Seriously, I would totally buy that Wolverine comic.

§ June 30th, 2009 § Filed under Uncategorized § 1 Comment

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.”

One Response to “Seriously, I would totally buy that Wolverine comic.”

  • Dyingpool. says:

    […] our way in order to buy them all, but realistically, something usually has to give. (I’ve written before on the topic of different sales levels for what are essentially the same […]