GoodEReader is site that often has interesting digital news, but it just posted an alarmist article called Marvel Phasing out Retail Comic Distribution to Focus on Digital, which frankly is just wacky.
Which is not to say that all the signs and leaks and rumors and gossip haven’t been pointing to Marvel significantly growing their own digital sales. This weekends SXSWi will see Marvel announcing some stuff, and there has already been a press conference scheduled for tech outlets. What the most credible rumors say is that Marvel will launch its own digital storefront—as with the expansion of it’s Marvel Unlimited program—and take a lot of that business away from Comixology. It IS a little like the early 90s purchase of Heroes World distribution so that Marvel could distribute its own comics, and that was one of the most disastrous events of comics’ most disastrous decade…but I don’t think that’s what’s happening here.
The idea of Marvel ditching print sales at this point is…well, ludicrous. The writer of the piece, Michael Koslowski, seems to have misread every recent comics happening, including Marvel pulling its unprofitable RETURNABLE periodicals from bookstores. In the comments he goes on and on misreading everything, claiming that comics shops are closing in “record numbers” and incorrectly stating Marvel is giving away 150,000 Amazon vouchers (Comixology is doing that) and so on. The whole piece seems to be clickbait and maybe I just fell into a trap but given Marvel’s lack of a real book program and print’s still-substantial profitability superiority over digital the idea of them “phasing it out” right now is…silly.
NOW that is not to say that maybe this could happen at Marvel OR DC or everywhere down the road. As we head to the someday digital everything, every publisher is wise to take stock of paper vs byte. I don’t think Disney or Warner Bros want to be in the magazine business, and both have taken all the steps they can to get out of that business except for comics. I think that either a) licensing out books or b) going digital COULD BE eventual strategies for Marvel and/or DC as the cost of 100+ person divisions to put out Fantomex comics that sell 10,000 copies becomes harder to justify.
We just aren’t there yet.