All-New Marvel Now: Why it isn't Working
The latest comic book sales figures have been released, and it paints a rather dim picture for All-New Marvel Now. Marvel launched the initiative - a follow up to their original Marvel NOW! line - at the beginning of year, and since then they have seen title after title fall straight to the bottom of the sales charts just a few months after debuting. The new titles that fall foul to this unfortunate fate are numerous: New Warriors, All-New Ultimates, Secret Avengers, Elektra, All-New Invaders, All-New X-Factor and Captain Marvel are the titles suffering most, with other titles like X-Force, She-Hulk and Loki: Agent of Asgard on the brink of following the trend as well. The question is: Why is this happening?
Cast you're mind back to May 2012 and we see a similar trend that may help us answer that question. The New 52 had been launched nine months prior and had succeeded in putting DC Comics back on the map in terms of comic-book sales. With the exception of smaller titles like Men of War, Blackhawks, and OMAC - which had been expected to struggle, and definitely were - business was booming. However, when DC tried to replicate that success, eliminating some of the aforementioned slow-starters in favour of some new titles, they found it more difficult than it had been the first time. Of the six new titles that started that May, three failed miserably (G.I Combat anyone?), and the other three were only moderate successes not capturing the kind of sales numbers that DC must have hoped for considering their strong start.
Things got worse, and by the following year almost every new title DC launched was hitting the bottom of the sales chart just a few months into its run: Vibe, Katana, Green Team, The Movement, The Phantom Stranger, and even Pandora - the mysterious figure that was the centre of so much interest at the beginning of the New 52 - failed to carry a series of her own. As DC has now stopped releasing as many new titles, the haemorrhaging of their sales numbers has slowed somewhat (although a look at the sales of Aquaman and the Others suggests they are still struggling to launch new books).
Nonetheless, it seems that it's mainly now Marvel who is suffering from Wave 2-failure syndrome, as a large amount of All-New Marvel Now titles struggle to find even the smallest of audiences. With books like Ultimate FF and Iron Patriot already cancelled after just five and six issues respectively, and the titles listed at the beginning of this article seemingly not far behind, what could possibly be causing this?
1. Marvel's Prices and Shipping
"Things that DC do better than Marvel" hasn't been a hugely popular list in recent years, however one thing that I always like to credit DC on is their continual support of the $2.99 price point. The publisher still places many of its top-selling titles such as Harley Quinn, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Batgirl and The Flash at the competitive price of just $2.99, while Marvel have been aggressively bumping titles up to a price of $3.99 and recently a ludicrous $4.99 in recent months. If you're reading this, you probably like comics, but I think we can all agree that $5 is too much to pay for a comic that has sometimes less than 30 pages of quality content (damn you, adverts!).
And as if this price point wasn't expensive enough already, Marvel have also started the unsavoury habit of double-shipping with many of their titles too. I find double-shipping frustrating personally as while a story may move along faster, the price of this added pacing is a far more expensive monthly pull-list. As a comic reader on a low salary, I have began making an effort to check which Marvel titles are double-shipped so that I may avoid them. If I'm the only one doing this I'd be extremely surprised. These are not good economic times for many people and the rising expense of comic-books is going to be harmful for the medium as a whole if not capped soon.
The immediate effect double-shipping and a higher price point has on new titles, is it makes people more cautious about trying them. Speaking personally, I have wanted to read Avengers World, All-New Ghost Rider, All-New X-Factor and Elektra since they launched but have had to steer clear due to the books either having a high price point, being double-shipped or both. Were just a couple of these titles released at $2.99 and at a manageable rate of one issue per month I would be reading a lot more of them, and this would also free up some cash to perhaps afford one double-shipped title too. Ultimately, that's the strategy I would recommend to Marvel. If they must double ship some titles at a high price point, then it should only be a couple of books. By making their entire line more expensive they're doing damage to themselves, as in these fragile times people simply can't afford an unlimited number of expensive comics.
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2. Relaunches Produce Too Many Titles!
While DC's New 52 technique of cancelling frequently in "waves" could be seen as aggressive, recently Marvel's technique of fixing low-selling titles - a relaunch - has been seen as just plain annoying, especially when these books come back at a higher price (see All-New X-Factor and Daredevil among others). Recently it has been speculated that comic readers may be becoming apathetic towards relaunches with many of them seeming unnecessary and just a cheap way for Marvel to grab headlines. What the publisher needs to remember is that relaunches are a great opportunity for readers to jump on, but also a great opportunity for readers to jump off (see Secret Avengers). By relaunching so many titles, Marvel may end up reducing their audience - the opposite of what they're aiming for.
Also, by relaunching many titles that really don't need it Marvel end up taking coverage away from their brand new books that do need help finding readers. A book such as Mark Waid's Daredevil did not need to be relaunched - it has a strong fanbase and more critical acclaim than you can shake a stick at. But by bringing more attention to already established books such as this one, new series' like All-New Ghost Rider and Elektra lost opportunities for coverage. All-New Marvel NOW!'s release schedule has been chaotic for this reason with an abundance of relaunched titles trampling over a large amount of new titles with the winner being no one. Instead, we're left with all of the books being damaged in the mayhem.
I worry that many of these titles are now beyond hope, however if any of the struggling books mentioned in this editorial interest you, I implore you to pick them up now. Before it's too late.
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