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Saturday, May 05, 2012 

Alonso has no more respect for the disillusioned than Quesada

CBR interviewed Axel Alonso earlier this week about his uncertain outreach to fans, and he said the following about people who've decided to boycott/abandon their books:
Kiel Phegley: Axel, every week we talk a bit with the readers via our message board Q&A, and often we talk about the relationship Marvel works on building with its fans. But at C2E2, there was a moment at a Marvel panel that referenced the back-and-forth of the comics internet when a fan stood up and said that he hadn't bought a Marvel comic since Nightcrawler was killed. And you seemed really surprised by that. Was that the first time you'd had someone come up to you and say, "This isn't just complaining on the internet. I've actually put my money where my mouth is"?

Alonso: I'm always a bit skeptical when people say they’ve dropped a series, yet they seem to know everything that's occurred in it over the last few months. [Laughs] I mean, a lot of people announced they were dropping “Amazing Spider-Man” after "One More Day,” but the book is going through a renaissance under Dan Slott that wouldn’t have been possible without it. Case in point: I remember one guy at a con begging me to retcon “One More Day.” I asked him if he was currently enjoying the series, and he said, emphatically, “Yes!” and then he went on to explain how much he liked so many of the subplots and characters that, again, wouldn’t have been possible if we hadn’t done “One More Day.” And I said, “Mission accomplished.”

So yes, I’m still a bit skeptical when someone says they’re boycotting all Marvel Comics because of a story in one book. I guess it’s possible, but I don’t understand the mindset. I can’t imagine denying myself one of my passions because of one story development – and let’s face it, one that will probably be rectified in the future.
At the same time, assuming what he describes is true, what can I say? I'm disappointed in some readers too who give the definition "Marvel zombie" a bad name by making it sound like they're willing to go through forced retcons like the erasure of the Spider-Marriage no matter what. Because that's exactly what keeps bad writing prevalent in today's landscape; the would-be fans of Spidey and many other characters in both the MCU and DCU are willing to just accept a bad storyline even if it leads in the long-term to more badness. Alonso obviously won't acknowledge how there's a problem out there with fans who don't know when to quit and transfer their money to other overlooked items instead, because he's only interested in their money, to which he feels entitled no matter what.

Spidey's sales are doing pretty poorly at the moment, but it's clear that there's still a sizable number of people who can't bring themselves to cut ties with the book and spend time more with older, better stories. Only when they understand that the time has come to stop paying money for the pretentious mess Alonso and company have made after the Spider-Marriage was trashed will they ever have even a remote chance of fixing anything.

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You have a pretty strange grasp of the market if you think that sales on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN are "doing poorly."

It's currently the best selling solo book at Marvel in the direct market (and the best selling book industry-wide that hasn't had to resort to a reboot).

It's been the highest ranked mainstream Marvel title for subscriptions for 4 years running-- each and every month without fail.

Since ASM #666 it's been available for day & date digital sales-- and it has performed exceptionally well in that section of the market.

Its collections have sold well too-- with it's previous HC collection staying in the New York Times Graphic Novel Top Ten Best Sellers list for several weeks-- And its upcoming HC ranking #1 for ALL Amazon.Com Graphic Novels for several weeks as well.

There's also some very strange interpretations that you're drawing of what EXACTLY Axel is saying. The angry filter that you have about the story in question that he's talking about is REALLY coloring your perception of things.

Perhaps it might help if you have a friend who's not into comics (or this controversy your stoking) read your piece. And then you could ask them if you're reading too much into things. Just a suggestion.

Spidey's sales are a tick or two over 50K right now, right? Doesn't sound strong to me, though it's certainly arguable that's a more reflection of the comics market as a whole than Spidey in particular.

It's my opinion, however, that arguing you're one of the tallest of the seven dwarfs is probably an inherently losing proposition.

My interpretation of Axel's answer is that he's twisting the question. The question was about how he felt when someone said they'd put their money where their mouth was. He started out by denying that anyone actually does that and then followed by focusing on someone dropping all Marvel books because of a storyline in one. He didn't really answer either the explicit question or the one implicit.

I personally don't buy current Big Two comics. I don't trust anyone in any position of power/creativity to be adults. I'm tired of cheap nihilism. I'm tired of R-rated content I wouldn't let my kids near in mainstream titles. I'm tired of political cheap shots that amount to some Noam Chomsky wannabe flipping me the bird. I don't approve of the blacklisting of certain creators due to insufficient political correctness. And so, I choose to put my money where my mouth is. If Marvel and DC choose to publicly reverse course, I might be willing to give them a chance. However, I don't anticipate this occurring.

(Now, if I had the gig of writing or editing one of my favorite characters, I'd probably be out there playing defense like Dan Slott and Steve Wacker are. Even with the horrid editorial direction, I'd imagine it would be a dream job for comic nerds like myself. Of course, that would require more writing talent than a string of unpublished and/or unfinished novels indicates in my case...)

The Drizzt,
That "tick or tow over 50k" number is a fiction.

It's a number found on the Diamond estimates which are a DEMONSTRABLY inaccurate measure of EVERY title in the industry-- and not even an inaccurate measure of their entire sales-- it's just an inaccurate measure of their orders in a SECTION of the direct market.

And the direct market is just a portion of ANY book's overall sales.

When bloggers, posters, and fans cite those figures as ANY kind of metric it's VERY frustrating to people who are actual in the industry and have a better view of the big picture.

I just haven't been able to get into Spider-Man since the "One More Day" nonsense... to me, it was just extremely poor writing and it proved that Marvel didn't have a clue about how to write a happily married couple. Marvel in general has made some pretty poor decisions in recent years, and this was just one of many poor decisions, Mr. Slott. A big reason why people have given up on the title is because OMD was horrible, and the way Marvel's editors treated fans who had reasonable objections to the storyline... the infamous "it's magic, we don't have to explain it" line from Quesada himself.

Actually, Carl, Joe Quesada NEVER said "It's magic, we don't have to explain it."

JMS said that during an interview. Then, a few weeks later, JMS rescinded the statement, and acknowledged that Joe Quesada had never said that.

The fact that false statement is still going around is one of the frustrating things about the internet-- that someone who's misinformed can keep repeating something that's NOT true over for years on end.

Slott, I'm aware of Quesada's subsequent denial he ever told JMS or anybody else they don't need to explain magic. But that doesn't mean he didn't say it, and regardless, his disturbing editorial mandates were a very serious detractor. Simply put, you can't build up to a good storyline by pouring sour milk in its way. Here's a whole article on Spider-Man Crawl Space that mentions how JMS doesn't seem to want his relations with Marvel to fall out, which suggests why he might've withdrawn his initial statement.

Oh, and I do think it's a shame that you're acting as an apologist for Marvel and not willing to acknowledge that 50,000 copies is nothing to write home about. If it were a couple million copies sold, that would be something. But little more than 50,000? I think you're really living a pipe dream here, Slott. No matter what you tell us, I know that you know Quesada ultimately delivered poor management of Marvel and Spidey, and you're not helping their cause by acting as an apologist.

I'm not talking about "Quesada's subsequent denial..."
I'm talking about JMS' ADMISSION that he was spicing up his account by taking dramatic license and saying something that Joe Quesada NEVER said.

BIG difference there.

In your bio you say "I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts."
But the few times I've come to your blog I've found some BIG inaccuracies and a tendency for you to spin things through the angriest of filters.

Again, the "50,000" number you're quoting is a fiction. It is based off of Diamond estimates that have been proven time and time again to be faulty and inaccurate for EVERY book in the comic industry. EVERY title that is cited in the Diamond estimates is selling far more than those numbers.

And if you're resorting to using the Spider-Man Crawlspace for any kind of accurate accounting, that says more about your blog than I ever could.

It would be nice if people who were visiting your blog could actually get some factual information, but you seem far more interested in finding misinformation and spin to back conclusions you've already reached.

Dan, thanks for your partial response.

However flawed or limited they may be, the Diamond numbers are all we have to look at, since Marvel no longer releases numbers. I understand they're simply estimates of the US direct market that Diamond services. However, it's a question of direction for me more than precision. They show a huge contraction in the direct market, yes?

Marvel could, of course, release all its numbers and somewhat settle the matter, but IIRC it chose to stop doing so some years back.

Diamond's estimates indicate a deeply negative trend. This matches what I've seen: the consistent reader base of Big Two comics are in a decline and have been for decades. It doesn't seem to me that Spidey is a huge deviation from this, but that's not exactly a positive, IMO. "One of the tallest of the seven dwarfs" strikes again.

The Drizzt
These "numbers" on TOP of being inaccurate also, like you point out, ONLY show a (skewed) picture of JUST the direct market.

It's much like the parable of "The Blind Men & The Elephant."
You think you're finding out information about a snake when you're actually looking at a trunk.
These numbers even if they WERE correct (which they are NOT) are still not showing the WHOLE picture.

You can look at these orders and think there's a terrible downward trend in comics across the board. Or you can realize that there's an ENTIRE market that didn't exist a few years ago-- with legal digital downloads.

And there's subscriptions.
And newsstand.
And collections.
And so on.

The palpable error of logic when the disney men scurry out to spin is that the diamond number is the same windsock for all the relevant comics. It's equally inaccurate / biased so one can eliminate the bias and simply look at how the different comics do in comparison.

It's absolutely correct to call this the "Tallest of the Seven Dwarfs". That's exactly what it is.

Or do the marvel numbnuts want to really compare apples with apples and go to "accurate" figures like bookshops, newstands, online and large shops all of whom DO release figures or audits?

Spider-Man is a brand now, and the brand is very popular. The comicbook that is the trademark farm is selling about what is expected.

Disney comics have been in trouble for a while and the Warner relaunch hasn't done them any favours.

Proof positive of the problems is that slott and others find the time to slither around blogs making trouble and talking crap. Every sale must really count.

Dan, thanks again for your reply.

However, nothing you posted contradicts anything I said.

I would say, though, that I find it unlikely in the extreme that online subscriptions make up the huge decline in numbers in the direct market that Diamond's estimates show over the past five years (let alone the past 10 or 20).

Of course, Marvel could always release its numbers and see if they prove me wrong. (Yes, I'm aware that's not your call to make.)

Flying Tiger,
"Proof positive of the problems is that slott and others find the time to slither around blogs making trouble and talking crap. Every sale must really count."

I love this argument. If you were working on something, and you saw that someone was posting FALSE things about your job and your livelihood, would taking the time to set the record straight still be "making trouble" and "talking crap"?


The Drizzt,
You're right in that it's not my place to reveal actual numbers that I've been made aware of in confidence... On some level, neither is it Marvel's inclination to give up financial information just for the sake of settling arguments between fans, enthusiasts, and people arguing online.

However, when it comes to Amazing Spider-Man, I can happily point to the inarguable facts that it's clearly Marvel's best selling solo book. It's the best selling book in the industry that hasn't had a reboot in the past two years. And it's done all that while being the highest selling subscribed mainstream Marvel title for 4+ years-- each and every month without break. And Marvel's first monthly title to be available simultaneously for sale as both print AND digital.

And DESPITE having the largest subscription base at Marvel-- and with consumers having the option to go digital instead of print since last summer-- the direct market sales of the book are doing VERY well. In fact, issue after issue of our current storyline, ENDS OF THE EARTH, has been selling out in the direct market-- and the first 2nd printings of those come out next week.

In fact, issue after issue of our current storyline, ENDS OF THE EARTH, has been selling out in the direct market-- and the first 2nd printings of those come out next week.

I seem to recall Marvel switched to printing to order (or maybe it was order plus a slim overstock?) a few years back. Is that policy still operative?

If so, selling out and going back for a second print on the eve of a big movie release wouldn't seem that big a deal - especially when retailers might want to have extras of the latest movie-related comics in stock.

*shrug* Like I said, seems to me you're arguing you're one of the tallest of the seven dwarfs. Who cares if they're taller than Doc or just shorter than Happy (or the best-selling solo title whose title's initials are "A.S.M." that hasn't had a reboot in the past two years)? Still a dwarf. The last person on the Titanic to drown still drowned. And ASM would appear to me to be in decline no less than the rest of the Big Two pamphlets.

As far as circulation numbers, I'm more surprised Marvel hasn't released them for stockholders' benefit. Would seem to suggest how insignificant the publishing (trademark maintenance) side of the company is these days...

After reading through these comments, all I've taken away is that Slott thinks we should just take his word that sales are better than the Diamond estimates. But ... why should we? If you've nothing solid to offer as proof other than your word, how can you fault Avi or whoever else for making use of figures that are available?

"it's not my place to reveal actual numbers that I've been made aware of in confidence..."

Why is there even a "confidence" in this regard? Why won't Marvel reveal "actual" figures if they're as rosy as you claim?

Seems to me that Marvel has something to hide. Not that I'm suggesting a conspiracy, or anything, Slott, but if they're as good as you claim, then why not release the actual numbers?

And Hube, it's been well-documented by now that Dan Slott can't handle criticism and trolls blogs/websites just so he can "set the record straight," as per the nickname I've given him. He once cussed a guy out over on Spider-Man Crawl Space for criticizing his stories.

Funny after he said the numbers are wrong he uses the same numbers to try and say the book is doing good in the comic vine and marvel forum. This guy just loves to twist facts to try to spin things his way.

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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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