Robot 6

Quote of the day | Tom Brevoort on DC’s ‘returnability Ponzi scheme’

Tom Brevoort

“DC extended the terms of their returnability Ponzi scheme for two more months. Until we get to a month in which retailers are ordering straight up, without needing to hit unrealistic numbers in order to qualify for returnability, you guys looking at the limited and skewed charts that you get to see aren’t going to be able to see what is clear to those of us who get to see the actual numbers and track the day-to-day week-to-week sales flow of the business.”

Tom Brevoort, Marvel’s senior vice president of publishing, responding to a question on his always-interesting Formspring account about when, in his view, the Diamond charts will accurately reflect sales of DC Comics’ New 52 titles




December 23, 2011 at 8:24 am

Anyone know enough to contradict him?

If he’s right, then the next few months should prove interesting. Have to say that there is a little bit of me suspected something like this – so if true, I won’t be surprised.

Was listening to a Word Balloon podcast where a DC rep was interviewed – John Rood. Have to say that I found his wording about DC’s triumph to at least SEEMINGLY evasive – not saying it was, just seemed it. A lot of spin and financial gobbledegook, that sounded like it was doublespeak and obfuscation more than anything.

Who knows…but calling it a Ponzi scheme? Tom B. is a complete ass.

I don’t remember when Mr B was saying that Marvel’s numbers were artificially pumped up when they manipulated the rules by crediting retailers with DC covers returned to Marvel for credit. How is that any different ?

No store is still ordering this high on books knowing that they won’t sell and have to be returned. By now, they know how many copies will sell of Batgirl and should not need to over-order for fear of selling out. Tom B always makes Marvel look bad with this kind of stuff and it’s really sad.

Doesn’t really matter to me if he’s right or not. As a fan of both, DC are putting out a better quantity of better quality books than marvel by far, for me at least. I’ll keep buying what I like from both sides and that’ll be enough for me.

yeah, I’d love to see him call out the awesome numbers of Point One that they practically gave away.

Good to see Tom doing his usual – complaining about DC’s work when he should be looking at improving Marvel’s catalog instead. This guy used to be an visionary and now he just sounds like an old guy complaining about “those kids today…”

Remember when Marvel and DC characters could be in a book together?
And then you saw this “competition” from…hell I don’t remember who started it. I know it was big under Joe Quesada, at least on that side of the fence. I don’t remember anything from the DC side to instigate/continue.

As a guy who buys 8 Marvel books a month: for fucksake, grow up Marvel.

It seems people just want to hate on one or the other, but love him or hate, he’s NOT wrong. The numbers ARE very artificial right now, and multiple articles even on this site and on Newsarama have said as much (that the returnability is very probably a factor in the numbers).

My general rule: If Tom Brevoort complains about something another company is doing, it’s working.

Also, DC’s in business to make money, so if the returns were really high they would have stopped the policy rather than extending it.

As for skewed numbers, we know Diamond’s been under-reporting DC’s returnable titles to build in a as to offset or at least minimize any effect of returnability. (And at this point most retailers probably have a good enough handle on things that they’re not going to be relying on returnability because who wants that much working capital tied up?) Besides, Marvel seems to have skewed a few numbers of their own – with Diamond reports on their Point One, one-shot looking suspiciously like they’re reflecting the number of books shipped rather than the lower figure that was ordered.

If I wanted to dig out my crystal ball, I’d say that Marvel is going to get their wish and take back the lead in market share either by December or January. Overall numbers will remain close, though; and more importantly I think DC is going to leverage their smaller line and continue to generate more profits than Marvel.

Finally, while I am sure Tom Brevoort sees very good numbers on what Marvel’s doing – I very much doubt he gets quite the same level of information regarding DC.

My comic book store guy said the numbers released are complete b.s and he’s returning around 300 books total over the first 2 months. The adjusted number most likely have marvel winning in November. Maybe dc can win a month or 2 in another 70 years when they reboot action comics again.

But yeah calling it a ponzy scheme is a little extreme, but so is hailing yourself as the savior of the industry with fake, trumped up numbers.

and as far as the point one stuff, marvel gave issues away and made no secret of it. It’s not like they’re hailing it a sales success, far from it. It’s hardly comparable to what dc is doing with the relaunch.

What he didn’t bring up is the only reason Marvel is getting close to the same market share/price point at DC for sales is because all of their top sellers are 3.99. And I buy Marvel, but again, seriously, grow up. Make good comics, make them worth the price (not 20 pages of gouged non-sense), and then we’ll talk.

Seriously, how much money is Marvel making on their comics when they’re only 20 pages at 4 bucks a pop? And how many of their top sellers are at that price point/page point? Anybody know?

I love how Brevoort tries to go after the one thing that DC arguably did right above all others with returns and had great confidence in their books. That’s probably what’s led to their success and I’m speaking about that not in an artificial way. If Marvel did that, which I expected them too until they started slashing left and right from their company, they’d dominate DC.

Also, from what I’ve read & like Dave above said, the fact that Diamond is taking out 10-20% from orders for returnable DC books is making up for that variable in a considerable way.

Total bullshit. In order to return issues #4-6, you had to order the same, or higher, as issue #3 across the board. I doubt many stores are in that position, unless they underordered the hell out of the first 3 issues. While my store is clearly down from the #1-3, it’s still way above where it was before, and way above Marvel. Sorry, Tom, DC is gonna be on top, especially in the coming months. Marvel’s new solicitations has what must be an historical low of 66 titles solicited. It’s been a long time since Marvel’s put out so little. Sure, a handful are being double-shipped, but it’s a far cry from the 120+ issues that were shipped in certain months earlier this year.

Marvel will probably take the dollar amount total, cause most of their books are $3.99, but DC will keep the unit for the foreseeable future.

Whether or not you think it was crass of Brevoort to say so, he’s absolutely right about the inflated DC figures. My local comic shop owner says most of the DC titles he ordered are sitting untouched on his shelf. This isn’t to say whether DC is putting out bad books or whatever, just that DC’s “market dominance” seems to be a very skewed and fradulent version of the truth.

Jeff, and your assumption is based on what your one local comic shop owner had to say? I guess that settles that.

And until actual sales numbers are made public, he’ll continue to get grief from people based on the limited information available.

Does Tom take the time to discuss that Marvel puts out more books than DC and that skews things as well? Maybe DC should put out 100 books each month and see what happens. When you try to compare apples to oranges, you don’t usually get any insight worth considering. I would also assume at this point that store owners would know what to order for each book. Maybe they send back 10 copies of each title, so what? At least the book is out there on the shelf if someone wants it. How many of Marvel’s books sit on the shelf now and the store owner is stuck with it? This just sounds like sour grapes. Yes, in a few months when the returnability option goes away we’ll get better numbers, but it seems clear that DC is selling more books than before, people are more excited, and other publishers are also benefitting from the work DC did. Does Tom mention that the additional traffic in the comic shops is artificially inflating what Marvel would usually expect to sell? No! He needs to shut his mouth. It seems the people at Marvel love to throw bombs and complain about everyone else while ignoring their own shady stunts like trying to scam store owners into detroying copies of the Blackest Night tie-ins. Scumbags.

Rob, you’re right that anecdotal evidence isn’t proof of anything but if it helps, my LCS owner also told me the industry sales figures that he’s seen himself are telling a much different tale than what the initial Diamond reports are saying.

@Josh 300 books total over two months means an average return of fewer than 4 copies per issue – it’s a lot of work for the person doing returns, but it’s not all that much in the grand scheme.

@Josh It may be true that some comic shop owners are returning some books but I don’t think that those owners are in the majority. My town has 4 comic shops and all 4 of them sold out of New 52 titles for the first 2 months straight.

Ryan Higgins said:
“Total Bullshit! In order to return issues #4-6, you had to order the same, or higher, as issue #3 across the board.”

I’m not saying I agree with Brevoort, but this is exactly his point. retailers ordered 1-3 with no idea of how good any given book would do, so they presumably ordered high. To keep the ability to return ANY copies they have to keep ordering at issue 3 numbers, which were still the blind elevated numbers. So they’ll keep their orders high so they can return whatever doesn’t sale, until they get more solid numbers. Which stores won’t really have until issue 5 at earliest, since issue 1s were high overall, but completely unindicative of how the book would do over the long term.

So, it’s good for the stores, so they have longer to evaluate numbers. But DC benefits as well, by forcing the store to order higher (if they can afford to) to get the extra benefit.

I wouldn’t call it a ponzi scheme by any definition, but it’s definitely a boost to DC book’s positions in the top 100 which they might not have otherwise.

My city has around 8-9 comic stores in it and in the ones I regularily frequent after the initial boost things have settled back down to where they were pre-reboot. DC may sell a few more issues than they were but essentially it is back to where it was 4-5 months ago.

Yet Marvel overships books and includes those overship numbers in the sales figures. There still may be some DC returns, but most stores should have been able to get their numbers correct by issue #4.

“I’m not saying I agree with Brevoort, but this is exactly his point. retailers ordered 1-3 with no idea of how good any given book would do, so they presumably ordered high. To keep the ability to return ANY copies they have to keep ordering at issue 3 numbers, which were still the blind elevated numbers.”

Returns aren’t free.

They are assessed at 10% of cover price (from month 4 and on) — that’s 30 cents a copy to return them! And that’s before paying in-bound shipping. and all of the costs associated with handling comics that you can’t sell, and the labor to remove covers on unsold copies… Probably closer to 40 cents per when all is said and done.

We certainly can’t say that “no” retailers are buying into returns in the later months, because I bet SOMEone is…. but it’s almost certainly someone who doesn’t really get math, and the TREMENDOUS expense involved in handling returnable goods in this fashion.

Further, as noted, Diamond is applying a penalty to charted numbers, so, if anything, I suspect that month #4 is going to report LOW, much like how 52 and COUNTDOWN suddenly showed sudden sharp increases in circulation with…erm, the 17th issues, were it? When the returnability “wore off”.

Seriously, though, retailers DON’T order goods that they KNOW they can’t sell.


@JM Campbell,

The retailers didn’t order 1-3 totally blind. 1 and 2 were blind but 3 was more correct. There are initial orders and then there are Final Order Cut-off. The FOC is 2 weeks before the book comes out. The retailer has the ability to adjust from initial order to FOC. The also calculate the standard percentage drop. So it’s not as simple as black or white. It’s all about business. The Diamond Reports already take into effect a certain drop so they’re not lying to fans. DC isn’t trying to beat Marvel but beat their previous sales. It’s the fans pitting the companies against each other. Yeah, there’s a friendly rivalry but the fans want them at each others’ throats.

Dumping all of your books on shops on the last week of a quarter to try and make your oh-so-precious sales projections is a little shitty, too, if you really want to cast stones.

Hey CBR?

Is Jeff and Josh the same person? Check the email addresses they put in? They sure repeated the same thing! haha…

Which stores do you ‘both’ go to?

Wow. Based on previous interviews and memorable quotes, I always viewed Brevoort as a company man to the point of being somewhat unlikable, but the (clearly envious and bitter) “Ponzi scheme” comment was just… douchey. I always find it interesting (never mind that my reading habits are relatively split 50/50) how DC reps never seems interested in returning the insults and harassment that Joe Q. and his posse spit their way. Remember how the Zombies went rabid when Levitz let Joey’s infamous pornstar comparison go unanswered then had no interest in a Daredevil/Batman jointly produced book? I’m sure in this particular case, there will be no confrontational response either.

Hey Jeff, my local retailer said yours is a lying liar.

Here are some facts: Order adjustments allow retailers to have the figures in hand for the first week of sales for a title before they order the next issue. We pay 20 cents per for the first 3 issues, and 30 cents per for #4 on under the DC return system. If there are retailers out there with fat stacks of returns, then they aren’t good retailers, bottom line. Marvel has often padded their numbers with incentive deals that are so attactive, we end up getting double what we can sell for essentially no extra cost. Marvel sees retailers as the end-users, their consumers, and regularly foists con-jobs on us. DC treats retailers as business partners, with respect and awareness of common goals. I miss Carol Kalish.

Does Tom have a skewed view on the matter, an axe to grind? Of course he does. But here’s the thing; *everyone* is biased. *Nobody* comes to the table without a perspective, or very quickly adapts one. There is *no such thing* as unbiased reporting. There never has been. There never will be.

With that said, an interesting fact is that in overall sales DC *just barely* beat out Marvel in November, after riding high in September and October. Even the most diehard DC fan had to admit the spike from all those #1s would have to wear off sooner or later.

So how much sooner will DC’s house of cards cave in? It’s started to already, of course. If DC has nothing to worry about, why extend the policy for two more months? Why not let the numbers speak for themselves? Unless DC has some reason to wish it otherwise?

DC may treat the retailers with the respect but their storylines and “characterizaton” treat the actual fans buying the comics pretty badly. (This of course leaves out what digital downloads are doing to those retailers they “love” so much.) i’ve never been a Marvel guy and never will, but I know Dan Didio’s ham-fisted approach quite well and even the broken Marvel clock is right twice a day. This is one of those times.

When did “Ponzi scheme” stop being an actual thing with a specific definition, and start being an all-purpose money-related insult?


You’re right, there’s always bias – but when it edges beyond the ridiculous as Tom Brevoort’s has been lately then it becomes that much easier to dismiss it out of hand.

Of course DC isn’t going to continue beating Marvel in sales indefinitely; that was never the goal. They’re publishing fewer books than Marvel at a lower average price – that’s not a recipe for sustained market dominance and their marketing guys know that. DC simply wants to be more profitable than Marvel, and the New 52 is doing that for them.

As for the characters and storylines, some people enjoy them, others don’t; but there’s enough critical success already to indicate it’s not all bad by any means.

Colin McMahon: “Yet Marvel overships books and includes those overship numbers in the sales figures.”

Exactly. Marvel’s been overshipping some books by 50% to try and inflate the sales charts stats so it’s odd to me that they would complain about another company’s scheme/policy. It’d be nice if they’d just realize that one company doing well and bringing in new readers would also benefit the other company.

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