Marvel’s Sudden Glut of X-Title Comics Could Hurt Comic Sales

 

 

Marvel readers think the publisher’s gone too far yet again with how widely they’ve spun out series after series from Jonathan Hickman’s X-Men titles. According to Screen Rant:

 

Jonathan Hickman, the man responsible for the current X-Men relaunch, has spoken up to defend the number of comics being published. The X-Men relaunch has proven to be a tremendous success, translating into strong sales. October 2019 delivered the best month in three years for the Direct Market, with Hickman’s X-Men, Powers of X, and House of X books all driving sales. The top 10 best-selling comics of 2019 included three X-books.

And yet, Marvel Comics appear to be sabotaging their own success story. The X-books are already double- or triple-shipping each week; one week in December saw no less than five issues release on the very same day. This effectively forces the different X-books into a fairly brutal “Survival of the Fittest,” with readers forced to choose which titles to follow.

Jonathan Hickman, the man behind the relaunch, has taken to Twitter to defend the current strategy. “The goal of the X-Office is to build a line where every kind of X-fan can have a book they like,” he explained. “The expectation was never that you have to buy ‘all the books’ to follow along. It never will be. Yes, we’ve built a cohesive line where everything is interconnected, and yes, we will do X-crossovers and X-tie-ins, but those are the exception and not the rule.” In Hickman’s view, every reader should “buy what you like. Don’t buy what you don’t like.”

What if the stories in 2 or more titles are all considered good, and the reader can’t afford both or more? At 4 dollars-plus, even one series is asking a lot of the buyers. And citation of intentions to do crossovers is hardly the exception nowadays when the rest of Marvel’s output is similarly affected.

 

A writer at Monkey Fighting Robots also has an issue with this, and gives advance notice that:

 

Marvel Comics have announced that more X-Men comics are due out this year, and a planned Crossover event is scheduled for December.

 

Anybody understanding the long term damage the crossover obsession led to can take this as a cue to avoid what they have in store by year’s end.

 

With five titles currently on the roster (six if you include Fallen Angels, however, that is due to finish at issue 6 with no firm announcement of restarting) and more titles announced, that’s a lot of X-Men comics for fans to get their teeth into.

So why, then, am I canceling my orders after the sixth issues are released? Simply put: there are just too many.

As Eric Stephenson states in his interview with Newsarama, there are too many comics released every month. With each fighting for readers’ attention and money, this can ultimately be damaging to overall comic sales.

It should be painfully obvious the pamphlet format, releasing monthly in parts instead of in a whole paperback, is the very reason there’s too much of everything coming out monthly. Simplify the approach, cease all the crossovers between multiple titles, and there’s room for improvement. Advice Marvel’s unlikely to take.

 

In essence, what Marvel is doing with so many X-Men comics on the shelf is alienating a proportion of their readership. An elitist group of people who can, and will, buy all the titles will have an advantage over those who can’t. It also forces some people, like myself, to give up on the entire collection of comics because it is easier to do that than choose between them.

A number of times I’ve been committed to a comic only to get screwed over when it comes to the crossover event. Suddenly I have to buy 20 more comics and catch up on several other titles for the last 6 months to understand what is happening to the characters I enjoy.

Just ditching the event is an option, but one that usually doesn’t work with Marvel or DC because everything leads up to and is resolved in the event. For example, take DC’s New 52 Animal Man and Swamp Thing comics from 2012. Each title had critically acclaimed starts, with Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire proving there was life in the old Vertigo characters. After a year and a half, both titles came together in an overlong crossover event, Rotworld. It was a disaster.

But more than just being a terrible end to two excellent comics, it ruined potential re-reads. As everything was working towards the events in Rotworld, with the stories that started in issue one concluding in the crossover, the disappointing ending diminishes the prospect of re-reading. Why read so many comics when you know you’ll be disappointed at the end. You could stop reading before the end, but then everything is left open with no conclusions. Either way, you are less likely to pick them up over other comics. In fact, I recently gave my copies away because I doubt I will ever read them again.

Therein lies the worry with the current X-Men. If the crossover doesn’t satisfy, for any reason, then the 18 months of comics leading up to it will sit unwanted, on shelves or in boxes. And Marvel Crossover events have not been critical or satisfying successes in recent years, even the last one written by Jonathan Hickman.

 

That last one was the 2015 Secret Wars, most recent rehash of the 1984 title Jim Shooter oversaw that led to the debacle we’re at now. Like I said, that’s why the crossover obsession must end, yet no one in the mainstream press ever issues a whisper of complaint about the biggest mistake Shooter ever made from a marketing perspective in his time as Marvel’s EIC.

 

While this commentary has a valid point about crossovers, it’s regrettable they apparently don’t have an issue with turning Moira MacTaggart into a mutant in the latest example of cheap resort. Again, I just don’t get why these writers have no misgivings over using an established character to fill the role instead of crafting a new character to take the same one. That’s another reason why superhero comics stumbled. And if there really have to be more than one X-book, they should concern themselves with solo books and miniseries for individual characters like Wolverine, and not just several team books.

 

Too many team books doesn’t always provide room for spotlighting individual characters and building a personality for them.

 

 

Originally published here.

Avi Green

Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1

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