Monday, July 12, 2010

A Collection of Random Thoughts, Vol 19

After being away for a while, I'm back with a new Collection of Random Thoughts! What am I talking about this time around? I discuss Mark Millar's self promotion, why $4 is slowly becoming the standard price point for a single issue, the publishing habits of Image and Vertigo, the June sales charts and more. Hit the jump to see what I think about these topics!

Mark Millar - Stan Lee of the Internet Age

Yes! I said it. Of course, your first thought, after thinking I'm crazy, is that Millar is crass, self-serving and exploitative. Well, that's my point - that's one of the better, and easier, ways to sell and market yourself on the internet simply because it creates the internet form of a controversy, which is generally mild when compared to real ones. It gets people talking about you, which is why Millar is a successful creator. Take Nemesis, his current creator owned title. The first issue, which came out in March, sold ~58,000 units during its first month and charted #22 on the sales chart, which was the only creator-owned in the Top 100, if you exclude Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which I consider more of a licensed titled) and the Image Firsts reprinting of The Walking Dead #1. In case you are wondering, Nemesis outsold both Powers, with over three times the sales, and Criminal, just under four times the sales, which are creator owned series by Marvel's two biggest writers, Brian Bendis and Ed Brubaker, respectively. Now, I don't think many people would argue that Nemesis is better than either Powers or Criminal, so why the sales discrepancy? Millar simply gets out there and promotes his work. Sure, it more often than not has a bunch of people complaining, either in blog posts or comment sections, but that's why Millar sells. He, and his comics, are in the comics news cycles so often that he stays in people's minds a lot longer than either Bendis or Brubaker. Every time someone writes up an article or blog post to complain about Millar, they are simply doing his work for him by reminding people that his work is out there and increase the chance of someone checking out his work just out of curiosity. So, if you don't like Millar's work, and don't want his comics to sell, stop talking about them! Otherwise, you are just helping him out.

The Two Images

Recently, Image has been releasing a lot of quality titles that you generally wouldn't associate with the name "Image Comics." These include titles like Beast, Orc Stain, Chew and Phonogram, among others. The odd thing, to me, is that they still release the titles that would associate with the name "Image Comics," like Spawn, Witchblade, Youngblood and new titles like Haunt, which isn't surprising given that those comics were created by the people who actually own Image Comics. It just strikes me as weird that, on one hand, a company can cultivate such wonderful talent and comics while, at the same time, continue to publish comics that are often associated with one of the worst times, quality wise, in the history of comics. I guess there is nothing wrong with it but it still seems incredibly odd to me.

The Reason for $4 Comics

While the $4 price tag is slowly becoming the norm for single issue comics, which has sparked a lot of discussion, I think there have been two key factors that I haven't seen discussed a lot - exclusive contracts and the sheer number of titles put out. While exclusive contracts are a good thing, creators get paid more and I believe they get benefits as well, but that also means each comic they work on has to sell more in order to make up for their higher rates. Combine that with an ever increasing number of titles for any given team or character, which cannibalizes sales from each other since every fan can't buy all of the titles, creates books with lower circulation that need to make more money. If you don't have a high enough circulation, you would need to raise prices, which Marvel has done.

A perfect example of this is Fred Van Lente's, who has an exclusive contract with Marvel, new Avengers title, which is the fifth ongoing Avengers title, excluding Ultimate Comics Avengers, and is the seventh in-continuity title if you count the two bi-monthly miniseries Avengers: Prime and Avengers: Children's Crusade. So, it's another Avengers title with a writer under an exclusive contract, a writer whose name does not sell comics like Bendis's name does and, even if the new Avengers title isn't $4, the cost would have to be made up somewhere since I can't see the title selling that well. So, when the 7th title for a bloated franchise  with a writer under an exclusive contract who can't really sell comics on the basis of his name alone launches that is one of, what I think, the main reasons why there are so many $4 comics from Marvel.

Of course, this mostly applies to Marvel, and DC to a lesser degree, but many lower tier publishers don't have particularly high circulation to begin with so they have to price their comics at $4. Marvel and DC, on the other hand, might have been able to avoid $4 prices on their comics had they given more thought to their publication strategies and used some more long term planning instead of going the short term gains.

The June 2010 Sales Charts

While the estimates for the number of comics sold haven't been released yet, the Top 100 chart for June's releases still has some interesting tidbits to take a look at. First up, New Avengers #1 took the top spot for the month, Avengers dropped to #3, which isn't surprising given that the title has been a top seller for years at this point. Grant Morrison's Batman titles, Batman #700 and Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #3, took the 2nd and 4th spots respectively. Batman #700 was also the best selling anniversary issue of the month with Superman #700 coming in 2nd, at #12 on the charts, and Wonder Woman #600 in last, at #24 on the charts, which lines to how well the characters' titles generally sell. Green Arrow shot up the charts, with the new #1 charting at #22, and, surprising me, Secret Avengers remained in the Top 10. I thought the title would drop out the Top 10 but still stay in the Top 25 given that Brubaker is a big writer but I think this is the first time he's charted in the Top 10 when not writing an event in a while. And, in more Mark Millar news, UC Avengers #3, Nemesis #2 (again the highest selling creator owned title and one of three in the Top 100 and the only in the Top 50) and UC Avengers #4 all charted in the Top 30, at spots #27, #28, and #30 respectively. Those are the big things that stood out to me but you can see the Top 100 chart here and see what stands out to you.

Yeah...Pretty Sure That Would Kill A Couple of People

(Click for larger image)

Kind of old but I still felt like pointing this out. If you look carefully, you'll notice a difference between the two pages - one of the crooks is missing two arrows in his back. Why? On the next page, Mockingbird mentions that Hawkeye killed no one with these shots, which is just absurd, even with the edits. They were in the middle of high speed pursuit, which means they were probably going around 50-60 MPH, if not faster and, last time I checked, getting knocked off a motorcycle going that speed with arrows sticking out of you is probably going to, if not kill you, then do massive bodily harm, especially if you are just wearing jeans and a shirt. I guess my problem with this is the massive disconnect between the art and writing. That, and it is just show-offish and pointless as a whole. Yeah, I'm probably overreacting a little but the scene still annoyed me.

Affordable Vertigo

If you take a look at this list of collections and OGNs coming up from Vertigo, all but one of them are hardcovers, which is kind of shocking to me. Until very recently, Vertigo didn't put out a lot of hardcovers but that's been changing. First, American Vampire got a hardcover instead of going direct to a trade, which I was kind of okay with given that DC could put Steven King's name on the cover, but I'm less enthused by the other hardcovers collections. While I'll probably buy the Joe The Barbarian and Daytripper hardcovers, for different reasons, I'm not particularly happy that DC is releasing them. One of the attractive things about Vertigo was that they did value their readership who only read the collections and tried to make them as affordable as possible but releasing hardcovers negates some of that since people have to wait that much longer for the cheaper version, possibly killing some of their interest or enthusiasm towards the series. Hopefully this doesn't turn into a full blown trend.

If Nothing Else...

Rise of Arsenal #3 has given us this awesome photoshop and thus making its existence ever so slightly tolerable.

(Click for larger image)

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twobitspecialist said...

"A dead cat is a coward's weapon." So iconic.

Ivan said...

About Hawkeye: Not to mention the collateral damage to the general vicinity.

CATR's Chris said...

Roy Harper is ruined beyond repair. What a waste of a great character.
It looks like it's not cool to have a male superhero being a single father.
Instead, they had to give him the angst and desire for revenge that many dark heroes share.

quietomega said...

I think most of the ongoing titles are still going to trade first before hitting hardcover with American Vampire, Daytripper and Joe the Barbarian being the exceptions. The other books look like OGN's, which Vertigo has previously released in HC first.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

I don't know about that $4 price explanation. I feel like Marvel is simply putting these extra creators on more titles that tie into Avengers or X camps because they'll sell better and these books previously would have been things like Heroes For Hire or something like that. The books are the same, it's just the family association that has changed. I doubt Marvel is hiring extra bodies just to flesh out a franchise selection of titles but then not thinking about the saturation of those titles and whether they'll not sustain what they imagined.

I imagine they know things like Brother Voodoo and the like might fail but they want to try, and if Van Lente were to get a cosmic Avengers title it would simply be replacing the other cosmic titles that came before and didn't have an association to something like the Avengers and now might sell just that little bit better.

I don't know, Marvel get slagged for not knowing how to run a business but I think they seem to be doing pretty well at it right now.

btownlegend said...

Glad to see your back Eric! Hardcover waiting is not what I do.

Erica said...

Re: Hawkeye

It was stated that their covert team cleared the street before they went down it because that's they were so surprised the other truck showed up.

How you get people off the street, I don't know...

However, still property damage.

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