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Old August 10 2012, 12:45 PM   #1095
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Re: Heroic Age/Avengers Ongoing Discussion Thread (Spoilers)

CBR's Tilting at Windmills has an interesting article on Marvel NOW!, why it may not be a success, and why that's a bad thing for comics, in general. The article is by Brian Hibbs, a comic retailer and covers Marvel NOW! from the perspective of a retailer.

The key problem facing Marvel right now, as I see it, is that, with the exception of AvX, their line is slowly withering. While high-performing miniseries, or one-off stunts like Northstar's gay marriage, can spike some sales up, the bread-and-butter for a periodical company is the month-in-month-out sales performance of their 12(+) times a year regular ongoing books. This is also the bread-and-butter for the retailer, as well.

Prior to AvX crossovers (in March), Marvel's best-selling not-issue-#1 ongoing book (this time: "Uncanny X-Men" #8) had dropped below 60k copies. This is, to the best of my knowledge, the absolute nadir of sales for Marvel's top ongoing. While this was a very long time ago, indeed, when I first got into this business in the 80s, Marvel would routinely cancel books that sold that low.
Here's the thing, though: the Direct Market needs a strong Marvel comics. And as strong as the sales of AvX have been (and they've been spiffy, thanks!), that's really is supposed to be just a little bit more than what the sales of the regular monthly adventures of those two teams should be. Not 2-300% of the regular monthly sales!

Marvel is the best known brand in comics. Kind of indisputably so. I'm a DC guy at heart, and even I know this. There is absolutely no reason that "Batman" should be outselling "Amazing Spider-Man" by 2:1 right now from a straight-up market awareness POV. In fact, I tend to think that Marvel should be kind of destroying DC by 20 points or better any given month, and the fact that they aren't is less about what a great job that DC is doing (though they are doing a great job right now), and more about what a mediocre job Marvel is doing.
As far as "urgency" goes, I strongly believe that staging out a rolling relaunch with "one book a week" for the 20+ week period strips much of the urgency from it. As a retailer, I appreciate the premise of a new opportunity every week, but in actual practice, I think it makes the new "Marvel NOW!" branding seem much more like "The Heroic Age", where by week five everyone was already sick of seeing those no-content slogans bannered to the top of so many comics.

The problem as a retailer is that I don't actually have a hook for "Marvel NOW!" because I don't actually know the full contents of it. I can't "talk it up" except in the most generic way. Instead, I have to make each of those sales connections individually by book as they announce them, and without the benefit of the global branding to tie them together. One thing we were able to do with "The New 52" was to create a specific one-time sell-sheet for our customers outlining the whole program. That intensely focused interest because we're urgently needed them to sign up for these new series within the next month (so we could accurately order!) -- but I can't create 20+ different sell-sheets, and, even if I could, that won't work because by #3, people are going to be saying, "Ugh, not this again".
Unfortunately, the feeling I get from "Marvel NOW!" is "You know all that stuff we've been doing that you don't seem to be responding to? Here's more of it." Which is a hard message to sell.
I recommend reading the whole article, because he makes some good points, I didn't include here. Agree or not, it is an interesting perspective and I wonder how true it is for other retailers.
"When I reach for the edge of the universe, I do it knowing that along some paths of cosmic discovery, there are times when, at least for now, one must be content to love the questions themselves." --Neil deGrasse Tyson
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