Can we all agree that Marvel Whitmans are not a thing?
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Remember: Western did not return books from other publishers, because they did not sell single copies of other publishers' periodicals. They *were not* a distributor to retailers or newsvendors, except for their own GOLD KEY books! They were a "wholesaler." Their niche, which they'd perfected, was to stockpile and warehouse several months' worth of other publishers' content and then 2-pack, 3-pack, and even 4-pack them for sale...at a tiny discount (usually 1 cent off full cover price) to stores that didn't sell individual comics in general...like K-Mart, or JCPenney, or Wal-Mart, or Sears.

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This was their wheelhouse, and they were very, very good at it...until, strangely enough, the very Direct market that they were an early adopter of killed the demand for packs.

Notice what it says: "distributed by Western Publishing Company, Inc."

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Now notice...#208 (7/79) was printed AFTER Marvel had gone company-wide with the Direct market...because they weren't produced just for Western!

For Marvel, the Direct market defined the issue...not Western.

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And bagged sets from that era weren’t just Whitmans either, not to mention those boxed sets from the1970’s. None of these examples were marked as Whitman unlike the DC books. The fact that they were available from a variety of sources, negates them as Whitmans IMHO. They didn’t publish the books, they were just one of the distributors. Are there a lot of bagged sets that have the Whitman logo on them? Absolutely. Were they all Whitmans? No. We need to just call books without regular bar codes direct market versions, just like the books that were published after that period. We don’t have Parkes variants right? 

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I am guilty of calling them marvel whitmans in the past, especially the ones with the blank UPC box.  (People used to think they were all reprints too) 

I would be willing to never do that again if people would agree to stop calling foreign editions of comics price variants.

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1 hour ago, ShieldAgent said:

I am guilty of calling them marvel whitmans in the past, especially the ones with the blank UPC box.  (People used to think they were all reprints too) 

I would be willing to never do that again if people would agree to stop calling foreign editions of comics price variants.

lol

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22 hours ago, RockMyAmadeus said:

Now notice...#208 (7/79) was printed AFTER Marvel had gone company-wide with the Direct market...because they weren't produced just for Western!

For Marvel, the Direct market defined the issue...not Western.

I'll make no argument that for June 1979 and beyond Marvel was clearly shipping to every direct market retailer.  1977 to May 1979 is a different animal.

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16 hours ago, bellrules said:

And bagged sets from that era weren’t just Whitmans either, not to mention those boxed sets from the1970’s. None of these examples were marked as Whitman unlike the DC books. The fact that they were available from a variety of sources, negates them as Whitmans IMHO. They didn’t publish the books, they were just one of the distributors. Are there a lot of bagged sets that have the Whitman logo on them? Absolutely. Were they all Whitmans? No. We need to just call books without regular bar codes direct market versions, just like the books that were published after that period. We don’t have Parkes variants right? 

 

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I also don't maintain that Marvel wasn't trickling out some of these variants to other retailers.  Who were the sellers of those boxed sets and those packages that don't say Whitman/Western on the bags?  

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7 hours ago, Warlord said:

I also don't maintain that Marvel wasn't trickling out some of these variants to other retailers.  Who were the sellers of those boxed sets and those packages that don't say Whitman/Western on the bags?  

In the mid 1980s, both of my distributors had empty Marvel multibags for sale. I believe they were about $5 per hundred. The idea behind them was to bundle excess stock and sell it off premises.

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If I remember correctly, there were ads in comics in the 70s and 80’s where you could order sets of Marvel comics from this era. I don’t think they were bagged. This would have probably been one of the other outlets where these direct éditons would have been sold. I could only find a more recent version, but I do remember a full page add of these types of sets. 

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3 hours ago, shadroch said:

In the mid 1980s, both of my distributors had empty Marvel multibags for sale. I believe they were about $5 per hundred. The idea behind them was to bundle excess stock and sell it off premises.

Fascinating.   I've seen unused Marvel multibags for sale on ebay.  I would have guessed they were just surplus that didn't quite get used up, I wouldn't have imagined they were available for sale at that time!

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3 minutes ago, bellrules said:

If I remember correctly, there were ads in comics in the 70s and 80’s where you could order sets of Marvel comics from this era. I don’t think they were bagged. This would have probably been one of the other outlets where these direct éditons would have been sold. I could only find a more recent version, but I do remember a full page add of these types of sets. 

 

Good discussion, all.  :applause:

The What-If #2, 3, & 6 listed in that ad were from 1977 and square-bound/giant-sized.   In the 1977-May 1979 timeframe I've not seen evidence that Western packaged any issues in that format.   As mentioned next, that's part of my reasoning on this topic.

Regarding 1977 - May 1979, what do you say about the gaps in the diamond covers that exist?  Or that some titles don't have ANY diamond covers?  Or that there are no square-bound/giant-sized diamond covers?  What about Jim Shooter's statements to JJM repeated here: https://blog.comichron.com/2010/04/jim-shooter-on-marvel-whitmans-direct.html    With some titles completely left out of the picture, it just doesn't seem plausible that they would be going to all the direct market comic book retailers in such haphazard fashion. 

These factors suggest that Western was THE driving force behind the existence of these issues, so, for 1977 - May 1979 we have Marvel Whitmans.  If Marvel didn't make them for Western, they didn't make them at all.  But when they did make them, sure, it's possible that they might they have sold them to some other resellers, or maybe Western even did that themselves. 

 

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10 hours ago, Warlord said:
On 2/7/2020 at 12:24 AM, RockMyAmadeus said:

Now notice...#208 (7/79) was printed AFTER Marvel had gone company-wide with the Direct market...because they weren't produced just for Western!

For Marvel, the Direct market defined the issue...not Western.

I'll make no argument that for June 1979 and beyond Marvel was clearly shipping to every direct market retailer.  1977 to May 1979 is a different animal.

The point of that is that there is no break for Marvel books bought by Western and packaged. The #206? 5/79 Direct copy (prior to the company-wide adoption) #208? After. 

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Now, you could make the argument that that's because Western was already receiving these books; it makes sense that they'd continue to receive them. But the problem with that argument is that there is no difference between the so-called "Whitmans" that came before, and the ones we KNOW were Direct that came after. Same exact format. 

Is it because they are all "Whitmans"? No...it's because they are all Direct copies. The argument can be made, of course, that Marvel just expanded what they were already doing with Western to the whole Direct market...but that doesn't work. Why? Because Western did not return books. It wasn't their business model. Instead, they stockpiled them in their warehouses and when they had enough of whatever it was they were trying to make, they'd bag them up and send them out. As far as research has shown, Western wouldn't have even been in the position to return most books, because by the time they'd saved up enough for their 3-packs, then distributed those, the window for returning the books would have been months in the past. It's why a lot of people thought of them as "reprints": first, they wouldn't show up for months after the "originals", then they'd stay on the shelves for perhaps many more months, because they weren't returnable to Marvel (and it's probably safe to assume that the retail stores, like K-Mart, JCP, and the like, couldn't return them to Western, either.)

Western wasn't the one, then, who made the different cover markings necessary, because they weren't the ones trying to fraudulently return Direct copies through the newsstand distribution system. If they had been, I have little doubt Marvel would have cut them off, since, if the "fat diamonds" were exclusively sent to Western, it would be a piece of cake to figure out who was trying to game the system. It'd be pretty scandalous, after all, if the third biggest comics publisher at the time was fraudulently returning books for credit they weren't supposed to to another publisher. But they weren't, so the cover markings weren't for them...they were for everyone else

That doesn't mean Western was without influence. They obviously were. The blank and later strike-through UPCs were a result of Whitman requesting that, so non-comics retailers wouldn't sell a 3-pack at the single issue price through a barcode scanning error.

DC's arrangement was different (and remember, 1977-78 was the time when the entire comics market nearly collapsed altogether), which is why they printed them as and for Whitman exclusively: there's no evidence that DC did anything to differentiate Direct copies from newsstand for many years; it's not until October, 1980 cover dates that we see it, well over a year after Marvel.

I realize there are a few suppositions in this that are subject to change with further evidence, so if anybody has any, by all means, please share.

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2 hours ago, bellrules said:

If I remember correctly, there were ads in comics in the 70s and 80’s where you could order sets of Marvel comics from this era. I don’t think they were bagged. This would have probably been one of the other outlets where these direct éditons would have been sold. I could only find a more recent version, but I do remember a full page add of these types of sets. 

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Heroes World /The Superhero Shop was owned and operated by Ivan Snyder, who was Marvels Head of Merchandising in his day job.

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1 hour ago, Warlord said:

Regarding 1977 - May 1979, what do you say about the gaps in the diamond covers that exist?  Or that some titles don't have ANY diamond covers?  Or that there are no square-bound/giant-sized diamond covers?

Because they were, fundamentally, tests to see how it would work. Marvel had just finished their 30 cent test versions, and were about to launch their 35 cent test versions, when these came about. Their best-selling titles...Amazing Spiderman, Incredible Hulk, and Fantastic Four...had virtually the entire time period covered. But then, there are complete oddballs, like John Carter #2, which is the only issue of the run (that we know of) with a Direct version.

As for the gaps...again, Western was the driver for these issues; I suspect it was merely a cost-saving measure. If Western didn't order in a particular month, there was no great push to print an entire separate run for the rest of the (fledgling still, at that point) Direct market (except for Star Wars.) But the Direct market continued to expand between Feb, 1977 and May, 1979, and so we see more and more titles..including the sole X-Men issue #118...be included in this "Direct run."

Here's what I wrote, many years ago, that BIP lifted from me and posted as their own:

"While it is true Western Publishing was the largest distributor of these early diamond issues between 1977-1979 there is anecdotal evidence that indicates they were not the only distributor. Recollections of several dealers have indicated that they had received diamond issues at varying points in time prior to 1980. Regardless of these recollections, it is clear that Western Publishing was the driving force behind these early diamond cover print runs."

http://bipcomics.com/showcase/Direct/index.php

And this was written by me maybe 10 or more years ago, before I understood the issue more clearly. 

2 hours ago, Warlord said:

What about Jim Shooter's statements to JJM repeated here: https://blog.comichron.com/2010/04/jim-shooter-on-marvel-whitmans-direct.html   

Jim Shooter didn't begin working for Marvel until January of 1976, and then as an asst. editor/writer. But he did not work in circulation, which was where these decisions were taking place. He worked in the creative division, not the circulation dept. Shooter's been wrong about these details in the past, and JJM mentions that he can't reconcile some of these details, either. Again: Western didn't return books. Whether it's because they couldn't, because they kept books past the credit deadline, or it simply just wasn't part of their business model, the point is, they didn't return books. If that was the case, there was no need for them to have special cover markings so that those Direct copies bought at a discount couldn't be returned as newsstand copies.

I have no doubt, because of the swirling events happening at the time, and Marvel going through one EIC after another in short fashion until Shooter took the position in '78, that a lot of these details have gotten mixed and misremembered over time.

2 hours ago, Warlord said:

With some titles completely left out of the picture, it just doesn't seem plausible that they would be going to all the direct market comic book retailers in such haphazard fashion. 

You're right, they didn't. But that was because they were still, functionally, a test. They were an additional expense that wasn't (yet) necessary all the time, but something which Marvel had developed because...and this is critical...entirely independently of Western, it was believed, if not proven, that Direct copies were being returned for credit through the newsstand distribution system, and Marvel wanted to put a stop to it. Since Western didn't return copies, there was clearly some other impetus for the program, though it certainly would have easily coincided at that point.

2 hours ago, Warlord said:

These factors suggest that Western was THE driving force behind the existence of these issues, so, for 1977 - May 1979 we have Marvel Whitmans.  If Marvel didn't make them for Western, they didn't make them at all.

I agree with you here.

2 hours ago, Warlord said:

But when they did make them, sure, it's possible that they might they have sold them to some other resellers, or maybe Western even did that themselves. 

I don't see how Western would have sold these to other resellers. That wasn't Western's business model. And it doesn't make too much sense that Western would sell their Direct copies to others, long after they were "on the newsstand." Western was a publisher, not a new comics distributor; the only distribution they did was their "packs."

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This whole thread is a lot of supposition in pursuit of a desired outcome.  There’s a whole lot of gathering information to prove beliefs and not much following the facts wherever they lead.  

FWIW, As someone that was buying comics from newsstands, drugstores, grocery stores, Toys R Us, and anywhere else we could find them in the 1970s, I can tell you that the “square diamond” associated with Whitman reprints was pretty much exclusively sold in very predictable 3 packs many, many months (if not years) after the original newsstand issues came out.  By predictable 3 packs, I mean that they were pretty much always the same 3 issues in a given pack, much like the Marvel multi-mag 3 packs.  

It was only in places like Toys R Us that one would find both the Whitman books and the Marvel multi-mags.  This does not mean that both Whitman books and multi-mags were the same thing.  They might be.  But they might also be different.  Multi-mags may have been printed at the same time as newsstand issues with direct intent of packaging together and selling to certain venues.  Or they may have been printed later with no detectable difference from the original newsstand issue.  And, yes, Whitman books most probably are reprints due to a couple of particular aspects- they clearly came out much later and they were deliberately marked different than newsstand issues with the square diamond.  I don’t doubt that they were purposely printed for distribution to certain venues, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t reprints, second prints, or whatever one wants to call them.  Unless somebody can provide substantive proof that they were printed at the same time as newsstand issues, then I think you’re reaching to legitimize something based not on facts, but in pursuit of a fixed belief.

I know we are now in an era where people value 2nd, 3rd, 4th prints higher than first prints due to smaller print runs.  Fine.  I don’t personally value them more but that’s me.  Why not just accept Whitmans for what they are- later printed issues.  You can still collect them and value them more or less than newsstand copies as you like.  Trying to rewrite history to make them “not reprints” smacks of trying to create value where none exists (aka market manipulation).

Finally, there is a distinct difference between foreign edition comics and pence price variants.  Pretty sure pence price variants weren’t printed in the UK.  Foreign editions are printed in the country they were distributed in and there are vast examples of such.

rantrant

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1 hour ago, Randall Dowling said:

This whole thread is a lot of supposition in pursuit of a desired outcome.  There’s a whole lot of gathering information to prove beliefs and not much following the facts wherever they lead.

Agree to disagree.

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Also...they're not reprints, and never were. 

We know this because of two facts:

1. The confirmation of witnesses working at Marvel and elsewhere at the time, including the aforementioned Jim Shooter, who says they weren't reprints:

"Shooter said the program was developed specifically for Western Publishing and its Whitman bagged edition program, and that they were definitely printed simultaneously with the Curtis newsstand editions. The only reprints are those that are labeled as such, like Star Wars adaptation copies."

https://blog.comichron.com/2010/04/jim-shooter-on-marvel-whitmans-direct.html

2. Reprints made during this time (Star Wars) were clearly marked as such. 

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(or in the indicia)

Also...cover prices during this period changed from 30 cents to 35 cents. If a book like this, that came out the month before the cover price hike, was a reprint, it would have been priced at 35 cents....*not* 30:

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All the Star Wars DIAMOND reprints that are marked "reprint" (either in the indicia or the cover) are priced at 35 cents...because they weren't made until *after* the cover prices had gone up in July/August (actual time) 1977. The initial 30 cent reprints, made PRIOR TO the publication of #5, are priced at 30 cents and are the "square box" of the standard newsstand:

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It's possible this particular reprint was made just days or weeks after the first print!

And what does NOT exist...?

#5 and up reprints in the "square box format." 

So what, then, is this strange beast:

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...?

It's not a reprint. It's not marked as such. It was clearly made at or around the same time as the "original newsstand first print"...and Marvel had either *already made* reprints prior to this one, or, at the very least, in the few short days or weeks after this, before cover prices switched to 35 cents....and Marvel never went backwards in cover price...so how could this book be a reprint, when there weren't any "Diamond" reprints yet, and Marvel was still making the *square* box reprints after the original newsstand first print...?

Answer: this is also a first print. A Direct market first print, made at the exact same time as the newsstands. 

Sure, it's possible that someone made a mistake and printed 30 cent reprints AFTER cover prices had already gone to 35 cents...but very, very unlikely. So this strange book had to have been made BEFORE the cover price switch. And since it's not marked "reprint" (no, not in the indicia either!), and it's not a square cover price box...it's got to be a first print. 

(It's also important to note that though there are "standard newsstand" copies of #1-4, there are NONE after. This is almost certainly because #5 and #6 were made at the special request of Western, since 1-3 and 4-6 made neat bookends. But the square box #1-4 were made for, and distributed to, the newsstand distribution system.)

 

No, the supposition for decades was the idea that they were all reprints...confused by the fact that no one was paying attention at the time, the acres of Star Wars reprints floating out there confused everybody, and there was no internet for collectors to document everything in one place. What we now know is that they were NOT reprints, and never were.

I have very little doubt that copies of Star Wars #1...a $10 book by that summer...showing up in bags for 89 cents all over the country excited lots and lots of people...until they discovered the terrible fact that they were reprints. It's easy to imagine, then, that the format of those reprints "stuck" in the minds of many.

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The reprints started with issue 1 of Star Wars, but there is a bagged version of a direct #2,3 and 4 that wasn’t bagged by Whitman. All first prints. Which goes back to my initial point that these are not Whitmans. They are direct copies. Tons of Marvels were sold in Comic Pacs that were not distributed in bags marked Whitman 

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Edited by bellrules
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15 minutes ago, bellrules said:

The reprints started with issue 1 of Star Wars, but there is a bagged version of a direct #2,3 and 4 that wasn’t bagged by Whitman. All first prints. Which goes back to my initial point that these are not Whitmans. They are direct copies. Tons of Marvels were sold in Comic Pacs that were not distributed in bags marked Whitman 

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Yup.

And, at least according to Nick Pope, there's the rumor of #1 having one, too:

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But...I don't think it's ever been confirmed.

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