A California court has approved a settlement in a class action lawsuit filed by a San Francisco comics retailer against Marvel Comics that will provide a modest windfall to thousands of comics shops worldwide.

Brian Hibbs, owner of the Comix Experience, filed suit against Marvel in 2002, claiming the comics publisher reneged on a policy of accepting returns of unsold comics that were delivered to the store late or had different artists and writers than originally promoted. Under the settlement agreement, Marvel denied any wrongdoing. Contacted by PW, Marvel confirmed the settlement but had no further comment.

The comics shop market buys wholesale on a nonreturnable basis, but Hibbs said Marvel's contract had "unambiguous" terms that allowed returns in specific cases. Even then, Hibbs said, it's usually not worth it to return comics. But Hibbs and other retailers began to complain when many of Marvel's top-selling titles began arriving late, making them harder to sell.

Although Hibbs said it was difficult to put a figure on the settlement, he said the agreement will translate into about two weeks' worth of credits for free comics for most comics stores. "Most comics stores are mom and pop operations," said Hibbs. "That's pretty significant to an indie comics bookseller."