In the midst of the Comics Code controversy (see 'Marvel Dumps the Comics Code') an ICv2 staffer went looking on the newsstands for X-Force #116, a book that the Code Authority had rejected and Marvel said it wouldn't change.  We actually found a newsstand version of the book on Tuesday, the day before the direct version appeared at our local comic shop.  We thought that this was some kind of an aberration and perhaps even the result of the controversy itself.  Since then, however, ICv2 has received several reports of similar occurrences.  One retailer, told by his customers that he was getting beaten on Marvels, actually went to a local Waldenbooks and interviewed the manager about the store's comic shipments, which, he found out, now arrive regularly on Tuesdays. While this certainly does not appear to be a widespread phenomenon, retailers should endeavor to check out their mass market competition (especially bookstores that carry newsstand comics) and let Marvel know if the chain stores are getting newsstand copies of Marvel comics first.


When ICv2 contacted Marvel about this situation, we got a very quick response from Vice President of Retail Sales Matt Ragone, which we have reprinted below.  Matt's response makes several very good points.  Note that a new class of nationwide mass market distributors has emerged.  While some of the old independent periodical distributors (IDs) are still well behind the direct market, other distributors like Ingram provide comics to bookstore chains in a fairly rapid fashion that occasionally results in chain bookstores getting comics before comic shops. 


Here is Matt Ragone's response to our queries about newsstand copies of Marvels arriving before the direct market versions:


Newsstand, as defined by shipping and distribution through the ID magazine wholesaler, still requires more time than the direct market distribution through Diamond.  The delay in street dates, if you tried to compare, is probably still around 14 days after the direct market, if not longer, depending on the wholesale agency, the other titles on the line that week, etc....


Simultaneously, the 'newsstand' has seen an increase in the number of distributors that work with both chain stores and independent stores on a national level.  These distributors have generally moved product through their warehouse more rapidly.  This is the case with the Waldenbooks situation that you mention in Indiana.


There are a number of factors, from arrival at the warehouse, through proximity to the distribution center, to the ability of the store staff to open the package and rack the comics that will affect the shelf date of a comic.  But under the right circumstances, the delivery could parallel that of Diamond.


That said, Marvel has been shipping products through Ingram Periodicals to Waldenbooks since April, 2001.  Prior to Ingram and now with Ingram, we have had isolated instances of competitive on-sale dates, but nothing ongoing.  Therefore, we have not made any adjustments to our distribution.


I don't see it, based upon what appear to be isolated and random instances, as a 'Diamond problem,' nor do I anticipate making any changes at this point.