Four Letter Nerd

I Am The Villain Behind Marvel’s Sales Slump

What you are reading is an admission of guilt.  I take responsibility for my actions and, with sound mind and clarity present myself to you with no prejudice and no pre-conceived master plan. I am responsible for MARVEL’s slump of comic book sales, and MARVEL has no one but themselves to blame.

I take no pleasure in revealing myself as the villain.  I thought about it long and hard before I decided to make my actions known to the world.  In fact, I woke up this morning and had pretty much come to the personal realization that this would be something I would just keep to myself until I shuffled off this lowly plane of existence.  However, I have seen an increase in articles written by people who claim to be experts in this industry, with their 5K Twitter followers or the reach of their audience through one of the plethora<h3 “”=”” id=”yui_3_16_0_ym19_1_1491345529012_2727″> I Am The Villain Behind Marvel’s Sales Slump of comic book news websites, podcasts, forums or Facebook groups.  Even as you read this, you may think this is a clever piece written by a staff writer who wanted to take a fresh angle on a subject that everyone thinks they know.

All posers, amateurs and false.

This is the true story, and I share it, along with who I am and why I did what I did, with you today.

I am an average, unassuming middle age comic reader and collector.  In fact, short of my love for comics and the comic book industry as a whole, I’m quite boring.  If you are a comic retailer, I am both the man who comes into your store who has a pullbox with you out of loyalty or the man who wanders in off the street to spend money in your shop simply to help support it.  I will cherry pick your $1 boxes for that 1:25 variant you couldn’t sell and put it in the hands of a collector across the country.  I listen to your conversations, critique, and complaints in casual conversations and chime in with ease.  You’ll even find my name in the SPECIAL THANKS section of some MARVEL COMICS.  I have been both comic customer and retailer.  I am everyone and no one and where I once bought 20-30 MARVEL comics a month.  Now I don’t buy MARVEL at all, and I don’t sing MARVEL’s praises like I used to.

First reason:  MARVEL EVENTS.  I’m sick of them.  They have inconsistent artwork and are used as nothing more than a rinse-and-repeat cash grab.  They also often begin or end with the death of a long-time classic MARVEL character that I grew up with and have invested years of time and money of my life in coming to know.  They’re confusing, often unnecessary, sometimes late and numerous.  Back in the day, it might be a year between Events.  Now it might be every 3-6 months, and they bleed over, making it hard to tell when one ends and another begins.  So instead of not buying the crossover books and just buying the event limited series…now I don’t buy events at all.  I also echo this opinion to the friends in my network.

Second reason:  DIVERSITY.  I attended a MARVEL RETAILER SUMMIT at NYCC a couple years back, and Marvel was both praised and were praising themselves over diversity in comics.  And yes, MARVEL should be applauded for their progressive and aggressive stance on this issue.  BUT I feel it was too much too soon, and it’s not thought out well.  While characters like KAMALA KHAN and MILES MORALES are exceptional gems, MARVEL is slowing replacing (not adding, replacing) their cast with fresh characters that I have little personal investment in.  When DC relaunched their books under the NEW 52 banner, I stopped buying DC (except BATMAN…I don’t know anyone who dropped BATMAN) for the very same reason.  THESE WEREN’T MY CHARACTERS.  MARVEL was unique to DC because of their focus on down-to-earth, regular, every-day, conflicted alter-egos.  Now, I would be buying TOTALLY AWESOME HULK just because I love the HULK.  No.  I love BRUCE BANNER, who happens to BE the HULK.  Basically, I support the idea of characters who broaden religion, sex or ethnicity.  But it’s getting to where we’re seeing an “All-New, All-Different” line-up isn’t speaking to me as a long-time reader.  You took the chance that the prospect of having new, fresh faces in the shops to become readers would be more than the current readership.  That chance doesn’t seem to be working very well.  This hip, fresh approach isn’t appealing to old fogeys like me…and our opinions matter to other readers, both new and old.

Third reason:  VARIANT OVERLOAD.  What once was a fun and casual twist to collecting has now become the bane of a collector’s existence.  I now have short boxes that hold single titles due to the number of variations this company pumps out.  You can spend thousands of dollars as a collector just buying the same book over and over and over again…which I don’t think this gimmick was meant for that.  GWENPOOL, VENOMIZED, ACTION FIGURE, BABY, 1:1000s…there is no end in sight to the bottomless pit of money a collector or shop can lose.

Also, as a retailer, while these variants can be a way to make an insane amount of money, that only happens if DIAMOND doesn’t muck it up.   Case in point:  a few years ago, I ran a comic shop a few years ago and ordered 300 copies of a comic to qualify for a single 1:300 variant that I knew would sell.  When the book came out, DIAMOND didn’t ship the book.  When they were able to fulfill it, the window of hype and opportunity closed and cost the shop hundreds of dollars.  I blame MARVEL and DIAMOND for that.  So instead of buying new books…I spend my time wandering like a zombie into different stores just looking to buy a copy of a book I already have because I would rather have a 1:75 variant than take several $4 chances on books that might not be any good.  MARVEL’S STAR WARS #1 has over 100 different covers via MARVEL or various retailers all over the country.  I’ve seen comic shops with entire boxes of unsold product that were simply variations of the same comic.  You can browse MARVEL’s CLOSEOUT LIST sent to retailers every few months, and it will be littered with variants for a buck.  Everyone remember what happened to HASTINGS?  This is where the market is going if it continues.

Fourth Reason:  INCONSISTENT CREATIVE TEAMS.  I guess I’m old school, but I miss the days when a comic might have the same writer and artist on a title for years.  If I want that, I need to go to IMAGE.  That’s not a huge sticking point, but some of my friends still buy comics for art.

Fifth Reason:  CONSTANT REBOOTS and RELAUNCHES.  Retailers and collectors LOVE #1 issues.  It looks like a jumping on point.  But it’s not.  It’s just a way to sell more books.  Some MARVEL books even have a large “#1” printed that is larger than the actual issue number.  This is misleading.  Stop relaunching titles with new #1s.  It waters down the collectability and confuses readers.

Sixth Reason:  STAN LEE.  Marvel needs another Stan Lee.  Joe Quesada is a cool guy who knows comics and is an extremely talented man.  But he’s no Stan Lee.  As a kid, Stan made me feel good about every dollar I spent on a Marvel Comic.  When Stan would speak to me in the comics, that’s what it felt like.  He was speaking directly to me as if he and I, publisher and reader, connected on a personal level.  That kind of marketing is rare.  IDW, BOOM! and VALIANT seem to be the publishers that have figured this out…putting emphasis on the reader and making you feel good about the book you read.  That builds personal investment.  MARVEL has gotten a little lazy in this regard in the last few years, and Stan has evolved far beyond Marvel into a brand of his own.  Someone needs to come forward, step up and tell people WHY they need to buy Marvel and how that $4-$10 they are spending on a comic is a $10 well spent.

Joe Q:  we love you.  Step up, sir.

I’m sure there are a few others that I didn’t touch on here, but it really doesn’t matter.  MARVEL is scratching their heads and wondering “WHY?  We’re MARVEL!”  but the answer is in their own question.  Marvel made it easy NOT to buy them with inconsistent story-telling, false market buzz, self-hype and changing too much too soon…making it easier for me to plant seeds into the minds of my peers as to why they shouldn’t buy MARVEL anymore.  Beyond this sentence, I’ve made no reference to the MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE either, so the movies play little factor in my piece.

If it’s any consolation, this has come with a price.  I don’t sleep as well anymore knowing that I have been responsible for the woes of a company who has brought so much joy in my life.  Marvel can fill a room with retailers, send out press releases and fill the shelves with new #1 issues every Wednesday until the Badoon Invasion but until they decide to attack the issue on the reader level and not just on the retail one, this will continue to happen.  I don’t know if I have the answer as to how this can be reversed.  The ball is rolling so fast now that it might just need to play out on a grand scale and see where MARVEL lands in the big picture.  On my end, dropping $20-$30 bucks a week on MARVEL COMICS now seems like a waste of money to me and that’s terribly sad.

I wish I knew how much money I’ve spent on MARVEL COMICS my whole life.

Those days are gone.

*(rubs hands together)* You’re welcome.

 

(Editor’s note: this was written by a guest contributor who wishes to remain anonymous)

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