Siege-for-Lanterns: So just why is Marvel all up in DC’s grill, anyway?

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From the moment Marvel sent out its DC-tweaking press release late on Wednesday afternoon, Siege-for-Lanterns is Topic A at BarCon and in private chatter.

Why? Why did Marvel turn the clock back to 2001-2, when Nü Marvel under Bill Jemas and Joe Quesada delighted in playing Scut Farkus to DC’s Ralphie at every opportunity — calling DC AOL Comics, and so on. Jemas also delighted in getting hostile with retailers. But in 2010, things with Marvel seem so be going pretty smooth with that whole Disney thing and all, so why now? Why such an aggressive in your face move here and now?

The move suggested that retailers were laboring so under the burden of having to order so many copies of lower selling Blackest Night tie-in books in order to get a few plastic rings that Marvel had to come to the rescue, offering a valuable SIEGE tie-in variant of their own. Adding insult to injury was that the returns had to be “stripped” — the covers torn off and mailed to Marvel. Defacing any comic is difficult for most of us, and the psychological damage of tearing apart stacks and stacks of Blackest Night tie-ins might have deep psychological repercussions for retailers.

Returnability in comics is rare enough these days. So why here, why now?

Comics Alliance rounded up some retailer reaction, and it was definitely more “Oh boy, a stunt,” than “Thank you Marvel for rescuing us from DC Blackest Night tie-ins!” especially given that the would have to destroy $200 worth of retail product — the SIEGE #3 Deadpool variant they got in return would have to sell for over $100 to make good on the deal. Here’s Andy Johnson of Cosmic Monkey in Portland, OR

“I think it’s completely obnoxious, but I also kinda love it at the same time. It seems like going out of your way to offend the other company, like a negative ad campaign… I can think of a customer that would want the variant, and it could be a nice way for some people to recoup on those unreturnable ‘Blackest Night’ covers, but it seems like poor sportsmanship. I actually wish Marvel would do something like this with their own titles, like ‘Dark Reign,’ because we seem to have a lot more problems with them than the ‘Blackest Night’ tie-ins. With the economy the way it is, it would be better for companies to focus on quality products than creating hype.”


We talked to one of our retailer pals, who suggested that some retailers were planning to buy MORE of the DC books in order to get the Marvel variant, so sort of a backfire there. This retailer also suggested that the whole thing was purely meant to be a funny dickish move. “Most the retailers I know either chuckled or rolled eyes and moved on — some are going to get a lot of money for the Marvel variant and potentially buy more DC 2nd prints.”

Talking to some of our other inside the beltway correspondents, however, and at DC itself, the mood was more “Who and why??!!” Some people wondered if such a bold, aggressive move wasn’t part of a scheme to find out what retailers were ordering from DC — although perhaps a slightly more low-key way could be found — like asking. It was also suggested that the move – going outside of Diamond’s practices but using their ordering system — might go against Diamond’s policies.

Other observers felt that the move might be some kind of specific retribution against some specific move by DC against Marvel — perhaps a talent or executive poach. If so, it was still a surprisingly strong reaction, especially given the generally business-first tone that Marvel’s publisher Dan Buckley has set in recent years. It was suggested to us that Buckley would obviously have had to know of and offer some approval for the move, so he would need some strong persuasion.

201001151355 Siege for Lanterns: So just why is Marvel all up in DCs grill, anyway?
Indications are that Marvel was fully aware of the kind of reaction they’d get. Sean T. Collins summarizes the twitter feed from Marvel’s Tom Brevoort which offers some insight:. Brevoort’s statement:

We heard from a number of retailers who got stuck with books chasing rings and decided to do something. We’re not making any money on the deal, but we are helping our retailer partners during a tough economic time. Making sure that our retailers can keep the doors open if they tied up a lot of cash on inventory they can’t move. We’re doing this because we’re in the business of selling content rather than Cracker Jack prizes. And we need retailers to be able to keep the lights on and afford to order next month’s books. [Marvel won't be accepting trade-ins for unsold Dark Reign and The List books] because there, what we were selling and what the retailers were buying were the books. But DC can if they want to! Retailers ordered those books for the content–that’s part of the job, knowing your clientele. I think smart retailers know how to gauge the interests of their clientele most of the time and order appropriately.


We’re sure there are some oft-suggested OTHER ways Marvel could support their retail partners — like keeping their trades in print, for one — but Brevoort didn’t mention that.

While we mulled over the deeper conspiracy theories over the Siege-for-Lanterns move, it seems David Brothers has the most likely solution, in a past entitled Marvel vs DC: What’s Beef?

First is the timing. This is the first real week of comics news in 2010. Last week was Christmas recovery and fairly light. This week, DC has been slinging high profile announcements left and right. Among other things, they’ve shown off Gail Simone being back on Birds of Prey with some crappy artist, a preview of Jock’s take on Batwoman with Greg Rucka, a look at the Return of Bruce Wayne, and Keith Giffen is getting a Justice League book. Fan-service announcements all, two trying to recapture past glories and two pimping big deals. Add the announcement of Brightest Day, their new biweekly comic and probable spine of the DCU, into the mix and you have a big week just three days in.

This press release is aggressive and instantly controversial, the type of thing that makes people want to argue about it ad nauseam. It’s sharp and pits the two companies right up against each other, upping the ante on the competition between the two companies. It also disrupts DC’s grip on the news cycle in a very major way. At the time of this writing, the Robot6 article on Gail Simone’s return to BoP has 32 comments. The piece on the press release has 107, despite being posted several hours later. Marvel pushed DC right out of the limelight with something that is sure to cause discussion (fights) for days to come.


So yeah, as Brothers puts it in the comments section, it’s kind of just “reasserting your superiority on someone’s good day by kicking their sand castle over in front of their girl.” Blackest Night has been DC’s most successful event in a long time, and they’ve dominated the periodical sales Top 10 — if not the rest of the chart, where Marvel still holds the edge.

DC is still in a state of flux waiting for the announcement of their new publisher, but they’ve had a good week, getting out some long simmering announcements and winning the PR battle. So Marvel just wanted to piss in DC’s Wheaties because pissing in Wheaties is fun. Or as Rich Johnston observed:

Okay, looks like printing those Brown Deadpool rings that was once suggested as a fun response to DC’s Blackest Night promotion got too pricey for Marvel.

This leaves the Beltway types wondering “What’s next?” Is this just the beginning of an exciting, traffic-spiking PR war between the Big Two? (DC has yet to respond but typically does so in more stealthy ways.) As we said, we’ll welcome the traffic such stunts bring, but ultimately, it gets a little sad and demoralizing.

And for those looking to the Jemas era as a role model, eventually even Jemas got reined in by Ike Perlmutter after retailers complained his verbal bullying was just going too far. If there’s one thing all of our Beltway insiders agreed on, it’s that the Siege-for-Lanterns Wheaties piss isn’t the kind of thing Disney likes, so the aggressive era might not last that long.

At any rate, at least the whole thing spawned a really good Hitler video.

Comments

  1. Alan Coil says:

    Putting out the rings is really no different than asking retailers to buy extra copies of books (extra copies they will never sell) in order to get variant covers.

    The ring promotion has been a great success with customers. Grown men and women going crazy over a set of cheap, plastic toy rings is just redonkulous.

    Brevoort pretending to be all “We’re saving the retailers from their own stupidity” is indeed a return to the Jem@$$ era.

  2. Ken B. says:

    I liked Brian Hibbs line from his column:

    “Finally, I kind of resent that we have situations like “Captain America: Reborn” being spoiled by its shipping late, where I think retailers have a legitimate right in asking for returns, and were rebuffed. Or things like the “Giant-Sized Hulk” fiasco where a book solicited as a softcover, instead shipped as more expensive premiere hardcover, which they also refused to take returns on.

    And yet they’ll take DC books back from us now.”

  3. I don’t have much to add because I both love it and hate it for reasons that everyone has expressed, but I will say this: that Hitler meme just does not get old.

  4. Hmm… what….? Rings… stripped books…?

    Did I miss something of interest here…?

    I didn’t think so. Hey, everyone… I just picked up “Lola: A Ghost Story”, a great-looking book by J. Torres Elbert Or, from Oni Press!

  5. Heh… DC could really slap Marvel in the face by:
    1) shipping everything when and how DC said they would,
    2) take returns for everything they got wrong, and
    3) rubbing Marvel’s face in the wet spot and yelling “Bad Dog!” whenever Marvel fails to correct their mistakes by accepting Marvel’s returns for DC credit, making a nice big display at NYCC or CCI of those returns, and then donating those books to libraries and schools for a nice tax deduction and PR.

  6. Jim Caldwell says:

    Hmm… what….? Rings… stripped books…?

    Did I miss something of interest here…?

    This coming from the man who was so disappointed by DC’s Genesis crossover mini that he mailed them back to DC’s top three execs in standard business envelopes?

  7. “Beltway”? So this cottage industry is equivalent to Washington DC now?

    As usual, Marvel’s marketing department gets the last laugh, and all the whiners get is bupkiss.

  8. “We heard from a number of retailers who got stuck with books chasing rings and decided to do something. We’re not making any money on the deal, but we are helping our retailer partners during a tough economic time. Making sure that our retailers can keep the doors open if they tied up a lot of cash on inventory they can’t move. We’re doing this because we’re in the business of selling content rather than Cracker Jack prizes. And we need retailers to be able to keep the lights on and afford to order next month’s books. [Marvel won’t be accepting trade-ins for unsold Dark Reign and The List books] because there, what we were selling and what the retailers were buying were the books. But DC can if they want to! Retailers ordered those books for the content–that’s part of the job, knowing your clientele. I think smart retailers know how to gauge the interests of their clientele most of the time and order appropriately.”

    You know i’ve read alot of bs on the internet over the years but this statement right there has to top the list. The idea that retailers got stuck with these books is laughable, all of these ring issues sold very well so well that most of them have second printings blowing this myth that overoders left shops with inventory that they can’t move.

    Secondly, I had no idea that a couple of cool plastic rings would have grown executives so butthurt over at Marvel that they would get their little mickey mouse panties in a bunch and come out with a bitch move like this.

    The fact is that Marvel just showed their hand instead of hyping up their big event which is going to take over the charts in the next few month, they instead chose to go at DC’s huge event proving that Marvel can’t take getting their ass beat on the top of the sales charts even when they are still selling more product overall.

    Simply put DC isn’t the one who’s event Captain America Reborn flopped and is losing tons of readers issue to issue, they are not the ones who flopped with this Dark Reign non-sense that people cant’ wait to end. No they are the one’s who are doing events right and not only giving people a good book but with the ring promotion giving lesser books a boost in sales, I really hope that DC returns the favor so they can expose just how badly the current Marvel gimmicks and crap storylines have failed with even their most devoted zombies.

  9. “This coming from the man who was so disappointed by DC’s Genesis crossover mini that he mailed them back to DC’s top three execs in standard business envelopes?”

    No, that was a man at least 10 years younger than me, who was foolish enough to buy that kind of crap whenever it was put it front of him. I’m not sure whether to be flattered or concerned that his little protest way back then made such an impression on anyone. :)

  10. Joe S. Walker says:

    “Defacing any comic is difficult for most of us, and the psychological damage of tearing apart stacks and stacks of Blackest Night tie-ins might have deep psychological repercussions for retailers.”

    On the other hand, it might do them good. Perhaps Free Comic Book Day should be replaced with Destroy-A-Comic Day, with competitions for the most fun and inventive ways to do it.

  11. Adam Lugibill says:

    “Defacing any comic is difficult for most of us, and the psychological damage of tearing apart stacks and stacks of Blackest Night tie-ins might have deep psychological repercussions for retailers.”

    That’s one of the most ridiculous sentences I’ve ever read on this blog. As retailers, we have to destroy comics every other week or so when we do damage and overage returns. I’ve never hesitated to strip a cover off of anything. Honestly, I think it’s fun to tear into the things.

    It’s just comics. It’s just product.

  12. mark coale says:

    the great thing about a mass-produced product is that if something happens to one, you can just get another.

  13. “It’s just comics. It’s just product.”

    And this mentality is why non-Marvel or DC comics struggle to survive.

  14. “And this mentality is why non-Marvel or DC comics struggle to survive.”

    That has nothing to do with this argument or the point Adam was making, Mario. His point is that retailers are required to destroy product on a weekly basis, so acting like it is sacrilegious is silly.

    As a small comics publisher and a retailer, I think that you are off on this. Plus, on a side note, destroying small press comics is something that we are almost never asked to do. I don’t mean to snap at your point, but Adam and I are both retailers who work at an incredibly indie friendly store. We carry tons of small press books and do whatever we can to help cartoonists trying to break in.

  15. Smart retailers don’t have a dog in this fight.
    We took pre-orders for the tie-ins and tied the sales to the rings for free.
    All pieces accounted for, sold and 100% of our customers are happy.

    BTW, all of the profits from incentive variants sold through the month of January at Green Brain Comics will be donated to benefit the survivors of the Haitian earthquake.

  16. John Spert says:

    How exaggerated does a remark have to be in order to be recognized as sarcasm? Apparently more so than Heidi’s comment about stripping covers. Sheesh!

  17. That video was great!

    You know, this whole Marvel accepting DC returns is really all about Joe Quesada getting his Mickey Mouse panties in a knot because Green Lantern — GREEN LANTERN — is beating the shit out of Marvel titles that once dominated the top ten sales charts.

    Seriously, both X-Men and Spider-Man were the hot buzz books for years and years before Joe Quesada took over. Now, X-Men has become a caricature and Spider-Man still retains the godawful stink from the single worst Spider-Man story ever told in the entire history of the character — the Joe Quesada OMD — a story that created a stink so bad, the stenc still lingers two years after the fact.

    For those who can’t really see — here it is: Marvel’s been beaten, slammed by the Hal Jordan Green Lantern — a character who many clamed was old, stale, outdated and irrelevant for years.

    If the outdated and irrelevant Hal Jordan Green Lantern can give Marvel’s Spider-Man and X-Men a slap in the face hard enough to get Marvel Execs all up in a tizzy, what then does that say about the quality of Marvel Comics?

    Yeah, Joe’s panties are in a knot. Next time though, he may want to try quietly using Summer’s Eve. We can still smell him coming a mile away but at least if he douched in private, he’d make less of a public spectacle of himself and the company he helms.

  18. James Dell says:

    If you ask me Marvel in 2001-02 was at a much better point in its history and telling better stories than what is happening now in 2010. Maybe back then the rivalry was more justified. Right now, both companies are just desparate for quality and have to cater to the lowest common denominator by raising prices and scheduling event books which simply overwhelm the consumer.

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