Marvel is going through some odd times, of late. Cancellations, accelerations, and a complete focus on the bottom line seem to be the order of the day. Kiel Phegley’s great piece at CBR analyzes their recent moves and concludes:
In recent months, executives and creators alike have been very vocal, both in interviews and across social media, about their desire to have a line of books that offer a range of options and a healthy level of sales success. Marvel does also have a number of newer stories and initiatives on tap, as evidenced by the characters and series recently previewed in its “Point One” one-shot, the “Season One” line of original graphic novels and promises of big changes coming with its next mega-event. However, if the new titles on tap fail to find the sales traction the publisher’s mandates require, and if the double-shipping of its biggest franchises remains Marvel’s best bet for retaining market dominance against strengthened competition in DC Comics, readers and creators alike may find themselves looking at a very different Marvel Comics in 2012.
Marvel’s top guns in editorial have had a few things to say in recent days. At Axel in Charge, editor-in-chief Axel Alonso mostly danced around questions about who was coming back when, but did respond to a question about ALL-WINNERS SQUAD, the miniseries that was canceled in the middle of a storyline.
Alonso: If there’s anything I’ve learned in my time in comics, it’s “Never say never.” That said, we don’t have any plans for continuing “All-Winners Squad” at this time.
(That certainly applies to Tan Eng Huat’s art — above — from ANNIHILATORS: EARTHFALL (2011) #3 that features Groot and Rocket Raccoon teaming up.)
Alonso also responded to a call for more minority characters:
It’s not like we’ve stopped trying, either. Besides Miles Morales in the Ultimate Universe, we’ve introduced a wide variety of multicultural characters in the Marvel Universe: the super-powered bounty hunter team, the Zapata Brothers, from “Moon Knight” and “Deadpool Team-Up”; Reptil from “Avengers Academy”; Coldmoon and Dragonfire from “Point One”; Raizo Todo from “Fear Itself: Hulk”; and “Battle Scar’s” Sergeant Marcus Johnson, who is a character you’ll definitely want to keep your eye on — I mean, eyes. Also, Striker just came out of the closet in “Avengers Academy,” and Wiccan and Hulkling continue to play a huge role in “Young Avengers/Avengers: Children’s Crusade.” I feel like I’m just getting started.
He was also asked why so many top female characters are male spin-offs:
Creating any character with the intention of having them anchor an ongoing title is probably the fastest way for them not to catch on, Sv7nd. That said, a strong female character needn’t have roots in a male character, but any new character benefits from a high-profile launching pad. It’s not a surprise that some of our strongest female characters are our X-Women, none of whom are rooted in a male character, but all of whom reflect the paradigm — Jean Grey is, hands down, the character we get the most fan mail about, even though it’s been years since we last saw her, Storm is one of the most popular X-Men period. And I’m betting Kitty Pryde, who made a huge comeback in Joss Whedon’s “Astonishing X-Men” is going to have a great year in 2012.
Meanwhile over at his Formspring account, always candid Executive Editor Tom Brevoort was grappling a bit more directly with recent events, and even took a few swipes at DC, something that was absent during the heat of the relaunch:
Q: I’m curious why the economy isn’t a problem for DC. I want you to pay attention to the “black friday” reports. You guys at Marvel are going to have to get over yourselves & quit trying to pass the buck for why your comics aren’t selling. Just saying.
Brevoort: The economy has been a huge problem for DC, don’t fool yourself–their numbers for the first eight months of the year were disastrous, and in fact made them move their relaunch plans up by two months because they were bleeding money so badly. So they went all-in, did a big hail mary pass, and it’s paying off for them now, at least in the short term. And that’s great–good on them! But I suspect that now that we’re in month three of the relaunch, the bloom is going to start coming off of that rose, and the numbers on the obvious titles that were going to be tough sellers are going to start reflecting that. Beyond that, when you talk about “why our comics aren’t selling”, you’ve got a very incomplete picture. Our numbers were up in September and October, which means that we sold more and made more money. The fact that DC did extraordinarily well in those months meant that more people came into the stores, and that some of those people left with Marvel books in their bags as well as DC books. And I’ve got no complaint about that–they can beat us that way every single month if our numbers continue to increase, because the only number that truly counts is the number of copies that you sell. What you’re talking about is perception, and perception is often very subjective–you certainly don’t have a full enough picture of our financial situation to make any accurate determination about what’s going on, and the readership in general tends to sometimes connect dots that are unrelated (especially if they’re upset about something and are rooting for a particular outcome.)
Brevoort also had this exchange:
Q: quite a few canceled titles lately… ahem.
If you look back, this sort of thing tends to happen every now and again, with a certain amount of regularity.
Marvel’s situation remains rather chaotic right now for all the reasons Todd Allen mentioned and more. Word on the street is that all of the steps being taken of late are part of Isaac Perlmutter’s mandate that the line had to be profitable. Given the brutal nature of some of the changes (ALL-WINNERS SQUAD, and so on) that must have been some mandate.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.