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Friday, September 08, 2017 

If all those variant covers were sold as wall pictures instead, it'd be much better for the medium

I should've written about this news sooner, but at least a week ago, it was reported that dozens of comic stores won't be carrying the lenticularly covered issues Marvel's foisting on the public to "celebrate" their new "event" called Marvel Legacy.

I think those stores that aren't selling them are doing the right thing, but more importantly, the speculators have to shoulder some blame - their insistence on buying the books only for the would-be monetary value is giving the medium a bad name, just like Marvel's own Secret Empire stunt does. Anyway, here's what Marvel's doing wrong:
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.
Wow, is that abuse of power! It attests to Marvel's lack of confidence that "Legacy" will sell at all. And honestly, why should it, when the same people are still running Marvel? Joe Quesada, Dan Buckley and Axel Alonso have got to go already. And speculators have got to stop buying these gimmicks for monetary value only, because there's no chance they'll have any in the future. In fact, even the artists of the variants, lenticular or otherwise, have got to think about the harm these stunts are doing to the industry's reputation, and theirs. If that's what they're in the business for, then what's the point of being artists?

That's why I think it'd be far better if comics publishers would take the artwork they're using for variants, and turn them into pictures to be hung on walls instead. Wouldn't an illustration of Mary Jane Watson and Black Cat by J. Scott Campbell look far better framed as a painting on a wall, rather than be stuck in a drawer or cardboard box where nobody may see it? I'm certain that, if Marvel, DC and various others wanted to, they could build a whole affiliated industry around wall pictures of talented artists' jobs. There's no need to waste their talents on variants that're probably being stored away in a box by naive speculators who won't read the stories. You could build whole pop culture galleries out of the artwork, and that way, make them seen by the wider public to form an opinion on each portrait.

One more reason why the retailers are doing the right thing to reject the variant cover copies. It isn't just turning the medium into a joke. It's also wasting a lot of potentially talented artists' work on books that'll never be read by speculators.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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