Friday, July 30, 2010

Destined For Cancelation? - A Look At Some Recent Marvel Launches

The end of Siege and the beginning of the Heroic Age brought with it new titles and relaunches of current or older titles. In addition to relaunching their Avengers line, Marvel also launched a number of books starring B- and C-list characters. While this may seem like a good thing since Marvel is giving some properties that aren't A-list level a chance, two recent and similar titles, S.W.O.R.D. and Doctor Voodoo, were both canceled after only running for five issues. Will these new titles and relaunches face a similar fate? Hit the jump to find out as I take a look at the sales for the early issues of five series to see how long they might last.

Before I continue, I would like to point that this is not a judgment of the quality on any of these series but simply a look how well they are selling and how long they might run before being canceled. I have not read any of these new launches and, as such, can't say whether they are good or bad. As for the sales numbers, all numbers are taken from ICv2.com and are only estimates, not the actual amount a book sold. The numbers also represent the number of comics sold to retailers, not the number of comics bought by readers.

REPEATING HISTORY?


As mentioned above, both S.W.O.R.D. and Doctor Voodoo where low tier characters and concepts that Marvel decided to give an ongoing series to but where both canceled after having only five issues released. Both series launched with a little over 20,000 units sold for their first issues (~22,000 for S.W.O.R.D. and ~23,000 for Doctor Voodoo) and both ended with a little over 10,000 for their fifth and final issue (~11,000 for S.W.O.R.D. and ~12,000 for Doctor Voodoo). Both titles were also spin-offs of Top 10 selling books as well (Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men for S.W.O.R.D. and Brian Bendis's New Avengers for Dr Voodoo). So, if two books that spun out of Top 10 selling titles failed commercially, what chance would books that didn't have?

While there is always the chance that something can unexpectedly become popular, I thought that it was unwise for Marvel to be launching more new titles right now given how S.W.O.R.D. and Doctor Voodoo fared. In addition to being relatively untested titles, all of the first issues carried a $4 price tag, which has been a hot button issue for a lot readers recently and could possibly turn off otherwise interested readers. There is also the fact that Marvel have been expanding their "family" titles like the Avengers or Batman by launching new ongoings and miniseries or creating new ones, like Marvel's Wolverine "family" of titles which launch in September, all of which are A-list or solid B-list titles that would more likely be bought given they are firmly established properties. So, how did these launches fair? Overall, not that good but there were one or two surprises.


THE COMICS

ATLAS

The Agents of Atlas are the pet team of Jeff Parker. The group, made up of characters from Marvel Comic's predecessor, Atlas Comics, made their modern debut in 2006 with a six issue miniseries by Jeff Parker and Leonard Kirk. The characters then got another ongoing series that launched as part of Dark Reign, with art by Carlo Pagulayan, and lasted 11 before being canceled. Next, two miniseries, X-Men vs. Agents of Atlas (2 issues) and then Avengers vs. Agents of Atlas (4 issues), ran before the Agents of Atlas was relaunched as Atlas with art by Gabriel Hardman, who also did the art on Avengers vs. Agents of Atlas.

Current Series
Atlas #1 - 22,756
Atlas #2 - 16,130

Previous Series
Agents of Atlas #1 - 30,261
Agents of Atlas #11 - 17,529
Agents of Atlas vs. The Avengers #1 - 21,777
Agents of Atlas vs. The Avengers #4 - 14,900

Given these sales numbers, it's unsurprising that Marvel has canceled Atlas with issue #5. Why? Although both Agents of Atlas and Atlas appear to have launched under similar circumstances, there are a couple of crucial differences. First, and I think foremost, the $4 price tag. While the $4 price tag on many comics was introduced with Dark Reign, it has only recently seemed to have become a big enough concern to effect sales and you can find plenty of people online mentioning the $4 price tag as a reason why they passed up on a series. Of course, only the first issue is $4 but everyone might not be aware of that and, even if they are, they still might not want to spend $4 on the comic.

Another, and very important, difference is that the people already had multiple chances to check out the team with Agents of Atlas and decide whether or not they were interested in the series. Even a crossover-over title with Marvel's most popular franchise, the Avengers, didn't do much to build interest in the title either. Although Marvel has given the title plenty of chances fans are just not interested in the ongoing adventures of the team.


BLACK WIDOW

Although Black Widow has been a perennial B or C list Avenger, this is the first self-tilted ongoing solo-series she has starred in. The character previously had a couple of miniseries from 1999 to 2004 and a recent origin retelling by Paul Cornell, John Paul Leon and Tom Raney. The current series was launched by Marjorie Liu and Daniel Acuna in April of this year, a month before the launch of the Heroic Age and was given a Heroic Age banner with issue #2.

Current Series
Black Widow #1 - 32,807
Black Widow #2 - 23,384
Black Widow #3 - 19,892

Previous Series
Black Widow: Deadly Origin #1 - 29,352
Black Widow: Deadly Origin #4 - 15,724

Given the fact that Black Widow has been a solid B-list character for a while now, I'm surprised that the sales are this low, especially since the character has been regularly appearing in Ed Brubaker's Captain America and Matt Fraction's Invincible Iron Man titles. Liu and Acuna are not big name writers though, so that could account for the lower sales.

Of course, there is always the possibility that there just isn't that much interest in the character to support her own series on an ongoing basis despite her long history in the Marvel Universe, but she was also just in the Iron Man 2 movie, which adds another layer to the mystery of why this isn't catching on at all with people.

However, with issue #6 the title is getting a new creative team, Duane Swierczynski and Manuel Garcia, so it is probably safe to assume that the series will at last make it to issue #10, but unless the new creative team brings a substantial sales boost, which is unlikely (not a shot at the creators, just logistics and past history backing me up), it probably won't make it too long past that since there is a crossover with Hawkeye and Mockingbird starting up in December. The crossover could boost sales as Hawkeye and Mockingbird is selling more but, again, any long term gains are unlikely so I would expect the crossover to signal the end for the series.


HAWKEYE & MOCKINGBIRD

As the title would suggest, Hawkeye and Mockingbird stars the perennial Avenger Hawkeye and his recently resurrected wife Mockingbird. Although Mockingbird has never had either a self-titled miniseries or ongoing, Hawkeye has had several. The character had a miniseries in both the 80's and 90's plus a canceled ongoing that was launched in 2003 and lasted only eight issues. Recently, the pair starred in the post-Secret Invasion miniseries New Avengers: The Reunion by the creative team of Jim McCann and David Lopez, who are also the team working on the current series.

Current Series
Hawkeye & Mockingbird #1 - 27,552

Previous Series
New Avengers: The Reunion #1 - 46,847
New Avengers: The Reunion #4 - 31,808

The drop in sales from the last New Avengers:The Reunion issue to Hawkeye & Mockingbird #1 looks like a standard drop from one issue to the next for an ongoing series, which isn't a good thing. There was no sales bump for the new title so the previous series or the character appearances in New Avengers didn't build up hype or interest in either of the characters during the down time between The Reunion and Hawkeye & Mockingbird.

Of course, the market is also different now than it was post-Secret Invasion when The Reunion launched. People seem to be wary of new titles, which may be a factor. Another factor is the fact that the previous miniseries was branded as a New Avengers title, which could have generated some interest off of the name alone with either retailers or fans.

I would suspect that Hawkeye & Mockingbird won't last the year given that the first issue started off with less that 30,000 units in sales, though there is always the possibility that sales could immediately level off and the title survives for longer, especially if it bolstered by tie-ins. That said, I wouldn't expect sales to hold steady given the drop between New Avengers: The Reunion and Hawkeye & Mockingbird is similar to the standard issue to issue drop off and the title would be near or below cancellation levels around issue #10 if those kind of drops continued. However, given that there wasn't that large of a drop, most of the readers left could be fans of the characters and there won't be that much further drop off and sales could stabilize.


YOUNG ALLIES

Young Allies is a team book that mostly features a variety of C-list teen heroes that have been showing up in the Marvel Universe over the past couple of years - the new Spider-Girl, Nomad and Gravity. It also features newcomer Toro and ex-New Warrior Firestar. The series is written by Sean McKeever, who has a reputation for writing good teen-centric titles despite his ill-received run on DC's Teen Titans, with art by David Baldeon.

Current Series
Young Allies #1 - 20,858

Shockingly, the title isn't going to be canceled at this time according to Tom Brevoort. As for why it isn't going to be canceled, I couldn't even begin to think why since its first issue sales were all lower than S.W.O.R.D., Doctor Voodoo and Atlas. Maybe Marvel has a lot of faith in the series or wants to see it succeed but, other than that, I can't think of anything else.

Why the series is doing so bad is obvious though. Title's biggest character is Firestar, an ex-New Warrior, a group who hasn't had a lot of success or positive buzz since before Civil War. Not to mentioned that there was no pre-launch push for the title either in the comics themselves or any PR hype from Marvel. The title was basically on its own and failed to attract readers since it had no high profile characters or creators.


S.H.I.E.L.D.

Although Jonathan Hickman's and Dustin Weaver's S.H.I.E.L.D isn't a Heroic Age title, it launched around the same time as the banner event so I thought it would be worth taking a look at. The title details the previously unknown secret history of the Marvel Universe and the S.H.I.E.L.D organization by mixing Marvel continuity with real world history. The biggest character in the series, to date, is arguable Leonardo Di Vinci given that the central character, a man named Leonid, is an entirely new character.

S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 - 44,543 (38,030 without reorders and re-printings)
S.H.I.E.L.D. #2 - 37,595

I'll be honest, these sales surprised me. I expect the first issue to sell around 30,000 units at best but, when taking reorders into account, it sold over 40,000. Honestly, I'm not particularly sure why S.H.I.E.L.D is doing so well. While it's true that Marvel and DC tend to lag a few years behind mainstream entertainment trends, Di Vinci mania has been dead for a good few years now so that's not really an explanation. Jonathan Hickman isn't an established creator at this point either and this title is currently selling better than both Fantastic Four and Secret Warriors, Hickman's other titles. My guess would be the continuity and secret history angels are what is driving interest in the title but, like I said, I have no real idea as to why this is doing so well.

As for how long it will last, if these trends keep up the title will live out its natural life span. The second issue estimates are only about 500 units less than the first's and that is a very good sign. Add in the significant amount of reorders and sales from reprints and the title has very strong sales for a book of its type. Marvel definitely has a success on their hand and there isn't any reason at this point to think that sales on the title will suddenly go south. It is also possible that the bi-monthly schedule is playing a role in the strong sales as well since readers are only spending $3 every other month instead of every month.


CAUSES AND CONCLUSIONS

As you can see the current market is not a particularly favorable place for new titles. Of course, the question is why? Everyone has their own theories, from the insane to the sensible, so I'll take a look at a couple of them.

TRADE WAITING?

The scapegoat answer is trade waiters of course. While I can sympathize with readers who have had a favorite series canceled, it wasn't because of trade waiters. To prove my point, lets do some math. First off, we'll go with 20,000 units as the cancellation point for a Marvel Universe title based off the sales estimates. Any series is going to lose a percentage of its audience after the first issue so how well a title sells will determine how much of its audience it can afford lose. For a title to lose half of its initial readership, it has to sell over 40,000 unit for the first issue. For a third of it has to sell over 30,000 units and for a fourth it has to sell over 27,000 units. In other words, a title is likely going to lose anywhere between 7,000 to 20,000, or more, readers if it is going to survive and not end up canceled. Below are the top selling trades for January through June of this year.

The Walking Dead vol 11 ~ 17,000 (January)
Fables vol 13 ~ 11,800 (February)
Kick-Ass HC ~ 7,200 (March) & 10,200 (April)
Ex Machina vol 8 ~ 4,800 (May)
Arkham Asylum: Madness ~ 7,300 (June)

All of those listed are titles that are the types of comics that do well in trades (The Walking Dead and Fables) or had significant buzz behind them (Kick-Ass). You will also notice that none of them sold over 20,000 units. Below are some Marvel and DC Universe titles that sold in the Top 10 as single issues.
Green Lantern: Agent Orange HC ~ 5,100
Dark Avengers 1 TPB ~ 4,000
Secret Invasion TPB ~ 9,400
Final Crisis HC ~ 8,200
Final Crisis TPB ~ 5,100
And here are the sales for the first volumes of Agents of Atlas and S.W.O.R.D. plus both editions of New Avengers: The Reunion.
X-Men: S.W.O.R.D. - No Time To Breath ~1,500
Agents of Atlas Vol 1, Dark Reign ~ 1,400
New Avengers: The Reunion HC ~ 1,200
New Avengers: The Reunion TPB ~ 1,500
As you can see, there is no significant audience for Marvel and DC Universe titles that are trade waiters. In fact, many of the low selling titles that do end up canceled just don't have that big of an audience period. Or, they do and something else is stopping them from buying them.

OVERSATURATION


Here are two numbers - 5 and 8. Five is the number of titles Deadpool has had before 2008. None of them concurrent, one of the them was co-headlined with Cable. Eight is the number of titles Deadpool has had since 2008, both ongoings and miniseries, with many of them being concurrent and none of them co-headlined with any other character. There are also currently two Hulk titles, four Avengers titles with another on the way, anywhere from five to eight Batman titles by the end of the year (depending on how you want to do the math), three Green Lantern titles, four Wolverine family titles and just as many X-Men titles. Add the ever more ubiquitous $4 price and you have your reason why titles like Atlas and Young Allies fail before the first issue even came out and why solid, B-list characters like Black Widow have trouble as well. The market is over saturated with expensive A-list titles that are going to get bought before people even take a list of Marvel and DC mid-list offerings, much less their lower tier titles.

While people might say that the current market can support that many A-list titles, which is true for now, it is clearly cutting away at everything else. People are going to buy the big, familiar titles before everything else and when all of their budget is taken by those titles, it's not surprising that everything else is having a hard time.

Of course, you could counter with the fact that Marvel are offering more variety to their readers but five Avengers titles and six Batman titles isn't variety - it's nothing more than a palette swap. Many of the titles are going to be extremely similar in nature given that they are all not only using the same characters but books that are too different don't sell well, and many end up canceled, so most of the differences are going to be on based on quality, not subject matter.

CONCLUSION

A market that can support titles like Atlas, Young Allies and Hawkeye & Mockingbird is going to be more diverse than one that doesn't but has four Wolverine titles and three Green Lantern titles, even if you are just talking about superhero comics and ignoring everything else. For their lower tier titles to thrive, much less survive, in the current market Marvel need to trim back the massive number of A-list titles they offer so people can afford to check out all of their other offerings.


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30 comments:

ArtfulDodger said...

I think it would be interesting to see the correlation, if any, between sales of singles, and the trade collections that collect them.

Anonymous said...

Are those trade sales numbers from Diamond? Don't forget that trades are available from many other places, like e.g. Amazon (where I and many others get our trades).

Those number are _not_ included in the Diamond sales guesstimates.

Bookscan can perhaps help:
http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=24818

Anonymous said...

About oversaturation. Don't forget that Marvel and DC - as well as the others - competes about the money of rather small audience.

So it makes sense for them to publish more (attractive) A-list titles. Maybe if Marvel (or DC) had a monopoly they could afford to hold back on the A-list titles in order to give the niche titles more breathing room. But that is not currently the case.

Aaron K said...

@Eric - I think your oversaturation analysis is astute, though I think your word choice is clearly misleading. As you state, the market clearly can and is supporting a number of "A-List" titles. Until we see titles like "Secret Avengers", "Avengers Academy", or "Deadpool" failing to draw in respectable sales, I think any talk of oversaturation of A-List titles is premature. Oversaturation of ALL titles may be a more legitimate criticism.

I think the choice to market a book as an "ongoing title" affects potential readers in complicated ways. For those who are fans of the characters/concept, it's a boon: it signals Marvel's commitment to something you love. To those who are uncertain of the characters/concepts, it signals that this would potentially be a large monetary commitment for something with uncertain worth. By contrast, mini-series present substantially less danger to the uncertain crowd, allowing them to try out a title since they already know "when the story ends", e.g., in four issues.

Personally, I would be more willing to pick up a four-issue Hank Pym miniseries than I would to pick up the first four issues of a Hank Pym ongoing. The first is a guaranteed to be contained story; the latter is not.

Michael said...

As a fan of Atlas, I was REALLY annoyed that the first issue was a dollar more ($3.99) for what was basically extra pages of advertising. What a way to chase away potential buyers, especially when subsequent issues have been priced at $2.99 each.

Someone at Marvel really dropped the ball on this one.

Skydog said...

Good article. Oversaturation is key. We all know that Hollywood has exhausted its creative mindset and now rely's on the comic world. What can be said of the comic world if all its creativity ecretes to major titles? For example, I was excited to hear about Dynamite coming out with the Green Hornet title. Now, within 6 mos, you have Green Hornet; Green Hornet year one; Green Hornet Strikes; Green Hornet Parallel Lives; Kato; Kato Origins. On top of this, you have like six different variant covers with each book. Beyond overkill. I collected Kevin Smith's Green Hornet and Green Hornet year one until about the 4th issue of each. My local shoppe was adding new stuff to my pull list each week. My raction to this ingurgitation was to drop the book entirely.

Anonymous said...

I think you are right and I also think this is a disturbing trend. It seems like the big 2 are purposely over-saturating the market. Like avengers? Well here are 10 avengers titles. No need to buy any books besides avengers. Same goes for Wolverine, Deadpool, etc. They will give you so many books in one family of characters there is no need or financial ability for a reader to look outside that family.

So who loses in that strategy?
The small publishers. If the big 2 can get me to spend my budget on their books then I may have none left over to spend on smaller publishers - eventually killing them.

The big 2 also loose. Because they over-saturate the market with A-list character books - they are completely loosing the chance to develop new characters, new worlds, new IP.

Scott Roberts said...

Oversaturation is the explanation that makes the most sense to me. When so many issues of Avengers, GL, Batman, X-men and Amazing Spider-man are coming out each month, a reader's budget has limited flexibility. The ability to check out a new series or stick with new comic for an entire story arc is financially difficult. If Marvel and DC truly want to establish the viablility of certain characters and create new characters, they both need to cut down the number of titles that are related to a single character or team. This may cause a short-term financial hit but it will pay off big in the long run.

Anonymous said...

I also think oversaturation is the easiest explanation for this. I doubt that it will change much, though, because having nth number of Avengers, X-Men, Batman, etc. titles seems to pay off financially. New characters don't get developed, at least not outside of supporting roles in A-list titles, but as long as the old titles sell, I don't see DC or Marvel changing tactics. The point for them is to have high sales. We can blame them for oversaturation, but the public is the one sustaining the demand.

Eric Rupe said...

ArtfulDodger - I don't think you'd really come up with weak correlations other than "popular stuff sells" and "critically acclaimed stuff sells better in trades than singles."

Anon2 - I've looked at those numbers but Marvel doesn't do well in the bookstore market and while DC does, most of their high sellers are either decades old or from Vertigo or both.

Aaron K - I agree that the A-list titles are fine for now but their oversaturation is effecting everything else, hence the inability of Marvel to launch any new series that lasts more than a year.

I think you might be onto to something with the ongoing vs. mini idea but I think that all of Marvel's minis are $4 right now is probably taking away any advantages they would have otherwise.

Aaron K said...

@Eric - If the A-lists are fine, they aren't oversaturated, pretty much by definition. If anything, the market is oversaturated with B- and C-list titles, or with mini-series.

I've long thought the $3 vs. $4 distinction was making a mountain out of a mole hill, so I looked at the numbers for Marvel's October solicits on CBR and it's pretty striking. (Consider everything +/- 1 for potential human error.)

$3 ongoing series: 25 (59.5% of ongoings) (though ASM $647 is $5)
$3.50 ongoing series: 1 (2.4%) (Why, "Incognito: Bad Influences"? Why?)
$4 ongoing series: 16 (38.1%)

$3 mini-series/1-shots: 2 (4.5% of minis) ("Superior" & "Avengers & the Infinity Gauntlet")
$4 mini-series/1-shots: 36 (81.8%)
$5 mini-series/1-shots: 4 (9.1%)
$6 mini-series/1-shots: 2 (4.5%)

These numbers include everything: mainstream titles, all-ages titles, literary adaptations, etc. But, of all those titles, 68.6% are $4 or more. Even for ongoings, $4 is rapidly becoming the norm, with titles like "Thor" and the re-launched "Wolverine" making the change midstream, while the loss of $3 "Mighty Avengers" is replaced by $4 "Avengers" and "Secret Avengers". It is fair to say that the norm for a Marvel comic is $4 now. We should adjust our expectations accordingly.

Also, "Namor: The First Mutant" is a $3 ongoing that should probably be added to the list of titles not likely to see issue #10. I love Namor, but he has historically had even less success than Dr. Strange in maintaining an ongoing series.

Jer said...

But what incentive does Marvel have if they can make more money from 4 Wolverine titles than they can from 1 Wolverine title and 3 other riskier titles?

None. So your formula is off. The correct answer is that if you want a more diverse market for superhero comics you need to change your buying habits and stop buying 4 different Wolverine titles every month, and instead pick up 1 Wolverine title and take a chance on 3 other titles. And then encourage your friends to do likewise. And have them encourage their friends and so on.

Marvel and DC are going to do what they think sells. Right now what they think sells are established brands with big name creators. And the reason they think that's what sells is because that's actually what sells. Yeah it sucks for those of us who like quirky titles and aren't big on 3 different Green Lantern titles every month, but it's the downward spiral the big two have been involved in since the market imploded in the 90s.

Rick Sand said...

Great article, Eric. I think you definitely have an effective means of judging likely cancellations through comparative sales data of past cancellations and current books.

As far as over-saturation, I agree with you that they milk the money-makers. There is no need for four Wolverine or Deadpool comics. If that's what people want to buy though, you can't blame Marvel for meeting their demand.

You also have to keep in mind that Deadpool was not once the superstar he is today, as you pointed out. Sure he was popular enough to stay in print in one form or another, but never at the level of success of four monthlies and an appearance on 98.2% of all Marvel variant covers (barely an exaggeration). Over-saturation? I'd say so. Appealing? Not to me. Yet people keep eating it up.

Aaron commented about the value of a mini-series, how he would rather purchase a finite story than an ongoing with Hank Pym. Mini-series are often the trial for B-list characters or lower. Look at Sean McKeever's Mary Jane mini-series. Mary Jane isn't exactly A-list material. She's a supporting cast member not everyone is excited to even have around. Yet, it was successful enough to get a sequel and then it's own monthly that lasted 20 issues before McKeever left for DC.

You commented on Young Allies not having any big names on the team. Yet books like Runaways, Walking Dead, and essentially anything published by Vertigo (Fables, Preacher, Air, 100 Bullets, etc) are all books with new characters no one had ever seen before, yet still find great success.

Grimm Fairy Tales is a successful comic from an independent publisher that doesn't even offer a deep story or big name creators.

It really comes down to quality. Any B-List or lower character can ascend the ranks. Just look at Daredevil before the Kevin Smith/Joe Quesada reboot. Now he's the star of Marvel's big summer event. Would you ever have expected to see a Losers movie? An excellent Vertigo revamp launched them up the ranks. Simone's Secret Six is not much different than the B/C-List line-up seen in Young Allies and is successful.

Bucky had been deceased for over 50 years. It can be assured enough people weren't familiar with the character. Yet when he stepped into the shoes of Captain America at the talented hands of Ed Brubaker, many people actually preferred Bucky as Cap over Steve.

I'm not saying people don't ignore B-list titles because they are already buying too many A-listers. If a comic is truly high-quality though, people will find an extra $3 a month.

Anonymous said...

First of all, this is a great article and overall analysis. I hope to see more of this type of analysis in the future. Second, I that titles that have the world already "built" will succeed and the ones that have no world will fail. World-building, mythology, whatever you want to call it plays a big part of why certain titles succeed in that the fans have already said, you know I want to know more about this character or that group. Where as the titles that are starting fresh with no real world built around them have a harder time being accepted. I don't know about certain teams or am interested in them to by them.
As for particular titles, I think Black Widow's story is suffering from this to some degree in that the story doe not dig into familiar elements of what we know about her, rather they are taking it into new "history". I think if they would have brought in existing history, she would have a better buy in from fans. The Wolverine family I think will do well because there is a "world" that is built around them in a way that the writers will be able to pull from existing history and storylines that will add to the narrative of the characters.
My opinions are based on basic Joseph Campbell 101. There has to something familiar for fans to dig into before it goes into it's own direction.
I think a further analysis on the costs of comics is long overdue. It seems like it has been exponential relative to the earlier days of comics. I honestly can't believe they are priced as they are. Both Marvel and DC are shooting themselves in the foot with the price of both tangible (print) and intangible (digital/app) comics. At least with the print comics, the price can reflect a future value as collector's items whereas digital comics cost too much with absolutely no future value relative to the price point. I applaud Marvel ( to a lesser extent to Dc as they are late to the game) in bringing comics to a new audience via the iPhone, but the prices are ridiculous for little value beyond convenience. Hopefully they will realize the cost of actual books equate better than the prices they set for digital comics. Or they may realize this already and are afraid that there market share of print comics will drop if they make the price of digital comics lower. However that is a mistake as there is a significant base that is aware of the value of print comics. If anything comics are one of the few print forms that has the opportunity to survive the digital age because of the invested value of existing comics. I truly hope that they reconsider the price points and let them stabilize. Otherwise they won't make the kind of revenue they are banking on right now.

TimD said...

This is why I wish there were more anthology books to test the waters for characters, teams, writers/artists.

With DC I'd prefer if Adventure Comics were a Superboy/Atom/Aquaman type thing (insert whatever you want).

With Marvel, maybe bring back 'Marvel Premiere' and run some Atlas stories or more Young Allies before launching a series.

Trade waiters would have to wait for collections of course, but it just seems like the easiest/logical choice.

James said...

Eric, once again, your poor articles astound me. You make grand assumptions and conclusions that prove how ill informed you are.

I don't want to read a dozen smaller stories about nothing characters. I want five different X-Men books, and I would read a dozen Avengers each month. Marvel is giving me exactly what I demand, and thank them for it. As long as it is selling why shouldn't they.

If there were more whiny people that wanted offbeat comics, the sales for those would be higher. Marvel gives them a try, but you all fail to provide the proper response, so they cancel them to make way for another Spiderman book that the rest of us appreciate and will gladly purchase.

Again, poorly done.

Kirk Warren said...

@James - I'm not sure how anything you said makes this a poor article. Eric doesn't make grand assumptions or conclusions like you just did implying people don't want these books, despite the great outpouring and cries for more of them or lamenting of their cancellations. Eric provided sales data, drew on past history and came to a conclusion based on that.

You like X-titles and state you will buy anything if it has an X in the title, regardless of quality. You then say all these other titles you read are no good. I'm not sure how you can make such baseless claims. You could have easily said your piece on why you buy certain books and people would have taken it into consideration, but now fewer people will take you seriously or bother listening to what you have to say due to the internet tough guy routine.

As for sales, retailers and marketing from Marvel (and DC for that matter) cause the sales to be so low. Before a single preview page was released of SWORD, retailers had to have their entire order for the first 2-3 issues into Diamond. That's before a single person read the issue or saw preview pages and the only thing they had to go by was the relatively unknown, at the time, Kieron Gillen and Steve Sanders as the creative team and the retailer would have to have kept up to date with the small announcemetn of the book at a con during the X-Panels. It's a new title property, it wasn't attached to an event, the last mention of SWORD was like 2 years ago as a bit piece in Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men and there was very little demand for a series about it at the time (maybe back when Whedon was still writing X-Men, this could have did well, but not several years later).

So, in the end, SWORD was cancelled before a single person read the book or had the opportunity to even check it out on the rack. How, exactly, do you correlate that bit of logic to people not wanting the book, despite just about everyone that read it (or othersl ike it) wishing they'd do more books like it?

Matt Duarte said...

I just assumed James comment was completely tongue in cheek.

Aaron K said...

If James' comments were tongue-in-cheek, I didn't pick up on that at all. And I was named Most Sarcastic of my senior class in high school, so it's an area I have some familiarity with.

At the end of the day though, James is right about one thing: the general comic-buying public prefer Avengers books over books like S.W.O.R.D., Nova, GotG, Agents of Atlas, or even Spider-Woman. There is little motivation - from a sales perspective - for producing titles outside the box.

I think what is commendable about Marvel is that, despite this lack of incentive, Marvel continues to do so. The fact that we get so many miniseries or short-lived ongoings with B- and C-list characters signals to me that the creators at Marvel often want to work with the lesser-known properties and are committed to raising their profiles, despite the sales difficulties. It's not Marvel's fault that we don't have a S.W.O.R.D. ongoing; they tried and produced a really fun book. It's the fault of persons who don't want to read a S.W.O.R.D. book at all.

James said...

My comment wasn't entirely sarcastic, but was intentionally over the top. My main point was that more people buy the more mainstream titles. Marvel and DC respond to this by producing more mainstream books. The lesser titles don't sell as well, but Marvel continues to try them out. They rightly cancel them when they aren't selling enough. Based of this, I would have to infer that more people want the mainstream books than the loud vocal minority that wants the lesser titles, and therefore your ideas are, at least partially, incorrect.

Flip The Page said...

Young Allies isn't cancelled yet, and to its strength over a lot of the other series on the chopping block it sold out, beating the low order expectations with a reprint that was... last week? I doubt that that means much in the long run, but it inspires enough confidence in it to continue for at least another arc.

And Marvel aren't entirely off the supporting smaller things wagon yet. Just take a look at the frankly pitiful sales for Heralds, then notice it's getting an oversized HC. that's no small thing.

... So yeah I haven't read the whole article or I'd have more to contribute, but from what I got to before deciding to comment it seems you're on the money with frank reality and stuff, as you're well known for Eric.

Bill said...

I have to agree, more or less, with James. I would love to live in a world where the Twilight books were never popular enough to be made into movies, Arrested Development and Firefly had long runs as the most popular TV series, movie audiences recognized 3D as a pointless gimmick, and Atomic Robo and Chew were the most popular comics, but that is not the world we live in.

I don't know who these people are, but there are more Twilight/Two-and-a-Half-Men/anything-in-3D/eleventy-Wolverine-books-a-month people out there than there are people like me. Otherwise, there wouldn't be so much money in making the stuff.

Anonymous said...

good riddance to every one of those titles. Heroic Age wrecked marvels line. I hope they go bankrupt

Steven said...

I would say that the constantly rising price of comics (they've doubled now every 10 years since 1980) is the prime culprit in the plummeting sales.

But then I look at Archie comics, their highest selling books, things like Sonic, average around 5k a month in sales, while the bulk of their line, Archie, Jughead, etc, do just under 2k a month. While the digests seem to do between 3-4k. And these books all tend to have a bit fewer advertising pages per issue than the average DC/Marvel book.

Now taking all of that into account. How have they managed to continuously publish most of these titles for decades at such low sales figures and remain a viable operation. Sure they also distribute through other channels, particularly the digests. But that is not going to boost their actual sales several multiples of the Diamond figures.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with this article. That is all.

Ok not really. Look, I love deadpool. He's great, He's comic book bacon lately... toss him on something and its a little more delicious. But the fact his theres just too damn much. I agree with him in X-Force. Thats a good choice but Deadpool Corps is less than necessary...

And with Green Lantern. I love Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps. But Guy didnt need his own series. Really. Love Guy but I dont have extra cash to love him with.

Frankly, Im an Image man. Independant, creator owned comics are probly my favorite titles. Over saturation happens. Just look away. Go pick up some book youve never heard of and hope the mass amounts of X, Avengers, Wolverine, Batman, What Have You just slim down.

Basically my comment is read something else and wait for the other books to die. (they probly wont die, but hell youll be reading something new.)

Paul the Vulture said...

I agree with you totally. So many A-Market titles never give B & C guys/gals a chance.

I think Hawkeye & Mockingbird may go the way of Green Arrow & Black Canary.

Give a launch at least a year's worth of issues before cancellation talk, and Marvel/DC might find another Punisher or Green Arrow that can hold it's own at the lower end of the sales spectrum.

Anonymous said...

I liked this article. You present some interesting theories as to the cancellation of titles. As to specific titles getting cancelled and why I'd hope Marvel would practice patience along with wisdom and discernment.
Maybe some of these titles should have miniseries before they jumped to full time status (like Brother Voodoo and S.W.O.R.D). Atlas doesn't need to be cancelled just given a little time to create a bit more of a fan base.
Hawkeye/Mockingbird should push forward, there is enough of a fan base if Marvel is willing to understand that the book may not sell 40,000 units. When they were featured in Solo Avengers that series ran several years.
I could go on but will stop with this thought... I'd rather read Atlas than another X book. Too much of a good thing is good at all.

Anonymous said...

My last comment should read, "Too much of a good thing is not good at all." Apologies.

ms said...

Good work iding the Avengers related titles with low sales. Brevoort has already gone on record at formspring saying Hawkeye and Black Widow are indeed on the low side of things but there is a crossover coming next year centering around Ronin (yes, again). It could save the titles with a temp sales spike but if it dips again, both are gone.

T-Bolts is another Jeff Parker authored book getting low sales. Naturally they're doing another crossover Vs. Avengers (like he had for Atlas last year and still couldn't save it). Parker needs gimmicks to survive and his ability to gain new projects with all the recently cancelled books is very confusing (new upcoming Hulk run).

For the new books we got three relaunches (Wolverine, Uncanny X-Force, X-Men Volume 3) and 3 brand new titles - Daken: Dark Wolverine), Wolverine: Best there Is and X-23. Two of those books written by Marjorie Liu who was experiencing dropping sales with Dark Wolverine after Daken took over the old Wolverine monthly book. X-23 is being written by her, but the character is also a bit more popular with audiences than some other 2nd tier X-Men and it could last awhile. Overall 6 X-related books is a lot while the other families couldn't nearly as many. X-Men #1 debuted at No. 1, but just for the first month. If it manages to hold readers with a less than subpar arc in vs. Vampires, Marvel could relaunch more X-related titles in the near future (New Mutants, X-Men Legacy being obvious choices).

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