Looking at the previous item, we’re sure that comics retailers are planning the day when the THOR movie’s opening will send civilians streaming into their stores looking for Thor comics…or not. Marvel puts surprisingly little emphasis on converting movie ticket sales to graphic novel sales, and when they do, it seems to backfire with some segments of the comics industry, as a recent column by Brian Hibbs details. The source of Hibbs’ ire this time out: Marvel’s decision to push back publication of WOLVERINE #72 — featuring the end of the Millar/Hitch storyline OLD MAN LOGAN — with issue #73, which has a more “jumping on” friendly story.
As I write this today, in 2009, “Wolverine” #73 has been on sale for less than 24 hours. In that time I received three in-store questions, four phone calls (“Do you have #72?!?”), and had at least one customer angrily put the issue back on the shelf, and told me to cancel his future orders for the title.
Can I tell you that this is no fun to deal with? That I really shouldn’t have to deal with answering questions of publication sequence, or to try and soothe confusion or angry feelings? That every minute I spend on something like this is a minute where I’m not being productive, selling more comics to more people, and feeling my own frustration level rising?
As Hibbs points out, this didn’t just happen by accident:
Someone at Marvel made a decision to publish “Old Man Logan” in “Wolverine.” A conscious and specific decision to do that, rather than make it its own mini-series. Generally speaking, I applaud decisions like that because I am of the belief that top-flight creators doing top-flight work is how monthly comics really should be working, and I’m just as happy having, say, “Batman: Year One” be in “Batman” #404-407 as to be its own mini-series. That creates a much larger potential audience for #408, at the end of the day.
But, then, someone maybe should have looked at the creative team on this one: Mark Millar and Steve McNiven – a creative team that is responsible for delaying the entire Marvel universe for two months thanks to the scheduling fiasco that was “Civil War.”
Or, to put it another way…Marvel has known for a long time that the Wolverine movie would be coming out on May 1st, 2009 but they still couldn’t get their scheduling to line up.
As has been pointed out many times, whereas DC has fewer movies in the pipeline, they usually have a stronger GN to support the movie — from THE ROAD TO PERDITION to WATCHMEN. Part of the problem is that Marvel’s characters sprawl over different eras and storylines…the movies are usually distillations of the most recognizable aspects of the characters, not something that ties in with a single book or product. Recommended reading lists on blogs and websites usually offer an array of 10 books to choose from, which could be daunting to the newcomer.
But none of this is anything new. Movie sales only drive graphic novel sales when there is a direct and compelling connection. Marvel seems to place varying value on tying in periodical sales to movies. Last year, they tried an Iron Man webcomic, and the new Iron Man book by Matt Fraction was a hit out of the gate. The roll-out for Wolverine wasn’t as tight.
At any rate, although the WOLVERINE renumbering pissed off a lot of folks and looks clumsy as hell, it seems to have worked: Marvel reports a sellout and a second variant printing, which is as close as you can get these days to success in the periodical format.