There’s a big survey of retailers about current comics sales trends, ably put together by Shannon O’Leary up at Publishers Weekly today, called Despite Early Sales Slump, Comics Retailers Remain Upbeat. If you are not a PW subscriber you won’t be able to read it for a few weeks — I’ll link to it again when it goes live. To say it is an interesting piece is an understatement, as it suggests a real change in DM sales patterns, due to all the factors of modernization and digital and what not. Here’s the nut graph:
Most of the retailers we spoke with also reported that they’re seeing customers shifting their dollars away from lower-tier Marvel and DC books to Image and other publishers. “A lot of Marvel and DC titles are really at the bottom end, but Boom!, Image, and IDW have more titles that are more competitive with the top tier Marvel and DC,” says Carr D’Angelo. “We’re still selling a lot of comics because the money pool is the same, but maybe [customers are] taking a look and thinking, I don’t really need this C Level title but gosh, Sex Criminals looks awesome and I’m going to buy that instead.” Many other stores did, indeed, report that IDW’s Locke and Key is still a consistent big seller and Boom!’s Adventure Time, graphic novel trade book collections of the hit animated kids’ series, remains high on their sales charts.
So yeah. A new generation of readers, raised with a more eclectic marketplace, including graphic novels, and filmed entertainment starring Hellboy and The Walking Dead, aren’t an automatic gimme for Marvel or DC, but they do support their local comics shops. Anyway much more of interest in the piece—I look forward to more debate when it goes out to non subscribers.
This is as good a place as any to link to two pieces that seem to me to sum up the state of Marvel and DC as much as anything. I ran the solicitations last week as much as a chance for myself to pay attention to what Marvel and DC are doing as anything else, and what I saw didn’t inspire a mountain of confidence. Marvel’s flogging every horse over the finish line with a dizzying array of #1s and adjective from all new, now, ultimate, uncanny, amazing, and anything else. I have no idea how the editors keep track of this, let alone readers. All Uncanny Avengers and Amazing X-Men did was dilute long standing brands. At the same time, this chaos has led to the chance to take some creative risks and try new approaches, most notably with the New Ms. Marvel, whose second issue numbers will be as closely watched as what kind of meat they’re serving on those plates in Terminus on The Walking Dead.
Speaking of Ms Marvel, however, here’s an interview with writer G. Willow Wilson at Vulture, a general interest pop culture blog.
Kamala’s an avid fan-fiction writer. Why did you put that into the story?
Being a Muslim in America, I’ve noticed that there’s a ton of crossover between the Muslim community and geekdom. Part of that is outsider culture: When you’re growing up as a minority and you feel somewhat alienated from the mainstream, you’re going to seek out other people who feel that way. That’s what geek culture is traditionally about.
And also, I wanted her to be fleshed out and have a real personality, rather than being a model minority. Plus, if you lived in a world where there were actual superheroes? Especially in a place like Jersey City, where you’d literally probably see Daredevil in the streets or Thor flying overhead or whatever. It made sense to me, in that situation, that Kamala would grow up looking up to these actual real-world superheroes and becoming a fan-fic writer.
A few weeks ago, I myself did a q&a with Wilson before an eager SRO audience at the Word bookstore in Jersey City. Granted that it was a home town appearance—Kamala Khan is also from Jersey City—but maybe that’s the point. In a world of diversity, Ms. Marvel connects on a personal level with teenagers who live in the real world—and Kamala’s life just across the river from the exciting world of superheroes is a nice extension of a real world emotion into superhero terms. Ms. Marvel may be the flavor of the month or a game changer…we’ll see.
Meanwhile, at DC…man I hate writing about DC because it is of so little interest to me. I wish there were more cool things for me to write about DC, but their mainstream books have settled into an era of homogenized, house-look, continuity-crisis driven mush.
J. Caleb Mozzocco had a piece at Robot 6 last week called Whither Pandora? (Other than in ‘Trinity of Sin: Pandora’) that seemed to sum up much of the problem. Pandora was the mysterious figure behind the entire New 52 continuity reboot, but her story seems to have drifted away over the last three years
This lady was obviously important, and her story would be central to the understanding the new status quo of the DC Universe, right?
Unfortunately, DC has yet to follow up on the mysterious, in-story reasoning for the biggest change to its fictional setting and superhero line since Crisis on Infinite Earths (if not longer), and nothing underscores and emphasizes the publisher’s rather perplexing decision to build up the character and her conflicts and then ignore them like a reading of Trinity of Sin: Pandora #1: The Curse, the new trade collection of the first five issues of the series, plus the aforementioned FCBD title.
Both Marvel and DC are scrambling to keep their audiences, using everything that worked in the past—Five Years Later is a reboot of One Year Later from 2006—but the evolving demographics of comics readers and the steady drumbeat of competition from other media makes figuring out how anything will work ever more difficult.
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.