Much goings on about a recent Marvelinvestor conference in which John Turitzin, Marvel’s general counsel and EVP of the executive office, answers a fan’s question about their recent price rise by saying, more or less, they did it to maximize their profits, not because they HAD to. Robot 6 and Rich Johnston have much fuller accounts of the conference, including reax from fans who are shocked, SHOCKED, that Marvel is admitting they are trying to raise their profits! Especially when folks like Dan Buckley and Joe Quesada usually say things like “rising costs…paper costs…blah blah.”
Admittedly, the timing, what with worldwide economic Chernobyl and all, is a bit dicey. You can fit Marvel and DC’s price increases into the “Twilight of the Pamphlets” scenario — Turitzin says as much by mentioning an “inelastic” fan base, which doesn’t really shrink or grow much — with pamphlet sales stalled or falling, it’s the only way to raise money.
Rather than putting too much weight on an impromptu comment by a seasoned exec, let’s look at the slideshow accompanying the conference call. Frankly, we’ve been listening to these things for YEARS and we’ve never seen so much emphasis put on the publishing arm — which produced 25 percent of Marvels profits, we’re told. This slide explains where the money comes from (click for a larger version.)
Notice how “Digital Comics” are now part of the profit mix? And there is “upside potential.” So, publishing is no longer Marvel’s little division in the corner. It has to pull its weight in the mix, and that means…rising profits.
§ Another big Marvel story going around that’s a bit more complicated than we can really get into in a brief posting is the Captain America #600/Reborn #1 story. This first came to our attention via a column by Brian Hibbs where he was complaining about the solicitation/sales divide. Briefly, Marvel will not reveal anything at all about the contents of REBORN #1 — except that it’s by Ed Brubaker and Bryan Hitch — and the fact that the Brub is involved makes everyone think it has something to do with Captain America. Plus..REBORN…duh.
When Cap died, it was big, front page news a few years ago, and evidently, Marvel is planning another media storm — however, the story has to be embargoed or there will be no story, so they can’t reveal anything about it before June 15th. Which means retailers must order it blind, which is why Hibbs was complaining — it MAY be a big Obama/Death of Cap-like media storm that drives folks into the stores, but how will anyone know ahead of time? PLUS. on that day the Octomom could run into Kate and Jon in the Pampers aisle while Newt Gingrich looks on, and every other news story would be relegated to page 27.
Marvel listened to the retailer ire over what they considered a gamble, and recognizing that there could be a better way, Marvel made two pretty huge changes. #1, REBORN #1 will have a final order cutoff that is AFTER June 15th, a week later than it normally would have been. This means if the big event doesn’t come off, retailers have some wiggle room.
PLUS, even more amazingly, Marvel is allowing retailers to sell CAPTAIN AMERICA #600 on MONDAY, JUNE 15th just in case that big news story comes off. This isn’t without some problems — as retailer James Sime points out, CAP #600 already HAD its final order cutoff, meaning retailers can’t order more…they can just sell it early. (Apparently there will be a a second printing available, however, so even here Marvel is trying to get more copies into stores.)
On the one hand, Marvel does seem to be trying to help retailers in an awkward situation. We know how these embargoes work, and if some little blog were to announce tomorrow that Cap is coming back as a Marvel Ape, the big media campaign would be scrapped. On the other hand, we can totally see why retailers don’t like relying on a stunt and ordering blind. So it’s just kind of a gamble for everyone.
This leaves two mysteries. #1, What’s the deal with Cap anyway? Will it be the black Captain America, as some speculate? OR a girl? Or Steve Rogers? Or a MONKEY? Who knows.
#2, Where is this story being planted? Cap’s death took off when it appeared in the New York Daily News, a commuter tabloid. Would that be enough to kick off a mass pilgrimage to the comics shop? Guess we’re gonna hafta just wait..and see…