Diamond Comic Distributors has posted a list of 110 Marvel comics on its Website which retailers can return for full credit starting on 9/11/02. The list will be printed in next week's Diamond Dateline and all the comics listed are marked with an asterisk, which makes them eligible for stripped copy returns. Since Diamond as a distributor can't authorize returns without a publisher's OK, the decision to allow returns represents a complete turnaround for Marvel, which reportedly has not authorized any returns for the past two years. The catalyst for Marvel's retreat is undoubtedly a class action lawsuit against Marvel over the issue of late books (see 'Retailer Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Marvel') filed by San Francisco-based retailer Brian Hibbs (of Comix Experience). Hibbs' lawsuit is currently at a critical phase with a hearing on Sept. 19 at which a judge could certify that Hibbs' suit meets the qualifications for a class action lawsuit.
Although Marvel's authorization of the return of 110 comic titles is clearly a conciliatory gesture, it is unlikely that it will have any effect on the class action lawsuit. For one thing, many of the more expensive items cited by Hibbs in his suit were not included on the returnable list. It also appears that Diamond generated the list based on when Diamond received the comics, which can easily be 10-14 days before the books actually reach retailers, which means that there may be additional titles which may have made it to Diamond on time, but not to retailers. It also appears that comics that involved changes in creators or cover price were also left off the list.
Marvel's capitulation may not be complete, but it is a victory for direct market retailers retailers, who had to fight long and hard in the early 90s to get publishers to agree to a common return policy for comics.