When Penguin Random House was first announced as the new single-issue distributor for Marvel in the direct market, the response from retailers was largely positive in my experience, outside of those upset that there was yet another company they would have to order from entering the fray. 5 Shops were given six months to prepare for the transition, there was a ton of up front information, Penguin was a distributor many were already ordering from for trades and graphic novels, and they were a huge name. What’s not to like about that?
If there was one consistent concern – unrelated to the addition of another distributor, of course – it was the typical condition of the product Penguin Random House was already sending comic shops. Trades, graphic novels and books are sturdier so they can take it, but they still had a higher than usual damage rate. If the same care was put into a flimsier medium like single-issue comics, what would happen? There was a concern there. But with six months of lead time and PRH working closely with shops and entities like ComicsPro, most felt as if it would be a non-factor in the end.
That proved to be untrue.
This week brought Penguin Random House’s first shipments of Marvel comics to shops, and their performance was described to me as a “whiff,” if you put it nicely. While the spectrum was broad, most leaned toward the negative. And it wasn’t just because the condition of the comics.