ICv2 has learned this week that Marvel has reprinted Ultimate X-Men #1 and Ultimate Spider-man #1 for Walmart -- the nation's largest retailer. We were first alerted to this story by comic retailer Russ Toney of C&C Comics in St. Albans, West Virginia. He said that he'd been told by a customer that he'd seen a display of Marvel Ultimate #1s at a Walmart Supercenter (combined grocery and discount department store). Toney was subsequently able to purchase copies of both books at a nearby standard Walmart discount store, where they were racked in the toy department with children's books. They bore a cover price of $2.25, but were stickered at $1.97. The first printings of these books are in considerable demand. Ultimate X-Men #1, for example, is currently bringing prices around $10 per issue on Ebay.
We were sent scans of the covers (reproduced here) and the indicia. According to the indicia, the books have been retitled Ultimate X-Men Special Edition #1 and Ultimate Spider-man Special Edition #1. The indicia notes that the Walmart edition of Ultimate X-men 'contains material originally published in magazine form as Ultimate X-Men #1,' and there's a similar phrase in the Ultimate Spider-man indicia.
It's difficult to gauge the scale of this program based on what we know now. We know that as of this week there are some Walmart stores that have the books and some that don't (neither of the two Walmarts in our city had them in stock Tuesday). Walmart has over 3000 stores in total, so if the books eventually end up in every store this is a major reprint. Toney indicated that he saw about twenty copies of each title in the standard Walmart he visited. We don't know how many are being displayed in the Supercenter displays, but that number is presumably larger.
Given that we just heard of this program, and that the ads in the books match ads in Marvels released to comic stores over the last couple of weeks, these reprints appear to be a very recent development. This is also borne out by the fact that the indicia bears an October 2001 date for both books.
This is actually the second time Marvel has reprinted Ultimate Spider-man #1 in a format not available to comic stores (see 'Ultimate Magazine Newsstand Only'), but it's the first in an almost-identical comic format, and it's the first time Marvel has reprinted Ultimate X-Men #1 in this format as well.
While the exposure for comics on the shelves of Walmart is a positive step for the industry, we wonder why these books were not also solicited through Diamond. One effect of this may be to route collector traffic that has been unable to get these issues from comic stores to Walmarts to obtain it. Regardless of the rationale, this is sure to arouse the ire of the many retailers who sold out of these books and were unable to get more (for Toney's comments, see 'Retailer Response to Marvel's Ultimate Reprints').
As recently as September 5, Marvel President Bill Jemas reiterated Marvel's 'no reprint' policy (see 'Marvel October Orders Out of Sight.') Marvel did not respond to requests for comment in time for this story.