Anger is raging across the comic book community due to the Villain Month allocation by DC Comics. A few days ago, I gave a few theories about what could have caused the Villain Month allocation. Let’s take a look at the Villain Month allocation timeline, take a look at the problem, and delve into some of the possible outcomes the market may/will face.
Villain Month Allocation Timeline
The Initial Announcement: June 17 – June24
DC Comics made the initial (and official) announcement about Villain Month at the DC Comics Road Show. Remember, that was the road show to meet with retailers but bypassed most of the retailers in the country…but I digress. At the time, DC Comics pushed Villain Month as one of the hottest events of the year and shed light on the 3D motion covers which would drive collectors crazy with anticipation.
Come Comic Con: July 18 – July 21
At the Retailer Lunch at San Diego Comic Con International, DC Comics Senior Vice President: Sales, Bob Wayne announced that the DC Comics orders for the 3D motions covers had gone out the week before and for retailers to get their orders in as soon as possible. He encouraged retailers to “up” their orders. He also announced that “slight allocations might occur” during Villain Month. This was the first hint at a Villain Month allocation. Dennis, the co-owner of Wonderworld Comics, was at the Retailer Lunch and stated that he had “total faith that Bob Wayne would not under order and that Wayne would know to increase orders to equal demand”
Boston ComicCon: August 3 – August 4
Dan DiDio (Co-Publisher at DC Comics) reportedly told some retailers that there would be a Villain Month allocation and that it could be between 10-40% for certain titles. At this point, there was not an official announcement which went out to retailers, only stories quoting DiDio on select websites.
Last Day for FOC: August 5
FOC is an ordering term which relates to the last Monday retailers can adjust their orders for a particular upcoming week. Monday August 5, 2013 was the last day retailers had to adjust their orders for the first week of Villain Month. While there were rumors about a Villain Month allocation, nothing was officially released from DC Comics about any changes.
2D Covers on the Way: August 6
On August 6, retailers, readers, and collectors officially learned that there would be 2D covers for the Villain Month comics. At the time, I believed that the $2.99 cover-priced-issues were becoming available for those readers who did not want the motion covers or for those of us who wanted to read the story inside without potentially damaging the issue.
Villain Month Allocation Confirmed: August 9
In the late afternoon on Friday, August 9, retailers across the country received an email confirming the Villain Month allocation. They were told that they only had until Monday, August 12, to get their orders in for the 2D covers they wanted to fill in the gap from the allocated 3D covers.
Retailers Scramble: August 9 – August 11
Over the next weekend, retailers scrambled to try to figure out what to do about the Villain Month allocation. Retailers only had a matter of days to review and reformulate the Villain Month plans they had worked on over the summer. More on the problems this caused and the potential outcomes this could cause in a few moments.
Final FOC: August 12
This past Monday, the FOC went out and retailers had to confirm the number of 2D covers they will be ordering in replacement of the 3D covers they were expecting. DC Comics announced that retailers can order as many 2D covers as they want as they will be fully returnable. DC Comics also begins letting retailers know that the Villain Month allocation is happening because of a production issue caused by the lack of materials for the 3D covers.
- If DC Comics hyped the Villain Month covers so much, why didn’t they make sure there were enough materials to make the tens upon tens of thousands of covers which we would be asking for?
- If the Villain Month allocation was caused by a lack of materials from another company, why did DC Comics wait until Monday to tell retailers the reason? Standard operating procedure in business is to shift the blame as soon as possible. Why didn’t this go out in the initial email to retailers last Friday? Why were they not officially told something by DC Comics days before the FOC happened for the first week of Villain Month?
- Did DC Comics scramble over the weekend to come up with a plausible reason for the Villain Month allocation?
- If it comes out that too few were ordered in the first place, does that mean that Bob Wayne will be tossed under the bus?
- Did the allocation hit all stores equally or did it only hit particular stores hard?
- The first problem is that most readers and collectors who want the 3D Villain Month covers will not get them. Supply is nowhere close to the hyped demand brought on by DC Comics earlier in the summer.
- From what I have seen by talking with various comic book store owners and by looking at the Villain Month allocation numbers for Wonderworld Comics – the allocation is actually lower in most cases than normal orders. Without boring you with a bunch of numbers, in many cases, we will be getting less 3D Villain Month covers than we would normal covers during a regular month. For example, we will receive less Joker #1 3D covers than we sell of regular Batman issues in a basic month.
- Retailers are stressed out right now and are already worried about having to deal with angry customers for a problem out of their control.
- Ebay is already becoming filled with orders for Villain Month covers selling at 5-10 times cover price. More on this in a moment.
- Since retailers had a limited time to rethink their Villain Month plans, mistakes are bound to have happened.
- A major problem is that there is a complete collapse of communication between DC Comics and retailers. DC Comics should have had a better contingency plan and should have had a better communication plan. Retailers are being left out to dry.
- Forums and blogs are going crazy right now and shedding a ton of negative light on DC Comics. This does not bode well for the comic book industry as a whole when the #2 company in market share is being rocked. The theories about what actually happened, though, are interesting to read.
Of course, the 2D covers are a fix for the Villain Month allocation, but not a significant fix. DC still has weeks before the third and fourth weeks of Villain Month covers have to be shipped. Other possible solutions include finding another company to make the 3D covers or figure out a solutions such as postponing certain shipments until orders can be fulfilled.
Potential and Plausible Outcomes
- In most stores, only certain customers will get the 3D covers. Each store will work this out on their own. Some will probably only give the special covers to pull customers or their top customers. Others will sell on a first-come-first-serve basis. The responsibility falls on collectors and readers to contact their local stores to find out the particular policy. Right now, we are working on a plan on how we will work around the Villain Month allocation. More on that in the next few days.
- Trust in DC Comics is being eroded. How will readers, collectors, and retailers trust the hype coming out from DC Comics about future special events? The Villain Month allocation is something which will be remembered for many years.
- You know as well as I do that there are many fans and collectors who do not read about comic book news online. Retailers will have to deal with customers who blame them for the shortage. This can lead to the wholesale loss of customers for some retailers.
- I can see security and theft being an issue at some stores due to the Villain Month allocation. Certain titles are already selling online for 10 times cover price, so this will bring out the thieves and the collectors who will push their way through the store in the hopes of turning a quick profit. This will not only happen the first week of Villain Month, but during each week of the month. This is an entire week of headaches.
- Some retailers might not even put the Villain Month 3D covers out for purchase. Some retailers will hold onto their 3D covers since they know they can get more money for them online or at conventions. I would not be surprised if certain covers topped $50 within the coming months and I am sure that speculating store owners see the same potential to increase profits.
- The execs at Marvel are probably getting better sleep than they have in months.
- Fans, collectors, and retailers are going to backlash against DC Comics. We have to hope the rest of the industry is not caught up in the crossfire. I would hate to look back years from now and think that DC Comics harmed the entire comic book industry with the Villain Month allocation.
The Villain Month allocation is not only the biggest comic book news story of this month or this year. This is one of the biggest upsets and catastrophes in the history of the comic book industry. DC Comics wanted to make waves with Villain Month. The Titanic made a lot of waves too when it hit the iceberg. One day we will look back on the Villain Month allocation and say “That was when DC…”