Milton Griepp has a three-part report on Marvel’s meeting with retailers and if you’re into industry Kremlinology, just drop whatever you are doing and study this. Props to Griepp for boiling down two long days on talks into a coherent narrative. You really need to read the whole thing because it is not very often you get to read a roundtable between top retailers and a Big Two publisher discussing a crisis point for the industry.

Here’s the links:

Part 1: changes in marketing and events

Part 2: talent management and reboots

Interview with David Gabriel

But because Kremlinology is what we do here at the Beat here are a few passages we underlined:

  • Diversity is nothing without a good story

That there is reader and retailer push back against the new, diverse track of Marvel characters is a given. And the retailers themselves seemed divided on how it affected sales:

 

Another retailer described what he wanted to see from Marvel. “I don’t want you guys doing that stuff,” he said of political content. “I want you to entertain. That’s the job. One of my customers even said the other day (because he knew we were coming) he wants to get stories and doesn’t mind a message, but he doesn’t want to be beaten over the head with these things.” [snip]

Yet another pointed out that the more diverse characters brought different people into his store. “One things about the new books that go through my store, they don’t sell the numbers that I would like,” he said. “They do bring in a different demographic, and I’m happy to see that money in my store.”

 

Gabriel noted time and again that last October things they kept doing stopped working. But despite the lowered efficiency of #1s and sales incentives, there is really no way to shift this to a #25 issues.

Marvel’s use of sales incentives and more variants on the relaunches was also noted as one reason for their initial success. But those incentives don’t work unless they’re on #1s.

“I will be honest with you and tell you that we have tried to put those same sales incentives on the issues 24 or 25,” Gabriel said. “They don’t get a fraction of what the #1 does. That’s a problem that we all have to bear together. Once you get to issues 15, and 16, and 17 what in the world do you do to get those numbers from a 40,000, 60,000 unit book to 150,000 unit book even for one month?”

But the $9.99 Spider-Man was a big success even for retailers, according to Gabriel.

• Marvel believes artists no longer sell books.

This is an interesting thing because out in the wild of non big two readers, artists/cartoonists definitely sell books, but at both Marvel and DC the constant cutting and pasting of artists and pushing “world building” authors has eroded their audience’s interest in them. I give Marvel credit for trying to ride it out with Marquez (Civil War II) and Ribic (Secret Wars III)  as they did with the first Civil War and Old Man Logan (trade sales stars) but throwing up their hands with Secret Empire is a sign of the times. (BTW, I understand Secret Wars delays were due to many factors, not just the artist.)

There are fewer artists that impact sales than there are writers, Alonso said, and they’re harder to promote. “It’s harder to pop artists these days,” he said. “There is no apparatus out there. There is no Wizard Magazine out there that told you who the hot top 10 were. We don’t have that anymore. We can hype our artists all we want, but I don’t know if we know how many artists, besides maybe McNiven and Coipel, absolutely move the needle on anything to be drawn.

It’s not just publishing rights that draw creators to creator-owned, it’s also secondary rights. “This is one of the things that we have to contend with as well,” Alonso said, “The lure of writing the comic book that is getting optioned as a movie. That’s where we have to be patient and we maintain good relationships. Every once in a while there will be scorched earth, but we keep those doors open and we wait for opportunity. Often times they come back.”

 

I’d like to note that a well known news site has not linked to the ICv2 reports, but DID just run a Wizard Style Hot artists piece!

And here’s Axel Alonso on the practice:

“When I became editor‑in‑chief, we did AVX. When I suggested multiple artists and multiple writers, Dan Buckley went Red Hulk on me because that’s not the way we did events. I said, ‘Well, actually, we have been doing events that way. We’ve been doing X‑Men events.” What people care about is rapidity of ship. Correct me if I’m wrong. They want to come out on time. Rapidity of ship helps, because it means that you don’t have to wait a month for the next chapter. They’re more forgiving of art shifts as long as they’re good.”

§ The mix of limited series, maxi series, mini series is hard to make work.

A retailer noted:

A retailer noted how a number of the problems being discussed all fit together in ways that might permit a solution. “Honestly, listening to this discussion and hear us talking, looking at these things, it sounds like the event fatigue, the timing of events, the wanting number ones, the idea of doing shorter series to attract creators, not necessarily announcing them right away is that they all overlap just enough that it’s really coordination and a thoughtful game plan on how these would work, because they’re all just negatively affecting each other when they can actually all complement one another,” he said.

The Gabriel interview is jammed with  intriguing observations, including his own version on the panel that kicked off DC Rebirth: “There is something missing!” in that something just…changed last fall.

There was probably a little too much product going out at that time. We all got a good kick in the ass over that. What I had said was, after looking at everything that was going on, we knew that we had to make some changes and we couldn’t do anything the next month. We had to wait six months before things could start taking place. That’s sort of what we’re getting to now. I hope that clears it up.

In the passage that will probably get the most talk, Gabriel just flat out says that readers turned up their noses at the continuing diversification of their line:

We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against. That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.

It was the old things coming back in that time period, three books in particular, Spider-Man Renew Your Vows, that had Spider-Man and Mary Jane married, that worked. The Venom book worked and the Thanos book worked. You can take what you want out of who might be enjoying those three books, but it is definitely a specific type of comic book reader, comic book collector that really liked those three series.

UPDATE; AS First predicted right here at The Beat, the above statement went viral in a few minutes. We’ll have more on that soon, but Gabriel released a statement updating the above, and restating their commitment to the new diverse characters:

[Note:  Marvel’s David Gabriel reached out to correct the statement above:  “Discussed candidly by some of the retailers at the summit, we heard that some were not happy with the false abandonment of the core Marvel heroes and, contrary to what some said about characters “not working,” the sticking factor and popularity for a majority of these new titles and characters like Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, The Mighty Thor, Spider-Gwen, Miles Morales, and Moon Girl, continue to prove that our fans and retailers ARE excited about these new heroes. And let me be clear, our new heroes are not going anywhere! We are proud and excited to keep introducing unique characters that reflect new voices and new experiences into the Marvel Universe and pair them with our iconic heroes.

“We have also been hearing from stores that welcome and champion our new characters and titles and want more!  They’ve invigorated their own customer base and helped them grow their stores because of it.  So we’re getting both sides of the story and the only upcoming change we’re making is to ensure we don’t lose focus of our core heroes.”]

Gabriel doubled down on saying that DC’s returnability was an industry issue, although not THE only issue:

I haven’t heard from anybody today saying what a great thing that it was for the industry. Maybe I didn’t ask them that, but nobody came back and denied that there were cash flow problems as a result of that returnability. That’s the only thing I can say that was a problem for the individual retailers economically.

Anyway there’s more. Read it all.  Retailers came out of the meeting encouraged. Has Marvel actually learned anything? What can they really do?

What do you think, readers? Would different storylines or different creators bring you back? Who and what?

NOTE: racist comments will be deleted and posters banned.

53 COMMENTS

  1. “Diversity is nothing without a good story”

    I wish more people realized this. Both in the comics industry and on the internet. There’s a reason a comic about a teen Muslim girl superhero is a big success while other female and minority lead comics ever reach anything close to that level.

  2. There’s so much double-shipped product flooding the shelves that I’m amazed anything can stand out. I mean, Thor has been great, but Captain America not so much, and neither of those things has to do with diverse leads, like Roto13 emphasized above. For the record, I love those thematic changes, but I’ve not been a fan of the post-SW mishmash we’re living in.

  3. I’d like to offer a couple of take on diversification that Marvel editorial might not have considered. These are all kind of off the top of my head so it’ll be sloppily written and put together:

    1) Alternative takes are not a new thing.

    This reader’s old enough to have survived “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, so I know a thing or two about the modern era from The Big 2.

    Smart Hulk? I’ve seen a couple of versions of that, including runs by both Bill Mantlo and Peter David. A different Spider-Man? Let’s see, there was the clone saga with Ben Reilly, Ultimate Spidey, Miles Morales, and Superior Spidey. A younger replacement for Tony Stark? How about the teenaged Tony Stark that was around before “Heroes Reborn” was launched? A different Thor? You mean other than Eric Masterson? And that’s just on the Marvel side. There are plenty on the DC side as well.

    2) Maybe it’s not the diversity that was being foisted, so much as how it was foisted.

    Keeping Amadeus Cho as the Hulk is cool but maybe killing Bruce Banner with an arrow to the head was not the way to go. Carol Danvers seemed to have a pretty loyal following until Civil War 2 turned her into a crazy person. Everyone loved Miles Morales, but did you have to destroy an entire universe to have him on the same Earth as Peter Parker?

    3) Too much change at one time.

    When all the characters are changed at one time, where are the familiar landmarks that a reader can go to where things are still pretty stable? There’s a reason why shows like NCIS and other police procedurals are popular: it’s because the formulas and situations are familiar. There’s a stable cast of characters that face new situations each week. Remove any of those familiar characters and it might have the same title but it’s a whole new show now.

    4) Is any of this going to really stick?

    Smart Hulk became dumb Hulk again, at least twice. The FF broke up. but they got back together again multiple times. Superior Spidey was outed as Doc Ock and Peter came back. Heroes and villains both die but then they get better. Sure, you can go in “a bold, new direction”, but I’ve been around long enough to see that eventually the rubber band pops back into its original shape. Eventually it just becomes a stunt to boost sales. Why bother being played over and over again?

    5) DC did it better.

    When Julie Schwartz started a whole new set of stories featuring characters based off their old IP’s, he came up with the clever bit of putting the new characters on a separate Earth. A nice fresh clean start. No worrying about the old Flash or the old Green Lantern, because they were still on their Earth having adventures and such. Fans could be assured that the integrity of their favorite characters, whether new or old, was maintained. Instead of destroying the Ultimate Universe, why didn;t you do all of these cool changes on the Ultimate Earth? Two separate universes, two separate Earths. Have your cake and eat it too.

    6) “I’m not old! You’re old!”

    The current Marvel era seems to be setting up a new status quo by moving into a new legacy relationship with its older characters. To compare to DC, Marvel seems to be going into a post-Crisis-like direction. This forces some aging on the established characters to make way for the young generation. Some readers, accustomed to the agelessness of their favorite characters, might not be ready for that en masse. Spider-Man’s marriage was dissolved because it seemed to age the character and put him into situations which belied the youthful persona he used to represent. Even if it’s not an actual aging process that the characters are going through, adding younger characters bearing the same names certainly implies that this is what’s going on.

    7) Brand confusion.

    This is a big one. DC dealt with this before and still wrestles with it today.

    What happens when you have a movie or TV success on your hands with one of your properties, but the books you publish don’t seem to have any resemblance to what’s a success on the screen? There’s a semi-famous anecdote told by Dan Didio about Supergirl which is amazingly applicable. And what happens when the media representation doesn’t match what’s being published? Usually the books being published revert to something more recognizable. Which sends us back to “Is any of this really going to stick?” territory.

    8) Price.

    Ok. I’m old. I remember when comics used to cost as much as a candy bar. I’m at the age now where one comic is as much as a Happy Meal for my kid. Priorities change. I’m more conservative with my spare change. So I might wait for the trade after checking out the series on Marvel Unlimited. That means less visits to my LCS and maybe more to my local Barnes and Noble or to Amazon where I can get a discount. I can’t afford $4 a pop on a series that might fizzle out at the end.

    Personally, I think some of these changes are really exciting. Unfortunately, this still feels like that post-Crisis DC era where stuff is still being figured out as we go along. If Marvel’s really committed to head in this direction, they’re gonna have to give it time. Customers have to see whether they can trust the Marvel brand again.

  4. The biggest industry changes for me as of late concerns digital comics.

    1.) I like reading digital comics as I travel a lot and it’s easier to download a bunch than carry around hard copies. However, I refuse to pay the same for digital as it costs for print. I usually wait for $0.99 sales. Digital copies of new comics need to be cheaper than print, even if it’s only by a buck.

    2.) Marvel did away with getting a free digital copy with print purchase. This was a deal breaker for me and will cut back on Marvel titles by 90% because of it. In my opinion, they need to revert back.

    Unfortunatley it doesn’t appear either issue was discussed at the summit.

  5. Market the story instead of the identity politics of the creators. I see entire marketing efforts on twitter focused on who the creators are instead of what the book is about. Just sell me a cool story without trying to earn diversity points.

    I think the market really is looking for cool stuff from new voices all the time as long as its quality. Going for the emotional sell only gets you so far if the content isn’t great.

    Also for big publishers, the market is way too flooded to expect much success from new/minor characters from new creators. Go all in or your not trying.

  6. I’m smelling diversity being targeted as a scapegoat here. Call it part of my worries about the general political climate.

  7. “I’m smelling diversity being targeted as a scapegoat here. Call it part of my worries about the general political climate.”

    I don’t think so. Marvel’s “diversity project” is alienating many more longtime customers and they are not replacing these lost readers with any significant number of new ones that might be attracted by all of this (manufactured) social diversity..

  8. @Sphinx Mago

    On the issue of Spider-Man’s marriage and youthfulness, the character was never about representing youth. The character merely happened to be young. Spider-Man sales were respectable during the years he was married (which had higher sales than now) and even before that he was not a representative of youth. A 24-25 year old post grad student isn’t about youth.

    Most readers might be accostumed to the agelessness of the characters but they aren’t against them aging. Not most of them anyway. Aging is part of character development and that USED to be a thing at Marvel. Most readers want that back.

    What they do not want is development along inr oganic trajectories. Sticking with Spider-Man they want him to grow in maturity as a person but they do not want him to be a CEO businessman since that actually DOES go against the point of the character as the average Joe superhero (not the ‘youth’ superhero, how ridiculous).

    At the same time many of the new legacy heroes have either supplanted the originals or been given a status many feel is unearned or undermining of the original character’s who readers love, admire and have seen build up long legacies for themselves.

    Let us compare and contrast Riri Williams ascension into Ironheart (effectivly replacing Iron Man) and Jane Foster’s becoming Thor to say Dick Grayson becoming Batman and Tim Drake becoming Robin.

    Jane Foster only became Thor when the character readers’ knew and loved was literally rendered unworthy and then some stranger at first takes away the status of the character they loved. Yes later it was revealed to be a character they knew but the narrative was conveying an idea that Jane was as good in the role if not better than Thor whilst Thor himself was literally unworthy. This is very denigrating to a character people cared about. Even ignoring the idea of him as unworthy Jane being in the subtext conveyed as being ‘as good’ is itself problematic given Thor’s long and rich history.

    Similarly with Riri she shows up and is suddenly in a similar intellectual league to Tony freaking Stark? And then after less than a year of her introduction becomes the lead character whilst Tony is killed off?

    At best this is unearned and cheap storytelling. At worst this is idealization of a character bordering into Mary Sue territory,

    The fact that both were done for the sake of diversity and there was an undercurrent (prominent in the Thor series) of you disliking or taking issue with these changes making you a bad person in some way equally soured people.

    In contrast Dick Grayson becoming Batman was entirely logical and justified by his LONG and extensive history in the franchise and relationship with Batman. Fans had had a long time to get to know Dick Grayson, to like him and the idea of his as Batman’s son inheriting his legacy was entirely invited by the subtext of the series.

    In Tim Drake’s case yes he was becoming the new Robin whilst also being a new character but the writers took pains to justify him getting that role, both by arguming why Batman needed a Robin and by showcasing extensive training for Tim, making him EARN that role in universe and in essence earning readers respect.

  9. “Marvel’s “diversity project” is alienating many more longtime customers and they are not replacing these lost readers with any significant number of new ones that might be attracted by all of this (manufactured) social diversity..”

    In other words, Marvel’s “longtime customers” are cranky old white guys who don’t want to read about women or minorities. Good riddance to those old farts!

  10. Marvel really started falling apart during CWII. Awful story carried across all titles? It really highlighted how weak some titles were. They really need to simplify and get back to basics.

  11. I am reading your reports of the summit with interest, but hearing a lot of defense from Marvel as to why they can’t change anything. “We can’t reduce comic prices, we can’t promote artists, we can’t continue diverse titles, but how do we make readers happy and make a lot of money? We can’t offer artists creative freedom, but we hear about it all the time, daily, in fact. But please, tell us what we CAN do to make things better.”

    Okay, I’m paraphrasing, simplifying and exaggerating. ( like a comic writer might) but really, the elephant is in the room: comics cost a lot now, but readers’ expectations are for amazing concepts and story with photo realistic art, delivered every month without fail. Yet they purchase fewer and fewer copies of each subsequent issue, until a title is cancelled or revamped. Seems like expectations are unrealisitc on both sides of the retailer counter…

    But a fascinating discussion, and a million thanks for presenting it to us to comment upon.

  12. It has absolutely nothing to do “diversity” and falling for a right wing scapegoat is pretty shameful when the “diverse” market may eventually be the only major one they have moving forward.

    I’m not even going to go too much into the “Diversity is good, but it depends how you do it” – because a lot of Marvel’s more “Diverse” books HAVE been pretty good, not just Ms. Marvel. All-New Wolverine is pretty good too, and Riri Williams Iron man, for all it’s Bendisness, is enjoyable.

    Ultimately they’re looking for an easy scapegoat. Looking at sales there’s absolutely no pattern to back up what they’re suggesting whatso-ever. You could argue that the lost sales are people who are turned off Marvel entirely by the diversity – but we’d still see and let’s face it those people are probably far-right dickwads, and Marvel needs to not cater to them.

    Look at the TV Shows – Jessica Jones did great. Luke Cage did great. Iron Fist??? You could claim it’s just a coincidence that there was a semi-controversy surrounding it, and how out of date the Iron Fist concept is. But if it were a “diverse” comic – people would never let that slide. Do you see my point? There’s going to be a lot of double standards here to circumvent.

    The diversity push is pretty shallow in a lot of ways regardless. It was treated as a big deal that the America comic was written by a queer latinx writer – but how did that happen? IF Marvel is pushing characters like that, surely it was coming from a place of having people like that on board on the first place?

    You can’t keep having Spencer and Bendis write “diverse” characters and expect us to buy them up. Spencer might make someone a Nazi or at least push his own awful respectability politics and completely lack of understanding of what it’s like to be marginalised in Trump’s America(or anywhere really).

    I’m trans – can you name me a single trans character in Marvel that has any attention? The only one I can think of is Sera, and she’s unlikely to be seen again after the Angela comic was cancelled. Ms. Marvel is great – but in a world where 1.5 billion of the world’s population is Muslim, Marvel only has 4 Muslim characters of note? Unless you count Arabian Knight, lol.

    So really, Marvel hasn’t gone anything like “all out” on diversity. Mostly they replaced some of their popular but increasingly stale frontmen with members of their female backing cast/protoges. Which is the sort of shit that happens in comics all the time. It does seem a bit convoluted to do it all at once, maybe – but it’s well overdue.

    If they want to look at the reason for the Slump, maybe look at the sheer amount of redundant comics they have. Ok, you want to 2 different Spider man books. People like Peter, they like Miles. There used to be an Ultimate Spider-man so let’s keep his story going. Cool. But do we really need several Guardians comics when they haven’t been GOOD since War of Kings et. all(and curiously still no Phyla/Moondragon).

    Do we really need endless crossovers? do we need to keep ruining characters in their moment of popularity like Carol/Captain Marvel and Wanda/Scarlet Witch? Do we need to keep killing off the X-men, only to bring them back in a new shiny “non-political” format(PUKE)? DO WE NEED NAZI CAPTAIN AMERICA? no. There are so many awful decisions that have been plaguing Marvel pretty much since Avengers Disassembled in one form or another(though it has a longer history of that going back to the mid 90s – which is a shame because IMO most of the GENUINELY GOOD and readable Marvel comics came out in the last 20-30 years, but the “Universe” was less consistent and interesting).

    If “diverse” comics really aren’t selling(which isn’t true) then maybe it has to do with how you’re marketing them and reaching out to new audiences. Maybe not every diverse character, or ever diverse writer(of which you still have a huge lack) will be good, at least the first time around. Keep knocking away at it, because goddamn do you need to expand your market unless you want to rely on the movies forever.

  13. I used to be a Marvel faithful, but have almost completely abandoned them due to event fatigue. Ever since Avengers Dissassembled(God Im getting old) there has been an event or 3 a year. And Marvel doesn’t offer opt in events. Straczynski’s Thor run and the recent Captain Marvel shenanigans are notable, but they’re hardly unique. Series with interesting ongoing stories are suddenly ruined due to a need to match crossover events. All of my friends who used to be heavily into DC have had similar complaints with Reboot fatigue. It’s largely anecdotal, but among the people I know who are serious comic fans Image has seen a serious uptick. Between that and the continuing popularity of Comixology I’m not surprised by low in store numbers for the big 2.

  14. Weekly comic readers are mostly old, straight, white, cis men. Of course they’re going to reject change. Comic companies like Marvel need to figure out how to expand their reach beyond that group. They had success with Ms Marvel. Maybe it’s worth figuring out why that book works?

  15. Identity politics are a hot issue right now, but in life outside twitter and the internet people are not so concerned with them. Most people appreciate diversity, but will not support something just because it promotes diversity. Neither will they reject something because it is not diverse enough.
    When it comes to Marvel comics, simply put: People will not buy a book just because it stars a diverse character. Riri’s comic book was not marketed as a heartfelt story about family, friendship and finding your place in the world; a story that starred a charming character who had an interesting cultural perspective. Riri;s Iron Man comic was marketed as a book starring an African-American teenager and Diversity! Don’t blame diverse characters for your sale slumps. Don’t blame your fans either; I’m not going to buy America just because she’s a Latina LGBT character, sorry. People generally care about reading good stories and immersing themselves in a coherent shared universe. And these are two things Marvel editorial and creative have failed to deliver…

  16. This is all well and good, but has anybody considered that the problem here might be that Marvel as a company is simply not as relevant as it used to be? Most of their core titles are what, 60 years old? I think it’s time to move on and create new concepts for the 21st century; books with themes that reflect our current society, featuring a diverse cast from the get-go.

    Sure, Marvel movies are successful. But so are movies featuring Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster, or Jane Austen adaptations, yet those are cultural artifacts of the 19th century. There is nothing wrong with a little bit of nostalgia every now and then, but we can’t stay stuck in the past. It’s time to move on.

  17. From what I can see, that meeting was pretty useless. There was absolutely no mention of the outdated business model that is the monthly floppy comic. Today’s new modern readers do not like the floppy. Hell, I’m one of those old cranky white guys who have been reading comics since the sixties and even I can’t stand floppies. I want a trade. Trade sales are exploding and have been for years. Floppy sales are dying and have been for years. Need I say more?

    Here is something absolutely hilarious! As this Marvel Retailer Meeting is happening, I am working on my May Marvel order for my store. Here was what I had to deal with:

    98 Floppy titles (OMFG!)

    46 Collections

    10 #1 issues (5 titles are also shipping #2 issues in the same month with no chance to adjust #2 on FOC after seeing sales data for #1)

    Secret Empire #1 ($4.99 with 10 different covers), #2 ($4.99 with 5 different covers) and #3 (3.99 with 5 different covers) (Really?!?) This is simply spitting in the face of retailers! You are expecting us to order Secret Empire issues #0-3 without any sales data to go on all and without the ability to adjust our orders on the FOC date for #1 before seeing sales of #0. And all of this risk with no returns. Thanks for nothing Marvel!

    Yeah! Marvel really cares about working with retailers to fix the industry. Sheeeesh……

    Next week is a very important week for Marvel Comics. X-Men Gold #1 releases. If this book does not fly off the shelves, then Marvel is done. X-men used to be the flagship title for Marvel until they ran the mutants into the ground. The sales of this book will decide the fate of the company as far as I am concerned. And frankly, I am expecting this book to flop. I really hope that it flies off the shelf, but at this time, I have absolutely no confidence in Marvel at all!

    The other big problem that was not addressed is the irrelevance of super-hero comics themselves. Super-hero comics from the Big 2 are just boring. I mean really, how many stories can possibly be milked out of characters that are up to 75 years old? In my store print sales are up double digits for the year. That is due to the continuing growth in graphic novel and Manga sales. And the graphic novel sales increases are due to the increasing popularity of non super-hero books from publishers other than the Big 2. Marvel trades have never sold well and the new Rebirth trade sales are very disappointing. Floppies just continue with their death spiral.

    What is with this industry? When are publishers and retailers going to acknowledge this reality. The sooner we all admit to what is happening in the comic marketplace and address how to replace the antiquated floppy business model for the comics business, the sooner the market gets back on track. The days of the traditional comic store full of dust covered back issue bins and “collector ” comics thumbtacked to the walls with ridiculous prices on them are coming to an end. Comic speculators need to put on their big boys and girls pants and buy stocks or real estate. Grow up for God’s sake. Comic retailers also need to put on their big boys and girls pants and stop pushing comics as collectibles and investments and just stop supporting variant covers of any kind. just stop! Do it now! Grow up! The industry is at stake. It is all about the stories and art, not bogus investments!

  18. Do you know what Marvel smartest move in the last year to me is? Working with Archie to get digests into the check-out lane. It confuses me so much that Marvel (or DC frankly) does not do more to diversify their publishing outlets. Marvel may have better luck with all these new diverse characters if they actually tried to reach to the new audiences these titles could appeal. It is insane that the Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing is blaming the retailers and customers for him not doing his job. I am not saying he has an easy job or that I could do it, but sometimes you need to own up to your problems. It is very unlikely that Direct Market in it’s current form isn’t sustainable in the long run and retreating further into it is not a sound strategy.

    You know what may have been a good idea instead of wasting money on things like a Solo ongoing series (seriously this still boggles my mind) put is towards finding new ways to sell what you already have out. Although if you are dead set on keeping the amount of your titles up there, try something other than superheroes. I know I am going to get shit for this but I still stand by the intent of the New 52. Granted how it was executed leaves a great deal wanting, it was one of the Big 2 trying to diversify their line along with attracting new readers.

    I think I can safely say everyone here wants to see comics survive and prosper, but damn it it is hard when major aspects of the industry seem to lack a sense of self-preservation.

  19. And one more thing…..

    Diversity. There is a lot of diversity in comics. And diversity is a great thing. You want diversity and great content? Then look no further than Image, Boom, Fantagraphics, Black Mask, Aftershock and other publishers. Diversity does sell well. The readers who want diversity have many quality diverse titles to choose from and they eagerly support those publishers and titles. But I think these readers really are not interested in super-hero books. I think it is just that simple…..

  20. Marvel’s woes are the result of many factors, but ONLY focusing blame on too many “old white male” readers who reject minority replacement heroes that were suddenly forced on them, OR “social justice warrior” writers/editors who push minority replacement heroes who don’t sell as well as the characters who’ve been in continuous publication for 50 years IS NOT THE ANSWER. Diversity is a good thing, but so is respecting the history of the characters that the core of the readership has followed for decades.

    Xre had it right in a previous post about how legacy heroes can/should be introduced into the ongoing mythology.

    Sphinx Magoo absolutely nailed it IMO. A lot of what Marvel did that just didn’t work in fall 2016 can be chalked up to the implementation of too many poor stunt-driven publishing decisions at one time (replacement heroes, annual soft resets, meaningless event-driven stories, strange/out of nowhere status quo changes to existing characters, conditioning the market to only respond to #1s). Like Sphinx Magoo, I’m old enough to remember seeing most of these stunts in use over the past few decades – to varying levels of success. However, Marvel has relied on these stunts more and more in the past few years and fall 2016 was the breaking point for fandom.

    Marvel is right to chase new readers with diverse new characters and creators. Marvel is wrong to ONLY try to sell these new minority characters/creators to the existing hardcore fan base, which is there for the continuing adventures of characters who’ve been around for decades. Marvel needs to go outside of the direct market to promote their more diverse offerings AND they need to focus on continuing to publish the characters the hardcore readership has been buying for decades.

    IMO, the real problem, the fundamental problem that links all of these specific issues, is that the comic market is disintegrating and there are no easy publishing strategies or stunts that can stop it. The Internet, an aging readership, and video games have crushed the comics market in the US. Marvel is just doing a bad job of responding to these developments. True, Marvel’s past decisions helped lead to the current situation, but there were larger issues at play.

    Some things need to change. I believe the Diamond-run system of distribution is hurting the comics genre more than helping it. I believe the price point for new floppies is not competitive with other forms of entertainment and it is currently unsustainable. I believe stunt publishing offers diminishing returns and a short term boost to the direct market, like a bubble in the stock market: in fall 2016 the bubble burst.

    I believe the major publishers need to do two things to ensure that the comics medium survives. First, the publishers need to get creative and go beyond the direct market to gain new readers. This might involve experimenting with format and content (abandoning floppies, pushing digital, focusing on new diverse characters and creators) and it might involve experimenting with distribution methods (imagine a $10-$20 monthly subscription to a Amazon/Hulu/Netflix-like internet app that offers Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse titles). Second, the publishers need to shore up the direct market and serve the hardcore collectors/readers who’ve kept this industry going for the past three decades: this means putting out stories with a publishing plan that lasts longer than 12 months, a plan that focuses on promoting characters who the fans have been reading for decades, a plan that doesn’t rely on cheap, event-driven stunts and constant relaunches to drive the line.

    Unless the comics publishers pursue a strategy that focuses on these two separate but important avenues of the comics market, we could see the end of the comics medium altogether.

  21. This post begins with the disclaimer that racist comments will be removed and posters will be banned. You do realize that derogatory comments against white people still constitutes racism? Or because its couple with ageism does that make it alright. I’ll need some clarification on that.
    As an older reader and yes, a white male I’d like to run down some of my stodgy old man titles I get on a regular basis; Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Hellcat (Which I am really sad that they are cancelling) and Squirrel Girl. I also get the Wonder Woman title and Batwoman title from DC. As if that wasn’t enough how about Jonesy and SLAM! from Boom Box! Josie and The Pussycats? Jem and the Holograms? The MIsfits? Coady and the Creepies?
    I buy more DC titles because they have given us better stories with their core heroes and I like seeing the heroes I grew up with. The closest I get with Marvel is in the movies. It’s almost like they are doing it on purpose at this point. I am one of the biggest Captain America fans. I have read his adventures for decades. There hasn’t been a decent Captain America in years. Uncanny Avengers came the close and that book is probably closest thing to a normal Marvel book. Volume 2 of course. Volume One was an abomination.
    So, in the end, I would not like this automatic lumping of older readers into one place. I would like the racist comments removed from this thread and those people banned as promised.

  22. @George
    Your comment about cranky old white guys.
    Just remember cranky old white guys buy or have bought the majority of comics for a long time. If you are a business you want to keep the majority of your customers in the fold or they will go somewhere else.
    Think if I was selling pampers and baby formula,then I would want to make sure I didn’t upset the moms who buy the majority of that product.If I did they would look somewhere else for a friendlier seller to go buy the product. I would lose money,and my competitors would gain money.

    This is the deal people don`t mind a little diversity or a little preaching,but we don`t want to be told it everyday,and certainly don`t won`t to be told what kind of comics we have to read. This is what Marvel did. They hit us over the head with diversity,and we got bored with it.Yes BORED! Stuff they thought was cutting edge is now considered boring!

    We want something different then the same old story about racial.gender, and xenophobia issues .
    If I or cranky old white guys want that we can just turn on Fox News or CNN and get to watch it 24/7.

    An example is GL/GA #85 where Speedy is a junkie. Good issue,but imagine if DC back then made every DC hero a junkie? Then all of a sudden the DC reader would have gotten bored and move on to something else.

    btw I applaud Heidi MacDonald for allowing this good debate. Marvel wants to find out why they lost sales,and if they are reading some of the posts in this comments thread they will get their answer. Some of the posters in this comment section have really explained it well.

  23. I’ve found that readers are usually suffering from blog comment burnout by this point, so I’ll keep it brief, as no one will probably be reading this anyway.

    The complaining has been going on for a lot longer than Marvel wants to admit, the difference is that now readers are voting with their dollars and cents, and it’s beginning to hit home for management. If sales continue to fall eventually real change will come. Quality change.

  24. “Just remember cranky old white guys buy or have bought the majority of comics for a long time.”

    Yes, and that has been a big problem for a long time.

    Maybe Marvel should start a line called “Marvel Boomer/Gen X Comics,” for men over 40 who want to live in the past and don’t want to see racial or cultural diversity in pop culture.

    Hell, they could call it “Trump Voter Comics!”

    Marvel’s (and DC’s) problems go way beyond the “diversity plague,” as some readers call it. Event fatigue and ever-escalating prices for slender pamphlets are much bigger problems. When people find alternatives that interest them, they’ll say goodbye to the Big Two. In fact, they’re already doing that.

  25. What drove me away from Marvel is the events. I’ve grown so tired of them that I skip them (and the series which are more deeply interwoven) despite being a Marvel Unlimited subscriber. That and the Inhumans mess.
    Conversely I like the small titles, some of which I still buy in print (e.g. Moon Girl, Squirrel Girl, Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat, Great Lake Avengers, Black Widow)

  26. Yes, the titles on the margins are often more interesting than those in the top tier. The bosses tend not to micromanage the lower tier books so much. Been that way for a long time, at least since the ’70s. (See: Man-Thing, Warlock, Killraven, Master of Kung Fu, Tomb of Dracula.)

  27. George:
    I think you are conflating a few things that don’t necessarily need to be tied together; namely, that anyone who doesn’t like seeing Marvel shelf their proven stable of characters is definitely anti-diversity, or a Trump voter. I am neither of those things, yet I was one of the people who voted with my wallet by not buying much Marvel product when they decided to stop publishing the characters I’ve loved for decades and made several awful stunt-related story choices.

  28. I once heard a feminist writer say that when some people make entertainment more diverse it does not mean that society is more diverse: it should work the other way around (paraphrasing).

  29. To hear Marvel whining about retailers and buyers only caring about #1 whenthey do some promotions is just priceless. THEY created this situation. THEY promoted it when everybody was telling them it was a bad idea in the long term. And now they dare to put the blame on retailers and buyers.

    Same thing with artists -Dynamite wearing the crown on this one-: by putting all their efforts into promoting cover artists, sometimes not even showing a panel of the interioi art -but ALL of the variant covers-, they helped dimunished the importance of the interior artist.

    And saying that people din’t react positively anymore to their diversity campaign of new titles. Well, guess what, perhaps being moderate about it could have helped. A lot of their titles promoting diversity are going very well. They can’t just stop putting them out using the same formula. Moderation is the key. Stop treating your readers like human-walking wallets. I get it that they are interested in moneybut hey, Marvel, you are not alone anymore and there is a vast choice of titles and better opportunities at others publishers.

    This summit is good. But come on, what will come out of it: more events and more 1’s because that'”s the only thing that sell?

  30. I think that new characters should have mini or maxi series with a complete stories so the readers can get familair with them. That would also prevent the fatigue phenomenon. Those series should be like once a year, not a multiplication of titles about a popular character.

    New characters’ series need to bring excitement as well as frustration so the next story would be a hit.
    And of course, they need to have complete and good stories in 6 or 8 issues.

  31. “We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against. That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.”

    How fresh and diverse can these ideas really be, if they’re just yet more additions to the same old mega-series?

    If you want to sell books, learn a thing or two from the romance novels (which sell a *ton* of books).

    They didn’t gain more LGBT readers by adding characters in same-sex relationships to Romeo & Juliet.

    They didn’t gain more LGBT readers by changing Romeo’s or Juliet’s gender.

    They gained more LGBT readers by offering some romance novels that had same-sex couples and were *not* Romeo & Juliet sequels/prequels/spinoffs/elseworlds/etc. things in the first place.

    This is also why it’s not necessarily anti-LGBT to prefer that previously straight and non-trans characters stay straight and non-trans.

    Outside comics fandom, people who want more diversity usually want a wider variety of different stories in their favorite formats, not just the same old stories crammed with a wider variety of additions inside.

    Why is “don’t cram every new idea you have into the same old story” such a hard concept for DC and Marvel when it’s so easy for just about every other publisher in just about every format?

    “3) Too much change at one time.

    “When all the characters are changed at one time, where are the familiar landmarks that a reader can go to where things are still pretty stable? There’s a reason why shows like NCIS and other police procedurals are popular: it’s because the formulas and situations are familiar. There’s a stable cast of characters that face new situations each week. Remove any of those familiar characters and it might have the same title but it’s a whole new show now.”

    Ding ding ding we have a winner!!!

    When publishers and TV channels wants to add diversity to police procedurals, they usually add more and different police procedural series to their offerings. They don’t take characters in and out of their existing police procedural series.

    “7) Brand confusion.

    “This is a big one. DC dealt with this before and still wrestles with it today.

    “What happens when you have a movie or TV success on your hands with one of your properties, but the books you publish don’t seem to have any resemblance to what’s a success on the screen? There’s a semi-famous anecdote told by Dan Didio about Supergirl which is amazingly applicable. And what happens when the media representation doesn’t match what’s being published? Usually the books being published revert to something more recognizable. Which sends us back to “Is any of this really going to stick?” territory.”

    EXACTLY.

    Those new Tor.com paperback and ebook novellas don’t have this problem. The Harper Voyager imprint of HarperCollins doesn’t have this problem. The Angry Robot imprint of Watkins Media doesn’t have this problem. Why don’t they have this problem…?

    “Hello says

    “04/01/2017 9:06 am at 9:06 am

    “This is all well and good, but has anybody considered that the problem here might be that Marvel as a company is simply not as relevant as it used to be? Most of their core titles are what, 60 years old? I think it’s time to move on and create new concepts for the 21st century; books with themes that reflect our current society, featuring a diverse cast from the get-go.

    “Sure, Marvel movies are successful. But so are movies featuring Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster, or Jane Austen adaptations, yet those are cultural artifacts of the 19th century. There is nothing wrong with a little bit of nostalgia every now and then, but we can’t stay stuck in the past. It’s time to move on.”

    THIS. YES.

    “The other big problem that was not addressed is the irrelevance of super-hero comics themselves. Super-hero comics from the Big 2 are just boring. I mean really, how many stories can possibly be milked out of characters that are up to 75 years old? In my store print sales are up double digits for the year. That is due to the continuing growth in graphic novel and Manga sales. And the graphic novel sales increases are due to the increasing popularity of non super-hero books from publishers other than the Big 2.”

    RIGHT ON.

    “Marvel may have better luck with all these new diverse characters if they actually tried to reach to the new audiences these titles could appeal.”

    For that matter, say a potential new reader has an easy time finding movies. He or she really likes both Iron Man and Harry Potter, and now wants to read the whole series of both. It’s easy to figure out where to start with Harry Potter and which books count. It’s considerably harder to do that with Iron Man.

    “Edwin R Sherman says

    “04/01/2017 11:38 am at 11:38 am

    “And one more thing…..

    “Diversity. There is a lot of diversity in comics. And diversity is a great thing. You want diversity and great content? Then look no further than Image, Boom, Fantagraphics, Black Mask, Aftershock and other publishers. Diversity does sell well. The readers who want diversity have many quality diverse titles to choose from and they eagerly support those publishers and titles. But I think these readers really are not interested in super-hero books. I think it is just that simple…..

    “batman497 says

    “04/01/2017 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm

    “Marvel’s woes are the result of many factors, but ONLY focusing blame on too many “old white male” readers who reject minority replacement heroes that were suddenly forced on them, OR “social justice warrior” writers/editors who push minority replacement heroes who don’t sell as well as the characters who’ve been in continuous publication for 50 years IS NOT THE ANSWER. Diversity is a good thing, but so is respecting the history of the characters that the core of the readership has followed for decades.”

    More good stuff!

  32. Wow, so every white dude over 40 that stopped buying marvel at some point recently is automatically pro-trump for george.
    Im having a headache analyzing the logic.

  33. Too many variants. Those that don’t know history, are doomed to repeat it.
    Just look at the 90s when you guys had all the different variant gold, platinum, silver, covers coming out, at the same time trying to introduce a slew of new characters that only a few people or certain demographic would be interested in. It destroyed comics for a long time.
    For someone like me who was a huge collector as a kid who had to watch the industry get so over saturated with…well…crap, that it forced me out, it is hard coming back into it now and seeing the same thing happening. How many spiderman titles and universes does there have to be? How many times can you reset things? I don’t care if it’s the rebirth, or new universe, or renewed, whatever you want to call it. Diversity is good, but too much can just be confusing and seem like a money grab which always angers fans.

  34. Hey George! If it had been another race, gender or pick the designation that works for you there would have been Social Justice Warriors and moral outrage. Racism is racism. Ageism is ageism. Plain and simple. No joke.

  35. George’s posts:

    “REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

    Other comments:

    “George, you’re being an idiot.”

    George:

    “LOL I WAS ONLY PRETENDING.”

  36. Douglas, I’m a middle-aged white guy myself. And I’m tired of seeing people in my demographic posing as victims and acting like whining crybabies.

    A lot of aging white guys miss the days when they were first in line for everything. They voted overwhelmingly for Trump, in the apparent belief that he cam restore the “good old days.” They’re going to be disappointed.

  37. “Comics only sell to old white guys.”
    I run two comic/games stores, one in a college town and the other on an Army PX.
    I do have a few of the so-called “old white guys” in my customer set, but my audience is overwhelmingly young men, and of all skin-colors. Black and hispanic guys and gals in the Army buy plenty of comics. For that matter, one of my most avid older collectors is Asian-American.
    I have definitely seen a steady decline of interest in Marvel’s “diverse” replacement characters — people tried them at first and then lost interest. Likewise the multiplicity of endless limited-run “events.”
    So maybe people should stop paying attention to irrelevant nonsense like age/skin-color and look at the basics: quality stories, coherent world-building, appealing characters.

  38. ebgrjh,

    Thanks for that. Good to know that any disclaimer of racism on this site is meaningless as are any comments by George. Must be nice to be the favorite.
    Thanks again for the heads up.

  39. It may have less to do with the diversity WITHIN the comics and more to do with the
    lack of diversity in CREATING the comics. Marvel has always (seemingly)
    ignored how many of their comics are purchased by aspiring creators. Myself included, many of us are non-white, fresh out of options, looking for the “Rob Liefeld” break (so-to-speak). We grew up buying large quantities of Marvel comics; sometimes, just tofollow the continuity in relation to our desired profession. If Marvel has tried to diversify it’s workplace, minorities haven’t felt it, and thus. It doesn’t matter if you make Captain America black, or, Ms. Marvel muslim, or Thor a woman, we’ve long since exhausted those resources, trying to break in. And the new “NOW” generation their trying to appeal to are OUR KIDS. Sorry, Marvel, the generation you’re trying to reach has unemployed parents you’ve REFUSED to hire. Factor that into your marketing research.

  40. I didn’t read all of these comments because time is tight, however, the 20 or so that I did read struck me as odd. I’m that old white cis man (Chris Hero, I had to look up what cis meant) that all of these comments seem to be blasting. I am starting to feel like I should be apologizing to someone for being a white middle aged comic book fan. I’ve been reading comics for a long time…I remember reading ComixAce in the CBG days. I love reading about strong women characters and people of color….but I also like reading stories about white men in tights saving the day. I prefer a gripping story to anything else.

    And in terms of market growth and losing readers, I believe Marvel has missed the boat. They have the eyes of every single young person in the country…..didn’t EVERYONE see The Avengers? Why aren’t they crossing mediums to promote their products? They are the clear winner of the super hero movie genre….and they have an awesome presence on the small screen…so why aren’t they putting up a 10 second teaser advertisement to promote one or two comic books? Can you imagine the response to one of the post credit scenes including a short, clever ad for a comic that is coming out soon after the movie release date? I’m sure there’s someone reading that that will explain about licenses and rights and all the legal mumbo-jumbo about why they can’t do it but there has to be a way. Years ago in Germany, they would run a quick 10 second spot at the end of The Simpson’s tv show for the Simpson’s comic book. At the time, the US circulation was 40,000ish copies per month. In Germany, it ranged between 300,000 and 500,000 copies.

  41. ” Can you imagine the response to one of the post credit scenes including a short, clever ad for a comic that is coming out soon after the movie release date?”

    At the rate Marvel and DC are going, i can imagine the response would be something like:

    People in the audience who *aren’t* already comics fans want to read the comic books!

    They try to find the comic books. They don’t find them where they expect to find them (bookstores, Amazon.com, newsstands). Some of them don’t bother looking any further and go do something else with the rest of their spare time instead of trying to hunt down these books.

    The ones who do find the books try to figure out where to start reading. They don’t find this where they expect to find it (one book labeled book 1/first volume/etc. the way there’s only one first volume of Harry Potter, only one first volume of The Hunger Games, etc.). Some of them don’t bother looking any further and go do something else with the rest of their spare time instead of trying to figure out where to begin.

    The ones who do find some comic book they think is close enough to a volume 1 of the series in the Marvel movies actually read the things. They find a lot of stuff that doesn’t make sense unless they’ve already read other Marvel books earlier. Some of them don’t bother trying to find and read all of *those* and go do something else with the rest of their spare time instead of trying to figure out where to actually begin.

    How many at Marvel and DC care about what other people (such as these potential customers) think?

  42. These same old series with new characters added are really in the *middle*.

    For people who want the same old series with the same old versions of the same old characters, this stuff is still too newfangled. These folks would rather re-read their old favorites.

    For people who want fresh new stories with new plots and new characters, this stuff is still too old-fashioned. These folks would rather read more self-contained series and standalones coming out of Image, Dark Horse, Viz, etc. and even more self-contained series and standalones coming out of HarperCollins, Random House, the many small presses, etc.

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