By Thom Pratt
Let’s be honest. Marvel Comics hasn’t had a great year.
With word of sluggish sales and constant PR disasters, the venerable comics publisher has become a punching bag for many comics news outlets, and is the subject of an increasing amount of scorn from fans on social media (most notably YouTube.)
Many fans have been anxiously awaiting the Marvel Legacy event, which promised a return to form for the publisher by re-introducing long missing core heroes and legacy numbering.
And indeed, Marvel Legacy #1 was the top comic of September 2017… in units shipped to comics retailers.
But since the comic book direct market works on a non-returnable basis, that’s not the number of books that are actually selling to consumers.
In fact, comics news site Bleeding Cool is reporting that comics shops are not listing Legacy #1 as a top selling book. It’s basically warming the shelf in many stores.
Here are a few reports from comic shop owners…
Legacy barely has a leg to stand on. Amazing Spider-Man managed to break into the Top Ten for the first time in a long while. I don’t know if it was the Large Number or the new direction, but we’ll see if the numbers can hold. The only other Marvel books in the Top Twenty were Weapon X, Defenders, and X-Men Blue. All of which were outsold by Ragman of all the books. I can’t think of a Marvel book that’ll beat the (sadly low) sales of Amazing Spider-Man just based off the idea of Legacy. We’ll push Doctor Strange and Thanos as they’re being written by FFF favorite Donnie Cates, and the movies might help, but I just don’t see the numbers going up dramatically enough to make much of a difference.
Only one Marvel made our Top Ten list this week, and that was Amazing Spider-Man #789 in tenth place. Otherwise, the list was all DC. Negative response to Marvel Legacy has been very strong because customers are frustrated that they can’t just buy the lenticular variant covers they want at cover price. Unfortunately, we’ll have to adjust our numbers down to pre-Legacy quantities beginning next month, which is a shame–there are some good books in here that are getting overlooked because Marvel went for the sell-in rather than supporting the sell-through. (Maybe DC could initiate a program whereby we strip out unsold Marvel Legacy titles and ship ’em to DC for a limited Doomsday Clock variant?…)
So it’s got to be selling better in digital, right?
Over on Amazon, Marvel Legacy #1 is currently sitting at #449 in bestsellers for superhero graphic novels, and at #56,403 in paid Kindle downloads.
On comiXology, Marvel Legacy #1 is not even on the first page of bestsellers… though that could change. (EDIT: I finally found it… on page six.)
Hmm. Guess not.
“We’re fine. We’re all fine here, now, thank you. How are you?”
Marvel’s editors, naturally, aren’t having any of the negative talk. Marvel is awesome, and having its third most profitable year ever.
Also, this common wisdom that “Marvel sales are tanking” is wishful thinking. This has been Marvel’s third most profitable year ever.
— Tom Brevoort (@TomBrevoort) October 13, 2017
A number of news sites disagree with that assessment — and I’m trying to math it out myself — but there’s currently no way to prove or disprove Marvel’s sales numbers since Marvel Comics does not make its sales figures available to the public. Industry analysts can only guesstimate based on data from sites like Comichron.
However, the word is that will be changing soon, with Bookscan looking to track comic shop sales to consumers in the near future.
October just isn’t Marvel’s Month.
The biggest Disney news to come out of the New York Comic-Con was how awful the Marvel Comics news was.
From editors fighting with retailers, to them suddenly pulling out of a deal with Northrop Grumman due to some minor outrage on Twitter, Marvel certainly made headlines… just not the kinds of headlines they wanted.
In fact, the bad press eclipsed the fact that Marvel Legacy #1 was the highest shipped comic book of September 2017.
With slipping sales and ever-increasing animosity between Marvel creators and comics readers and retailers, many news outlets are calling into question whether or not Marvel’s legacy will be permanently damaged.
Usually when a comic book publisher reaches this point, they hit the reset button on the universe and start over. Marvel Comics has had several “soft” reboots over the past years, likely in an attempt to gain new #1 issues and bring new readers on board.
This hasn’t been terribly successful, as it appears that Marvel is hemorrhaging old readers faster than it can replace them.
So what I’m proposing is that Marvel hit that reset button one last time.
Should Marvel Comics be rebooted as part of the MCU?
The public at large loves Marvel superheroes.
In fact, Disney should have no difficulty selling comics based on these beloved characters at all.
Except the characters in the comics bear little resemblance to their cinematic counterparts.
Add to that decades of backstory and it’s all a little overwhelming for casual readers. Even longtime fans are jumping ship, many disgruntled by the constant changes and gimmicky events.
So what if… what if… Disney took a cue from their very successful consolidation of Star Wars canon and had all of the Marvel comics take place in the MCU in and between movies and television shows?
What if the Captain America you read about in the comics was the same Captain America you saw on the big screen, and not the despised Nazi Marvel turned him into?
What if new readers could stop by the comic book shop and continue the adventures of characters they were just introduced to on the big screen? And what if newer characters like Ms. Marvel could be “side loaded” into the MCU by appearing in comics first?
What if all you needed to follow Marvel Comics was some knowledge of the movies, and not 50 years of arcane comics lore?
What if Marvel comics truly were for everybody again?
“… as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror… “
Of course, many comic book fans would probably loathe the idea of a reboot that drastic. But let’s be honest — there aren’t a million people left who are reading Marvel Comics regularly these days. There probably aren’t even 100,000.
And honestly, given the hostility of many of those fans toward Marvel’s handling of the books in these past few years, a drastic change might even be welcome.
Read the whole thing here.
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Originally published October 16, 2017.