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Saturday, December 29, 2007 

Marvel sales may be in decline

Considering what kind of disaster they're gearing down to, maybe this is encouraging news to see that Marvel readers are waking up. Here's the latest of The Beat's sales analyses, and while Amazing Spider-Man isn't actually on the list, because of the delay it went through, Sensational Spider-Man, now cancelled, is, and while the contributor who wrote this seems to have a bias showing, there's still what to consider if you can work your way around it. As told in the following:
In practice, the series [Sensational Spider-Man] really ended with issue #40 back in August. Issue #41 is a chapter of “One More Day”, which has been tacked on to the end of this series and FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN so that it can be presented as the final storyline of the current era, rather than the first storyline of the next one.

As you’d expect, it sells much better than the typical issue of SENSATIONAL, but that’s largely meaningless. To all intents and purposes, this is really issue #544B of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. The real comparison is with the earlier chapters of “One More Day”, and with the sales on AMAZING.

To take “One More Day” first, part one sold 146,215 in its first month (and picked up some re-orders after). Part two sold 110,405. Now we’re down to 100,300, which is a 9.2% drop. So far, that’s not great, but it’s not bad either.

But what about AMAZING SPIDER-MAN more generally? Well, that’s not so good. Consider the standards that AMAZING has set over the last year. The “Back in Black” issues sold around 105K or so. Before that, the various CIVIL WAR tie-ins ranged from a minimum of 119K all the way up to to the dizzy heights of 156K. In that company, “One More Day” isn’t looking too good with its 100,300.

You might argue that it’s unfair to compare “One More Day” to a CIVIL WAR tie-in. I’d disagree with you. Given the level of hype, it should absolutely be selling in that range in order to be considered a success. But by any standards, it should surely be beating “Back in Black.” And it’s not. In fact, if this had appeared as an issue of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, then its sales of 100,300 would make it the lowest selling issue in the direct market since April 2006.

Of course, it goes without saying that most books would kill for sales of 100,300. Before AMAZING entered its year of stunts and crossovers, it was generally selling in the 90K range. “One More Day” is doing better than that. It’s certainly not a disaster. But relative to the level of hype and the expectations that Marvel must surely have had for this project, it’s clearly underperforming.

It’s also worth remembering that the slow pace of “One More Day” has reduced Marvel to one Spider-Man book a month, whereas by this point they were supposed to be shipping three editions of their unified flagship title. Again, you have to question whether the delay has been worth it for Marvel.
Better still, you have to wonder, why bother to delay it if they intended to go through with the collosal disaster of de-facto rebooting Spidey's world, which annulled Peter and Mary Jane's marriage? Maybe because they wanted to keep everyone hanging in suspense for virtually nothing.

But looking at some of the numbers, while there are some that sell above 100,000 copies, even those are slowly starting to get lower and lesser. New Avengers, for example, sold around 107,715 copies last. Almost none of the titles, save for World War Hulk, got as far as 150,000 copies. So are Marvel's sales going down, as the audience hopefully begins to realize that most of this stuff, crossovers included, is really just a waste of time?

Let's hope so.

I may as well take to commenting on what they say about Captain America's sales, which have been going back to what they were before:
Still dropping back towards normal levels after the post-death surge. Don’t be fooled by the November 2006 figure - that’s a CIVIL WAR tie-in. The series is still comfortably ahead of its pre-event sales, and there should be a spike around the corner for the introduction of the new Captain.
Frankly...I hope not. Though it may not be mentioned there, this too has been one several victims of bait-and-switch tactics, which, in fact, is what Spider-Man is now becoming victim of too, just like a couple of DC superheroes and series.

Oh, and what do they say about Avengers: The Initiative, which fell to 66,000 copies sold:
Okay, this is not good. INITIATIVE is shedding a regular 10% of its direct market readership month after month, and that’s an alarming rate of decline. Admittedly, the book started from an artificially high level, due in part to the dubious decision to promote it as an Avengers title. But even so, readers are deserting this book, and the decline shows no signs of levelling out. We’ve got a problem here.
Yep, and the blame can all be laid out at the feet of Brian Bendis and Joe Quesada. Because they both took to rendering the Earth's Mightiest Heroes unrecognizable, and believe me, if that's how it's going to be, they don't deserve an audience. With any luck, even those reading Bendis are beginning to wake up and realize just how pretentious he is.

On Fantastic Four, they say:
At first glance, this looks like good news. The book has been dropping badly over the last few months, but now it’s turned around.

But not so fast. This issue has a variant cover by Art Adams. A climb of only 1.2% suggests that the core audience is still dropping, and that the variant cover boost has simply cancelled it out this month. If so, you can expect the drops to resume in December, I’m afraid.

Still, it doesn’t really matter beyond the short term. With Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch taking over the book in 2008, a big sales boost is guaranteed.
Honestly, I really hope not here too. Civil War was truly awful, and that's where Spider-Man took off his mask. Anyone who pays money for Millar after what he lent his "talents" to is letting him get away with ruining one of comicdom's best superheroes.

And I think this is where I'll have to point out a most notable thing: when did Spidey de-facto die as a comic book? Back in late 1994, I'm afraid. The Clone Saga, as I think I'd mentioned before, was a crippling blow from which our favorite webslinger may never have recovered.

It's always debatable, but for now, I think it can be said that...Spider-Man died in late 1994, courtesy of those writers and editors who cooked up the Clone Saga.

Update: yesterday was Stan Lee's 85th birthday. It's a real shame that Joe Quesada pretty much ruined it, by wrecking a wonderful marriage that Stan had very much wanted to happen, and that many Spider-Fans warmly embraced as well.

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About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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