Total Pageviews

Friday, 3 October 2014

US Comic Book Implosion IS On Its Way

In the early 1970s, Marvel comics were hit by the slump in sales -as was DC.  Fans of either company will argue "DC was hit worse than Marvel!" and "Marvel was still chalking up the success unlike DC!" -this is what I call the "Fan Stupidity Factor" (FSF).

FSF is seen in a number of forms but the most common are the almost petulant child-like stamping of feet -I've seen this at comic events- when Marvel Comics is mentioned.  And the phrase "I'm sorry -'Marvel' -what's that? Never heard of it!" and, seriously, a few times I have really wanted to hit some of these people but then I realise they are suffering a mental health issue.  Oh yes, I've seen the same at Marvel panels regarding mention of DC.

I even had a conversation with a man in his thirties in a comic shop when he was looking at comics and asked "Is there anything you'd recommend?" I pointed to a Marvel comic on the next row of shelves.  He wouldn't look. In fact, he responded to my pointing to the book in question again with "I do not recognise any company than DC."  FSF.

The truth is that Marvel and DC were hitting very bad times and sales were declining and titles being cancelled and reprints featured a lot!  It was after the movie Star Wars that Marvel just avoided going under. Roy Thomas pushed hard for the company to publish a Star Wars comic.  They did and it gave them a breathing space.

Remember there were no real comic shops as such back then selling anything other than old books, old comics and so on and in the UK it was a similar story.  Flea market stalls and book shops selling old pulps also sold comics -Bristol Book Centre in Gloucester Road, Bristol was run by a rather quirky American lady who used to be an opera singer. Pulp sci fi,crime pulps AND comics. Man, those were the days.

But back on track, Marvel and DC were dying.  So, the UK companies were faring no better -to an extent. Bosses were making sure titles were being cancelled and looked for a good excuse. Once a month "the boys upstairs" would take a look at 2000 AD -which was why you'd get a lot of violence then, suddenly, an issue became quite..."tame" -that was the issue that was going "upstairs". But titles were featuring new talent and DC realised this -visits to the UK to meet, wine and dine UK creators are a matter of common knowledge.

At a UK Comic Art Convention I actually asked Archie Goodwin what real contribution UK creators had made to a company such as DC?  "They saved the company. Period." was the response.

Marvel and how it escaped death to be reborn ( Let's not get into the reboot thing!) is also well known.  But DC and Marvel turmoil led the "The Black & White comics explosion" which made fortunes for some creators (many then squandering the cash thinking it would always be coming in!) and this included the "Small Press Comic Explosion" and "UK Small Press Invasion" of the US where things had become stale and very chaotic. Creators from the Independent comics were also recruited thinking that working for Marvel and DC was going to rake in money (seriously, if you have not watched the Bob Layton interview to be found on Tales From The Kryptonian do so and you WILL learn a lot).  How'd that turn out?

The point is that many -many- of the old DC and Marvel comics fans who invested emotion and money in books and characters no longer buy -or are very selective about what they buy.  Reboot after reboot. New 1st issue after new 1st issue.  So many variant covers that it has become ridiculous and the FSF kicks in "I MUST buy every variant cover!"  -look, I've written about this so often that it would be ridiculous to do so again.  Fans are encouraging the immense greed of the companies so it will -it will- continue and then........



Cancellations. Maybe even Disney stopping publishing comics -just collections. "They will NEVER do that!" you scream.  They will.

Take a look at this BBC Entertainment item from May, 2013

Iron Man 3 enters all-time box office top five

Robert Downey Jr and friend in Iron Man 3  

Robert Downey Jr reprises his role as billionaire crime-fighter Tony Stark in Iron Man 3

Comic book blockbuster Iron Man 3 has become the fifth top-grossing film of all time, according to online movie tracker Box Office Mojo.
The sequel, which has now made $1.14bn (£760.5m) worldwide, overtook 2011's Transformers: Dark of the Moon to claim fifth place in the chart.

Now, Comichron (The Comics Chronicles) has this interesting fact plus a complete breakdown:

2013 Comic Book Sales Figures Comics Sold to North American Comics Shops as Reported by Diamond Comic Distributors

OVERALL North American Dollar Sales for Diamond's Comics, Trade Paperbacks, and Magazines for 2013 around $517.66 million (up 9.04% year-over-year)

Hmm. Now we already know Disney has started replacing Marvel people and putting their own Disney folk in place.  There are rumours of other (unpublicised) little take-overs of former Marvel areas by Disney. 

Before you decide to dig up the road, cut down tracts of woodland you always send in the surveyors to decide what to do and what to get rid of.  Are people not seeing what's going on here?

Now, publish writers, artists, editors, printers, distributors and we all know what artists and writers are like with their wanting a per centage and creative rights (which, in fact, they do not get with Disney).  That is a LOT of expenditure for a cut of $517.66 million-their "overall share" was 33.50% now, forgive me but even with my dyscalculus I can see that the big earner for Disney is not the comics.

Big investment in making the movies but, equally, huge financial rewards and most of the money from the movies and movie related merchandise will be from people who have never ever read the comics. Seriously. At a couple of events I talked to people about the Avengers and Iron Man films and not a single person knew either had started as comics.  Stan Lee was "that character in The Big Bang Theory" and Jack Kirby...the blank expressions said it all.

As Bob Layton pointed out in his interview, almost all the merchandise you see is old stuff from the 1970s-1980s where creators cannot ask for a cut.  There are decades of comics that can be re-packaged and sold as collectors books and earn money and not a single cent going to anyone other than Disney.

Iron Man 3 took $1.14bn (£760.5m) worldwide -and that figure is well over a year old. That makes revenue from comics "small change" and Disney just ain't that concerned with small change.

They are changing the Fantastic Four and almost everything else from Marvel Comics into "The Marvel movie universe" -they have been using that phrase so often why has no one questioned what is happening? You want to know?  The "Comics media" are heavily invested in getting the latest Marvel and DC news and there is no way 99% of that media is going to even give "negative news" through fear of being "cut-off".

Marvel Comics is a tiny, insignificant little thing.  It is the Marvel Movie Universe that is important -even comic talk from Marvel is "Marvel movies" referenced so often that it is a sign that must not be ignored.

Groot and Rocket Raccoon on all the Marvel titles covers...just like Deadpool was.  I just find it hard to believe that people are this stupid....then again, it's comics. New variant covers on 20 Marvel titles in December: plain white with text: "I'm An Ass-Hole"......You gonna go out buy that?

DCs overall share was worse than Marvels at 30.33%.  DC, however, are...well...they just seem unable to decide what they are doing other than making sure their movies will be 100% humorless and dark...dark...very, very dark.

DC and Marvel has lost its old, long term fan base simple to scrape in more and more money. I think DC is circling the pan hoping there isn't a second flush.

But Disney. Look at it as a businessman who has absolutely no interest in the comics just the money.  Continue paying out for new work or make 100% profit from just re-packaging old books/series (that they charge a lot for? A few million dollars over a couple billion?  Comics that are hit-or-miss sales wise or movies that are always hits? Iron Man 3 came in for a lot of criticism but is Disney crying over that criticism or ejaculating over the well over $1 billion it made them?

As a businessman who could not give a flying fart about fans -"piggy banks" as Disney and DC call them-  I'd go for the movies and merchandise and re-packaging of old books that make the money. Disney would never cancel X-Men or Fantastic Four?  Why shouldn't they?

In business it is known by many names but, essentially put, it can be explained in this way.  Organise a bank robbery. Hire four men to do the job and bring the money to your hide-out.  Kill the hirelings and take the money and run. It's all yours.  No one else gets a penny.

This is what Disney is doing with Marvel. It does not give a crap if Marvel Comics dies a death.  It has all that free archive material and merchandise.  It's the movies that make the money. I swear, one day there WILL be a Star Wars-Avengers cross-over.  Continuity? As even the (like to think of themselves as) top men at Marvel have said "screw continuity -this is comics!"

There has been, for about ten years now, an increase in the number of Small Press publishers -what we used to call "desk-top publishers"- who produce their own comics and books and there are more Small Press events than comic conventions in the UK.  The interest in buying and  investing in SP comics is increasing and it may be a year or so down the line but DC and Marvel -maybe even Dark Horse- will implode and the Small Pressers will rise and sell and those Marvel and DC fans will sit at home waiting for the companies to pull a rabbit out of the hat.

This is not the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s but 2014 and the entire face of comics changed the moment Marvel sold out to Disney.  I noted all of this back in the 1990s -it's all on CBO or in print somewhere out there. Disney takes over and they take full control -they are almost like the Borgs -assimilation WILL take place. Disney then controls everything, it feasts on the carcass, picks the bones and dumps what is left into a drawer because it may never be of use again but it is theirs.

It's too late to change anything.  Fans sat there and took it from Marvel and DC.  Fans were the companies "enablers".  The companies saw that "the suckers will keep paying" and over and over again screwed them. When -not "if"- the comics industry implodes the fans may not like it, they may plead innocence, but they helped this happen.

Call me names. Get nasty because of what I've written but it will not alter a thing.  I've read comics for over 50 years and up until the early 1990s I was a true die-hard Marvel fan boy with a few DC favourites. I bought every title every month. I stopped that three years ago.

You have been warned.

No comments:

Post a Comment