National publishers may no longer be able to print or sell new Marvel comics
Marvel has reportedly sent a letter to Russian publishers, informing them that they will be suspending the sale of licenses for new comics in Russia, according to the owner of one of comic-book stores in Moscow who had spoken to several Russian publishers on Thursday.
The terms laid out by Marvel seem to vary slightly from publisher to publisher but the general gist is that the sale and renewal of licenses will reportedly be suspended from the middle of summer 2022 for an indefinite period, meaning that Russian publishers will not be allowed to print additional runs of older titles or release new ones. It is mentioned, however, that licenses which have already been purchased will not be revoked and publishers will be allowed to sell previously announced titles.
It is possible that Marvel may also demand that Russian publishers sell all of their print runs by Autumn. If this does not happen, the company could seek to suspend all shipments of existing circulations to stores and destroy the remaining copies.
“Not everyone knows, but this is happening now – if a publishing house contract expires for a particular book, the unsold circulation must be disposed of and proof must be provided to the copyright holders. Whether or not Marvel requires it to do so in the fall of 2022 with all of its current publishing inventory remains to be seen,” said the owner of a comic-book store chain in Moscow, Ivan Chernyavskiy, who initially reported Marvel’s announcement to Russian publishers.
While the licenses are still valid, it’s expected that Russian publishers will now try to print as many issues as possible, as long as there is enough paper. However, the “avalanche of new products” will likely come to a halt in Autumn, says Chernyavskiy, so Russian Marvel fans will have a limited time to purchase any titles they might have missed or decided to put off buying.
The announcement comes as a number of media companies have already announced their exit from the Russian market in light of the ongoing military conflict between Moscow and Kiev. Marvel movie fans in Russia will be forced to miss out on the upcoming releases of ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ and ‘Doctor Strange 2: The Multiverse of Madness’ as Disney, which owns Marvel, has announced it will no longer license its films in Russia.
However, one Russian publisher, Eksmo, which claims to have also received a letter from Marvel, insists there are “no legal reasons to terminate the contracts” and that they are still in the negotiation process with the US publisher, adding that it is premature to state that Marvel comics will completely disappear from Russian bookshelves.
Nevertheless, while the complete exit of Marvel comics from the Russian market would have a noticeable and tangible impact, says Chernyavskiy, it will not be fatal. An actual fatal blow would be if Japanese publishers decided to leave the market, he added, noting that no such decision has yet been announced.
The demand for comic books in Russia has seen steady growth over the past few years, as the peak of popularity came in the spring of 2020 amid Covid-19 lockdowns when sales reportedly increased by a third.
However, the most popular type of comics among Russian fans turns out to be Japanese manga – a trend that can actually be seen around the world, as Western publishers, such as Marvel and DC, struggle to keep up with the readership of their Asian competitors.