Marvel's announcement Wednesday that they would trade a special variant issue of Siege #3 for unsold DC Comics has certainly gotten a reaction, but most of the retailers we contacted said they won't be participating.
"There is no way I'll participate," said Jason Pierce, owner of Alter Ego Comics in Muncie, Ind. "Even if I had these issue still in stock, it's $100 (my cost) worth of product for a single comic! I would have to sell that individual comic for $100 to just break even."
"We probably have enough of the books on hand to qualify for the offer, however, we will not be participating in this promotion, and I doubt that many other retailers will take Marvel up on this offer," said J.C. Glindmyer, owner of Earthworld Comics. "If Marvel was truly serious about taking some of the thunder from DC, they would offer a copy of Siege for copies of a Blackest Night book. This is the proper way to build a promotion that will actually benefit publishers, retailers and fans."
Marvel's incentive offers retailers a free Siege #3 Deadpool variant for every 50 stripped covers they send in from the following issues: Adventure Comics #4, Booster Gold #26, Doom Patrol #4, Justice League of America #39, Outsiders #24, or R.E.B.E.L.S. #10. The DC Comics included in the offer were part of a promotion by DC Comics during Blackest Night that included free colored rings, requiring retailers to buy a certain number of those comics to get a bag of rings.
"From a retail perspective, [Marvel's offer is] questionable," said Matt Price, owner of Speeding Bullet Comics in Norman, Okla. "It's a high dollar value of comics, and some of those comics will continue to move throughout the length of Blackest Night. For shock value, though, it's interesting. I think Marvel was aiming much more at causing an online fuss than actually providing retailers with a cash-positive incentive. On that level, I think they'll succeed. This will be much discussed."
Yet among the responses, Adam Casey, manager of Ssalesfish Comics in Winston-Salem, N.C., said his store will participate, but only for the novelty of it all. "We have a small amount of unsold issues, but if a store was smart and merchandised its products correctly, as we did, then they'll have made back their money on the investment as well as getting the rings to the people who wanted them," he said.
Mike Wellman, co-owner of The Comic Bug in Manhattan Beach, Calif., said his store will also participate, since they have 78 copies of those DC Comics left on their shelves. "It's a matter of weeks before we need that shelf space for new books, so they are most likely headed to our discount bins. I'm thinking we'll be sending Marvel at least 50 of these books to redeem for some product that we can actually sell," he said.
"By the way, I'm not mad at DC for the unsold product," Wellman clarified. "We have these leftovers as a result of a very successful and innovative incentive program that brought these titles a lot of interest. It's a double win for us!"
But a few retailers had a negative reaction that was less linked to the feasibility of the exchange offer and more related to the way it "felt." For example, Joel Pollack of Big Planet Comics in Bethesda, Md., called the offer "kind of silly."
"I'm not fond of insulting behavior," he said. "I personally think Marvel looks petty by doing this."
"It kind of smacks of Marvel shouting 'horse apples!' over DC headhunting Marvel's go-to cover artist, David Finch," Casey said, "as well as DC generally putting out comics people are talking about and want to read."
Glindmyer agreed, saying the underlying intent of Marvel's offer "feels kind of slimy."
"On one hand I admire the brashness of the offer," he said. "Marvel hasn’t shown this much cajones since the Bill Jemas days. On the other hand this seems to be the kind of idea that’s born over sour grapes and a few too many drinks. I know I’m not the only retailer to suggest a counteroffer by asking Marvel to substitute some of their own recent underperformers, [such as] Captain America Reborn, Secret Invasion, etc."
"I would like to see Marvel do the same offer but instead of another company's books, use their own!" Pierce said. "I am rather certain I could find some extra Secret Invasion or World War Hulk comics lying around."
"Either way is better than nothing, but asking to send back someone else's product seems to taint the gesture," explained John Robinson, co-owner of the Graham Crackers Comics chain of stores in Illinois. "I'd have loved it if Marvel had instead stood behind their own product, something along the lines of 'You can return all those Wolverine one-shots we cranked out before the movie that you had to gamble $4.99 a piece on.' Then they'd only be feeling all the love from the retailers instead of this mixed bag."
Dean Phillips, owner of Krypton Comics in Omaha, Neb., said he liked the fact that Marvel is trying a promotion, but not one this economically unfeasible. "Unless you are choking on unsold quantities of those books, it's just not worth it," he said. "Keep on coming up with inventive ways to promote, but do so in a way that helps the industry. Why attack others when you are in a position to help the entire market?"
Robinson said his participation in the incentive depends on whether this is the only way he can obtain a Siege #3 Deadpool incentive cover. "Will it suddenly be available as a 1-in-15 incentive when we order Siege #3 (like all the other Deadpool incentive covers for the month)?" he said. "If that's the case, I will not be participating. Returning $100 at cost of product for a common item would not be worth it in any way."
Wellman said maybe the industry can actually learn from the promotion, since it points out that there was obviously an angle to exploit here on Marvel's part with the commentary on all of the unsold Blackest Night tie-ins.
"Is it a ballsy move? Sure! But again, I don't think it's nearly as vicious as folks are treating it," he said. "It reminds me of the old Boris the Bear comic from Dark Horse in the '80s. There was a glut of funny animal books on comic shelves and along comes this cuddly teddy-bear toting an M-60 that just blows away all of the ninja turtles, kung fu kangaroos and the rest of them. It was something that needed to be said and who better to say it than 'yet another funny animal' character? I think this is similar.
"Marvel is probably more guilty than DC when it comes to offering incentives and encouraging retailers to go overboard and perhaps order too many copies of certain books," Wellman continued. "They say the first step to solving a problem is admitting that you have a problem. Is this a tongue-in-cheek way for Marvel to admit that they have a problem? Hmmm..."