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Would less books = more sales?

Read the comments on the Paul O'Brien' Marvel Sales analysis articles and you'll see calls for Marvel to reduce the glut and trim back their line, on the grounds that it would help sales. I'm trying to work out if that counterintuitive idea makes sense.

First, let's get out of the way the fact that i would love this idea. It isn't really feasible to buy every Marvel Universe book right now. It's not necessarily a money issue, but i honestly don't think i'd have time to read them all. Or space to store them. But the biggest issue is the "good stuff to crap" ratio. Right now, there are so many books coming out that a large number are bound to not be to my liking. So there's a lot i don't get. At the same time, i feel like i am missing out by not reading the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the X-Men, etc. If there were only, say, two dozen books coming out a month, i personally would love it, and i'd probably be getting them all just so i could keep up on what all the MU characters were doing, even if i didn't love a quarter of the books.

By contrast, the last time i compiled a list of what i was getting (it was a while ago; it became too much trouble to maintain), it was about 40 books (not counting one shots but counting mini-series on the grounds that they've been replaced by new mini-series). In the July Sales chart, i count 67 Marvel Universe books, plus 21 non-continuity books (Ultimates, Max, Marvel Adventures, licensed and other random stuff).

So clearly i would like them to drop down to 24 books. It would save me money! But to force some commitment on my part, let's increase it. Just to pick a higher number at random, let's use 52. And hold it there. No one-shots, no minis, etc.

So, being a nerd, i plotted out the sales numbers in Excel.

Those top 3 points are special events - The start of the Spider-Island crossover (and i think the bigger factor in sales was a retailer incentive that included custom covers with a picture of the retailers' store), the Captain America relaunch, and Fear Itself. Jumping down from there, about 30,000 sales lower, you have a Daredevil relaunch, an X-Men event, and the top selling "normal" Marvel books, which are the Bendis Avengers titles.

So, let's make some assumptions. Let's assume that the #1 selling book on this chart, at 135,568, is artificially inflated due to retailers wanting a book with their picture on it. Let's assume the #2 selling book, at 96,926, represents all of the current comic book fans that have interest in Marvel books but don't buy even the regular top sellers. So there's some 30,000 readers out there that like Marvel books in theory but aren't buying most books.

The assumption is that we could get some or all of those people to start buying every book if we cut the line.

Right now, if you add up the sales on all Marvel books, you get 2,356,385. So, at 52 books, the break even-point is to sell each book at 45,350 or so. Which means all 52 books would have to sell as well (on average) as what's currently at position #27 on the sales chart. Marvel's current 52nd book (different than the book at position #52 on the chart, since that also includes non-Marvel books, so this is position #105 on the chart) sells at 20,390.

The assumption is that sales come from that 30,000 gap between position #2 and #6 on the chart. And it's possibly supplemented by people moving to read some of the new 52 who are now buying lower selling Marvel books that would get cancelled. I don't see this move bringing in many new-to-comics readers. It might bring in some lapsed comics readers, but not a significant number. This is really about maximizing the sales to the current Marvel fanbase.

Of course, the break-even point doesn't reflect the savings for the 36 books we're no longer producing. But on the other side, it's worth noting that a lot of the lower selling books, like the Marvel Adventures line and the licensed books, actually sell better outside of the direct market or in trade format. And there are many other moving parts as well (Creator pay, cover price, etc.).

But just pretending that my numbers work... 52 books. Let's assume $3.50 a book. That's about $200 a month. Since most comics readers nowadays are 30+ something working people, it's not entirely impossible, but it's not likely. Reduce the number of books further (let's say to 24), and now each book needs to sell at the Captain America relaunch numbers - 100,000. That is pretty much every available Marvel fan buying every book.

So based on my half-assed analysis, i'd say at best you are looking at a very risky gambit. Definitely not a no-brainer.

What am i missing?

For fun, here's the Marvel Checklist from the good old days when it would have been feasible to buy every book. Unless you were, like me, 9 years old, in which case you could only afford the books that i checked off.

By fnord12 | August 31, 2011, 4:30 PM | Comics | Link

Marvel Sales

They've been running late so here's both June and July.

By fnord12 | August 29, 2011, 2:09 PM | Comics | Comments (2)| Link

An important announcement

Star Wars MPC Contest

I just like seeing Luke driving around in that little car.

By fnord12 | August 28, 2011, 5:55 PM | Comics & Star Wars | Link

I think Arnim Zola has been messing with them

Mego Elastic Hulk & Spider-Man

By fnord12 | August 28, 2011, 5:53 PM | Comics | Link

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Avengers #16 - Is this better? Very light on the talking heads, and a randomish but Fear Itself related story? Anyway, i liked it even though it was clearly designed to not move any plot forward. You know why i liked it? The Red Skull's Exiles. Except for one very major complaint. It should be a requirement that when using the Exiles, and Cadavus, Monarch of the Murder Chair, the phrase "Murder Chair" be used very prominently. Because nothing is more awesome than a Murder Chair.

Avengers Academy #18 - Well, i was concerned that the Academy kids would beat the godified Absorbing Man and Titania too easily, and clearly that didn't happen. I guess i felt like there was too much running around and nothing really happening. A "decompression" complaint i guess; you'd think i'd be used to that by now. My hopes were kinda raised when they reached the conclusion that "If everyone's worried that we're going to grow up to become super-villains, maybe we should start acting like super-villains." I thought that would be a turning point in the story, but actually not so much. Still, this was well written, and i enjoyed seeing *tic* Bug's people at the end.

Captain America #2 - Who would have thought Brubaker would have been such a continuity miner. This Jimmy Jupiter character is going to have me picking up some very strange back issues, apparently. And at the end, we get the Ameridroid, who between this book and Stern's Corps book is getting way more play than i'm sure anyone could have ever imagined. All that and some nice writing and art, too.

Captain America Corps #3 - Hey, what can i tell you? It's Roger Stern playing with continuity and doing some great characterization. The silliness of the premise seems less important with every issue. And i think the art is improving as well.

Hulk #39 - From the cover, i see that my favorite new character Omegex has picked up a second tagline to go with "The World Destroyer". He's now "The Walking Apocalypse" as well. I approve. I'm glad i stuck with this book. For whatever reason i didn't like the Zero/One stuff and the Planet Hulk Redux plotline, but i'm definitely enjoying it again.

Thunderbolts #162 - Great book. Satana is just awesome. Mr. Hyde is awesome. Giant-Sized Man-Thing is awesome. Centurious is pretty cool. The "evil" Thunderbolts plot is going to be interesting.

New Mutants #30 - I enjoyed the Mephisto conversation; i thought that was done really well. And i liked that big weird shark man that ate Dani.

Captain America & Bucky #621 - Continues to be good... waiting to see what comes of it. And from a timeline project perspective, i'm waiting to see when Bucky's narration takes place.

By fnord12 | August 28, 2011, 1:40 PM | Comics | Comments (2)| Link


Assistant Editors Month! Secret Wars! The Casket of Ancient Winters saga!

My timeline for one of the best years in Marvel's history is finished so if you've been longing to read tons of reviews of old comic books, now's your chance.

By fnord12 | August 26, 2011, 6:03 PM | Comics | Link

Batman is Spider-Man

Now those packages in Chinatown that group Marvel and DC figures make so much more sense.

Batman begins as Spiderman when he finds a basement under his villa, allowing him to stroke all criminal activates including Doctor Jackstraw, the abnormal drug trafficker

Some guy i "know" on facebook posted this. Someone apparently found this in a Chinese dollar store (a Chinese dollar store??).

By min | August 24, 2011, 3:23 PM | Comics | Link

We all experienced an earthquake today, but only one of us became... Vibro

Iron Man #186 by O'Neil/McDonnell.  Origin of Vibro pt 1

Iron Man #186 by O'Neil/McDonnell. Origin of Vibro pt 2

Iron Man #186 by O'Neil/McDonnell. Origin of Vibro pt 3

Iron Man #186 by O'Neil/McDonnell.  Vibro.

By fnord12 | August 23, 2011, 7:03 PM | Comics | Comments (4)| Link

The Fantastic Four are Imaginauts

Mini-Marvels Imaginauts

By fnord12 | August 23, 2011, 10:24 AM | Comics | Link

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

New Avengers #15 - So Squirrel Girl's a real badass, huh? I enjoyed this. Her squirrel swarm is hilarious. But Bendis does a good job of making her a real, non-joke character, as well. Relatively speaking. Fun stuff. But let's get serious here for a second. If Wolverine, without claws, without relying on his healing factor, can beat Iron Fist in hand-to-hand combat, i guess we'd better kick Fist off the team. Because Iron Fist is supposed to be the best hand-to-hand fighter this side of Shang Chi, and Wolverine's fighting style is supposed to be "plow through and take the hits and let the healing factor deal with it". So if the best martial artist can't handle Wolverine, he's just not adding anything to the group.

Alpha Flight #3 - This series is clearly designed for those of us who loved the original Byrne run. And that's me! My only complaint continues to be Marrina. I guess i kind of liked the new character, whoever she is, this issue. Which is better than earlier, when i thought she was bratty and annoying. But when the Unity scientists say, "Marrina has consistently been rated Alpha Flight's most anti-social and rebellious member", i worry that they're never going to actually try and explain to me what happened here. But that aside, i liked this. The team's quibbling, Shaman's new corny sense of humor, the whole government conspiracy plot... good stuff.

New Mutants #29 - Nowadays, i always have trouble telling Magma and Magik apart. "Blond girl." If i see Magik first, then it's "Oh yeah, she's the one with the bangs". But if i see Magma first, i'm in trouble, especially when it's a new artist. Luckily, there's the recap page. Oh wait.

New Mutants #29 recap

Anyway, this was good. I think i like the new artist's Warlock. And i of course like Doug and Warlock, although i'm a bit worried that Doug has become both Exposition Boy and Do Whatever the Plot Requires Boy.

By fnord12 | August 17, 2011, 11:16 AM | Comics | Link

The Question of the Week will never be "What is an acceptable Adverse Impact ratio?"

Here's a neat little story from the lettercol in Thor #352:

Recently, THOR chronicler Walt Simonson and his equally-awesome wife Louise were visiting relatives in Maryland during the dog days of August and happened to stop in at a small ice cream shop named Steve's. On the wall of that august establishment was a blackboard. And above the board written in large letters, the following was inscribed - "Question of the week -- answer it and win a free Ice Cream cone!" Always looking for some new way of saving money (short of not actually spending it), Walt glanced over the question -- and felt the hand of Fate lightly touch him on the shoulder. When he walked up to the counter to claim his free cone, the girl behind it looked at him and turned to a friend. "He's wearing a Thor T-Shirt!" she said. And as luck would have it, he was, indeed. For the Question of the Month [sic] read -- "What is the name of the magic hammer that gives Thor his powers?" Some days, you don't have to work for a living!

By fnord12 | August 14, 2011, 7:51 PM | Comics | Comments (3)| Link

Whatever is going on in this ad is wrong

Or at least doesn't belong in a comic where kids can see it.

Turbo Touch 360

By fnord12 | August 14, 2011, 12:48 AM | Comics & Video Games | Link

Shooter vs. Buscema

Everyone knows i'm a fan of the Jim Shooter era of Marvel comics. But he definitely had a reputation as a control freak.

I just recently read an interview book with Sal Buscema. What you have to understand about Sal (yeah, i'm on a first name basis with him) is that while he wasn't a superstar, he was the workhorse of Marvel's artist stable. He did several books a month, did fill-ins for other artists that were late, and took all assignments they gave him without complaint. I think he was a good artist, too, and one thing's for sure: he was great at the storytelling aspect of his job. Action flowed from panel to panel and you could always "read" his art and understand what was going on without any dialogue or narration to explain things.

So combine all of that and it's pretty shocking to see him refuse a high profile assignment:

Q: I read in Back Issue magazine where you and [Shooter] had a difference of opinion on the wedding of Spider-Man.

A: As a matter of fact, we did. I got along well with Jim... Anyway, I had heard these horror stories about Secret Wars. Mike Zeck was a very good artist; I liked his work. And I found out almost third-hand, so it may be wrong, that Mike almost had a nervous breakdown because of what Jim had put him through. That got me a little bit leery.

But that wasn't the big problem. When I got the script from Jim, he had all kinds of parameters he had painted for me, all sorts of restrictions. "Don't do this. I want the panels done this way. I want them laid out this way." Essentially, the next step would have been for him to hold my hand and push the pencil around on the paper. I had read the note that came along with the script and thought, "I can't work this way. I just cannot give it my best."

And that's essentially what I wrote in a letter to Jim... I told him that under the circumstances, what he was asking was more than I could give him. That I could not do my best work working under these circumstances. That he was just giving me too many parameters, and sort of painting me into a corner or putting me in a box, and I just could not work that way. I asked him to please understand, because I'd been used to working for so many years in this manner, and all of a sudden he was asking me [to] do something diametrically opposed to the way I'd been working. "I can't do my best work for you. Thank you for the opportunity." I thought it was a very pleasant and tactful letter. I said, "I'm sure you can find somebody else who can give you what you want, and thereby do a much better job than I would be able to do for you under the circumstances."

It was a few days later that I got a letter back from Jim that just ripped me up one side and down the other. He told me they were paying me the big bucks to do what I was told. The letter was longer than that, and it was abusive. I didn't appreciate it one bit, because the letter I had sent to him was very tactful and very, very friendly. I certainly didn't get that in return, and that's the way it ended. As far as I was concerned the case was closed. It was over with. I didn't appreciate the letter, but there was nothing I could do about it.

Q: From what I understand, he was going into such detail that he was telling you what the houses were supposed to look like, what the people were supposed to be wearing - that level of minutiae.

A: He even went into panel layout. He said, "For instance, if Spider-Man is shooting his web at somebody, I don't want to see him shooting the web in one panel and the web hitting the guy in the next panel. I want that to be happening in one panel." I'm thinking, "If the circumstances call for it, if the design of the book calls for it, you can't work that way." How are you supposed to work at your creative best when somebody is damn near hanging over your shoulder telling you how to draw everything that you're supposed to draw. I can't work that way. I'm not sure anybody could. And I wasn't about to get a nervous breakdown the way Mike Zeck did, so I decided - and I hated to do it, believe me, because I knew I was giving up a lot of money - to write that letter.

The book follows up with a shot showing that Sal could show the initiation & conclusion of an action all happening in one panel (Spidey shoots his webs and they hit the bad guys at the same time), which is a common trick and something Buscema obviously didn't need to be told about (although this particular panel comes from a book that was published well after the incident in question.).

Spider-Man Unlimited #11

Now, there's no doubt that Jim Shooter is going to be extra fussy about a high profile book like Secret Wars or the Spidey/Mary Jane wedding issue. And I wonder how much of Sal's concerns were based on rumors about Mick Zeck's experience; maybe otherwise he would have let the micro-managing roll off his shoulders. But still, it's pretty clear that when you rattle a guy like Sal Buscema, you're doing something wrong.

By fnord12 | August 11, 2011, 8:55 AM | Comics | Comments (1)| Link

Affordably priced!?!

G.I. Joe Movie: By way of comparison, this was advertised in a comic with a 60 cent cover price.

What they're advertising here is the original 5 part pilot mini-series. $39.95?? Adjusted for inflation, that's $82.73! No amount of free posters is going to make up for that. I'm pretty sure every kid couldn't own a copy.

No wonder we live in a world dominated by the forces of Cobra.

By fnord12 | August 10, 2011, 8:57 PM | Comics & TeeVee | Comments (5)| Link

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Avengers Academy #17 - Look, i remember when the Wasp and Ant-Man had to face off against Absorbing Man and Titania during the Siege of Avengers Mansion storyline. And that was an un-Godified Absorbing Man and Titania. If the Academy kids manage to defeat those two next issue, it's time to start handing out diplomas. I don't love the idea that Absorbing Man's hate for Henry Pym is so great that it overrides his deity imprint. Thor, i could buy. But just cause Pym beat him recently, that doesn't seem to be enough. Although, i guess to be fair, we all hate Pym. I did think this was a good issue. Great art by Chen, and good character moments.

Herc #6 - Other than the power-ups for Hercules' new villain-buddies, which was cool but i hope (and assume) was not permanent, this went pretty much the way you'd expect it to after last issue. Last issue had all sorts of cool ideas and a lot of build-up, but the problem with conclusions is they often are a little bit of a letdown. Not saying i didn't enjoy this, just not as much as last issue. Although the silly/ridiculous "Brooklyn's my town!" was a high point.

Hulk #38 - Um, hi! My name is Omegex the World Destroyer? I'm hovering over your planet and i'm going to, um, destroy it! I was kind of thinking the Red Hulk might want to try and stop me, so i've been politely hovering up here for oh, 3 or 4 months. Is it... can i... next issue? You promise? Ok, it's just... there's a guy with a website who's irrationally very found of me based on not much more than my name and my vague resemblance to some Kirby robots, and i really wouldn't want to disappoint him.

As for this issue, i'll just say this: I've been defending those Avengers talking heads issues on the grounds that it's a fine way to tread water during Fear Itself. But if you had told me the alternative was an all-MODOK issue, well, i mean, that would have been a different story. Also, if MODOK likes Zero/One, that's good enough for me.

Thunderbolts #161 - Fear Itself is the first big Marvel crossover in a while that i've deliberately avoided. And i was worried at first that i'd made the wrong decision. As bad as i thought it would be (and it sounds like i was right), i thought i'd feel like i was missing out on important stuff. But, Buckywintercap dying aside, it turns out i'm enjoying the series more by not actually reading it. I get the basic gist of the story, and i only have to read the parts by creators that i like. It's a revelation!

By fnord12 | August 8, 2011, 9:41 PM | Comics | Comments (1)| Link

Continuity geeks in perpetuum

A commenter on my Marvel Timeline website called my attention to this letter in Amazing Spider-Man #72 (May 69 cover date).

Marvel continuity letter

Actually it looks closer to a Marvel Chronology Project listing than mine, but the point is we're here! We're nerds! Get used to it!

By fnord12 | August 8, 2011, 11:04 AM | Comics | Link

Mike Sterling is funny

He says:

Hey gang! I've come to a bipartisan agreement, with myself, to raise the entertainment ceiling and bring you a bunch of swell items from the latest Diamond Previews...

His End of Civilization posts are always entertaining, so go read, but i wanted to call out his intro.

Update: Kinda wish Marvel made those aprons. I'd be a much better cook if i had the self-confidence an Arnim Zola physique could bestow upon me.

By fnord12 | August 4, 2011, 9:12 AM | Comics | Link

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