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Monday, July 02, 2007

Diamond, Dealers and Advance Copies -- Commenting on my post yesterday, Tom Spurgeon makes some observations about Diamond's First Look/Sneak Peek program (third item down in that post) and catches an angle that hadn't occurred to me:

"[W]hat I found valuable is [Doane's] note that the store The Beguiling doesn't use a first-look program of early shipping in order to better prepare itself for the ups and downs of the periodicals market. The thought that the maybe the best way to share information with stores about upcoming product -- giving them the product -- exists as a [Diamond] pay-for program instead of routinely used in the course of maximizing sales for a book speaks to a key dysfunction in that comics market...

I italicized the crucial phrase there, because I think it's important to note Spurgeon finds this situation unusual. Tom and I seem to often differ in our evaluation of the state of the Direct Market as served by Diamond; he often seems to think things are not that bad, while I, of course, think that 90 percent of existing comic shops serviced by Diamond are apocalyptically awful in the way they service (or fail to service) their customers, both real and potential. In fact, Spurgeon's very good point about how wrong-headed it is for Diamond to charge for the First Look/Sneak Peek books struck me as worth mentioning because I just took it for granted that everyone understands that Diamond misuses its monopolistic power virtually every chance it gets.

Spurgeon makes another good catch as well, in the same paragraph:

"...speaks to a key dysfunction in that comics market, as, from the other end of things, does word that a retailer used to sell those comics to Doane."

There's a whole, as I referred to it the other day, "semi-sordid" story there, and maybe I'll tell it all someday, but yes, around 2000-2001, the shop I was getting my comics from was selling me their First Look/Sneak Peek packs. In the interest of fairness to that dealer, he did sell them to me at his cost, which if I recall correctly was ten dollars each for the Marvel and DC advance packs, which arrived either Wednesday or Thursday the week before they were to go on sale.

At the time, my reviews were heavily-weighted toward Marvel and DC, and the arrangement I made with that dealer (who I am not naming, because he is still retailing comics, although I haven't been in his shop in years) was to take the advance packs off his hands at his cost, but he wanted to keep, I believe, any Spider-Man or X-Men titles for his kids to read. Given that there were five to seven or so issues in each pack, ten bucks was usually less than the collective cover price for one of the packs even with the Spidey and X titles removed from the equation. The biggest revelation to me in the year or so that I received the books was just how horrible the average week's worth of corporate superhero books were.

When the time came that I no longer bought the books, it was a huge relief to not be exposed on a weekly basis to all those mediocre comics. It was a rare week, indeed, when more than two or three total from Marvel and DC combined was actually worth reading, a situation which seems to have pretty much held steady in the years that have passed since then. "Same as it ever was," one supposes.

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