2017 was a very different year for comic books. Scott Snyder and Greg Capulo returned to Batman and broke new ground on how to do an event comic with Dark Nights Metal. Indie comics from both major publishers and kickstarter campaigns alike saw a rise as creators realized you didnt need to be one of the big to to make your dreams come true. While all this was going on, Marvel…showed that they literally have no idea what they are doing.
If you want an in depth analysis as to each and every issue Marvel suffered throughout the past year, check out Hollywood Reporter’s article here. However the key problems that the publisher has dealt with have been dropping sales, event overload due to major universe altering events happening every 4-6 months, and lack of interest due to either no familiarity in the lineup of titles at the time. From Captain America being the leader of Hydra, to Brian Michael Bendis killing Bruce Banner The Hulk the previous year in a very…very mediocre event only meant to cash in on the name of the movie coming out at the time. Marvel had become a place where heroes were constantly fighting other heroes, and well written stories were in short supply.
With all of this in mind, how in the world is Marvel Comics still the top publisher of the year? With Diamond Distributors releasing their sales we are able to see that Marvel had both the top dollar and unit share with both DC Comics and Marvel controlling around 70% of the entire market.
2017 TOP COMIC BOOK PUBLISHERS
|DARK HORSE COMICS||3.12%||2.25%|
|OTHER NON-TOP 10||8.81%||5.83%|
Many have said that these numbers on both Marvel and DC can be attributed to high selling gimmicks such as multiple variant covers, multiple events that drastically change the comic landscape or getting enough readers interested with inclusions of famous characters or the possible returns of characters.
Marvel themselves have dug an impressive hole with events back to back like Civil War II straight into Inhumans Vs X-men into Monsters Unleashed into Secret Empire and then into a major relaunch like Marvel legacy set to reshape the Marvel universe and repair the mistakes of the past 2-3 years then out of left field, they cancel a slew of their titles including:
- Generation X
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Jean Grey
- Luke Cage
- Secret Warriors
- The Unbelievable Gwenpool
- U.S. Avengers
- Uncanny Avengers
Some of these like Guardians of the Galaxy, U.S Avengers and Uncanny Avengers, saw their cancellations on the horizon due to events such as Avengers: No Surrender and Infinity Countdown, the others however were cancelled due to their low sales being lumped into one of the many complaints people have had in regards to Marvel of too many titles with average or below average sales to compensate for the lack of great titles with over the top sales.
With all of these problems right at the end of 2017, can Marvel return to glory we all wish it would be and help DC make new strives in diversity while also keeping their core the same? Only time will tell. We had the opportunity to speak with Ryan Higgins. Owner of Comics Conspiracy in Sunnyvale, California and host of the Comics Conspiracy podcast. Ryan is no stranger to the up and down roller coaster that is the comics industry and the current struggle of Marvel leaves many retailers like him worried about the comics they love. Here’s what he had to say about the Top Books of 2017 and Marvel’s current situation.
STBC: With the Top 10 books of 2017 being event books do you think especially in the Marvel side that the sales can be attributed to the multiple covers these event comics come out with?
Higgins: Almost all the top comics each month are boosted by multiple covers, but Marvel really pushes the limit of what the industry can take when it comes to variants. If you look at their sales for any issue #2, the drop can be as high as 75%. Those first issues are so bloated, they’re rarely indicative of long-term sales potential. That said, despite customer complaints, these comics continue to top the charts, so who can say if it’s a bad idea or not. I would prefer they focus less on gimmicks and more on quality stories that continue to drive customers to the store every week.
STBC: With years of experience in the retail side of the industry, is it ever likely that a series isn’t Batman,Spider-man, a relaunch title like all the ones from Marvel legacy that made the top 100, a milestone like Thor 700, or an event book to break the top 100?
Higgins: Some non-event/relaunch comics have topped the charts in the past, but it’s a rarity now. Early 2000s you’d have some comics like Transformers that would break through, but it doesn’t happen unless when there’s some crazy promotion for the comic, like a 25-cent first issue. Marvel Legacy topped the charts despite many stores getting copies for a fraction of the normal cost due to huge discounts offered by Marvel. Oblivion Song by Robert Kirkman should chart high because it’s a new Kirkman #1, but that’s it.
STBC: You’ve said previously on your Comics Conspiracy Podcast that with Marvel’s sales still being above DC, Marvel won’t do much to change the formula they’ve gone with before with Events, Relaunches, and average to poor story lines. Do you feel with a new Editor-in-Chief, the slashing of cancellations and the recent overtaking of DC in the November and December sales charts might be the wake up call Marvel needs to get back in gear of creating better material?
Higgins: Despite whatever people thought of Axel Alonso as a person, he obviously lead Marvel to some of the worst sales their comics have had since they went bankrupt back in the 90s. Any change at this point is a good one. I understand that many people’s favorite titles will be canceled, but overall, we’re already looking at a healthier Marvel. Doctor Strange and Moon Knight has trended up a few copies with the new creative team, Phoenix
STBC: To go off of the issue #2 having a 75% drop off, there was an issue back in December when Marvel cut allot of these low selling books, Joe Quesada had a Twitter Q and A with fans and many brought up that many of these books are cancelled before they can even hit the 6th issue to be put in trade format for those who trade wait and some say regardless of Diamond sales, Comixology sales should count in determining a book be cancelled. How do you feel about these opinions?
Higgins: Marvel has more numbers than we do, they look at digital, print, reorders, trade sales–everything. While some comics that perform poorly in singles apparently do better in trade form, like Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur, that’s the exception, not the rule. On average, the best selling comics are also the best-selling trade paperbacks. (of course, original graphic novels often sell well due to the fact that it’s format is the only way it’s released) Digital is roughly 10% of the market, no digital sale will keep a poor-selling print comic around.
STBC: Does digital have the potential to become a more prominent factor in keeping books around? Maybe even have digital exclusives for publishers fringe/risky new titles?
Higgins: There are digital exclusives, but it doesn’t seem like they sell too well. Injustice is digital-first, and does ok, but it’s not the #1 book or anything. Digital is a nice boost for the companies I’m sure, but such a small amount of their sales.
STBC: With digital not being as big of a contributing factor as many believe it to be, what do you think Marvel’s best move is to get back on track line besides this avengers weekly series and the upcoming infinity event? And do you feel DC has the potential now with the age of heroes first book this week and the success of rebirth to stay on a more equal footing with Marvel?
Higgins: It’s tough to know exactly what Marvel needs to do to get back on track. I applaud their attempts at reaching new customers, but it feels like they did not bring in nearly enough new readers to compensate, let alone surpass, the customers they lost. In my mind, the great thing about comics is that you can DO IT ALL. There’s no reason they can’t have Moon Girl and Squirrel Girl AND Wolverine and the Fantastic Four all around at the same time. These books will find a market, but you need your stable big-hitters to keep people interested.
Age of Heroes is a tough one. I think they’re putting some top talent on some unique characters, but will they last? It’s so hard to get a new character to click with an audience. DC has the best chance they’ve had in years to make it work, however, since all eyes are on them. If 100 people are coming in to pick up Batman, there’s a good chance some will also pick up Damage or Silencer since they’re happy with DC’s current output. This is the problem Marvel had with all their new launches as no one was coming in for X-Men or Avengers, so no one even saw Mosaic or Iceman.
What do you think? Can Marvel use 2018 as their way of turning it all around? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @shootthebrezeC! Also special thanks to Ryan Higgens for speaking with us. You can check out the Comics Conspiracy podcast right now on Itunes and Spotify.