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

January 11, 2007

Missed It: Civil War Delayed Again

I've sat here for a couple of days trying to figure out something to say about news that Marvel will be delaying the last issue of its Civil War event mini-series, ostensibly to insert a story coda that had been previously unplanned. There was a great amount of wailing and rending of garments when an issue was delayed during the summer-fall season, and it's easy to mistake that kind of noise for a measure of the story's importance. Quiet or not, I would say this latest is just as important a delay, maybe more so because you have a potential secondary detrimental effect on sales, separate from interruption, when a series' entire life extends over too great a length of time. And, as noted last time, delays in flagship event titles run across entire lines.

So why was this announcement greeted with relative quiet? It may be because of the same reason I couldn't find an angle: a big "it is what it is" element to moves like this one, decisions made that are transparent and accompanied by a "What are you going to do?" shrug of the shoulders. Few argue that delays can cause a dip in sales. Most people agree that a break in storytelling momentum represents an undefinable loss of opportunity even if there aren't clear rollbacks in circulation numbers. On the other hand, it's clear that Marvel can afford to stick the landing creatively or negotiate some bad planning by justifying any potential lost sales as sort of casualties of war given the overall success of the project.

Overall, this is what happens when you have a Direct Market deeply and firmly locked into buying habits and patterns and percentages that favor a few agents that know exactly how much they matter. A major player can act as a less than exemplary partner, over and over, and there's little in that can be done about it but enjoy the ride -- at least without seismic, industry-shattering shifts in basic buying behavior that no one can afford. The co-dependency between the big comics companies and the comic book shops, the shops and their patrons, those fans and their favorite companies; it's a three-way locked-pinky pact that gets renewed every Wednesday, missing books or not.
posted 2:15 am PST | Permalink

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