cap-hydra

kiss-sponsor-600x100

By Brian Hibbs

So, right now Marvel comics is in a little spot of trouble. In February 2017 Marvel’s best-selling ongoing superhero title barely passed 60k on the Diamond chart estimates. They ran three “event” style crossovers – “IvX”, which sold fewer copies than that, and “Clone Conspiracy” and “Monsters Unleashed”, neither of which cracked 50k. In fact, in what probably has to be a first for Marvel comics, other than “Amazing Spider-Man”, they don’t have any ongoing superhero titles selling over 50k in February.

(DC meanwhile places fifteen superhero comics selling over 50k that month, so you have a reasonable comparative)

This has led to Marvel taking several pretty unprecedented-for-them steps, the chief of which might be in holding a retailer summit in New York as well as building a “secret” Facebook group to discuss Marvel marketing with retailers. While it might be possible to argue the full value of these efforts (the Facebook group, in particular, only allows “positive” posts on Marvel, so is less of a valuable conversation between peers – Marvel does not openly participate in any other retailer-focused messaging boards or Facebook groups), it does represent some sort of move towards more open retailer communication that has been mostly absent in the decades since Marvel’s bankruptcy.

- Advertisement-

But for all of these attempts, it appears from the outside that Marvel is receiving many of the “wrong” messages about what the market is saying. This is probably best-represented by this widely-spread interview with David Gabriel, SVP of Sales and Marketing. David was indelicate in some of his quotes, but I do think that most internet commentators willfully misread what David was attempting to say here. “I don’t know if that’s a question for me. I think that’s a better question for retailers who are seeing all publishers. What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity. They didn’t want female characters out there. That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not. I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales. 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.”

hibbs259pq2
To me, nowhere in there says that David (or Marvel) thinks “diversity” is a problem (quite the opposite – he sounds frustrated there) – which is good, because the “diversity” canard is a distraction, at best.

I’m very much of the opinion that a significant number of the “blame points” that the internet magnifies (ie: “I need a digital code!” or “there are too many ‘SJW’ versions of these characters!”) are not actually the true culprits of Marvel’s recent change in fortunes. Instead they’re what a readership without the tools to really express what their deeper feelings are latches on to try to express their concerns. In some ways, it might be like people who complain about “Obamacare” and say it needs to be repealed – but who don’t actually want key portions of it (like, say, children staying on parent’s plans until 25 or companies not being able to refuse you for “pre-existing conditions”) to go anywhere.

I think that a goodly portion of the complaints is really looking at the trees, and not particularly seeing the forest – because I think that Marvel’s core problem the last decade or so has been a lack of judiciousness, more than anything else.

I’ve been selling comics long enough to remember the “Marvel Zombie” – the guys who were buying Marvel’s entire output (and loving it). Even at the height of the “Sandman” salad days for my main store, when we were a significant prototype of “the Vertigo store”, we had always had scores of “Zombies” shopping here (and we loved them for it!), but the tribe has been hunted to extinction by Marvel’s own sales practices. First the “Marvel Zombie” started to fracture into families – becoming “Avengers Zombies” or “X-Men Zombies” – then it descended further down into character-driven purchasing as they expanded your line, not just by title count, but also by frequency-of-release as well as by overall-cost-to-collect. It isn’t merely that there are never fewer than six “Avengers”-titled books going on at a single time (February 2017 brought “Avengers”, “Avengers point one”, “Great Lake Avengers”, “Occupy Avengers”, “Uncanny Avengers” and “US Avengers”, sheesh – the best-seller was about 40k copies, yuck!) – but that Marvel prices each of them at $4 (minimum), and tries to publish as many titles as it possibly can at 16-18 times a year.

The harder you make it to collect “Marvel comics”, the fewer people will do so. And that audience fracturing has finally come home to roost.

One personal stat that I always try to get across is that at my main store, most mainstream superhero style books, because of mismanagement of the brands by the publishers, have dropped down to “preorders plus 1-2 rack copies”. Generally speaking, this yields sell-ins that are sub-20 copies for most titles, and a truly depressing number of books are sub-5.

Sell-through is, thus, what matters for retailers as a class, and it is virtually impossible to sell comics profitably if your initial orders are so low. Even a book like “Amazing Spider-Man”, we now are down to a bare eleven preorders, and we’re selling just three or four more additional rack copies of current issues. There’s no room to “go long” here – I really only have a two copy tolerance for unsold goods before what should be a flagship book of the line becomes an issue-by-issue break-even proposition, at best. It’s just math.

But the point is that even if “ASM” took a sudden quality shift that might draw new eyes on it, it’s difficult for retailers to then fully capitalize on any change because the overproduction of comics (in general) and Marvel comics (in particular) has fractured and fragmented the audience significantly.

And here’s where sell-through becomes critical – in the ICv2 interview, David Gabriel talked about how Marvel views the recent $10 issue of “ASM” as a win, because it was triple dollars sold. Except that was sell-in. Sell-through, at least in my two stores worth of micro, was significantly down beause of the $10 cover price, and, much much worse, it caused multiple long-term ASM subscribers to drop the book entirely from their pull lists. Over the course of the next year that $10 issue is very likely to yield a 10% (or more!) lower dollars for the entire year. And they thought it was a “win”.

Meanwhile, we’re selling one hundred and sixty copies of “Saga” every month, on preorders of about eighty copies. The takeaway here, as I see it, as that there is no lack of customers for periodical comics, and there’s no lack of passion and energy for the format, and that there is no indication that “casual” readers won’t be interested in purchasing periodical comics (A big chunk of those “Saga” readers, like the “Sandman” wave that happened two decades before, are not normal and traditional “Wednesday Warriors”, yet there are still stoked to buy periodical comics!) – but that Marvel (and DC, largely) have harmed their own sales and chased their own customers away. There’s a problem when I sell 160 “Saga” and 16 copies of “ASM”… but this is problem of Marvel’s making over the accumulation of time.

So, if “ASM” is going to stay as 15-18 times a year, at $3.99 (with some issues much more), in a family of multiple other “Spider” titles that are all also produced the same way, well, even if Marvel finds some sort of rejuvenating formula, perhaps by going “back to basics”, I don’t see how I push the order for an issue significantly to anything more than 25, maybe 30 copies without the risk on my end being out of control in relationship to both the reward as well as recent history. Even then, I’ll have to have a hard argument with my store managers to win them over.

I want to be clear: this isn’t me saying “I can’t sell Spider-Man”. I don’t think that at all. I think a properly launched, properly marketed, properly published Spider-Man comic in an eco-system where it isn’t surrounded by too many brand-killing spinoffs could absolutely murder. I fundamentally and completely think that the market for Spider-Man comics done right is multiples of what we sell of “Saga”.

Why? Well, beyond “Saga” clearly and directly showing me that there’s a huge market for the right periodical to the right market, we’ve had our best superhero success in something like a decade with Marvel’s “Black Panther”. The first issue was our #1 best-selling title of 2016, we sold near double the copies as we did of “Saga” – and I’m sure we can sell way more than that of the right Spidey comic, in an eco-system where Spidey comics are actually something special.

People who say the new audience inherently don’t want super-heroes or don’t want periodicals are fundamentally wrong. They just don’t want them in the way they’re being offered.

With “Black Panther”, it was tons of new faces, diverse faces, genuinely excited about comics. And they were vibing on it… until Marvel saw it had a hit on its hand, and decided to push out “Black Panther: World of Wakanda”, and then “Black Panther: The Crew”. And this new audience began to leap off in droves because they don’t grasp (or want) Marvel’s publishing plan.

Seriously, our sales drop-off on “Black Panther” is significantly worse than similar titles and launches, and you can see the deflection points accelerate as the additional titles are released. Less is more when it comes to entertainment and branding – something that I said all the way back in my ninth column in 1993 – which is mostly just copying something that Joe Brancatelli said back in 1976 (!) (We’re just about to move our website, so I’m pretty positive that link is going to break in a week or two…. If it 404s when you read this try a search on “Hibbs Tilting Brancatelli”… or email me!) Adding a second “Black Panther” title doesn’t double your sales; instead it causes x% of Panther readers to walk away instead.

The same thing happened with “Doctor Strange”, when “Sorcerors Supreme” launched, the same thing happened when Marvel published two different “Squirrel Girl” issue #1’s in a single year, or when they expanded “Guardians of the Galaxy” into like six books or more a month – the new audience? The ones who have been freshly minted this decade? They don’t understand Marvel’s publishing plans.

They’re not looking for a LINE of comics… they’re looking for a comic.  That new young woman who is buying “Squirrel Girl”? For the most part she’s not looking for five more female heroines to go along with it. That’s not to say that maybe she couldn’t be convinced to buy five more comics (she can!), but they have to be different flavors. They emphatically don’t want a line, like we did when we were kids.

In the micro, the kid who is buying “Totally Awesome Hulk” is most likely going to jump the heck off when that book crosses over into “Weapon X”, especially when you add an extra and above $5 special in there as part of the crossover – that kid doesn’t care that it is creatively valid, being driven by a writer’s story… what he cares about is he just wants to read “TAH”! Up and down the line Marvel is constantly pushing for customers to buy more and more, and that worked (for a while…. Even a good long while), but I think those days are now gone, and so they’ve made it harder to draw people into the line without a truly radical rethink of how they publish comics.

One website seems to be getting leaks that suggest that Marvel’s new path is to look backwards and to do what he calls “Meat and Potato Comics”. And there’s some small evidence that this could potentially work – witness DC’s “Rebirth” – but I strongly believe that if Marvel continues on the path of publishing too many titles, diluting their brands, and publishing far too frequently at too high of a price, they’ve got an uphill battle on their hands.

hibbs259pq3The old customer? The “Marvel Zombie”? They’re largely gone at this point, and have been for many many years. We’ve gone at least a whole generation of readers who don’t even know what a “Marvel Zombie” is, and so doing things that seem designed to cater to an audience that left already, with “legacy heroes and legacy numbering” seems fairly well designed to not hit with the market that exists in pursuit of a market that got chased away.

I don’t think Marvel can successfully publish multiple incarnations of a large percentage of their brands; it cuts the audience down to levels that are unsustainable for sell-through. I don’t think I can sell two “Hulk” comics a month, just like we can’t sell two “Captain America” titles, or two “Iron Man” titles, or going back, two “Fantastic Four” titles – unless you stop over-extending the audience (and the “Generations” plan seems to imply that they’re going for a double-down, instead), the mass audience simply isn’t going to come back because they don’t understand or want a line.

What I especially don’t see is hordes of readers returning because Tony Stark becomes Iron Man again in and of itself – Iron Man has a long long history of other people getting in the suit for a while, and when Tony comes back (as he always does) it’s usually a short period of time before Tony feels played out again, and someone else climbs into the suit.

There’s the conversation going around that, somehow, “diversity” is the blame for all of this – Iron Man is a black woman, Hulk is Korean, Cap is a nazi, and Spider-Man is a black boy, and, oh no, all that “Political Correctness” is what’s harming Marvel. To which I think nonsense – if there’s a problem stemming from who is in the costumes, it’s that all of these changes are happening at the same exact time, where essentially “none” of the “legacy” characters are active right now at all. That’s a problem of timing, to be sure, but it doesn’t mean the solution is to just bring the “legacy” characters all back in a rush. Ultimately “Tony Stark as Iron Man again!” becomes a creative dead-end, just like it’s been the other half-dozen times they’ve done this. There’s a reason that Steve Rogers quits being Captain America every few years – Steve Rogers is kind of dull. There’s a reason that they keep changing the status quo of Bruce Banner and The Hulk – because otherwise the formula gets stale really fast.

No, Marvel’s true problem is over-production, and, like I said before, a lack of judiciousness.

The “new” customer (and there’s tons of folks you can describe that way) can be made to want to buy into the Marvel universe. In fact, the Marvel (and DC) universe is arguably the greatest strength(s) of serialized comics. But in order for them to successfully buy in, they have to understand the shape of what you’re doing. They want to know what they’re buying “matters”. They want to believe that Marvel is their friend, not just a guy who has gotten used to hitting them up for money again and again. It shouldn’t be a struggle to keep up with the greater story of the Marvel universe; and it is today…. It has been so for a good long time now

It is hard to think each comic story “matters” when there’s such a wall of them coming at you every month, and nothing sticks around for more than 12 months anyway. It is critical to deal with both sides of that equation, though. You can’t just do half of it.

Here’s an example: Marvel’s really trying to make a big push for “Secret Empire”, their latest crossover event that will presumably lead into some kind of a “Heroes Return” for the “meat and potatoes” style. And the first issue (head-shakingly foolishly numbered as “#0”) came out today (as I write this). But it also came with three other tie-in comics in the same week. The message to the consumer is “Want to be on board? That will be $17 for week number one, please!” That’s not a pitch that will draw (m)any new readers in. Nor will it appear to the older audience… who mostly quit as the line went to $4 a throw across the board, with double or triple production to what they can (or want to) support.

So, end of the day: I don’t think “Legacy!” itself is an especially dynamic push that will draw lapsed readers back in, unless you’re making a large number of scheduling and pricing changes at the same time. Something that fundamentally changes the ordering dynamic and risk that $4 comics bring is what is needed if you expect the market to make more than cautious and incremental steps back to Marvel.

I don’t really see that happening, because I’m not at all sure that Marvel actually understands the root problem. Which is not treating your customers like bottomless ATM machines.

Here’s another example: with most “significant” launches, Marvel has gotten into a habit of front-loading those launches so that the retailers are being asked to bear more of the risk – for example, solicited many early issues so that retailers are ordering “blind” on more issues in the pipeline. I’ll give a specific and recent example of the “X-Men” relaunches where not only are we being asked to order “Blue” and “Gold” as biweekly books, but Marvel front-loaded titles like “Generation X” or “Jean Grey” not only far too soon before we see what the wider results of the X-relaunch are, but also so that we’re ordering two issues of each in the first month with no sales data. Then there are the additional X-launches at around the same time like “Cable”, “Weapon X” and “Iceman”. All together, there’s less of an opportunity for individual retailers to buy in when presented with that much material that fast, especially without covering activity like returnability.

Fundamentally, it’s a bad idea to ask retailers (who have the lowest return-on-investment of any participant in the supply chain) to bear more risk, so that, even if you cut title counts a bit, we’re still in a place where it’s very difficult for us to bear the costs and to be willing to bear the risk of the kinds of repeated failures-to-launch that have been plaguing Marvel since “Secret Wars”. I’m totally down with a revitalized “X-Men” line, going for a “Meat and Potatoes” vibe…. But when launched so there will quickly be two or more books shipping in the line each and every week…. Well just who exactly do they think is going to buy in to that, and not get buried under the weight of all of the superfluous production?

For me, I can’t possibly see whatever Marvel tries as being a “success” unless then end up with at least one title (at issue #8, not just the launch – they know how to front-end a launch) selling regularly over 100k, and let’s say at least five more books selling over 75k, long-term. This is MARVEL COMICS we’re talking about, after all – completely synonymous in the mass market’s eyes with “superhero comics”. If they’re not utterly stomping DC’s unit sales by a significant percentage, they’re doing something utterly wrong.

There’s a way that Marvel could potentially do it, and that’s with a full-on “Rebirth”-style relaunch and continuity reset – that could bring hundreds of new and returning readers back to each and every store Marvel for the curiosity of it all, but Marvel’s people have been adamant that they’ll never do that – but, again, even if they tried, it wouldn’t stick for very long if they didn’t reassess the manner in which they publish comics and treat customers. I know I’d rather have fewer Marvel comics that we sell significantly more copies of – but Marvel’s instinct has always been to push the market as hard as it possible can.

It’s my opinion it took Marvel something like decade for the slow bleed to readership to finally get deep enough that they’re paying attention – so it’s going to take them 5+ years to build audience trust (consumer and retailer!) back up if they don’t do a “Rebirth”, in my opinion. I would love to be wrong, however, and I wish them nothing but well in their efforts to try, however, because the market really needs a strong a healthy Marvel comics.

Here’s hoping.

**************************

Brian Hibbs has owned and operated Comix Experience in San Francisco since 1989, was a founding member of the Board of Directors of ComicsPRO, has sat on the Board of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and has been an Eisner Award judge. Feel free to e-mail him with any comments. You can purchase two collections of the first Tilting at Windmills (originally serialized in Comics Retailer magazine) published by IDW Publishing, as well as find an archive of pre-CBR installments right here. Brian is also available to consult for your publishing or retailing program.

kiss-sponsor-600x100

145 COMMENTS

  1. Re: Black Panther — I would argue that it’s not the dilution of the brand that is the problem for that book. It’s that it was exceedingly talky and dull (I lasted 4 issues and then gave up) and wasted the possible potential of a *name* writer on the series. It reminded me of Jodi Picoult’s run on Wonder Woman (just as dull, IMO). There was nothing about the spin-offs that indicated to me that it wouldn’t be more of the same.

    Apart from that, you’ve hit the nail on the head with the rest of this analysis, IMO.

  2. I agree that Marvel is probably putting out too many comics.. but again, if they were putting out truly stellar work, I don’t think people would care as much and they’d be more willing to buy it. The real problem is they’re not putting out enough QUALITY titles. They can and should push the boundaries and put out lesser known stuff to draw crowds and I’m not sure if they’re pushing out that many more books now than they were when they were selling well.. but the books now are mostly badly written (like America #1) or straight out political rants like Captain America and (She-)Hulk without any depth of story or well any good story at all.. just a political rant spewed onto the page.

    Add on the constant events that don’t change anything and don’t make anyone remotely excited because they have 0 impact and feel like gimmicks to just sell comics (as some of the writing in the comics is feeling too). Also Marvel’s desire to float certain titles because movies while axing others that are just better titles. It feels.. all forced and faked.

    It honestly feels like the writers working on Marvel, by in large, aren’t fans of the comics they are writing.. They just wanted to write X-type of character or X type of story, without knowing the character or their history… or really caring about it one iota..

  3. Maybe part of the problem is that Marvel tries to make most of their titles look like indie books. Problem is, if it looks like an indie book, it’s most likely gonna sell like an indie book,

    Used to be, the name “Marvel” plastered on a cover guaranteed strong sales. While the Marvel name is still strong (witness the movie receipts), it can no longer “get a title over”. And most of their titles are doing little to nothing to get themselves over.

    As for me, I welcome the “legacy numbering”. I’m using it as a jumping-off point on several titles. Already dropped Venom with #6, with more surely to follow.

    As for the “DC Rebirth” everyone’s braying about, while I like Batman as a character, I don’t need 20 Bat-centric books a month, either.

  4. I think the “too many titles” crux of this argument is spot on,

    By my count, there is a least one issue (and quite a few instances of two issues) being released in Marvel’s July Solicitations from SEVENTY ONE (71!!) different series (be they limited or ongoing). And those are just mainline superhero Marvel books, not counting their kids line or Star Wars line.

    In a different era, I would totally have been one of those “Marvel Zombies” you described buying everything they offered up. But there’s just too much of it right now.

    Instead of buying everything, or even a significant portion of their output, I’m basically paralyzed by the indecision, and wind up only getting about 10 Marvel books a month.

    If Marvel cut down their line from 71 diluted superhero series to 30 distinct titles, I would buy every single one of those books and they would triple their sales from me.

    Or if they took a page from DC Rebirth’s book and released ~20 core, distinct “important feeling” titles double shipped – they would quadruple their sales from me.

    The problem is, I’m overloaded on their titles and none of them feel important. The author pointed out six Avengers titles – not to mention 10 X-Men titles, 8 or so Spider titles, etc. It dilutes the whole field.

    When there are 6 Avengers books, not a single one of them feels necessary or important. Same with every other franchise.

    Give us 1 core Avengers title, 1 Spider-Man, etc. Make it feel important when an issue of Avengers comes out. You give us one and only one place to see where so-and-so’s journey takes place and it suddenly is given a whole new level of significance.

  5. How much of Marvel’s business model relies on ads versus sales? Does anybody know the percentage? And if ads are significant, is publishing incentivized to have more titles? Do you get more or less revenue having 200k readers across 10 books versus 50 books?

  6. I agree with the author and with Levi. Those, like me, who want to continue collecting Marvel comics but don’t have unlimited funds, are left to decide what is the “flagship” title for each brand, i.e. Avengers, and collect that. A couple Avengers titles, a couple X-Men titles, a couple of Spider-Man titles, and one of everything else like FF, Iron Man, Hulk, Cap, etc. would be sustainable. I can’t fathom how they ever thought that Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, etc. could command their own titles! I would quibble, though, that “Infamous Iron Man” isn’t really an Iron Man title, though it’s related.

    I do think that the writing quality is another major problem as well, and paring back the line could also help with that. Pay better writers more and have less titles. The politicizing of their comics needs to stop as well. They are needlessly pissing off roughly half of their audience.

    To summarize, Marvel is awesome, and only an executive team simultaneously making several major mistakes at once could have driven them this low.

  7. Brian, have you noticed large numbers of Marvel readers just giving up?

    I was buying about 30 Marvel titles a month for the last decade. But in the last year or so I felt “meh” about the line in general (despite loving the Marvel universe and its characters!). There was no way to pare down because everything was equally “just okay”. I’ve literally dropped them all (30 titles!) and use Marvel Unlimited…so far mostly to read Claremont’s X-Men run.

    RE Black Panther, I was also super excited and then super bored immediately.

  8. Rob e says

    “Maybe part of the problem is that Marvel tries to make most of their titles look like indie books. Problem is, if it looks like an indie book, it’s most likely gonna sell like an indie book,”

    Uh boss did you miss the bit in this where Hibbs says SAGA (an indie book) outsells Amazing Spider-Man by a factor of 10 month after month?

  9. Too many books, shipping too often, too many cross overs or “big” events, everything gets drowned out, and my pocket book is only so deep (and believe me, it’s been stretching). Plus there have been some really great books from publishers outside of D.C./Marvel. You hit the nail on the head, Brian. Thank you.

  10. Agree 100% with this article. Lot of fantastic Marvel books the past few years IMO but they are invariably interrupted by events or crossovers. Love to get into ResurrXion but can’t face the inevitable event crossover and creative team change by issue 7/8.
    Side note, prefer to subscribe so don’t necessarliy check Previews, then don’t pre-order the crossover book, and miss the story. Same frustration made me stop reading preiodicals in the 90’s. Fortunately have digital option now. Not great for comic shops though.

  11. To my last point “If Marvel gives us one and only one place to see where so-and-so’s journey takes place, it suddenly is given a whole new level of significance”.

    The Walking Dead is basically the best-selling ongoing monthly comic (give or take a Batman and Star Wars), at 80k-100k copies a month, despite it being 150ish issues in.

    To my eyes, The Walking Dead sells so well due to:
    1. its wide mainstream appeal due to the TV show
    2. the fact that there’s only one “Walking Dead” comic book product to choose from (no brand confusion, if you want to read about Rick and co. this is the one and only book to turn to, etc.) That makes everything that happens here feel important.
    3. Consistent quality from a consistent creative team.

    In March, those 6 books with “Avengers” in the title added up to roughly 130k combined sales.

    The Avengers has significantly more mainstream appeal than The Walking Dead.

    If Marvel paired the Avengers line down from 6 books to only 1, put a team like Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman on that title, made it somewhat recognizable to the mainstream (the “core” six Avengers heroes + or – some others) could that title sell 130k every month and make up for the loss of those other books?

    Knowing the realities of the industry, probably not quite, but realistically it could hover around that ~100k mark that Batman has held for 6+ years.

    But regardless of whether or not that Avengers book could last at 130k, Marvel’s mindset SHOULD be that 1 A-list Avengers title could sell 130k a month.

    Or even more realistically, you add Olivier Coipel and maybe Steve McNiven to rotate with Russell Dauterman and make that one core Avengers book a double ship and it sells at minimum 80k twice and month and you’ve more than made up the difference in cancelling those other 5 titles dilluting the brand.

  12. While I agree with a lot of what the article is saying, I also feel like, in many cases, the books that cause confusion (or exhaustion!) are still telling stories worth telling. There are two Captain America books but they’re both great and fairly different from one another. Several of the Spider- family books are really good too.

  13. ” most mainstream superhero style books, because of mismanagement of the brands by the publishers, have dropped down to “preorders plus 1-2 rack copies”.

    this was happening 5+ years ago at my old shop when i lived in a suburb of a smaller city. The market just wasn’t there to support ordering lots of stuff for the shelf, So ASM, Batman etc…sold out by Wednesday morning unless you preordered. I didn’t go in every week and was more interested in checking out new story arcs to blindly pre-ordering a title and just got too frustrated at walking into a store and leaving empty handed so i stopped going there.

  14. Really great piece, Brian.

    I think the underrated part about Rebirth was DC started with, what, 26 titles? That made it easier for readers to try almost everything, even with double shipping on many of them. If Legacy comes out with 50 double-shipping titles at $3.99, we know they learned the wrong lesson there.

  15. There can also be another problem. Marvel superheroes are old and a bit culturally stale. They’re not fresh, or interesting. Even if you don’t read the comics, you know what the characters are. Movies are special and infrequent enough that they’re an event worth checking out. But the comics..Captain America, Spider-man, Avengers…they’re always there week to week. No big deal. No buzz, no excitement…even if the stories are good.

    We live in an era of new and buzzworthy. If a new food truck shows up near work, there’s a line around the corner just to check it out. Meanwhile the great sandwich place across the street is empty for a few days.

    Could be wrong, but that’s my theory, and kinda my reason why i’m not buying any superhero comics now.

  16. I think the constant event cycle is a big detriment, too. It’s not surprise that the few books I’ve read recently in single issues were ones that weren’t getting interrupted every 3 months for a dumb event or crossover (The Vision, Fraction/Aja/etc. Hawkeye).

  17. I agree with a lot of what the article says. I do want to point out that a big reason why these new comics are not hitting the mark is because they are pretty much the same type of comic. YA comic or slice of life with superpowers or whatever you want to call them. Nothing wrong with that. I would argue they are necessary and quit fun. But people who will buy multiple comic books probably want to have some variety in their choices.
    I don’t agree with the fact that the old guard of superheroes are played out and boring. Out of the 13 DC comics how many star old played out superheroes? Kind of all of them. And how come Batman who has been the most ubiquitous the superhero for years is still topping the charts? Nah, I think it is a matter of finding creators, editors, and publishers who are actually excited about telling stories with these heroes. That has definetly been missing from the Marvel offices.
    Lastly, I realize fans ca be a handful, but Marvel has done so very little to open dialogue and build a fan community and a positive experience for their readers. I look at Lucasfilm and I see that it can be done…

  18. Add me to the list of folks who generally agree with the article but also think Black Panther was a bad example because it simply was boring, not because of the expansion.

  19. One factor that doesn’t seem to be getting any consideration in discussing the Marvel sales slump, is that Marvel lost at least half of their top tier writers after Secret Wars. The people who sell books based on name recognition alone like Hickman, Fraction, DeConnick, & Remender (along with previous losses like Rucka & Brubaker) all took their talents to focus on creator owned stuff at Image (which is all fan-freaking-tastic). They haven’t really brought in new talent capable of replacing them in terms of name recognition. I personally follow writers a lot more than characters. It’s only one factor, but I’d bet it has a measurable impact among dedicated comic readers.

  20. I agree about the writing talent, too. In addition to the names above, there was a good stretch where they kept losing writers to DC exclusive contracts (like Tom King).

  21. Okay…. I started collecting and reading Marvel comics in 1984, because of Spidey’s black suit. (Yeah, during Marvel’s FIRST reboot… Frog Thor, Captain America quitting, new Iron Man armor…)

    I wasn’t a Marvel zombie, because I wasn’t interested in everything.
    I bought three of the four Spidey books (Team-Up didn’t interest me.)
    I bought X-Men and X-Factor and Excalibur, but not New Mutants.
    I bought Fantastic Four and She-Hulk, but not The Thing.

    And then, I began to discover black-and-white comics, and had to postpone buying my Marvel titles because my budget was finite.
    Then a month went by, a new issue came out, and I realized I hadn’t missed reading the series. So I quit, and spent my money on Concrete, and Tales of the Beanworld, and Bone, and…

    The Marvel stuff I read now is via review copies. Champions is solid. The New Ghost Rider was enjoyable, and created lots of new plot lines. Hawkeye and Squirrel Girl and Vision and Ms. Marvel and… I’m sure, most of what Marvel is publishing, especially if it’s self-contained.

  22. The main reason is the price. $3.99. A lot of people figured out you can get way better value by subscribing to Comixology Unlimited for $4.99 a month. Comics actually look awesome on a iPad and Kindle Fire.

    Same thing happened with dvds and blu-rays when people figured out Netflix at $9.99 a month was a better deal than spending $24.99 a month on a dvd.

    It is coming to the end with print monthlies folks. The genie has been let out of the bottle with digital comics.The only reason why monthly print comics are still around is because the LCS buy the majority of them. As the LCS the middle-men continue to fade away,so will the monthly print comics with them.

    Think about it. 5 comics at $3. 99 is close to about $20, and with that $20 I rather fill up my gas tank.
    So in conclusion the $3.99 monthly comic book is bad value and will eventually go.

  23. Was down to hulk until i had to stop due financial reasons.got it on comixology the day of.also got superwoman.now neither.have several copies of older comics i still reread and wonder why did they stop?

  24. With DC they are being carried by the Batman titles. Take Batman titles away from DC Rebirth and they would be in a bad mess themselves.

  25. As someone who left comics after Onslaught, and came back because TNC was writing Black Panther, I think you’re really spot on.

    One issue you don’t mention, that goes alongside, but isn’t the same: titles. Not the number of them, but the similarly of the actual names.

    What do “Occupy Avengers” and “Great Lakes Avengers” have in common? From what I can tell, nothing at all. Which one am I reading, again? I can’t always remember. Do I read Superior Spider Man, Ultimate Spider Man, or Amazing Spider Man? Which one has Miles Morales on the cover?

    These books are all very different! You can’t just consolidate the Doctor Doom Iron Man and the Riri Williams into one Iron Man title. Assuming they’re both well written, why should one of them get the axe in favor of the other?

    I never have that problem with Star Wars. The main line book has that title, and each other book is named after a specific character. While it’s true that there is soon to be a second Darth Vader run, it isn’t taking place concurrently​ sales of the first title. I won’t forget which is which.

    (Side note before I end, and it encapsulates a lot of your main points. I am so _pissed_ that I nearly missed Vision. I didn’t know that it was a short run comic, with a single story with an end in mind. I didn’t know it had nothing to do with Civil War 2. Someone shoved the first collection at me and I freaking loved it. It was none of the dumb stuff Marvel has been doing. Marvel needs to learn something from that.)

  26. The properties are just getting old. Lets face it, Everybody loves them, but how many retreads can you do? Throw in political correctness, over done art, over characterization, unhappy, incompetent editors and business men and women (not all of them, but enough to gum up the works) and viola, a shot to the heart, pretty much a dying industry….somebody once said that the comics would end up being just a merchandising arm of the studios and the corporations. He said this back in the late Eighties after we started up Comico. (and after I left to work at the majors and more advertising)…we kinda didn’t take him seriously.

    But now I wonder…

    I will always like Marvel and DC, and the people I worked with there, but overall, they are too controlling. There is no spontaneity left from a lot of their efforts anymore, Everything is too planned, too overdone. And I think the consumers and fans sense this….

    But I’m always an optimist, so maybe the industry will pull out it it.Tune in next week, same bat time, same bat channel!!

  27. I was an avid Marvel reader, got lost in the expansion this article describes, and then have come back unsure of what collecting comics is for.

    As a reader, the stories are interesting, but because there’s no meaningful generational transition and important characters never seem to die (or stay dead), the stories lose significance. I’ve stop thinking that fights (or conflict) really matter, because they don’t seem to have any lasting effect on the characters or the universe (and if they do, they seem quickly undone in reboots or additional versions). I contrast this with something like the Wire – which had tons of characters, but also the conviction to kill them, which gave their role meaning and significance – and end up feeling like Marvel won’t get to successful stories unless it’s willing to end (or permanently change) a few of them. Similarly, part of the diversity problem ends up being that the stories try to shoehorn new characters into old archetypes – and while I applaud it, I also think that broadening the universe to incorporate new, important archetypes would be infinitely more interesting (and true to the idea of diversity). Watching old characters struggle with their obsolescence and/or the way the world changes away from them have created some of the best stories in Marvel’s (and DC’s) entire canon.

    Similarly, the increasing cost of collection, paired with over-production, makes it diminishingly useful to buy books themselves. It easier to wait, and then buy entire collections, good runs, or trade paperbacks in secondary markets – and make peace with the fact that they’re unlikely to ever be worth much more (or even as much) as the cover price.

    The unifying thought in both of these observations is that finite production (scarcity) is an enormous source of significance (and thus, value) – both in the quantity of books per character, quality of stories per line, and in the total quantity of books produced. This post is a fantastic (and much more practical) explanation of the granular economics and trends driving retailer concerns.

    As a customer who wants to get back into it, though, I can’t help but be bored by the same characters telling cosmetically different versions of similar stories at higher prices and lower collector value.

  28. I wonder (because I don’t pay enough attention to these things), was it like this with the New 52? Because that seemed rather foolhardy at the time, too- not just starting the line with 52 books but trying to stay at that number by replacing ones that were cancelled, instead of letting the line slim down based on what sold and what didn’t. Flooding the market is just not a good idea.

    I still don’t get what the deal was with restarting Squirrel Girl with a new #1.

  29. Excellant article that I pretty much agree with entirely. I’ve been reading and buying comics every week since I was a kid in the 70’s and this is exactly what has happened to me over the decades.
    Almost every line expansion has caused me to drop titles. That didn’t used to be a big deal when I was younger because I would eventually come back to alot of books or switch “families” of books that I collected.
    Over the last 10 years or so that hasn’t been the case. Once I drop a comic or family of titles, it’s pretty much gone forever at this point in my life.
    Even if Marvel rebooted or just streamlined their line, it’s just too late for me. At 51 years old, I don’t have the desire of finances to jump back in. Especially, with the relaunch of the X-books as a prime example, there is no way Marvel will keep the title count down. Their bean counters won’t let that happen.
    That being said, I pretty much just read and collect Batman stuff nowadays. Yeah, it has a lot of books to buy but I’m cool with that. Batman and his universe have been pretty consistent over the years and his line of books is basically the “last man standing” of my collection.
    Hopefully Marvel will be able to pull out of this. I love comics and want them to succeed even if I don’t buy that many anymore.

  30. “What the hell is wrong with Marvel Comics?” They have fallen head over heels for a divisive left-wing political and social agenda. I’m not interested, and am no longer buying their comics. It’s not rocket science.

  31. Great article and spot on! I agree that Marvel is trying to respond to their sales slump like they just need to reinvigorate their “Zombie” fan base and everything will be fine. The market has changed. Without source material and a fan base to draw on, eventually the TV and movie deals will become less lucrative. Less is more.

  32. They are too expensive. Traditionally, new readers are kids, teenagers- i.e. people who don’t make a lot of money. People who have a hundreds of different ways to spend what little money they have. Long-term readers (old folks like me) have become the main audience and we just can’t be bothered anymore.

    If they can’t make them cheaper, find a way to provide more value for the money. Like more stories that are done in one or two issues. STORIES, not mega-crossovers. Too many books feel like a commercial for something that is “about to happen”, but you either have to invest hundreds of dollars to find out what, or realize at the end that nothing big really happened, it’s already being planned to be undone in the next event. Or to be forgotten.

    Want to try new characters? Why not bring back the split book format? If a Chinese boy is lined up to be the next “Spider-Gwen”, why not introduce him in a series of back-up stories in a book whose audience you expect to be interested? Once proven, THEN launch then new series. You’ll already have a fan base, and casual fans who may not have picked up issue #1 otherwise might know this character has a proven track record and be willing to pick it up.

    Bottom line, we are tired of feeling cheated.

  33. Hibbs described perfectly the reasons why I have drastically reduced my purchasing of Marvel monthlies in the last 2 years. I’m still buying half a dozen small titles that I enjoy but most of the bigger Marvel Universe feels like an indistinguishable mess to me, to the point that I’ve even stopped reading most of it also on Unlimited.

  34. And in terms of sales:

    1) Nova vol 6 ended the title run in September 2016 with 14+K complies sold by Diomomd. What made Marvel think there was a large enough demand for a Nova series to warrant Nova vol 7 to be launched three months later?

    2) Champions is doing OKish. USAvengrd is a struggling. Generation X is yet to launch… is there really enough demand for young team books for Marvel to launch Secret Warriors? It just feels superfluous. Not to mention it stars Ms. Marvel who also happens to be the star of Champions. So why would people pick up this title inst as of or in addition to Champions?

  35. This covers just about all the reasons I’m not buying much Marvel these days. But the big one is just how disposable their stories seem lately. As mentioned, every 12 months, it seems like we hit a reset button.

    Why should I bother to get attached to anything Marvel does when they show less organization and attention to their own shared universe than your typical D&D campaign? Timelines don’t mesh, characters pop up in multiple books at with vastly differing characterizations, writers are allowed to throw what came before out with impunity, character show up off-model, etc. There’s a difference between the minutiae of continuity and consistent characterization/world-building, and if you’re going to get rid of a character/characterization/concept, you need to leave some that’s at least as interesting in its place. Very few of Marvel’s writers seem aware of that. So I don’t bother buying unless the book is something special.

  36. K Thor:

    No, I didn’t forget SAGA. I also didn’t forget The Walking Dead.

    What YOU seem to be forgetting, pally, is those two books, and a couple more are the exception to the rule. For every SAGA, there’s about a hundred or so indies that have terrible sales. Check out any issue of PREVIEWS, you’ll see tons of them.

  37. I was in a similar place with reading DC comics pre-Rebirth. Too many wildly different “okay” titles being pushed at 3.99 or 4.99 apiece. Then DC decided to pare back most of their line to core titles telling stories in a similar “creative space.” Superman wasn’t doing 20 separate things reach month. Every hero hadn’t lost their powers. It was all interesting. And CHEAPER! I had just about given up reading comics after 5 years because off both companies’ practices. I would love an actual publishing direction to be taken at Marvel besides just throw-it-at-the-wall and also-buy-this-new-series.

  38. I used to be a Marvel Zombie, or at least an X-Men zombie in the 90’s. I agree with a lot of the points in this article. Too many books slamming out constantly is a big part of the problem. I also think the constant rebooting to new #1’s and the sudden crush of ‘diversity replacement’ titles. are also potent factors in the equation. All of the constant changes and rebooting every year contribute to the feeling that ‘nothing really matters’. After they killed off the Marvel Universe I grew up with at the end of Secret Wars, I was done. Now I just collect all the titles that Valiant puts out each month – all 6-10 of them! It’s great being able to read the entire universe. I highly recommend Valiant to any Marvel burnouts.

  39. I do think a lot of current Marvel product is pretty great but … yeah … too much. One Black Panther title is enough, one Dr. Strange title is enough and three Spider-Women titles at once probably crowded each other out…

  40. I think “Fear Itself” was the real tipping point for this phenomenon that sent us sliding down the hill to this point. That was a crossover so utterly loaded with tie-ins, minis and one-shots that it forced even completists to step back, actually evaluate what they were buying, and purchase substantially less. It “broke” crossovers for years.

  41. This “Marvel problem” has legs, I think.

    As usual one of the best analysis you’re going to get on the matter. Thanks Hibbs.

    Also a Wait, What? listener and so I’m a bit partial to Jeff Lester’s time-to-time mention that Marvel might be working under duress to satisfy certain fiscal requirements by a parent company that could conceivably act in the interest of demonstrative short-term results in lieu of long-term sustainability. Mr. Lester might also follow that up by referring to Marvel as a “crackhead”. And that’s a huge problem when you’re trying to actually figure out how the eff to fix a problem. The problem doesn’t really get to be the problem because if it was then you’d have even bigger problems.

    So something else needs to be scapegoated. That Marvel was going to bring back the originals as their next trick seems to fit hand in glove with the tea leaves they’re seeing–that being that people want to see the return of the originals…huh, funny how that worked out.

    It’s just the kind of burden a book like Saga doesn’t labor under–plus Saga is $2.99, has an “honest” schedule, is done by some of the finest talent in any medium that’s committed and is a one-stop shop for the rich universe Vaughan and Staples have built.

    I mean Marvel’s asking price is usually the highest around too. Which isn’t something you really worry about unless you just aren’t loving what you’re buying…or you’re a grown up. When you can Redbox a Marvel movie and get more of that loving feeling out of it than the last 5 years of reading the comics, you got a real conundrum on your hands.

    And then yeah, somebody said something about the brain drain Marvel’s experienced over the last several years. Marvel hasn’t been a destination point for top creators for a while. Marvel’s a nice feather in the cap for a career path that culminates in pulling off a decent selling creator-owned series (or several) somewhere and if you’re lucky nabbing a fat payday with TV/movie involvement.

    For my part, as a 1980s Marvel zombie (your buck went a lot further when they were all 60 cents) there’s no way I’ll ever be back. Marvel Unlimited helps scratch the itch and then some and overloading things in such a way just kind of overwhelmed that fabled obsessive need to keep up with it all The scales were lifted and it’s never been the same since.

  42. I always enjoy Brian’s commentary and I’ve also appreciated the very kind anecdotes shared by everyone else, so I will lend my .02 as well.

    I was a 100% 616 Marvel Zombie from 2010 – 2015. I literally bought and read EVERY SINGLE BOOK for five years and recommended them constantly to everyone who would listen. I’m both a life-long Marvel reader AND a super-liberal, super-feminist, social justice warrior, so I have no, “Oh noes, they’re changing my heroes!” complaints.

    Now I’m not consistently buying a single Marvel book. I didn’t replace them with DC or anything else. In fact, I even dropped some indies, my enthusiasm was so damaged by Marvel in 2016.

    Marvel did SO MANY THINGS RIGHT for half a decade from Heroic Age onward. They didn’t interrupt their books in a line-wide way except for Fear Itself until Secret Wars. They made sure everything felt like it had a reason to exist – each Avengers and X-Men title in Marvel Now had a clear log line. They cautiously tried odd titles and a diverse set of protagonists and gave them room to breathe alongside a recognizable core of quality titles – there were hardly any six-and-out cancellations during Now, other than books cut short by Secret Wars.

    Then, Marvel made every single wrong move that Brian mentions in his column all at once. They brought back a distinctly lower-quality universe with few big ideas, and the few that emerged had no time to grow before the first waves of cancellation hit alongside the first mega, line-wide crossover. Anything that even vaguely seemed like a breakout hit in the back half of Now or the early part of ANAD got directly franchised (e.g., Deadpool, Daredevil) or indirectly copied (e.g., the YA vibe of Squirrel Girl). Maybe there were some fantastic titles in the mix, but they were impossible to sift through all the fluff – some of it BIG NAME FLUFF – to locate.

    Secret Wars killed any enthusiasm I had for the line. It was a five month vacation from all the books I loved, and it made me feel like I had bought the last six months of most titles for no reason, since their plots mostly dead-ended meaninglessly with the universe exploding. And, I know I’m not alone. Almost every zombie-type, read’em’all reader I know online cut back in some fashion, no matter what their age or political stripe. Recommendations went from a steady drip to crickets chirping.

    I don’t really have a moral of this story. I’m cautiously sampling the X-Men relaunch, but that urge to know about every little thing happening at Marvel is gone, and I’m not sure if it will return.

  43. I agree with most of this, however I feel an important piece was left out. The single biggest complaint I get from customers is that there aren’t many good stories anymore. The writing is largely terrible. I think the quality of the writing is indelibly tied to the fact that there are too many titles coming out way too fast. In the end, fewer titles with incredible writing is what is needed to right this ship.

  44. Yeah I agree with a lot here but people’s prejudices and political sunglasses are in play. Also we need to stop pretending as if Marvel’s “talent” aren’t themselves to blame. A big part of the problem is the editors and the writers themselves, not the bean-counters.

    1) Stop defending TNC’s Black Panther. HE blew it. The writer, the talent, blew it. The book had a TON of support behind it, but then everyone read it and 80% of us realized that the guy didn’t know how to write comics and turned in an overly talky mess. Sales tanked WELL before Marvel proposed any spin-off series.

    2) People like Mark Waid, Dan Slott, and Tom Breevort amongst MANY others conduct themselves in absolutely ridiculous ways on social media. It’s like these people are actively trying to make the general audience hate them. That’s how little self-awareness they have. This apparently isn’t even addressed, ever, by Marvel, internally or otherwise, because there’s never any clamp-down on it. They are free to insult as many people as possible, including fans, all day long. Their belligerence isn’t always lefty political (often they’re just belligerent in general), but we all know that if a right-winger said things even 10% as incendiary, then the entire industry would ostracize the person and the company they worked for would tell them to calm down and zip it or be fired. Yet the EXTREME social media belligerence of Waid, Slott, Breevort & co. doesn’t even get a mention from pundits trying to figure out why readers have left Marvel in droves. You have a major blindspot if you don’t realize this. There’s been an ongoing campaign for 3+ years now for Marvel’s talent to alienate the audience, right to their faces on Twitter, and yet this barely even registers with the industry press.

    3) Broad-brushing all the “diversity” stuff as if it were all the same (and all perfectly fine) has got to stop. There’s an immense difference between, say, longtime-supporting-character James Rhodes taking over for Tony Stark and just-introduced Riri WIlliams taking over. This is a basic consideration that even schoolchildren would inherently recognize. There’s also a difference between longtime-crimefighter Sam Wilson wielding the shield and Jane Foster suddenly picking up Thor’s hammer and becoming a super-skilled superhero (with a totally different personality than she’s ever had, btw). The fact that SO MANY of these replacements have been made at the same time is, has Hibbs mentions, a potential problem. But a bigger problem is that a good half of these substitutions are blatantly insulting to the readership’s intelligence. Jane Foster HAS to be called “THOR” (the first name of her ex-boyfriend), and it’s a major story point and “if you don’t accept this than you’re a misogynist”? X-23 HAS to be called “the Wolverine”, and they’re going to underscore it repeatedly, even though it’s at odds with the theme of Laura Kinney becoming her own person? We HAVE to accept that 11-year-old Moon Girl is smarter than Reed Richards, and this somehow is supposed to put her over with fans? She can’t JUST be a pretty smart cool normal black girl, but she has to be THE SMARTEST (which makes her unrelatable)? It isn’t so much WHAT has happened but the nauseating, pandering nature of HOW it’s happened that makes fans annoyed. I LIKE Moon Girl and Jane Foster Thor, and X-23, and Riri, and Gwenpool and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl — but it’s all rolled out with such heavy Mary Sue overtones that I can certainly see why fans would be turned off from the entire line of titles.

    4) A lot of the “diverse” titles have such thin frivolous plotlines that it’s no surprise they’re not selling. (And that’s another thing that isn’t being mentioned in any of these articles, that yeah ASM is only at 60K, but 60K looks absolutely fantastic compared to what the newer titles are selling.) Ms. Marvel started out great, but in the latest arc she spent SIX $3.99 issues dealing with an internet troll — who the hell wants to pay $24 for such a nothingburger storyline? What did Kate Bishop Hawkeye and Elektra do in their recent first issues? They hunted down generic cyberbullies or someone being mean online. Seems like maybe the writers themselves need to stop living and breathing in the fake outrage social media culture. Jennifer Walters made a bold step forward when she became the adjectiveless Hulk, and what she did in her first issue was — not turn into the Hulk — but deal with how annoying and rude some men can be in public. That was the major external conflict of the issue. These are frivolous stupid plots for superhero comics, and if you think that normal young women want to read this thin stuff as the main features of super hero comic books, then you are seriously underestimating your audience.

    5) You don’t need to cancel all the Avengers except one, you just need to have ONE Avengers title that “counts”. (And at the moment Mark Waid’s millionth retelling of the millionth time-hopping “Avengers” title is the opposite of “this seems like it counts”.) Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men proved this 30 years ago, and Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men proved it again 13 years ago: each franchise just needs ONE (or at most two) core title that is recognized as THE title to follow if you want to know the important stuff for these characters going forward. When Astonishing X-Men was written by Whedon, everyone knew that Uncanny and adjectiveless X-Men were also-rans. Varying degrees of side titles can be used for experimentation; so if there’s going to be an Iceman book — great! But the problem we’re facing, for example, is that before X-Men Blue and X-Men Gold hit their three-month mark, there’s going to be a big Astonishing X-Men relaunch with Coipel on art… for one issue. So what’s the main X-title? There is none. It’s all just a mess. DC has done fine with “BATMAN! (and Detective)” as their 1.5 core major Bat-title(s), and then they can just publish Batgirl and Robin and Nightwing etc. as side projects. Marvel on the other hand just dilutes everything. It’s no coincidence that the one franchise title they have that’s the closest to “still working” is ASM, which is for the time being obviously THE spider-title (no need to cancel Spider-Gwen, though — I mean, why would you?). These stock go-to answers of “Cancel everything but one!” are horribly short-sighted. That means there would never have been a good She-Hulk title, or Remender’s Uncanny X-Force, or a promising property like Spider-Gwen.

    6) The “received knowledge”/”internet superstition” stuff has got to go. All of these bromides that mislead people… “DIGITAL IS HERE!” Yeah, it’s been here for a while now and it isn’t a magic wand. It isn’t replacing monthly physical comics. “Ms Marvel is the best-selling digital title and sells more than it does physical copies!” No it isn’t. No it doesn’t. One off-hand comment that Rich Johnston overheard four years ago at a party does not equal facts. “DIVERSITY IS WORKING!” Again, this broad-brush approach is overly simplistic nonsense. I love Gwenpool. But Gwenpool’s monthly sales are atrocious. Instead of just plugging your ears and waving a diversity flag (impressive feat, but still), look at the actual sales data. Some diversity is working, but a lot of it isn’t. We wouldn’t’ve ever gotten a Black Panther or a Luke Cage in the first place if editorial insisted that they enter the Marvel Universe as replacement heroes. “Kelly Sue sold comics and they chased her off!” Captain Marvel needed to be relaunched bi-annually. KSD did nothing for sales. “UGH! They shouldn’t’ve put out two Squirrel Girl #1s in the same year! THAT was when they lost new readers!” Your prejudice is showing. Squirrel GIrl was tanking and under 20K before the relaunch. And the relaunch #1 came after only ONE skip-month in sales. Hardly some big traumatic confusing thing.

  45. Great article and some great comments, too. Okay, so what questions is Marvel asking its retailers on it’s special Facebook page, and in it’s secret meetings? They MUST be asking questions, because it’s obvious they don’t have all the answers….

  46. Someone should share this with Tom Brevoort.

    I read through the comments, and luckily the whining about politics was at a minimum (corporations have zero politics, merely ideas that are marketable. Zero politics).

    But I was surprised at a few comments about books not going up in value. Does much of the market still buy comics in that way? Between trades and digital, and of course, the 90’s, I thought that collectors market had mostly dried. I sold off six boxes of 80’s/90’s Marvel for about $60 last summer, back to the shop where I bought them. The stuff that had any value had been picked clean, the one box of stuff I might reread taken out, and I was left with West Coast Avengers, X-Force and the like. I don’t miss them.

    I quit comics in the mid-90’s, before getting into the alt comic scene, and I completely gave up ‘value’, or bagging or boarding when I got back in. And I love reading them. But I haven’t considered comics an investment in 20 years. Similarly, when I buy books, or used to buy cds and DVDs, it was always because I wanted entertainment from them.

  47. I agree, there are too many titles. If Marvel shrunk the line to 50 monthly comics + a handful of minis of smaller characters then they would sell a whole lot more comics. if they want to go down the double shipping route, they should’ve done what DC did and made them more affordable.

    On the note of pricing, if Marvel want the Marvel Legacy to sell well they better make it affordable. With 50 pages of story it’s likely they will price it at $5.99, which will turn people off. This one-shot is meant to get as many people as possible through the door so in theory it should be a loss leaders for them. Look at DC Universe: Rebirth. It was 80 pages at only $2.99 (for the first print). They sold a tonne and got people excited for the rest of the line, where I am sure they made up the loss and then some.

    Marvel need a long-term game which builds new readers, while also stops the bleed of existing readers.

  48. Wow. Just wow. You nailed something here that has been on my mind for years but couldn’t quite place it myself. 20 years ago, I collected GOTG Vol 1 (no one else did) and occassionally dipped into New Mutants. When GOTG Vol 2 came out I was onboard, and the lead ins were solid, long running stories that required investment of the time and money types. I didn’t mind as I knew this was going to be a relaunch of the best kind.

    However, it turned into a short lives series. GOTG Vol 3 was another opportunity, and yet was cut short by Black Vortex and the Marvel NOW crap or whatever. I even tried to get onboard with the Rocket monthly with Skottie Young, but it also came crashing down in a Marvel relaunch. With the relaunches following Secret Wars (seriously WTH were they thinking with the rehashing of old title names?) I competely gave up.

    I’m no longer collecting any Marvel. I’m now regularly buying titles like Saga, East of West, Black Science, etc. I’m done with Marvel and their awful PR machine. If I want to read any more books, I’ll wait a year and buy the Unlimited app for a few monrhs to catch up. And Marvel drove me away exactly how you describe.

  49. It’s also worth adding that Marvel is committing some similar sins with their trade program:
    1. Irregular scheduling, then if there’s a tie-in movie, there are suddenly 5 trades starring the same character
    2. Format changes and irregularities for TPB’s (and HC’s) of the same series
    3. Expensive collections of “events” that contain completely unnecessary tie-in issues
    4. Tie-in issues that get their own “Companion” HC (which if you buy it, often feels like a waste of money)
    5. TPB’s that don’t collect enough issues of the current series to rate a collection, so they throw in an issue of the same character from the 60’s (not how you get new readers)
    6. And the often argued single story TPB’s or HC’s with a multitude of artists, even writers — again, confusing to a new or casual reader.

  50. This is a really good assessment of Marvels problem right now. I’ve been exhasuted by the diluting of their franchises since well before their sales plummeted. I have long thought that making 4 new Spider-people and the like is sort of an admission of defeat. That they know new characters rarely go over, so they’re offering “new” characters instead, because they’ve given up.

    Also, shout out to Brian for being maybe the only person I’ve seen in the comics press, or any press, who bothered to actually read what David Gabriel said in his now-infamous “diversity” comments. The furor at him over something he didn’t even say has been totally bewildering to me.

  51. An interesting article. My first thoughts are for Marvel to look at what has worked before – when Marvel first started in the 60’s they had a few titles and crossovers were special events. By the early 70’s they were #1 but by the end of the 70’s they dropped back to #2 iirc, then with Shooter taking over they climbed back to #1 with every title having a clear simple purpose – he insisted on each title having that tiny blurb at the top describing the title/character in a basic way so new readers could jump in for example X-Men #140 “Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Colossus. Children of the atom, students of Charles Xavier, MUTANTS – hated and feared by the world they have sworn to protect. These are the STRANGEST heroes of all!” There is your core for the title. Every cover having that tiny box with images of the main characters (geez did I love that), Now they have a full page to describe what is going on – a recent X-Men issue: Terrigen mists circle the globe, whittling down mutantkind’s numbers and suppressing any new mutant manifestations. Believing bigger threats require more threatening X-Men, Magneto is joined by a team of the most ruthless mutants alive to stem the threat of extinction.” followed by images of Psylock and Magneto then “When Magneto recruited Psylocke to join him in his mission to proactively…” there is more but I’ve lost interest.

    Ideally the blurb should be something for the 15 second elevator pitch. Not a mini-novel. If you need that much to get a new reader up to speed then you are doing something wrong. Really, what Marvel needs is a modern version of early 1980’s Jim Shooter. Yeah, some writers/artist will hate it but discipline and a hard editor-in-chief who demands certain things overall – from dead is dead, to core ideas for each title. That is what Marvel really needs. 1960’s was Stan Lee (alienated Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and others eventually). 1980’s was Jim Shooter (alienated John Byrne among others). 2017 needs another hard ass to push Marvel back to a handful of successful titles. Yeah it’d suck to see 10-20 titles, some that I’d probably like, go bye bye but Marvel needs that now. Have the writers/artists close off the titles and move to a core of long term characters (Spidey, Thor, Cap, Hulk, etc.) and a core of new ones (Ms. Marvel, any others that seem to have a good core following). If you want a family of titles for something then do a ‘Spider-Man Family’ title with Spider-Gwen, and a half dozen other spider characters in either solo or group stories each month maybe with a classic reprint for Peter Parker at a reasonable price (stories 8-10 pages each ala the old dollar comics from DC – those got me deep into comics). Look at bringing out digests again in supermarkets – print as cheaply as Archie does and put in a modern character story from the past year or so, plus a few stories from pre-creators rights that reads well so costs are minimized. These are to be disposable and fun for kids – if collectors buy them too so be it.

    OK, this has gone on waaaay too long.

  52. Wow…great article. Couldn’t agree more with your points. I also thought the responses were fantastic. Most of Dan Ahn’s comments also hit me as incredibly insightful.

    This may be unpopular to say but I think both companies could use new leadership at the top. Between DC’s constant reboots/revamps and Marvels constant crossovers I’m reading about 5 books total from the big 2, down from about 40.

    I know most of us are just agreeing and adding a slight focus to our perceived point of failure. Unlike some, I agree there are too many families of titles. Further, I feel the mashups (uncanny avengers) just create a vanilla product and weaken the parent product.

    Why Jane foster as “thor”? Why don’t they call her “Jane”? You can still have her headline Thor. She is the goddess of thunder….It IS weird to call her Thor.

    How much more positive would the reception to riri Williams be if she was a new guardsman instead of yet another iron Man?

    It is great to have more female characters but it is senseless to elimate strong draws to do so and you can’t just one day say “half of my audience is female”. You have to slowly build that. Give them 3-4 books that make sense and give you a platform to try new things.

    The whole falcon as cap makes no sense given the movies. These things just weaken the brands. Why are the original xmen still around? You don’t have to reset, just clean it up. Follow the DC title count plan. Go with about 30 books so your fringe books have a shot to build audiences.

    I think marvel should incorporate a few books that are doublesized for 4.99 to give people the feeling they are getting a bargain to pick up a maybe less popular book. Marvel can try out characters from time to time in those books.

    I’d say put out about 10 distinct team books….imo…..1 X-Men title (uncanny), 1 Avengers, 1 “Defenders” (powerman & iron fist), 1 Thunderbolts, 1 young hero team (the champions? …Whatever), 1 fantastic four, “mockingbird & the agents of shield” (double book), guardians of the Galaxy (double book with a solo story backup), Guardians 3000+space heroes (double book), and a women of marvel double book (she-Hulk, hellcat, maybe captain marvel, spider Gwen, gwenpool, Hela, or Sif sometimes ).

    Put out 20 or so individual hero books. ASM, deadpool, wolverine (the real one), squirrel girl, punisher, dare devil, Jessica Jones, Ms. Marvel, Captain marvel, Dr. Strange, black panther, Hulk, Captain America, real thor, iron suit (with TS or random fleshbag — just not riri Williams), the falcon, ant man, black widow, silver surfer, and the Ghost Rider.

    That’s good for now. Roll with it for 3 years.

    All the reboots and mega crossovers do is make people not know which books they should be following and feel disappointed in their purchases — so they don’t buy them again.

    It also creates a huge problem for the stores has they have basically about five years of back issue comics now from both of the two main companies that people don’t want at all and worst yet both companies’ strategies make it harder to sell the older back issues.

    Not all of those books are going to sell well but that doesn’t really matter. Keep them running. And I would return to inclusive numbering in short order to help the back issue market.

    Back in the day they used to have comics from all kinds of categories —-horror, Romance, War, superheroes —not all of them sold well but the point was you never knew when one of them would become a breakout hit so you kept putting them out. Look at the walking dead and saga. No one would have predicted those would be dominant sellers prior to their releases based on their genres.

    Marvel still has some good writers. Nick Spencer’s Captain America is actually quite well done. And he did fairly decent with Ant-Man….Not his best. Jerry Duggan’s uncanny Avengers has been quite good over the last few issues. I don’t think he’s the greatest writer, but I think that he is consistently getting better. To me he’s slightly too limited with the amount of words he uses. His books read a little too quickly for my tastes, but he’s solid and a good storyteller. Dan Slott’s great as is Ryan north. Kate Leth is entertaining but may need some editorial polish if her books are going to sell to both sexes, but she has talent. I’ve been done with bendis for quite a while but people like him. I read mockingbird by Chelsea Cain not expecting to like it and it was of my better reads each month. (Totally needed to be packaged in a double book with agents of shield so people would try it). She’s a very good writer. Waid, Pak, and Robinson are solid veteran writers.

    Marvel should have 30 books selling 75k+ each and rising rather than subject in fans to a changing lineup every year.

  53. I have never spoken to David Gabriel, so maybe I’m taking his words too harshly. I’m not purposely misrepresenting them, either. In my experience, when a suit says, “we hear X is the problem,” they’re trying to shift blame onto X.

    The rest of the article sounds spot on. I’m not a regular reader of Marvel, but just my cursory looks at comic shop shelves overwhelms me. Those are a LOT of books and they all cost a fortune!

  54. no it’s from CHANGE AT THE CORE OF THE COMICS…your FUCKING up the HEROS and the CHARACTERS you don’t want to believe it cause u must not be a true fan…u must want to CHANGE the comics….great job lolololol

  55. another point would be the shortening of books to 18 pages or whatever they are now. A story figment that short really does not suck me in the way it should.

  56. It’s simple:
    Oversaturation + natual lul in the medium = poor sales.
    Look, we can all point fingers at different things; but the truth of the matter is comics have always gone through sales peaks and troughs every decade or so. This is because youth interest dissipates as they grow older. As tech becomes more interactive and less expensive, this effects comic sales further.
    What kid wants to spend $60 on comics for a day’s entertainment when they could buy a videogame for the same amount and be entertained and fully immersed for a few days/months?
    Compile that on Marvel’s irritating habit of pumping out as much product as they possibly can and you have a perfect storm.
    Comics will have to focus on story/art and tighten budgets wherever they can. Good story/art may not be as flashy as multiple titles on a mainstream book, but the audience will continue to read.
    Really, this is a small version if what the Hollywood model is going through.
    Long gone are huge budgets and “rock stars” of the industry; but fans of the medium will always return to a decent product that isn’t sold through any means necessary – including a huge change for the sake of change, ridiculous prices, and having multiple versions of what you like shoved down your throat.
    Marvel: circle the wagons, cut the fat, stop with the empty events, and quit fixing what isn’t broken.

  57. What a great article. Thank you to the Beat for publishing something that gives honest insight into this particular problem. You won’t find this anywhere else.

    I don’t have anything to add but want to reiterate what others have said:

    1) Talent, both written and artistic. I think there is only a handful of recognizable talent at Marvel. The exodus of creators moving to Image is the same thing that happened in the 90’s which it seems people have overlooked.

    2) Pricing. $4 to read one 20 page book prevents people to buy more 20 page books for $4. I would buy a subpar Weapon X book just because I’m a Xmen Zombie but not at $4.

    3) Characters. One Wolverine is old. Hulk is a teenager. One Iron Man is a teenager. One Captain America is a nazi. One Spider-Man is Tony Stark. Fantastic Four are gone. One Thor is a cancer patient. Another Wolverine is also a teenager. Another Iron Man is Dr Doom, who isn’t a villain anymore. The Xmen are teenagers from the sixties but the the present Xmen are still here doing what?

    What the $#%||?

  58. When Marvel comics were printed in Sweden, they didn’t follow the american format for crossovers. They tended to sell one or two comics of 128 pages with pages taken from all the relevant american counterparts and what was superfluous removed. That really worked.

    So I’ve tried to follow the american market, now when the Swedish comics aren’t available, but I quickly gave up. It is just too much work and too many comics to buy.

  59. If you think people aren’t sick TO DEATH of political correctness then you obviously missed the last presidential election. Sacrificing generations-old favorite characters that fans have an emotional investment in for the sake of “diversity” obviously leads to resentment and rejection. Painting the reaction to that moronic plan as bigoted demonstrates a complete lack of contact with reality. Most fans don’t care if Marvel introduces new characters, they welcome it. But Peter Parker was always Spider-Man and Thor was always male. To make ridiculous changes so drastic to the fundamental make up of these characters is to sacrifice then on the altar of “diversity”. Marvel is being punished by the marketplace for doing something criminally stupid and squandering their most valuable resource – their legacy of super heroes.

  60. Great article! Excellent points regarding the abject failure of Marvel as a company. Personally, I’m old, so I want my traditional heroes. I like Rich Ryder, not an 8 year old Nova, for example. Racism and bigotry have nothing to do with it. Also, as a conservative, I despise Marvel’s PC storylines and dialog in EVERY issue of EVERY title. I’m not the audience for Marvel Comics anymore.

    I do miss Spider-Man though. I’d like to buy his book(s), but the abomination currently being published isn’t Spider-Man. At this point, I can’t see ever going back to regularly buying and enjoying Marvel books. And because I’m over 25, they don’t care.

  61. I started collecting Marvel in the late 70’s and was Marvel Zombie through mid-80’s to early noughties and literally bought a copy of everything. Not everything was great but the vast majority of it was well written and well drawn, that really isn’t the case now – the quality has dipped so much and is rushed out the door to the extent where Marvel can’t even get the creator solicitations right in previews half the time (DC are guilty of that too though). I personally don’t care about the number of books published each month, even though it is impossible to buy them all but I’d rather have a range to choose from. For the first time in my life I now buy more DC than Marvel books (I probably buy more Indie than Marvel too) and the number seems to go down every month as they provided more reasons to jump off. The main factors for me are:

    #1 Cost: $3.99 a book – it has to be pretty special to justify that (never mind the $10 ASM book), I’m not going to try out a new book, character or creator at that price. I think the $2.99 DC books are still too pricey to bring new young readers into the fold (which is what comics need) but personally I will try more DC books just on that basis alone and I’ve stuck with some of them, Ignoring inflation I used to be able to buy 10 -6 books for the same cost during my Zombie days, comic pricing just isn’t feasible for a throw away item for kids anymore and our generation is slowly fading away. They have the movies engaging with kids and really aren’t using the opportunity effectively to build a new young audience for the comics.

    #2 Creator/quality: I now buy Marvel books purely based on who is drawing it (due to price tag) so that I can still support and collect there work. When the books hit $3.99 I dropped any writers I was following and now collect their work in trades (which are easier to trade on ebay etc.) Marvel have very few creators I rate anymore. With the current price tags that means I’m not really giving new creators a chance on the shelf, I have Marvel Unlimited so although it’s 6 months behind i still get to read other new titles to ‘see what I’m missing’ – and I’m so glad I didn’t pay for physical copies for the majority of them.

    #3 Constant events/relaunch #1s: Again, short term thinking – it’s impossible to get invested in a character or a book that is going to be reset a year later with a new #1 and another ‘big event’ breaking up any organic storytelling in all the books that are obliged to tie into it. I welcome the legacy numbers if only just to stop the constant relaunches. Maybe it will help to get rid of the speculators who, long term, do more harm than good – anybody remember the 90’s. Variants do my head in too, but that doesn’t stop me buying books – so that’s a separate rant :)

    #4 Family of books: Do we really need 10 X-men, Avengers, GotG, Deadpool etc. books – as others have said it just dilutes the books. What happened to the House of Ideas? It’s now the House of Same Old Same Old (but look it’s got a shiny #1 it must be a new idea) I’d rather have 10 different types of books than 10 of the same ‘brand’, – that would actually give us diversity and new ideas. The first New Mutants book showed the way to expand a brand/title organically – what happened to that kind of approach? If they want to give us 10 X-books at least make them different.

    #4 Double shipping: that seems to be coming back (from both Marvel and DC), blatant cash grabbing hoping those that follow a title will pay for it twice a month. Nope, I just drop them – it always leads to a drop in quality and it means constant artist rotation as a monthly schedule is hard enough for most artists.

    #5 Diversity of characters: Guess what? that makes absolutely no difference to me one way or another, I’ve never bought a book because I identified with a character – ffs, how many of us are mutants, aliens or super-powered. Some of my favourite characters are female, black, gay (their is a real lack of pasty white Scottish superheroes) – I don’t really care about that at all, I just care that the characters and stories are well written and well drawn at a reasonable price. It’s escapism, I don’t particularly want to see ‘me’ in a comic. The diversity issue was badly managed by shoving it down people’s throats and altering all the mainstay Marvel characters in one sweep – I expect partly because they had no faith in creating new stand alone characters. My favorite Iron Man is still Rhodey and my favourite Cap was John Walker, who was the worst Cap in all possible ways but was far more interesting because of it. Tony and Steve are pretty dull, never had a problem with them being replaced – it was just poorly done.

    Maybe Marvel should ask Comic readers why they have stopped buying the books rather than jumping to wildly inaccurate assumptions – just a thought.

  62. I was stoked by the idea of a Black Panther title, always liked the character. Was a little worried about a journalist with no history of fiction writing it.
    Dropped it after six issues. The expansion to three titles didn’t help, but the dullness was the issue. That the Panther didn’t even appear in issue one of Crew doesn’t inspire me any.

  63. I have a novel idea.How about first of all,you drop the prices back down for 21 page books,to $2.99,and $3.99 for 32 page books? Then,after stabilizing prices,take all the computer art,and throw it in the trash.Have your artists go back to drawing on CANVAS,not an IPad.Let inkers actually INK.Stop making 21 page books (with 10 pages of ads btw) that have 2 page full splashes,only to have one or two word balloons,or in some cases,NONE,at all!As authors,make the story matter.What I mean,is this: 2013’s Infinity series,was a good solid story,with far reaching effects to the whole Marvel Universe.It caused a bunch of new events dealing with the Inhumans,and created a new group of heroes changed by the Terrigen Mist.Fast Forward to 2017,and here is where the problem lies.The new characters and storylines from Infinity,like Thane,and Corvus Glaive,were at first promoted,and put in other series,and mini-series.There,in those other books,you take characters,like Thane,and totally diminish everything he was about in Infinity.In 2017’s Thanos series,you even kill Corvus Glaive in #2!So everything you built up in Infinty,is now storyline wise,worthless,less than 4 years later.MAKE THE STORIES MATTER! Civil War,Annihilation,Age of Apocalypse/Legion Quest,Infinity Gauntlet,Secret Wars,and more MATTERED.Those events,not only shaped the specific characters(like black Spidey in SW,Cap dying and Iron Man in CW,Professor X dying, and many mutants like David Haller,and Cable in AofA,Nova,and a new Gaurdians team created in Annihilation,not to mention Thanos,and lastly, the entire Universe changing after the events of IG)Recently,any major event,starting around Secret Invasion(So events like Siege,Fear Itself,Original Sin,Clone Conspiracy,and Civil War 2,to name a few)have really no bearing to the Universe now.Does the reader even care about the destruction of Thor’ s home in Siege?Do we care that Rhodey got killed in Civil War 2? I would have greatly,except,you made his lover,Captain Marvel(Carol) such an poor hero(by having her lead the poor Protect the Future unwinnable story),that the reader hates her to the point,Rhodey is just an afterthought!Now,less than a year later,Civil War 2,could have come and gone,and storyline wise,that major event,really has no bearing to what’s going on in the Universe now.Now,all these new heroes replacing the older ones,have no care about those heroes,they have their own issues they are dealing with,to concern themselves with previous events,from former heroes.(except maybe Miles/Spidey).Again,MAKE THE STORIES MATTER.Finally,stop trying to put humor in every possible book you can.Some comics need to be serious,just like some comics (Deadpool,great book btw)need to bring the laughs.As a buyer,I will buy Squirrel Girl to get a few laughs,but it’s insulting,when you throw in humor for humor’ s sake.Also,quit making four different Wolverine,Black Panther,or even Star Wars.That’s what team books were created for.Buyers will buy X-men,Uncanny X-men,X-Force,and even Generation X,to go with Wolverine,but we aren’t going to buy all those,AND All Savage Wolverine,followed by X-23,followed,by Weapon X,followed by,Old Man Logan.You force the buyer to dump nearly all of them,and find a new hero!These are a few simple things,that could completely revitalize your brand,and bring fans back.Good luck Marvel,and take my advice PLEASE!

  64. If Marvel is smart (which we know they have not been for at least the last couple years), they are reading this carefully. The comments collectively sum everything up – major problems:

    1) Writing quality
    2) Price/double shipping
    3) Constant reboots/lack of continuity
    4) Overload of titles/lack of identifiable flagship titles
    5) Diversity/poliitical correctness overload at the expense of tried and true characters.

  65. I was always a Marvel kid going back to reading my older brother’s Marvels from the 70’s when I was first starting to read. He had Star Wars, the Micronauts, Rom, Conan, Captain America, The Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and Amazing Spider-Man among his collection. They were exciting stories with great art. Not every issue was home run but they were still appealing to me at 6 or 7 years old.
    In 1982, I saw a commercial for the first issue of the G.I. Joe comic. I bought it and my own personal interest in Marvel began (Larry Hama is a favorite to this day). I grabbed Uncanny X-Men, Power Man and Iron Fist, Iron Man, and just about every Marvel title that my parents would buy for me. I started paying attention to the names creating the books that I was buying and looking back at my brother’s collection, some of the creators were the same. I became a fan of the characters for life.I had been buying some DC after John Byrne started Man of Steel but I was still more of a Marvel fan. I quit reading in the early 90’s (probably could have stopped around the time Jim Shooter was fired). .

    When I started reading again in the early 2000s, it wasn’t quite the Marvel that I used to love but it was close enough. Then the stunts started. House of M, Civil War, One More Day, and all the other “events” just kept breaking characters. Classic creators started to talk about how Marvel had no interest in work from them but anyone with a Hollywood connection or a popular indy background could do whatever they wanted and even if sales tanked, Marvel kept giving them books. If Marvel had a popular artist, they were pushed to event comics are one or two issues of a new launch. All the while putting out multiple issues a month with a high price tag saying either “Our fans want this much product” or “We’re trying to help retailers” and neither comment seemed sincere. And replacing all your characters instead of just trying to get the best people to write and draw the best stories seemed like stunts thought up by editorial more than organic creations. I decided to leave Marvel behind. They had a direction they wanted to go and I didn’t want to travel with them anymore. That happens a lot with entertainment, the movies were capturing the feel of Marvel for me more than the comics so I still had something to enjoy.

    If Marvel is going to do a Rebirth-style attempt to get lapsed fan’s back (and I was cynical about DC’s announcement last year but I’ve been very happy with it), I’m not sure they have any creator that interests me enough to pay $3.99 twice a month on any book. I do like Marc Guggenheim’s work on X-Men Gold but I feel that they’ve damaged the characters too much for me to come back completely. I don’t feel that Marvel owes me anything, I just pay for what I like and I haven’t liked Marvel.

  66. “‘Dave says’ wrote:

    If Marvel is smart (which we know they have not been for at least the last couple years), they are reading this carefully. The comments collectively sum everything up – major problems:

    1) Writing quality
    2) Price/double shipping
    3) Constant reboots/lack of continuity
    4) Overload of titles/lack of identifiable flagship titles
    5) Diversity/poliitical correctness overload at the expense of tried and true characters.”

    Marvel will never address #s 2-4 because they have to answer to stockholders, who constantly demand growth and dividends. This forces short-term thinking but long-term loss in Marvel’s case. All management cares about is squeezing a bigger buck out of the (shrinking) audience so they can tell their bosses the numbers will look good this quarter. With a lack of quality, PC stories that alienate half their audience and too many expensive books on the market, I don’t see how Marvel’s situation will improve. They may return to “meat and potatoes” storytelling (I’ll believe it when I see it), but who is left to care? Again, I can’t see ever going back. If the kids feel like that. Marvel won’t be a player in superhero comic books again for years, if ever. And they totally did it to themselves.

  67. I’m interested in how you think of customers. I’m so used of equating periodical buyers with Wednesday Warriors, I’ve never really thought of people who buy 2 or 3 periodicals a month as regular buyers…that’s a good point you made there. It changes the conversation and made me think “why isn’t Marvel trying to consolidate the line and increase buyers of, say, Spider-man?”

  68. Price is a big issue. If it were not for Marvel Unlimited, I would be reading no new comics at the price being charged.

    Oversaturation is also a big issue, even with the comics being “free” on Marvel Unlimited. It takes time to read all the comics being put out right now, and not all of them are worth it. It can also be very confusing to know what order things go in. Instead of so many crossover events, I would love to see bigger stories that build and happen naturally within one title or at least one family.

  69. “I’m interested in how you think of customers. I’m so used of equating periodical buyers with Wednesday Warriors, I’ve never really thought of people who buy 2 or 3 periodicals a month as regular buyers…”

    Asked and answered, Chris.

    A person who buys ONE periodical, regularly, is, by definition, a “regular”

    -B

  70. “They don’t understand Marvel’s publishing plans.”

    I think they understand 100%. They smell the greed and the capitalism a mile away and run a mile. Who wants to be a part of a marketing plan?! People just want to be part of a creative endeavour and the Corporation to stay the hell out of the way.

    Marvel’s naked greed stands out a mile. Serve them right for destroying their own market. And leaves comics poorer.

  71. Have to say I agree with alot of what I have read here, I once ran a comic section in a bookshop back in the 90’s the boss may have hated my dept but it performed well so it remained. Back then sales where strong and yes the zombies lapped it all up, yet there were warning signs even then. Marvel had this obsession with crossovers and pulling in as many characters as possible. Maximum Carnage is one that springs to mind I think it had 18 issues over all 4/5 Spiderman comics running at the time dragging in countless heroes. The real problem was after the first few issues you noticed how the quality dipped depending on which issue you where reading, ASG was great but the others less so and I remember one ( I think it was the youngest of the Spiderman comics) being particularly poor that and fact it started to become a muddled mess didn’t exactly help matters. If I’m honest I believe it’s greed and arrogance that’s played a major factor for the state of things instead of understanding what the readership wants and likes they decided ” This is what you will buy!!! This is what you will read!!! ” guess what??? It didn’t turn out to well. In any business one golden rule is understand you market sadly Marvel failed to heed that lesson and sadly the comic industry is poorer for that in talent and interest.

  72. Years ago, the late/great writer Dwayne McDuffie wrote a brilliant piece “Crisis on Mono-Earth” discussing problems caused by excessive continuity and shared universes in comics.

    https://ralphdibnytheworld-famouselongatedman.blogspot.com/2014/09/mystery-of-dwayne-mcduffie-crisis-on.html

    But the problem’s even worse than it seems, because to really understand the Batman stories, you have to know all about something called “JLA.” And to really understand JLA, you have to read four (or is it five) Superman books, and a couple of Flash books, and Wonder Woman, and Hawkman (if I really wanted to drive my point home, I’d have used Hawkman as my example but shooting fish in a barrel is only easy if you don’t mind getting water all over the floor. I’d have had to spend more time trying to explain Hawkman to you than making my point), and Green Lantern, and Aquaman, and a bunch of other stuff that may or may not be cancelled. This is insane. How many people would watch ER if, in order to understand it, you had to be current with the continuity of every single show on NBC? Right. Practically no one, and NBC is free. Talk about “Must Watch…”

    I’m not just picking on DC, here, although I promise I will in the future. I could just have easily talked about X-Men titles, or Heroes Reborn reboots or, God help us, Spider-Man. The shared universe really was a good idea, once upon a time. That time has passed. Let’s trash these unwieldy things.

  73. For all the people who complain about the books being too political and left wing, I’ve also noticed that a lot of people are dropping titles for the opposite reason. Giving Sam Wilson to Nick Spencer? Come on. The guy doesn’t have a fucking clue. Every time he tries to deal with a race issue it comes out shallow and just plain *bad*. If you’re going to go for diversity at least get writers who understand the characters’ life experience – not the fighting super villains, obviously, but what it’s like to be an outspoken black guy from an over-policed neighbourhood. I’m a middle class white kid from the other side of the world and it rings fake as hell even to me. Whereas Ms Marvel is getting amazing reviews because they did that right.

    Between that, the overwhelming number of titles, *way* too many events, the entire existence of Secret Empire, and the exchange rate (the last one at least is not their fault) I’m down to literally about two titles a month.

  74. I’d quibble with a few of the minor points, like the canard that “too much” diversity is happening all at once. Boo hoo to any readers who feel that way. My inclination is to want to show them the door. I’d rather share these characters and this hobby with aspirational minorities than bitter gun-clinging aging Trump voters.

    Otherwise this tracks with everything I’ve been saying about Marvel since Civil War II, and it sure does look like Marvel Corporate is going to double down on stupid. New readers don’t want nostalgia. They want to be able to follow a couple series without being to forced to buy everything in the brand extension and the entire line.

  75. I am angered by the latest of Captain America being with Hydra. For me this has turned me off to the Marvel Universe including movies.

    I like diversity but not characters changing to different genders, etc unless that’s their MO.

  76. No, even though you THINK having the legacy characters all “social justice warrior’d up” Isn’t the problem, it actually is. The silent majority aren’t buying these storylines, because they just aren’t the characters we love. I have Captain America ink from my delt to my elbow. I have Cap legos, games, comics, pics, wallpapers, toys and movies. I have them because of Steve Rogers and what he stands for. Simply put. When you yank the rug out from under a fan like myself, I stop buying. Simple. This garbage of Cap being a Hydra agent is a “What if?” comic that has over stayed it’s visit. I imagine super fans of all these other beloved characters under assault feel the same. It’s not a mystery. It’s just this current social nonsense, that’s meant to incite feelings. Poke at the foundations..and it’s just not warranted or necessary.

  77. Being a Marvel Zombie (or a DC Zombie; they existed, too) was possible decades ago when comics were much cheaper. In the early ’80s, I was buying almost everything from Marvel, DC, Warren, and various indie/alternative companies. That would be financially impossible today.

    I don’t know how anyone, except for wealthy people, can afford all the spinoffs and crossovers. Even if you could afford to buy them all, who has time to read them?

  78. There’s no greater testament to Marvel’s convoluted, off-putting publishing plan than the (free) 36 page “Marvel Reading Chronology” they distributed to comic shops this week.

  79. If MARVEL Comics would go back to their roots and print 4 color books on newsprint at a cheap price with great stories and great art their sales would be enormous.

    $3 and $4 dollar books on expensive paper with digital colorization that hides the line art were the start of the decline for me.

    In addition, these never ending massive crossover stories running through almost every title make impossible to get the whole story in full unless you have unlimited funds.

    The rebooting of the entire Universes every few years just to create #1 issue hype to boost sales at MARVEL and DC have burned me too.

    The pandering SJW content is annoying too. Want diversity? Make new great characters vs wrecking existing ones. Not everyone gets to be an astronaut in this life and not everyone gets to be Spider-Man either. There was a time when Black Panther, Storm, Forge, James Rhodes, Sunfire, Rahne, Sunspot and so on did not exist. They’re awesome characters that were new at one point. Storm didn’t have to be Iron Man to be great. Just write and draw great a stories already.

  80. I’d like to add my 2 cents, as a former Marvel Zombie. I agree with all of Brian’s points, and have a few observations to add. Marvel still appears to view comics as part of an entertainment empire that includes movies and videogames. They don’t treat individual titles as something that should stand alone as its own product with tis own story. In the early 90s I could buy a dozen Marvel titles a month and get a dozen stand-alone stories, and that dozen included all the X-titles, the single Avengers titles, the single FF title, Iron Man, and two or three Spider-Man titles. As Brian and others have pointed out, now if I want to follow a storyline I might have to buy three or four titles a week for a single storyline.

    Also, in the last 20 years I don’t think Marvel has really appreciated or valued retailers. The $4+ an issue retail cost of a comic is lower if buy them digitally, and Marvel may break even with digital sales even with reduced retail sales. Marvel has done things that hurt retailers before, like with distribution. For me part of the comic experience is going to the comic book shop, looking at titles on the shelf (when I bought comics regularly I would budget to pick up one or two extra comics off the shelf with each trip). In the last five years, when I buy comics I wait for a trade paperpack and usually get that from Amazon, rather than try to keep track of the titles I have to pick up each week to follow a storyline.

  81. >> Secret Wars killed any enthusiasm I had for the line. It was a five month vacation from all the books I loved, and it made me feel like I had bought the last six months of most titles for no reason, since their plots mostly dead-ended meaninglessly with the universe exploding. And, I know I’m not alone. Almost every zombie-type, read’em’all reader I know online cut back in some fashion, no matter what their age or political stripe. Recommendations went from a steady drip to crickets chirping.

    That’s about the long and the short of it. I think some Marvel writer quipped that every jumping on point is also a jumping off point. Secret Wars did it for me.

    I generally like Hickman’s stuff, but that event and the lead-up to it were almost incomprehesible. Then the main book was delayed (of course it was, it’s Marvel), the “fake” universe of Battleworld ran out of what little gas it had (that trick really only worked the first time with Age of Apocalypse), and there was — most importantly to me –no denouement. All that time and money, and you don’t bother telling me the ending. Something something power of love Reed Richards did something offscreen, tada!

    No. Screw you, Marvel. I can forgive an incomprehensible mess from someone starting out (heck, than can even be endearing if the love for the craft is there), but you guys are supposed to be the pros, the standard setters, and you phoned it in and delivered it late and overpriced. And all of a sudden my 35-year Marvel addition was cured.

  82. Most of my favorite recent titles (Lemire’s Moon Knight, James Robinson’s Scarlet Witch, Hickman’s Black Monday Murders) have been fairly self-contained reads. Hoping for more of the same with James Robinson’s Cable and Nick Fury (which will hopefully share some DNA with Scarlet Witch, or Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye, and not be tied down by tie-ins).

  83. Well for those who are not keeping track… there are 24 Avengers books published right now (7 team books, 17 solo characters books) 10 Spider-books (not counting mini series) 5 X-Men books before ResurrXction, 8 X-Men books after it. Put on top of that Crossovers and mini series and well…. you certainly can’t be a fan of Marvel if you are on minimum wage…

  84. I am 46 years old and stopped buying comics circa early-mid 90s, although generally kept my pulse on the characters and market, and love the (Marvel) movies (not so much DC). I was a collector for a good 15 years or so. In the 80s, comics were affordable and fun and easy to collect. ONE (or sometimes two) books for a character, and not a lot of saturation or cross-over. Most cross overs were in the annuals.

    Anyway, comics took a turn for the worse when it became a profit-saturation game (embossed covers! multiple #1’s, etc). Also, splash art took precedence over story.

    I cant make heads or tails of todays comics, who is coming, going…what is hot, what is not. It all frankly feels vomited out with no care or quality. Also, it seems where once comics informed the movies, not the movies inform the comics. Thats a problem. ALL of this is a problem.

    Theres also a major circle-fail with characters we love. For example, my favorite hero is Daredevil. I want him to be Daredevil as a comfort food. However, how many times do I need to see him doing the same schtick, and at what point do you futz with his origin or life to the point where it dosent matter anymore ? The longevity of these characters speak for themselves, but the history and continuity suffers the longer he stays on the scene. Its a interesting problem. I sense most people feel this way, and have no patience for new heroes who come and go to direct to the scrap heap.

    Storyline for me will always take precedence over art. There are no John Byrnes out there that get how to CRAFT a comic book. Its an art (no pun intended).

    I also sense that politically correct pandering to the masses (ie by adding more women, or homosexuals) is way too easy an answer, and not the correct answer at all. Just my two cents…

  85. “Jane Foster suddenly picking up Thor’s hammer and becoming a super-skilled superhero (with a totally different personality than she’s ever had, btw”

    I must’ve missed the Journey Into Mystery issues that covered Don Blake’s years of combat training.

  86. I had never read a Marvel comic before the launch of Kamala Khan as Ms Marvel. I got Volume 1 (issues 1-5, I think) from the public library as soon as it was available, and I was absolutely blown away. And I’ll be totally upfront here: I didn’t know where my local comics shop is. But this was good enough that I decided to find out.

    And then I read volume 2 and I started having to look up characters. I knew enough about the Marvel universe to recognize Wolverine when he showed up, but I’d never heard of Medusa or Lockjaw. (Since Medusa’s name wasn’t even given initially, I started off by Googling “Marvel red hair Inhuman woman.”) As things got more involved through volumes 3 and 4, with Kamala getting involved in the “Secret Wars” crossover, I was spending more time looking things up online. Rather than inspiring me to start reading everything else involved in that crossover, it made me lose interest — getting fully up to speed would have cost more than I was interested in spending, both in money and in time.

    I haven’t read the last couple volumes of Ms. Marvel. I might get them from the public library eventually, but I’m not going to buy them without reading them first, because I no longer trust Marvel to make them both entertaining and accessible to someone who doesn’t read lots of their other titles. It’s not diversity that’s the problem with Marvel’s sales. It is, as Brian says, the publishing strategy.

  87. Took you THAT LONG to ask that question… ???? > Such comment-bait of a title… LOL!!!!

    Answer:
    EVERYTHING

    The whole medium of tiny flimsy over priced pamphlets with advertisements and brand-identity predictable crap with no consequences… Sounds like ‘America’…’what a ‘coincidence’, huh…?…all of needs to go. Print lives, it will always live, but this is what you get when you have huge corporate conglomerates and their family dynasties reaping more from off-shore hedge funds, outsourcing, lobbyists, tax-loop holes, and crap merchandising, than from gaining NEW MARKETS through magazines, anthologies, books, and zines that appeal to ANYONE BUT GEEKS AND NERDS, please… Show me sequential being sold at a woman’s clothing store…. Or at a disco / club,… or at a music festival,… or at charity campaigns, and any kind of regular health care awareness campaigns,…at baseball/football and basketball stadiums,… at coffee shops, or movie theaters,… This is bull$hit.

    Think about Arlen Shumer’s lecture on Jack Kirby, and how DC had an artist draw over Kirby’s work to make it look more commercialized; look at Stan Lee’s wealth and compare it to Jack Kirby’s family and compare the stories how they obtained any kind of credit… Gee, I wonder why Marvel sucks, duhhh, Im an ‘American’… I only know super heros, spending on over-priced predictabled DRAWN OUT stories about branding identity,…(drool)… I read articles about stupid rhetorical b.s.,… How about write an article about JUST STOP DOING STORIES ABOUT MARVEL, ban’em, Fu(k’em… Look how cool NuMarel turned out, that’s because no one cared about them by ’99…

  88. It looks like multiple causes. Comics are too expensive. You don’t get value for your dollar. They aren’t easy to find. There is a portion of the customer base that doesn’t want to look at dismemberment, decapitations, guttings, gushing blood, and the like. That audience (like me) is more interested in something akin to the movies The Incredibles or Big Hero 6, not Watchmen. Marvel comics have become way too political (and too hostile about it). Not everyone who dislikes that is a Trumper. Marvel keeps re-cycling the 2-3 plot ideas that worked, ad nauseum. Incessant title-wide events disrupt the building of interest in any one series. Marvel has been steadily losing its best writing talent to other companies. The stories themselves haven’t that good.

  89. “I must’ve missed the Journey Into Mystery issues that covered Don Blake’s years of combat training.”

    The guys writing Journey into Mystery were writing for an audience of children. The guys writing Marvel today are writing for an audience 10 to 20 years older than that.

  90. “Since Medusa’s name wasn’t even given initially”

    THIS.

    Yes, almost all the other problems people have brought up are legitimate to one extent or another but everything is exaggerated by a basic level of narrative incompetence.

  91. I don’t see how you can be a fan of Marvel and yet complain about politics in your comics. They were there from day one and the same complaints about political correctness and being too political were coming from certain fans too back then. People bring up characters like James Rhodes but I remember hearing complaints about affirmative action and the like when he replaced Tony Stark. It was the same way with John Stewart when he was the star of GL in the mid 80s. Catering to fans who shriek and whine the minute a hero who isn’t a straight white male shows up whether they are original, legacy, race swap you name it is part of the reason why Marvel and DC have to play catchup in 2017.

    Until Marvel decides to quit flooding the market with books, a tactic that they have done to push independent and self-published comics off the shelves, this cycle will keep happening until it crashes. For all the complaints about crossovers, people keep on buying them and then have the gall to turn around and complain. I see bargain bins full of the comics of the “iconic” and “real” heroes in the comic shops I’ve been to not even a month after the latest issue. People do not have the money or the space or the time to be paying 2.99 – 6+ for an issue they can read in under five minutes so they are going for trades, digital, buying used or discount, or borrowing the shit for free. Now the question is how will Marvel adapt to that because eventually the lame ideas, scapegoating, and backtracking will have to come to an end. They have to start expanding out of the direct market but whether the big two are capable of that is another story. That’s what happens when your companies are run by aging fanboys.

  92. I was a hard-core collector ca. 1992–2002 (ages 10–20). I never had the money to be a total completest, but I wanted to be. Eventually all of the crossovers and interlocking continuity just got to be too much. I’ve gotten back into comics the past few years (now in my mid-30s), but I’m now trade only. I get just what I have time to read (which would not be an entire line), much of which is backlist (with a bit of frontlist, too).

    @Other Becky:

    I’d liked Ms Marvel, but I was really concerned about the Civil War II volume being too tied into the line-wide event (which I would under no circumstanced spend time reading). I eventually got that TPB, and it’s actually a master class in a meaningful tie in with a crossover that (1) doesn’t lose the thread and flavor of the individual series and (2) presents enough info about the event to make sense without the reader needing to read the event itself. It’s actually rather quite good.

    But it’s pretty concerning that my first assumption was that it wouldn’t be accessible. Naming the Ms Marvel volume “Civil War II” certainly didn’t help, but I’m sure Marvel thought that would be a selling point not a red flag.

  93. My biggest problem with Marvel after a fourteen year hiatus and five years back is the fact that every reboot and event which promises change doesnt really last or the change is minimal. couple that with horrid mediocre homogeneous empty stories like extraordinary x-men. That was extraordinarily boring to say the least. i know storytelling is cyclical, the quality goes up and down but it seems so much worse since the original Marvel Now.

    Im not against diversity but the way Marvel executes it leaves something to be desired. Lady Thor and Falcon both taking over for the legacy characters within a few months of each other just smelled fishy. It all seemed like a marketing ploy instead of something organic that fans are willing to endure and enjoy. Now Cho took over for Banner, which im ok with but it undid a storyline by Gerry Duggan about ending all the other Hulk like characters even though i was digging Red She-Hulk. Now banner is dead by the most stupid of reasons. Don’t get me wrong i was ok with Cho being Hulk but the story has become a spin-off of Champions which I had no interest in reading. FUCK YOU MARVEL!

    And you know Marvel doesn’t care when Rhodes had two or three years of character build up before he donned the armor only to be killed off and replaced by a female that had less than 22 pages dedicated to her, and all done by the same writer!!! no Marvel that kind of stuff we love to see!! wrong!!

    Same thing with Bobby aka Iceman. So there were rumors he was gay, fine. How about you take your time and respect the readers and the character and spend more time building a story that is respectful to both. NOPE! One page he is straight the next he is gay. How any gay reader can accept this is beyond me, it reeks of pandering.

    I still read eight titles, Star Wars, Dr. Strange & DS sorcerers supreme, Thanos, Iron Fist, Punisher, Royals, Black Blot (when it comes out) and totally awesome Hulk and will probably be dropped after the next reboot if Banner is not back permanently. Meanwhile after all the money I saved by dropping all the x-titles I know enjoy a lot of Valiant.

    After reading “Marvel the untold story”i see that stagnant growth will always be here i feel it will only cause more problems for Marvel as time goes on mainly as writers leave for the independent route. Marvel is no longer the house of ideas.

  94. If I had to pick one comment in all of this to listen to, it would probably be from “Other Becky”

    ————————-

    Why that one?

  95. I used to read so many marvel comics it boggles my mind. I used to spend over 100 dollars a month on Marvel Comics.

    Now, I read TWO comics a month.

    Moon Knight is one of them. I picked it up as I am a fan of Jeff Lemire. I chose that book because it doesn’t appear to be ‘connected’ to all the events and re-workings going on in all of the other titles.

    The other title I read is Jessica Jones. I was a HUGE fan of Alias, and having the original team coming back is great. It is ‘connected’ to the Marvel U as a whole, but just enough outside that I’m hoping the series doesn’t get dragged into other events. It addressed other events, but doesn’t bog you down with all the minutiae and history that the main books do.

    I really don’t see myself hopping onto the ‘big’ name titles like X-Men, because, honestly, I have no clue what is going on in any of the MULTIPLE titles regarding the X-family. Same with Avengers, Spider-Man, etc.

  96. >I have no clue what is going on in any of the MULTIPLE titles regarding the X-family. Same with Avengers, Spider-Man, etc.

    While I’d welcome fewer titles in each “family”, most of them have a “main” title that does not require you to read the tie-ins. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, for example, can be read and enjoyed without reading any of the associated title (SILK, etc).

  97. @JTL: thanks for letting me know! I’ll go ahead and put it on my request list from the library.

    @Tim: I can’t speak for Brian, but I can tell you why I thought my story was worth sharing. My apologies if any of this comes across as condescending; that’s not my intent, but it’s hard to gauge tone in comment sections.

    Every business, no matter how good, loses customers. Some no longer have the time, some don’t have the money, some stop liking what the business produces. And even if none of the above apply, all customers eventually die. A business can only survive if their business grows at least as much as it shrinks.

    There are two main ways to do that — gain new customers, or get existing customers to buy more stuff. That second one is still limited, because existing customers have limited amounts of time, money, interest, and lifespan. Ultimately, to survive, a business has to gain new customers.

    I was low-hanging fruit for Marvel. I’m really into science fiction and fantasy, I like tabletop games and graphic novels, I enjoy the MCU, and enough circles of my life are comics-adjacent that I already knew a little bit — not much, but I could recognize, e.g., that the short hairy guy in bright yellow was Wolverine, even before the claws came out (and despite looking nothing like Hugh Jackman).

    It was going to be very easy for Marvel to turn me into a loyal repeat customer. Judicious and sparing use of crossovers would probably have gotten me hooked on Amazing Spider-Man too. (That was one crossover element from Last Days that didn’t actually annoy me.) Instead, their crossover-heavy publishing strategy turned the plot too convoluted to really understand in that single title. My choices were to buy a bunch of other comics (or wait until I could get them from the library), do a bunch of online research to provide context and background, or give up. (“Keep reading but stay confused about the larger plot” was technically an option too, I guess, but that would have been really frustrating for me; that’s just not how my brain works.)

    I enjoyed Ms. Marvel, but I wasn’t that heavily invested in it yet. There are way too many interesting things to read being produced for me to ever be able to get to all of them. So I moved on to something else and stopped giving Marvel my money and my time. I should’ve been a sure thing, but instead they lost me.

  98. In his book on Marvel, Sean Howe writes that the company was already in “the business of breaking piggy banks” in the ’80s, mainly through expansion of the X-Men and Spider-Man franchises. He presents a scene where a writer tells then-EIC Tom De Falco that four Spider-Man books a month are too many, and De Falco replies: “Not for someone who really likes Spider-Man.”

    Marvel could get away with that when comics cost less than $2. Now that they cost $4 and up, even the most addicted fans can’t afford the habit.

  99. they need to make better books, they always had several X-men books, several Spiderman books, but never a problem till they started hiring staff that grew up reading DC comics and had not love for the style difference.
    The diversity stuff is a problem, 13 year old white males were always the mainstay of comics, we still had Luke Cage, Falcon, Blade, Black Panther, Northstar, Storm, Shang Chi, Ms Marvel, She Hulk, Ect. but those were good character not dumb ideas pumped up by a agenda of political agenda of a editor in chief. if its a good idea it will be good, if you force it on people it will show.
    The events, X vs whoever, for some reason we call this book a Avengers this, well ya that not good either.
    They have no respect for the fans or the characters, over use of Logan till he had to die, Xavier playing with peoples memory, Cap is a Nazi with Magneto,. people love these character,Marvel seems to not even like them.
    Going back to Danger where nobody remembered that everyone knew the danger room was alive to now X-men gold has racist art put in the book but nobody caught it, that is just sloppy and unprofessional
    In short get Stan Lee out of the movies and back to doing a job nobody else seems fit to do.

  100. @Other Becky – Thanks for sharing. I think like lots of comments here, I feel you. And like lots of comments that pretty much echo what you are saying, I can’t quite for the life of me figure out why Brian Hibbs picked yours out of tens of comments to be the one to listen to..,

    I suppose there’s the matter of you being fairly new to the hobby? Being an older or lapsed fan doesn’t seem to have the same cache…as though all customers aren’t seen as equally desirable. Maybe it’s because there’s an assumption you’re a girl irl due to the female user name? While not as infrequent to the hobby as they once were, females seem to be an attractive demographic? With all due respect while it seems like you might have had as much potential as far as interest goes, your interaction sounds slight from a monetary investment standpoint and brief as far as tenure. Nothing wrong with that but an existing fan who has let their hobby lapse after years/decades of patronage for the same reasons you cite as rendering the hobby a non-starter (perhaps an extensive library that they curate or even serious self-identification with this product and its content) seems like somebody you might listen to.

    And I think I get why companies and those who would like to expand into new markets and new ways to monetize don’t listen to existing customers or older fans or tenured workers but it’s a bummer when you’re faced with the reality that years of patronage or loyalty are a liability to being listened to. It has seemed way cooler to be a “new fan” for several years now, they seem to want to woo you a bit more.

    That’s what I wonder about. I admit I don’t know much about realistically running a business or targeting and trying to reach certain people groups. Perhaps Brian can elaborate on the matter, I’m sure there’s a reasonable business explanation for why he feels like your comment was worth listening to above all others to that point. Regardless, this is no reflection on you. Thanks again for weighing in. We can all agree that Marvel has some work to do these days to get new and old fans alike.

  101. I know Hibbs is suppose to be an expert, but I don’t think his analysis, which is repeated endlessly in the comments section is correct

    Marvel isn’t losing sales because they have become too greedy. Marvel is not losing sales because they are flooding the market with mostly garbage, and ignoring loyal fans who have supported the brand for decades.

    Marvel has been greedy since the speculator boom in the 1990s. They were greedy even during their creative Renaissance in the early 2000s, with Joe Quesada taking control of the comics.

    George, several posts above me says
    “In his book on Marvel, Sean Howe writes that the company was already in “the business of breaking piggy banks” in the ’80s, mainly through expansion of the X-Men and Spider-Man franchises. He presents a scene where a writer tells then-EIC Tom DeFalco that four Spider-Man books a month are too many, and DeFalco replies: “Not for someone who really likes Spider-Man.”

    Marvel could get away with that when comics cost less than $2. Now that they cost $4 and up, even the most addicted fans can’t afford the habit. ”

    The real issue is cost. Following a story through monthly installments is becoming a unsatisfactory experience for most fans. Following a long convoluted storylines through many comics was doable when the cost was lower and the quality of the issues was acceptable. Two things are affecting the quality: the caliber of talent Marvel is hiring: they are often hiring artists who are not performing work at a professional level on their “diversity” books (which they did in the past as well. “Diverse” comics such as Night Trasher from the 1990s really suffered from subpar art and writing. The majority of Milestone’s comics suffered from lackluster art. Artists are not all created equal. Some are better than others.) Marvel’s talent scouts are hiring random female creators off of Tumblr who don’t really care for superhero comics or can draw them well but won’t pass up the opportunity to ruin what they consider a “boy’s club” because superhero comics aren’t concerned with female-orientated themes as much as they’d like.
    The other thing that is affecting quality is politics: There are too many creators, both established and upcoming who are using superhero comics as a soapbox for their beliefs, which would be acceptable if they were knocking out a great product but they aren’t.
    As someone has noted the majority of people in comics , and in entertainment are very socially liberal, but their audience isn’t. At $4-5, a comic, even hardcore readers will not sit down and read a Captain America comic that reads like a Cultural Marxist version of a Jack Chick Tract with fumetti or Tumblr fan-fic level art. The common belief is that there is no such thing as negative publicity, but when top writers are saying that anyone who doesn’t like their ham-fisted attempt at “diveristy” is a racist, sexist bigot, it’s hard to see how that translates into higher sales, especially if there isn’t a real audience for that ham-fisted attempt at “diversity”. Artist Ardian Syaf would never have tried what he did, if he didn’t see an environment where creators’ political views could be flaunted willy-nilly.

    I don’t see any solutions to the situation, if Marvel refuses to give up shelf space, in the Direct Market, to make what their existing customers want to purchase. It sounds like instead of flooding the market with diversity titles , they will flood the market with more “classic” titles with lame
    creators whose work would have been rejected 15 years ago because it isn’t at a professional level.

    If the audience for their diversity comics is outside the Direct Market
    (the arguments made by people on this blog that comic shops are seeing a large influx of new readers are weak. If they don’t buy anything floppy-related, they don’t exist for the Direct Market.)
    , they need to take a large risk and release OGNS and beef up their tpb system.

  102. I couldn’t agree more with what Brian writes.
    This has been what I’ve been telling people (whether they wanted to hear it or not) for a decade.
    Marvel has slowly killed their own readership.
    At first you tried to buy the line, then you tried to buy the X-Men books, or the Avengers etc..
    Then there comes the point where you just had enough.

    I occasionally buy a Marvel trade, when I can get it for less or around 3 dollars an issue, but even then I’m only interested in a few specific titles, like I will always try to get good Black Widow comics, I will do the same for Deadpool…

    The only point where I probably not fully agree is the potential for Marvel to win back its readers.
    .They probably will never get me back in anything resembling my previous investment.

    Even if they returned the characters to a depiction I would recognize, even if they stopped publishing a 100 unnecessary titles a month, even if they dropped prices to 2,99 or 3,50 I would probably only get a few monthly titles, depending on creative team and characters.

  103. From my perspective, it’s the cover price. At 2.99 I was willing to try a new series, and usually hang around at least 3 issues. At 3.99 I just pass on everything. Coupled with the frequency of relaunches that makes “collecting” feel more and more pointless, and that’s why they’ve lost me. I don’t buy much DC, either, mind you, due to their twice-monthly shipping. Both companies are just wringing the sponge, and leading customers like me to stick with the the occasional sale on comixology.

  104. Marvel has been publishing comics to appease to personal agendas and not the fans anymore, especially long time fans like myself who stuck around for 30 years… which is why I haven’t bought an issue in years. And this is exactly what happens, poor sales. They need to fire everyone and anyone who made all these poor decisions that got them into this mess and get rid of the bullsh*t. Go back to making comics. But sadly I think they went too far to fix things at this point. The movies will hopefully be the venue that keeps all the classic characters alive.

  105. Hey Marvel, you want to fix this problem? Take a few weeks off and have all of your editors, writers, artists, in fact all your employees to start reading all the major story lines from the 1960s-late 90s. You have a 50+ year legacy to look back on. Read and study those older comics like it was your last meal. Figure out what drew fans in. Figure out what made Marvel the name that meant something in this industry. We all know it’s not the liberal left wing crap that you publish today.

  106. Why are Marvel comics 4 dollars? When I got into comics in 1993 comics were $1.25 and that would be $2.15 today according to some inflation calculator I googled.

    Is it the paper? The printing? The shipping? All of it?

    I wonder if people would buy more units if they were cheaper.

  107. >>> We all know it’s not the liberal left wing crap that you publish today.

    Af far as I can tell, pretty much all the best known and most loved Marvel creators were, at the very least Democratic, towards total hippies. Read any 70s comic by Englehart, Gerber, McGregor, Wolfman and on and on and on….total hippie stuff.

    The X-men team had an explicitly feminist and diversity oriented agenda — at clumsy as it seems today,

    So sorry, X-23, Marvel has always been giving you liberal left wing crap. You just feel empowered to complain about it now.

  108. One of my friends is a hardcore Marvel guy who just dropped Amazing Spider-Man. The reason: The $10 issue. He doesn’t go to our LCS every week and doesn’t following comic book news on the internet. He set his stack down at the register, not looking at prices and the cashier mentioned the comic’s cost to him. He bought it because he’s had Amazing in his pull box for years and figured that the store would be stuck with it if he didn’t buy it but decided that this run of Spider-Man wasn’t worth the cost of that issue and dropped it.

  109. You know what? At the end of the day there are comics I buy and comics I don’t. Some are Marvel and I buy them because I truly like reading them. Infamous Iron Man and Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur come to mind along with Uncanny Avengers which might be the best Avengers book ever. DC’s Rebirth won me over and I love my Aquaman and Wonder Woman books, but I still do not buy any Batman books, with the exception of Batwoman and Batgirl and the Birds of Prey. In the realm of independents I love a lot of BOOM! titles and The Ninth Doctor Doctor Who book is great. If you told me I was going to be able to get two King Kong books a month I would have called you a liar.
    I guess what I’m saying is buy what you like. Of course they are going to ruin stuff you like, but you know what? There will be other stuff to take it’s place. Sure, when they cancelled the excellent Power Man and Iron Fist I was sad, but the new Iron Fist book reads like some demented kung fu flick from the 70s and it is awesome.
    I think I’m getting too old to complain.
    I’m just going to have a great time reading comic books.

  110. Heidi said: “Af far as I can tell, pretty much all the best known and most loved Marvel creators were, at the very least Democratic, towards total hippies. Read any 70s comic by Englehart, Gerber, McGregor, Wolfman and on and on and on….total hippie stuff. ”

    Yes, this has been discussed elsewhere on this site. I assume fans who are outraged to find any political or social comment in their comics are too young to remember the ’70s, and haven’t sought out back issues or reprints of those comics.

    You could also say comics were political in the ’30s (anti-Big Business and pro-working class), in the ’40s (anti-Fascist) and in the ’50s and ’60s (anti-Communist, especially in Marvel’s comics). Comic books and newspaper strips have never been isolated from social and political trends. And before the ’70s, the messages were sometimes very conservative. Check out the work of Al Capp and Chester Gould in the ’60s, and Harold Gray’s work from the ’30s until his death in the late ’60s, for railing against filthy hippies, left-wing courts and the “welfare state.”

    Also read Bradford Wright’s book, “Comic Book Nation,” which shows how comics have always reflected (sometimes in a funhouse mirror way) whatever has been going on in the real world.

  111. Saber Tooth Tiger Mike Hawaii 5.0says
    05/01/2017 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm

    “As far as I can tell, pretty much all the best known and most loved Marvel creators were, at the very least Democratic, towards total hippies. Read any 70s comic by Englehart, Gerber, McGregor, Wolfman and on and on and on….total hippie stuff. “

    I’m afraid that the left wing politics present in the 1970s mainstream comics were not presented antagonistically and left out the real divisive stuff–the expansion of Social Welfare, affirmative action, feminism and focused on things which had a broad consensus–civil rights, environmentalism, etc. Contrary to what you believe not all Relevance comics sold well in the 1970s.

    “The X-men team had an explicitly feminist”

    No, just no.
    Chris Claremont’s stance was that women could be every bit as much as heroic as male characters. That doesn’t mean that he or the x-men endorsed abortion or believed in systematic gender oppression, that all men are guilty of perpetuating on women, except for “male allies”

    X-Men is not a metaphor for today’s identity politics, which is not about legal persecution and more about legislating acceptance and punishing groups labeled oppressors.

    If X-men were representing today’s politics, there would be mutant lobbyists on capital hill and in high-status occupations, actively pushing a pro-mutant agenda. Marvel’s mutants don’t have it as good as today’s lgbt, and minority groups.:
    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/05/30/the-new-activism-of-liberal-arts-colleges

  112. “Af far as I can tell, pretty much all the best known and most loved Marvel creators were, at the very least Democratic, towards total hippies. Read any 70s comic by Englehart, Gerber, McGregor, Wolfman and on and on and on….total hippie stuff.”

    I was alive in the 70s. I read those comics. Those guys today would be ripped up and down for “white privilege,” “transphobia” and a dozen other modern day sins. And exactly how much time did Marvel super-heroes spend in the 70s worrying about the rights of the accused and the individual liberties of super-villains?

    Mike

  113. “Comic books and newspaper strips have never been isolated from social and political trends.”
    Just because something is plastered across several blogs does it mean it is something that is resonating with a large and diverse population (not all minorities are liberals! ) and would necessarily attract more readers. The history of the world is full of political movements started by a small influential minority that was able to dominate other people.
    The U.S. is too fragmented and polarized these days to present propaganda in something that isn’t explicitly marketed as being propaganda, like a Jack Chick tract, or Frank Miller’s HOLY WAR.

  114. “Those guys today would be ripped up and down for “white privilege,” “transphobia” and a dozen other modern day sins.”

    Which shows how far to the right a lot of comics fans have moved, especially the cranky old white guys who won’t go away.

    It should be noted that indie/alternative/art comics have plenty of women and people of color, as fans and creators. And the audience for graphic novels and trades — typically purchased at bookstores or online — is also diverse. Certainly more diverse than the crowd of Kevin Smith-esque slacker dudes I see at comic shops.

    When people talk about middle-aged white guys dominating comics, they’re really talking about superhero periodicals, and especially the ones from Marvel and DC. You know, a dying publishing strategy from two companies that have run out of ideas.

    From what I see in convention photos, the audience for indie comics appears to be largely under 40. And they certainly aren’t all white or male. That’s the future, whether the superhero dudes like it or not.

  115. Saber Tooth Tiger Mike 2000 said: ” I’m afraid that the left wing politics present in the 1970s mainstream comics were not presented antagonistically and left out the real divisive stuff… (and) focused on things which had a broad consensus–civil rights, environmentalism, etc.”

    Mike, if you had been around in the ’60s and early ’70s, you would have known just how “divisive” and “antagonistic” many people found civil rights. Especially people in the South, where I grew up.

    There was no “broad consensus” for civil rights. It required people getting beaten up in the streets, and sometimes murdered. It had to be forced on people by the courts and the Congress because the states wouldn’t do what was right.

    And in the year 2017, you regard feminism as “real divisive stuff”? Do you ever get out of your Man Cave?

  116. Robert Crumb had some of the most interesting depictions of African Americans in comics…not idealistic at all but very human.

  117. “And in the year 2017, you regard feminism as “real divisive stuff”? Do you ever get out of your Man Cave?”
    Today’s feminism is very different from 1970s feminism.

    You should stop trying to lie through your teeth.

  118. “It should be noted that indie/alternative/art comics have plenty of women and people of color,”
    which is why the vast majority of indy creators are white upper middle class hipsters, those are the people who can afford to be supported by their parents while barely earning a living in expensive urban areas.

  119. “There was no “broad consensus” for civil rights. It required people getting beaten up in the streets, and sometimes murdered. It had to be forced on people by the courts and the Congress because the states wouldn’t do what was right.”

    By the 1970s, which is the time you referred, civil rights had largely been accepted.. nice try.
    The civil rights movement would have NEVER SUCCEEDED without a majority of white people coming to realize that legal segregation was wrong.

  120. “From what I see in convention photos, the audience for indie comics appears to be largely under 40. And they certainly aren’t all white or male. That’s the future”

    The future of what? of starving artists? Indies, for the most part, don’t make any money,
    and the self-absorbed stuff they make appeal to a narrow group of white upper middle class people.
    Telling me the future of comics is Indies is like saying that the future of animation is Adventure Time or Adult Swim…yeah there’s some people making money producing kitschy artsy stuff but not a whole lot …which is why they’re all so young and (obviously affluent/supported by affluent relatives). Old people can’t afford to go into something into which there is no money…or where they are discriminated against because they ask for too much money.

  121. Saber Tooth Tiger Mike: YOu are a racist. YOu are also a sexist, You find stories that center on non white males are “presented antagonistically” – I fail to see how Amadeus Cho, Riri Williams, Miles Morales, Lady Thor or any of the other new characters are presented antagonistically on the page.

    Face it, you can’t handle the truth.

    Please take your aggrieved privilege elsewhere.

  122. Oh yeah and one more thing:

    >>>Today’s feminism is very different from 1970s feminism.

    Very true, It was much more aggressive and focused on empowerment through confrontational identification of symbols of oppression, ie, bra burning. Today’s feminists are much more savvy to economic and racial oppression. It’s the difference between Ms Marvel then and Ms Marvel now.

    I was alive in the 60s and 70s and come from a family of hippies who lived on communes. PLease don’t tell me what the 70s were like.

  123. Why do we need new readers?
    Because, if the industry doesn’t gain new readers, it goes the way of pulp fiction.
    Westerns, men of action… it’s pretty much dead. (except for Harlequin’s Mack Bolan series, and that’s because Harlequin have made a science of appealing to niche audiences. 450+ volumes!) Aside from Dynamite trying to keep the franchises going, The Shadow, Lone Ranger, Doc Samson… there’s little fandom left.
    Science fiction, mysteries, romance, they are vibrant because the publishers seek new voices and stories, and they market expertly to their readers. (Check out the guidelines for Harlequin’s category romances: https://harlequin.submittable.com/submit )
    Just as these genres overlap with others (superhero romance? Julie Kenner.), superhero titles could overlap with other genres. Lots of humor titles already do… Paybacks, Superhuman Resources, Evil Inc., She-Hulk, Damage Control, to name some of many.

    Superhero comics are soap operas for men. There’s an illusion of change, but you can’t really show change. But there has to be something to appeal to new readers. Marvel was lucky in the 1960s… They started from a blank slate, and by using a simple gimmick…superheroes are normal people, dealing with real world problems…caught the interest of millions of readers.

    Fifty years later, I think Marvel has forgotten that storytelling DNA. The titles that work best are those with interesting interactions, like Champions. Peter Parker was most interesting not when he was in an event, but when he had to make rent, take photos, and fight the usual suspects. X-Men sold gangbusters in the 1980s because of the team’s everyday personalities and conflicts, not because of them fighting villains. (Is Kitty Pryde dating anyone now? Peter Quill?!)

    The best stories are those which fans can find themselves inside. Maybe you feel like an outsider like the X-Men, or trying to please your parents while you seek happiness and fulfillment, like Kamala Khan. Or you sympathize with Tony Stark’s addictions.

    The simple solution: keep the lines separate, and even keep the series within the lines separate.
    You can have a time-travel arc in Marvel Team-Up in 1976 without it interfering with other titles.
    Avoid events, and possibly, follow the Secret Wars model…one issue they leave, the next issue they return, everything has changed, and the reader, if they want to know what happened, can read the Event series.
    Marvel mostly did that in the Shooter era… Captain America had his arc with the Serpent Society, Thor was a frog, Iron Man fought a patent war with his fists, the Hulk went to Vegas, Wolverine becomes Popeye…

    Self-contained makes it easier for fans to follow the series.
    Self-contained makes it easier for stores and libraries to promote the series.
    Self-contained makes it easier for creators to create memorable stories. (And if they are happy, they’re less likely to quit, and more likely to bring their A-game, making it easier for editors to produce great series.)

    The biggest compliment I can pay a publisher of comics?
    I bought and read the single issues, then years later, bought them and read them again as a graphic novel.
    Which means, I’m likely to recommend that title to someone else, generating new readers, which we need.

  124. S T O P D O I N G A R T I C L E S A B O U T M A R V E L.

    JUST STOP DOING STORIES ABOUT MARVEL, ban’em, Fu(k’em… Look how cool NuMarel turned out, that’s because no one cared about them by ’99…

  125. If I had to pick one comment in all of this to listen to, it would probably be from “@xle @lonso $ucks”

    -@

  126. Name-calling is the last resort of someone who can’t win an argument.
    Unfortunately for you I am neither of those things..
    I wish I could say the same about you.
    The fact that you were raised in a hippie commune reaffirms my suspicions that you have NEVER been in touch with the average person. It must have been nice to have been born into a family so well-off that you could retreat into an off-grid community where you could feed and clothe yourself.
    Your tone-deaf outrage does little to hide the silver spoon you were born with nor to hide the fact you and your lackey George had no idea of what went on in the 1970s beyond textbook descriptions :Referencing “bra-burnings” doesn’t mean you had a front-row seat into 1970s left-wing politics, nor do you understand what was fringe and what was mainstream.
    You really DON’T know what you’re talking about literally 100% of the time.

  127. I’m leaving Mike’s comment up as a monument to jumping to conclusions. I love the idea of being raised on a hippie commune with a silver spoon in my mouth. Not remotely like the truth – or anything I said here BTW – but this Heidi MacDonald fanfic is amusing!

  128. It’s all about volume and frequency like Brian and others articulated. I manage a small to mid-size store on the east coast, our “recent” Marvel section holds 84 titles comfortably. When I began working here you had back-issue room for every new Marvel series being released and could leave a finished series on the wall for a few months before archiving them; popular back-issue targets like Superior Spider-Man could stay on the wall for over a year. But within the last 6-12 months things have accelerated dramatically downward in terms of sales. It’s the combined deluge of title quantity, character bloat, and shipping rate. I’m at a point now where we’re having to archive dead weight titles within a couple of weeks of being ordered because so many new series are hot on its heels. Issue 1’s sell at half the rate they did a few years ago, and there’s dramatic dropoff by the time you can make an FOC adjustment (usually issue 3 or even 4).

    Diversity is an easy scapegoat for some people but fact of the matter is white guy titles like Solo and Foolkiller bombed just as hard as Prowler or Unstoppable Wasp. It’s the sheer deluge of new titles (I counted 13 new #1s in a row in a recent Marvel Previews), putting every minor character in their own title at once, and constantly dumping issue 2 or 3 on the shelves before people have even read #1, with creative teams seemingly changing by the page.

    While price is a factor, the truth of the matter is that people still happily bought $3.99 Marvels when DC was “holding the line” on price. The price issue hit a tipping point when the consumer starts to feel that the publisher does not care about quality or craftsmanship, but just shaking out your pockets as fast and as often as possible. The first $9.99 Deadpool was a novelty, featured his “wedding” and sold reliably. I’ve counted at least 3 $9.99 titles (2 deadpool 1 ASM) since then and each one has led to more and more people dropping the title entirely.

    Everyone’s caught on to the act that Marvel is just cranking out an absurd number of mini-series disguised as ongoings to take advantage of the “new #1” tide and after ratcheting up the pressure on consumers over and over the past couple of years people are finally putting up their hands and dropping off in droves.

  129. You are absolutely correct in your assessment of the root of the problem.

    I’d been a hard core comic buyer for years, had a couple series on pre-order, never missed an issue. Then they started fracturing the series with cross-overs and offshoots, which I had zero interest in. I didn’t resent them, I get that some people enjoyed them, but they just weren’t my thing and for awhile it was fine. There was no real harm in just opting out of all of that and sticking with the main series.

    Then it became a constant ongoing thing and the cross-overs started bleeding into the main storyline so if you opted out of the cross-overs you suddenly had no idea what was going on. And even more infuriating, instead of explaining it they’d just write “Read X issue 4 to fine out more!”. Like, no, guys. I should not have to go read another issue of a series I have never touched, nor do I care to touch, to be able to figure out what the heck is going on in the series I’m invested in.

    It just got to the point where it felt like I was spending all this money to get only a quarter of the story and I wasn’t willing to dump more money into series I didn’t care about just to catch up on the four pages of information dedicated to the character I did care about.

    So I took my money elsewhere.

  130. I bought a couple of Marvel comics from a LCS last year. Literally, a couple — two. They didn’t give me enough value for the cost. I don’t believe that comics need to feature the very best paper and ink. Marvel didn’t become what it was by printing on the finest paper and using the finest inks. These are comics, not classic literature.

    I don’t mind liberal characters expressing liberal beliefs. I thought Sam Wilson complaining that powerful whites like Maria Hill get away with murder was interesting, and made sense for the character. What I can’t stand is preachiness and bigotry, and Marvel writers have both in truckloads. When Spencer tweeted last year that all Republicans are evil, I knew I would never buy anything written by that guy.

  131. Back when we opened up Comics and Comix Store #1 on Telegraph Ave near UC-Berkeley August 1972 cover prices on 32 page Marvel comic books were “still only” 20 cents each. John Barrett and I were scoring 900 copies a month say of Incredible Hulk selling thru most of them.

    As cover prices went steadily up to 25 then 30 we held our own as we also opened three more stores summer of 1973 following hosting the first Bay Area comic book festival which was held in the ASUC building on campus April 1973 with its focus aimed at creator owned royalty paying comix coming then mainly out of the Bay Area which were 50 cents with print runs as low as 10,000 upwards to Print Mint then just publishing Zap Comics #6 in time for Berkeleycon 73 in an initial print run of 100,000 at 75 cents

    In the mid 70s when cover prices of Sparta Code comic books inched to 35 cents we noticed a huge immediate drop off which took some years to recover from not until Clairmont, Byrne, Austin & Tom Orz began producing X-Men with #108. and super heroic renaissance began.

    The super hero was “fun” to read again for a while.

    The simple fact is “new” comics focused on super heroic characters are simply too damn expensive while at the same time are too boring as all the angst has been wrung out of them these past decades.

    New readers are not being cultivated which should begin with kids just hitting say ten years old. Inexpensive Carl Barks Ducks would still be the most viable vehicle seeking to grow new readerships which take a generation to grow. Back in the day Dell led the way with Carl Barks Ducks fronting Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories selling in excess of four million copies a month. Just that one title.

    Comic book stores as they exist today are in the main club houses akin to Tubby & his buds keeping Little Lulu out which John Stanley and Irving Tripp created ever ingenious ways of telling the basic same story in many fun variant ways for a long time.

    The paper printed model has been exploited for a very long time with a Wall St mentality that mindless sheep will keep jumping thru event hoops as they are thought of as addicts. After some decades the addicts have gone cold turkey.

    When a relatively small group of us began the decades long struggle to regain “respect” for the comic (magazine) book marginalized in the main beginning in the late 50s thru the 60s as stores began to pop up in places around the country early on it was figured out to gain and retain “readers” of comics is an acquired taste begun early in life.

    Those who flock to the super heroic movies of the past couple decades are encouraged to buy the computer games wherein one can do one’s own comics stories battling other heroic types as well as super bad guys & gals.

    Where are the “new” Carl Barks, John Stanleys, etc? Carol Kalish talked with us who understood the comics market and talked Marvel in to trying out that Star line though in the main the then extant comic book store owner types were all caught up in Sandman Vertigo hype madness of the then “here and now.”

    SIDEBAR: The term “Marvel Zombie” was in reality first coined way back in the late 1960s when the influx of Marvel readers responding to the comics dealer classifieds in Marvel Comics caused an inordinate level of same to invade then “organized” comics fandom in the pages of first Godon B Love’s advert zine RBCC which once upon a time was the center of the then known comics universe until Alan Light began a new weekly print adzine model TBG. National Periodical Publications which in the late 70s did a name change to DC Comics Inc did not begin running classified ads until the mid 1970s. Too late and a dollar short That was many years before what is discussed as a Marvel Zombie in this piece but maybe I simply be tilting at windmills pointing out simple historical truths?

    My book Comic Book Store Wars will be finished and published soon now after a decade hiatus when I was focused on saving my oldest daughter’s life.

  132. Correct, the “line” concept is dead. I am a long time collector and I am sick of the lines. The gear up of a line is when I drop everything from that line. The last line i collected was the Ultimate books. I liked Black Panther…dropped when the line started. Deadpool…dropped when the line crap started. Actually tried and liked the recent Doctor Strange (which is a minor miracle for me), dropped when the line crap started. My pull list was a high of 30, now its ~5 and really just looking for an excuse to drop them as rapidly getting over the games. Marvel (and DC) need to simplify their lines.

    I just want the continuing adventures of characters I like that occasionally crossover in fun ways but not as “events” but just in a way a shared universe does. Have the events…but make it were I can skip them if I choose. Make them impact the main titles, that if great…but write them in such a way that i am not required to have followed the event to get caught up. It use to be done that way for decades, it can be again.

    Even if “diversity” is an issue, there is a simple way to prove it…drop all the line BS and have two titles for each. Have Spider-Man (Miles Morales)/Amazing Spider-Man (Peter Parker), Thor (Odinson)/Mighty Thor (Jane Foster), Captain Marvel/Ms Marvel, Iron Man/Ironheart, and nothing else. No mini-series, no hints of other series in that line coming soon, no hints of events, reboots, restarts, etc. Just commit to one or two titles per line for an entire year. If one sells poorly, cancel it and feel free to replace it with one and only one title. You need those character crossover titles that is what Avengers, X-Men, and Champions can accomplish (but keep those team books to 3 maybe 4 max. Within this structure, have them weekly, bi weekly, monthly, whatever but make it so for an entire year if someone wants to follow a single character (or group of characters) they can do it without needing a spreadsheet or looking up Previews every month.

    I suspect that this would lead to excellent talent matches, better consistent storytelling, and likely higher sales because justifying that hit to the budget would be so much easier when you know pretty consistently what your cost is going to be one month to the next. At the very least its something DC and Marvel have not tried in decades while they tried everything else.

  133. Hey Marvel, stop destroying established characters in the name of diversity. Let readers decide what’s hot and for Christ sakes less realism and more fantasy. Damn!

  134. It sums up Marvel’s cross-pollinating marketing and editorial problems that they decided to draw readers in with a book called “Occupy Avengers”… cover-dated November 2016. What did that meeting look like? Who was invited? Anyone under 40? If so, that’s even sadder.

    I mean, do Marvel’s editors have any Monica Lewinsky jokes they want to lay on us? Maybe some Teapot Dome references while that story’s still hot?

Comments are closed.