The Hubbub Over Captain America #600

Preview: Captain America #600

Marvel's teaser ad for Reborn #1

As word has been making the rounds, Marvel is experimenting with breaking the whole “new comics day” of Wednesday with this month’s Captain America #600.

According to communication to retailers via Diamond, Marvel has announced that retailers may request direct-shipping of issue #600 (via their Diamond sales rep by June 5th) in order to receive the issue on Monday, June 15th, rather than on Wednesday, June 17th when copies that go through regular shipping would normally arrive.

Retailers will be responsible for the additional freight charges, and as a result, may put the copies of the issue up for sale on Monday, June 15th or Tuesday, June 16th – the first time (barring holiday changes to shipping schedules) that a regular monthly comic from one of the major publishers has gone on sale in the Direct Market on a day other than a Wednesday in over ten years.

So – why?

The solicitation for the issue itself isn’t exactly subtle about it. In part, the solicitation text reads:

Where were you when Captain America died? It's the anniversary of the day Steve Rogers was killed, a day of reflection and mourning in the Marvel U...a time to look back on the things Steve did and what he stood for... or is this issue actually the beginning of the most wicked plot twist since issue 25? Yeah, actually it's both.

Captain America #25, of course, is the issue in which Steve Rogers was killed.

Speculation is tending to zero in on hints being laid in Captain America #600 that will explain or lead into the five issue Reborn miniseries by Ed Brubaker and Bryan Hitch. According to Marvel, Reborn will be receiving national press on June 15th, or rather, is scheduled to receive national press on June 15th, pending a relatively quiet news cycle, as noted by prominent retailer Brian Hibbs, who pointed out that a major event could possibly push a pre-placed newspaper story about Reborn off a day or more.

And what is Reborn about?

That’s the question – though there seemingly have been hints (the title, the image released, the writer) that the original Captain America may be returning to the land of the living. However, Marvel’s not saying, rather it’s telling retailers and fans that Reborn will "be receiving nationwide press... possibly on par with the media coverage we received during Civil War.”

While some retailers are ordering heavily on Reborn, and did the same on Captain America #600, others, such as Hibbs are pointing out problems that they see with Marvel’s plans and more importantly, the notification. As some retailers have reported, and Newsarama has confirmed, the news of the Captain America #600 direct-ship (and potential media hubbub) came one Thursday, May 28th, the Final Order Cutoff (FOC) date for Captain America #600. However, May 28th was also the day comic shops received new books, due to the one-day delay of books thanks to the Memorial Day holiday. Additionally, according to reports to Newsarama from retailers, Diamond’s retailer website listed Captain America #600 as “sold out” on the 28th, meaning orders for the title have already exceeded the print run, or planned print run.

With history as an indicator, Marvel will certainly go to a “second printing” of Captain America #600, but again, historically, “second printings” usually ship at least a week after the first printings, and thus, the second prints of Captain America #600 would miss the June 15th announcement.

One change that has happend in all of this is that Marvel has moved the FOC for Reborn #1 to Tuesday, June 16th rather than the normal date of June 11th, a move which will allow retailers to order the issue based on the response to the June 15th announcement or reveal, which will most likely coincide with the release of the solicitation information for Reborn #1 from Marvel. 

The thing is – given the timing of the June 15th on-sale date of Captain America #600 (and most likely news in the mainstream media), and the fact that Reborn #1 doesn’t hit until July 1st, it seems most likely that Captain America #600 is the main target or subject of the news that’s coming, as historically, both Marvel and DC have opted “day-of” coverage for major story reveals in the mainstream media, that is, the story is in the press the day the comic hits comic shops. Of course then, pushing Captain America #600’s street date back to the 15th does lead to the question of how it all happened, and how much of the changed street date was Marvel’s choice, or whether the outlet influenced the move which suggests that the news may come in an outlet that hits on Mondays (such as a weekly news magazine), an outlet that perhaps has guests scheduled weeks or months in advance, or an outlet that could tell Marvel that if they want “day of” coverage, they need to change their release schedule.

And speaking of the “day of” aspect of this – the move, while it does have its problems, as retailers have pointed out, seems to be perhaps, addressing the issue of “day of” sales spikes and a quick return of sales to normal, which is the usual model. For example, Amazing Spider-Man #583, the issue which featured a guest apeparance by President Barack Obama reportedly sold over a half million copies, but sales of Amazing Spider-Man #584 were back to normal.  

With a media push to get more casual customers in stores in June for something about Captain America, Marvel has something that’s been somewhat lacking in previous “day of” media events, which is follow-through. Customers excited by Captain America #600 and driven to stores by the media can then be coaxed to return for the five-issue Reborn miniseries, which starts two weeks later. True, there will more than likely be issues with supply and demand, but regardless; it looks as if Captain America will cast a long shadow over the rest of 2009.

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