Would You Buy Comics From a Marvel Branded Retailer?

Marvel recently announced that they would give new comic store owners three free months of Marvel Retailer Resource Center support.

Join the Marvel Retailer Resource Center, and your website can look like this snippet too!

  Join the Marvel Retailer Resource Center, and your website can look
  like this snippet too!

Last time I talked about the MRRC, I found out that it was a program that builds store websites for retailers. Now, this is following in long footsteps. Back in the day, Marvel actually had to set up a program to help retailers buy cash registers, because many of them were proverbially using cigar boxes to manage their money. So now that we’re in the 21st century, a website is required for any business, and Marvel wants to help. That’s great.

Unfortunately, the execution is a little different. The cash registers didn’t have big glowing Marvel logos all over them, and you didn’t have to jump through an extra hoop to ring up any non-Marvel comics you happened to sell. That’s not the case here. Check out either of these demo store websites Marvel mentioned in the PR they sent out. They scream “I only sell superhero comics! Don’t shop with me for anything else!”

Heck, the NewCastle site doesn’t even list any products that aren’t Marvel. Actually, they don’t list any Marvel products, either, since the “Marvel products” default page is noticeably badly designed and doesn’t show you anything unless you pick the right date … and it starts over a year ago, which is a dumb default. Meanwhile, the “Other products” page on the Samurai site is blank, reinforcing the “Marvel only” message.

Now, maybe that’s a message these retailers don’t mind sending. Maybe that’s their core customer base, and this is no different from putting a painted Spider-Man in your store window, as many used to do. But take a closer look — the title of these websites is “Marvel”. The URL is “marvelretailers.com”. That’s going to make it difficult to do effective search engine optimization based on their individual store brand.

At least the hours, location, and contact number are front and center of the home page. Overall, though, this is a lackluster, boring web presence that says “I couldn’t bother to put up my own web page.”

There’s still no word on how much this costs, although “Marvel incentivizes all retailers with enough product to make the MRRC virtually pay for itself!” “Incentivize” as a verb makes me itch. And “virtually” allows for a lot of wiggle room — your website should be considered a necessary marketing expense, not something to try and get for free or cheap. The program also offers some additional benefits, according to Marvel:

Get a first look at Marvel’s newest titles a week before they go on sale. Keep up to date on Marvel’s wide range of retailer incentives. Access the most up to date information on Marvel FOC and On Sale titles, simplifying your weekly ordering process.

I think some retailers may find it worth the money just to read Marvel comics early, since the print program was abolished. But should accurate ordering information be something retailers have to pay for? There’s a demo slideshow, narrated by Joe Quesada, at the Marvel site, but I couldn’t get it to load beyond the first two slides.

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9 Responses to “Would You Buy Comics From a Marvel Branded Retailer?”

  1. Brigid Says:

    Huh. ComiXology offers something similar that’s a lot less Marvel-centric: http://retailers.comixology.com/

  2. Johanna Says:

    That looks a lot better design-wise, too.

  3. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Sept. 4, 2009: A better chance Says:

    [...] Johanna Draper Carlson takes a look at Marvel’s website-building software for Direct Market retailers. [...]

  4. Kenny Cather Says:

    I would probably not buy from a store with one of these websites. I say probably because there’s always the chance I’m stuck somewhere with some money in my pocket, bored, and feel like reading a comic. But this Marvel website wouldn’t draw me in because it looks like it’s just selling Marvel stuff.

    The Comixology one is *nice*. That’s the sort of thing that would draw me in.

  5. Alan Coil Says:

    Perhaps I would if the brand was on his forehead. A scarlet M.

  6. Steve Says:

    Ouch. I never considered there would be a negative view of my marvel retailer page. My name is Steve, and I own and operate NewCastle Comics. Let me state that my MRRC page is just a supplement to my regular site, which doesn’t have anything directly for sale, either. My intent for both has really been just to let people know that I exist. I will certainly look into improving the message of what we have for sale. For the record, we have a great selection of indy and small press titles.

  7. Johanna Says:

    Thanks very much for clarifying that, Steve. It sounds like the standard MRRC page templates don’t quite fit what you’re trying to do. Did you know Marvel would be mentioning you as an example?

  8. Steve Says:

    They did notify me that they were going to mention my shop, along with a few others.

  9. Marvel Announces Support for New Comic Book Stores » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] with Marvel’s online retailer resource, prospective store owners will want to evaluate how much of a “Marvel” store they want [...]

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