For too many years I have been railing against the flood of new series that all publishers launch each month. When given the chance at retailer / publisher meetings, I am always keen raise my concerns with each and every publisher… however, my views normally fall on stony ground, unsurprisingly, especially with Marvel. Finally though, one publisher has seemingly woken up and smelt the coffee – DC Comics! They have made the decision to seriously limit new series and miniseries. They want to concentrate on building the fan base within their current ongoing titles. I, for one, sincerely hope they stick to this mantra.
Number one issues are the heroin of the comic world – people believe that if they buy a first issue it will become a collectors’ item and rise in value, earning the purchaser money from their ‘investment’. Most buyers do not even read the issue (!) and those that do seldom hang around for the second or third issues. This impacts on the publisher, who then need another ratings hit in the face of falling sales, so what do they do? They launch another number one issue. Long gone are the days when stories built within the series leading in to special, genuine ‘anniversary’ issues such as #25,#50, #100, etc. These key numbers in a series were always an anticipated event.
While too many comic buyers are chasing the financial hit, the publishers crave the ratings hit. Along the way the real fan – long time readers such as all you Acers out there – gets a little bit hacked off with this sequence of rinse and repeat, and quite often will drop a series that becomes blighted continual relaunches. This cuts further into the publisher’s sales figures… so they relaunch… again!
Here are some current numbers to highlight the extent of the problem, which is not confined to any one publisher:
Shazam #1 sells approximately 75,000 world wide : issue #2 sells 45,000 – a drop of 40%
Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man #1 sells 80,000 : issue #2 sells 34,000 – a drop of 57.5%
Miles Morales: Spider-Man #1 sells 65,000 : issue #2 sells 35,000 – a drop of 54%
Iron Heart #1 sells 41,000 : issue #2 sells 19,000 – a drop of a drop of 54%
Livewire #1 (from Valiant) sells 27,000 : issue #2 drops to 6,400 a drop of 76%(!)
Die #1 (from Image) sells 32,000 : issue #2 drops to 19,000 – a drop of 40.6%
Historically there has always been a drop in sales from issues #1 to #2, but this used to be between 25% and 30% on average. Now the fall is much higher, and the additional drop from issue #2 to #3 is in the region of a further 25% to 30%. Certain titles can become financially unviable within three to four issues.
So far, these statistics have forced companies to keep going for first issues as they see this as the only way to get good sales figures at the expense of never allowing a series to develop and grow it’s readership. This blind panic has just exacerbated the situation to the point that Marvel certainly are overdosing on #1 issues (with the additional plethora of variant covers – another sales enhancement). For example, Conan #1 had sales figures in the range of 105,000, helped by a large array of variant covers, while issue #2 sold just 39,000 – a drop of 63%.
I certainly hope that DC’s bold attempt to promote strong storytelling and events within the series, instead of relaunches, proves successful, so we can all get back to reading the ongoing adventures.
Reading tip for the month:
Action Comics – Brian Michael Bendis is working magic on this title (and on Superman).
Mission for the month:
Spring is now here, and with that comes lighter evenings, so take some time to go out and enjoy the season.