Marvel Agrees to Some of Hibbs Demands in Legal Case ... Without Mentioning Hibbs

Tue, September 10th, 2002 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Beau Yarbrough, Columnist

It was only four months ago that Brian Hibbs, owner of the acclaimed Comix Experience shop in San Francisco, went after Marvel Comics for policies that lead to financial losses for comic shops, specifically its refusal to accept returns on late or mis-solicited titles. Comic shops typically purchase copies of a comic book months in advance of actually seeing the books themselves, and in the absence of return policies, find themselves eating the cost for books that don't end up selling.

This weekend, that changed. Very quietly and with no fanfare, Diamond Comics added Marvel returns to the weekly news section of its retailer Web site. The list, of approximately 100 books, matches up with a good portion of what Hibbs was asking for, although when contacted by CBR News, Hibbs said he had not heard anything from Marvel, and that he does not view the new policy as reason to drop the suit. He released a statement Monday:

"I think comics retailers are all gratified to learn that Marvel has designated some 100 items as returnable. Certainly, this is a major step in the right direction in having Marvel honor its contractual commitments to us. Nonetheless, the action by Marvel hardly solves the issues between retailers and Marvel, for several reasons.

"The first area of concern is of the breadth of material that has been affected. Throughout this process, several different lists of products have been generated. For example, comparing my initial list of late-shipping material to the list of returns that Marvel is now accepting, we find at least 21 items that they've ignored. Perhaps it is coincidence, but looking at that list, one can note that it is mostly trade paperback collections or, in other words, the most expensive items that they are still choosing to not honor.

"Looking at Marvel's return list, it becomes clear that there are a large number issues which, despite being recognized by Marvel to have been delivered more than 30 days late, have yet to be made returnable. It represents a very significant amount of material, though, of course, until we are able to depose Marvel witnesses, we will not be able to verify the precise number.

"Another thing to consider is that Marvel's returnable list appears to have been generated by Diamond Comics Distribution. Why is this significant? Because Diamond's systems only track Diamond arrival dates, and pay no heed to when material actually arrived in comic retailer's stores. There can be ten days or more difference between those dates. Marvel's Terms of Sale requires that the 30 day period is measured from the on-sale date and actual delivery to the retailer s stores. It is virtually certain that Marvel s returnable list contains a fraction of affected books.

"Further, little analysis has yet been done on mis-solicited items; one example might be 'Iceman' #3, which was solicited as having art by Karl Kerschl, but instead shipped with art by Scott Young it is unclear at this moment how many other titles are similarly affected, but this too has not yet been satisfactorily addressed.

"So, while we believe that the list of returnable items is a positive first step, and bodes well for the future, we believe it is entirely possible that the breadth of material that has still not been made returnable could possibly meet or exceed the list that Marvel has already provided.

"The second major area of concern is that of damages. Some of the items on the returnable list date back half-a-decade!

"A reality check on comics retailers: the average comics retailer is a small, independently owned business. We live and die on our cash flow. Generally speaking, the average comics retailer is not so cash-rich that we can pile up unsold Marvel books hoping that five years later they'll let us return them. Even if we were financially able to do so, the average comics retailer generally doesn't have the space to warehouse that material.

"The gist of this is that we believe that returns on five year old product will be minimal because most retailers have long since liquidated that material at a loss. Whether that came from putting the books in the Quarter Box, or from giving the books away, or just, as in some cases, recycling them, a retailer can't return a book that they took a loss on.

"The question at the core is this: Do simply authorizing returns on years-old material make whole the retailer's damages and losses? We don't think it even comes close to doing so.

"The suit may bear my name but that s not the whole picture. My intent, from the beginning has been to protect comic retailers as a group, and I've consulted with dozens of my peers on this issue. To a man they say that they can't return what they've since liquidated. And the consensus is the suit must go forward until our actual damages are redressed by trial or settlement. To stop now because Marvel has made an incomplete effort to mitigate damages would be foolish.

"Marvel has just released a list of more than one hundred items they are now taking returns on due to lateness. Think about that for a moment. This is a tacit admission that they're aware they've done something wrong. We believe that both the scope of the affected books is too small, and that Marvel s solution doesn't address the damages that they have inflicted upon retailers. For all of these reasons, while we remain encouraged by Marvel's actions, there are yet significant issues to be resolved."

Marvel Comics representatives declined to comment on the move when contacted by CBR News regarding this story.

The list of titles, as posted on Diamond's retailer site:

  • AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #36

  • AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #37

  • AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #38

  • AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #39

  • AVENGERS FOREVER #10 (Of 12)

  • AVENGERS FOREVER #11 (Of 12)

  • AVENGERS FOREVER #12

  • BATTLEBOOKS DISPLAY UNIT

  • BEFORE THE FANTASTIC 4 REED RICHARDS #3 (Of 3)

  • BLACK PANTHER #10

  • BLACK PANTHER #7

  • BLACK PANTHER #8

  • BLACK WIDOW BREAKDOWN #3 (Of 3)

  • BROTHERHOOD #5

  • BROTHERHOOD #8

  • CONAN THE USURPER #3 (Of 3)

  • CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS II #4 (Of 5)

  • CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS II #5 (Of 5)

  • DAREDEVIL #10

  • DAREDEVIL #11

  • DAREDEVIL #14

  • DAREDEVIL #15

  • DAREDEVIL #6

  • DAREDEVIL #7

  • DAREDEVIL #8

  • DAREDEVIL #9

  • DAREDEVIL NINJA #2 (Of 3)

  • DAREDEVIL NINJA #3 (Of 3)

  • DAREDEVIL YELLOW #5

  • DAREDEVIL YELLOW #6

  • DEATHLOK #3

  • DEATHLOK #4

  • DEATHLOK #5

  • DEATHLOK #6

  • DOCTOR WHO #283

  • ELEKTRA #10

  • ELEKTRA #8

  • ELEKTRA #9

  • ELEKTRA & WOLVERINE THE REDEEMER #3

  • EXCALIBUR SWORD OF POWER #4 (Of 4)

  • GENERATION X #74

  • GENERATION X #75

  • HULK SENTRY

  • ICEMAN #4

  • INHUMANS #4 (Of 4)

  • INHUMANS #9 (Of 12)

  • INHUMANS VOL 2 #3 (Of 4)

  • MARVEL AUTHENTIX DAREDEVIL PRINTED SKETCH COVER #1

  • MARVEL BOY #5 (Of 6)

  • MARVEL BOY #6 (Of 6)

  • MARVEL HEROES 3 PACK 4 POCKET FLOOR DIS

  • MARVEL HEROES 3 PACK CASE

  • MARVEL HEROES BOXED SETS CASE

  • MARVEL KNIGHTS #11

  • MARVEL KNIGHTS #12

  • MARVEL KNIGHTS #13

  • MARVEL KNIGHTS #14

  • MARVEL KNIGHTS #15

  • MARVEL KNIGHTS MAGAZINE #5

  • MARVEL KNIGHTS MAGAZINE #6

  • MARVEL LEGENDS 3 PACK 4 POCKET FLOOR DIS

  • MARVEL LEGENDS 3 PACK CASE

  • MARVEL LEGENDS BOXED SETS CASE

  • MIXED 3 PACK & BOX SET 4 POCKET POWER PANEL

  • MIXED 3 PACK 4 POCKET FLOOR DIS ALL 4 BRANDS

  • MIXED 3 PACK CASE ALL 4 BRANDS

  • MIXED 3 PACK CLIP STRIP ALL 4 BRANDS

  • MIXED BOXED SETS CASE ALL 4 BRANDS

  • NEW MUTANTS DEMON BEAR TP

  • NEW X-MEN #116

  • NEW X-MEN #117

  • NEW X-MEN #118

  • NEW X-MEN #119

  • NEW X-MEN 2001 ANNUAL

  • ORIGIN #4

  • ORIGIN #5

  • SPIDER-MAN 3 PACK 2 POCKET COUNTER DIS

  • SPIDER-MAN 3 PACK CASE

  • SPIDER-MAN BOXED SETS CASE

  • SPIDER-MAN MANGA #28

  • SPIDER-MAN MANGA #29

  • SPIDER-WOMAN #1 MARVEL AUTHENTIX PRINTED SKETCH ED

  • SPIDEY A UNIVERSE X SPECIAL

  • STAR TREK BOXED SET #1

  • STAR TREK BOXED SET #2

  • STAR TREK VOYAGER SPLASH DOWN #2 (Of 4)

  • STAR TREK VOYAGER SPLASH DOWN #3 (Of 4)

  • STAR TREK VOYAGER SPLASH DOWN #4 (Of 4)

  • ULTIMATE MARVEL MAGAZINE #10

  • ULTIMATE MARVEL MAGAZINE #11

  • ULTIMATE MARVEL MAGAZINE #9

  • ULTIMATE MARVEL TEAM UP #8 SPIDER-MAN DAREDEVIL & PUNISHER

  • ULTIMATE X-MEN #11

  • UNCANNY X-MEN #399

  • WOLVERINE 1999

  • X-MEN 3 PACK 2 POCKET COUNTER DIS

  • X-MEN 3 PACK 4 POCKET FLOOR DIS

  • X-MEN 3 PACK 4 POCKET POWER PANEL

  • X-MEN 3 PACK CASE

  • X-MEN BOXED SETS CASE

  • X-MEN CHILDREN OF THE ATOM #2 (Of 6)

  • X-MEN MANGA #21

  • X-MEN MANGA #23

  • X-MEN MANGA #24

  • X-MEN PHOENIX #3 (Of 3)

  • X-MEN THE SEARCH FOR CYCLOPS CVR #4 (Of 4)

  • X-MEN THE SEARCH FOR CYCLOPS CVR A #3 (Of 4)

  • X-MEN THE SEARCH FOR CYCLOPS CVR B #3 (Of 4)

  • X-MEN THE UNEARTHED ARCHIVES SKETCHBOOK

  • X-MEN TRUE FRIENDS #3 (Of 3)

 
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