October 02, 2017

Wishful Thinking & Unwarranted Schadenfreude

There is a fair amount of concern trolling expressed at Marvel's recent sales woes and a belief amongst certain people that they represent the death knell for the Comic industry.

This is not the case.

Marvel and DC don't even NEED to turn a profit anymore. They are now idea factories and copyright farms for Time Warner and Disney to whom the budget of Marvel is a rounding error.The notion that driving away their former audience is going to have any effect upon their editorial decision making is delusional. Furthermore, these reports of declining sales are based largely on Diamond's sales figures, which are not going to show, say, Amazon sales. Comic stores are just another type of brick and mortar store that is being bypassed by direct, online sales so the sales figures for the actual companies may not be as low as is assumed.

Furthermore, the comics themselves are loss leaders. I was reminded of this by a post by a comic professional on a private board. Trade paperbacks are where comics make money nowadays.  That is, the comics themselves don't really make money anymore. (I used to know this, but haven't worked in the industry for years).

Pretty much the only people who buy those are those who frequent comic shops, the hardcore fans who are the object of the SJWs hate. Newer fans, and casual readers buy the trade paperbacks, which remain in print (thanks to modern printing technologies) pretty much in perpetuity. A comic doesn't make money. A trade paperback ordered on Amazon does.

I've talked to people in the industry who would know and paperbacks are actually selling pretty well. Indeed, the declining comic sales have no bearing on this because trades are the new way of buying comics...one picks up the trade paperback on Amazon. One industry professional described the new business model as very similar to the Japanese Manga industry, with the individual comics taking the place of the big manga "phone books" as loss leaders. The trade paperbacks here are the American equivalent of the manga complilations...that's what people buy, and the profit on each book actually increases with time as the number of trade paperback editions grows. Trade paperbacks thus work sort of like like compound interest, and in fact they are generally the way that web comics make money.

So while it may be very satisfying to believe that the editors who hate us with every fiber of their being might be forced by economic reality to not make Captain America a Nazi, the fact is that this has not hurt them at all.

Marvel and D.C. are doing exceedingly well. They have cultivated an entirely new fan base which is making them money. This is good business. That these SJWs did so by treating their long time fans with the kindness and respect that a spoiled child demonstrates in pulling the wings off a junebug, is sad. 

What is sadder still is a bunch of adults gloating over comic book stores suffering. They had no control over the editorial decisions that many of us find vexing nor the technological innovations that have bypassed them. Their demise will not hurt the big comic companies in any way and will almost certainly (given the demographics of comic store owners) give SJWs a wry smile and cruel chuckle. It will not affect the bottom line of Marvel and DC in any way. 

So don't expect multimillion dollar corporations to come crawling back to atone for not catering to us. That is the impotent fantasy of grade school looser. Instead, take some satisfaction that they did a good job with the Wonder Woman movie, and they haven't screwed up Squirrel Girl yet. 

Then go poke about and look for other comics that you just possibly might like. There are quite a few online

There's even a likeable genderbent Thor!

Failing that go out and create your own. Or send some of that comic money this guy's way.

Or sit on your duff and wait for Marvel and DC to collapse...but if you do that, you may want to get a book or something. 'Cause it's gonna be a long wait. 

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 10:12 AM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
Post contains 703 words, total size 6 kb.

1 Ok, question: if nobody's buying (say) Thorette comics in the shops, then who's buying the compilations?  Are SJWs rushing out to buy comics they'd previously disdained now that there's a trans Spiderwoman (or whatever?)

Posted by: Rick C at Mon Oct 2 14:58:58 2017 (ECH2/)

Ok, question:
NOPE! Guess again! (While my secret identity is something I keep close to the vest, I assure you that it is not Victor Sage...whose alias should always be capitalized.) HINT: I'm actually a comic book super-villain (no really).
As to the rest of your inquiry, it's probably people who don't show up in comic book stores. 
Also, given the price of comic book single issues, the fact that they are awkward and expensive to store, and trade paperbacks are just books one puts on a shelf, a LOT of people are just buying the trades. Those can be gotten from Amazon easier than a comic store and the people who are into the SJW world view are often not going to be hanging out in a comic store, so it's a completely different demographic than we run into. Ordinarily, this would be a good thing, expanding the market with new titles and demographics is objectively good.
The grief arose where this was quite explicitly not about just bringing new people in, but pushing us out. 
Finally it should be noted that while not all of the reimagined superheroes have been badly done (The new Blue Beetle worked quite well) ALL of them have elicited howls of protest from people who were emotionally invested in characters that they could see themselves in. The new audiences are interested for that same reason. These are characters who they can see themselves as and so they're picking up these books for the same reason we, as awkward alienated teens did. It would be better if more of these books were written as something other than check boxes on a Benneton ad. It would have been better still if this shift had not had such contempt for the long time fans behind it. 

The point is that there is every reason to believe that the up and coming comic book reader is not just as different in their consumption habits from the dwindling number of aging gen Xers as every other Millennial customer segment is. Unlike the editors involved, most of the new fans probably harbor us no ill will any more than we begrudge them their enjoyment of books directed at them. But we only rarely will encounter them because  we all hang in different circles....which is contributing to this notion that these companies must be failing, when they most assuredly are not. 

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at Mon Oct 2 17:52:23 2017 (KicmI)

3 Largely, those aren't on sale yet - they tend to lag the individual-issue comics by a good bit to avoid cannibalizing the comic sales. Even beyond that, the number of comics actually affected by this stuff is a pretty small fraction of total comics titles, especially small compared to "total TPBs available from the past few decades".

Sure, it'd affect their ability to draw in new fans - which was already pretty limited by the superhero focus to begin with, mind you. The industry had been busy pigeonholing itself since the 90s. Of course, it's not unlike anime - in the same way that Japan panders to the creepy otaku, the US comic industry has pandered to our own equivalent. I'm going to guess that the intersection between "people who like reading comics about young women with gravity-defying bodies in spandex" and "people who like being judged as horrible human beings for reading comics about young women with gravity-defying bodies in spandex" to be just about zero.

But like you say, the comic book companies make more money through movies than they ever did through actual comics, and they've got a lot of untapped material to work through yet; they'll be selling movies based on comic stories from ten or twenty years ago long enough for everyone now making decisions to retire comfortably. If they aren't managing their companies to keep things rolling fifty years down the road, well, who else is, these days?

The comic shops have long since had to diversify; just about all of the ones I've been to make a lot more off of related goods, gaming stuff, and Magic cards than they do off actual comics. Hell, most of them are really Magic card shops that happen to have a side line in comics...

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at Mon Oct 2 21:19:17 2017 (/lg1c)

4 I don't think I've bought single-issue comics since Adam Warren and Toren Smith were doing Dirty Pair.

That was....  A while ago now.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Tue Oct 3 01:11:05 2017 (PiXy!)

5 Are there any actual numbers to support the claim that Marvel is making up for losses in the direct market with trade paperback sales? Their Amazon rankings aren't spectacular, and BookScan has them at 10% of the C/GN market behind Dc at 14% and Viz at 23%.

Posted by: muon at Mon Oct 16 05:16:07 2017 (vMYTH)

6 The numbers do exist. I know for a fact that the comic companies are doing very well. However, I have a non-disclosure agreement with my former employer.
Regarding the publicly available numbers, they are not good data.  Bookscan is bunk.  (Read the whole thing)
Another thing to remember is that TPs are essentially cash in the bank. Printing costs are way lower than they used to be, so once the books are compiled they just sort of make money from then on.  Thus even very moderate sales generate more profit than a regular 32 page book. 
It would be interesting to know WHAT trade paperbacks are selling. After all, a huge amount of Marvel and DC comics going back decades are for sale in trade paperback form...
I...I...Great Galaxies! If you go to the link, The Watcher is now hocking back issues. So perhaps the end really is nigh !

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at Mon Oct 16 16:40:02 2017 (3bBAK)

7 Collen Doran wrote that in 2013, and as she said, Author Central had only linked with BookScan in 2010. It also wouldn't include sales to comic shops, which might also account for the discrepancy. Comichron has the sales figures for TPBs in comic shops, and Amazon has a category for comic books and graphic novels. What most people are interested in is how the diversity titles launched after 2014 are doing as opposed to the classic trades. The first Ms. Marvel TPB seems to be a perennial seller, but the subsequent ones aren't. Patsy Walker aka Hellcat came in at 71 on the Graphic Novel list, but the series was still cancelled.

Posted by: muon at Tue Oct 17 07:16:21 2017 (vMYTH)

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