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Saturday, February 01, 2014 

Todd McFarlane says something sensible

He told ComicBook.Com in an interview that relaunches don't make business sense:
Comicbook.com: It’s pretty impressive that Spawn has gotten up to around 239 issues now. Would you ever consider relaunching or are you going straight to try to reach a thousand issues before anyone else with Marvel and DC constantly relaunching?

Todd McFarlane: Yeah, I keep saying, if they keep relaunching pretty soon Spawn is going to be the highest numbered book in the country, that’s cool. It’s interesting. I’m a bit of old school guy, and it was weird, because when I was young, and I don’t know what historically has changed, maybe some of just the different marketing. But I actually would buy my comic books when I was younger based on how high the number was. [...]

Then, if we shift it from what for me is an odd conversation, and you just shift it to the quote unquote business side of it. Dude, I’ve been around in business for a long time now, and you point to me one book… one book that relaunched its numbering and sold more books in the long run. And the answer is that book doesn’t exist. So I don’t even know why they keep asking for something that monetarily and business-wise has been a failure. It’s Bizarro conversation to me. So I just do what I do and just let the chips lie where they are at.

Comicbook.com: I think they are probably just looking at the short-term press side of it. They get the press coverage with a relaunch, but then they wind up having to do it again in another year.

Todd McFarlane: I’m not taking any of that away. I’m not denying that. All that happens. What doesn’t happen is that it sticks and there’s any longevity to it. You can have Amazing Spider-Man be up to issue #375 or some weird number, and it will sell in the 300K [range]. And now you’ve relaunched it four times, and it’s selling 100K. In your relaunching, you’ve lost two-thirds of your consumers.

Now, again, is it because of the relaunch? No. Is it because of the way we’re doing business in the comic book industry? Everybody is losing sales. So I’m just saying, having that number 1 on there is not a magical thing. It’s not a magical thing. It doesn’t mean that Marvel or anybody is going to sell more issues of the book. [...]
Indeed not. I just hope he realizes that Spawn isn't selling any better either, and as an early Image product, it was one of the weaker along with Liefeld's output. Okay, I suppose his admittal everybody's losing bucks does signal he's realistic enough to know his silly Spawn nonsense isn't bursting through the sales roof. And that's one more reason why it's a shame he left Marvel years ago over disagreements on rights to the artwork for something that turned out to be little better because of crummy writing.

Relaunches are not going to save comicdom. Only good writing with sincerity will. And today's major publishers aren't interested in that. The only people buying the relaunch-at-number-1 books are brainless collectors. When relaunches were done years before, it usually just stemmed from a title not being published for a while, and a decision to test the waters again, like with Thor's book in 1998. Now, it's all relaunching all the time, just for publicity's sake, and does nothing to boost the industry's reputation.

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In the 1960's and earlier, publishers would actually try to avoid numbering an issue at #1. Supposedly, first issues of new comics series did not sell well, because they were an unknown quantity. The theory was that if a kid saw Flash #105 or All-American Western #103 or Thor #126 on sale, he would assume it must be a good comic, since it had evidently lasted over a hundred issues. So a lot of comics changed titles and continued the numbering. (That ploy also evaded paying for a second class mailing permit for a new title.) Today, of course, they cancel and relaunch a series, publishing a new "#1" to attract speculators. But, with the low demand and high supply, these new comics will never be rare or valuable.

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