So I saw a the story flying around in my news feed, and just had to shake my head. Marvel blaming their move to more diversity for decreased comics sales? Here’s a great write up (with lots of sales numbers) on the question:
I had to stop and remember that I’m certainly someone who stopped buying comics, so maybe I have some things to weigh in… reading that article actually just gave me more to think on.
The big thing was that Marvel has been seeing sales drops ever since Secret Wars – which was when I stopped reading new Marvel comics. I think Jonathan Hickman did an amazing job of killing off the Marvel universe, and I’m okay with the thought that the universe is done and I’m good with it. I plan on still reading some older comics still via Marvel Unlimited (which seems like another thing that must be chipping away at physical comics sales), but I’m not feeling much interest in checking out any of the All New All Different Marvel Universe.
Man, I set up multiple segues there. Let’s see…
All New All Different Marvel? Yeah, lots of new ideas out there, and I have to agree with the article I shared – they were throwing things at the wall to see what stuck. Lots of titles started and stopped. And I know I haven’t been following them, so whatever. And it seems plenty of other people haven’t been either, given the big sales drop.
But the universe died, the storylines changed, what characters were where doing what changed… and it’s entirely plausible that those new configurations just haven’t drawn people in. Or, they’re going to take time to draw people in – time that they’re not being given by being canceled. Rebooting everything is kind of like starting over, and at the start you have to draw people in and stick it out. Except that they were doing new things with known characters, so you’re both having to start fresh and carry in all of the baggage of 50+ years. You know, the true point of a reboot is to cut loose baggage…
Physical comics? Man, who knew that was still a thing. I mean, probably people who live in a place where there’s even a single comic store… We have a trade paperback store. Which is another thing that takes away from the sales of individual comics – the knowledge that all of these things are going to come out in trade paperbacks, and that you can wait for that time, for a more survivable and shelve-able material. I mean, I just was going through my old box of comics and had a lot of feels, but the trade paperbacks have been living on a shelf in the living room.
And beyond physical comics and trades, there’s digital. I don’t know how much that’s taken into account for a conversation like this, and I don’t know how well digital does versus physical. I know that when I went crazy buying comics, it was with digital. I had to reel myself way back in, which again had me back towards the trades (or their digital equivalent). There are so many options for how to buy comics, and with so many titles out there, buying things in a set is really nice. Digital is actually a really nice way to own comics, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.
Oh right, diversity. Yeah, all of that before saying much of anything about diversity. Because I feel like sure, maybe that’s a factor – and maybe especially a factor among the more “traditional” comics buying crowd. Because if I were to try to determine who is buying physical individual weekly comics, the main folks seem like people who have been doing it for years. They’re following a character, or a creator, or you know, a lot of characters and creators. They may not be picking up something new. They seem to clearly have been hit by Secret Wars – as the article said.
The article also said that all those title changes mess with people who are buying their comics at a comics store, where you set up subscriptions or pull lists. They mess with your existing “traditional” buyers. Meanwhile, as the numbers presented for some of the trade paperbacks versus individual comics seem to show, I think some of the new readers being brought in – or the sales support coming from book fairs and librarians – are in trade paperbacks. Or other formats. And when people are waiting to buy a trade, and you’re cancelling the series within the timespan of the first two trades, there’s no time for people to show their support.
Anyway, I don’t know. The article is right – there’s a whole lot of factors at play. You could dive back in to the X-Men conspiracies. I’m sure there’s data they’re tracking about whether it seems like the movies are bringing in truly new comics readers – or maybe just old hats like me. Or maybe no one.
Which could be a part of where all of this ends up going – will these huge movie franchises end up killing off the comics industry that spawned them? Or at least the base universes they come from, the Marvel and DC universes. Will some other new universe rise up and be the new one to read – maybe something like Valiant? Time will tell. What do you think?