Marvel Comics aren’t doing well. Sales have declined, even as Marvel has pushed out every major event and crossover it can over the past two years. In a recent interview during the Marvel Retailer Summit, Marvel VP of Sales David Gabriel decided to ignore all the problems and criticism in order to place the blame on diversity.
What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity. They didn’t want female characters out there. That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not. I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales. We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against. That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.
Gabriel later reached out to ICv2 and “clarified” his statement, adding that many of the individual characters like Miles Morales, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Gwen, and Moon Girl are popular, and won’t be going away anytime soon. It’s also important to note that this was in response to retailer concerns presented at the first day of the summit, so some other issues may not have have been discussed yet. And it looks like those sales slumps had been increasing for awhile, but were especially noticed as of fall 2016.
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During the discussion, retailers pointed out during the summit that the number of Marvel events, and the fact that they overlap, make it hard for fans to focus. Right now, for instance, there’s Secret Empire, which will bleed over with Generations, which starts this summer. In the past two years alone, there have been at least 12 events and crossovers. Events, in particular, have become more of a chore than a reward.
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Then you’ve got issue cost and audience retention. Nowadays, individual issues typically cost anywhere from $3.99 to $5.99 or more, making it harder for fans to want to buy— especially if you’re swapping out an established character for a version they aren’t familiar with. While chatting with retailers, Gabriel actually boasted that their sales almost tripled when they upped the Spider-Man book from $3.99 to $9.99, even though it didn’t bring in any new readers. It just made the current ones pay more money.
Finally, and this is a major one, there’s the problem of talent management. There’s been a steady decline in Marvel’s talent pool, because of better offers and independent retailers. One retailer mentioned at the summit that it’s especially hard to keep talented writers and artists when they can make creator-owned books at publishers like Image. Not only does it give them more flexibility to tell the stories they want, but they also keep way more of the revenue.
Link to the rest at i09