Friday, January 16, 2009

Why I missed the Obama comic.

I was going to let this just pass, water under the bridge and all.

But another retailer, Brian Hibbs (Comix Experience) did an autopsy on the whole mess that I thought about doing, but then shrugged.

I've borrowed heavily from his column, Tilting At Windmills, so I hope he doesn't mind.

Let us back up a little tiny bit though, and read the original solicitation for ASM #583. It looks like this:

Written by MARK WAID
After the revelations of “Mind on Fire”, love is in the air for more than one member of the cast and Pete finally gets some time out with the ladies. (and who better to bring it to you than two men who both had dates as recently as 1987!) Amidst the romance though, forces are gathering that will spell trouble for Peter in the months to come.

32 PGS./Rated A …$2.99

This is the information that retailers had when they were trying to determine their orders, accept preorders and so on. Not a thing about Obama in there.

As I’m sure most of you are aware, we have a system called “Final Order Cutoff” (FOC) for Marvel and DC comics. What this means is that our orders are able to be freely adjusted upwards or downwards before the FOC date – typically three weeks before a book ships.

The holiday season interfered with the normal FOC schedule, however – because of Christmas and New Year’s, the FOC for ASM #583 (which shipped 1/14) was the week of 12/18. We also had to FOC all of the books shipping 1/7 as well as 1/21 – three different weeks worth of FOC.

The “Marvel Mailer” with the FOC information for ASM #583 then suddenly said this:

*AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #583 OBAMA VARIANT (OCT088192, $3.99, FOC – 12/18) AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #583 (NOV082358, $3.99, FOC - 12/18) will have a previously unannounced variant by Phil Jimenez featuring Spider-Man and the next President of the United States – Barack Obama. You can order the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #583 OBAMA VARIANT without restriction if your orders of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #583 regular cover by FOC are higher than your orders for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #575 by FOC. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #583 will also feature a 5 page back-up story of Spider-Man meeting Barack Obama.

This was not the first-placed change/incentive/difference, it was the third of twelve different product changes listed for that week. Marvel typically inundates us with last-minute product changes.

The recent trend on variant covers has been a declining one – there are so many of them offered each month that they’ve ceased to be special. Further, the overall sales trend on “Amazing Spider-Man” has been a downwards one – at Comix Experience we’ve been losing roughly 10% a month in sales since “New Ways to Die” ended. So, really, the idea of exceeding our orders from eight issues back, in order to be able to order any of the Obama cover, wasn’t something that really registered to me as a viable possibility.

Of course, this didn’t account for the impact of the Slow News Day, and the media interest in the title. Ah well.

Some (many?) stores missed the notification of the Obama cover in the first place – it was the week before Christmas after all.

Some (many?) stores missed the incentive by a single copy, unfortunately reading “exceed” as “match-to,” and so aren’t receiving a single copy of the Obama cover.

Note that in that latter case, the orders were cancelled out beneath the impacted retailers with zero notice of any kind – it wasn’t until they received their invoices this week that they saw they weren’t getting them, and, of course, it was far too late to do anything about it at that point. That’s pretty bogus behavior on behalf of Marvel and Diamond, however unintentional.

I may be a Pollyanna, but I really believe that had the book had its contents and cover properly solicited in the first place, without the ridiculous hoops that retailers were asked to jump through, supply within the market could be three-to-five times what it was. This still (probably) wouldn’t have been nearly enough copies to meet Slow News Day demand, but it would have gone a long way towards letting the Direct Market put its best foot forward to the hordes of civilians arriving in a frenzy that I haven’t seen since the “Death of Superman.”

I should add that in my own case, I consider most of Marvel's mailers to be nothing more than Spam. And I tend not to use the FOC except in extreme cases, because I've found that I tend to get it right with my first orders more than my second. Ordering on the fly every week usually gets me to overorder, instead of underorder.


So there is the LONG answer as to why I missed the Obama comic, and I'm just going to sigh and send people to the blog for explanation.

1 comment:

Olde Dame Penniwig said...

Seems to me that comics sellers and booksellers ought to constantly have their ears to the ground for just such a comic! They ought to be scouring the information they receive for something like that. And the tie-in near Valentine's (the dates) is also a big bonus. If displayed with other romantic stuff, I bet some ladies would have bought it for their husbands or boyfriends. Someone like me, who doesn't even buy comics, will buy the Spiderman comic b/c of PEBO. But then again, you've had your store for how long? And made a living off of it -- this is just a blip for you.