Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

August 16, 2006

Maybe Not the Retailers’ Side…

imageMarvel Comics has announced a line-wide scheduling hiccup in their market-dominant Civil War mini-series, spin-off series, and those regular titles participating in the storyline. The superhero vs. superhero linewide event about superhero registration (making it in some peoples' eyes a discussion of real-world civil rights) that should serve to retrench Iron Man as a major player with his movie on the horizon, re-launch the cornerstone character Thor and which has already featured the Spider-Man character unmasking himself, the main Civil War title has squatted atop the sales charts since its inception. Although I lack the proper immersion in the flow of mainstream comics and how they're sold to describe in sumptuous detail what this move could mean in every corner of the market, a rough map of the issues landscape presents itself rather easily:

On the one hand, these comics are popular enough that I can't imagine this dims sales or reader interest much beyond people howling on the Internet. It could also be interpreted as refreshing, albeit in a slightly square-planet way, to have a big mainstream company stay behind a creative team (specifically artist Steve McNiven) rather than force material out by editorial/production fiat.

On the other hand, once you disrupt the flow of anything in the market moving this many copies it's bound to have a deleterious effect on retailers who count on providing these books to customers -- some of whom are casual customers who may lose interest as Marvel's series loses momentum and Summer turns to Fall -- and managing money in order to maximize their ability to do so. This was announced pretty late in terms of retailers expecting a comic to show up that wasn't going to show up. My hunch without looking to make sure is that it may also put at risk having collections of some of this work available during the holiday buying period, or even the post-holiday Christmas cash period.

Myself, I feel for the retailers and don't feel any acrimony or disdain for the artists whatsoever. Publishing schedules are the publisher's responsibility, and there are ways of ensuring a publishing event like this one can hit its target dates that unless they're employed puts the publisher squarely in the bullseye for blame regarding any needed adjustments. Two things jump out at me, though. One, this really underlines how increasingly dependent mainstream comics sales are on specific comic books with specific content as opposed to the days of inventory issues and a broader strength in series. Two, I think Marvel's choice to back McNiven may reflect a greater interest in the quality of the eventual trade and its potential life on the shelves at a time when no one will remember this delay.

Newsarama has the list of titles involved and a quote from series writer Mark Millar. Millar also discusses the issue here.

As I keep getting e-mailed, artist Steve McNiven speaks to the situation via Millar's on-line forum.

I have no idea if that's a proper cover or something someone made at home
posted 1:51 am PST | Permalink

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