Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Marvel Movies Are the Biggest Around So Why Are Marvel Comics Failing?

Nigel Mitchell posted a link to this article in The Atlantic that analyzes Marvel Comics' sales slump.  Which seems odd since movies like The Avengers, Iron Man, and Captain America:  Civil War have generated close to a billion (or more) apiece.  Why isn't this translating to comics?

There are a number of reasons for this in the article, many of them self-inflicted.

1.  Those Guys On Screen?  Yeah, Good Luck Finding Them in Comics.  It's admirable in recent years Marvel has made a push for equality in terms of color and gender, but the downside is that the Disney movies are still mostly male whitewashed.  If you liked the movie of The Avengers and go to pick up a comic now Captain America is Sam Wilson (and an evil Steve Rogers), Thor is a woman, Iron "Man" is a teenage black girl, and the Hulk is an Asian guy.  But there's still Hawkeye and Black Widow...I think.  I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but it creates a disconnect between movies and comics because if you want to follow Tony Stark's adventures in print, there is no more Tony Stark--for now.  Kind of limits the cross-marketing potential.

2.  Oh and Good Luck Finding Comics In General:  When my brother and I were growing up in rural Michigan we could walk down to the corner store and get the latest Transformers or GI JOE comic.  (And they had the other big ones too of course.)  At grocery stores I would frequently be traumatized by comic book covers that were scary or weird.  But now you can't hardly find a comic book anywhere except book stores and specialty comic book stores.  And though I'm not a "normal" person I still don't really like comic book stores.  It's like if you're not a sports fan and you go to some guy's "man cave" that has tons of memorabilia; you definitely aren't in Kansas anymore.  You're entering someone else's clubhouse and it can be easy to feel intimidated.  Plus most of them are hole-in-the-wall places that aren't exactly nearby and for introverts there's probably no one there so you're probably going to be accosted by the owner.  And you're probably not going to get a hot girl to write her phone number on an X-Men comic like in Free Enterprise.  Fortunately there's Comixology and such so you can buy comics online now.

3.  Even Online, Bring Money:  When I was a kid comics were like 50 cents and then gradually went up to 75 cents and a dollar.  In 1938 when Superman debuted for 10 cents you got like 100 pages of comics and print.  Now for $3.99 you get 23 pages, probably half of which will be splash pages with one panel on a whole page or across two pages.  But the quality of the paper and ink is a lot better.  The quality of the drawing itself can be debatable.  A lot of newer ones use more of a manga style it seems, which is meh to me but what do I know?

4.  Gotta Catch Them All!:  Marvel and DC are both guilty of too many crossover events.  The latest for Marvel is "Secret Empire" where evil Steve Rogers has taken over America.  This is only a few months removed from "Civil War II" which I haven't read yet but then I'm a few events behind.  Really you can get like that part of the Bible:  And lo Original Sins beget Secret Wars II which beget Civil War II which beget Secret Empire...If you want to really follow each event you have to buy not only the 8 main issues of that series but then the 2-4 spinoff issues for each series.  At the same time, each series goes from one arc after another, each probably 5-6 issues so they can put it into a trade paperback later.  I've enjoyed Dan Slott's Spider-Man run but it's been going from one arc to another for more than 10 years it seems like.  It can be hard then for a casual (and/or poor) fan to get into it.

5.  We're Number 1!:  Something the article talks about is Marvel's penchant for renumbering its series.  They've done that pretty much every year for the last 3-4 years.  It gets to be really annoying.  If you say, "Hey check out Amazing Spider-Man #1!" someone could say, "Which one:  2013, 2014, 2015, or 2016?"  It can be really confusing, especially since with many series the stories aren't necessarily starting over.  I mean each Amazing Spider-Man #1 isn't an origin story.  So if you're wanting to jump in, where are you supposed to start?

The article talks about writer-creator teams which I don't think is that big of a deal.  I suppose it can be jolting, especially if they change too often, but I don't think most people care all that much.  Just like people don't care about me talking about this too much. 😋


  1. I don't know a lot about comics, but they seem old fashioned to me. My Dad used to read them in an era before TV. I can't see young people getting interested in them with all the video games and modern movies. I wonder if people see the superhero movies and then don't feel they need to read comics. Number #2 is a great point. Maybe they need to put them in video game stores.

  2. I do think one of the biggest issues is that the movies are held separate from the comics and other products. While I wouldn't want a comic book to do something like kill off a main movie character and have that later affect the movies, but it would be nice if there were comics that matched up to the movie characters.

    I tend to think that, at this point, comics are being sustained by people our ages who grew up with them and they are ingrained in our life because I know there are some people with massive pull lists at the local shops who collect every Batman title or Spider-Man title.

    Besides, movies are easier and more sucks having to wait six months for a story arc to finish, plus the inevitable several side stories each month in adjacent titles that somehow tie back in. Whereas the movies just speak for themselves...sit down, watch, done; two hours vs. six months.

  3. All good points. One of the biggest problems with comics right now is that it's all driven by publicity stunts. Instead of sitting around and thinking of good stories, they sit around thinking of shocking things to do to the characters so they'll get in the news. With all the constant changes and reboots, the characters end up looking nothing like the characters we know and love. I'm all for a black Captain America, but I can see the casual fan being confused by him, and fans who like AfroCap would be disappointed by how quickly he disappeared.

    Cost is also another major factor. Like you said, most comics are around three or four dollars and provide maybe fifteen minutes of entertainment if you read it slow. For that price, I could rent a movie or even buy a full game for my smartphone. It's no competition.

    The worst part about comics is that they're now competing with movies and TV shows that can do the characters far better. I truly think in twenty years, mainstream comic books as we know them will cease to exist. They might become interactive apps and games or we'll just get our fix from the movies and TV shows. There will still be comic books, but they'll be mostly digital and small press.



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