When the news of the cancellation of the well-liked THOR: THE MIGHTY AVENGER hit, there was the usual wave of hand-wringing and everyone had their own theory as to what killed it, who, and why. Rather than just sit around and make up own own ideas, we decided to go to the source and asked a few prominent retailers three questions:
1) What kind of readership did THOR: THE MIGHTY AVENGER have in your store?
2) Why do you think it didn’t find a bigger audience?
3) These kind of self-contained books seem to have a hard time succeeding at Marvel and DC these days. What do you think could be done to find a bigger readership for them?
Brian Hibbs, Comix Experience:
1) Roughly a third of that of the Main THOR title; but it was growing for us, albeit slowly, which is rare in this day and age. With more time I suspect that the book COULD be “grown” up to non-cancellation point, but that would take concentrated effort to make happen, and, well, look at #2
2) As a general rule the long-term sales of ongoing books are largely set by their opening frame; and those opening numbers are determined by retailer confidence. Marvel has a lot of “unnecessary” line expansions right now, and, for the most part, those books are just simply not selling through to the consumer. While it was an “All Ages” book, that covers a pretty large amount of ground – everything from OZ adaptations to cartoony kiddy books (SUPER HERO SQUAD) to MARVEL ADVENTURES which has stories that could have been published pretty much as-is in the 70s/80s as the “real” version – some of that sells fairly well (OZ, particularly) The closest thing I could “map” T:TMA from the solicitation descriptions was to was IRON MAN LEGACY which literally only sold a single copy in my store by issue #3. I ordered more than that, though!
The issue is, I think, that with too many choices facing consumers, even (or especially) *within* a single comics “universe”, it becomes very easy to believe that anything that isn’t a “main” title in Marvel or DC’s continuity “doesn’t matter”, and since the consumer is spoilt for choice, yet not (typically) possessing the cash to consummate allll those possible choices, well the “non-continuity” book is probably going to be the one that loses.
What’s funny is that in a different time, T:TMA could very well have *been* the “real” THOR comic – and I mean pretty much “anytime before CIVIL WAR, really”…
But one thing I’d like to point out is that Marvel still has copies available to order right this second for #1, 2, and 4, and they even have a “bumper” collection reprinting #1 & 2 in a single $3.99 version (looks like it was only offered in a “PREVIEWS Update”, so not through the regular monthly solicitation process), and very few Marvel comics are really available for reorder which really shows that there’s just not the broad consumer demand for this book that the blogosphere would have you believe.
3) Marvel and DC have largely created the problem here themselves. They’ve built universes where “continuity counts more than content”, so they will largely fail with books that are “not continuity” because that isn’t what they’re specifically trained their customers to purchase. How do you change that? Change the culture.
The odd thing is that if Langridge & Samnee had been announced as the incoming team on THOR (without publishing T;TMA), rather than Fraction and Ferry, and they produced the same content, it probably would have sold as well as the parent book. Audience expectation is a funny, yet powerful thing.
Joe Field, Flying Colors Comics
1) It was selling at about 20% of the current THOR series (started out at about 35%). Still respectable enough to carry rack copies (all of our sales on T:TMA have been rack copies…. no one added it to their pull here).
2) —-For the same reason there aren’t many G-rated movies. Even Disney’s kids movies seem to be mostly rated PG these days. Slap that “all-ages” tag on the cover of the book and it seems to be a customer repellent for the 25-50 superhero crowd.
—-It has been a title I’ve suggested to consumers on many occasions, but the selling points on it were its characterizations, its gentler stories…and with any number of titles with Thor really getting all Thor and mighty-like on every page, then something as quiet and humble as T:TMA with its softer approach is going to pale by comparison. I’ve enjoyed Roger Langridge’s stories and Chris Samnee’s Jesse Marsh-reminiscent art, but the book may have looked too “old-school” for many THOR readers.
—-Also, and this is one of those two-buck answers to million dollar questions, is that there was no discernible promotion of the title. It was sent into the wilderness of the marketplace with only the hopes that it would stick. When there are numerous THOR titles and super-numerous superhero comics fighting for attention, T:TMA just got lost. A Marvel Previews listing and a few stories on the usually suspected online comic sites is just not enough to drive traffic to a title.
3) —Better communication between publisher and retailers and fans. How did Marvel management see this title fitting in? What were their sales projections on it? What were their plans to introduce it to readers, to make readers aware of it?
—Find a way to fit it into continuity.
—Introduce it in the pages of THOR first (there were a number of fill-in types stories in the main THOR title leading to the release of T:TMA), as bonus pages (not as part of a $3.99 or $4.99 “special issue”), then spin it into its own title.
— Do a price promotion on it…maybe give retailers an accelerated discount on the first few issues to incentivize ordering.
—Don’t introduce it into such a crowded market. Sometimes I get the feeling that publishers see every title as a widget that needs to fill a small gap in its numbers…instead of organically growing their lines in ways that give each new title a time in the spotlight.
Gerry Gladston and Gahl Buslov, Midtown Comics
1) (Gahl) Unfortunately, well below what we’ve found to be the sustainable threshold for a Marvel non-licensed, non-Marvel Adventures. However, it was also much stronger than any Marvel Adventures book as well as most of the licensed books.
2) (Gahl) In general, even a critically acclaimed all-ages title is not the *core* title. Budget conscious shoppers are going to leave these titles behind in favor of the those written into the main continuity, especially when there are so many titles to choose from (and most retailers will order that way as well). The other possibility, and I’m taking a wild guess here, I’m assuming that Marvel has a larger newsstand distribution for their Marvel Adventures titles, otherwise it doesn’t make sense why those can survive but TMA couldn’t. Maybe it failed or wasn’t distributed to newsstands. It may also have been a bit early to launch an all ages Thor title so far in advance of the release of the upcoming Thor movie. Consumer awareness is not really there yet, and folks may not yet be ready to go looking for Thor material. The ending of Iron Man 2 contained a great “Easter egg” in showing Thor’s hammer, which certainly whet the appetite for core fans. For those unfamiliar with the Marvel Universe, the scene may not have had the right impact to send fans into stores asking for Thor titles (no fault of the film, it’s a great scene).
3) (Gerry) Perhaps marketing that reaches outside the comic book community would help. At Midtown, we do believe that there’s an audience out there starving for good comic books (we sell to them every day!), but the NY marketplace does not exist everywhere, which is why we suggest different marketing strategies and campaigns to promote all-ages titles.
There’s also this from Tom Adams of Bergen Street Comics, as quoted on Robot 6:
“About cancellation of Thor: The Mighty Avenger: Want to see a big part of the problem? Just look at next week’s schedule…TMA out same week as Astonishing Thor #1 and Thunderstrike #1. Add to ongoing Thor, Thor: For Asgard, Thor: First Thunder, Ultimate Thor, recent Loki, Sif, Warriors Four and Warriors Three minis/one-shots. Count in Avengers, Avengers Prime, New Ultimates…Mighty Avenger was clearly the best of the bunch, but how was it meant to stand out amongst the glut?”
We’re going to call this the “Less Than Hulk Zero Factor” and move on.
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.