Greg Buls, owner of aftermarket comic distributor Bulldog Collectibles and Distribution, recently announced that Bulldog had made arrangements with CrossGeneration Comics to be its sole source for backlist comics. We tracked down CrossGen VP Sales and Marketing Chris Oarr for the details.
Greg Buls recently announced that CrossGen has made Bulldog its exclusive distributor for products more than four months old. This is for periodicals?
Just periodicals. For comics that are older than four months, Bulldog's the place to be. Diamond is buying to sell down for four months, and for comic periodicals that back issue market is not something they really want to be in.
What about trade paperbacks?
Bulldog is also being supplied compendia but not trade paperbacks. Our trade paperbacks are not only being sold through Diamond, they're selling bigger and bigger quantities through the Star System every month. They're doing a great job on that and we're going to concentrate on that with them.
Is CrossGen altering its terms of sale to Diamond prohibiting them from selling comics more than four months after release?
No. It's by mutual agreement that we're going to concentrate on comics during the four month window with Diamond. We're emphasizing Diamond as your entry point. That's why for the last six months we've been printing a list at the end of our section in Previews of comics from the last four months.
Is CrossGen making arrangements for Diamond to get rid of comics over four months old, as Buls indicated?
The mechanics for handling Diamond's inventory of comics after four months haven't been set, Greg's a little ahead of himself. We're looking at ways to repossess that inventory and pass it on to Buls, but the way that's been working there's nothing left. Diamond and CrossGen are working together on ways to get that product out of their hands at no penalty to them.
If there's one thing that I want to take the opportunity to clear up, it's that we don't in any way want to create a false impression that Diamond is not the place to go for our comics, our trades, our compendia, our sculptures and other products. On the contrary they're our #1 distributor. We're just concentrating on this one category -- older comics -- with Bulldog.
We're doing a lot of things together with Diamond to build our overall business. I've been extremely impressed with Diamond's willingness to go the extra mile for us, whether it's working out things for the dump, building up extra inventory on new launches like Chimera #1, getting special previews out on Lady Death, or advising us on some of the incentives that we've put behind new launches that have been extremely, extremely effective, whether we're talking about Solus #1 or the Lady Death relaunch or other projects.
Based on the prices that Bulldog is offering its retailer customers, it must be buying at prices at least 70% off retail. Is this better than the price at which CrossGen sells to Diamond?
Bear in mind that some of the initiatives that Greg announced involve full runs including sets of products that include older product, in some cases products up to three years old. Yes, it's true we transferred our inventory of back issue comics to Bulldog. We did this at a better price based on the quantity and age of the comics. In choosing Bulldog for backlist comics and compendia and concentrating on Diamond for direct market comic sales, we're just cutting down on the number of parties that we're dealing with. In the direct market, we're shipping to Diamond and then to Bulldog. If you're a CrossGen premier retailer and you need stock that only Bulldog has, buy from Bulldog. There currently is inventory that Diamond has that's older than four months that's in clearance in last week's Dateline.
There are no long-term success stories of businesses that buy new comics on a speculation basis to resell to retailers. How does CrossGen evaluate the risk posed by forming an exclusive relationship with a company that bases a significant percentage of its business on this business model?
The back issue market has a prominent and richly textured place in the landscape of this industry--I don't know how to answer that question. I know that Bulldog is buying a certain quantity of everything we publish and he's selling a certain quantity of everything we publish and I believe he's doing a good job. As to his non-CrossGen business, I can't comment.
Bulldog Collectibles offers wholesale comics to retailers from Marvel and DC. That appears to be a violation of the trade terms for both. How does CrossGen evaluate the risk posed by forming an exclusive relationship with a company that bases a significant part of its business on this basis?
I have not spent any time at all reading anybody else's terms of sale. I'm not an attorney and don't know how binding these arrangements are. I can tell you that the exclusive relationship with Buls is based on past experience and ledger history--he did a better job of moving our comics than anybody other than Diamond. He built the business out of nothing and we've gotten nothing but good reports on him, whether it's on condition, or service, or whatever. Greg is a man of vision who believes that as CrossGen grows there are more and more people that are going to want to discover our series for the first time, and periodical comics remain a viable entry point for CrossGen series. That's what motivated us to go with Greg.
Note: On this last question, we asked Marvel, DC, and Diamond for more information on whether any companies had received the approval required in the Marvel and DC terms to resell products to other retailers, and if not, how the matter was being enforced. In their recent press conference, Marvel Executive Vice President of Operations Gui Karyo told us that no Diamond customers had been approved to resell comics to other retailers. We asked about Marvel's new terms and how this issue would be handled. Karyo responded that the determination of customer eligibility to purchase would still be a Marvel decision. He did not respond to additional written questions on the issue. DC did not respond to questions on this topic. Diamond declined to answer questions on the topic.