Speaking of backstock, Hibbs also takes Marvel to task for their incredibly erratic backstock system (perhaps a vestige of the Jemas no-reprints era?). Anyway, since we pick on other companies so much for their problems, it’s interesting to see Marvel’s Achilles heel:
The weirdest thing is that this is something that the sales department at Marvel knows — in fact, they’re often offering incentives (extra discount, variant covers, and so on) to get retailers to front-load their orders. So to not have copies of editorially strong material on hand when the demand is there drives me bonkers.
The sales charts show Marvel running ahead of DC by about 50% (48% to 32% in August 2008), and I largely believe they could widen that by half again if only their products were available for reorder.
But it isn’t just the periodical — their backlist is a shambles in this retailer’s mind. There’s just an astonishingly wide swath of critical Marvel backlist that isn’t available at any given time. Whether it’s something like the first hardcover of “Runaways” (arguably the largest early-21st century original superhero success) being out of print for months at a time (limiting sales on the later volumes), or the unavailability of a complete set of inexpensive reprints of Frank Miller’s “Daredevil” in something like the last five years (!), or something crazy like “Wolverine: Origin” being unavailable for most of this year… to me, it’s not unlike the grocery store not having any milk or eggs in stock.
§ We did not expect to see rapper Percy Carey, aka MF Grimm, writing a column on comic book business issues for Complex magazine. But he is. First up, sales figure guru John Mayo:
Percy Carey: What are your views on the current state of comic books?
John Mayo: On a creative level, this is one of the best times to be reading comics. There are great comics coming out from most publishers these days and if you can’t find a comic book to enjoy, then you aren’t looking hard enough as there is something out there for everybody. Part of what Bob and I are trying to do on the podcast is match people up with the right titles for them.
On a sales level, while the aggregate sales for the top 300 comics gives the illusion that comics are selling well, the unfortunate reality is that most individual titles are dropping in sales. Comics used to have “Event” titles that were kind of like sweeps week for television. The publishers would pull out all the stops and really wow the readers. As a result, these things would sell great. Now imagine if every week was sweeps week on television. That is the state comics are in now. It is “Event” after “Event” after “Event” and while they are entertaining, they stop being special when they happen all the time.