As we’ve noted in our recent sales charts, things have taken a dark turn at Marvel sales-wise in the last six months or so with historically low average sales. Marvel has reacted with many actions as this is not a trend that can continue.

I understand that a big two day retailer summit is underway at Marvel, wrapping up tonight. One journalist is attending to write pool coverage, and when that’s up I’ll link to it heavily. If you’re wondering about the calibre of retailers attending, they aren’t the ones who tweet moment by moment updates to other websites, apparently. So there’s that.

If you’re thinking this seems like a big investment from Marvel in its retail partners, you’re probably right.

In conjunction with this in person presentation, Marvel’s Senior VP of Sales David Gabriel did one of his infrequent interviews with Diamond’s retailer only website to promote Secret Empire, the big Hydra takeover event which kicks off next month with a #0 issue. Marvel is planing retail parties, extensive promos, and, in June, a “Hydra Takeover” line wide stunt  because by then we won’t be tired enough of faux Nazis.

Gabriel also mentioned that Marvel “took some learnings from last year and cut down the number of tie ins to this event. We get that some fans or stores may have event fatigue, while others continue to demand more and more.  So we think we’ve found the happy medium for Secret Empire.”

Other elements of Secret Empire that will aim to be fan friendly: a clear trade dress, althugh one that changes as the series progresses, multiple artists on the series so it doesn’t ship late like previous events Civil War II and Secret Wars III, and a very robust media rollout including “talk shows, TV ads, and some other things we can’t talk about. We’re working with Bow & Arrow Studios (the company that produced last year’s Black Panther recap videos) to create high quality Secret Empire video content. Specifically, content that will be repurposed as broadcast television advertising.”

The Hydra Takeover will include “many popular websites, some Marvel apps & sites, and even brick and mortar retail locations, as well as online retailers and sales outlets.”

Marvel is also pushing its Marvel Insider, fan loyalty program where “fans can earn points for engaging with Marvel and redeem those points for prizes. It’s seen significant growth over the past year and we’re actively pursuing ways to turn that into retail comic store traffic. Things like offering bonus points for purchasing print copies of SECRET EMPIRE at their local retailer, or driving the Marvel Insider members into comic shops to pick up special bonus promotional items.  Again, it’s all geared towards driving folks into the direct market comic shops.”


A couple of observations on all this.

First, last month I was in Cali and an employee of a large media corporation was giving me the latest buzzwords, and mentioned “learnings” as one. I never thought I’d really see it in its native state, but I’m weeping with joy right now. I will not mention the other buzzwords I was alerted to, because like electrons, just observing them changes their trajectory, and sighting one in nature is the most exciting part of it all.

Second, anyone who thinks Marvel is taking these sales declines sitting down is crazy. How they got there is another question, and how they are spending money on this given their incredibly parsimonious budgets in the past is another.  I know there has been a lot of industry uneasiness  –  even at DC – over Marvel’s softening sales, because a healthy Big Two means a healthier retail environment. That said, a mini series based on a faux-Nazi takeover is probably the last thing Marvel should be pushing now, but all these plans were made when they thought Hillary was going to win, and it all seemed like a “harmless” fantasy. However, the Cap is Hydra story seems to have pissed off old man fans and young activist fans alike, so sinking more money into Secret Empire is a bold move.

But, you do the best with what you’ve got. Marvel has one of the smartest C suites in comics (buzzword) and they’ll pull up in time, at least from a marketing stand point. And by now they know that online outrage doesn’t always match up with declining sales.

In the meantime, here’s some Secret Empire covers. The pulpy style used here should appeal to Marvel’s older reader cohort, so let’s see how they respond to the stimulus.



  1. Looks like more of the “same-old, same-old” to me. A “mega-event” focusing on a few characters, while the rest of the MU run around like chickens with their heads cut off, chock full of ancillary series and a heaping helping of crossovers and tie-ins. But hey, THIS TIME IT’S DIFFERENT, cause (all caps again) NOTHING WILL EVER BE THE SAME AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!! Complete with a whole slew of renumbering of existing series, along with fourth-stringers and “popular” characters from decades ago getting (once again) new series that’ll for the most part be cancelled by #6. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    Cynical? You betcha. Those of us with long memories (at least all the way back to Civil War 2) usually are.

  2. “That said, a mini series based on a faux-Nazi takeover is probably the last thing Marvel should be pushing now, but all these plans were made when they thought Hillary was going to win, and it all seemed like a “harmless” fantasy. However, the Cap is Hydra story seems to have pissed off old man fans and young activist fans alike, so sinking more money into Secret Empire is a bold move.”

    Um, so with Trump winning the election then this has become a reality instead of a “harmless fantasy”?

    And what’s up with the “old man fans” crack? More like “seasoned veterans” (who spend large amounts of money week after week! (i.e., the “bread and butter” of the local comic book stores)). ;)

  3. When I read the faux-Nazi comment, I knew it would really sting Trump fans. Unfortunately, KKK, white supremacists and neo-Nazis all fully support Trump, and there are a few on his team. I’d label his cabinet merely Nazi-lite.

    I’ve been loving the two Captain America books. They’re the only two series that I’ve been keeping up with. But there is something weird about the concept of a ‘secret’ empire. The takeover is legal and done before everybody’s eyes! That said, I enjoy what Spencer writes (in comics, not so much on Twitter), and this will be a smaller event than Civil War II, so I’m cautiously optimistic.

  4. Amusing (also sad) that after treating retailers like trash for years Marvel has now determined they need their help to stem the bleeding. In order to help retailers Marvel could improve their terrible cover stock, stop gouging readers with inflated trade paperback prices, and cease endlessly rebooting their titles every 20 issues.


  5. Marvel has been getting less and less of my money. They cancelled Extraordinary X-Men, Hellcat and Power Man and Iron Fist. The last issue of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur felt like they were cancelling that title with the next issue. I used to be excited about Black Panther, but boredom set in after about four issues. As for Captain America…see, I am a huge Captain America fan. Rick Remender’s run ruined that character so bad for me I didn’t go back. Uncanny Avengers was the only Captain America book worth reading. I am referring to Volume 2 not that Godawful first run by, you guessed it! Remender. More of my money goes to DC than ever before. Prices are better, stories are better and they don;t really mess with the classics, but tell amazing stories. If they’re going to drag Steve Rogers through the mud then I hope they just kill him off. It would be best.

  6. As I asked elsewhere, 9 tie-ins in May ($35.91) and 14 tie-ins in June ($57.86) is already toning it down? And we still have July and August to look forward to (or dread).

    Another commenter counted just two less tie-ins compared to Civil War II.

  7. Just more super-hero drivel from the one of the Big 2. Yawn…… I hope my fellow retailers do not expect this to fix Marvel because it won’t. Super-hero comics are just about done. Get the fork ready. Until then, make mine Indie!

  8. Super-hero comics will continue to drive the direct market (and retailers’ profits) for the forseeable furure. Therefore, Marvel’s efforts to salvage their floundering line are critical. However, SECRET EMPIRE is just a band-aid; their editorial team must address the root causes of Marvel’s dismal performance over the last eight months.

    In the last few months Marvel has taken an axe and cancelled a dozen or more titles (e.g., GHOST RIDER, THUNDERBOLTS, PATSY WALKER, SCARLET WITCH). Let’s hope the “House of Ideas” can come up with sellable books to replace them. (Although trimming the line back by 12 to 20 titles would not be a bad idea.)


  9. Steve says:
    “Super-hero comics will continue to drive the direct market (and retailers’ profits) for the foreseeable future.”

    Not in my store. We thankfully have managed to place ourselves in a position of no longer being dependent on super-hero floppies. Our floppy sales (pretty much all super-hero stuff) have been decreasing every month for the past 19 months. but our sales of trades and Manga have been increasing double digits every month for the past three years. (And actual super-hero trades are not a big part of that mix). New readers and female readers are for the most part just not interested at all in floppies or super-hero titles. I’m not, and I have been reading comics since the sixties.

    Retailers and publishers are going to just have to face the fact that super-hero titles and floppies are no longer relevant. Non super-hero trades, OGNs and Manga are the future of the comics medium and that future looks bright indeed for those of us embracing the new status quo…..

  10. Crossover event after crossover event after crossover event.
    I’m tired of it.
    Seems they do a “major” event like Civil War 2, and even before it ends, they’re rolling out a “minor” one like Clone Conspiracy. The moment that ends… time for another “major” one, Secret Empire.

    Just make comic books for a while.
    Keep them discrete, but aware of the larger continuity. Shouldn’t bee too hard.

    Time was a big event like the original Secret Wars was rare, and actually was a big deal. Now “earth shattering” events like 2015 Secret Wars are met with a basic shrug of the shoulders.

    These events could build serious sales… if they weren’t done non freakin’ stop.

  11. The only way I’m affected by an event at Marvel is if it interacts with books I already buy. So far it has affected a couple issues of Uncanny Avengers and one of Extraordinary X-Men (Now cancelled). I did buy Monsters Unleashed with none of the tie ins and it was good until that last issue fumbled badly. I will not be buying the new series when it starts. IN my opinion, the last thing good that happened during an event was Planet Hulk. That book was so good.

  12. I have read SECRET EMPIRE issue 0 — it’s surprisingly good. Acuna’s art is better than I expected it would be (I’m not a big fan of his inking) and the storyline is compelling. As I said before, this mini-series is just a band-aid but at least it’s a start. Looking forward to issue 1.


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