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August 17, 2006


More on Marvel's Delayed Civil War

Marvel delaying its massive Civil War superhero series "event" and several affected issues in regular series has hit enough of a nerve to ratchet up the heated Internet rhetoric a few degrees, including but not limited to: a Newsarama piece with Editor Tom Brevoort, passionate responses from fans both there and on various messageboards, retailers like Brian Hibbs and Jason Richards chiming in, and of course reports on blogs.

imageThe basic issue of delays is an issue as old as the market. My own noodling led me to think about Camelot 3000, a "King Arthur returns to defend us against aliens" mini-series that was one of the first DM-only titles. Its last few issues were terribly delayed, with the finale coming 10 months after issue #11. Here's a discussion about that series in the context of another, later delay. According to that discussion, interest in the title as measured in back issues sales was killed.

There are huge differences between now and then; this is in many ways a unique occurrence. No one expects this slight delay to kill interest in Civil War. The Internet provides a vehicle for fan frustration that doesn't require even the minimal effort of putting pen to paper, so it may be exaggerated, and our use of it has been going on long enough anyone who doesn't like it can accuse it of being exaggerated and dismiss it as a result. "Civil War" is a line-wide event, and as such it should have been that much better planned. The delay seems to me to have been announced really, really late in the game. At the same time, it's no longer a periodicals market in the same sense as 20-plus years ago: the companies are set up to sell individual issues of series as much if not more so than series, and have been for some time now. I would argue that the market is more fragile now, with more and more risk running downhill and landing in the retailers' laps. You and I might criticize a store (a longrunning store, anyway, not one building its clientele) for not being diverse enough that a slight delay on some Marvel titles, even important Marvel titles, would hurt beyond the obvious cash flow predicament, but that's the mainstream top-end dependent market that DC and Marvel have worked so hard to shape. It's too much to suggest that Marvel and DC have created a market so that they can do stuff like this, but it seems to be one of the perks.

In general I don't think my opinion is any different than yesterday: Marvel disappointed their fans but screwed their retailers; the fans will get over it, the retailers have to. Marvel treated their retailers in a way that makes sense given the current shape of the comics market and its emphasis on specific content and, eventually, trades. We should all feel for retailers who will be stung, particularly new ones. There's little that can be done about things like this given the current market set-up, except work slowly and with great passion for years and years to change its face and then its heart. The question is will anyone remember to keep fighting once the Civil War gritty-teeth superhero confrontational soap operatics and high sales start up again? I have my doubts.
 
posted 11:27 am PST | Permalink
 

 
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