Can we all agree that Marvel Whitmans are not a thing?
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237 posts in this topic

8 minutes ago, Warlord said:

I asked if it was known who sold issues in these packages that don't say Whitman.  Newsflash - it was Western, and they could be put on floor displays that said Whitman.  :news:     There are a lot of examples of these 3-packs that are quite a bit more common than the Star Wars pack with this type of bag.

 

 

Western also sold the Comic Pac packages, of this type, again without the Whitman name or logo on the bag

 

1001875336_marvelwhitman3packFantasticFour185MarvelTales82Eternals15-f.thumb.jpg.da701d586fa21758ae59efe21bd8a855.jpg.

 

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On 2/10/2020 at 12:14 PM, RockMyAmadeus said:

Those books would have been 4-6 months...if not more...old by that point. The window to return books for credit wasn't open-ended. And the returns...unless they did things differently on the east coast through Curtis than on the west coast...were for credit, not cash. 

And the point became moot by the time of the Direct cover markings, because that's what Marvel sent to Western anyway. So if Western's sub-distributors were returning through the newsstand channel, that effectively ended by early 1977.

I can't find any documentation that suggests Western was selling Marvels prior to then, either. 

This is an interesting point - whether Western was selling any Marvel comics prior to 1977.  I'll have to study my image library to see whether I can find any examples to show that they were, or whether I come up empty.  I suspect the latter case may be the outcome....   very interesting.

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13 minutes ago, RockMyAmadeus said:

My counter-argument is:

A. The window to return for credit wasn't indefinite

B. Getting 5-10% credit on a 30-35 cent comic doesn't seem very lucrative. They weren't returning thousands of copies, after all. Credit always requires more labor = less "profit."

And...I'm not even sure if Whitman even sold pre-packs of Marvel books prior to 1977. So it may not even have been possible. Do you have any examples of NEWSSTAND Marvel books in unopened packs? As Shooter claims, the system was set up specifically FOR Western...and while there are some problems with this claim, it may not be far off from what actually occurred.

Newsstand Marvels in unopened packs?  Yep.  Probably sold by Marvel, or whoever put Marvels into Multi-Mag packs.  By Western/Whitman?  I suspect not, so I'll be looking to see what I can find.

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1 minute ago, Warlord said:

Newsstand Marvels in unopened packs?  Yep.  Probably sold by Marvel, or whoever put Marvels into Multi-Mag packs.  By Western/Whitman?  I suspect not, so I'll be looking to see what I can find.

...sold by Western, which was the premise of shadroch's claims.

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2 hours ago, RockMyAmadeus said:

My counter-argument is:

A. The window to return for credit wasn't indefinite

B. Getting 5-10% credit on a 30-35 cent comic doesn't seem very lucrative. They weren't returning thousands of copies, after all. Credit always requires more labor = less "profit."

And...I'm not even sure if Whitman even sold pre-packs of Marvel books prior to 1977. So it may not even have been possible. Do you have any examples of NEWSSTAND Marvel books in unopened packs? As Shooter claims, the system was set up specifically FOR Western...and while there are some problems with this claim, it may not be far off from what actually occurred.

Regarding the indefinite return window, Western did sell packs of comics with three consecutive issues of the same title - which would require multi-month stockpiling.  But I think even more commonly they sold packs containing three separate comics titles, where all three issues were from the same month.  This would cut down on the stockpiling timeframe.  It would be very useful to know more about their holding time on the comics that went into these packs.  Of course, for cash flow purposes they would be motivated to move them quickly, but we just don't have that info.

Edited by Warlord
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On 2/11/2020 at 5:03 PM, Warlord said:

Newsstand Marvels in unopened packs?  Yep.  Probably sold by Marvel, or whoever put Marvels into Multi-Mag packs.  By Western/Whitman?  I suspect not, so I'll be looking to see what I can find.

How about this example? Shogun Warriors newsstand in a sealed pack as well as a Whitman pack with the direct. 

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I'll still consider the 77-78 stuff "Whitman" copies, whatever small percentage that was sold outside of the Whitman program doesn't compel me to call these (early) direct editions, mainly due to my experience when I started frequenting comic specialty shops (which was right after the price changed to $0.40) I don't recall any of the comic shops selling back issues of the big diamond variety, basically the 35 cent era back issue stock at comic shops were always newsstand copies. 

Edited by bababooey
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11 hours ago, bellrules said:

How about this example? Shogun Warriors newsstand in a sealed pack as well as a Whitman pack with the direct. 

 

 

Thanks for the examples.  Those packs are further examples of the two identified categories - multi-mags with newsstand versions (but no Whitman labeling) and packages with Whitman labeling that contain the black diamond/starburst versions.  

I'd like to know more about who packaged and sold the Marvel multi-mags.

Surprisingly I've found that Parkes Run advertised that multi-mags were available from them and they appear to have been using the same green and mustard yellow signature background color on the bags.   However, there are also comics pre-packs that are literally identified with the Parkes Run name prominently shown on the package (with the green and mustard yellow colors), yet none of them are multi-mags!   Did they get squeezed out of the multi-mag game? 

I'd welcome any info, but it's still my guess that Marvel was the key player in packaging the multi-mag pre-packs.

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On 2/11/2020 at 6:58 PM, Warlord said:
On 2/10/2020 at 12:14 PM, RockMyAmadeus said:

Those books would have been 4-6 months...if not more...old by that point. The window to return books for credit wasn't open-ended. And the returns...unless they did things differently on the east coast through Curtis than on the west coast...were for credit, not cash. 

And the point became moot by the time of the Direct cover markings, because that's what Marvel sent to Western anyway. So if Western's sub-distributors were returning through the newsstand channel, that effectively ended by early 1977.

I can't find any documentation that suggests Western was selling Marvels prior to then, either. 

This is an interesting point - whether Western was selling any Marvel comics prior to 1977.  I'll have to study my image library to see whether I can find any examples to show that they were, or whether I come up empty.  I suspect the latter case may be the outcome....   very interesting.

I've organized and looked through my image library.  I've been unable to identify any package with Whitman labeling that contains pre-1977 Marvel comics.  Although others may draw different conclusions, I see this situation as reinforcement of the Jim Shooter statement that these black diamond versions were produced for Whitman.  JJM's quote re: Shooter "the program was developed specifically for Western Publishing and its Whitman bagged edition program".   If Marvel knew they had a returns problem, and wanted to start shipping large numbers of non-returnable comics off to Western, printing that volume of comics would have unlocked the opportunity for a different version to be produced.

That said, Marvel would have been wise to seize upon the availability of these issues to try to flush out their concerns about comics being improperly returned for newsstand price credits.   Would it have been possible for them to produce them for Whitman, then feed a small portion of the print run into other select channels?  They could then wait to see if they were returned for newsstand price credits, and by whom.  If done in a controlled fashion such a process over time could have identified the bad actors.

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4 hours ago, bababooey said:

I'll still consider the 77-78 stuff "Whitman" copies, whatever small percentage that was sold outside of the Whitman program doesn't compel me to call these (early) direct editions, mainly due to my experience when I started frequenting comic specialty shops (which was right after the price changed to $0.40) I don't recall any of the comic shops selling back issues of the big diamond variety, basically the 35 cent era back issue stock at comic shops were always newsstand copies. 

That's essentially my reaction too.  It's certainly possible some of the comics produced for Whitman were sent into direct channels (I just speculated as much in my prior post), but I can't dismiss the titles and issues that don't exist in the diamond version.  If I were Marvel and chose to make direct market versions, why wouldn't I have made every title and every issue in the diamond format?   Unfortunately there's not complete information available, and so we're left with guesswork and trying to connect the dots.

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39 minutes ago, Warlord said:

I've organized and looked through my image library.  I've been unable to identify any package with Whitman labeling that contains pre-1977 Marvel comics.  Although others may draw different conclusions, I see this situation as reinforcement of the Jim Shooter statement that these black diamond versions were produced for Whitman.  JJM's quote re: Shooter "the program was developed specifically for Western Publishing and its Whitman bagged edition program".   If Marvel knew they had a returns problem, and wanted to start shipping large numbers of non-returnable comics off to Western, printing that volume of comics would have unlocked the opportunity for a different version to be produced.

That said, Marvel would have been wise to seize upon the availability of these issues to try to flush out their concerns about comics being improperly returned for newsstand price credits.   Would it have been possible for them to produce them for Whitman, then feed a small portion of the print run into other select channels?  They could then wait to see if they were returned for newsstand price credits, and by whom.  If done in a controlled fashion such a process over time could have identified the bad actors.

I have no problem with the idea that Marvel took the opportunity to make Direct versions because of the additional revenue through the Western channel. As I have said many, many times, Western was obviously the largest market for Direct versions because it suited their business model...they didn't return books because they essentially operated as consolidating sub-distributors with no option to return. 

However...because Western didn't return books...and Marvel had already identified that there were, in fact, retailers who were abusing the newsstand returns process...it would be improper to call these "Whitman versions", because they weren't made for the purposes of selling to Western. They were made to prevent abuse by the entire Direct market, and Western...since they didn't return books...was specifically excluded from the need to police the Direct market.

In a sense, then, they were more "anti-Whitmans" than "Whitmans." There was no need to produce them for Western, because Western wasn't the problem.

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5 hours ago, bababooey said:

I'll still consider the 77-78 stuff "Whitman" copies, whatever small percentage that was sold outside of the Whitman program doesn't compel me to call these (early) direct editions, mainly due to my experience when I started frequenting comic specialty shops (which was right after the price changed to $0.40) I don't recall any of the comic shops selling back issues of the big diamond variety, basically the 35 cent era back issue stock at comic shops were always newsstand copies. 

It wasn't a small percentage. It's one of the reasons why Marvel went company-wide with the program starting with the June, 1979 cover dates. The Direct market was making an impact on sales, and it was showing. Everyone gloms onto Shooter's "6%" figure for 1979, but no one has ever confirmed that, and Rozanski is fond of saying that other titles, like X-Men, were as much as 10% of all sales (I suspect they were a LOT higher, as people were beginning to speculate...and those were comics specialty stores buyers....the Direct market...not newsstand buyers.)

That they even went to the expense of developing a Direct market program in late 1976 at all shows the impact the Direct market was having on total sales by that point. If the DM was a tiny percentage of sales, then it was an even tinier percentage of those who might be abusing the returns system, and there wouldn't have been the need for such a program in the first place.

And Marvel, especially in the chaos of the mid-70s, was hardly known for being proactive.

As for store stock, Bud Plant has said that his chain of stores, Comics & Comix, maintained a magazine distribution (newsstand) account well into the 80s...and Bud was an actual, honest-to-God Direct market distributor.

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1 hour ago, Warlord said:

I've organized and looked through my image library.  I've been unable to identify any package with Whitman labeling that contains pre-1977 Marvel comics.  Although others may draw different conclusions, I see this situation as reinforcement of the Jim Shooter statement that these black diamond versions were produced for Whitman.  JJM's quote re: Shooter "the program was developed specifically for Western Publishing and its Whitman bagged edition program".   If Marvel knew they had a returns problem, and wanted to start shipping large numbers of non-returnable comics off to Western, printing that volume of comics would have unlocked the opportunity for a different version to be produced.

That said, Marvel would have been wise to seize upon the availability of these issues to try to flush out their concerns about comics being improperly returned for newsstand price credits.   Would it have been possible for them to produce them for Whitman, then feed a small portion of the print run into other select channels?  They could then wait to see if they were returned for newsstand price credits, and by whom.  If done in a controlled fashion such a process over time could have identified the bad actors.

In NYC and I assume elsewhere, most returns were done by affidavit, meaning a vendor would rip the top of the mag/book off and sign a sworn statement that the books would be destroyed. Curtis handled the newstand distributors but there were hundreds ,if not thousands of distributors and sub distributors. This was all pre-computer pre-scanner. The whole system depended on honesty, but the industry was rotten to the corp.

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1 hour ago, Warlord said:

Unfortunately there's not complete information available, and so we're left with guesswork and trying to connect the dots.

Someone, somewhere, has this information. It's not too late. But I don't need to tell you the uphill battle we all face. We can't even get everyone on board to not think of them as reprints in 2020, when it's been established for a decade or more that they are clearly not reprints, and never were...with the exception of the Star Wars books which are marked "reprint."

 

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14 minutes ago, RockMyAmadeus said:

It wasn't a small percentage. It's one of the reasons why Marvel went company-wide with the program starting with the June, 1979 cover dates. The Direct market was making an impact on sales, and it was showing. Everyone gloms onto Shooter's "6%" figure for 1979, but no one has ever confirmed that, and Rozanski is fond of saying that other titles, like X-Men, were as much as 10% of all sales (I suspect they were a LOT higher, as people were beginning to speculate...and those were comics specialty stores buyers....the Direct market...not newsstand buyers.)

That they even went to the expense of developing a Direct market program in late 1976 at all shows the impact the Direct market was having on total sales by that point. If the DM was a tiny percentage of sales, then it was an even tinier percentage of those who might be abusing the returns system, and there wouldn't have been the need for such a program in the first place.

And Marvel, especially in the chaos of the mid-70s, was hardly known for being proactive.

As for store stock, Bud Plant has said that his chain of stores, Comics & Comix, maintained a magazine distribution (newsstand) account well into the 80s...and Bud was an actual, honest-to-God Direct market distributor.

Again, as someone who was actually seeking out comic book stores in the 1970s with my older brother, so much of what you state here is a gross exaggeration of the actual circumstances.  Here are just a few realities that fly in the face of what you want to be the case:

  1. X-men was not a hugely collected and amassed book in the 1970s.  Period.  Full Stop.  There were some who purchased 2-3 copies of each issue but they were incredibly rare.
  2. The number of actual comic book stores in the entire United States was maybe a couple dozen at the start of the 70s and the decade ended with maybe a 100.  MAYBE 100.  This curve of growth was definitely parabolic, not linear.  So there wasn’t a huge direct market that you imagine.
  3. Due to my family’s idea of a vacation growing up being “let’s see how many cities and states we can visit in 2 weeks”, we visited many of the comic book stores of the time.  NONE OF THESE STORES EVER SOLD THE SQUARE DIAMOND WHITMAN REPRINTS.  I’m sorry, but they didn’t.  I don’t think they were ever sold outside of the 3 packs which also were not sold in those stores.  So this imaginary giant direct market for comics in the 70s did.  not.  exist.  I think it was a different distribution model for toy stores, etc.they tried and didn’t do very well.  So it was abandoned.  A year or two later when they started direct distribution to comic book stores, they used a different price logo for a reason.

I’m telling you, you are twisting facts to suit theories instead of shaping theories around facts.  And if you have a stockpile of these Whitman books, then I’m afraid everything you say about them is suspect.  I’ve seen people use these forums to pump up books they have hoarded.  I really hope that’s not what you’re doing here.

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1 hour ago, Randall Dowling said:

Again, as someone who was actually seeking out comic book stores in the 1970s with my older brother, so much of what you state here is a gross exaggeration of the actual circumstances.  Here are just a few realities that fly in the face of what you want to be the case:

I am mostly quoting others; your issues of "gross exaggeration" are with them. I would recommend you not taking the discussion so personally, but that's your call.

1 hour ago, Randall Dowling said:

X-men was not a hugely collected and amassed book in the 1970s.  Period.  Full Stop.  There were some who purchased 2-3 copies of each issue but they were incredibly rare.

The 1970s was 10 years. Do you mean 1972? No, X-Men wasn't really being "collected" by anyone as new issues, since they were reprints. Do you mean 1975? While Marvel got around to reviving the team, it certainly didn't set the world on fire. Do you mean the summer of 1978? Now, there we have something. The summer of 1978 was the big coming out party for the X-Men, and it is from that summer that the X-Men's climb to the top started. 

Now...no less than Robert Beerbohm, who was co-owner/manager of Comics & Comix in Berkeley, CA at the time, claims he was ordering "10,000 copies of X-Men around issue #108."

Obviously, I don't believe him for a second, because that means he would have represented nearly 10% of all sold copies...an obvious contradiction. 

BUT...I DO believe that, by 1979, there were a lot of speculators buying multiple copies of the new issues, because there's a marked increase in extant copies in high grade from 1977 to 1979. Now...what does "a lot of speculators" mean, and how many copies were they buying? Hard to say...but you can see, in the first Marvel ad that Rozanski did in early 1980, on the shelves in June, that X-Men #94 was being advertised at $50, in "VG or better"...a book that was 5 years old and came out for 25 cents. Books that were 2 years old were being offered for $5+...books that had been published at 35 cents.

So obviously, *someone* was buying them (cue @FlyingDonut )

1 hour ago, Randall Dowling said:

The number of actual comic book stores in the entire United States was maybe a couple dozen at the start of the 70s and the decade ended with maybe a 100.  MAYBE 100.  This curve of growth was definitely parabolic, not linear.  So there wasn’t a huge direct market that you imagine.

That is incorrect. There were substantially more than 100 comics specialty stores in existence on Jan 1, 1980. In the SF Bay Area alone, there were a dozen.

Here's what Chuck Rozanski has to say about that:

Quote

These new venues would need to be above and beyond those that existed with the approximately 750 comics specialty stores that were in business in 1979.

(emphasis added)

..and JIM SHOOTER (through Chuck Rozanski) is the one who claims that, in 1979, the Direct market accounted for 6% of Marvel's gross sales:

Quote

 

 I derived the following estimated numbers specifically from conversations with Jim Shooter, Ed Shukin, Michael Hobson, and Carol Kalish:

1979 Direct Market 6% of Marvel's gross sales

 

https://www.milehighcomics.com/tales/cbg109.html

The fact that Marvel went company-wide with the Direct market cover marking program in March of 1979, for all titles, suggests that the Direct market....which had been in existence since 1973-74, and by 1979 had a dozen distributors and multiple sub-distributors, because Phil Seuling was forced to give up his monopoly in 1977...was a market force big enough to start making serious impacts on the comics publishing business.

1 hour ago, Randall Dowling said:

Due to my family’s idea of a vacation growing up being “let’s see how many cities and states we can visit in 2 weeks”, we visited many of the comic book stores of the time.  NONE OF THESE STORES EVER SOLD THE SQUARE DIAMOND WHITMAN REPRINTS.  I’m sorry, but they didn’t.

Why are you sorry? How old were you at this point? What years are referring to? 

You're the guy who, earlier in this thread, insisted that these were all REPRINTS....right? We've known that wasn't true for over a decade now, if not more.

Again: these books are not reprints, other than the aforementioned Star Wars reprints.

1 hour ago, Randall Dowling said:

So this imaginary giant direct market for comics in the 70s did.  not.  exist.  

I'm not sure what you mean by "giant direct market for comics", since I didn't use the word "giant", and didn't characterize it as such. Can you clarify?

1 hour ago, Randall Dowling said:

 I think it was a different distribution model for toy stores, etc.they tried and didn’t do very well.  So it was abandoned.

I'm not sure what you're referring to. Who is "they", and what did they try? What was abandoned? Pack distribution? Pack distribution lasted for decades, well into the 90s.

1 hour ago, Randall Dowling said:

A year or two later when they started direct distribution to comic book stores, they used a different price logo for a reason.

Again, who is "they"? Do you mean Marvel? Marvel started Direct distribution to comic book stores in 1973.

And...different price logo...?

Here's the "price logo" for Tarzan #2 (1977):

s-l1600.jpg

Which, oddly enough, is the same "price logo" that Marvel adopted company-wide in June of 1979:

s-l1600.jpg

1 hour ago, Randall Dowling said:

I’m telling you, you are twisting facts to suit theories instead of shaping theories around facts.

And you are quite incorrect, as the above information shows.

1 hour ago, Randall Dowling said:

And if you have a stockpile of these Whitman books, then I’m afraid everything you say about them is suspect.  I’ve seen people use these forums to pump up books they have hoarded.  I really hope that’s not what you’re doing here.

What a bizarre conclusion to come to, based on the context of this thread. There's nothing in the context of this thread that would lead anyone to reasonably have such a suspicion. I didn't start this thread, and it's about trying to puzzle out what we know about these books. Where is the "pumping" being done by anyone...?

I would suggest reading through this thread again, more carefully. Even though the main parties involved in the discussion don't agree on all the details, we've all spent a considerable amount of time and research on the subject, and are quite familiar with it.

 

Edited by RockMyAmadeus
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I very much doubt Marvel was selling direct to comic stores in 1973. They were selling to Seuling maybe, although that seems a bit too early. Pre-1978, I regularly haunted what would become comic book shops and none of them carried new comics. It just wasn't part of their business model.  People bought new comics off newsstands and back issues at comic shops. I was still buying wholesale from Imperial. I recall talking to a Seagate employee about opening an account but their minimums were way too high and they wanted money upfront for new accounts.

I remember ordering a bunch of back issues from Bud Plant and getting some books with a diamond logo mixed in with newsstand copies. Bud was great, but on the wrong coast so shipping was an issue.

Seagate still dominated the distribution market in the East as they stayed ahead of the competition by using charted trucks and then private planes to get books here from Sparta a day before Comics Unlimited did. Until Phil got sick, no one really challenged him in the Metro area. As late as 1983/84, many stores that sold back issue comics didn't deal with new ones, and some wanted no part of the no return policies. Many simply couldn't afford to pay in advance for products you wouldn't receive for two months.

In 1982, I was in Rochester, N.Y., which had four or five shops dedicated to comics, and a handful of collectible/ junk stores. I don't recall any of them carrying new comics of any sort. I was buying three month old comics from Friendly Frank's at huge discount and trading new comics for old.

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