In the month (only a month!) since the industry changing Marvel/PRH bombshell news, we’ve all been absorbing the change and trying to imagine the radically realigned direct market. Meanwhile retailers are dealing with the nitty gritty of shifting to a new distributor for comics periodicals.
Today Marvel released a video aimed at comics retailers with Marvel’s president Dan Buckley, and sales and marketing SVP David Gabriel along with Jeff Abraham, president of PRH Publisher Services, and Tyne Hunter, Associate Director of Comic Market Sales at PRH, to offer reassurance, some updates, and high video production values to retailers who may still be wondering how this will all work.
You can’t really apply the term “shock and awe” to a video of a bunch of talking heads going on about book distribution, but if the net effect was to show that PRH is a huge, giant company that can take almost anything in stride (and has the resources to do so), this video was a step in that direction.
Oh, and they also talked about damages!
A few takeaways:
• Buckley mentioned that PRH will be distributing “all of our ongoing and backlist comic books, trades and graphic novels in the direct market.” Which is a reminder that even though talk about this pact has centered on moving periodical comics away from Diamond, and Marvel’s existing book distribution deal with Hachette was mentioned many times…this deal also covers all the Marvel GNS to the DM. A few comics shops may have moved to Hachette for book industry standard shipping, but they can move right back to PRH.
• Abraham was the first high level PRHPS exec to address comics retailers directly (at least publicly) and he was highly complimentary, noting that PRH has been “investing in custom solutions,” and they will offer “a dedicated customer service team and dedicated sales team” along with their brand new warehouse just for comic books. (Word on the street is that PRH is already hiring away a bunch of ex-Diamond employees for their new Maryland warehouse.)
• Most importantly (to me anyway), Abraham restated what we’ve been hearing about this deal from the start: PRH sees the direct market as a big growth area and will invest in stores to help them. “Our key focus is to support and grow physical retailers,” he said. “Just as we’ve seen in the indie book market, your stores, physical retailers, are the places to build around. We know you are a key part of what makes comics so entertaining and successful to fans.”
• Hunter had her own version of this, noting that she has been working with direct market accounts for five years. It was only supposed to be a temporary assignment for her, but “I ended up working with you guys and learning from you guys and falling in love with this channel and this market. You are resilient and engaging and some of the most passionate retailers out there.”
• Everyone emphasized that if you want to keep working with Diamond, you can.
• Comic Book On Sale Day will remain Wednesday for Marvel, as is “hallowed tradition,” according to Gabriel.
• Gabriel also reassured stores that PRH will continue to offer all the variants, promotional items and the physical Marvel Preview magazine that they are used to getting. FOC day will still be Monday and PRH’s self-service portal will be available to make things easier. He said they are “working tirelessly” with PRHPS to explain variant covers and all the other elements of the DM PRH may not have been familiar with. Marvel may also launch into new areas of promotion — a hint of the possibilities offered by working with a company the size of PRH.
• Marvel is offering a handsome variant cover (to what?) by John Romita JR as an incentive for both new and existing PRH accounts.
• Hunter also wanted to address concerns about damages — and perhaps I am just projecting all my years of attending Diamond retailer summits, but she got a little more serious here because retailers like to complain about damages even more than TikTokers like to talk about KPop. As previously hinted, comics and graphic novels will ship separately, from different facilities in different packages, and they are working on new packaging all to minimize scuffs and dings.
“But that said, damages can happen,” she acknowledged. And when they do? Reach out and PRH will work to make things okay.
• The main reason for the video is that the first deadlines for PRH’s October Marvel launch are approaching. The deadline to sign up for a new account is May 7, and the first early FOC is May 26th. So time to get moving on this!
Once again, if the purpose of this video was to get some vital information out there, but also show that PRHPS is approaching the ever quirky direct market as an important partner that is being taken seriously….I think that message was conveyed.
Also, I’m guessing that we’re going to be seeing and hearing a lot more from Tyne Hunter.
More to come!