Marvel Comics and comic book retailers are trying to work out ordering requirements for Marvel Comics "Legacy" lenticular variant covers.
The "Legacy" lenticulars are sold to Direct Market retailers serviced by Diamond Comic Distributors on what's called a "Meet or Exceed" concept. That means they can buy variants in any quantity they like if they meet or exceed an order quota on the main cover edition, usually based on their own previous orders on other titles Marvel selects.
For example, to be able to purchase the Champions #13 lenticular cover, retailers need to order the main cover edition in quantities of 150% more than they ordered for The Champions #9. The publisher originally required retailers to order 200% to qualify for the lenticular covers, but it now sits at 150%.
But the percentages fluctuate depending on the title - titles such as Cable and Defenders have a 100% "Meet or Exceed" order threshold - the lowest, while for titles like Incredible Hulk and Invincible Iron Man the order threshold is 200% - the highest.
"Literally, you are being asked to purchase comics you can’t sell, in order to gain access to comics that you can," said San Francisco's Comix Experience retailer Brian Hibbs in of the program in his column at The Beat. "While a small handful of people are willing or able to buy multiple copies of the same insides, the largest majority of customers just want a single version to buy."
All 53 of the "Marvel Legacy" titles have a different percentage qualifier to unlock the ability for retailers to order the lenticular variant.
According to a Direct Market retailer familiar with the exchanges, some retailers on Marvel-retailers Facebook group expressed issues with the percentages, explaining that it was hard for them to take advantage of the program. One of the common issues among those retailers is that the "Meet or Exceed" ordering method was disadvantageous to brick-and-mortar retailers but could be advantageous for smaller stores and non-store retailers that do not regularly order Marvel single issues in high numbers.
In other words, Diamond customers who mostly order more collectible issues for sale on eBay or who have small pre-orders customer bases would have smaller sales numbers to meet or exceed than retailers who order shelf copies in large quantities or have a large pre-order customer base, but once unlocked all could order the lenticular variant in unlimited quantities.
David Gabriel, Marvel's Vice President of Print, Sales, and Marketing, told the group he would review the complaints and the percentages, and came back the next day with changes, dropping all the incentives by 25 to 50%.
When asked in the group about discontinuing the "Meet or Exceed" altogether, Gabriel responded that he communicates with retailers who succeed with these types of programs but that Marvel is always open to "find new ways of running variants that meet everyone's needs."
Here's how Marvel described the changes in their weekly retailer newsletter sent through Diamond.
"All Lenticular Homage Variants (LH Variants) listed in the August solicitations for October shipping product in the Marvel Previews #1 Catalog will now have easier to reach incentives than initially promoted."
Dennis Barger, owner of Detroit's Quickstop Comics and Wonderworld Comics, is one of those that like the "Meet or Exceed" sales strategy, and sees a silver lining in it.
"These variants are great: they're the carrot, 100-200% of the regular is the stick," Barger told Newsarama. "Sure it's a stick retailers don't want, but with Marvel throwing deep discounts, making variants count towards the increases etc, I think Marvel is doing everything right with this rebooting re-mergering that they need to to make it a success, including, making retailers order enough."
DC's recent lenticular variants for "The Button" crossover had no sales qualifiers, allowing readers to order as much as they want of the primary or the lenticular cover. DC's lenticular covers, however, were priced $1 over the primary, non-lenticular covers.
Marvel is keeping their lenticular cover price point the same as the primary covers, although the retailer discount is slightly less.
Marvel declined to comment on this story.