More Civil War Delayed Reaction

In response to Marvel delaying Civil War comics, several are having their say:

MacGuffin, a comic shop based around graphic novels, points out that the problem is Marvel’s publishing policy.

Riot, another comic retailer, feels similarly (link no longer available).

You may think that this just means that I’ll be saving money by not having to buy those books right now, and while that may be true, it also means I won’t be making money off those books either. And, as a new store, I don’t have the cash reserves to absorb that loss of sales. Are sales of 52 or Fell or The Escapists or any other title put out by any other publisher going to suddenly balloon to make up for it? No.

Hmmm, I sense a trend. But that’s not surprising, since the retailers are the ones who won’t be receiving thousands of dollars in income they were planning on. Plenty are planning on trying to show readers other titles they might enjoy as much or more, but that has to be handled carefully, so they don’t feel bait-and-switched.

Meanwhile, reader Mark Fossen says “what’s the big deal?” He is willing to wait for “quality art”. I’m all for consistency, but Civil War isn’t about Art — it’s a commercial product. As someone who has a graduate degree in popular culture, I’m all for finding the value in disparaged “trash”, but there’s a mismatch here between the cooption of high culture language and the commercial realities. This isn’t “I need three more months on my movie to get things right and make it enjoyable” — this is “we’re delaying 80% of our studio’s releases because one director/writer team aren’t getting their movie out on schedule.”

Mark says Marvel can’t win — but why should they? They’re the ones that created this situation.

18 Responses to “More Civil War Delayed Reaction”

  1. Ralf Haring Says:

    Sucks for retailers for who were counting on those sales. Flat out, unequivocally sucks.

    As a reader, I’d rather they wait and have the whole thing drawn by McNiven. Civil War is unlikely to be as historically important as Dark Knight or Watchmen or whatever other examples people are dredging up, but that doesn’t mean I Need-It-Now-Now-Now-At-All-Costs. It’s fluff entertainment, but that doesn’t mean I want it to look crappy.

    After having jumped on the event bandwagon for a bit for nostalgia’s sake with House of M and Infinite Crisis, I’m waiting on the collection with Civil War, even though the idea behind the series appeals more to me than either of the previous two.

    The extremely cynical part of me thinks that the more this kind of thing happens and the more people break their monthly habit because of it, the better off the industry will be in the long run. That’s assuming that I think people actually will vote with their money by breaking their monthly habit, which I find extremely unlikely.

  2. Johanna Says:

    I’d be more sympathetic to waiting on the art if most of the rest of Marvel’s line wasn’t affected by this.

  3. Martin Allen Says:

    I agree that it’s bad for retailers, and I’m not happy about that, since I like my local shop. However, I think the comparison with films made in the penultimate paragraph of the post is illegitimate. At least incomparable. We simply have no idea what film studios would do in such a situation, since film studios don’t ever release a dozen different film franchises at once, all interconnected, with events in one crucially affecting events in another. Comics are different that way, and who knows what would happen…

    My guess? The studios, if they faced such a problem, would force things through, bottom line and release date first and foremost in their minds. Maybe that’s a better policy; we have to ask DC fans, who complained (and still complain) mightily about the fill-in artists and patch-jobs needed to get the last Crisis out in time. So, DC is more professional, and releases an inferior product. Marvel is less so, and sticks to what they claim is the work with more integrity. What’s the better model? Depends who you are.

    For fans, it’s a wash; we wait a little longer to spend our money, and we get the artist we were promised. This isn’t about pretensions to “high art”, it’s about getting that product that Marvel said they would deliver. For the retailer, it looks like a rip-off, plain and simple. And so it turns out that the interests of the end-product consumer and mid-level dealer diverge here. Not surprising, even if unfortunate, since we occupy different levels in the food chain.

  4. James Says:


    I don’t think Joanna’s comparison to the film industry is as far off as it appears at first blush. If I recall correctly during the ’70s and early ’80s films were sold to the distributors with a firm in theater date set before the film was completed. Releasing a film late left exhibitors in much the same situation as the comic retailers are going to be stuck in due to this delay. In order to prevent that movies would be rushed through completion, leaving us with such classic film flubs as Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The studio made a promise to their retailers and they had to keep it.

    On a completely different thought. Am I wrong in remembering a post somewhere out on the comicblogoweb where a Marvel editor was taking s backhanded swipe at DC by pointing out that there were more late books from DC but the Marvel books are the ones that generate the buzz?

  5. Johanna Says:

    Martin, you’re right, in some ways comics are like nothing else out there. (The lack of street dates, for example, because many publishers and retailers don’t trust other retailers.)

    As for the DC situation, they’re resolving it in the only version that will matter long term: the collection. Should we look at stapled periodicals as “beta tests” for the later, “correct” version?

    James, you’re not wrong. It was Brevoort at the end of June. Here’s the post I made about it.

  6. Lisa Lopacinski Says:

    I’m less worried about the delays than I am about when we get blasted with the whole bunch once they’re back on schedule. There are plenty of good comic books out there, and people will still buy New Avengers and Civil War and the others. I can find things to sell, and don’t necessarily mind a few smaller invoices. But then we’ll get blasted week after week as everything catches back up and ships in these large batches. Then customers can’t afford to get them all at once, and I have a huge invoice from Diamond to pay for.

  7. Lyle Says:

    With film studios, blockbuster release dates are announced well in advance (to try to intimidate other studios from putting their blockbuster on the big weekends) long before production issues that would delay a film have a chance to surface. A lot of money goes into those dates (you’ll often see millions spent on a Super Bowl ad for a movie six months away) that would be mostly wasted if the movie were delayed (since you’d have to spend more money communicating the new date). It becomes a choice between two expensive moves.

    Comic publishers don’t have to worry so much about this because comics fans are so used to devoting energy into following the industry (if you follow periodical comics and don’t make yourself a checklist based on the shipping lists, you’ll quickly feel lost) so they don’t have as much of an investment in arrival dates… plus it’s not really the publisher’s imperative to communicate in-store dates to comics buyers, it’s the retailers who are most affected by their customers knowing which new books came out.

    Then again, this also leaves retailers with incentive to try to convert their customers to more reliable events like 52. Thirteen weeks in, I wonder if any retailers have considered making discounted starter packs of the early issues.

  8. Johanna Says:

    One of the retailer complaints I hadn’t thought of revolves around new readers attracted by some of the mass market publicity Marvel’s done. They’re not used to coming into the store regularly, and they don’t (yet) read a bunch of different titles. The fear there is that they come in the next few times, hear “nothing new yet, sorry”, and just drift away from comics.

    Yes, retailers should be trying to sell them something else they’d like, but there’s no obvious answer to that.

  9. ChuckSatterlee Says:

    As a small press publisher, we are trying to get in touch with as many retailers as possible, letting them know that there are alternatives. Thus far, it hasn;t been too bad for us.

  10. Paul O'Brien Says:

    The problem, of course, is that the disruption to Marvel’s schedule presents retailers with a cashflow problem. That makes “order loads of indie books and cross your fingers” into a very high-risk strategy.

  11. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Yet more Civil War reaction: […]

  12. Johanna Says:

    Chuck, that’s certainly trying to make lemonade!

  13. ChuckSatterlee Says:

    It’s not like we’re trying to push Of Bitter Souls or Mutation (relatively unkown titles) on retailers. We are offering deals on Starship Troopers and such. These books sell well in stores already and we are trying to captialize on the situation. By offering a deal to retailers by way of a nice direct buy discount, maybe we can raise awareness and at the same time, give the retailers a viable product to sell in the interim.

  14. Ryan Day Says:

    The film comparison holds up pretty well if you apply it to the big franchise movies. Take Lord of the Rings, for example: They had one film scheduled each year, for a very specific season and date. Pre-Christmas is a key movie release time; if the film isn’t finished, even by a couple weeks, you’re pushing it into the wasteland of January. Nobody releases movies in January, so realistically they’d reschedule it to spring or summer.

    And then, on top of that, you’ve got the DVD cycle to consider: If the film release is delayed, so is the regular DVD; so is the Special Edition DVD. The special edition DVDs came out shortly before the next film; if they come out at the same time, people are too busy with the next film to worry about the last one. And that’s assuming delays on the first film haven’t snowballed, making the second months late. Some of the stars have other commitments, meaning they’re not available to do re-shoots or ADR, or even promotion.

    You’ve also got big problems with the toy tie-ins, and the Burger King promotions, which were all set to launch in November. Posters and commercials and trailers all need to be scrapped and re-done.

    Never mind the public perception that because the film is delayed, something must be going terribly wrong; how much is that going to cut into the box office?

    And then Peter Jackson says “Hey – Do you want a crappy movie in December, or a good one in March? Because the only way you’re going to see Fellowship of the Rings in December is if we replace Elijah Wood with Jason Priestly in half the scenes.”

  15. Johanna Says:

    Chuck, I saw some of the details on that, and I thought it was a good idea handled well, because you pointed out some of the special offers you had on your product in a very informative way.

    Ryan, great elaboration! I hadn’t thought about all that, but you’re right, it’s a process, not just a single release.

  16. Lyle Says:

    Ryan, that’s a really good point about the related products that depend on a blockbuster film arriving on schedule. That really does make for an apt Civil War metaphor.

  17. ChuckSatterlee Says:

    Thanks, Johanna.

  18. Guy LeCharles Gonzalez Says:

    The fear there is that they come in the next few times, hear “nothing new yet, sorry”, and just drift away from comics.

    That’s exactly what happened to me in 2001 when Dark Knight Strikes Again #3 was ridiculously delayed. I hadn’t been in a comics store in years, and every time I wandered into one looking for that last issue, it still hadn’t shipped and I didn’t bother looking around for anything else because I wasn’t there for comics, I was there for DKSA.




Most Recent Posts: