Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Some Thoughts on Comics Sales:
I've already mentioned how the July sales affected by Metti-Publisher ranking (I've since changed up my creator line-up quite a bit, from my ideal that I started with to something with a bit more of a realistic eye towards the market. I felt dirty doing it, even in make-believe, because it meant that I could say I understood how the market pressures lead to same 'ol, same 'ol marketing and editorial decisions), but The Pulse has now posted their analysis of Marvel and DC sales and I had some thoughts on sales as a result. Some of these are more or less responsive to comments or questions raised by the articles, and I recommend reading them at any rate.

1. The bump on sales from House of M, especially Hulk, has me wondering... what if Marvel were to just ditch continuity entirely, and have each, say, 4-6 months as an alternate reality that spins out of one or two writers' visions and the other writers would be encouraged to play in that playground? I mean, yes, mostly it would be an awful mess (kind of like House of M *rimshot*), but I wonder what the sales would look like? How long before the novelty of constant events won the war with fanboys missing their continuity?

2. "Ultimate Starts" month didn't do much for Ultimate sales. However, at least anecdotally, in my store, the Ultimate annuals have blown out the doors. I wonder if, rather than jumping-on points to new stories, the self-contained nature of those books might have encouraged people to jump back onboard books they had left behind. I haven't read any of the annuals, but I did give a skim-read to Ultimate Spider-Man Annual and found it to be the best issue of the book that I've read in quite some time. I'm not ready to jump back on the book, because the intriguing start to the MJ/Peter romance has now bogged down in typical "break up/make up" crap that might be realistic for a high school romance but which is kinda boring to read about, but it's a good start to a new relationship that could only take place in the Ultimate universe. Of course, I haven't read Ultimate Spider-Man since before the "Hobgoblin" arc, so I'm judging against word-of-mouth from customers and friends who read to keep up more than actual experience.

3. Runaways selling just inside the Top 75 I can deal with, although not happily. But selling less than the purposeless spin-off title Marvel Knights 4? OK, maybe it's time for Wolverine or Spider-Man to guest star... just to get the bump back to the 40K level that the book earned with the relaunch. It deserves higher than that, but it should at least be selling in the Top 50.

4. Marvel Team-Up, despite low sales and losing the big artistic draw of Scott Kolins (OK, he's not a mainstream draw, but he was one of the big reasons *I* was interested), gets a two-year commitment, which is cool for Robert Kirkman. Curious to see how this will do with the Spidey/Invincible issue, and this idea has spun off into the possible first podcast by me and Dave Farabee, possibly coming (if all technical details, like buying a microphone or two and figuring out bandwidth issues, go smoothly) early September.

5. New Warriors selling at 122, and it's one of the most interesting and unusual books Marvel is publishing. And Gravity, another of Marvel's new and interesting characters, sells lower than that. And Livewires, one of the best and freshest books Marvel has published in the last three years, sells lower than both of them. This kind of thing just pisses me off and depresses me.

6. Marc Oliver Frisch has this to say about top-selling All-Star Batman and Robin: "Of course, the book came with two different covers, but so did most of the titles listed above. For now, it seems unlikely that this number is going to be surpassed by anything anytime soon. If INFINITE CRISIS or ALL STAR SUPERMAN manage it, just pretend you never read that. I'd be surprised if they do, though -- for all intents and purposes, I suspect "Batman by Frank Miller and Jim Lee" exhausts all the potential the direct market is able to muster at this point."

From a retailer standpoint (again, anecdotal and based on gut feeling), I'm betting that INFINITE CRISIS will outsell it. I know that at my store, despite a higher price tag for IC than ASB&RTBW (I just wanted to abbreviate it), we ordered almost 40% higher (three digits instead of two), and that's just for my location, the smallest of the three stores in the chain. I'm also curious to see how the sales maintain on All-Star now that the reaction has been more akin to the response to Dark Knight Strikes Again than, say, Hush. Of course, Dark Knight Strikes Again sold gangbusters as well, but it only had to maintain for three issues, not twelve or more.

7. JLA - Again, anecdotally, we've sold out or damn close to it with all the issues of the Heinberg/Johns arc, so I doubt that retailers are sitting on much unsold stock.

8. Frisch points out the numerical possibility of Liefeld dropping the sales on Teen Titans, rather than giving the expected bump, and I can only hope that's true. Not because I wish Liefeld any harm, but because I've seen the issue, and good God that art is actually just as bad as or worse than some of Liefeld's most egregious stuff. The bendy Wonder Girl and immensely-thighed bad guy at the end are two of the more notable art gaffes, but Robin's "here's my crotch!" opening leap is pretty bad too. (Note: This is as close to a review as I'm going to do of this issue of Teen Titans, because those are the only three pages I've seen and they made my eyes bleed a little.)

9. Another sanguine point from Frisch: "Still, this may be one of the downsides of the company's current direction at display: If you emphasize continuity and "event-driven" storytelling over individual titles and creative voices, those stories which don't participate in the big thing of the minute will have an increasingly hard time fending for the audience's attention." This in relation to the slightly dipping (but still healthy, I hasten to add) sales of Legion of Super-Heroes. I think he's dead-on, and I'm not sure DC cares, with all the money being made on the lazy cash-in... excuse me, crossover books.

10. Y: The Last Man sells at 81. You'd think I'd be outraged, given that these sales numerically are about 1,000 copies below Runaways, but I'm not, because Vertigo is a different game, and seeing Y outselling a Batman title (even if it's Legends of the Dark Knight) warms my cynical black heart.

11. Also promising, albeit maybe too little too late: Gotham Central, at chart position #116, is *climbing* in sales. Nothing climbs in sales in comics anymore, doesn't it? It's a slow slide into cancellation, right? (Unless you're John Byrne's more rabid fans, in which case it's a vast conspiracy designed to deprive your, favorite artist... of work) The Goon, at position #151, is also climbing, and about to get a bump from the 25 cent issue, and Invincible, in position #173, is climbing as well. This may mostly be because the sales are low enough that buzz and a few new readers can actually affect chart position at this level, because the gains are usually between 100-400 readers at best.

12. Hellboy: The Island was about 5K higher than the last Hellboy miniseries. Does this mean that the Hellboy movie netted 5,000 more comics fans for the title? I can't decide if that's really low or a pretty decent gain. Probably both.

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