Marvel COO Bill Jemas released this statement on the reasons for Marvel's no-overprint policy and a change Marvel is making to it.  For ICv2's coverage and links to other articles on this topic, see 'Marvel Prints on Spec!'

An open letter from Marvel president Bill Jemas:

Dear Comic Retailer,

As many of you know, Marvel has been in regular contact with key retailers looking for reasonable input with respect to our shipping and returns policies, our terms of sale and our overall distribution system.

While the majority of you do favor Marvel's 'no overprint/no reprint' policy, many have asked us to be more flexible in ways that would help minimize your own inventory risk.  To paraphrase the input:

We sell a comic; we make a dollar.
We know Marvel doesn't make nearly a buck a book.
We have calculators.
We understand Marvel needs to control costs by minimizing overprints.

But when we order an extra copy, and we can't sell it, and we can't return it, then down goes our margin.

We toss the issue in the quarter bin.
We take a dollar loss, the losses add way up, the bins get way large.

Marvel doesn't overprint or reprint 'sold-out' comics; other publishers do just that.  Some of you have asked Marvel to play ball, like the 'nice' publishers do.

Those nice publishers say they are helping cut your risk.  You don't have to over-order in advance (and end up over-stuffing the quarter bin later).  Go ahead, order as little as you like; sell as much as the readers will buy.  Go ahead, sell all you want; they'll make more.

But those nice publishers don't talk about the dirty part of over supply ? the part where they reach into your pocket to grab most of the money that is generated by a hot comic.  Most of you think that's dirty pool.  Most of you don't want that kind of 'help' from Marvel. Most of you say:

When a Marvel book gets hot, and there are more buyers, than there are copies in the market, then I can mark up the book.
I tuck it in a plastic sleeve.
Our mark-ups add up.
Us owners get large.

Many retailers take a measured risk in ordering extra Marvel comics.  When a book gets hot, they sell copies to their regular customers at cover price but hold back a handful to mark up and sell as collectibles.  Just the last three copies for $10 each earns an extra $24 profit.  Those retailers do not want Marvel dumping more books on the market and killing their 1,000% margins.

And this is why some of the leading retailers in the country helped frame -- and now support -- Marvel's retail policies.  The top guys say:

We know it.
We just don't shout it.
We're too busy running our businesses to write letters or go on message boards.
We vote with our wallets.
The more flush we get, the bigger our orders grow.

In summary, you can:

-- Call it a 'make to order' policy, which keeps Marvel's wasted inventory to a minimum.  Keeping inventory costs down has helped Marvel keep its cover prices low.

-- Call it a 'no flooding' precept, which rewards retailers who take a risk with Marvel.

-- Call it 'limited edition' marketing, which spurs additional demand from collectors and increasing 'on shelf day' foot traffic.  With respect to this last point, the feedback is enthusiastic:

Readers came back.
They came for content.
They came to hang out.
They like to collect.
Readers come in regularly.
They come in on Wednesday.
Wednesday had been a good day.
Now Wednesday is a great day.
Wednesday is turning into Saturday.

Still, one nagging problem remains: Retailers who under-order a hot book need more copies to service their customers.  To help ease this tension, Marvel has been publishing MARVEL MUST HAVES.  These are compilations of 'sold-out' books that are sold at a reader-friendly cover price.  The distribution of MUST HAVES has satisfied 'reader' demand without a chilling effect on the value of the original monthly comics.

We learned through one of our many retailer calls that the trouble with MUST HAVES has been the three-to-four-week delay between the monthly book 'selling out' and the shipping of its replacement.

Today, Marvel will take a big step toward fixing that problem. TRUTH: RED, WHITE & BLACK, our 'most likely to succeed' book for November, is being over-printed as a MUST HAVE.

Like previous MUST HAVES, this will be a compilation:
It includes THE ULTIMATES #1 (featuring Captain America) and CAPTAIN AMERICA #1 (his Marvel Knights debut).

Like previous MUST HAVES, it will have a nice cover price: only $3.99 for a combined retail value of $7.74.

Unlike previous MUST HAVES, this one will be overprinted.  Marvel is printing 15,000 in advance of any order.

Unlike previous MUST HAVES, this one will be available for shipping on November 27th, one week from the date that TRUTH: RED, WHITE & BLACK hits shelves.

Hope this works for all of you.

Bill J.