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You folks have been nice enough to play along with my thing from yesterday regarding what the comics marketplace would be like with Marvel’s and DC’s characters/teams/franchises restricted to single titles. Just to reiterate…this isn’t something I’m hoping will happen, or think will happen (beyond perhaps a condensing of titles into larger periodical anthologies in the face of rising cover prices). This is just a little thought experiment, wondering just what would be different, what situations it would improve or make worse.
I was asked in the comments if the retail end would take a hit if we didn’t have (for example) the half-dozen Wolverine titles for people to buy. And granted, Wolverine comics usually do sell well. In general (and I’m bolding that so that I don’t get a bunch of comments from people who need to tell me that they don’t fall within the generalities I’m about to describe — take it as a given that yes, I know), judging by my instore observations, if a customer buys just one Wolverine series, they buy the one just called Wolverine.* A large percentage (but not 100%) of those customers also buy the spin-offs, Wolverine: Origins and Wolverine: Weapon X. A much smaller percentage also buy the Wolverine: Noir mini-series and Wolverine: First Class (the first not being “in continuity” and the latter probably “not serious enough” — surely points counted against these comics for the discerning Wolverine buyer).
This pattern shouldn’t be any surprise. Amazing Spider-Man usually outsold Spectacular, Sensational, Web of, and Adjectiveless, barring special issues or high-profile creators (such as Todd McFarlane on those early Adjectiveless issues).
I think Batman/Detective and Superman/Action might be exceptions to this, where the titles have been around for 70 years, with neither book in each pair really standing out as the “home” title for the character, and where the sales levels are probably a lot closer. (Don’t have the numbers in front of me, so bear with me.) I still suspect the comics with the character’s actual names in the title have the edge over the generic anthological-legacy titles.
Er…what was the original question again? Oh, yes, is having multiple Wolverine titles sufficiently bringing in the bacon? Well, yes, probably. Would the loss of those other Wolverine titles mean 1) enough of a rise in sales in the main Wolverine comic to balance out those lost sales, and/or 2) that the freed-up money would automatically go to other non-Wolverine comics? The answers are “probably not” and “maybe so, maybe no.” People buying the other Wolverine titles were, in general (bolding again, you notice) already buying the primary one, so there wouldn’t be much of a bump there. As for the second option….
The money for those extra Wolverine comics has got to come from somewhere. Assuming the customer doesn’t just outright decide that he doesn’t need to pick up Wolverine: The Roaring ’20s #1 (guest-starring the Great Gatsby), he needs to increase his comics budget by taking away his disposable income from other things to accommodate this new comic, or he keeps his comics budget constant by dropping another comic in favor of this new one, and I’m sure Marvel hopes he’s dropping a comic by another company.
As prices increase on the standard 32-page format, the cannibalization of sales from other titles may have become the more commonly-chosen option by consumers when faced with new books. If so, the freeing of money for those Wolverine fans who read every Wolverine comic would go back to non-comic needs. But, now (in my original thought experiment — remember that?) that those fans aren’t faced with a rack filled with multiple Wolverine titles they need to keep up with, the possibility exists of spending money on other titles, should they so choose. You know, “boy, I’d like to buy Man-Thing War Journal, but I need to keep up with my Wolverine stories.” Well, now they can buy Man-Thing War Journal.
Not to say that it would all balance out. Man-Thing War Journal would likely not sell as well as Wolverine: The Roaring ’20s (which does sound like an awesome comic, come to think of it). But it, and other new titles, could have a chance in a market where so much of the consumer’s dollar isn’t tied up by trying to keep on top of multiple titles from particular franchises. A dozen different midrange titles featuring a dozen different characters/concepts versus a half-dozen titles all starring the same guy, at varying sales levels…diversity seems it would be, in the long run, a little healthier. And you never know…one of those other titles might catch on and become a top tier seller.
And in the end, this is all just, as I’ve said repeatedly, a thought experiment…just some armchair publishing in an imaginary world where economic realities take second place to some flights of fancy.
Good Lord, did any of that make any sense? Again, this is just some brainstorming, not a Call for Action. There are objections to be made at every level of assumption here, I realize, but my mind has been drifting in this direction over the last few days regarding the impact of multiple seemingly-redundant titles and I thought I’d try to throw my meanderings out there. Thanks for your patience, and of course I’m always interested in what you’d have to say.
Just for a chance of pace, here are a couple of links to people who can actually maintain a coherent line of thought:
- Dave introduces a new feature on his site: Space Cabby Sunday, DC Comics’ Silver Age-iest space character. Enjoy, won’t you?
- Pal Dorian has managed to find a minority sidekick character from the 1940s who wasn’t an offensive caricature. (HINT: It ain’t Chop-Chop.)
- Speaking of comic book franchises: Tim O’Neil gives his preamble to a coming series of essays on the X-Men. Promises to be good readin’.
* Yes, it’s called Dark Wolverine now. Come to think of it, I wonder if the name change, which in essence does away with a Wolverine flagship title simply titled Wolverine, is a disincentive to sales from people simply wanting a central Wolverine title and aren’t interested in any of the ancillary books. Then again, it may very well be countered by the number of people buying it because of the temporary “new direction.”
What if the characters/teams from Marvel and DC were allowed one starring title, and that’s it? Only one X-Men comic, only one Batman comic, only one Wolverine comic, only one Spider-Man comic — you know, like that.
Okay, there are some caveats that you’re probably wondering about. Yes, spin-offs would probably be allowed…as implied above, you could have an X-Men title and a spin-off with X-Men character Wolverine, but you couldn’t have a dozen X-Men titles and a half-dozen Wolverine titles. Just one each, please. And you couldn’t have both Action Comics starring Superman and Superman. Just one or the other.
And I’m going to be hardnosed and say “no mini-series or one-shots.” If you’ve got a four-part Flash story, it can be told one chapter per month over four months’ time in the Flash comic, and not in a concurrently-running Flash: Let’s Beat Feet mini-series. I’ll say okay to annuals, though, provided they are annual and not, say, every nine months.
Team books are still allowed…you can have a Justice League starring characters who have their own titles, for example. But not multiple Justice League comics. One’s plenty.
I haven’t been pondering these in excruciatingly exact and specific detail or anything. Just the process of articulating these ground rules is probably more effort than I’ve actually put into this thought experiment. Plus, I’m not addressing what the exact economic impact on the Big Two would be…I’m going to assume, for the purposes of this, that Marvel and DC can get by just fine on the profits from this more limited range of titles.
So what would it be like? I mean, other than looking like what the publishers were putting out in the industry’s earlier decades? For one, I think readership may be higher…fans no longer having to decide which X-Men title they’d want to follow, or how many they could afford, or if it was even worth the trouble trying to jump into the cavalcade of mutant books. The cost of entry would be much lower.
Events in the stories would have more impact. Something significant happening in a Superman comic, to be continued in next month’s issue of that series, wouldn’t be diluted by other events in other Super-titles in the interim.
Maybe a wider variety of books? Would no longer devoting funds to buying the multiple monthly Avengers comics mean a greater likelihood of trying out a new non-Avengers title? Not to mention the fact that not having multiple variations on the same theme…i.e. that half-dozen of Wolverine titles…means more room on the rack for other material.
Would there be a trending upward in quality, stemming from more competition for fewer open slots for certain books? Or would that creative energy, instead of competing for a slot in the monthly Batman comic, instead be driven to other concepts? Would almost have to be, I think.
Anyway, this is all getting a bit convoluted, considering what kicked this off was me looking at our comics rack and thinking “you know, if there were just one ongoing X-Men title, it’d probably sell enormously well. Hell, even I’d buy it.” Given the rules above, however, Marvel, being Marvel, could still get around the one-title limitation by spinning off every character into his or her book. “Coming from the House of Ideas this summer: Boom Boom #1!”
It’s possible that something like this may become a reality, if only because the standard monthly comic book format is increasing in price. At $2.99 to $3.99 a pop, people are still picking up all the different Wolverines, but should the periodical format eventually get up to, say, $6.99 an issue, I’d imagine the comic-reading public would be less inclined to follow a half-dozen different Wolverine series. I know everyone assumes we’ll move into some kind of trade paperback standard by that point (assuming the comics market will be able to adapt at all), but I have a hard time seeing the industry abandon the periodical market entirely. Years ago I mentioned the Amazing Heroes April Fool’s column reporting a $2.95 100-page format combining several related titles into one giant book (like having X-Men and New Mutants under the same cover), and joke or not, I think something like that may be what we’re heading toward. Well, it’d be a bit more than $2.95, of course, but you know what I mean.
So that’s a lot of meandering rambling and half-baked thinking on the topic from me. Like I said, this is just something I’ve been sorta thinking about as I see the new comics rack at the shop. I thought I’d brainstorm a little about it here on the site, and if you have anything to add, feel free.
Pal Tom is retiring his weblog, which is a darned shame, but I’m sure you’ll all join me in wishing him the best. Plus, he’s on the Twitter, so it’s not like we’ll never hear from the guy.
Tom was one of the four founding members of what I liked to call the Associated Comics and Pop Culture Webloggers of Ventura County, CA, and Outlying Environs (ACAPCWOVCCAOE for short, natch), along with pal Dorian, pal Ian, and myself. I’ve added a few folks to the collective, some of whom I realize haven’t updated in a while. But Tom, Dor, Ian and I were the charter members of this alleged organization, and it is a little sad to see one of the Inner Circle decide to retire.
So good luck, Tom! Enjoy your life free of feeding the blog, what with your “going outside” and “having friends” and “enjoying life” and all that jazz. Why, you wouldn’t catch me doing any of that.
In other news:
- You may have noticed that I finally used tags on one of my posts. You can now click “sluggo saturday” at the end of a Sluggo Saturday post and get a faceful of Sluggo. No need to thank me.
As pal Dorian told me regarding this, “welcome to 2005,” so yeah, I’m a tad behind the curve when it comes to this sort of thing. I just haven’t been looking forward to going back and tagging all 3,000 posts, and I’d been putting it off until I upgraded to a more robust blogging platform. But, who knows when I’ll do that, so there you go. Enjoy some tagging.
- Some follow up to a couple of questions I was asked via my comments sections, but never got around to answering:
“Also: Mike, are you an Andy Kaufman fan? I saw some Amazon ads for ‘My Breakfast with Blassie’ here and was just wondering.”
Yes, I am quite the Kaufman fan. I always appreciated that he either 1) kept audiences wondering what was a put-on and what wasn’t, and 2) just outright aggressively tested their patience. I realize that, like most comedy, it’s not for everybody, but I thought he was brilliant.
“…Isn’t 500 considered a bigger event than 600? Why would they ignore 500 but return to the old numbering for 600? That seems backwards…”
I’m not entirely sure…issue 500 would have been near the middle of the 1998 Cap series, so the “new #1” sales bump would have been over, and I doubt they knew that the series was going to end at #50 by that point, so that wouldn’t have been a consideration. Maybe they just plain didn’t feel like it, that the series was doing well enough without having to restore the original numbering to generate an Extra-Sized Issue.
The again, they did just do that on Thor after only about 12 issues, a series that’s still selling fairly well, so who knows. Just another attempt at grabbing the consumer in a rocky marketplace during economic turmoil…you gotta do what you gotta do, I guess.
WASTES NO TIME
from Nancy and Sluggo #133 (June 1956)
I don’t have really anything to add that you haven’t already heard regarding the recent passings of Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson. That’s a pretty large swath of pop culture celebrity to be cut away from the world, and one I would have felt funny just ignoring and moving on with the funnybook talk.
I remember Ed as, what else, Johnny Carson’s support crew, always on the chair/couch there next to Johnny’s desk, ready with a hearty chuckle or a well-timed straight line. Not so much a relationship between sidekick and host as it was a finely-honed comedy team. I loved Johnny, and Johnny loved Ed, and if Johnny loved Ed, then that was good enough for me…I loved Ed, too.
Oddly enough, when I think of Farrah Fawcett, I don’t think of her famous pin-up poster, or of her role on Charlie’s Angels. I think of some six-or-eight page color insert in…Omni Magazine, I want to say, though I’m pretty sure that’s wrong…advertising the then-upcoming surely-spectacular hit film Saturn 3, in which she starred. I’m not even sure I ever got around to seeing Saturn 3 all the way through on cable, but I do remember how fascinated I was with that magazine preview insert, and that weird robot. …That’s not really saying much about Farrah, specifically, I realize.
And Michael Jackson…it’s hard to say where I fall on my opinion on Michael Jackson. There’s no denying his impact and importance on the music industry, as well as there’s no denying his peculiar exploits over the years, or the outright scandals. It’s a strange mix of admiration, revulsion, and pity. While he created some wonderful things (I mean, look at this track listing…you know nearly all of these songs), his existence seemed to be an endless succession of near-caricatural examples of the extremes of celebrity.
Anyway, my condolences to their friends and families. So long, Ed. So long, Farrah. So long, Michael.
Say, friend! Are you feeling down in the dumps? Has the world beat you down? Are you on your last legs? Well, follow along with me as I go through the July 2009 edition of Diamond Previews and examine many items of interest, and we’ll see if we can’t finish you off once and for all! (And if that doesn’t work, there are over 50 previous installments of End of Civilization linked in the sidebar!)
p. 138 – Bomb Queen VI #1:
While personally I think the premise presented for this particular comic provides an amusing contrast to the Obama-exploitathon in other titles, I’m wondering what’s going to be the final straw…the one that finally gets a comment and/or a condemnation from the White House. You know, like “C’mon, guys, lay off, will ya? What’s next, a comic about the President’s do –“
p.211 – Puppy Power: Bo Obama:
p. 344 – Black Lantern t-shirts:
I picture these as being very worrying to the uninitiated. “Oh, look, Henry, that young man is wearing a shirt that just says ‘Death.’ Don’t make eye-contact…don’t make eye-contact!
p. 347 – I Only Read Graphic Novels Black T-shirt:
Let the world at large know that you’re a comic fan of discerning taste, preferring your illustrated storytelling in larger doses, that you’re not going to be beholden to a monthly schedule enforced by the publishers-that-be.
Or, in short, that you’re still a dork. Hey, own your dorkiness, my friends.
p. 356 – Beverley Hills Cops Minimates Box Set:
This item will probably pull a larger profit than Mr. Murphy’s last film.
p. 361 – Indiana Jones Room Booby Trap:
“Use a latched and spring-loaded Mayan idol to shower intruders with realistic plastic bugs from atop your door, or encounter a [sic] idol which launches darts at intruders.”
Well, I suppose those are okay as traps go…if you’re some kind of wimp. Wake me when this company markets something that’ll let me do this:
p. 362 – [OFFERED AGAIN] The Spirit Movie 12-inch Deluxe Figure:
I suspect this figure is going to be OFFERED AGAIN in future catalogs for some time to come.
p. 364 – Star Wars The Force Trainer:
“As you concentrate, beta waves are generated. This information is translated in the headset into a digital signal and sent to the training tower, causing the training remote to rise and fall.”
Hopefully this won’t cause unrealistic expectations in any impressionable children:
“Little Billy…? What are you doing?”
“I’m trying to use my Force Powers to bring the TV remote control from the other side of the room to me.”
“Um, Little Billy…there’s no such thing as the Force.”
“B-but I mastered the Force Trainer…! Are you telling me it’s all a lie? THE TOY LIED TO ME!?”
…Okay, that’s a long way to go for not much of a joke. Here’s the alternate: “TOTALLY NOT A BONG.” There, it’s funnier because it’s shorter and it’s about bongs.
p. 370 – Alien 1/1-Scale Lifesize Bust:
It’s a thousand bucks, but I won’t lie…if I had more money than I knew what to do with, I’d totally buy one of these. Hell, I’d buy two and use them as armrests on my custom-made couch.
p. 371 – Battlestar Galactica Little Frakkin’ Toaster Cylon Maquette:
I never not replace, in my head, every usage of the term “frak” with the actual vulgarity it’s replacing whenever I hear or see it. “Yeah, here’s this little f[beep!]ing Cylon thing…whatever, man.”
p. 378 – Terminator 25th Anniversary Jacket:
I was going to say “oh, like anyone’s going to see you wearing this jacket and say ‘hey, that’s just like the jacket in the Terminator movie!'” — but then I realized, yeah, someone probably would. Some people are pretty scary.
p. 378 – Star Wars Darth Maul 1/6-Scale Holographic Bust:
Perhaps it’s just a bad photo, or that it’s just hard to photograph, or that it looks better when the internal light is turned on, but as it is now, it looks like there’s been an accident in the molding process.
p. 394 – Watchmen Be@rbricks 400/100 Percent Set:
So you get a little version and a version four times the size, but I think, regardless of size, they are all equally able to cause Alan Moore a conniption. (I do like the blood-splat over where the bear’s eye would be.)
p. 400 – Star Trek Pon Farr Perfume for Women:
“Sharp and aggressive, exotic yet simple, Pon Farr will drive him crazy with blood lust.”
This is just slightly worrying. Anyway, I don’t really have any more jokes about Star Trek perfumes (after the last batch)…mostly I’m just amazed this even exists.
p. 403 – Star Wars Back Buddies: Darth Vader:
And now…the Saddest Darth Vader of Them All:
“Won’t somebody [HAAAH-PURRRR] wuuuuuv
Lots of good discussion (and the occasional cheap joke!) about comic book covers in the comment threads (1 2) from the last couple of days’ worth of posts, so feel free to join in. I’m still trying to think of how I’m going to sum it all up in a day or two, if at all. But anyway, give the comments a read, as folks have had some interesting things to say.
In the meantime, “Anonymous” has a couple of questions for me:
“1. How did you stock Herogasm at your store without (much) embarrassment?”
Well, hell, after Pee Soup and Blowjob, a title like Herogasm can practically have “Walt Disney Presents” in front of it.
Okay, perhaps I exaggerate slightly. After all, Pee Soup et al aren’t exactly being put on the rack next to Supergirl and Marvel Adventures: Avengers. We are displaying Herogasm, but on racks where the bottom half of the cover is obscured by the top of the comics in the row just below it, so that mitigates the embarrassment a bit. Of course, it does still have a big ol’ “HEROGASM” across the top, so, uh, yeah, anyway. It hasn’t been a problem, and we haven’t had any young’uns giggling at the title and trying to get their hands on it, so, so far, so good. We’re keeping an eye out for any trouble that may arise, but I think we’re okay.
That it doesn’t feature any of the major known-by-the-public properties helps as well, so it’s primarily ignored by the folks who are likely to be offended by it. If this were Spider-Man: Herogasm, we might have a problem…not to mention a completely insane and possibly fantastic Spider-Man comic. (And yes, I’m aware of this article about someone discovering some excessively nekkid Batman story, which would seem vaguely related to what we’re talking about.)
“2. How can Captain America and Incredible Hulk have #600 issues WITHOUT having #500 issues like Action Comics, Detective Comics, Superman, Batman, Thor, Fantastic Four, Amazing Spider-Man, and Uncanny X-Men?”
Restarting a title from #1 usually creates a temporary sales bump, as retailers tend to order a little more on first issues, even if sales on the previous title featuring the same property were fairly moribund. For example, when Spider-Girl was relaunched as Amazing Spider-Girl, it experienced exactly that. Sales were up for an issue or two, then fell down to the sales level that it has when the previous series approached issue #100.
In some cases, if the previous series was close enough to an issue number divisible by 100, a new series that no longer has the “first issue sales bump” going for it will revert back to the previous series’ numbering (adding in the number of issues published under the new numbering system), just in time for an Extra Special Large Size Anniversary Issue that would hopefully bring about yet another temporary sales bump.
In Captain America‘s case, I think I’ve even heard that there was an error made in figuring out the title’s numbering if it had never been restarted, so that what they’re calling “Issue #600” actually isn’t #600. I’ve no idea…I’ll let other folks worry about it. It’s just a big mess, anyway, and I’m sure a century from now, if anyone still cares, it’ll be awfully confusing for anyone trying to figure it out too long after the fact.
Keep in mind a lot of that second answer has been run through my Cynic-Filter™ and thus perhaps I’m making a too-downbeat interpretation of genuine customer outreach via such attention-grabbing efforts as renumbering and anniversary issues, required in this marketplace of overcrowded racks, declining readership, and a damaged economy.
Anyhoo, Anonymous, I hope that answers your questions. If anyone has anything to add to what I said, I’m sure they’ll pop into the comments and let us know. Also, why use “Anonymous?” If you don’t want to use your own name, then make up a new one! Have fun with it!
I’ll probably get around to responding directly to some of your comments to yesterday’s post in the next day or so. But just to clarify…I’ve got no particular preference for word balloons being or not being on comic covers. If it works, put it in. If not, leave ’em out. But as was noted…an endless series of balloonless and blurbless covers featuring the star of the book posing in generic settings (i.e. Spider-Man swinging through the city) is no way to attract attention.
My favorite attention-grabbing comic covers, though, have got to be on Sgt. Rock (and Our Army at War). I’ve processed a number of collections of them over the years, and I have to (usually unsuccessfully) fight the urge to poke through each issue to see just what the hell was going on inside after seeing the wonderful, compelling covers they almost always had.
Here are a couple of samples, “borrowed” from the Grand Comic Book Database:
You can see a whole bunch more here
. Man, I love these covers. They sure knew how to grab you.
So I have a question for you, the kind and gentle readers. What was the last really compelling, really “I have got to see what’s going on inside this book” cover that you’ve come across? I don’t mean just an attractive cover that got your attention because it was aesthetically pleasing (like my deal with Uptight #3 I discussed recently). I mean, you saw the cover, saw the situation it set up, and you felt like you had to pick it up and see just how this situation resolved.
Please let me know in the comments. No purchase necessary, no salesman will call.
Oh, and here, as promised in the post’s title, is the Question at the end:
No need to thank me.
Justice League of America #161 (Dec. 1978) – art by Dick Dillin & Frank McLaughlin
Whenever I come across this cover at the shop, I just sorta pause and ponder it briefly.
1. Like the subject line on this post says, there are nine world balloons and eight speaking parts on this cover. This is almost the exact opposite of modern superhero comic books, which openly shun word balloons. Shun, I say.
2. Most of the folks on the cover are pretty pissed at Zatanna turning down membership, but Superman’s innocent-yet-arrogant shock always amuses me. “But we’re so great…why would anyone turn us down?” (Here’s another guy who turned down these jive JLA turkeys.)
3. Who or what is Zatanna looking at? Is it at us? Is Zatanna magically breaking the fourth wall, years before she did it in Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers: Zatanna mini?
4. That’s probably Zatanna’s worst costume. This other costume of hers wasn’t bad, particularly when George Perez was drawing it, but clearly her best look was this.
5. I don’t recall that Zatanna shot magical energy blasts out her fingertips all that often. Maybe I’m just not remembering.
6. Just picture the members of the Justice League standing around that long, gray table, passing the notepad and pencil around as they write in Zatanna’s name (or not write it in, or write “no way,” or something) and tear out the page to place in the bowl. Seems like an awfully mundane process for a superhero team. I mean, even the Legion of Super-Heroes had the Planetary Chance Machine. Then again, the Legion is a thousand years in the future…perhaps the Justice League was not yet prepared for such technology.
7. But seriously, that’s a lot of word balloons. Can any of you folks think of comic covers that have more than nine? I’m sure they’re out there…a lot of those old crime comics seemed to give speaking parts to every man, woman, and child that happened to be on that cover. If you can think of one, go ahead and pop it into the comments.
A little follow-up on yesterday’s Sluggo Saturday entry…first, I didn’t crop that image. That’s how the panel appeared in the comic. Second, here is the panel just previous to that one:
…though frankly, that doesn’t make it any less disturbing. “Clean
, Sluggo. Clean, or the pain shall continue
Anyway, I’ve had a long week, so I’m taking a bit of a break from the blogging today. Partial refunds for your admission prices will be issued to you shortly. In the meantime…anyone want about thirty copies of Dazzler #1 (1981) in around Fine or better? Struck a vein of them in this bulk comic stock we acquired a while back that I’m just getting around to processing.
Also, I see via Neilalien that the new Sorcerer Supreme of the Marvel Universe, formerly Dr. Strange, will now be Fred Hembeck‘s favorite character Brother Voodoo. Well, okay, I knew that part already. But what I didn’t know is that the character will now be called “Doctor Voodoo,” which, aside from these particular comics not being my thing, is actually kind of an awesome name. “BEHOLD DOCTOR VOODOO.” That is both silly and wonderful.
Okay, enough of that sort of thing. See you folks tomorrow!
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