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Obama IS too popular, at least in comics

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The other day, we approvingly noted how much international press this week’s Spider-Man/Barack Obama team-up comic had gotten. Tons of press, appearances on everything from Drudge to CNN to Rachel Maddow, it’s all good, right?

Well, you’d think so, except that Marvel’s ordering policies on the book have retailers complaining that they won’t have enough to meet all the interest drummed up by the publicity. For a short version, here’s someone named “Williams” in a Comics Should Be Good! comment thread:

Oh what the heck I’ll tell you myself: Ordering an amount of Amazing Spiderman #583 equal to or greater than total pre-orders for Amazing Spiderman #575 qualified retailers to order the Obama cover of #583. Sales for Amazing Spiderman #583 would have been down from #575 (an anniversary issue to boot) so this created a situation where dealers were FORCED to buy unsalable product so that they could then spend more mioney to get quantities of the Obama cover. This, in turn, makes the regular cover version less salable than it would have been. This is is a waste of paper and money not to mention usurious behavior on someone’s (either Marvel or Diamond Distribution) part. Comic companies and distributors should not be in the business of manipulating the collectibles market. Remember: these are “dated periodicals.”


Brian Cronin stepped in to chide Williams for being a Debbie Downer, but other retailers shared some of his ire. The announcement of the Obama story went out in a fairly little noticed Marvel retailer mailing, and many were simply caught short or didn’t want to order extra copies of the “non variant” cover edition, fearing they’d be stuck.

With the flood of attention, however, Marvel must have realized that this could be another blockbuster issue and quickly announced a second printing, according to a Diamond alert:

To meet expected demand for this momentous issue, Marvel has now announced it’s heading back to press to offer the Amazing Spider-Man #583 Obama Second Printing Variant (NOV088096D), featuring a re-colored version of the original Obama variant cover drawn by Phil Jimenez.

This variant carries an FOC date of today, January 12, and is expected to ship on January 21. No order qualifiers apply, allowing retailers to order as many copies of this variant as they wish while supplies last.


This isn’t the first time that Marvel has had a hot ticket comic available in limited supplies due to retailers. Remember CAP #25? And it is undoubtedly true that many retailers like to complain about a thing, even as they are selling that thing in hotcake-like quantities. At the end of the day, the entire kerfuffle seems to have pointed up all the torsions in the direct sales market pipeline: Marvel’s usual method of an “ordering incentive” backfires when the item unexpectedly catches the eye of the “civilian” world, and retailers, already pressed to pay attention to countless “Trust us, it’ll be big!” promises, fail to note something that really can be big.

While it’s tempting to chalk the whole thing up to a lack of product confidence or trust at many levels, hopefully Obama won’t be caught receiving any special attention from an intern by his second day in office, he’ll remain popular, the second printing will arrive and many copies will be sold at cover price.

Ebay speculators are already more hopeful. We’ll see how that works out.

  1. Enjoy the honeymoon while it lasts. Sitting on the political fence, politicians are not my cup of tea. Hail to the chief for now. Obama is the symbol of hope for all Americans and the world. He is as much a symbol just like Superman and Spider-Man. Hope he is what we need. Mix that with politics and most likely we are at the losing side at times. I am tired of repeated scandals.

  2. That particular ordering scheme does make it look like a sales gimmick, don’t it?

    Sad if it is, that they need a cameo from a real world politician to do what apparently a new status quo and all those top writers and artists can’t.

  3. from the posting: “The announcement of the Obama story went out in a fairly little noticed Marvel retailer mailing, and many were simply caught short or didn’t want to order extra copies of the “non variant” cover edition, fearing they’d be stuck.”

    So, did some of the retailers not read the retailer notice that Marvel mailed….? (I am not sure what you meant by ‘a fairly little noticed Marvel retailer mailing, any clarification on that, Heidi? Thanks!)

  4. A lot of comic shops were “sleeping at the switch” when Marvel changed the contents of this issue from its original solicitation. It’s true that a lot of retailers have less faith in being able to sell Amazing Spider-Man as more and more of our customers drop the book with its rotating creative teams and distaste for them pushing the reset button, but it’s especially sad that Marvel also doesn’t seem to have much confidence in this title or they would have overprinted this issue significally so that it would have been available when us lowly retailers “woke up”.

  5. I forgot to mention that I am glad that a second printing is hitting stores as early as next Wednesday (Jan. 21st) so that’ll take off some of the disappointment that people will have when they visit our stores this week.

  6. “And it is undoubtedly true that many retailers like to complain about thing even as they are selling that thing in hotcake-like quantities.”

    The big problem is that most retailers were not able to ORDER hotcake-like quantities. THAT’s what we’re complaining about. Many stores are not getting the Obama variant cover *at all*, due to orders being canceled by Diamond because they got their order quantity wrong on the regular cover.

    Marvel’s ordering method for this variant cover was essentially REQUIRED retailers to speculate on this book. We (retailers) all know what happened the last time speculation drove the industry, and many of us have forsworn that model entirely as unsustainable.

  7. Have speculators not learned their lessons from the past? Comic book fans sure seem to be slow learners. In these economic times, you seriously are going to pay $30.00 and up for this comic book? In as little as two months from now, you’ll see them in the clearance box for less than cover price. These sort of special appearances don’t age very well, and are eventually revealed for what they are, crap. I’ve got 30 copies of that Spice Girls comic if anyone is interested.

    As long as buyers continue to show their ignorance, companies will continue to promote swill. You get what you deserve.

  8. I made the mistake of mentioning this at work yesterday.

    Somehow, according to the more right wing people there, this is Obama’s fault.

    This led to a long rant about how Obama is going to crack down on firearms and even start the registering of individual rounds.

  9. “You can fool some of the people some of the time…” –Abraham Lincoln

    ““You can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on.” –George W. Bush

    For those who wish to study speculation on a grand scale, read “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds” by Charles Mackay and “Tulipomania” by Mike Dash.

  10. Another detail is that orders for #583 had to EXCEED orders for #575 in order to qualify to order ANY Obama covers. Marvel’s usual incentive deals have required retailers to MATCH TO a specific prior issue. I know of several retailers who failed to read the fine print and just matched their target figure, ordered plenty of Obama covers, took reservations from many customers, only to discover upon receiving their invoices a few days ago that they’re receiving ZERO Obama covers!

    It’s sad that these retailers have missed their chance for want of a single copy, but it’s also just as sad that Diamond has no mechanism in place to call retailers who miss incentives by a mere copy. OTOH, given that orders aren’t locked until the Final Order Cutoff (FOC) and that print runs are set soon after, there probably isn’t enough time for CSRs to contact hundreds of retailers.

    One has to wonder why Marvel changed their SOP by making this incentive an EXCEED rather than a MATCH TO. The only conclusion I can come to is that they wanted retailers to order that EXTRA COPY, a pathetic greed grab.

    I also know of a few retailers who contacted their customer service representative to place their order with the correct minimum, only to have their CSR enter the wrong quantity, which they didn’t discover until a few days ago.

    Based on a normal order for ASM, we had to order an extra 45% to quality, and ended up ordering an extra 70%, getting a small handful of Obama covers, which are all going to ASM subscribers. We’re pulling all the regular cover of the stand and will only sell them to our loyal customers, limit one per. People who call and those who come in who we don’t recognize will be told that copies are already reserved for our regulars, but that we’d be happy to hold them copies of the second printing (which we ordered at about 3x normal). All copies will be cover price.

    So far we’ve been fortunate that those who’ve called us have been satisfied with getting second prints. But I’ve already heard stories by several retailers who’ve dealt with irate people who were told that they won’t be getting the copies they were assured they’d receive.

    One last complaint is that retailers didn’t get to see the cover until a few days ago. Seeing an actual image, rather than an abstract description would’ve given us more confidence to place a risky order.

  11. The real problem for me is that I’m forced to piss people off. I’ve only got 25 copies of the book coming into the store. They’ll be available on a first come, first serve, one per person basis, but that means that I’ll disappoint both my regular box customers who want a copy and the walk-ins who’ll be visiting my store for the first time and think I’m an idiot for not ordering more! It’s a no win situation!

    While I don’t blame Marvel for promoting the book, I don’t like the way they handled the overall situation. I don’t like these types of ordering incentives. They almost always result in unsold product. It may look good on the monthly sales charts, but they usually result in poor sell thru.

    For those who think retailers should have been smarter and ordered more you should know that retailers are constantly being told that this or that other issue is going to hot and to order more. There was simply no way to think this issue was any more special than the other recent OBAMA issues were.

    And finally, I feel a little like the ballplayer who knows that the autograph he signs to some kid for free is going to end up on ebay selling for big bucks. As a responible retailer I will sell these books at retail to my customers, but I guarantee you next week someone will come into the store and brag to me how much cash me made when he moved the book later this week on ebay. Somehow, that’s not right.

    Dan Veltre
    Dewey’s Comic City
    Madison

  12. How about a non-passing slam? Requiring customers to order inventory you know they can’t sell to get a limited amount of inventory they can sell is strong-arming. It’s a very bad business practice that gives their competition – in this case, DC – a chance to try to get some extra business through offering better terms. I’m not saying print an Obama cover on Batman neccessarily, but when DC has a variant, they can merely require retailers to order at the same level and come out smelling like roses.

    I dunno, I guess this wasn’t a slam. I just see a tremendous opportunity for DC here.

  13. If Random House pulled stuff like this B&N’s across the country would be taking up arms. Oh wait. They wouldn’t. They’re professional publishers.

  14. If Random House pulled stuff like this B&N’s across the country would be taking up arms. Oh wait. They wouldn’t. They’re professional publishers.

  15. This is what’s wrong with Marvel, they destroyed their most popular character with gimmicks and false promises.

    That’s all the book is now. ‘Wow, the Spot is coming back!’ Who cares, it’s a terrible book and it’s done. I read an issue of the new, single Spider-man. It didn’t seem like the real Spider-man at all. It’s not like anything is ever going to happen.

  16. I think Marvel and the Obama ASM marketing ploy is a bad move and a poor choice. My retailer sang me the same song, they received no variant edition although they were promoting it expecting a limited number of copies.

    Just a note, the Obama story and art totally sucked, and was well below standard of the usual comic quality. I love the Chameleon, we haven’t seen him in a long time, and the story was idiotic. This piece of crap will be forgotten by true comics fans almost immediately!

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