By Todd Allen

There’s been some concern over Marvel’s sales in the last six months or so.  “But AVX is frickin’ huge,” you say.  And it is.  But that might be masking Marvel’s inability to sell comics that aren’t part of a crossover/Event.  Marvel’s Next event is the pseudo-relaunch of Marvel NOW! and nobody’s quite sure what to make of that just yet.  Last week, Brian Hibbs penned a column expressing concerns about Marvel NOW!’s viability and the poor general state of Marvel’s and non-Event top list and mid-list.  I think it’s time to compare some of the numbers on this.

Says Hibbs:

The key problem facing Marvel right now, as I see it, is that, with the exception of AvX, their line is slowly withering. While high-performing miniseries, or one-off stunts like Northstar’s gay marriage, can spike some sales up, the bread-and-butter for a periodical company is the month-in-month-out sales performance of their 12(+) times a year regular ongoing books. This is also the bread-and-butter for the retailer, as well.

Prior to AvX crossovers (in March), Marvel’s best-selling not-issue-#1 ongoing book (this time: “Uncanny X-Men” #8) had dropped below 60k copies. This is, to the best of my knowledge, the absolute nadir of sales for Marvel’s top ongoing. While this was a very long time ago, indeed, when I first got into this business in the 80s, Marvel would routinely cancel books that sold that low.

He’s got a point.  As I type this, the complete July estimates aren’t out, but Marvel doesn’t look so bad in June.  You’ve got huge numbers for a couple issues of AVX.  A Big Debut (and decent second issue) for Spider-Men.  Big Numbers for AVX Versus… and the gay wedding issue of Astonishing X-Men.  You’ve got a rising tide of 15K-20K a title for the Avengers and X-family titles crossing over with AVX.  And then you start to drop.

I’ve pulled some numbers from The Comics Chronicles to illustrate what Hibbs and people with similar concerns are thinking about.  The top 20 sales figures for:

  • DC’s August 2011 – the last month of the pre-relaunch DCU.  You have the first issue of the relaunched Justice League and some Flashpoint crossover material propping it up, but that’s the sales numbers of a company ready to choose the nuclear option
  • Marvel’s February 2012 – A month without an Event and nothing over 60K.  When people say they can’t sell without an event, this is why
  • Marvel’s June 2012 – The rising tide of AVX
  • DC’s June 2012 – Yes, you’ve got some Before Watchmen in there, around the 100K mark.  You’ve got Batman and friends juiced a little with a crossover, but for the most part, those are Event-free numbers.
DC August 11 Marvel feb 12 Marvel June 12 DC Jun 12
(JL #1) 171,344 59,834 190,705 130,265
94,547 59,200 186,555 127,090
86,216 55,788 94,548 107,517
57,707 55,341 94,528 104,142
53,481 54,105 82,654 102,955
53,372 53,730 70,521 101,297
52,908 52,683 68,885 83,317
52,704 52,564 68,283 80,751
51,760 52,222 67,793 80,615
44,228 51,872 64,927 73,654
42,587 51,235 64,838 71,671
40,275 50,932 62,680 68,342
39,729 50,654 59,493 66,894
39,323 50,624 51,572 59,288
37,509 49,665 49,163 59,081
35,919 45,622 47,522 55,681
31,820 45,266 46,923 50,585
30,565 43,487 43,865 47,491
29,492 42,760 43,022 47,229

Now, you can clearly see Marvel never crashed as far and as fast as DC did, but let’s compare February and June for Marvel.  The last 6 titles, #14-20 for the months are pretty similar between the two months.  Most of what’s above it is Event-related material.  Take away the event, the question is whether or not Marvel could hold their February orders or would fall below that.

You look at DC, the numbers do thin out and there certainly is a drop-off as you approach the mid-list, but their non-crossover numbers are much, much stronger.

Can Marvel Now! match the numbers that AVX has generated?  That the big question.  And AVX has been a slam dunk, raise all the boats in the crossover harbor hit.  There is no denying it that.  But as Hibbs says:

Here’s the thing, though: the Direct Market needs a strong Marvel comics. And as strong as the sales of AvX have been (and they’ve been spiffy, thanks!), that’s really is supposed to be just a little bit more than what the sales of the regular monthly adventures of those two teams should be. Not 2-300% of the regular monthly sales!

Yes, AVX really is selling 3x of the regular titles.  It’s a little odd that the two families combine so much higher than the sales of the regular titles.  Even with the crossover bump.

From a business standpoint, the point of Marvel Now seems to be cycling in a regular stream of new #1 issues to give you big numbers each month and then you hope some of the readers stick around.  The trouble is Marvel’s been relaunching a lot of #1s in recent years at that got them to February 2012’s sales levels.  This time the #1’s _are_ the Event.  So we’ll see how that resonates with readers and hope that “new #1 fatigue” doesn’t set in by December.

The danger with new #1’s is that when you end a series, just as the #1 is a jumping on point, the last issue of the old series is a jumping off point.  Worst case scenario here is lowering the trough that was February sales if long time readers check out.

This danger is not helped by Marvel Now’s lack of identity.  How does Axel describe it in his weekly appointment at CBR this week?

Shingen, Marvel NOW! isn’t the Marvel Universe “starting over again.” It simply offers a line-wide entry-point into the Marvel Universe that you’re already reading about. All of the stories take place in the aftermath of “Avengers Vs. X-Men. The strength of the initiative is that it all starts with new creative teams that will take your favorite titles in bold new directions, and writers that are deeply invested in their books and have long-term plans for them. We’ll be saying more and more about each of the titles in coming weeks, so stay tuned.

Axel’s constant declarations that Marvel doesn’t feel the need to reboot is taking the air out of the hype and reducing to new #1’s and deckchair shuffle with creators.  Announcing this was part of the buildup to “the next big summer story” didn’t exactly help, either.

Brian Hibbs is just about the biggest booster of the Direct Market you’re going to find.  He wants to sell Marvel products.  He’s concerned he might not be able to.  There’s some math to back up his concerns.  More to the point, you’d really think John Cassaday returning to a monthly comic would be a bigger deal.

Marvel hasn’t dropped to the depths DC had, but they’re not as strong as they used to be and the appearance is given that they’re still running from Event to Event, trying to make the quarterly numbers, rather than addressing the problem of non-Event books having poor sales.

We’ll see what happens with Marvel Now! when it’s December and January.  In the meantime, you have some retailers contemplating what happens should recent roles flip and you face the possibility of a strong DC and a weak Marvel, when what they really want is for both to be strong.


  1. Personally, I’ve now gone longer than I ever have before without having a sole Marvel title on my Pull List.

    The price point combined with the excessive double shipping was detrimental to my semi-fixed monthly comic budget.

    I think Marvel have made a massive mistake by not rebooting, and now Alonso has described Marvel Now in exactly the same terms as Point One.

    Add to that fact that Marvel’s main characters are now so inelastic. They are so recognizable from other media that they can’t deviate from that sole vision of the character. Event after event has been simply changing the backdrop of the Marvel Universe and not effecting the characters. That’s what they have to find the solution to.

  2. I think the days of people only buying DC or only buying Marvel are over. I see more people buying books THEY want to read, and by a number of different companies. In the end it comes down to the best stories, art and value with each title.

  3. I am totally in agreement with Paul Nolan. The only title I have on my pull list is Daredevil. I’m also giving Hawkeye a try.( cuz it’s a mini @ 2.99 with great creative talent )
    I find an overall lack of consistency in quality of storytelling in the Marvel books these days very disturbing. I also find the constant use of gimmicks (red hulk) and re-invention of their characters (spider-man) to be annoying and distracting.
    These things create a general disinterest in reading Marvel comic books, couple that with the highest price point in the industry( which is the key reason that I started moving away ) and excessive double shipping of titles that are already being over produced( how many Avengers titles?, spider-man titles? ) and it’s clear to me that Marvel is not mine anymore.
    I felt no compulsion to purchase either Fear or AvX event series, and for the first time in years am Marvel Free.

  4. Assume that Marvel Editorial is under considerable pressure to reach quarterly revenue and profit goals, and events are the only way they see to reach those goals. What other way is there to hit the numbers, short of hoping desperately that digital sales are great? Their non-marketing approach only works with lowest common denominator, niche market products. Any attempt to reach specific demographic groups on a mass scale would require marketing–and how does a company market individual issues of a serial comic? It would be like trying to market individual episodes of a soap opera.

    Movies can reach mass audiences and generate huge profits, but they also have big marketing campaigns and support industries, such as the celebrity gossip magazines and shows.


  5. Mr. Palmiotti,

    Thank you for re-affirming what I have been shouting to the rooftops for the better part of a decade now…if you want to sell more comics…in the end…it all comes down to the best in storytelling and art.

    When Marvel and DC finaly figure this out you will see a consistant bump in month to month sales.

    So much “crap” and hack storytelling is passed off as professional by both companies that when something good (but not great, mind you) comes along its greeted by fans and readers with open arms and loved by all.

    Good should be the lowest level of storytelling Marvel and DC accept. Great is what they should strive for every issue of every series every month of every year.

    What both companies need is a desperate infusion of new talent…new visions…who are willing to take a new approach that doesnt involve mass crossovers, changing or re-imagining established characters and the creation of new characters who have solid and serious meaning to existing characters based on characterization and relationships and not social change, currently popular trends or politically correct pandoring.

    Again…this is not hard to figure out…so why is it that the big two…simply…well..CAN’T?

  6. Sales on all the AvX crossover books have plummeted back to pre-AvX numbers for us, and in a few cases, even lower. While they started out strong, the double-shipping, the “red skies” effect from most of the xovers, and the $3.99 price point has driven away most of my subscribers and buyers who wanted all the crossovers.

    MarvelNOW! looks to be no better, as the large majority of the creative teams are not as strong as the ones they’re replacing. No doubt with variants and sales incentives, sales on the #1 issues will be strong, but we’ll see that drop dramatically with #3-4 (since #2 will be FOC’d before #1 comes out, natch), and diminishing returns on the later #1 issues. If they all came out the same month, actually rebooted the Marvel universe (you’re telling me Scarlet Witch and Phoenix fighting can’t reboot it?), I’d be all over it, but as it stands, my numbers on the books will be low. I’ve danced this dance with Marvel so many times over the last decade.

  7. I grew up with DC, so I was never more than a casual Marvel reader, picking up one or three series at a time, depending on what I enjoyed (e.g. PAD Hulk, Busiek Spider-Man, Priest Deadpool). But as Marvel (and DC) have increasingly made it clear that they aren’t particularly interested in “casual readers” like me… they’ve lost me. At the moment I’m reading no monthlies from either house.

  8. I doubt that a re-boot will do Marvel any good. They tend to have very different stories and characters than DC.

    DC has high concept characters. Batman or Superman is a high concept. A thematic outline that is interesting in the ways it is explored.

    Marvel characters have history. The history of Captain America and his relationships to other characters IS the character. If you take Thor’s basic idea and completely change his relationship to the other marvel characters he is no longer recognizably ‘Thor’.

    This is one reason that re-boots have always been so attractive to DC and that Marvel has traditionally had more consistent sales on the secondary lines. You can re-boot Batman every six months and they will all be Batman. The ideas mater but the details don’t and so no one cares much about the secondary books. Compared to the X-Men which have such a loose and flexible high concept that hundreds of characters have been poured through it over the years while still remaining the same X-Men. Bu the secondary books matter because the characters and relationships endure.

  9. Marvel canceled their Cosmic books and that was it for me and Marvel. They were my gateway into their U.

    I agree with what Jimmy P. said. It’s all about value – and Marvel hasn’t been doing that.

    For a long time.

  10. Just some comments from someone who grew up on Marvel in the 70s and 80s who now only buys a couple of Marvel titles on a regular basis:

    1) Could the sale of Marvel to Disney been the worse thing to happen to Marvel Comics? I’m hard pressed to find one good thing to come out of that. If someone does- I would love to hear it.

    2) I get the impression Marvel pretty much lives or dies by the now-seemingly yearly events / crossovers. There is clearly a market for these events but as this article points out, that market is shrinking.

    3) The editors and decision-makers at Marvel should use the current run of DAREDEVIL as a model of what they should be doing. There are reasons why this title has been a success besides the fantastic writing and art: (a) Limited cross-overs (b) each story runs a couple of issues (c) you don’t need to have read DAREDEVIL in the past to know what is going on. Last time I read DD was during Miller and Janson’s run and I didn’t feel lost when I started reading this new series (d) the price point is just right. Marvel is shooting themselves in the foot trying to sell 20-page comics for 3.99

    Marvel has the talent in place to produce some of the best comics in the direct market. If only they were given the opportunity to do so without having to serve some editorial mandate.

    Maybe that is why so many are putting out titles through Image?


  11. Count me in as a guy who grew up Marvel and barely buys any these days. I don’t have faith in most of the creators to tell a good story nowadays and I don’t see the professionalism in the art that we used to get when the artists were as recognizable as the characters (Kirby, Ditko, Byrne, Buscema, Romita…) JRjr (along with Mark Bagley) is one of the most reliable monthly artists and we have to wait for an event to end to get him back on monthly book. The other artists that Marvel goes out of their way to promote are tied into the big crossover and they can’t produce a bi-monthly book much less twice a month. Some of their star artists may be on a title for a few issues and then they are gone. Something can be said for stability as well.

  12. After having read Marvel Comics since I was a wee tyke, I finally gave up on them completely last year. They just aren’t anything I’m interested in reading anymore.

    I think Marvel should launch a self-contained line of 12 100-page comics with three 20-page features per comic, and focus on their core properties.

    Check out this proposal:

    As for myself, I’ve recruited some artists and we’re putting together our own line of digital comics. Here’s what we’re doing:

    Please check it out– I think you’re going to be pleasantly surprised!

  13. The pendulum has swung.

    About ten years ago I was complaining that Marvel’s books were each in their own vacuum. There was almost no hint of a shared universe.

    Now, it’s chaos.

    Event after event after event…

    Half the Marvel roster is an Avenger. Multiple Avenger teams. Soon the X-Men and Avengers will be forming teams together.

    I feel like I’m getting lost in the insanity. Add to that the double shipping and $3.99 price…well, lets just say I’m buying more Image now than I was in the 90’s.

  14. If they all came out the same month, actually rebooted the Marvel universe (you’re telling me Scarlet Witch and Phoenix fighting can’t reboot it?), I’d be all over it, but as it stands, my numbers on the books will be low.

    How does writing characters as cosmic, unbelievable plot devices instead of as people make things better? If that’s the attitude creators and editors take toward the characters, then a reboot wouldn’t make any difference in the stories that were written. HAWKEYE #1 was an example of a one-issue story with nice artwork, and some interesting character bits, but hardly any plot. NEW AVENGERS #28 was an example of an event tie-in in which nothing happened. The issue could have been covered in the next issue’s text page: “The captive Avengers are being kept asleep with forced sedation.”

    If a writer doesn’t want to tell a complete story, nothing can force him to.


  15. These are corporate comics now. They deserve to tank because most of them suck and are a giant cluster of imagery, characters and wannabe Tarantino stories. I don’t think its all Disney’s fault since it was happening before that but having the Big Mouse counting on Marvel for revenues probably adds to these characters being mined down to irrelevance. I don’t recognize Spider-Man or the Hulk anymore. The X-Men were this kind of sweet family in the 80’s, now there just teeth grinders like the rest.

    I agree with @Wesley that the recent Daredevil run shows us what we’ve been missing and @Shawn about the kind of artists I miss.

    Also why does everything have to be so hyper -real and intense & violent and doom focused. Having a series of self contained stories works, who cares about this silly ‘verse they’ve made.

  16. I’m with Jason, I haven’t bought a dang thing from DC or Marvel in over a year now. Neither company actually wants to industry to continue and succeed, they are only interested in squeezing every last cent out of the dwindling readership until the eventual collapse. Comics have become a side effect of selling properties like Spider-Man, Batman, Superman or Avengers as toys, linen, cartoons, movies and games and such.

  17. I’m in agreement with Jimmy Palmiotti. My pull list has titles from 4 different publishers each month….I used to be stuck in a “this universe only” mentality, but it has slowly eroded away by awesome titles from smaller publishers!

    If Marvel ever stops the “events”, we’ll clearly see that DC “rules the roost”. DC has stayed close to even with Marvel without an “event” for about a year now.

  18. I guess since this is an article about sales charts, it bears pointing out that the current DD, while great and award-winning, is far from being a top-selling book.

    This is always the biggest frustration to me at conventions and panels, everyone in the audience complains about crossovers and events, saying they want self-contained series by one consistent team having fun, but when those books come out, they tend not to do so hot, sales-wise, with a few exceptions.

    Because trust me, if all the best-selling comics were $3 self-contained things like DD or Hawkeye, you’d see a lot more of that. Instead, the top ten comics are usually event books or reboots that mostly run $4 a pop.

  19. I think, that, more than anything, is why you’re seeing a resurgence of the mid-list through Image.

  20. About 15 years ago, after the collapse of the Direct Market* in what I still call “The Deathmate Bubble Burst”, the common wisdom was that Marvel and DC both could turn a profit on comics that sold around 15K in the direct market.

    Since then, there’s been a rise in alternative revenue sources (mandatory reprint volumes, digital, goodness knows what else) outside the monthly magazines. Also, there’s been an explosion in the number of titles, but not in the number of production resources required to produce them (editors, proofreaders, production line workers, color separators, etc) because of the increased efficiency of the modern office, I’m wondering if that number has dropped. If it has, Marvel and DC are actually probably doing better by pursuing a long-tail strategy–lots of titles to try to capture the widest possible audience.

    If that’s true, it actually leads one to conclude that event comics *damage* the companies by making long-tailers less likely to buy the comics they like if they think they’ll have to buy comics they dislike to understand them. (I myself dropped from ~5 X-books to 2 in the wake of Schism.)

  21. I started at DC in the late 90s, and the biggest thing that’s changed from then to now is page-rates. What was a top rate then is now a starting rate now, for the most part. So no, I would guesstimate that 15K isn’t so profitable for the big two. It’s probably very profitable for an Image or IDW book, though, because of low overhead and less staff to pay for.

  22. “Because trust me, if all the best-selling comics were $3 self-contained things like DD or Hawkeye, you’d see a lot more of that. Instead, the top ten comics are usually event books or reboots that mostly run $4 a pop.”

    I’m sorry, Ed, but isn’t this a bit of a syllogism?

    Daredevil and Hawkeye are not properties that, traditionally, are especially commercial in the first place — these are natively second-, or perhaps third-tier characters.

    Further, they don’t have the kinds of marketing and promotional resources put behind them that something like AvX did — Marvel PUSHED that baby, with each and every tool in its arsenal.


  23. Maybe all the ‘customers’ are sick of the abuse from the higher ups. I see editors (Wacker and that huge guy with the beard – cant think of his name) berating potential readers on message boards, saying things like – ‘if you don’t like it stop reading’. Well, it looks like they did leave!! haha…
    I see things like that, and they just come across as dicks. DC on the other hand don’t abuse their customers. Look at all the abuse Didio gets – he doesn’t get on the boards and start calling everyone names.
    The other reason is that they are pricing themselves out of the market (I mentioned it in the monthly DC sales). Charging $4 for the same content DC and Image are charging $3 for isn’t gonna cut it. And its why this reader won’t be trying their new Marvel Now! number #1’s. Too expensive, not to mention too decompressed.

  24. Cost isn’t a factor for me… although I don’t buy that many comics, and I don’t visit comics shops weekly.

    Thursday (see my recent post), I bought:
    Muppets #1 … $2.99
    Muppets #2 … $2.99
    Fantastic Four Annual #33 … $4.99
    Wonder Woman Adventures #1 … $7.99

    Two regular comics, a 96-page collection, and an annual. All worth it, because I knew the stories were good and enjoyable. (Muppets #1 had me laughing out loud!)

  25. I think Paul’s may be a fairly common complaint. Price too high with many months of double shipping just is not a formula that seems to be working in the long term.

    Without the on-going, long-running numbering systems, a piece of the collectibility impulse is lost to the ages and fans just don’t have that same drive to buy every issue because it’s the Next Issue in the Series.

    I believe Palmiotti summed up what is the final nail in this particular discussions coffin, however, I wonder if this may be more of a DM Retailer problem than a Publisher problem.

    Is it possible that there are a large number of people migrating to digital only purchases for the cheaper cost and infinite shelf? If not that, then library and book store market? I know at least 30% of my purchases have moved to those other platforms and offerings.

    Marvel may be not be as weak as the DM numbers show as the DM becomes less of the ‘whole picture’ it has been for the past 25 years. It doesn’t change Brian’s concerns but it does change the overall outlook and may give us insight into Marvel’s position as they move forward.

    (typed from my iPad while also reading webcomics, supporting direct-to-consumer Kickstarter campaigns, purchasing a TPB on Amazon and perusing the Comics Plus app for new books)

  26. “Is it possible that there are a large number of people migrating to digital only purchases for the cheaper cost and infinite shelf? ”

    Of course.


    Why would the audience be doing this with Marvel, and NOT with DC and other publishers (as reflected in the national sales charts)?

    “If not that, then library and book store market?”

    Can’t say anything about the library market, but we can fairly affirmatively say that Marvel’s NOT making up the difference in bookstores, as evidenced by the BookScan numbers.


  27. Brian – I’m just speaking in terms of their quality and removedness from events. Still, I think DD is fairly established as a brand, is having a critical heydey and tons of word of mouth.

  28. Here’s the plain truth…

    $4.00 for a comic book with 20 pages of original content with self-covers is too much…

    …publishing titles twice a month is clearly confusing to customers, puts needless stress on the their wallets, doesn’t give retailers enough time to rack & sell the product and without question hurts overall sales…

    and Marvel should stop making comics for people who go to movies, and start making comics for people who read comics.

    Dan Veltre
    Dewey’s Comic City
    Madison, NJ

  29. James wrote: “Maybe all the ‘customers’ are sick of the abuse from the higher ups. I see editors (Wacker and that huge guy with the beard – cant think of his name) berating potential readers on message boards, saying things like – ‘if you don’t like it stop reading’. Well, it looks like they did leave!! haha…”

    Can’t speak for anyone else, but that was EXACTLY what did it for me. I’ve been a monthly Marvel customer since 1978, first from newstands, later from comic shops. After watching Brevoort and Wacker berate and belittle consumers online, I dropped Marvel entirely. I do read my Marvel back issues, and purchase the occasional Masterwork or Essentials volume, but my new comic purchases are DC, Image, Dark Horse, Antarctic Press, Oni, etc.

  30. Genuine question (apologies if its naive): what would happen if the Direct Market just crashed and burned? Presumably this doesn’t stop people from wanting to buy comics (or people from making them!).

    Obviously all the companies would be on very shaky ground for a while but what kind of “system” would replace the current one if it came down to it? Comics haven’t always had the direct market, after all.

  31. Ed Brubaker’s right that the critically acclaimed, self-contained comics don’t sell as well as the events or reboots. But that’s to a market of about 150,000 people. What about the non-comic or lapsed readers? Maybe Marvel could sell 500,000 copies of Daredevil if they were marketed to the right audience. Unless you frequent a comics site like this, or go to comic stores, how would you even know it exists? By being so insular they’re chasing their own tail.

  32. WEhile I cannot say that I used to purchase a large number of Marvel titles, it was generally about 70-30 DC Marvel split. I used to get all of the Ultimate Line FF and a couple main x books. These days the only one i get is X-factor and it just published its 12th issue this year. I dropped all of the other titles because Marvel is in such a constant Crisis mode that there is never time for an author to actually tell a story without it getting swallowed up by another book.

  33. I have a solution that might be radical at first,but would work.
    You take Marvel and DCs top 5 characters each,and put a digital comic code on a card and sell at Wal-mart,Target and Costco.
    Example when a person goes in to a retail store to buy the latest Dark Knight Rises,Spider-man and Avengers movie on blu-ray and dvd there will be a rack of cards that will all have a unique code to get the latest monthly adventures of DC and Marvel heroes at .99 to 1.99 a pop. These cards with the codes will have many more stories on them then just the one 15 minute read we get now for a $3.99 floppy.
    The money this would generate would be huge from Wal-mart,Costco and Target. This would put comic books into mainsteam again. These cards with the codes would let you access new and classic stories of your favorite characters. Right off the Bat(pun intended) the Batman carded codes would fly off the racks.
    Any thoughts?

  34. >everyone in the audience complains about crossovers and events, saying they want self-contained series by one consistent team

    This is party why Green Lantern is successful — a consistent team for over five years. I tend to drop titles with frequently changing creative teams (e.g., Defenders, Secret Avengers, and Daredevil).


  35. I am easily and continually confused by cross overs and linked story lines. I refuse to chase a storyline from title to title. That just frustrates me.
    And I tend to prefer ‘done in one’ stories, as rare as they are. Then I feel I paid my money and was told a story, in a fair straight forward transaction.
    When I look at a comic cover, and can’t understand what the comic is about, and then sense that I needed to have purchased a pile of other comics to qualify me to read this one, I lose interest and will not buy.

  36. ComicsConnoisseur,

    I’d have to disagree; I think a card isnt an attractive enough item for someone to pick up at a retail store, and doesn’t accurately represent the content or experience of digital comics. Even if these cards were placed inside each DVD and Blu-ray, there wouldn’t be the follow through you’re (I’m assuming) imagine.
    Even more realistically, putting a book up for free as the “single of the week” at Starbucks wouldn’t see the follow through to make comics mainstream. And that’s at Starbucks, where a customer base is used to getting free songs and apps on cards with download codes every week.
    Leonard Cohen put a single for his new album on such cards, but I don’t think he’s competing with Justin Bieber’s mainstream sales just yet.
    I’m just disagreeing because access and awareness won’t automatically guarantee success. I have quite a few non-reading fans who have comiXology on their iPads yet still ask me questions when it comes to continuity and story when talking about movies or movies in development.
    Biggest problem there is obviously price point, the free comics offered are, generally, not very good, and inconsistency in art. I’ve found a lot of my non-reading friends would prefer a house-style than not, like Archie comics (Archie always looks like Archie).
    I think if you wanted to push comics the way you’re thinking, you’d have to make an event out of it; give the cards in all the movie copies, but for a download (for free) of an entire trade (Civil War, or with the Avengers movie, the first two Ultimate trades). I know my non-reading, passive friends are more likely to read that since you can say the movie borrows heavily from them.

  37. When I was reading superheroes, X-Men routinely sold over 400,000 copies a month. My brother and I both read superhero serials. Now we don’t. We lost interest because we got older, and those old books look and read like childhood kitsch. When I glance at the superhero books today out of mild curiosity, they still look like kitsch with more realistic art. Marvel and DC have made numerous, entirely futile efforts to continue to appeal to their core audience without appealing to the generation behind us.

    It’s possible this was inevitable. The media environment for younger folks today is not anywhere close to what it was in the eighties. There was bad writing and bad editorial decisions in the eighties, but we kept reading. Kids today aren’t interested for a variety of reasons (price point, continuity, multiple other non-reading entertainment options, get their fix from the films). 75% of the grown ups who used to read Marvel aren’t interested. My brother with his wife and three kids will never, ever, ever read superhero comics again no matter what they do. He just doesn’t care anymore.

  38. I’ve outgrown superhero comic books over the last four years or so, and DC’s “New 52” was the final nail in the coffin.

    Not only do I feel I’m too old (late 30’s) to be reading about people in costumes beating each other up, but the whole storytelling method is something I’ve gotten extremely tired of — fifty titles per character, event books, crossovers, reboots, relaunches, retcons, same stories rehashed over and over again, etc.

    I decided to “move on” and am now collecting other genres from other publishers (Vertigo, Dark Horse, Image, IDW) and I couldn’t be happier.

    I left Marvel around 2000 and never looked back. Seeing what I see online, I will NEVER go back to superhero books. My time with them is done, and I passed the baton to my son, with the added mention that he needs to diversify — which he does. :)

    Superhero books should be for children, anyway.

  39. I dunno. To me it seems like the same orders from direct market stores keep shifting between Marvel and DC, but it’s still more or less the same number of total numbers with small variance. The growth in the market seems to be in graphic novels for stuff like Walking Dead.

    I don’t think anyone beyond the people currently buying Marvel and DC books are going to be interested in them. It’s subject matter that’s fun as a summer movie diversion, but I don’t think a lot of people are looking to dig much deeper than that.

  40. Not trying to butt heads with Ed Brubaker (as he is one of my favorite writers) but Daredevil solidly selling 40K+ so far under Waid is pretty remarkable given the current economic climate. It’s doing exactly what fans like me have asked: told great, mostly self-contained stories, with one writer and a small rotating cast of like-minded artists. It’s found a strong loyal audience and isn’t shedding readers.

  41. How many people remember the inventory stories Marvel used to publish in the ’70s, when a Dreaded Deadline Doom loomed? They generally weren’t very good, as I recall.

    I doubt that, given today’s low page count, single-issue stories would work well because there isn’t enough space to combine the introduction of characters (for new readers) with a plot that has any complexity. Subplots continuing from issue to issue would be difficult, if not impossible. Writers would rely on formulas and very simple plots–_____ is trying to kill ______ and has to be stopped; _____ is trying to change the past and has to be stopped–that would quickly become boring if done issue after issue.

    Also, publishing single-issue stories would greatly reduce the incentive to buy series. Promoting single-issue stories would be even harder than promoting arcs. And, given that people routinely complain about reading a decompressed issue in less than ten minutes: what does someone do if he dislikes the single-issue story? Throw the comic book away?

    I wonder how much the style of any particular artist influences sales. The reaction to a style is so subjective. . . Things like the lack of variety in faces, a problem I see with the artwork of Cheung and Coipel, for example, are annoying, but not a reason to avoid an artist.


  42. Synsider:
    Marvel did it for over one hundred issues with Spider-Girl. The issues were self-contained, but did link to a larger story arc. It was 1980s storytelling, by experienced industry professionals.

    Then there’s the Marvel Adventures comics, which quickly introduce the character(s) in one page, then tell a story, again, sometimes part of a larger story arc.

    A single story also requires the writer to pack the pages. I’m always surprised how much story was packed into a Silver Age Superman comic… usually with three chapters! And they told crazy, interesting stories month after month!

    Dell/Gold Key sold millions of single issues for decades. You need a good cover hook, as well as a decent story inside. If the creative staff is consistent, then word will spread.

    Heck… with single issues, you’re never late!

    Instead of hooking the reader with an ongoing soap opera, you hook them with reputation.

  43. I’m a regular reader of Brevoort and Wacker’s Formspring pages and they’re absolutely polite to anybody who asks a polite question.

    And yes, they’ll respond “then don’t buy it” if somebody makes a complaint about a particular product. You might not like that answer, but it’s a fair, honest answer.

    That said, the level of quality coming out of the Wacker editorial office is so high that even if he was needlessly rude online, I’d give him a free pass.

    Buy the good comics and there will be more good comics.

  44. Torsten,

    And how many high-quality single-issue of Jonah Hex did Palmiotti and Gray put under their belt? Not huge mega-sellers, but great story-telling that will live on in TPB for years to come.

  45. Was there ever a good Superman story involving Red Kryptonite? Or a good story about a hero being ordered, through mind control, to do something evil and his heroic attempt to free himself before it was too late?

    If the answer to either question is “Yes,” then he probably believes that using a formula for a story isn’t bad in itself; the writer can compensate for the predictability of the story with excellent stylistic flair. Otherwise, knowing how a story will unfold and end after reading a few pages, or having the impact of a story rest completely on a twist ending, will kill a reader’s interest in the material.

    It’s not impossible for a single-issue story to be good, but the writer has to be both good and highly motivated. Looking at all the filler, hackneyed plot material, characters as plot devices, etc. indicates that many current writers will take the easiest possible routes to filling the pages. Limiting them to single-issue stories would bring out the worst in them.

    I never read a Spider-Girl issue. DeFalco is a writer I avoid.


  46. “knowing how a story will unfold and end after reading a few pages, or having the impact of a story rest completely on a twist ending, will kill a reader’s interest in the material”

    That is about as incorrect a statement as anyone can possibly make. Books, TV, movies and the stage are full to bursting with stories where the audience knows pretty much how they’re going to end. Did anyone think Matt Damon was going to get killed in the first Bourne film? Do the readers of the umpteen mystery novels that come out seemingly every other day really doubt that the main character is going to solve the crime? Is anyone really on pins-and-needles because they don’t know how AvX is going to turn out?

    The problem with limiting writers to single issue stories today isn’t that they would suck at it, though many would. The problem is that no matter how good they were, today’s comic buying audience would reject them because they don’t conform to the rather abnormal standards today’s reader has for what’s good and what isn’t.


  47. ICv2 has total sales in the Direct Market on a steady increase throughout 2012. If there’s a net increase in unit sales throughout the market (or flat unit sales with an increase in dollars), it probably just means that the audience is broadening its horizons. While it may be bad for an individual publisher to shed readers, it’s not bad for the market overall to pick them up somewhere else.

    As long as sales are going up, the Direct Market is just working through growing pains as the audience adjusts to having more viable options than they did when it started.

  48. Christopher – my entire point was that DD’s sales level is likely not the model either DC or Marvel wants to shoot for. It’s a mid-level book. Saga outsells DD regularly.

    And I’m not saying that DD isn’t excellent, because it is. I’m just saying you don’t point at a mid-level book and say “make the whole line more like that” generally.

  49. Books, TV, movies and the stage are full to bursting with stories where the audience knows pretty much how they’re going to end.

    Visual media aren’t comparable to comics. After all, watching reruns, going to a movie several times, watching favorite movies on TV years after seeing them in theaters–none of that is comparable to reading formula fiction where there’s no mystery about what’s going to happen. IMO, someone who reads stories using a known formula repeatedly is indulging a fetish–a non-sexual fetish perhaps, but the momentary thrill he gets from reading the climactic moment in the story, or the magic words someone says, is just as programmed as responding to hardcore porn.


  50. At the risk of sounding like ‘that fanboy’, I personally consider any DC New 52 title as part of an ongoing, open-ended event, so that’s a little tough to establish that DC’s ‘eventless’ offerings do better than Marvel’s constant cycle of them. I’ll stop considering it an event when DC stops branding the books in that manner, prominently on the cover. You may have 52 comics a month in the line, but at this point, few of them are new.

    Also, talent’s got to count for something: Johns and Lee on pre-New 52 Justice League, as well as Synder and Capullo on Batman would’ve juiced numbers, continuity aside.

    That said, I think Marvel Now! will be interesting because I think there’s a percentage of the Marvel audience who cares less about the creators and is far more interested in the characters — this seems to be why they’re getting away with double-shipping and contantly bringing in guest artists and it doesn’t seem to have a huge impact.

    I’m not calling that part of the audience dumb or fanboys, it just seems like there’s less emphasis on keeping a consistent creative roster. Maybe that will change with Now!, since creative teams are featured prominently in the promotional teasers, and I have to say Aaron on Thor and Allred on FF will get me to try those books. I think if you start to see the books stabilize after the launch bumps with similar numbers with the previous and completely different creative teams, that’ll be an indication of that.

    I think it’s less events than just the fact that outside of events, there’s too much ‘day-to-day’ crossover. All Wolverine has to do is join Power Pack and Guardians of the Galaxy and he’s officially everywhere, and the whole mega-Avengers concept where apparently they’re giving out Avengers I.D. cards in boxes of Corn Flakes is wearing a bit thin — maybe AvX will change that, but doesn’t sound likely from hearing Hickman talk about the post-Now! Avengers. Uncanny Avengers is just the biggest example of this mega-mentality: might as well just call it Marvel Super Heroes and be done with it, because you can almost count the non X or A heroes nowadays without running out of digits.

    The events are even less special since everyone’s tripping over everyone else all the time on a monthly basis — but then and again, if that’s what the majority wants, that’s what we get. If the X-Men and Avengers are forming one big, ongoing alliance, what’s the point of an event, anyway? On any given day you can look out a window in the Marvel Universe and see a bunch of heroes milling around in a group, you don’t need Galactus or Thanos or some other high-level threat other than to sell us on a mini-series or two on top of what we normally buy.

  51. Not sure if this would help – but it’d be nice if they trimmed back their line. DC has something going for them with only 52 books being published at any one time. (Which would still be something like $150/mo to get them all) Perhaps sales of each Marvel book would be higher if I didn’t have to be so picky. There are at least half a dozen Marvel books I’d love to read, but I just don’t have the money for it. So I’m only reading about four of them instead of ten. And that means those other six have low numbers.

  52. Once again fact beat fiction. Marvel Now has been a huge success, drove sales, reinvigorated the core of our line, and added to the industry as a whole not subtracted from it like many other publishers in the space. These “analysis” articles are only about creating frothing mouths and eager type-y fingers, not about getting a dialogue about the health of the comics and graphic novels segment as a whole as it relates to Marvel or any other publisher.

  53. p.s. and when I said “added to the industry as a whole not subtracted from it like many other publishers in the space” I meant that many other publishers added to the industry as a whole and did not subtract from it. 2012 was a collective victory for comics and graphic novels as a whole whether you published superhero comics, ogns, illustrated nonfiction, etc. There is a lot to cheer about.

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