Thursday, August 17, 2006

Civil War Delays - My Opinion

Boy, for once I was ahead of the curve, since I posted that Marvel update before it broke in the comic book press. I’m a trendsetter!

Since all I did before was post the news, I decided to take a moment today to discuss my general feelings on the whole thing both as someone who’s been reading the books, as well as someone whose livelihood depends upon selling them.

I don’t like late books. The whole thing gets under my skin! There are plenty of great artists and writers who can crank out comics on time all of the time.  I can forgive for something like a child getting cancer and dying (Loeb) or getting cancer yourself and having to deal with the treatment for that (Turner) or getting sicker and sicker without a diagnosis and then finally finding out that you have Chrone’s Disease (Millar).  Those are unforeseen things that all of the preparation in the world wouldn’t have factored in.  But, if you are just talent that likes to take his time when working on a project (McNiven, Hughes) or a writer who has other projects that pay more (Lindelof, Wheedon) or someone who might be working on too many projects (Morrison)  then I think we can only blame the editorial staff at the publishing house for 1. not getting enough issues “in the can” before even soliciting a book done by someone they know will be late/slow; 2.  not putting stipulations into contracts for these “star” writers that says if you don’t deliver on time you won’t get paid squat; 3.  giving these “superstars” too many projects – there are other good, but maybe not as well known people out there looking for good projects, give them a try; 4. just putting out too much stuff to begin with.  It is just disappointing that publishers don’t work harder to get quality product out on time.  I hate telling people something’s coming out and then having to correct it a couple weeks later when that book doesn’t show up.  I don’t enjoy hearing how someone saw on a publisher’s web site that a book was released, when that publisher actually pushed the book back weeks or months and didn’t bother to put it on the web site.  But these are really just pet peeves.

Setting aside the fact that I just don’t like to be told something is coming out one day, and then finding out that it’s now coming out next month, there is more that’s troubling about this Civil War delay.  First, it happens to be in the continuity of a good chunk of the Marvel universe, so it isn’t just a book or two being delayed, it’s a LOT of books.  So, since there is this hold up until the end of September and then no Civil War in October, I have to either find other books to get customers to buy in the mean time, or risk loosing a lot of revenue in the store during the delays, as many of Marvel’s best selling books will be part of this delay.   Thankfully we’re a fairly diverse store!

Then there’s the problem with when they finally DO come in.  Sure, I’d like to believe that people will set money aside for the Marvel comics that are delayed, but I am realistic and know that that probably won’t happen.  So, when the do come out, in big chunks, people who have a comic book budget will either buy fewer of the crossovers, or pick up less of the other stuff they’ve been reading to fill in.  Then there’s my billing.  We’ll have smaller than average invoices during delays, and then get hit with HUGE invoices on weeks when they finally ship the backlog.  For example: CIVIL WAR FRONT LINE 8 , PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL 1, FANTASTIC FOUR 541, and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 536 are all scheduled to ship on  11/22, which is ALSO the week Diamond’s Previews catalogs ship, and probably will be a big week for graphic novels we’re restocking on to ship, as most of those seem to ship out during the last couple weeks of the month, AND it is Thanksgiving week, so we’ll be closed the day after the books come out.

To “make up for” these delays Marvel is expanding the books included in the crossover.  So, somehow buying more comics will make everyone feel better I guess.  There are now 5 additional books: 3 books that are regular titles that were not scheduled to still be tied into civil war that will be (all Black Panther), and additional Civil War Frontline book, and a previously unannounced one-shot issue called War Crimes.

Then there are the semi-tie ins. First it was “Spider-Man Unmasked” that tied into the Spider-Man comics after he unmasked in Civil War #2.  Now, coming in November, we’re going to have “Casualties of War” labels on 6 books.  ANYONE who thinks Marvel’s main reason for the Civil War mini-series isn’t MONEY is fooling themselves.

As both a fan and a retailer I see more books that I’m being told I need to buy and read. As a fan and retailer I’m being told by Marvel that I should forgive lateness because of quality, and that in exchange I’ll be provided even more books to buy.  Check out the comic book news websites and you’ll see interviews with some of the people involved in the delays.  Only the artist, McNiven, was adult enough to accept some responsibility for it (or maybe he just drew the short straw).  No one in the cushy Marvel offices out in NYC was grown up enough to take any kind of responsibility for what happened.  In fact, editor Tom Brevoort just ran around pointing fingers at just about everyone else but the people at Marvel whose job it is to keep the books coming out on time in his interview.

Do I think that this whole thing will put me out of business? No. Sure, there might be some money shifting we didn’t expect as we adapt to the small weeks when almost nothing from Marvel will ship and then have to dish out extra cash during the weeks when multiple books come at us all at once.  But thankfully Marvel isn’t the only thing we carry.  This actually will be a good time for us to get people who only came into comics to read Civil War, thanks to all of the publicity it got, to check out some other good comics. I am not going to be one of those retailers who goes all ballistic, claiming that because of the delays we’re going to see a huge dip in sales of Civil War and the related titles.  There have been other books that shipped late, and as long as it’s a good story with a good creative team on it, and (unlike some other Marvel titles – Secret War, Daredevil Father…) we don’t suddenly see the rest of the universe move on while 6-8-12 months go by without another installment, most fans will forgive this minor delay.  Most people are too far in, and there are still more “big” events to come in the series.  

Should we tolerate these? No, as fans we should refuse to buy late books, and tell the retailers where we shop that we’re not buying them, so they don’t buy them and get stuck with them.  That’s the only way publishers will stop these delays – if their pocketbook feels some pain.  However, we ARE fans, and we WANT to read the books, even if they are late, because we’re into them.   But, these kinds of things do tend to turn off the casual readers who don’t have the patience and commitment the rest of us do.  And that’s unfortunate.  We can’t expect to see the comic book readership grow with these kinds of disappointments, at least not single-issue readership.

No comments: