Does Marvel Now! Cause Sales To Go Down?

We all know that rebooting a series or creating a “new jumping on point” causes sales to increase, albeit in some cases temporarily, but I often wonder what this does to the sales of a title before the relaunch. Comic books are somewhat unique in that we are able to look into the future and see what will be coming out in a few months. This does have a potential negative effect of changing our purchasing pattens now because of a product being released later.

For example, I had been on the fence the last couple of months about Captain America, Thor, and Action Comics. They are written and drawn by excellent creative teams, but I feel that they are just okay. Not bad books, but not as great as they have been in the past. The announcement of Marvel Now! and Brubaker and Morrison leaving superhero books basically gave me another potential reason to drop the titles.

Comic book fans generally love to collect things; it is one of the reasons we got into the hobby in the first place, so believe you me it takes a lot for someone to drop a book. Thor is currently quite solid. I loved the shattered heroes story with Ulik and the Mares are a great new addition to Thor’s roster of villains, but the announcement of an 8 part crossover with Journey Into Mystery that results in the cancellation of the Thor title made up my mind for me and I dropped the book.

As I said earlier Captain America is a good title, but Brubaker is a great writer. I pick up both Cap and Winter Soldier but the latter is such a gem in the Marvel lineup (currently tied with Secret Avengers for the best they offer) that I found Captain America lacking. So I was on the fence and then Brubaker announces he is leaving Captain America (but thankfully staying on Winter Soldier) and once again my mind was made up and I’ve dropped the title.

Action Comics is fully the craziest flagship book DC has ever done. It takes place before the rest of the books so Grant Morrison gets to do whatever wacky stories he wants as long as it ends up looking like the current issue of JLA and Superman. It is weird, solidly written, but at times doesn’t really feel like Superman. Each issue makes me wonder if I should drop it but each is so guano-crazy that I decide to stay month after month, but that will end once Morrison is off the book.

The real issue is that companies want to keep stories a surprise for sales reasons but then need to blow the ending for stories to promote the next big thing. Flashpoint ended with the new 52 and Avengers Vs X-Men is going to end with the Uncanny Avengers. AVX is the current sales leader in comics books, but will sales drop now that readers know how it ends? From all reviews AVX isn’t a great story, so if you reveal the ending I feel that you’re going to lose some sales.

Now, I’m sure that Marvel and DC each have a team of statisticians working around the clock to determine the release schedule of books to ensure optimal sales, thus the increase in new sales for a new #1 must outweigh the loss of sales before the relaunch, but what about those readers who drop a title and then don’t pick up the new #1? Shenanigans have lost those readers.

The ever-relaunching nature of mainstream superhero books seems to be the norm but I feel that there must be a better way. I have a few ideas that I’ll share with you in another column. In the meantime, these were my musings.

Anthony Falcone Written by:

Anthony Falcone is a freelance writer living in Toronto and he is the Ayatollah of Rocknrolla. You should definitely follow him on Twitter.

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5 Comments

  1. Marc
    July 31, 2012

    “Now, I’m sure that Marvel and DC each have a team of statisticians working around the clock to determine the release schedule of books to ensure optimal sales, ”

    This gets a big fat LOL from this retailer, at least as far as Marvel is concerned. I’m pretty sure it’s just as likely they consult Nostradamus.

    Also:

    “We all know that rebooting a series or creating a “new jumping on point” causes sales to increase, albeit in some cases temporarily,”

    That should read in ALL cases. Every reboot eventually ends up at or below the sales numbers of its parent title. Seriously. Every. Single. One.That’s why they keep rebooting! Usually it only takes 6 months or so. Sometimes it takes over a year. But it happens every time.

  2. July 31, 2012

    I like to think that Marvel uses some sort of data analysis in looking at sales trends. It is possible that they don’t, or it may at times seem as if they don’t, but I would be surprised if they made every decision from a total lack of empirical data.

    And yes, I debated about stating ALL cases, but as I didn’t have data on every reboot (just a gut feeling) I thought it best to err on the side of caution.

    Malibu Stacy has a new hat.

  3. Charlie
    August 2, 2012

    Last year I was digging around for some stats on the comic market… I was digging and digging till I finally stumbled across a blog where a DC insider had posted their research findings. It was pretty detailed… DC had segmented their audience demographically by age, region and gender.

    Reboots slide because that’s the just the nature of things. No matter how good something is, nothing lasts forever. You can pretty much make same parallel for anything and everything in the world…

    Rebooting a comic is no different then Procter & Gamble rebranding their products.

    “NOW WITH WHITENING CRYSTALS” or

    “QUADRUPLE SHAVING ACTION of the MACH 3 shaver”

    These are all same claims that comic reboots make, which is that they are all..

    “NEW & IMPROVED”

    Studies show that sales do jump, dramatically in some cases, when a product is repackaged which is why so many products are being rebranded.

    However, every rebrand eventually ends up at or below the sales numbers of it’s parent product. Seriously. Every. Single. One.

    All those mall stores with rotating sales, the cheap products in the aisles of Walmart, strategic naming, colour selection, vocabulary or writing style, sounds and even scents are all a result of expensive research. So, does Marvel use some sort of data analysis and look at sales trends? You bet they do!

    Marc, as a retailer… are you telling us you don’t know this? Can you count how many reboots Tide detergent has had… cause I’ve lost count.

  4. Marc
    August 3, 2012

    Here’s the problem anytime someone starts talking about comics sales numbers:

    They don’t exist.

    You get data on sell in to retailers. You get zero, zilch, and bubkiss on sell through to consumers. There is no sales data for Marvel to look at ergo Marvel doesn’t look at sales data.

    Avengers vs X-Men was the top selling book last month at 180k. I can give you the names of a dozen retailers that were offering to wholesale copies for $1 each a week before the release date and no one is biting.

    I disputed the claim of Anthony’s that Marvel uses data “to determine the *release schedule* of books to ensure optimal sales”.

    Marvel shipped Wolverine #310 before #309
    Marvel frequently ships unevenly, with little product at the beginning of the month and a deluge at the end.
    Marvel will frequently ship all titles in a particular family in the same week.

    I could go on and on. I can tell you empirically that these practices result in poor sell through at the retail level.

    Finally, WTF does Tide have to do with comics? Do you know people who collect Tide on a weekly basis? Haven’t you ever heard someone tell you a reboot was just as good a jumping off point as a jumping on point? Because I have about a hundred times.

    And is your postulation really that because Tide does it Marvel must too? Because they are… both large companies? That’s asinine.

  5. Charlie
    August 4, 2012

    My postulation is that reboots happen because like Tide, the “new & improved” promise is a very traditional form of marketing that is cyclical.

    I think what you are talking about is the other side of the coin, which is how the data gets interpreted. There is also a third side which is the actual execution, ie:

    Information > Plan > Execute

    I’m not privy to Marvel’s data or strategy but I have no doubt that Marvel has one… However, whether they do it well is another story. It could also be that loses are part of their plan for accounting purposes, especially now that they are part of Disney. Think of celebs who own restaurants… It may be more beneficial for Disney to have something to write off against. As you know, comics don’t register in the Disney/Time Warner empire… Now that they own the licenses, what value does print serve other than to simply support their properties.

    In any case, I tend to agree with you on this point cause I feel the same way. For example… I’m always reading or hearing from industry people how comic sales are up, how the movies are generating new interest in comics, con attendance increases every year… therefore, the conclusion they come to is that more and more people must be reading comics! Yes, I’m sure life is grand for some people… and yet, if you stick your head out the window, you realize that the sun doesn’t shine everywhere. Like Fox News, they’re bending information.

    If you speak to illustrators and writers, paper mills, paper distributors, printers, other retailers… if you watch eBay and look at social trends and follow unemployment stats and watch the S&P zig zag sideways… All this paints a different picture. Not necessarily one of doom and gloom, but simply that the world is changing.

    I thought this might interest you… Is this the Billy Wright of Baseball cards?

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/02/honus-wagner-ty-cobb-baseball-cards_n_1735636.html

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