In my past two columns, I have alluded to a letter I sent to Marvel Comics in
1979. Rather than to continue to paraphrase what I said in that letter, I decided
to instead track down a copy, and print it in its entirety. While it was not the
most diplomatic of letters, through pure circumstance, it was to ultimately have a
profound effect on the future of the Direct Market. I'll discuss the wide-ranging
consequences of my letter in my next column.
Robert T. Maiello 5 - 9 - 79
Manager, Sales Administration
Marvel Comics Group
575 Madison Ave.
New York, NY 10022
To be continued...
Dear Mr. Maiello:
My name is Charles Rozanski, and I own Mile High Comics. I am one of the largest
comic book retailers in America (sales 1979 about $400,000), and thus a customer of
yours. I am also a small advertiser in your comic books. This letter is an attempt
on my part to bring to your attention some suggestions which I believe will be
relevant, if your job truly encompasses sales and promotion.
To begin with, I have been an active retailer of your products for over four years.
Starting with no more than 15 of any comic title, I am now purchasing over 10,000
Marvel comics a month on a nonreturnable basis. I get these books through Seagate
Distributing (Jonni Levas, Phil Seuling ) . It is my latest order with them that has
especially prompted this letter.
My order ( of which a photocopy is enclosed) for your products is just under $4,000
for this month. These are books that will arrive between June 10 and July 10. Under
your existing policies you have just lost at least $1,000 in sales. The reason: After
putting my order together I cut my list to the bone in order not to have to lay out
any more up-front cash than was absolutely necessary during May, a slower month for my
business. So, we both lose: you lose my business, and I lose those sales that I could
have gotten by having a reserve instead of ordering just barely enough for my guaranteed
Why is this foolishness still necessary? In November of last year an "outside consultant"
who supposedly was representing Cadence Industries/Marvel Comics approached us about
direct contact with your office and the possibility of some mutually beneficial programs.
He told us he would get back to us in December. We have heard nothing. Did you send out
a representative? If so, did he present you with a breakdown of what is happening? I am
going to take your silence of the past six months as evidence that either the "consultant"
in question did not really work for you or else did his job very poorly. Or, there is one
other possibility. Did he tell you that you would be better off without us? Is this why
rumors of a lawsuit on predatory pricing are circulating? For your sake and mine, I hope
Whatever the case may be, I think it is about time you heard from a retailer directly. Ours
is a dying industry and if we don't get together and cooperate there will be no comic books
at all. If you don't believe me, check with John Goldwater, the president of the Comic Magazine
Association of America. According to him, circulation from 1959 to 1978 dropped from
600,000,000 to 250,000,000. This alone should be enough for your office to be highly interested
in actively seeking to expand our business as much as possible.
Well this has not been the case. The policies currently in force are restricting severely the
ability of comic book retailers to grow or even in some cases to stay even. How can you
justify continuing to require advance payment for all comic deliveries? Do you realize the
cost in lost sales of this policy? As I pointed out earlier, I would have spent another
$1,000, this month alone, on your products. Multiply my business by the hundreds of independent
retailers, large and small, across the nation, and you come up with a staggering sum that is
being wasted. Stop and think, what is the variable cost of a 40 cent comic? When you have
already paid all your costs except paper and shipping, how much does it cost to leave the presses
running for another 10,000 copies? My guess is between 3 and 5 cents a copy. In a business
with razor thin margins, you can't afford not to get every bit of profit available
And don't be misled, we do not siphon off business from existing distributor accounts. Quite to
the contrary, we salvage thousands of customers who otherwise would have left the field in disgust
at the poor distribution. When you print continued stories, it is imperative that the customer who
wants the next issue should be able to find it easily. This is not currently the case. Comic
books are among the lowest items on a normal distributor's priority list. And thus the whole
point of continued stories (i.e. creating customer demand for future issues) is lost, and instead
the opposite occurs as customers quit buying from frustration. Pardon me for being the one to say
it, but that is stupid.
Another point is that we do not just salvage customers you otherwise would have lost, we also
create new ones. At 40 cents and up, comics are no longer able to sell themselves. You have made
the product so thin and unattractive with advertising that it takes salesmanship to get them to sell,
even to collectors. How much salesmanship do you get in a 7-11? We go out of our way to sell comics,
they are our main business. (For example, the Superman the Movie book from DC...I set up a stand in
a local theater and sold over 1200). Isn't it about time we got some help and support?
Well enough of generalities. After four years I have some concrete suggestions that will make you
money and make me money. Here they are:
1) Give us billing, or at least COD purchases.
2) Start a cooperative advertising program to promote comics.
3) Pay for artists and writers to do promotional tours.
4) Give us better information about what is coming out. We will buy many more books if the uncertainty about artists, etc. is alleviated.
5) Start up a listing (on one of the ad pages ) where comic book retailers could list themselves at cost.
6) Make it an editorial policy to support us. Present policy never even mentions we exist.
7) Ask us for feedback. When you do something, we hear about it, believe me.
8) Set up a remainder sales division. Since I, and many other retailers, also sell back issues, we
would buy thousands more comics if they were available at a remainder price instead of normal cost.
While I realize that not all of the above suggestions are currently viable, at this point anything
would be better than the situation as it exists. I sincerely believe that I am echoing the sentiments
of other independent dealers when I say I am tired of not getting any help from you, the people who
benefit from my efforts. Right now, comics are my life. I work seven days a week, ten to twelve
hours a day, to make my business exist and your business better. And you have been no damn help at
So please give me some feedback. We are both in the same business and cooperation between us can do
nothing but make our mutual jobs easier and business more profitable. I'll be awaiting your reply.
Charles W. Rozanski
P.S. I am going to distribute this letter as widely as I can and ask my fellow dealers to send you
signed copies to indicate their agreement with most of my points. Without an official organization
to support us (we are all very independent) this is the best I can do to prove that other dealers are
in agreement with my opinions.
Mile High Comics, Inc.
Attn: Chuck Rozanski
2151 W. 56th Ave.
Denver, CO 80221