Comic Store Owners Refusing to Carry 'Marvel Legacy' Issues

Marvel Legacy Cover - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of Joe Quesada/Marvel Entertainment
Could order restrictions stall the company's fall comic book relaunch?

Marvel Entertainment's fall comic book line relaunch Marvel Legacy has hit a speed bump ahead of its September debut, with an increasing number of retailers telling customers that they won't be offering sought-after editions of each series' premiere issue.

The Legacy relaunch begins in September with Marvel Legacy No. 1, and rolls out across the line over subsequent months, with 53 different series being renumbered or launching new storylines as they adopt the branding. The first issue of each series to bear the Legacy branding will come in a variety of editions, including one with a lenticular cover featuring special artwork harkening back to a classic cover from Marvel's past.

Traditionally, such lenticular covers, which have been used repeatedly by Marvel's primary competitors DC in recent years, are big sellers. Fans generally respond strongly to the novelty — and the fact that they're usually linked to high-profile issues promising big story revelations or some other unusual offering, make it seem like an ideal promotional tool for the first Legacy issues of each series.

Here's a look at one of the special covers, which changes depending on the angle you are holding it at.

The problem is, Marvel has announced a particular minimum number of orders that retailers have to hit for each series in order to be permitted to order the lenticular covers — and those numbers are prohibitive, to say the least.  It's a little complicated, so we'll use a simple example.

Say you run a store, and you regularly order 10 copies of Iron Man. Marvel will ask that you order double your regular batch in order to gain access to the lenticular covers. So if your 10 regular customers all want the lenticular cover, then you'll have to order 30 copies in total: The original 10 regular covers, an additional 10 regular covers to hit the "200 percent" sales level, and then another 10, because those are your lenticular orders.

Retailer Brian Hibbs, who owns two Comix Experience stores in San Francisco, wrote about the problem earlier this month. "If you get 225% of the one you can order the other, more desirable version, but then you lose pretty much any demand for the 'regular' edition in the first place, even if you can sell 300% or more of the fancy version. Literally, you are being asked to purchase comics you can’t sell, in order to gain access to comics that you can. 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."

In response to Hibbs' article, and the complaints of multiple retailers directly to the company, Marvel revised its order requirements downward … slightly. For example, while relatively new series like Cable or The Defenders now have a "meet or exceed" level of 100 percent to qualify for ordering the lenticular covers, Invincible Iron Man's level is still 200 percent. That's still too difficult for a lot of retailers, especially when applied to 53 different comic book series across a number of months.

"I have tried to crunch numbers and have spoken to a lot of other stores and find that I'm not alone," Arizona comic store owner Jesse James Criscione shared on Facebook when explaining to customers why his story wouldn't be offering the lenticular editions. "We would have to order more regular covers than we could ever sell just to qualify for a lenticular."

"It's a very strange business model to put one's primary customer base in a position to have to purchase 2 to 2.25 times the product it knows it can sell to provide the 1 times quantity it needs for its customers," wrote Ralph DiBernardo of Rochester, NH's Jetpack Comics in a letter to customers.

As the order cutoff dates for the Legacy lenticular editions approach, more and more retailers are publicly stating that they won't be offering the covers in an attempt to take a stand against Marvel's terms. Buddy Saunders of Texas chain Lone Star Comics, which also operates the prominent online retailer MyComicShop.com, confirmed in this week's customer newsletter that he won't be offering the covers, while Irish store Big Bang Comics revealed on Twitter that, by its reckoning, "70 or so" store owners were talking about following suit.

Seventy retailers might not seem like a lot with an estimated 3,000 retailers in North America alone, but with comic book sales already weaker than usual for Marvel, the prospect of an increasingly vocal part of its retail partners restricting access to end-customers is far from ideal. Could such an event stall the Marvel Legacy relaunch?

Marvel Entertainment declined to comment on this topic when contacted by Heat Vision.