CB Cebulski made his debut as Marvel’s front man at a Diamond retailer event, standing before a packed room. The headlines probably came towards the very end of the panel when a retailer addressed the elephant in the room: the 99¢ sales on digital collections the week of release that Amazon and Comixology have been running. This is something many retailers have been privately complaining about.

Cebulski admitted that the matter was something he expected to hear about, but said in response that “I don’t mean to pass the buck, but it isn’t something we did. We sell [Amazon/Comixology] the comics at the same price [we sell them to you]. Just like you offer discounts, they do the same.”

That said, CB admitted these sales were a concern. “It is undercutting all of you. It’s not fair. We are aware of it and are addressing it. It’s not a Marvel issue. It’s an Amazon policy that we are trying to get to the bottom of. I don’t want to pass the buck.”

As a follow up, a retailer stated that no one would want to order the $24.99 Marvel Knights reprints if they were going to appear that week on Amazon as a 99¢ Digital edition.

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“The price is not being set by Marvel,” Cebulski reiterated.

Other than Cebulski, writer Jason Aaron and Marvel’s marketing director, Peter Charpentier, appeared on the panel, which was subtitled “selling comics, making memories.”

Cebulski kicked things off by confessing that he was nervous at the size of the crowd. He mentioned that “I put myself through college working at a comics shop at the Magic Dragon,” attempting to develop rapport with the retailers in the crowd. Cebulski continued by saying that David Gabriel, who usually handles these presentations, is currently in London but sent his best.

CB then explained his perspective on the comics industry by discussing his background as a comics retailer and fan. “When I think of a comics shop, I don’t think of them as just a place to buy comics. I think of them as a place where memories are made.” Cebulski recalled his early experiences at comics shops buying comics. At one point, he traded a copy of Wolverine #181 for a full run of Area 88. He still has that run in his basement. He still hangs out with friends at JHU and recalls his mother putting a coffee cup on top of a vintage comic “and leaving a coffee ring. Memories like that scar!” he said to laughter from the room.

Cebulski announced a new initiative where he plans to go to three American comics shops (one in the east, one in the midwest, and one in west) to spend a couple of days at each, working as a staff member. “The best way for me and my team to support you is to [understand you] from the ground level. What’s [your shop] like? What’s the peak time of day? What works on the shelves what doesn’t?”

He then ran through a list of recently announced #1s, stating that some key releases may have extended billing options. (Applause!) “Keep an eye on the Marvel mailer for more info,” said Charpentier.  “A lot of marketing initiatives are coming,” including  Marvel Universe Magazine, a promotional preview magazine. “In-store content is one part of a much larger marketing program including nationwide TV spots, coordinated social media on all platforms, and geotargeting to get casual fans to come to shops.”

Stay tuned for more from the Marvel panel!

17 COMMENTS

  1. “I don’t mean to ass the buck” might be my new favorite typo of the year. There’s a t-shirt in there somewhere, if this gets memetic. ;-)

  2. Interesting that Amazon might have more control of sales prices than I believed. It would explain the bizarre tactic if Marvel were setting the price. Maybe Amazon is seeking to bolster their volume sold in order to negotiate better terms. Like “See how much of your company’s product we can move with promotion?” Other than that, I’m glad Marvel is giving special promotion to some of their new #1s. If a new volume is supposed to matter or attract a bigger audience, then you have to actually sell it to the audience. I gave up several relaunches ago because I couldn’t figure out what Marvel was trying to sell me each time (except a higher price for the first issues and a complete separation from the previous storylines).

  3. Perhaps marvel has concluded that comic book stores are in the past and Amazon is the future. At any rate I don’t see how more and more first issues are going to help them.

  4. Wait! Amazon is using predatory pricing to drive brick and mortar stores out of business? Why I’m shocked!

    That’s never happened before. No one has ever accused Amazon of doing this before. Thousands of articles have not been written about this very topic. It’s not possible to ask every book store and every book publisher about this.

    (Spoiler Alert: after they decimate the competition, Amazon will raise their prices)

  5. I’d find it believable, but isn’t it odd that Amazon isn’t doing it to any other publisher? Why hasn’t DC had a massive $1 trade sale? No other company has had a sale like this. Image has had a sale that creators weren’t happy about, but not for a buck each.

  6. If Amazon is driving comic shops out of business with better pricing and a better customer experience – good. The industry needs major disruption. In my (admittedly limited) experience, most comic shops are fairly crummy business. They have no divine right to exist and certainly shouldn’t be kept on life support by protectionist practices.

  7. I’m not sure if you can call Amazon doing something a disruption. They are taking over and setting up their own rules that will favour them before publishers or actual customers.

    As for “we sell at the same price to Amazon”, I find it hard to believe. They were selling collections for 1$ so at what price point Marvel sold them these? Granted, it is possible that Amazon took a loss on each sale, but I find it a bit unlikely.

  8. The idea that Amazon/ComiXology is drastically discounting Marvel books (and no other company’s) and selling them at a loss for weeks on end without any input from Marvel beggars belief. Luckily for Marvel though, they hired a credible and trustworthy new editor in chief and not someone who mislead readers and retailers by claiming to be a Japanese man so he could score some writing gigs.

  9. Still no matter what marvel says or does or doesn’t say or do -or DC for that matter- the retailers have no practical option but to do what they are told. What comic book store could ever stay in business not selling marvel and dc comics? It would be nice if they were gracious about it, but the big two can do what ever they want.

  10. My theory is that this all sounds right for Amazon. They keep the price of an item artifically low to build brand loyalty and starve competitors with brick & mortar ones hurt the most. Once they have most or enough market share, they raise the prices up.

    But why Marvel? Probably because more people know and like the Marvel movies, so if you want to get more information on the world, you can read up on a low price. It’s a theory, but they’d had to do the same for Wonder Woman (most of her world-building history isn’t on TV or in movies like Superman and Batman). Also, Image’s big comic is Walking Dead, but the TV show isn’t as hot or closely follows the books.

  11. If Amazon are smart (and i’m assuming that they are) they should have Diamond in their sights. That’s the monopoly that already exists in the comics market which they could probably quite easily displace. I’d be more than happy to click-buy a digital comic and then get a hard copy through in the post…

  12. Loss leaders are a pretty common sales tactic. With all the talk of 99-cent tpbs, I signed up to ComiXology for the first time even though I don’t love digital. I bought Thanos: the Infinity Siblings for .99. Its the first of a trilogy of OGNs. If I like it, I just may buy the second when it comes out at a non-discount price – something I wouldn’t have done without being lured in by the .99 sale. Nothing necessarily nefarious about it.

  13. Jeff- what makes it somewhat nefarious is that retailers ordered non-returnable copies of books like “Thanos: The Infinity Siblings” unaware that Comixology would be offering it at the same time as them for 1/25th the price. While it’s likely the majority of the people who have been picking things up during these $0.99 sales are people who wouldn’t have picked up the $25 hardcover in the first place, there is no doubt some customers who would’ve grabbed it at their LCS for full price opted instead to download it for a buck instead. retailers would’ve ordered these books a lot differently if they’d known these sales were going to be happening.

  14. My retailer has already cut Marvel trades way back; they just don’t sell for him. But he did by a few copies of Infinity Siblings since it was an OGN instead of a collection; this sale cuts him off at the knees.

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