This is in no way my own words, but they belong to a chap named Nick Rowe on Twitter. Where he posted a rather eye-opening Twitter thread on the state of Marvel comics. You can view the original posts here.
“I’ve seen chatter here lately about how “SJW agendas” are making Marvel lose out on sales, closing comic shops. Marvel’s current position is entirely of their own doing. Here’s a thread on their predatory behaviors. Feel free to link this thread if someone claims otherwise. First, some credentials since this thread will no doubt invite people claiming I don’t know anything. I’ve worked in a comic shop for over 15 years. I’ve seen Marvel’s nonsense from many different angles, I talk with the people who buy their comics on a weekly basis. In other words, I’ve seen Marvel’s sales valley happen in real time while engaging with real fans. Annual reboots. This is one of the biggest sources of Marvel’s drop in sales. After DC launched the New 52, Marvel saw the sales success and said, “why can’t we do this too?”
Except instead of doing it once, Marvel reboots their entire line more than 5 times from 2011-2018. Make no mistake, this is a blatant move for quick cash grabs. Marvel saw the success of the New 52, specifically the success in excitement ordering jumps. Retailers took a big chance on the New 52 (although the first issues were returnable), and wanted to recreate that behavior. The difference here is Marvel never offers any sort of return option on any of their reboots. They expect retailers to take a leap of faith based on manufactured hype, and if they’re left with unsold comics well too bad, so sad. Every step of the way Marvel keeps promising their new reboot will be the latest and greatest thing, and you’ll sell as many copies as you order. The first one works, to an extent. As more and, more reboots happen fewer and fewer fans show up.
But retailers continue ordering volume on these reboots with the hope and expectation that fans will show up after. each. reboot. Sales numbers never reflect poor in-store performance since they’re according to copies shipped to retailers, NOT copies sold. Yet Marvel rides each and every reboot like a resounding success BECAUSE of the flawed nature of sales reporting. While retailers are suffering, Marvel enthusiastically high fives while counting piles of cash. On the customer side, fatigue sets in, fast. Customers are willing to give the first reboot a shot, maybe the second, By the third what little faith they have is gone. Customer attitude towards buying Marvel comics by the fourth reboot amounts to, “why should I get invested in these stories when I know Marvel will just reboot everything 6-12 months down the line?”
And they’re right. Customers start looking elsewhere for their comic storytelling (Image saw a nice sales bump for a while because of this), or not buying comics at all. They want to be invested in their favorite characters, but Marvel themselves makes it impossible. Incentived ordering. Alongside these constant reboots is a deeply predatory system of providing incentives to retailers who order big on Marvel books. There’s no TLDR version of this process, and it’s deeply tied to the convoluted system of comic ordering. Here’s an example: Marvel announces a New Hotness book. They hype the crap out of it as the next big thing that will destroy all sales records before it. When it comes time to order, this book’s incentive structure is tied to an existing book retailers ordered big on. If you meet or exceed 125-200% of your order quantity on a previous title you ordered big on, enjoy an extra discount on the New Hotness.
These “incentives” are also tied to access to “order what you want” variant covers and more. Remember that Hip-Hop tribute covers Marvel did a while back? Did you have trouble finding some? Well, they were almost all tied into this incentive structure, at RIDICULOUSLY high percentage rates. To even have access to these covers, that Marvel hyped and customers were salivating over, retailers were required to overextend themselves through ordering more copies of many comics than they could possibly sell. This system creates a vicious ordering cycle. In order to qualify for incentive brackets, retailers had to order more and more and more copies of comics that continued to have a proven track record of poor sales. If you opted out it meant missing out on something that could, in theory, bring bodies into your store and generate sales.
For stores with 1 or more direct competitors, it meant taking the risk that your competition wouldn’t swoop in to steal your sales. Do you see the problem here? Retailers have been flooding their stores, spending tons of money on unreturnable dead weight because of empty promises of sales prosperity from Marvel. Then Marvel rebooted the line making the previous wave of comics even more worthless. That brings us to Legacy, which for many retailers was the last straw. When it was time to order Legacy, Marvel had a proven track record of failure and cons to entice retailers into ordering high for no good reason. Although Marvel promised lower incentive percentages on their must-have lenticular covers, that was an outright, bold-faced lie. Here’s a thread, including order percentages, detailing exactly how Marvel expected retailers to eat another spoonful of shit.
(Side note: this was a chance for comics journalists to perform some honest to god journalism. To my knowledge, every single outlet lets this one slide. Good job, guys.) Here’s the kicker: retailers who opted out of this latest con WERE ABLE TO ORDER LENTICULAR COVERS WITHOUT ADHERING TO ORDERING INCENTIVES AFTER THEY RELEASED. So retailers who actually took a leap of faith by having something exclusive got a slap to the face instead. With all that in mind, let’s take a look at Marvel’s diverse lineup. This line was the sales pitch for one of Marvel’s reboots fairly deep into the cycle. At this point, fans were already deeply fatigued with this relaunch nonsense and knew it was only a temporary measure. Honestly, everyone with half a brain knew this was a temporary measure.
Fans WANTED to try it out, but they had so little faith in it being a permanent change they stayed away. On the other side there were a lot of really loud fans complaining about this change while missing the point. It was one of the few, truly honest attempts by Marvel to regain consumer faith while at the same time trying something new. (Side note: Miles Morales and Ms. Marvel have been massive sales successes for Marvel, so they wanted to recreate those successes on a larger scale.) What happened? The lineup failed, and Marvel started feeling retailers cut their orders. Let me be clear: this had NOTHING to do with the diversity in the lineup, it was the result of a game Marvel was playing with the industry to bilk retailers and consumers out of money. And when Marvel had to actually take some responsibility for what they’d done to the lineup?
They used their new push towards diversity as a scapegoat, while glossing over everything mentioned in this thread. Let me repeat that: when Marvel had a chance to take real accountability for abusing the comic industry they chose to blame their failures on an unrelated aspect of their model TO GLOSS OVER AND MISDIRECT AWAY FROM THEIR ABUSE. When Marvel faced the PR disaster after the whole “diversity is why we’re losing money” debacle, did any of this come up? Nope, not a word. Sure, they apologized and walked back on the statement, but the misdirect was successful. Cancellation waves. This one’s straightforward. Marvel measures the success of a comic based on its single issue performance, trade performance is more or less icing on the cake. It’s a BAD model. More and more these days a lot of comics perform better in trade than they do in single issues.
Image is a perfect example of this trend. The fact is consumers are moving more in the direction of collections, and the industry hasn’t figured out how to adapt yet. When a Marvel book tanks in single issues but excels in trade sales, the takeaway isn’t success, it’s failure. So now we’re seeing a lot of books that do nothing in terms of single-issue sales, get canceled, then start raking in big $ in trade. This model has NOTHING to do with diversity on books. It’s part of an antiquated model Marvel clings to thinking it’s the best way to do business in a rapidly changing market. That brings us to books like Squirrel Girl and Moon Girl. These two books did just enough in single issue sales to stay alive past the release of the first trades. Then the trades hit and they became sales titans. You know who’s buying these books? Kids and parents.
You know where the real money in the industry is right now? KIDS BOOKS. See the connection? Marvel often doesn’t give books a chance to thrive in the trade market because of this cancellation model. And why their single issue numbers are so low is directly related to their reboot and incentive ordering practices. These books aren’t getting cancelled because “WAHH SJWS ARE KILLING COMICS”, they’re being cancelled because Marvel’s spent 5+ years poisoning the industry well. Marvel themselves aren’t taking a chance on seeing these titles into the trade market. Trade pricing. This is one of the dumbest, most insidious points of Marvel’s plan. Marvel’s trade pricing is too high. Period. Full stop. The baseline price for their trade content is $15.99 for MAYBE 5 issues of content.
A lot of their trades are priced so high there’s almost no difference in price between buying the collected single issues individually or the trade. Wat. Yet on another side of the industry, there’s a proven trade pricing model. Image’s $9.99 volume 1 model is genius. It’s just cheap enough for consumers to take a chance on a comic they otherwise wouldn’t pick up. Here’s the best part: there’s a growing belief their trade pricing is to account for Amazon discounts, which Marvel’s unflinching devotion to trade pricing backs up. It’s not a difficult connection to make, Amazon often offers 50% discounts on tons of inventory. And those discounts put Marvel trades right around that proven $9.99 price mark. I don’t want to get too off track here, but this belief stinks too much to not have any weight.
And the implications of it are scummy on a MASSIVE level: they abuse an entire market providing primary support in favor of a market free from all this abuse. The whole point of this thread is that Marvel has abused its primary means of support, the direct market, from every conceivable angle. There is a 0% correlation between Marvel’s failures and “SJWs” or “identity politics” causing a dip in sales. Everything in this thread is a conscious business decision Marvel has made since 2011, and it’s all stuff an entire industry full of retailers can tell you about. So no, “SJWs” and “identity politics” aren’t killing Marvel and comic shops. Marvel is. Here’s a list of every lenticular cover and it’s associated order percentage threshold.”