We don’t really follow the day to day announcements of Marvel and DC, except when they strike us in some larger sense, but yesterday’s shocker that CIVIL WAR #4 and 5 would be delayed by a month and two months, respectively, got even our attention. As ICv2’s recently released sales estimates show, CIVIL WAR #3 by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven sold just a skotch under 300K copies, making it a sales blockbuster by any estimate. But it gets worse: the mini-series is but the tentpole for a huge interconnected web of tie-in mini-series and crossover comics — in order to keep the story fresh, some 30 other titles will also be delayed.. Reaction among retailers and readers was flabbergasted. Of course, just about every other blockbuster tentpole of the last few years has had delays (HOUSE OF M) or else drastic “many hands” artistic line-ups (INFINITE CRISIS) and delays, but still.
Marvel’s statement to retailers was muted and understated:
We apologize for the inconvenience but feel that this is in the best interest of the quality of the event and for retailers to continue to realize the immense sales for these books. We are announcing these shifts early enough in the hopes that retailers can adjust their buying patterns for the next few months. Also, we hope the addition of a few more key Civil War titles will make up for any lost sales that result from these moves.
BUT WAIT THAT’S NOT ALL!
Can’t wait for Wednesday is, at least this week, much better called “I’m still waiting for Wednesday.” Eternals #3, Justice League of America #1, and Wonder Woman #2 were all slated to be released today, along with Civil War #4 — all are delayed. The ongoing Wonder Woman series, scripted by Allen Heinberg, has had a substantial delay, supposedly due to Heinberg’s Hollywood duties. JLA #1’s delay is even more sudden — only days ago, DC was promoting it in the NY Times and Publishers Weekly because it contained an excerpt of writer Brad Meltzer’s new novel. Reportedly, as recently as last week DC did not even know the book was going to be delayed, which sounds odd, but we can’t even begin to hazard a guess on all the reasons.
Graeme rounds up message board reactions. While late books are a fact of life, the delay of a huge chunk of Marvel’s line will have a huge impact on retailers, not to mention books that skip shipping for a month or two impacting on creator’s income. It’s a huge mess, made all the more dramatic by the fact that it was announced less than 24 hours before the issue was to have shipped.
And who to blame? Was it Mark Millar’s ongoing health problems? Is it artist McNiven? Millar himself wakes up and posts an explanation that will please few fans or retailers:
All I can say is that this is really good of Marvel. Why? Let me explain. Civil War is seven issues long and both the first and last issues were extra-sized. Steve is a pretty fast artist, maybe a nine or ten books a year guy, but he only had a six or seven week head start on this series. Absolutely nothing at all. And it was always going to catch up with him, especially given that 100 characters appear in every issue and it’s the most labour-intensive thing he’s ever drawn. It also happens to be the BEST work of his career and Marvel could easily– EASILY– just done what DC did and stick fill-in guys on the series. In fact, we EXPECTED it for issue five because we knew a lot of titles like FF and so on were tying in.
But you know what? They didn’t. MCW has rocketed Marvel profits lately. The new figures aren’t available yet, but we’re doubling and sometimes trebling the sales on the tie-in books, the anthology title– an ANTHOLOGY TITLE– is doing over 100K and we’re heading towards 400K with the book itself. Marvel believe in the project and they feel me and Steve have formed a good team. Something they don’t want to fuck with for the sake of squeezing a few more bucks into the next financial quarter and so, after doing their sums, decided they’ll take a hit. Now this is a pain in the arse for being reading the book because it means waiting a few more weeks for Steve to finish. It’s also a pain for people enjoying the tie-ins. But Steve is hammering away here and these books will all be done and dusted by the New Year and the series, and tie-ins, will all be published completely soon afterwards by the original teams and without some grotty fill-ins. It also means the collections remain looking great.
But who’s to blame for all the rest? Giving WONDER WOMAN a big push behind a writer with another career = delays. (Damon Lindelof, writer of ULTIMATE WOLVERINE VS HULK is another Hollywood offender. Apparently writing LOST is more important to him than his nascent comics writing career — is that fair, we ask you?)
We thought comics companies caught on to this back when Kevin Smith first started writing the funnies. You got plenty of books in the can before going on the schedule. Now the cross-over comics scripters are dragging the schedule back.
It wouldn’t be so bad if it were just special mini-series. Late books are a fact of life and comics fans have come to expect delays when high-strung, high quality creative teams are at the helm — ULTIMATES and PLANETARY anyone? But events like CIVIL WAR are crucial to the entire comics economy. Marvel has planned everything in 2006 around it, and this time they gambled and lost.
Over and over again in the message board postings you hear readers wishing for more regular schedules. Of course, we remember when Sal Buscema drew TWO books a month, and Jack Kirby drew FOUR. That was reliable. Nowadays, artists are allowed to have lives and just need more time in general. The irony is that today’s delicate auteurs are still swiping from the guys who had to “hack out” a book every two weeks. Kirby and Buscema didn’t have Internet message boards, however, perhaps that’s the difference.
In all of this, 52, the weekly comic that everyone said couldn’t be done, is coming out like clockwork. It’s taken D-Day like planning and non stop attention from three editors — but that’s because putting out a WEEKLY COMIC is hard. Putting out a monthly comic should be a piece of cake.
Except when it isn’t.
PS: of course, for all the bitching and grousing, this will probably end up costing Marvel very few sales. Retailers and fans like to bitch and grouse, but they always seem to be there on Wednesday, any Wednesday.