Who’s Later, Marvel or DC?

Tom Brevoort, in a blog post responding to a fan angry about blown deadlines, throws in this wonderfully snarky parenthetical:

It should be noted that late shipping is not a Marvel-exclusive problem. In point of fact, we have fewer late-shipping titles than our largest competitor at the moment. But you readers tend to notice ours more–I’m guessing because you’re more interested in what we’ve got going on.

I decided to check this out. I have a database tracking all DCU title orders and almost all Marvel title orders (we don’t track Punisher or marginal titles like whatever Frank Tieri’s writing). As of today, the last day in which books due in June could be on time, I show the following for Marvel. (Add two months to the code for the due date; an APR06 code means the book was due in June.)

TitleOrder CodeNotes
Daredevil: Father #6 (of 6)OCT051954Promised for 2005.
Genext #1 (of 5)APR062064I’m not sure what this is — another mutant miniseries?
She-Hulk #9APR062054
The Thing #8APR062056Final issue, so not surprising that no one’s rushing it out.
Ultimate Fantastic Four #31APR061999Written by Mark Millar, who’s had health issues.
Ultimate Wolverine v. Hulk #3FEB061987Written by a TV writer, and they tend to have higher priorities elsewhere.
Ultimates 2 #12APR062000Also Millar.

And here’s the DCU titles.

TitleOrder Code
All-Star Batman & Robin #6APR060172
Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #43APR060205
Batman: Journey into Night #11 (of 12)APR060181
Green Lantern #12MAR060317
Green Lantern #13APR060215
JLA Classified #24APR060223
Secret Six #2 (of 6)APR060230
Seven Soldiers #1FEB060290
Supergirl #7FEB060237
Teen Titans #37APR060237

I don’t know about specifics on many of these, but I have heard an intriguing rumor that DC is so concerned about getting the weekly title 52 out on time that they’re telling creators that that comes first, which might explain the delay on certain of their other DCU titles.

Based on this, Marvel has 7 late titles, DC 10. If you remove the books that just became late (those due this month), the score is Marvel 2, DC 3.

Brevoort is right. Marvel does have fewer late books, and I do believe that this isn’t a one-month exception. However, Marvel’s late books often become celebrated as emblems, as with Daredevil: Father (“if the head of the company can’t get his book out on time, what kind of example does that set?!?”). It’s also the case that Marvel tends to have “hotter” creators, and they’re given more slack by editors, retailers, and fans, because no matter how late they are, they keep selling.

Update: In the July Previews catalog released June 28, Genext #1, All-Star Batman & Robin #6, and Seven Soldiers #1 were cancelled.

14 Responses to “Who’s Later, Marvel or DC?”

  1. JD Says:

    Genext was a Claremont project that seems to have been put on hold because of his health issues. Actually, I never saw the solicit for it, just a scheduled date (it was probably quietly cancelled).
    Some of the DC books are regular offenders and were late even before 52 or IC ; Supergirl and Green Lantern, for exemple.
    ASBARTBW #6 has been cancelled, hasn’t it ? They resollicited #5 for in a few months… Here the main rumor seems to be that it is being rewritten because of the horrible reviews.

  2. Ralf Haring Says:

    Wasn’t Seven Soldiers #1 cancelled? I know the fourth collection was.

  3. James Schee Says:

    Supergirl has actually had to change writers, after only 1(2?) written by Rucka. Because of his work on 52, which I guess explains its delay a little.

  4. David Oakes Says:

    Seven is less then ten, but out of how many books? My sense is lately that DC is doing the old Marvel method of publishing dozens and dozens of books, presumably to grab “market share”. I doubt they have half again the number of titles, but I also bet that both companies have enough that a three title difference will be lost in the noise.

    And you are right how one really late book can totally skew perceptions. If we count “Total Lateness” (Apr = 1, Mar = 2, etc) they tie at 15. But half of Marvel’s lateness comes from a single book, DD:F. Ignoring the April books is even worse. DC has a total of 8, while Marvel has a total of 10, again due almost entirely to one outlier.

    Marvel may be late less often, but when they are late, they are LATE. All those Apr book could ship next week, and few people would care except the retailers. But “Father” has already become a cultural sign post, like “MAGE II is due next Summer”. And you can’t shake public perception just by being right.

  5. Johanna Says:

    Ralf, I think you’re right — but I haven’t looked at the cancellation list in the Previews that came out yesterday yet.

    David, for comparison, for MAY06 order codes I have tracked 49 titles for DC, 54 for Marvel (and there, I may have omitted one or two).

  6. Katherine F. Says:

    I haven’t read DC titles regularly since the mid-90s, so I can’t really compare them, but I wonder if part of the problem is that Marvel’s favoured a highly decompressive mode of storytelling, so that even when books ship on time, some readers feel cheated because not much has happened? (Which calls to mind the old joke: “The food here is terrible!” “Yes, and such small portions!”)

  7. Ray Cornwall Says:

    Tom’s complained about Slott’s lateness on the Thing in his blog. I’m hoping there’s nothing going on there- Slott’s one of the better writers working today.

    Green Lantern’s been running late for a while. Supergirl’s late partially because of Loeb’s problems (the death of his son Sam) and Rucka’s decision to leave the title after only one issue.

    I’ve long since stopped worrying over late comics. Late collections tend to bug me- why is the 2nd Invincible hardcover so damn late?- but I’m not changing my buying habits because of them. I have enough to read, really.

  8. Alan Coil Says:

    Daredevil Father is actually over 2 years late. And this after Quesada claimed last summer that the art was all done and the books would be out on time.

    Had this comparison been done 2 years ago, Marvel would have had an overwhelming lead. They have started scheduling some of their books as bimonthly or quarterly to avoid being late. For Marvel to now claim “We’re better than they are, nya-nya-nyaa” at this time is disengenuous.

  9. Johanna Says:

    Ray, that’s a good point, about already having enough to read. Breaking the release day cycle is another side effect of the growing percentage of the market dedicated to book-format comics.

    Alan, it wasn’t Marvel, it was one of their editors. And the point is that, yes, Marvel has improved on their track record from just a few years ago.

    I don’t care as much how books are scheduled (although big delays in miniseries issues are annoying) as that they make the release dates they promise. So moving to a longer schedule is ok with me. But the flip side of that is that they also now have some titles coming out 16 or 18 times a year.

  10. Jer Says:

    Brevoort misses a key point (one that is alluded to in comments above) – people don’t really get on Marvel’s case for books that are late NOW, the “bad blood” is there for years of Marvel treating their published release schedules like they were suggestions instead of targets. Every late book that Marvel has now is lemon juice in a paper cut that was sliced a long time ago.

    The classic examples are not only Daredevil: Father (and I can’t believe that this STILL isn’t finished), but also Kevin Smith’s Black Cat series and NYX – the delays on these books were absolutely staggering in comparison to anything folks had seen before, so they became jokes which Marvel is still getting slammed for (perhaps unfairly at this point). Plus, for each of these books there didn’t seem to be the outstanding personal problems that plague other books (like Loeb’s work due to his son’s death, or Millar’s health problems), so there’s less slack from the fans when it looks like its not things beyond the creators’ control, but rather incompetence on someone’s part. Marvel’s not going to recover from these jokes overnight.

    DC had better watch out, though — by stretching their cornerstone creators so thinly and piling them all into the weekly stunt that is 52 they run the risk of building a rep for lateness themselves. People are willing to wait for quality books, but more than a month or so late consistently, and it just looks like someone in editorial is dropping the ball.

    And, Ralf, even if Seven Soldiers #1 has been cancelled for now to be resolicited later, its still late. The “event” was supposed to be done in May — if it takes them to September to get the book done and on the shelves (which sounds like what’s going to happen), its still 4 months late. There may be understandable reasons for it, or not (I haven’t heard any GOOD ones yet — most of them boil down to Morrison being too busy working as a Universe architect to get a finished script to Williams), but it’s still late.

  11. Ralf Haring Says:

    If a publisher cancels a book and resolicits it later, they’re being much more responsible than if they let it languish on the late books list. They’re freeing up retailers’ monies to be used on other things in the interim.

  12. Jer Says:

    Ralf –

    Sure, and I think its the right thing to do, and I’m glad that it appears to be DC’s standard modus operandi when the situation comes up and the book is going to be more than a month late. But its still late, and it seems to be for the same reason that some of the books that Johanna listed from DC are late — because of Infinite Crisis and 52. Half of the books on that list are by DC’s “core group” of creators pushing to get their new and improved DCU up and running this year.

  13. Alan Coil Says:

    To pick a nit, the statement was made by a Marvel editor at the Marvel site, and he used the collective “we”, so it is a Marvel comment, IMHO. But, okay if others don’t think so.

    I also don’t really care much about how the books are scheduled, except in the cases where they promise the book will be out on time. A comment made at Newsarama today seems to indicate that the next issue of Daredevil Father has again been delayed.

    A few times in the 2004 and 2005, Marvel put out several bi-monthly issues, but in the next month or two, skipped a month. However, part of this problem is possibly laid at Diamond’s feet. They sometimes don’t ship a book the week it is scheduled to be out. This shows up as a missed month if the issue was due out the last week of the month.

    Katherine: I agree about those portions. Every time I go there, it seems they are smaller than the time before.

  14. Flaming Dork Says:

    It is the undeniable fact that has DC more schedule foibles than Marvel and they do have a nasty habit of canceling titles. However this careless attitude Marvel has regarding its fans has made me stop reading their titles altogether.

    DC practically breaks its neck to push a good title out even going as far as cutting off a limb or two. Marvel kinda has this “Whenever you’re ready Joss, Allan, Kevin, JMS, you’re charcters will still be waiting for you! Don’t worry about the hacks!” mentality that I do not particularly care for.

    I also didn’t care for Tom’s statement. If you’re my dealer and I’m jonesin’ for comics, you sold me a lot of bad weed over the past three years. I think I’ll go to the dealer across the street.




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