Oh, Villains Month. I have no idea what to think about you.
After weeks of driving retailers into a feeding frenzy with set print runs and allocation, DC announced last night that they'd be releasing "Standard Editions" of all of the Villains Month books, with 2D covers and a $2.99 pricetag. These new editions will be available at the same time as their 3D counterparts. Meanwhile, DC noted that they were allocating the 3D covers based on past orders. So, if a store ordered 25 Batman books, that's how many 3D Villains Month books they're getting...maybe. In related news, DC also announced a box set containing all 53 Villains Months books with 3D covers, which will be available for sale in November.
My initial thought about the announcement was "Thank God! Now I can read those Villains Month books!" I made the decision (along with a few other people I know) to boycott Villains Month because the event was all about the 3D covers. With very few regular creative teams involved, the whole thing screamed "BUY THESE BOOKS BECAUSE OF AWESOME COVER!", which would set a very dangerous precedent for the future. I remember the 90s, it sucked.
Then I remembered, I already placed my September order through DCBS. And while I'm sure DCBS will figure out some way to make these 2D Standard Editions available for customers, the window for the bulk of their orders has already passed.
Retailers are the real victims of Villains Month. For the last month and a half, they've been scrambling to get an idea of how to order these glorified fill-in comics, many of which will have no bearing on the comics their customers usually read. I've read about tons of stores asking customers to fill out forms about what books they plan on pulling to get some sense of how many they should try ordering. One store I spoke to ended up placing a huge order for the Villains Month comics after they learned there would be allocations, thinking it was the best way to ensure they'd get an order which was remotely close to the actual numbers they needed to fill.
And now, a month before the orders hit, DC throws another wrinkle at them. One retailer I spoke to doesn't know how he's going to handle the 2D books. Should he order enough to cover the shortages on the 3D covers? Will customers that don't get a 3D cover want to purchase a 2D covered book? How will returns on these books work, considering that DC has pulled the 3D covers off the Final Order Cutoff form? DC has told retailers to talk to Diamond if they want to decrease their 3D cover order. But decrease it from what? The allocated amount or the initial order amount?
I'm sure that DC will end up sorting out some of these questions with retailers and Diamond in the coming days. But this whole thing has been a mess for every retailer I've spoken to. Not a single one (out of about a dozen stores) is looking forward to September.
I think my favorite part about all of this is how DC is blaming "fringe speculators" for their allocations and set print runs. Here's a quote from Dan Didio:
“Because of the time needed to create the 3-D motion covers, we were forced to set September print runs much further in advance than we normally would. As we got close to the FOC dates, even though we were very aggressive with our sales forecasts for the 3-D editions, it was clear that orders for these issues were going to be greater than the quantities we had printed.
Once we saw from the first 3-D edition FOCs that we were oversold on initial orders, we decided to institute a system across the entire 3-D line that was in accord with previous retailers' ordering patterns to minimize the impact of fringe speculators."
To be clear, DC created an artificial demand by warning retailers that there would be shortages and allocations. Then, they instituted said allocations to minimize said artificial demand.
Anyways, debate amongst yourselves about what impact these 2D covers will have. I can't wait to hear about DC crowing about their success how they riled up retailers into massively overordering a bunch of mediocre fill-in comics in a few weeks.