Posted by Don MacPherson on April 20th, 2011
In brightest day, in blackest night, why, in the same week, are double Green Lantern comics within my sight?
As I perused this week’s list of new releases to comic shops, I was struck by certain items set for release from publishers DC and Marvel Comics. Today marks the release of both Green Lantern #65 and Green Lantern Corps #59 from DC, while among Marvel’s new comics are Invincible Iron Man #503 and Iron Man 2.0 #4. While there are other titles related to those characters offered by both publishers (GL: Emerald Warriors is the third and final member of the Green Lantern family, and there are other Iron Man books available from Marvel as well). Still, it’s safe to say that for those two brands, this week’s releases are their more prominent titles. Furthermore, this isn’t the first time GL and GL Corps hit the stands on the same day or the first time for Iron Man and Iron Man 2.0 as well. Dynamite Entertainment even got in on the act this week with the release of two Green Hornet comics.
It begs the question: why are these publishers making these scheduling decisions in the first place?
It seems to me that it would be in the best interest of those two publishers, of comics retailers and of the industry as a whole to give customers a reason to visit comic-book shops more often each month. Doesn’t it make more sense to release each of DC’s three regular Green Lantern books on different weeks each month? Doesn’t it make more sense to get die-hard Iron Man fans through the doors more than once a month?
Obviously, the above argument assumes the readers in question visit comic shops whenever new releases in which they’re interested on the week they’re released. That’s certainly not going to be the case. There will be those who only buy comics once a month, for example, or fans who visit their local comic shops every week more frequently than they do their workplaces. Nevertheless, it certainly seems to make more sense to stagger the release of certain brands or properties over the course of the average month.
I acknowledge there are going to be times and circumstances that force a publisher to release not only a glut of comics the same week but a bunch of titles carrying the same brand. Late delivery of product from talent, problems at printing facilities and simple clerical errors are going to impact the scheduling of product releases from time to time. But that’s not the case with these Green Lantern and Iron Man books. I know for a fact that those two GL books have been on the same release scheduled for months, and a couple of quick web searches reveal that the main Iron Man book and Iron Man 2.0 were released the same week last month (which saw five eligible release dates as opposed to the usual four).
It’s a problem that’s plagued comics retailers — and specifically those that rely on these super-hero titles from DC and Marvel — in the past, and sadly, there’s no sign that it’s going to change. Once upon a time, we’d see multiple big X-Men releases the same week. Or JLA books or Avengers books or Batman books. We’ve seen retailers complain about this in the past, and it’s apparently done nothing to change things at the publisher level. Can anything be done? I wonder if anyone’s ever explored the notion that another key player — the distributor — could get involved. Diamond Comics Distributors ultimately controls the flow of these comics. Once they’re printed, boxes of these comics end up in Diamond’s warehouses, waiting for the day for staff members to crack them open and start picking out copies to fill retailers’ orders. It wouldn’t be all that complicated for Diamond to stagger the release of Green Lantern comics or Iron Man comics or Next Big Franchise comics to spread them out.
I suspect this possibility has been suggested, and despite the minimal effort that would be required on the distributor’s part, there may be small or even significant obstacles. Perhaps Diamond’s contracts with these publishers prohibit its interference in release schedules. What’s more likely, though, is that Diamond opts to maintain a limited perspective of the products it distributes. As far as Diamond’s concerned, this week doesn’t mark the release of Green Lantern #65, Green Lantern Corps #59, Invincible Iron Man #503 and Iron Man 2.0 #4; instead, it’s releasing FEB110114, FEB110116, FEB110508 and FEB110584. The only connections it has between those codes and the actual names and numbers of the comics lie inside its computer systems.
The only way things are going to change is if the publishers are given clear, direct indications that it’s in their best interests to schedule the releases of titles in key franchises more appropriately. And the only way for that to happen is for the issue to impact their bottom lines. But retailers aren’t going to kill their sales on certain titles to send a message (nor should they be expected to do so), and readers aren’t going to stop buying certain titles to convey that sentiment. So while related comics are being inexplicably delivered all at once, that message to Marvel and DC goes nowhere, undelivered — or at least not received — due to insufficient postage.
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