Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by Turtletrekker, Dec 8, 2012.
At last, a new super hero
IIRC, the only reason Lee and Kirby invented the costumes was an attempt to boost sales after the first issue flopped.
Would they have know after only two issues?
I can only assume that it was a much smaller industry back then.
If half he comics you printed are returned and pulped, you'd find out about it quick.
But there is a time lag from when the book is made and when it hits the shelves. They could have been working on the third or fourth issue before the first issue hit the shelves
^Right. Usually the production cycle was about four months, I'd say, since that was how long it would take for the letters about a given issue to show up in a later issue.
It WAS a Stan Lee interview I remember this from so it might not be true. We all know that Stan's recollection of the past is only slightly better than Lucas.
But he did say something like, so we added the costumes and the comic took off. Everybody loves costumes.
Think the earliest issues were bimonthly as well, so that makes it more possible.
Marvel didn't start filing sales returns on Fantastic Four until 1966 (I'm just repeating what I read 50 seconds ago.) which was 329,379 units per year for 1966, which means that they were selling under 30 thousand books per month in their third year, and probably much less than that in year one, and year 2.
30,000 books per month might sound like a lot, but it really isn't.
The irony of (semi)illiterate news agents does not escape me, but most of the sales products would be worked out verbally between the guy in the truck ("Hey Mac! This shit! You see this shit!? It don't sell too well, so don't give it to me no more! You understand me Mac?! If you give me this shit again, I am going to stick my foot up your ass!") and the guy in the news stand. You'd have to go one more level up to the guy in the truck's boss before it was all about spreadsheets and accounting.
Okay, when it comes to comic book myths and urban legends, the place to look for the truth is the terrific "Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed" column by Brian Cronin on Comic Book Resources. Here's what it has to say about the FF's costumes:
So it's pretty much the opposite of what was suggested in the Lee interview. It's not that the costumes were an afterthought added to boost sagging sales. They were always meant to be costumed superheroes, but Marvel hesitated to make that overt until they saw the book's sales were strong enough.
As for the bit about the distribution deal and why Marvel would be afraid of competing directly with DC, that's addressed in this earlier column. Basically, at the time, Marvel was getting its comics distributed by a company that was part of DC, and they were very limited in what they were allowed to publish.
By the way, here's another column I found in my article search, showing the original pencil art for FF #3 in which we see that the FF were originally going to wear masks:
The four month turn around is a modern problem.
Dozens of titles/10's of millions of units shipped globally per month.
In the early 60s however...
Less than a dozen titles(?)/a couple hundred thousand(??) units shipped per month shipped (probably with exceptions) to a few select cities in America.
Sure their technology sucked, but also over half(?) their product did not leave New York... It's possible that they could have figured out a flop from a hit much faster back then than they can today.
I think the four month turn around from page to press to purchase has been there since comics began.
Because their technology sucked?
Just to clarify, it's a pitiful amount back then, but it would be quite good these days.
Because it takes time to plot, draw, script and print things.
Book keeping vs. the sales point.
Comics were 10 cents in 1961, while prices range between $4.00 and "ridiculous" now.
Yeah, cost goes up and sales go down. Solution, raise the price.
My references for the 4-month turnaround are the comics I collected in the '80s. So it's not a recent development.
Anyway, I decided to check my DVD-ROM Amazing Spider-Man collection, and in place of the letters page on issue 1, there's a message saying that letters will begin to appear in the third issue, "because our SECOND issue will already be on the presses by the time you read this!" So yes, I guess it would've been possible for the third issue to be affected by the results of the first. And that fits with the Legends Revealed account, since it was with the third issue that Marvel felt comfortable enough with the response to the first that they went ahead and stopped hiding the fact that it was a superhero book.
(I tried taking a screencap and uploading it to my blog so I could link to it here, but then I found it was too small to be legible for some reason. How do you folks make posting screencaps and images look so effortless?)
Stan would plot. Jack would draw, and the Stan would tape speech bubbles onto Jack's pages.
The creative process is relatively constant, but it has never taken 4 months, and if it did take 4 months then it would take 7 months to make a comic, even though the creators cannot work simultaneously.
This is what I mean by technology...
Having 40 to 50 less titles per month saves time.
Printing 10 million less comics a month saves time.
Shipping 10 million less comics per month saves time.
Not shipping books across the country and across the world in one day saves time.
I think there's also issues of distribution and access. You pretty much have to go to a specialty shop to get comicbooks these days. At one time, you used to be able to buy them at news stands. On a related note, news stands used to be a thing people bought things at. The 90s was kind of a perfect storm of changing buying patterns, changing demographics, and genuinely terrible comics. It almost killed the entire industry. They readjusted by making them a higher quality individual product (just looking at artwork alone) that cost more to buy. That way, it could keep going with fewer readers.
Although there is this nice discussion between Chris Claremont (writer for the X-Men), Louise Simonson (X-Factor, among others), and Ann Nocenti (most known for Daredevil, but also an editor on X-Men related comics) about this issue. It's only three minutes long, so it's worth listening to hear their takes:
Separate names with a comma.