I've already written a great number of words on the subject of next month's DC "Villain month" cover stunt, and I suggest that you follow that link for some reasoned background. Sadly, the real villain of the month is DC Entertainment. As some of you might know (though, not it would seem, from the actual comics press: CBR, Robot 6, The Beat, The Reporter, I'm not finding a single link as I write this at 8:30 in the AM the day after the announcement) DC announced that each and every 3D cover is going to be allocated, and that they're doing a same-day 2D reprint for $1 less.... oh, and by the way, that's the digital price as well.
Below the jump you'll find a much fuller reaction to this latest news, as well as the actual words from DCE -- click through!
So, there's this press release that DC sent out.... that I don't have a copy of because something is wrong with my emails from DC (and ONLY DC) in the last few weeks. This is (mostly) my own problem, and I am on top of shit enough to have found it, but I think that this shows the perils of not putting out information through the "normal" channels: not EVERY retail customer of DC's is getting ALL of the information through other channels.
Here's the press release, join me after it.
Due to unprecedented demand for the September 3-D motion covers, DC Entertainment announces that orders on the 52 Villains Month issues will be allocated. These issues are now sold out at the publisher level.
Now, each 3-D motion cover issue will have a Standard Edition with a 2-D cover, priced at $2.99 US. The Standard Editions are scheduled to arrive in stores on the same day as the 3-D editions, starting with titles on FOC starting August 6 and closing on August 12, which will arrive in stores on September 4.
In addition, the entire run of 3-D motion covers will return in December in the Villains Month 3-D Motion Complete Set. This item is on FOC on August 12; see below for details.
“Because of the time needed to create the 3-D motion covers, we were forced to set September print runs much further in advance than we normally would,” said Dan DiDio, DC Entertainment Co-Publisher. “As we got close to the FOC dates, even though we were very aggressive with our sales forecasts for the 3-D editions, it was clear that orders for these issues were going to be greater than the quantities we had printed. Once we saw from the first 3-D edition FOCs that we were oversold on initial orders, we decided to institute a system across the entire 3-D line that was in accord with previous retailers' ordering patterns to minimize the impact of fringe speculators."
“It’s very exciting to see how much interest there is in these 3-D covers, which are latest in a long line of innovations from DCE, like the fold-out poster in Superman Unchained #1 or the die-cut covers from the Death of the Family issues," said Jim Lee, DC Entertainment Co-Publisher. "Our goal every September has been to create great, new ways to draw attention to our entire DC universe line and the reaction to Villains Month capped by the launch of our first universe event 'Forever Evil' has been just incredible."
The allocations will range from approximately 50% to nearly 100% on different titles. The allocations are based on an average of your orders of each Villains Month titles’ base title over the past few months.
Like the 3-D motion cover versions, the Standard Editions will be first printings of each title.
To give retailers as much time as possible to focus on ordering the Standard Editions and the 3-D Motion Complete Sets, retailers will no longer need to place FOC orders for the 3-D editions for the remaining weeks in August—therefore, the 3-D motion cover issues scheduled to arrive in stores on September 11, September 18 and September 25 will not be listed on FOC.
Retailers will receive an email from Diamond detailing their allocations on each 3-D motion cover edition before the Standard Editions’ FOC date, and should check their allocation on each 3-D issue carefully.
Retailers should watch their FOC lists in the coming weeks for the Standard Editions of all 52 Villains Month issues.
Please note that the digital versions of these issues do not have 3-D Motion Covers. Like the Standard Editions, the digital editions are priced at $2.99 US and will be available for download the same day the 3-D and 2-D print editions ship to stores.
Retailers who wish to decrease their orders on any of the 3-D motion cover issues should contact their Diamond Customer Service Representative or DC Sales Representative. DC’s red-hot 3-D motion covers are set to return in December in the new Villains Month 3-D Motion Complete Set! This set will include second printings of all 52 Villains Month titles with the 3-D motion covers plus the Forever Evil #1 3-D Motion Cover Variant Edition. (Standard Edition cover shown.)
The Villains Month 3-D Motion Complete Set (JUN138292) will be on FOC on August 12, and is scheduled to arrive in stores on December 11 with a price of $199.99 US.
Please note that because of the longer than normal production time needed to print 3-D motion covers, this is the soonest they can arrive in stores. The issues included in this set will be printed to order; they will not be allocated. Covers in this set, including Forever Evil #1, will be labeled “second printing.”
And don’t forget to order the DC Comics—The New 52 Villains Omnibus HC (AUG130289), which has its own 3-D motion dust jacket and is scheduled to arrive in stores on December 11.
So, let's unpack this a bit:
ALL DC comics are order adjustable three weeks before shipping through a process called "Final Order Cutoff" (or FOC). Seriously, each and every product DC offers goes through this process... and, this is important for later, there are a reasonable number of retailers who only put in "placeholder" for "1" copy at their "initial" order -- because DC (and Marvel and Dark Horse and Image and IDW and Dynamite and Boom!) have spent YEARS telling us that FOC is the only order that actually matters.
So, to cancel FOC (and to do so retroactively for at least one of the weeks of this stunt that we've already FOCed) is, at the very least, morally suspect, and is possibly illegal (I'd have to read the Terms of Sale closely)
As I noted in the original piece, even if YOU are an "every Wednesday" guy, that doesn't actually describe the majority of periodical purchasers -- it takes 12+ weeks to contact ALL of them (and even there, "all" is like hand grenades -- "close enough")
Now, at my store at least, the process of taking, placing and filling subber orders involves a LEGAL CONTRACT. In other words, I CAN NOT take orders for 3-D versions and fill those orders with 2-D versions instead. I could be sued for that (though, the ODDS of that happening are laughingly remote, but then that's what they said about a retailer suing Marvel comics....)
We put an enormous amount of effort into trying to educate customers about the 3-D covers, the importance of preordering them, and so on. You have to understand, as well, that a lot of folks weren't at all happy about the idea of a line of $3.99 covers, and there was a certain amount of "talking people into" signing up for them. So, to find out just three weeks before shipping that there's suddenly going to be a version of these comics without the stunts, for $1 less, well this is migraine inducing, at best.
See, if there had been ANY official and public information that this was going to happen, that there would be two versions, that these books could be allocated, the way I presented this to my customers for the last 8 weeks would have been ENTIRELY DIFFERENT.
Let me be clear here: I loath speculators, I think that collecting comics for value alone is the work of both the moron and the devil, I think that multiple covers on single stories is purely a way to trick and exploit you the consumer, and to prey upon the lowest and basest instincts and compulsions of the customer base. I think it shows contempt for you.
I run a comic book store that is much more like a book store, and we have active policies explicitly against this kind of game-playing -- things like "no variant covers whatsoever unless they are explicitly requested by the customer in advance of FOC" and so on, and yet I now believe that I have been tricked into going "all in" on a variant cover scheme promotion with an obvious bait-and-switch that I otherwise would have never have participated in if the rules had been explained whatsoever.
Understand this as well: there has been NO official communication -- no email, no FAQ, no blog post, no press release, no solicitation, nothing -- NO official communication whatsoever from DC Entertainment until this moment, three weeks before the books ship, about ANY of this.
Now, yes, if you read Rich Johnston (and many of us do) you've gotten a game of "telephone" version of what seems to have happened in the meetings (Ex: Rich reported it was said that DC was "losing money" on every copy; this appears to actually be "making a smaller profit on each copy"), but DCE never told the other (I'm guessing something on the order of) 2600 retailers who COULDN'T attend one of those meetings a damn thing about even the POSSIBILTY of allocations until after 5 pm yesterday.
So, this means that there ARE retailers out there that have been happily and aggressively promoting this stunt, racking up big preorders, selling full sets in advance of shipment, in some cases EVEN COLLECTING MONEY from consumers, all the while DCE didn't officially or formally tell the retail community that these could be allocated. Whoops!
(Also: once you put "could be" in there? You are ASSURING that it is instead "Will Be")
And some of the people who have been earnestly promoting this are also the same people who put down "1" for their initial orders just like the industry has trained them to. What will these people receive? Tune in on Friday to find out!
So, now this isn't just speculator book, it is out-and-out feeding frenzy at the trough as stores will be unable to fufill 100% of the commitments that they made causes a rippling panic throughout just enough of the customer base that even stores that "get it right" are going to be trampled by people panicking/looking to cash in.
The release says that the allocation will have a relationship to rolling orders of the "parent" title, which I think means that if I ordered 60, 63, 75, 61 on the last four issues of BATMAN, then I won't be allocated on the first 64 copies of JOKER, RIDDLER, PENGUIN, and BANE, though that's far from explicit.
One potential problem with this scheme is SETS, which is well represented by this:
|GREEN ARROW #21||
That's a big gap between "parent" titles, and it seems very likely that there are going to be too many gaps in full sets for a number of retailers.
Then there's "so just HOW do we order the 2d versions, with zero time to gather data?" that breaks the paradigm of the Direct Market in many ways, and, what is worse, is that by letting DC get away with this we've just assured that Marvel is going to think of an even bigger way to stunt/no solicit manipulate the market, because it is simply what these companies do.
Ordering an entire month's worth of variant editions, that are priced cheaper, with no ability to solicit orders, this is a mug's game -- there's NO WAY to get it right. Either you'll be horribly over or horribly under, in either case failing our primary mission: to satisfy our customer's demand while remaining profitable doing so.
Do you understand? DCE had us collect fake data, based on fake behavioral inputs (price, etc), data that would have ABSOLUTELY have changed (and probably for the BETTER) if they had told us the actual facts in the first place. A comics retailer's job IS data.
This is the comics equivalent of Lucy yanking the football at the last second from poor Charlie Brown. As I thought every time Lucy did it, I think it here: what a fucked up thing to do.
I thought for a second, "Well, shit, I'm already all-in, I can just skip the 2-Ds", but, no, DC is keeping with their "all in" on Digital, and is making digital price parity with the cheaper version, of course, so just defensively we've got to stock both versions.
The worst part of this is that it will be claimed as victory, regardless of how many retailers get burned one way or another, because it WILL be successful financially. DC isn't publishing all of their shit-selling titles during the month -- and shit-selling titles is most of what the bottom 30 or so of DC's books are these days, and they have pretty much guaranteed that the +$1 versions will be specul-leech bait. I'm probably going to make a LOT more money that month on DCE Product than any other month this year, but my problem is two-fold:
1) THIS IS NOT HOW I WANT TO MAKE MONEY. I resent being tricked into carrying two copies of every release for the month, I resent that it will play on my more OCD customer's worst habits, and that I've been railroaded into participating in it, I resent all of the insanely stupid extra work this is unnecessarily cause me in trying to track and pick and manage the two versions, work that exists purely because THEY DIDN'T TELL US THE RULES.
2) IT LEADS TO NOTHING. Great, so OCD-guy will now give me $6.98 instead of just $3.99 for that issue of PENGUIN, but how does that lead to a sale NEXT month? Let alone next year? I have limited promotional time and space, and I've been selling a bill of goods that didn't actually represent what the product really was adequately, and doesn't move forward my goals as a retailer, and I've done so because they misrepresented what the product actually was. That's shameful.