Thursday, November 30, 2006

Who do They Think They're Fooling?

I wanted to break the news on the delay of Civil War #6, because retailers have been discussing it since Tuesday. But, I was too busy yesterday and now the news is out. Civil War #6, after all promises that it would be back on schedule, will be 2 weeks late - meaning no Civil War in December. Let me begin this discussion by posting bits of the Newsarama article that broke the news, and then I'll say my piece. Here's the link to the full column if you'd prefer to read it all. N0vember 30, 2006:
Civil War #6 Gets a Schedule Bump
Marvel Comics has confirmed for Newsarama that the on-sale date of Civil War #6 has been moved to January 3rd, two weeks later than the previously announced on-sale date of December 20th, given when Marvel originally informed retailers and readers issues #4-6 of the mega-selling limited series would not ship on their originally solicited dates, along with the necessary delays of Civil War related tie-in titles timed to the release of the main mini-series.

Marvel also informed Newsarama that Civil War #7, originally solicited after the
announced delays of issues #4-6 for a 1/17/07 on-sale, will remain on January’s
schedule and is now scheduled for a 1/31 release. ..

As to the question of why this two week delay, according to Marvel
Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada, “The decision to delay Civil War #6 was both a strategic and cautious decision on our part.

“First, let me say that all the materials are still coming in on schedule, but [series artist] Steve [McNiven] has come down with a very severe case of strep throat,” Quesada told Newsarama Thursday morning, which was later confirmed by the artist himself. “However, even with the strep, he's persevered and is still producing a page a day. So, while Steve's impaired health hasn't caused any delays, we felt that with something like strep, it would be best to buffer the schedule a tad in case he wises up and decides to put his head down for a couple of days.

“The second and most important reason we moved the book two weeks (rather
than just one) is because we heard from our retail partners that if they had their way, they would preferred that issue #6 ship in January as opposed to the last week of December, which is traditionally not a great time for comics retailers. So, putting all of these things into the mix, we figured two weeks was a smart thing to do.”

Let me first start with the title of the column. They say the book "Gets a Schedule Bump," when they really should have said, "Will Be Delayed," or "Has Been Pushed Back Two Weeks," or "Is Not Going To Be Shipped On Time." Something that would say the truth out right - it's late. OK, don't sugar coat it or use your writing skills to try to get us to think something else. It's late, call it late.

Second, we were all promised by Marvel's top people, fans and retailers alike, that once the delays of issues 4 & 5 were done, Civil War would be coming out one issue per month. This delay of two weeks now means that there will NOT be a Civil War in December, as was originally promised. Saying that the issue is pushed back two weeks might not sound so bad, but now put it into the correct context - there won't be an issue out in December.

Now let me go to the first of Joe Quesada's excuses for the lateness. He STARTS by saying that all materials have come out on time. OK, then HOW does it end up late? Well, JQ doesn't answer that, instead he continues on with his circular no-logic statement by saying that McNiven has a bad case of strep throat. Seriously, I feel bad for the guy. Strep sucks! However, JQ says before and after he throws out this statement to try to gain some kind of sympathy from people, that McNiven's work isn't late or behind - it's on schedule (which, if you read the posts following the column, you will see has basically worked). Now, let me try to apply some common sense and logic to JQ's excuse. If McNiven just got strep recently, and if it HAD slowed down his work, which has been established that it hasn't, his art for #6 should still have been colored and at the printer by now, or at least in a Fed-Ex package on its way there. So, while it is unfortunate that McNiven is sick this week, his stuff should already be at the printer and this should only impact issue #7. HOWEVER, if McNiven continues to produce on time, as is stated, that neither issue #6 or #7 should be delayed because of his illness. This first excuse is, as I said, just something thrown out to make people feel bad about being upset that the book is delayed. Marvel wants people to say, "Oh, we can't be mad about this issue being late, the poor artist was really sick for a week or two." However, they undid that very same by saying that McNiven is a trooper and continues to get his work done ON TIME.

Joe Quesada's second excuse is even more upsetting to me. He says that their "retail partners" asked for the book to be pushed back. Well, I'd LOVE a list of the retail partners whom advised Marvel of this! I belong to a retailer forum that is visited by many comic retailers both large and small, and so far not one of them has said they were included in this particular discussion. In fact, they are quite upset about this delay. It had started to be discussed on Tuesday of this week on that forum that the book was not included on our Final Order Cut-off (FOC) as it should have been, which led to us wondering why, since it was not listed on that same week's Marvel delays. A few people began to speculate that perhapse Marvel was running late on the issue, and we asked Marvel to give us an answer. On that forum we frequently have a Marvel V.P. visit and post. He visited the forum a couple of times during the discussion of Civil War #6 and even though there were posts directly to him, he did not respond to retailers with an answer. Then, low and behold, Newsarama breaks the news. I had actually predicted that Newsarama would get an answer before retailers did on their forum, but I thought Marvel would hold off until Friday so that the story could cool off over the weekend.

Not only were we left out of the loop, but as I mentioned, most retailers deny having been included in any kind of discussion about when issue #6 should be released. There has been speculation and even accusation by some retailers who would be most likely to know, that there was really only one store included in this partnership. I won't name the store, since it is all speculation and I have no proof, but there is a very large store in New York that advertises a lot in Marvel comics and has a customer base that includes a lot of Marvel's employees including the top brass. Some have speculated that this store might have asked or mentioned that they would rather have issue #6 released after Christmas than before, for a number of personal reasons, and that Marvel's people, who are fans of this store, listened to the store's request. If there were multiple store that asked Marvel to delay issue #6, no one has come out and admitted to it. Additionally, it would be one of a very few times that Marvel has listened to anything it's "retail partners" have suggested when it comes to release dates on comics.

The truth of the matter is that lateness on comics is the norm, and the executives at Marvel have no intention of trying to change that. The man at the top, the EIC, Joe Quesada leads by example, after all. Sure, DC is sometimes late on books too, but they offer retailers the chance to return unsold copies. Marvel does NOT. When I heard about the first series of delays on Civil War I begged that Marvel consider making the late issues returnable, especially since they were insisting that the lateness would NOT hurt sales on the books. But you know what? Despite their complete certanty that the delays would not hurt sales, they refused to offer returnability on the late books. They can talk the talk, but aparently NOT walk the walk. WHO gets stuck standing behind Marvel and it's delays? It's "retail partners," that's who. I can see from my shelves that issue #4, of which we ordered the same exact amount as #3, has NOT sold as well as #3. The stack of issue #5 is even larger, but part of that can be attributed to the fact that it's only been out a couple of weeks so far. Because the trade is supposed to come out in January of 2008, a whole year after the event wraps up, many people have picked up the issues, not wanting to wait all of that time. So, that helps out. However, it does NOT excuse Marvel's tendency to put all of the onus on it's "retail partners" for sales of this book. Even if I didn't return a single late issue, which I probably wouldn't on this mini-series, I would have a LOT more respect for Marvel if it didn't always feel like they were stabbing me in the back every time I turned around.

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