Marvel are lightweights

I’d like to talk about the past year at DC comics, If I may.  I’d like to open the door on how we think it’s all gone, a year on?
With the luxury of hindsight.

It’s been a full year since DC’s New 52 rebooted titles and if you’re Marvel, you’ve basically just seen what might happen of you draw a clean line under all — or almost all — of your books and characters and started again from scratch.   If I were Marvel, I’d be interested in executing a similar plan, surely?   My core fan-group will apparently maintain their support and I’ll also open the door for thousands of new readers to ‘jump on’.

My characters will be celebrated in their purest, cleanest form and they’ll look fresher than ever, visually.


I can only imagine the big cheeses at Marvel making their final decision… “Ok so, let’s do it then, let’s reboot everything. We’ll call it Marvel Now and we’ll learn from DC’s mistakes.  But let’s keep our regular continuity/Ultimate universe etc, just in case.”

Come on Marvel, where’s the ballsy, boldness shown by your peers?  The New 52 was unprecedented.  It opened the door for global media to show a valid interest in comic books again.  It was exciting.  The creators were excited and it showed in the art and the story and the covers and the Cons.  Crowds around new books in local shops grew and it genuinely increased the interest in comics from both the hard-core nerds and civilians alike.

DC were falling behind Marvel in the cool stakes for a long time before 52.   They were gutsy and bold and they leveled the playing ground in one hit.   They changed the landscape of comics as a whole and they did it right before the biggest summer of superhero movies in cinematic history.

With hindsight, New 52 was genius in its execution and its timing.  It absolutely had to happen and I’m glad it did.  Not all the books were good though and there were some titles that were simply baffling in their selection, but it was pure creation either way.

Imagine the excitement that could be generated if marvel, drilled their universe down to the basics.  Core books with redesigned characters and original story by the best creators given carte blanche.

They haven’t got the minerals.

Danny Champion
Danny Champion

Danny Champion is a freelance writer and artist. Follow CandyAppleFox on Twitter.

Articles: 104


  1. Well for one thing, I feel a move like that would garner even more criticisms of copying a rival’s marketing tactic than they are already currently receiving with Marvel NOW.

    Secondly, I don’t think Marvel are in a position where they NEED to resort to a gimmick like this. Rebooting was a good “hail mary” for DC. Marvel are not, at the moment, a bonafide #2 where a risk like this makes sense.

    Third, while the DCU is no stranger to reboots, they are unprecedented at Marvel, where the stories of Stan, Jack, Chris Claremont, etc. are still often referenced.

    I feel also that the relative high-profile of their Ultimate Comics line alleviates much of the want for a reboot.

    Not saying that it won’t get to that point eventually, but I don’t feel the time for Marvel to reboot is “NOW.”

  2. But, do you want to remain static? Or do you want to compete? They’ve seen what works and they could learn from DC’s errors. Criticism will always play a part in things that people love, regardless. I don’t think the 52 can be clearly labelled as a ‘gimmick’, I think it definitely was a gimmick, but that’s not all it was. It was pushing all your chips into the centre of the table and trusting your hand completely at the exact and precise moment of having the best chance to work. Instead of being “#2” VS #1… DC and Marvel should communicate and synchronise a little bit, they should also work with the other publishers. They’re not really competition for each other in my eyes. Competition for these guys is Xbox and iPhone and Movies… all of which they can reach into but, can’t fully claim. The stories of Stan, Jack, Chris Claremont, etc were great, but they happened and now they’re finished. They’re not dead, you can still read them… but let’s make some new stuff to love? We did it once already, let’s do it again. Ultimates is just Marvel Now, with momentum.

    The time for Marvel to reboot may not be right this second and it may not be right for a while. The time WAS right last September though. Missed the boat.

  3. Comparing sales of DC superhero to Marvel superhero comics – excluding Vertigo, Icon, Before Watchmen and the non-superhero Marvel and DC books:

    DC books that sell really well — Batman, Batman and Robin (which sold considerably better when moved to the same week as Batman).

    Marvel books in the same bracket — Avengers vs. X-Men, AVX, New Avengers, Avengers, Spider-Men, Wolverine and the X-Men

    6 – 2 Marvel


    DC books that sell well (around 75% of the Batman numbers) – Batman Incorporated, Batman: Detective Comics, Batman: The Dark Knight, Justice League, Action Comics

    Marvel books in the same bracket — Captain America, Uncanny X-Men, Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, FF, Hawkeye, Daredevil, Winter Soldier, Secret Avengers

    9 – 5 Marvel


    DC books that are average sellers (around 50% of the Batman numbers) – Aquaman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Batgirl, Nightwing, Batwoman

    Marvel books in the same bracket – Invincible Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Hulk, Wolverine, New Mutants, X-Factor, Avengers Assemble, Captain Marvel,

    8 – 7 Marvel


    DC books that are below average sellers (10-50% of the Batman numbers) Animal Man, Swamp Thing, Justice League Dark, Justice League International, Superman, Teen Titans, Superboy, Supergirl, Red Hood and the Outsiders, Legion of Super-Heroes, Legion Lost, The Ravagers, Earth Two, World’s Finest, Superman Family Adventures.

    Marvel books that are in the same bracket: X-Men, X-Men Legacy, Wolverine, Gambit, Mighty Thor, Journey into Mystery, Dark Avengers, Avenging Spider-Man, Scarlet Spider, Ultimate Comics, Ultimates, Ultimate Comics Ultimate X-Men, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, X-Treme X-Men, Age of Apocalypse, Avengers Academy, Deadpool, First X-Men, Venom, Fury Max, Marvel Zombies

    22 – 15


    DC books that don’t sell (5-10% of Batman numbers): everything else plus Green Lantern Animated and Young Justice. That’s half the line barely generating less than a handful of copies sold per month. Many of them we sell only 1-2 copies per month of. Their numbers bolstered so that we can order 3 variants of Justice League, Batman, etc.

    Marvel books that are in the same bracket: Marvel Universe Ultimate Spider-Man, Marvel Universe Avengers, Untold Tales of Punisher Max.

    25 – 3


    This is not a bold move, this was a bad mistake. Almost half the superhero comics they publish are dead weight and have no audience. Who finds the new 52 cool? There are a number of DC titles we sell one copy of to the one customer that buys everything. How is that successful?

    DC needs another new 52 to save them or we’ll be revisiting the old 52 next summer, let’s hope it isn’t too late.

  4. Are you stats specifically for your store, because they don’t match up with . Aquaman’s outselling Wolverine and the X-Men and Batman and Robin is the 5th best selling Batman title. Captain Marvel’s around 22% of Batman and Hawkeye’s around 33% of Batman, no where near the 50% or 75% of Batman that you have. If those stats are for your store, then your store leans more Marvel than DC than the mean of average shops.

  5. So, if we times the amount of crap by the sheer force maths and science and then take away all the bits that matter.  We’ll end up with some numbers n stuff.  Where’d you get your stats? Is it just one store? What about the whole of north America? What about global sales? UK sales? European sales?  what about the next Watchmen movie? Flash movie? Justice League movie? Could they do any of that stuff without cleaning up the books first?  What about brand identity and rebuilding a franchise?  what about art over business and new readers vs same old same old?  What about the long game?  What about graphic novel sales in mainstream book shops? If you took a ‘new this week stand’ and put it in a mainstream book shop or record shop… what would sell the most? does anyone care? 

    Before 52, DC was Microsoft and Marvel was Apple… now what’s up?

    How’s Before Watchmen doing by the way?

  6. I can only go by what I see in my store. Aquaman sells about 1/2 of what Wolverine and the X-Men sells. Captain Marvel sells better than 1/2, while Hawkeye is currently at 75% of Batman numbers. It definitely leans more towards Marvel. Our customers are vocally unimpressed by DC.

  7. Majority of the line is still under performing, as far as I can see personally. Our customers are not interested in at least half of the books, they are dead for us, sales-wise. 20+ titles could be cancelled tomorrow and no one would bat an eyelash.

  8. I go by the sales I can measure in my store.

    On the whole, in North America, you can easily look at the stats that ICV2 prepares each month. Spend some time over at the Beat and take a look at the number crunching they do on the DC books.

    In the UK, is there a body that measures, just UK sales? Maybe Brits like Captain Atom and Blue Beetle. No one else does.

    Ditto Europe. Maybe they like Voodoo, Grifter and are the ones that are excited about Team 7.

    What next Watchmen movie? Is that a fan film? There’s no such thing.

    What about the Flash movie? How far along is that? If they are making a Flash movie, they better do something fast to bolster comic sales.

    Justice League movie. Lol. Animated? Won’t make a difference. Live action… not holding my breath on that one.

    Could they do any of that without cleaning up the books first – is that an actual question? Why do they need to “clean up” the book. Could they not just have the 7 core Justice League members rejoin? Worked pretty well in 1999 when Morrison did it. No reboots required.

    Brand identity? DC Comics owns many of the most recognizable brands in comics, and the monthlies have very little to do with that. At most, 100,000 people out of billions worldwide read DC’s new 52. The comics are nearly irrelevant when it comes to maintaining those brands. Lego Batman 2 did more to raise brand awareness.

    Rebuilding a franchise? No doubt Wonder Woman and Aquaman have successfully rebuilt the comics franchises, in that sales on books featuring those characters are higher. The rest, not really much better now than pre-new 52. Some are considerably worse.

    Art over business? Is that a joke? Do you know how slapdash and editorially controlled the new 52 is? It’s been a mess of replacement artists, changing writers, people hired and fired and transferred. A bloody mess with very little artistry. It’s about as artistic as a blunt hammer.

    New readers vs. old or the same? So old readers and a base of existing readers don’t matter? They should be tossed away and ignored to capture new readers? Did new 52 capture new readers? I don’t see that, I see lapsed readers came back out of curiousity, and most have long since moved on from the new 52. I agree that at the time it was announced, I had a number of people who no longer read comics asking about it, and some even went and bought some of the comics. They don’t ask anymore.

    What about long game? You have a company with 75 years of history behind it, where 75 years of pre-existing comics “no longer matter” to the world of the new 52, then there is no long game, it’s one hail mary pass to win the short game in the Diamond sweepstakes. In the long game, DC has already lost because they’ve made all of their older books irrelevant. Until September 2013 when it all comes back to the “old whatever number it was”.

    What about graphic novel sales in bookstores? One would have to look at bookscan numbers, but Earth One sold pretty well didn’t it? Probably outsold a lot of the new 52 collections that have been released to date.Can’t wait to read the bestseller tpb collection of “Mr. Terrific” and “OMAC”.

    What would sell the most in a mainstream bookstore? Good question. My money’s on the Avengers, Spider-Man, Walking Dead and Batman though.

    Before the new 52, Marvel was Marvel and DC was DC, now Marvel is still Marvel, but DC thinks it’s Marvel 1996-1997. “New 52” is just the old “Heroes Reborn” idea Harris and Lee 15 years ago, bumped up to a larger scale.

    Before Watchmen sales depend on the book, and I deliberately did not include the BW books in the analysis as that is being treated as a separate line, much in the same way that Vertigo is (best selling Vertigo book is Fables at about 30% of our Batman numbers). I ordered all the books equally at first – on par with the Batman level, with the exception or Rorschach, which I went heavy on.

    Minutemen sells because of Darwyn Cooke, as does Silk Spectre. They both do about 75% of the Batman numbers. Comedian has been well received, and is the only title that I’ve sold out of the first issue on, but generally it’s now selling at about 60% of the Batman number. Nite Owl has settled in about 50% of our Batman numbers. Ozymandias was well received by those who bought it, but is definitely the weakest title, selling about 40% of the Batman number. Rorschach 1 did very well, but I ordered #1 at double Batman numbers and we’ve sold about half that – so on par with Batman for the first issue. Dr. Manhattan 1 sold at about 80% of the Batman number, so we’ll see how the second issues do when they arrive later.

  9. There isn’t one single entity – that I know of — that measures comic book sales only in the UK specifically, though I might be wrong. This information has got to be available somewhere.

    “Maybe Brits like Captain Atom and Blue Beetle – No one else does.” This implies that whatever it is that people like outside the US, It doesn’t count as a valid chunk of interest or business. That is simply ludicrous and short sighted. “ditto Europe”… nobody cares what those guys think either then?… “U.S.A, U.S.A, U,S,A”. fist pump.

    The next Watchmen movie: It may not be a real thing yet – as YOU need it to be, but why the hell do you think they finally forced the decision to re-visit the property in print? We’ve just made a really successful movie that people loved and hated and loved and we’d like to make more. We know the fanboys will moan about a prequel movie without at least attempting to deliver some further content in print. Let’s make a series of prequel books, then let’s make another movie, it’s the only way are ignorant comic book fans will accept it. Long game. Watchmen is-what-it-is to the people whom want it. Embrace the content, pick and choose what you like and from which platform, screen or page.

    Johns is developing the flash script, you can’t rush a movie… You have to play the long game. Properly, not quickly.

    The Justice League movie WILL happen, how could it not after Avengers? They just need to prepare the DCU on screen in individual titles starting with the new Superman, rebooted Bats, then flash and WW. Lantern needs to be re-worked on screen too.

    Brand identity:
    “DC Comics owns many of the most recognizable brands in comics and the monthlies have very little to do with that.”
    The monthlies is where these characters live and breathe.

    “No doubt, Wonder Woman and Aquaman have successfully rebuilt the comics franchises” – yep.

    “Art over business? Is that a joke?” No. DiDio and Lee’s intention was to strip down the DCU to pure creation at every page turn. So they sacrificed the existing continuity. Marvel can’t do that because they’re an industrial machine and haven’t got the artistic yearn or creative foresight.

    DC’s older books aren’t irrelevant. They’re still there and you can read them any time you wish. But any story that’s restricted by 75 years of mythos is not open to true creation. Every single story we read should be a ‘what if’ with the character we love and if it references something from the past… then, ok fine. But if you’re going to be all ‘comic book guy’ about it, shouldn’t all these guys be over 100 years old? It can’t all stay true forever.

    You can let it go.

    and look forward.

    I’m pretty sure DC still thinks it’s DC.

  10. Hmmm. Armed with stats, expressive, direct… I think I like this side of Kevin.

    I applaud the efforts of the New 52s… it was a risky but bold move. I respect that DC is being pro active, taking initiative to try and reinvent themselves.

    However, I’ve been less impressed by the results. As I’ve said before, nothing has really changed. It’s the same stories and the same art.

    You can determine the success of any effort by measuring it up against the objective.

    I honestly think DC would have more success if they started stuffing free comics in cereal boxes so kids who’ve never been exposed to comics would be given the opportunity, literally. ‘Jumping on’ is a moot point and means nothing to non readers… and no matter how often the term ‘jumping on’ is repeated on CBD… it doesn’t make it true.

  11. My retailer offered discounts for the no. 1 issues of the New 52 books, so I looked at them all. One year later, Justice League, Green Lantern, GLC, batman, wonder woman, batgirl and aquaman are the survivors. Anecdotal and unique to me, sure, but considering that i favor GNs and indie books, and hadn’t looked at a DC title in over a decade, it’s not a bad result for the brand. Moreover, if it weren’t for the high cost of these books, I might collect more, but between other purchases and a shaky economy, no way. Methinks these two factors have contributed to keep sales down across the board.

  12. Daniel, did you not read the press release? I interpret it to mean that DC wants to make more money!

    Have they? Yes.
    Is it sustainable? I highly doubt it.

    I’m telling ya… cereal boxes… it’s their best bet.

  13. Back from Montreal.

    My statement re: Captain Atom and Blue Beetle was facetious, I know they aren’t selling in the UK any more than they are selling in the USA, Canada or anywhere else that receives the periodicals from Diamond. Those books are not selling anywhere, period, and half the DC line is pretty much in the same boat. When 50% of your line of monthly publications is maintained by having retailers order a minimum number of copies of these poor selling titles in order to order variants of the successful ones is not a successful line of comics. It’s one maintained by an illusion.

    Before Watchmen was not a sudden initiative. It’s initiative was rooted in the Snyder film, not the need to do a sequel or prequel movie. I suppose if Watchmen the movie had been successful enough to warrant a sequel or prequel we would have heard about it by now. And the BW comics aren’t setting the sales charts on fire as periodicals. The test will be when the collections are released.

    I look forward to seeing this Justice League movie that every director approached seems to be rejecting. Warner has a poor track record with movies not starring Batman as the central focus. Will Geoff Johns’ Flash script be as good as the one you helped create for the cinematic gem that was Green Lantern?

    I don’t think these characters live and breathe, they are fictional. The monthlies are where a narrow niche audience in the western world follow stories featuring these fictional characters.

    Didio and Lee were definitely not creating art, lol, they were acting out of pride and desperation. Didio wanted to own the sales charts, and needed something drastic to do it. Rebooting definitely got people’s attention, and for one month they were a big deal, but it’s been a slippery slope since September 2011. Zero month is another attempt to recapture the ground they have been losing by cancelling titles no one wanted or bought (other than retailers, who wanted to get variants to sell, as I mentioned before) and introducing more titles no one wants or will buy.

    I don’t think you understand the concept of relevance in storytelling to readership that buys sequential narratives.

    If DC was creating good comics, and not poor to adequate ones, your argument would be an easy sell. Sadly, they are not. They are, in the majority – mediocre, slapdash and poorly conceived and executed, and the sales figures bear witness to the fact the readers don’t care about most of it. While you may feel DC is “cool”, lol, you are in a dwindling minority.

  14. In the JL movie paragraph, I said “the one you helped create” — ‘you’ should, in fact be ‘he’, as in Geoff Johns helped create the Green Lantern film, I don’t think you had anything to do with the Green Lantern film.

  15. Hey Kevin, your passionate arguments are beginning to take a tone that questions your rationality. Once a person turns to rabid denunciations any merits to his arguments magically disappear. You’re quote:

    – While you may feel DC is “cool”, lol, you are in a dwindling minority.

    Are you laughing out loud at someone that thinks DC is “cool”? Are you the final authority on “cool”?

    Are you saying the large number of people still enjoying DC enjoy comics that are – your quote;

    – mediocre, slapdash and poorly conceived and executed,

    or are you saying that in your view they are so?

    Comics can be good and still have falling sales? No?

    Can you seriously say – your quote –

    – I don’t think you understand the concept of relevance in storytelling to readership that buys sequential narratives.

    If you say this does that mean this is true?

    Argue your point! Please don’t use language that ridicule’s a person’s tastes

  16. Thanks Walt 🙂 madness.

    Kevin, my highlights in this comedy-rant are as follows:

    “I don’t think you understand the concept of relevance in storytelling to readership that buys sequential narratives.” 🙂

    Where’d you copy and paste this from? Do you understand what you’re saying? and do you agree with it? I appreciate that there is — very much — a collectors mind-set and a readers mind-set in the comics world… and that’s ok. As an amateur creator myself, I lean well and clear on the side of ‘story’. Story is the primary reason that I buy these books although, the collectors side is completely fascinating to me! Just to clarify, you’re saying – story doesn’t matter to the people whom buy this stuff… and you’re ok with that? 🙂

    What YOU “think” about what I do — and don’t — understand is both inaccurate and irrelevant.

    “While you may feel DC is “cool”, lol, you are in a dwindling minority.” – As Walt points out, I love how you’ve somehow employed yourself as the lord of ‘cool’ and legitimise your brain with a confident and misplaced chuckle. I shall remember to ask your permission next time I have an opinion about something I love.

    I’m willing to bet actual money on another Watchmen movie being made. The argument for whether — or not — they should is open…
    They simply must at least be willing to discuss it. I think it could be interesting if the right people are involved.

    I wrote this column because I knew the ignorant Marvelites would get upset and comment accordingly 🙂

    Thanks for coming.

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