled a woman’s pubic hair on the cover. And another Marvel source informs me that it might be worth my while to compare the reprint book with the original book in detail… anyone up for it?

This Has A Rumour Value Of 6 Out Of 10

Back to The Boards

In an interview with Glenn Barbis on Comics GB, Joe Quesada says that he’s hitting the art boards again on an eleven page story. About time too!

This Has A Rumour Value Of 7 Out of 10

Oarr Clash

And the firing of Chris Oarr from DC as reported in last week’s column. It seems it’s come down to the most basic or reasons, a clash of personalities, rather than any kind of “incompetence”. Specifically between Chris and Marketing Moguls Bob Wayne and Patty Jeres, though I understand Patty was more accomdating and looked for other ways to resolve the problems.

And rather than resulting from the Retailers Representative Program, I understand the decision to fire Chris was made before that.

Neither Chris nor DC were contacted for this piece.

This Has A Rumour Value Of 5 Out of 10

Happy Tenth

As to the mystery crime special coming from Wildstorm? It’s not a crime special and only a little bit of mystery. It’s a 10th Anniversary book for Gaijin Studios, home to much of Wildstorm’s talent. Featuring a Jack Hawksmoor story by Warren Ellis, as well as work from Paul Jenkins, Cully Hamner and more. Watch for solicitations in August.

This Has A Rumour Value Of 8 Out of 10

Frank Speaking

As to the Frank Miller/DC bust up reported last week, I hear two stories.

From a DC insider, I’m told that some DC staff regard Miller as rude and unprofessional to anyone at DC, save Bob Schreck, his editor. One sticking point as been the schedule of the book and its indeterminate nature causing problems with finance trying to make predictions for the economic year, long term scheduling and marketing of the book. And that while the first two issues will be out before the end of the year, the third may be a long time coming.

However Frank Miller’s agent, Harris Miller II, denies any conflict between Frank and DC whatsoever. After telling him the above rumour, he replied, “Everything is moving along fine and everyone I’ve spoken with at DC is happy with both Frank and the project.”

However, I also hear from other sources that due to Miller moving back to New York and working on the upcoming Batman movie, the third book may well be delayed – but that his contract allows for the last book to ship by spring of next year.

This Has A Rumour Value Of 6 Out of 10

Ten Years In the Cubes

I hear that the Judge Dredd and Judge Anderson costumes used for convention appearances have been stolen.

They really didn’t want to do that now, did they…

If anyone has any inforation, please go to http://www.sitsvac.org as soon as possible and click on Comics 2001.

This Has A Rumour Value Of 8 Out of 10

Back in The Black?

And I hear that in a game of triple bluff, Paul Jenkins doing the Black Captain America thing might actually be the big Marvel August surprise after all! But Paul Jenkins tells me, “I think that’s one of the goofiest yet, Rich. Even goofier than the one about Spider-Man.” Both Joe Quesada and Bill Jemas gave a solid, “No Comment.”

Maybe, Paul, but we all remember who started that one, right?

This Has A Rumour Value Of 2 out of 10. Just Like The Last One.

EBay Blowout

Again, I’m selling a bunch of my comic collection on eBay.com – plenty of Ellis, Ennis, Gaiman, Moore, Miller, Millar, Morrison, Chadwick, David, Adams, Valentino, Claremont – a huge list basically. Pop by and see if there’s anything you fancy picking up. Anyone who quotes All The Rage gets a free head sketch of your favourite comics character – if I’ve got the reference. I’m taking PayPal, so click on this link now.


This Has A Cash-In Value 6 Out Of 10

Last Thought…

Just had the inkling at the end of the last Ultimate X-Men that when George W. Bush sends the Sentinels to attack Magneto and he disables and reprogrammes them to attack America just just before they land, Bush could issue a demand that Magneto return his crashed Sentinels to him.

But sadly, no…

Apparently, he will be buck naked on the White House lawn in an upcoming issue, so hey.

This Has A Ruminating Value Of 8 Out of 10

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