|Image taken from Mayo Report|
The sales spike doesn’t last forever. Truthfully, it rarely lasts past that month, with residual sales normally dropping back within 1-4 months. Then it’s back to square one. Unless you have someone die all the time, surely that will keep sales peaked, right?
I would think, however, if there’s always someone dying then people will start to care less and less. Cap’s death sold hundreds of thousands, the FF death only scraped the series above one hundred thousand. It’s a law of diminishing returns. Over-killing this type of plot point will more likely push the current readership away as it lessens the value of serious storytelling, and those it draws in rarely seem to stay – if the numbers are indication.
It should be mentioned that other great sales spike gimmicks are the anniversary issue, you collect all the issues that have come prior and you add them up to find a special centenary issue for your character. Is it cheating? A little, yeah, but those #x00 issues usually sell well and they’ve also usually got some pretty neat content in them as well. There is also the relaunch number 1 issue. Everyone likes to feel they’re in on the ground floor, and a number 1 comic must be collectible, right?
It’s been said before but the only way to draw in bigger numbers is to tell better stories. It’s true, the better the stock you put on the shelves then the more people will buy it. It’s not about collectability value, it’s about quality value. But, and I am acutely aware of this, Marvel already put out some very high quality material. It’s out there but it isn’t always accessible. Here’s my problem, and my suggested solution. Marvel could read the following and try it for one year, see what happens.
If a reader doesn’t get in on the ground floor of a run that’s going to soak up years then maybe they just trade wait it. There’s nothing worse than wanting to pick up the single issue but knowing it will only offer complete enjoyment if supported by the prior five trades. People will skip that, there’s very few who will just grab everything right there and then. If someone does grab the trade then they’ll most likely want to keep going in trade so as not to break up their run between shelves and longboxes.
Others might not want to buy in on the start because they know the pay off will come years later and they just don’t have the patience. And some might jump on but then find a convenient jumping off point if there’s a lull in the story and once that happens people rarely buy back in.
To set one thing straight, I think these long form tales are great. It’s really cool to see creators afforded the time and comfort to spread a masterful tale out in great detail. These runs are critically acclaimed for a reason – but they also aren’t selling for a reason.
You’ll notice that Fantastic Four sold well on the death but they also had a spike a fair few issues earlier. This was when Hickman came on board. A new creative team is probably the fourth most common reason for a spike. People want to dip a toe and see if the hype is worthy. As is also usual, these sales spikes dip back down to the average sales number, or, if the new team isn’t cutting the grade, below the standard sales bar.
Which all begs the question:
Why aren’t Marvel looking to change creative teams more often?
Writers are currently spending their time seeding plot threads to tie together come 2012 but sometimes all you need is a few issues. Get in and get out. Dominate the story, keep it tight, don’t decompress, and leave before sales even get the chance to slump. Then the next creative team comes on, you get a spike, mild dip, right into another spike as another creative team comes on. If someone doesn’t like one creative team then they wait 3 months and hop back on. But with change will come the mind set that the buyers can experiment. They might try new things because they only need invest 3 issues worth to see if they like it. Comic arcs need to be shorter.
Not every great idea needs to take years to come to fruition. Sometimes you get lightning in a bottle and then you can be done. If creative teams are shuffling at least once a year then you’re bound to get a great creator on your favourite character eventually.
I think the constant sales spikes provided by new creative teams, and maybe creative directions as well, coupled with the fact these creators need to bring their A games at all times means we’ll get better stories, and if we don’t then the creator moves on and someone else comes on board who can bring the thunder.
I would be interested to see this method tried, even just for one year, and see if sales are positively impacted. At this stage of the race, some creative thinking needs to be employed to boost sales with a lasting and sustainable impact. Gimmick deaths will only last so long, the logical progression is back to variant embossed covers and we all know how that ended last time.
At least with varied creative teams, and they can have more than 3 issues but probably no more than 12 I would say, the emphasis is on good stories. That’s where the effort should always be made, shouldn’t it? I can't guarantee this theory will work but what we've got isn't working, and I'm sure killing characters for giggles isn't going to show any onward and upward data trends appearing.
Deaths, anniversaries, and relaunches will spike sales but have no guarantee to hold the audience. Marvel needs to look at the big game and know that only good stories will boost sales with meaning. They have good stories now but they’re not getting into people’s hands so perhaps that needs to be looked at. If the stories are shorter, easier to jump onto, and out of, and every creator is trying to strike a great moment with every panel and page then you breed a competitive environment that will benefit the reading audience and then they will vote with their wallets.
All I want to see is sales rising and good stories getting into more hands. This is how I see it happening. Spread the word.