Order restrictions facing comic book retailers may cause an availability problem for fans hoping to purchase special lenticular covers coming as part of Marvel Comics' fall relaunch.
The House of Ideas will launch Marvel Legacy later this month, a major event that will effectively "reset" much of the Marvel Universe. The first wave of Marvel Legacy issues, set to hit store shelves in October, will bring the return of legacy numbering for many of Marvel's longest running titles, including Amazing Spider-Man, Avengers, Black Panther, Incredible Hulk, Invincible Iron Man, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, and The Mighty Thor.
Your favorite heroes will also return to their roots, meaning fans can expect some major status quo shake-ups: Peter Parker will go back to basics and return to the Daily Bugle in Amazing Spider-Man, while Sam Wilson leaves the shield of Captain America behind to become the high-flying Falcon once again.
The return of Marvel's classic characters will be accompanied by a line of lenticular covers, with Marvel Legacy homage variants that are "a true celebration of Marvel's history and expansive universe." Marvel's announcement noted that the lenticulars will have "limited quantities available," but they may be harder to get than previously thought: some retailers won't be carrying the special issues at all.
Shop owners will have to reach a particular minimum number of orders per series in order to send out for the lenticular covers, and the "prohibitive" numbers are causing a stir with retailers. The Hollywood Reporter explains it simply:
"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."
"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," wrote Brian Hibbs, owner of two comic shops in San Francisco. "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."
As reported by Newsarama, retailer reaction to the "Meet or Exceed" policy caused Marvel to slightly adjust the order requirements, but the numbers for bigger titles — like Invincible Iron Man and Incredible Hulk — are still at their highest at an order threshold of 200%. There are 53 titles included in the Marvel Legacy line, and all will come with a different percentage qualifier that must be reached for retailers to be able to order a specific lenticular variant.
Currently, Marvel's only response has been through the weekly retailer newsletter sent through Diamond Comic Distributors. "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," it read.
Dennis Barger, a Detroit comic shop owner, told Newsarama the lenticular variants — sure to be highly sought after by collectors — are "the carrot," and "100-200% of the regular is the stick."
Some retailers, like Arizona comic store owner Jesse James Criscione, will forego making the lenticulars available to their customers altogether. "We would have to order more regular covers than we could ever sell just to qualify for a lenticular," he wrote on Facebook. Ralph DiBernardo wrote a similar message directed to customers: "We regret to inform you that we will not have the bulk of the Marvel lenticular covers, for their Legacy relaunch, available for you to purchase on release day," reads the post.
"In the end we are being forced to purchase about 125% more product than we can sell, to be able to sell you the AWESOME cover that you want. This amounts to us being put in a position to take huge loss on every Marvel title that month, in order to get the lenticular covers for you."
"It's a very strange business model to put one's primary customer base in a position to have purchase 2 to 2.25 times the product it knows it can sell to provide the 1 times qty it needs for it's customers," says DiBernardo on the "awful position" facing retailers.
Marvel Legacy #1 arrives September 27.