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An aside for Steve Wacker

Brian Hibbs

While I was writing my last post, I had missed some of the talkback in David Brother’s original post, including Very Special Guest Steve Wacker from Marvel.

David’s second post addresses most everything, but I want to drill down to one statement that Steve made which I think is germane here:

“We’ll keep making comics and the sales will tell us whether or not people like ‘em. That’s the foundation we’re built on.”

That’s a very fair point, and the one that I really want to get across as well — for in January 2012, Marvel’s single best-selling comic (UNCANNY #5) sold (according to ICv2) a mere 63,477 copies.

Of course it’s more than that, as Diamond’s reports under-report by some amount (at LEAST missing the sales in the UK), and probably there’s a little bit of movement over in the digital world, etc. – but those are truly and fundamentally depressing numbers.

When the FIFTH issue of AQUAMAN (Aquaman, fer cryin’ out loud!) out sells every single Marvel comic, then there’s something rotten in the state of Denmark.

I desperately want and need a strong and competitive Marvel comics, but nearly every recent strategy they’ve employed has had the opposite impact that they were trying for.

I’m of the opinion that not one of Marvel’s “Prime Franchises” should ever have an issue that’s below, say, 50k — and those should be the third spin-off titles, the main books should be WELL over 100k, because there are MORE THAN ENOUGH people in the market to support those sales. AMAZING SPIDEY is easily as good of a book as it has ever been… so why is it selling at what would have been almost Cancellation level when I started in this business?

I’m fairly certain the reason is tied to the twice-monthly shipping, and $4 cover price, steps that, again, were completely and totally self-decided.

I’m with Steve — Sales totals are, really, all that matter; so look at those charts and see that the audience IS speaking, and they are saying “Stop, please.”

 

-B

110 Responses to “ An aside for Steve Wacker ”

  1. If I lived in San Francisco, you would be my retailer of choice.

  2. Well said.

    As annoying as it is to see Marvel editors/creators/etc. writing off criticism from people like Brothers, it’s even more bothersome that they won’t listen to people like you who are *in the business of selling their comics*.

    Listening to Wait, What this morning, I was trying to think of what Marvel could do in answer to the DC reboot, and the thing I keep coming back to is “relaunch the line with one book per character/team, and concentrate on making each one the best book it could be” — but I think we’re very, very far from that.

  3. “AMAZING SPIDEY is easily as good of a book as it has ever been… so why is it selling at what would have been almost Cancellation level when I started in this business?”

    1. Mephisto. Mary Jane. ‘Nuff said.

    2. If you think double shipping is bad, remember that Marvel went thrice-monthly with AMAZING for a good long while.

    Mike

  4. If I lived in San Francisco, I would practically be living at Comics Experience.

    That said, just as Jeff and Graeme happened to touch on in the latest Wait, What? when speaking to the question of DC’s New 52 success and quantifiable metrics to determine that success a year post-reboot–these things will be judged in their context.

    It’s easy to see Marvel so far up their own asses they move the goalposts here. Sure they aren’t competing well with the company that just performed a massive market manipulation on such a historic scale that even with much-lauded January numbers pales compared to say, the salad days of Countdown to Final Crisis and World War Hulk?

    If the rumors of AvX #1 coming in around 200k, then this is all moot. Marvel wins the day and pats on the back all around. If not, then something just as fantabulous will be in the offing (crossover, renumbering, variants, or whatever else makes idiot comic readers do what the publishers want them to do) and all will be well.

    I don’t think the argument that order numbers in a depressed global economy are not where they used to be really works anymore.

    Even though I’ve also personally withdrawn from Marvel for all the reasons going around today by the likes of David Brothers and co., Hibbs, Tom Spurgeon and even (while not completely literally addressing it, were mildly prescient if only in spirit) the Wait, What? duo.

  5. To me, it’s just weird to see Wacker fighting the ultimate Big Two enthusiast, David Brothers. I mean, Brothers is such a fan of Marvel, he actually spent his own time finding Marvel’s security hole for digital piracy. That’s commendable from an ethical standpoint, certainly, but it shows how much enthusiasm Brothers has for Marvel.

    So, you’d think if a guy like Brothers is politely and rationally writing something about how his enthusiasm is dampening and an employee from Marvel wanted to proactively reach out, that employee would do so politely and with class, not be a jerk about it.

    But, I guess that’s where things are currently at. Marvel’s taking any criticism, question, or disagreement as an attack and becoming hostile in their defense.

  6. @MBunge “Mephisto. Mary Jane. ‘Nuff said.”

    Oh, horseshit.

    That’s not it, at all. The drop happened WELL AFTER THAT

    -B

  7. @Dasbender: an ad hominem attack with a smiley face is still an ad hominem attack, and I won’t have it on this site, which is why your anti-Wacker post has now been removed.

  8. “That’s not it, at all. SThe drop happened WELL AFTER THAT”

    Well, let’s look at the numbers (thanks to icv2.com).

    AMAZING SPIDER-MAN

    December 2005 – 79,261
    November 2006 – 118,837 (Civil War tie-in, no issue in Dec 2006)
    December 2007 – 124,481 (last issue of One More Day)
    June 2008 – three issues – 72,372, 71,409, 70,792
    December 2008 – three issues – 69,784, 62,979, 68,581

    Hmm. I see a title that tremendously boosted its sales due to crossover and storyline stunts dropping like a rock in the wake of “Mephisto. Mary Jane. ‘Nuff said.”

    Furthermore, in December 2011, AMAZING had two issues that each sold about 54,000. Which means sales over the next 3 years got shittier and shittier, even as the book itself was almost universally praised by those reading it. Seriously. How many times have you read anyone ripping the quality of AMAZING over the last few years?

    So, as for the whole horseshit thing? Not so much.

    Mike

  9. Tim, I think it’s worth noting that just because a single issue or even a single “event miniseries” which is not going to result in any sustained change sells well, it doesn’t suddenly erase the fact that big two (not just Marvel) comics are underperforming, and that Brian’s probably right that it’s a combination of high cover prices and market saturation. Recently I was talking to a friend about what could be done to make digital more of a “thing” and really draw in some new or casual fans. His answer? Until digital pricing comes down to the level it would need to be to draw in new readers (probably $1 an issue or thereabouts), all the other talk is just that–it’s talk, and it’s bull$#!+. The same can be said for market saturation. Talk abotu you want about whether we need thirty or fifty-two or seventy-five monthly titles or however many it is that Marvel publishes a month now–but it’s very difficult to argue that from an economic or artistic perspective we need a dozen Batman titles and another dozen X-Men titles.

  10. Yes yes, the book has been steadily declining for years now, but it isn’t “because” of Mephisto, any more than it is “because” Spider-Man joined the Avengers, which also happened around the same time.

    Please.

    -B

  11. I’ve been enjoying WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN more than I thought I would from the start. #5 had Nick Bradshaw pencils, Bradshaw and Wong inks and Ponsor’s colors. Looking at #6, from a production effort, I don’t see why Marvel would rush the book out with 4 inkers and two colorists when the last issue was out two weeks ago. Marvel is trying to go multiple books a month on Big Sellers and it’s starting to affect the quality. Wacker doesn’t think it matters because people keep buying it but I would think putting out a lesser product would be enough to stop it, but I guess not.

  12. @Hibbs, sorry – didn’t mean it as an attack. Just trying to say that a person’s reaction is often more indicative of the way that person is feeling, than it is a reflection of what they’re supposedly reacting too. I’m as guilty of it as the next guy. It’s universal behavior that can be seen in all manner of beings.

    Smiley wasn’t meant to be a friendly jab at SW, but rather a wink and nod to everyone else. In hindsight I should’ve used different language, so I wouldn’t appear to be saying SW *is* (adjective). What I wanted to say is that I suspect SW might be feeling (adjective).

    Thanks for catching miscommunication before it adversely affects the usually high level of discourse in Savage Critics comments.

  13. And I actually LOVE the books SW edits. He’s got some sort of secret sauce that makes his books much more appealing to me than many of his peers (at any company). I’m getting burnt out on many superhero comics, but I’d stick with his street-Marvel books.

    I’m quite surprised to read the tone of his recent comments on teh Twitters vs Graeme and Brothers. Based on his Word Balloon interview I had a much different impression of the man. Maybe he’s using the wrong words too. :)

  14. Everyone should take Wacker’s advice to heart. Money talks, bullshit walks. Books I dropped due to twice monthly shipping and/or multiple artist changes: Captain America, Uncanny X-Force, Fantastic Four, and FF. Marvel will have to do something exceptional to get me to pick those books back up anytime soon.

  15. Robert G – I think everyone but Wacker has taken his advice to heart, and that’s what’s causing the issue.
    He’s telling people that as long as they get sales they’ll keep doing it, but they are losing sales and ramping up how much they do it.

  16. Marvel have this problem now :-

    the most expensive comics

    and none of the best comics.

    Lose-lose, baby.

  17. I’m curious as to what the internet analysts solution to the current problem is.

    DC re-launched their entire line but didn’t stop there. They are still offering deep discounts, insane variant cover ratios and returnability. That’s how they are TRYING to sustain sales.

    Are we saying that because Aquaman outsells every Marvel comic that Marvel should enter time warp and resort to gimmicks like variant covers and discounting their titles? to artificially inflate their sales. I think not.

    Marvel comics are as good as they will probably get at the moment (heck, most on-line reviewers agree) but what needs to be changed IMO is the way comics are marketed. I think more needs to be done to bring in the casual fan. If Batman:Arkham City can sell millions, that indicates there is some interest in these characters. There needs to be greater synergy between comics and other media IMO because for all the talk of “gimmicks” e.t.c it seems the direct market thrives on them and at the moment DC has found the G-spot.

  18. Jeff, your observations on Doctor Who are interesting, as they’re very similar to a conversation I had with a friend once who had grown up with the 60’s and 70’s Superman. While talking about childhood heroes, both of us agreed that the core concepts are the same: an alien who prefers not to fight trying to make the world a better placed and who does not kill, unless your a robot (or Dalek, in Doctor Who’s case).

    Which brings us to the Jack Kirby version of an existing character that I’d have loved to see. After seeing his pages from the Prisoner reprinted a year or so back, I’d have loved to see him be responsible for a Doctor Who comic strip. The core character (a god like alien with the ability to change his appearance, but only when he “dies” and his time machine against alien robot creatures who are the ultimate nazis) already sound like a Kirby keratin.

    Add Grant Morrison writing it, and I’d be in heaven.

  19. I hate auto-spell: there should be a “you’re” and a “Kirby Kreation” in my previous post.

  20. There’s nothing at all god-like about the original Doctor; in the end, he was just a pretty clever guy in a broken-down time machine who could be relied upon to side with his fellow underdogs. The rebooted show’s habit of giving the Doctor long braggy monologues about what a badass he is is both excruciating and untrue to the spirit of the original show.

  21. As for Marvel’s woes, I don’t think you can look at them in isolation from the rest of the industry (or the rest of the economy, for that matter). For the last decade Marvel and DC have been desperately throwing everything they can against the wall to see if anything would stick, which up until the DC reboot included constant crossovers, umpty-zillion variant covers, shipping books on biweekly, thrice-monthly, or even weekly schedules (the roots of Marvel’s current overshipping strategy clearly lie in 52 and Countdown, which is a pretty sobering thought).

    In context, the DC reboot is just the biggest, loopiest stunt either company has pulled to date, and it emerged from a climate of increasing desperation and recklessness; the only real structural change that’s been introduced is day-and-date digital, which we’ve yet to see turn into the substantial new market publishers want and need it to become. Marvel’s strategy clearly isn’t working for them, but I don’t see that DC’s is working, either, unless the goal is simply to dominate a top ten list in an industry that continues to circle the drain. I don’t really have an answer to what a cure for the comic book industry would look like, but then again a real cure for the comic book industry would have to take into account the ongoing demise of the overall publishing industry and the fact that global capitalism has entered the fifth year of an ongoing catastrophic world-historical clusterfuck, and I don’t know where to begin to address that one. If it looks like Marvel is running around like a panicking chicken with its head chopped off, that’s probably because that’s exactly what it is – the mistake is to not see that everyone else is in that position, too.

  22. I’m just thrilled to be tagged! This was an interesting read. Thanks for writing it (and naming me in it!). Like I said, sales always speak loudest. Not sure why that was so controversial on other sites.

    I’m not going to address the many responders I’ve never met who seem to know me so well, but I do think that in terms of how we sell comics to retailers right now DC and Marvel are operating under VERY different business models.

    If the only goal is the top of the monthly order list, I can see why DC’s done so well. I’m sincerely happy to see them back in the game and I think their success is a good thing.

    I do think your surprise at Aquaman being a hit is little naive given the push he’s gotten the past several years. He’s a very recognizable character with the company’s top selling creative team. It’s hardly shocking the book is doing so well. I think it’s a great comic…though i loved the Sub Diego stories, so what do I know.

    I hate to break it to ya, but I don’t know that we’re losing as much sleep over Aquman;s success as fans are. As a retailer I would think the book’s success a good thing for you too (but maybe now I’m being naive).

    Anyway, if Marvel EVER manages to come out on top again, I’m anxious to read the reasons from SOME of you why it’s actually a bad thing and doesn’t count. (Graeme, you can start typing it up now if ya want!)

    SW

  23. MooseNSquirrel wrote:
    “For the last decade Marvel and DC have been desperately throwing everything they can against the wall to see if anything would stick”.

    Correction…the past 70+ years. This has always been the way creative companies operate.

    SW

  24. Here we go with Wacker being disengenuous again and missing the point entirely. It’s not about Aquaman’s success, but that a third tier character’s book is outselling the X-Men and Spiderman and Avengers, etc.

    His comment that “sales always speak loudest” obviously overlooks the fact that Marvel’s current low sales figures speak volumes, and is further evidence of his disengenuousness and overall tone- deafness. Don’t bring your ignorance and disinformation to this website Wacker. Your game is getting old.

  25. “He’s a very recognizable character with the company’s top selling creative team.”

    Obviously Wacker’s not referencing Spiderman here.

  26. Robert, your post is a good example of why internet posters can get teased so much. If it make you this upset and you speak for most people here, I’ll be happy to leave.

    YOU WRITED: “His comment that “sales always speak loudest” obviously overlooks the fact that Marvel’s current low sales figures speak volumes,”

    In January, Marvel was #1 dollar-wise on the sales chart. I’m not sure how much higher we can go to satisfy you. Imaginary numbers? (We’re number flork! We’re number flork!)

    Sorry. Comics have ups and downs, so maybe post this again during a month that backs you up.

    Back to destroying the industry I “claim” to love!
    SW

  27. “writed”?

  28. @RobertG: Please walk back your outrage — we don’t need it here.

    @Wacker (Should I change the title to be “Stephen”?) You spin well, certainly, but let’s be realistic here: regardless of the creative team, regardless of the “push” the character has received “for the last several years” (though, urm, I think you’re reading a different set of DC comics than I am), I certainly think that the Marvel characters are bigger stars, have SIGNIFICANTLY larger natural constituencies, and, as long as they’re being worked by “A-list” creators, they should outsell DC characters by a wide margin.

    Christ, I’ve ALWAYS been a “DC Store”, and traditionally, Marvel’s icons sold better than their 1:1 equivalents even here. So it is entirely disingenuous to pretend that you don’t fully understand what I am saying, and what the sales level of Marvel’s individual titles clearly means.

    Look, I’m not a fool, and I don’t expect anyone signing in from a marvel.com address to actually admit to overproduction in a thread on this site (of all sites!), but “Marvel is #1 in dollars in January” is empty meaningless spin when Marvel outproduces DC both in SKU count (There are 198 Marvel SKUs with a NOV11 code — that’s Jan 2012 shipping there — while DC only has 130), and that Marvel product is MUCH MUCH more expensive?

    How much more expensive? Well, to buy 1 copy of each and every DC solicited SKU would cost you $889.71 for the month, which averages out to $6.84 per SKU. To buy 1 copy of each and every Marvel SKU for the same month? A staggering $2593.87, or an average of $13.10 per SKU. With that kind of gross advantage, the REAL question is “why aren’t you beating DC’s ass bloody with a 10% or wider advantage on the dollars chart?” — your product is nearly twice as expensive as theirs, and there’s like a third more of it!

    So, yeah, I don’t find the spin to be helpful here, Steve — Marvel, on paper, should be absolutely dominating DC, and the hard chart based fact that Marvel is not doing so would certainly seem to suggest there’s something wrong with Marvel’s sales and marketing vision. You said “Look at the charts”, and the true fact is that Jan’s best-selling Marvel book did not reach 65k by ICv2’s reporting.

    -B

  29. SW, I don’t claim to speak for anyone here but myself. This is not my website. I am just a lowly commenter here at Mr. Hibbs’ discretion. I am not upset. I just don’t like when people mislead and distort reality and I tend to call them out on it.

    Congrats on Marvel being #1 dollar-wise on the January sales chart! That’s all that matters, I suppose.

  30. Well, I know I’m only one reader, but I personally dropped ASM after “One More Day”…I thought the move was a bad idea in general, but the poor execution (art, dialogue, plot, interface with other Marvel books for a long time) assured me I wouldn’t like where it was going. A ton of great (and personal favorite) creators were involved in ASM since then, and I’ve checked out some issues, but it always felt like a third “Ultimate Spider-Man” (at the time, I was also reading USM and the Marvel Adventures Spider-Man), so it felt like a perfect time and book to cut.

    Again, I am (er, was) just one reader though.

  31. Brian, my apologies.

  32. Brian, I guess we’re at an impasse then since your position is that I’m lying by default. (Not sure what your “of all sites” implies. Am I at war with this site too? Is there any site I’m NOT at war with? What a schedule!)

    But anyway, wasn’t Aquman the star of Brightest Day and a big player in Blackest Night? As you say, maybe I AM read reading different DC Comics than you, but the ones I read were pretty good and had a lot of cool Aquaman stuff.

    I don’t agree that given the push DC has been going on the past few months that Marvel should by definition be “dominating”. They did something massive to their line and gave the retailers a lot of reason to take a chance given the various sales incentives. Only someone looking to ignore a lot would ignore that.

    Through it all, we’re still number 1 on the dollars side (admittedly that could chnage next month and then go back and forth in proceeding months).

    But we’ll try and do better than #1, I guess.

    Enjoy my lies!
    SW

  33. Robert, what am I misleading or distorting reality about? Educate me because from my POV I’m being pretty straightforward….despite being such a horrible person.

    SW

  34. @Brian Hibbs: At the risk of being branded a toady: That breakdown of the situation by your nicotine-free self a couple of posts above was clear, excellent and thought provoking in the extreme. I can’t speak for anyone else but I understood it anyway and thought it illustrated your point with a clarity verging on the crystal. Thanks, I appreciated it.

  35. Mr. Wacker, whether Marvel sells more copies of title A, B, or C compared to titles A, B, or C at DC in any given month is less important than the overall size of the market. DC tried to increase the size of the market; whether they succeeded is debatable, but at least the company tried. Marvel hasn’t tried, and its current strategy of increasing its output of titles featuring “big sellers” is entirely consistent with a company in a dying market. Try to get as many dollars as you can out of buyers before the market disappears.

    Disney, as a corporation, has no love for comic books. If movies, video games, cartoons, and toys featuring comics characters are more profitable than comic books, then Disney will stop producing comic books and your job will disappear.
    The market for superhero comics needs to grow; you’re doing nothing to enlarge it.

    SRS

  36. “Yes yes, the book has been steadily declining for years now, but it isn’t “because” of Mephisto”

    That doesn’t account for the fact that the book dropped more readers in the 6 months after “Mephisto. Mary Jane. ‘Nuff said” that in the next 3 years combined. And here’s a few more numbers from icv2.com

    AMAZING SPIDER-MAN

    December 2001 – 88,666
    December 2002 – 93,867
    December 2003 – 90,484
    December 2004 – 82,678

    So, the numbers seem to show that Marvel and JMS had rebuilt Spider-Man into one of the best selling books in the industry, but that sales were tailing off toward the latter years of JMS’ run (Sins of the Past, anyone?) Those sales were boosted back up by Civil War and One More Day. In the aftermath of OMD, AMAZING not only lost every single reader it had picked up over the last year and a half, but fell below the sales of the end of the JMS run AND significantly below the sales of the years preceeding that. And while that immediate drop was massively larger than the decline of the following years, the title has continued to fall despite generally positive critical reviews.

    Now, are there a lot of reasons for AMAZING’S sale plunge? Sure. I don’t quite understand your vehement rejection of one of the most obvious.

    Mike

    Oh, and as for Wacker? Don’t feed the trolls.

  37. SW wrote:
    “Brian, I guess we’re at an impasse then since your position is that I’m lying by default.”
    Mr. Wacker is right about the impasse but wrong about its cause. Hibbs argues that you can’t measure success solely by dollars earned, where Wacker argues that you can. Two different definitions of success will lead to an impasse.
    What alarms me, and I think other readers, is that goosing sales with spin-offs and higher price points does no more to produce material of consistent quality than does a line-wide reboot or variant covers.

  38. Mike, I don’t see those numbers as conclusive proof that OMD is what’s sinking Amazing Spider-Man’s numbers. If anything, I see them suggesting that the numbers on ASM were trending downwards throughout the later days of JMS’s run, and readers treated OMD as a jumping-off point. And even then, I’d like to see more of the numbers post-OMD.

  39. “But we’ll try and do better than #1, I guess.”

    Oh man. That’s gold, Jerry.

  40. “I don’t quite understand your vehement rejection of one of the most obvious.”

    Because it’s fanboyish nonsense.

  41. @Hibbs: WOW, those numbers re: the Marvel vs. DC SKUs is kind of staggering. I’m curious how that translates into number of product (floppies vs. TPBs) and the percentage of $ in sales difference between DC & Marvel…

    It strikes me that there are production costs of cranking out a shit-ton more product than the competitor. Ergo, #1 in dollar sales may not always equal #1 in profit margin, which is always the REAL game, isn’t it? (e.g., the history of Hollywood is littered with the bloated corpses of Tentpole Event Movies that were #1 at the box office but still were regarded as bombs because they couldn’t edge into profitability due to their massive budgets.)

  42. “Because it’s fanboyish nonsense.”

    Right. Pointing out that the sales drop in the first 6 months after OMD was greater than all of the sales declines of the next 3 years combined, all of the sales declines from the previous 6 years combined and, if my math is correct, greater than all of the sales decreases of the other 9 and 1/2 years of the decade combined…that’s fanboyish nonsense.

    However, arguing that when the most controversial and bitterly criticised creative decision in the history of AMAZING is followed by a massive immediate loss in sales and a sustained decline to the lowest sales in well over 10 years, one has nothing to do with the other…that’s hardheaded analysis.

    And just to be clear, are you arguing that creative decisions on a comic have no effect on sales in general or just in this case? If DC decided to publish an in continuity story about that time Batman touched Robin in a bad way, it would have no commerical impact at all?

    Mike

  43. Wow, now I see why Brothers closed that other thread.

    @Steve D: DC is 25 books, 105 comics; Marvel is 71 books, 124 comics (and, er, 3 posters that I didn’t catch in my first look at the data, sorry!)

    -B

  44. Yikes, so Marvel is producing 18% more comic titles than DC, a whopping 184% more TPBs — while only beating DC by less than 2% in overall dollar share of the market?

    (see: http://www.newsarama.com/comics/january-2012-comic-book-sales-charts-120203.html)

    #1 dollars in gross doesn’t mean much if your net is getting eaten up by additional costs from overproduction.

  45. Right… AND their comics are (generally) more expensive at that.

    -B

  46. In fairness to MBunge, “One More Day” (OMD) was a (relative) PR disaster for Marvel that led to obvious attempts at damage control, including Quesada’s CBR interview.

    In a rational marketplace, OMD would have led directly to lower sales for ASM and, perhaps, associated titles, people being fired and attempts to repair Marvel’s image. Those natural consequences didn’t ensue, probably because the market for superhero comics isn’t rational. People buy the comics for reasons that have little to do with competition or supply and demand, and less to do with perceived value than in other markets.

    SRS

  47. There’s a logical fallacy in “post hoc ergo propter hoc”, or “correlation not causation.” Admittedly, there were several variables changing simultaneously, so a person could (and does) argue indefinitely about which “one” caused the observed results, but the largest and most unprecedented change on ASM was the consolidation of 3 titles into one and the increase of publishing to a weekly schedule. Which spoke much more to the point of Hibb’s initial posting.

  48. Maximum expenditure of resources for little results kinda defines The New 52 too, you ask me.

    I kinda heart what moose n squirrel said about the DC Reboot just being the new line-wide crossover event or chase variants or returnability incentives.

    It’s all manipulation with little, if any, real change to the way content is approached.

    These aren’t baseball cards. I buy the things for what’s between the covers. And everything but that’s what’s being rejiggered anymore.

    I mean, in context, DC’s the healthiest horse in the glue factory.

  49. Man, I can’t wait for the next “Wait, What?”

    Its comment thread, not so much.

    Then again, Abhay’s questions over on 4thletter pretty much justified the whole exchange…

  50. No horse in this race myself, but my sales figure geek side has me wondering: shouldn’t the total unit sales of all Amazing books in a given month be compared to total unit sales of all Spider-Man books in a given month prior to the Mephisto story?

    I don’t think it’s a precise one-to-one comparison to compare a single issue of bi-weekly Spider-Man to a single issue of monthly Spider-Man, especially when the former is the only Spider-product out that month. Or am I wrong about that? I haven’t looked at the Spider-section too closely lately.

  51. “shouldn’t the total unit sales of all Amazing books in a given month be compared to total unit sales of all Spider-Man books in a given month prior to the Mephisto story?”

    Bingo. Anyone who’s interested should look up Paul O’Brien’s Marvel sales columns on the “Brand New Day” issues. He did all the pertinent math. It’s not particularly controversial.

  52. I kinda find it fascinating Wacker tried going “scoreboard” on us with being #1 in sales, only for Brian to point out the profit margin is much smaller than DC’s, and a Spider-man conversation broke out.

    Really, just reading this thread all in one go is mystifying. I guess DC’s profit margin win equals Spider-man books? I dunno….

  53. Chris Hero, I don’t know what “scoreboard” means, but I was only pointing it out in response to the implication that Marvel was somehow falling dramatically behind DC. That’s clearly not the case–and is in fact the OPPOSITE of the case– and worth pointing out for context, I believe.

    I wasn’t peacocking or “scoreboarding” about it as that’s not my style–and it fact I admitted that this could fluctuate from month to month.

    SW

  54. I agree with Mr. Hero that it is C.R.A.Z.Y. that you guys started talking about a five year old Spider-Man thing again just because someone said the word “comics.”

  55. Stephen, you have to produce more content and charge a significantly higher price in order to eek out a slight edge in money earned (which doesn’t take into account the money spent on the effort to produce and market the product), but you really think you’re clearly ahead of your most direct competitor? I believe he’s calling it “going scoreboard” because you’re just pointing to the stats without any context to how they were achieved. Or maybe it’s getting excited about a Pyrrhic victory of a meaningless score (technical #1 in money) when you seem to be losing on all other fronts at the moment.

    I loathe the DC vs Marvel stuff, because it really serves no one, but in the context that Brian has brought it up, it isn’t the sort of fanboy discussion that I normally abhor. When you have to push out higher volume and price point to try to maintain, it is legitimately alarming to your retail partner. Now, if you’d just try to explain how all of that is done to actually help the retailer, your transformation into Brevoort will be complete.

  56. As far as I’m concerned, ASM’s sales are irrelevant – I’m pretty sure they’ve been making it just for me, at least since Big Time.

    “Through it all, we’re still number 1 on the dollars side”

    Steve, can’t you stick to internet posts against JMS, and not against people who want Marvel to be better?

    You’re company is number one in dollars through having higher prices and releasing more books than any competitor – you’re actual sales are down.
    That’s bad, man.
    Isn’t the idea to get the number one dollar slot by releasing less product, not by having a higher overhead by releasing more product and then selling less of it? That seems to be the exact opposite of popular business philosophy – especially as it seems to be igniting customer apathy.
    I know it’s easy to dismiss everyone on the internet as clueless fools – as at times, we’ve all been one – but I’d guess most people here actually work jobs, in a variety of fields and levels, and through those eyes, Marvel has been looking pretty desperate and directionless for a couple of years.
    Sales may still be up, but they’re sliding, and all I’m seeing is stop-gap measures to keep that dollar level up – extra issues, less pages, prices creeping up.
    I mean, people thought the same about DC last year, but then they started making moves and acknowledging the problem and tried some things to change it – Marvel seems uninterested in that. Especially when the line from editorial is ‘What are you talking about, we’re doing great’.

  57. RF — for my part, I wasn’t talking about story content but a radical change in publishing strategy that happened after that Mephisto thing. What used to be a half-dozen monthly titles was reduced to one with more frequency, and I thought that might have some bearing on the sales figures being discussed.

    Brian rightly picked Amazing as the benchmark Marvel title, but I wonder if the size of the Spider-audience is bigger than the median of all those bi-weekly sales.

  58. Actually, never mind. I just read Brian’s 2/27 post which explains that I’m wrong — the audience may be bigger than a given issue’s sales (because not everyone buys every week) but that still results in fewer total sales and, worse, more reasons to give up because the casual monthly buyers are so far behind.

    It’s a shame and I hope the downward trend turns around; superheroes are good for you.

  59. Sorry…I guess I listen to Jim Rome too much. On Rome’s sports talk show, he frequently uses the term “scoreboard” to indicate most teams can justify any decision, no matter how poor, if they win. For example, we can argue all day whether or not Tim Tebow is a good choice to be a starting QB, but as long as Denver is winning games, does it matter?

    I *really* don’t care who wins in Marvel vs DC. I just thought it was hilarious Brian called Stephen Wacker out, Wacker tried using a “scoreboard” justification, Brian cut the knees out from underneath that justification, and a Spider-man discussion broke out. I mean, what’s next? Alan Moore: abused genius or cranky lunatic?

    An aside to Mr. Wacker:

    I like your DareDevil book a *lot*. That being said, I was disappointed with the lack of class you displayed in your recent public disagreement with David Brothers. I know we all have bad days, so I hope that’s all that was.

  60. I apologize to the angrier folks here for not just admitting things are worse than they really are despite reality.

    Truth is according to the Internet pundits I’ve been reading for years, Marvel’s never really been doing well. This can’t last!

    Hibbs, though I don’t agree with all you write, it was good reading your posts. Love the site and have for years, not sure why you thought otherwise.

    Viva Jeff Lester!

    SW

  61. Chris, I think like many, you read more in my posts to Brothers than I actually wrote. I’m pretty careful not to insult people too harshly. Like I said several times, there’s some good writing on that site and I suspect he’s a good guy.

    And again about the “scoreboarding”, I was respoding to a specific point suggesting the #1 comic company was actually failing miserably. I wasn;t bragging just reminding a poster about reality..Not sure why you’re ignoring that context….other than it’ll score some point with Lester and Graeme! And honestly who could blame ya?!

    SW

  62. I wrote some stuff that got deleted. Am I blocked?

  63. Oops…it’s back.

  64. While there’s nothing crazier than people bringing up a five-year-old Spider-Man thing when it has nothing to do with anything (and I don’t mean you at all, Jesse), I’m fairly weirded out by the prevailing derision aimed at Simperin’ Steve. He’s been responding, engaging, and (sure) challenging, but hardly being outrageously antagonistic.

    This idea that “editorial” (and THERE’S a word that gets used in the weirdest ways in these conversations) is something to be knee-jerked and automatically scorned — well, that seems to come from an era that I don’t know or understand.

    Few of us would disagree that Simperin’ has been putting out some mighty fine comics the last few years. Why can’t we just have a conversation with the guy instead of assuming he’s part of some International Evil Conspiracy Industrial Complex?

  65. “Truth is according to the Internet pundits I’ve been reading for years, Marvel’s never really been doing well. This can’t last!”

    But Marvel isn’t doing well!
    Sales are in a downward spiral – it’s market wide, but Marvel is number one in the market, and can’t achieve more than temporary sales spikes.
    Maybe I’m wrong, and everyone else who watches this market are wrong and Marvel isn’t making desperate moves, but that’s sure what it looks like.
    (I know, I know, we’re comic fans on the internet and are thus immediately wrong, as we have no life experience of our own and have never seen companies without direction stumble around before, tripping themselves up).
    “But we’re still highest in dollars” is something I imagine Reebok execs saying when Nike started kicking their asses, or what Microsoft execs were saying when the ipod was first released.
    Brag all you want about being highest in dollars in single issue sales – but as the sales are shrinking, it’s a really weird brag to make.

    (The irony of me saying this to Wacker, is that Wacker is the guy at Marvel who I think does the best job! I read only a few Marvel books, and they are mostly Wacker’s. If his books aren’t shifting, what hope do the others have?)

  66. Hey, I didn’t really get the most satisfying answer to my last question, but if I could ask another for Mr. Wacker: in a given year, what percentage of the books you put out would you say you liked as a human being, separate and apart from your job? Not from a “it came out as solicited so I did my job” perspective but just a basic, meat & potatos “I myself enjoyed that” human being perspective.

    I totally get your point that being #1 in dollars is all anyone who works for Marvel cares about, and that cash rules everything around you, C.R.E.A.M, and I appreciate you sharing that perspective so honestly. But if you had to ever actually care about whether you liked the books you put out, could you estimate what percentage you think you’d land at? More than 5%? More than 10%? Could you put a range to it?

    Thanks!

  67. @Steve Wacker

    Wow, dude, I’m beginning to feel like you’re trying to create conflict. Perhaps your not, but I’m beginning to feel that way. I was simply using the “scoreboard” thing to paraphrase what you said. A paraphrase is a shorthand method, so it won’t be exact, but it was how I read what you said. People were wondering what I meant by that, so I clarified.

    I’m not ignoring any context. I wasn’t trying to perfectly capture your words with a one word term from sports radio.

    I have no beef with you. I suspect you’re a good guy with a *strong* work ethic and you may feel it’s being questioned. As far as I can tell, you do a wonderful job. Your enthusiasm for your job is commendable.

    But please…I’m not trying to score points with anyone. My favorite comics are by Kevin Huizenga, Dash Shaw, Michael Kupperman, and Jim Rugg, gentlemen who rarely do work for Marvel or DC. I mostly read webcomics. Are we clear?

  68. @RF: I wonder if you’ve been following the entirety of this thread, or David Brothers’ posts; if so, the sources of frustration would be more evident.

    For example, several people have pointed out that Marvel’s position at #1 in dollars isn’t compelling given the production costs that are evident in achieving that position.

    Just as there are many cases of #1 films at a box office that are regarded as bombs because they ultimately failed to cover an exorbitant budget — the name of the game is net profit.

    Recent figures show that Marvel is producing 18% more comic titles than DC, a whopping 184% more TPBs — while only beating DC by less than 2% in overall dollar share of the market.

    (see: http://www.newsarama.com/comics/january-2012-comic-book-sales-charts-120203.html)

    #1 dollars in gross doesn’t mean much if your net is getting eaten up by additional costs from overproduction.

    Stephen Wacker has chosen to ignore this entire vein of comments, jumping instead on Chris Hero’s use of the term “scoreboarding” in this context. Mr. Wacker continues to cite the “#1 comic company” line, snarkily slamming the “angrier commenters” while studiously avoiding the issue of how Marvel can possibly continue to be the #1 most PROFITABLE company given these figures.

    This entire discussion was spurred by the question of overproduction. DC is currently achieving within 4-5% of Marvel’s gross with what appears to be SIGNIFICANTLY LESS production cost (With 18% fewer individual comics titles, and 184% fewer individual book titles, we must assume Marvel is expending significantly more resources in assembling the content and packaging the material; and we may assume that DC has the economies of scale on its side with greater per-title volume on a significantly smaller slate of titles.)

    Unless Mr. Wacker or someone else is aware of any business practices on Marvel’s end that significantly reduces front-end / overhead costs on a per-title basis, these figures suggest that Marvel is #1 in gross only while DC is #1 in volume and, most likely, in net profitability.

    And, actually, the comparisons with DC are a secondary point. The larger questions related to Marvel’s long-term strategies; if the current volume of production was potentially contributing to the overall attrition in the market evident in declining sales figures in recent years; and whether the current strategies at Marvel are optimal for retaining and/or increasing its customer base.

    I would hope that the discussion, from Mr. Wacker and other participants, would focus on these issues instead of personal digressions and ad-hominem attacks.

  69. Chris, congrats on reading some good non-MArvel comics.I have no beef with you either though I stand by what I said. I was correcting a specific point that was suggesting the #1 comics company was floundering miserably. If there was another way to do it, i don’t see it. Should I have just let it go by?

    Everyone else, again you’re conflating seeing estimates online with knowing way more than you actually do about Marvel’s business costs. The idea that Steve D or anyone else know anything about our “front-end / overhead costs on a per-title basis” or “long-term strategies” or really anything about the company is absurd. What you do seem to know FOR SURE is that Marvel– in most cases– is doing something wrong and then it’s just a matter of working backwards from there. The market has shrunk the past few years, but is showing signs of rebounding. I guess that’s only happening in comics?

    Marvel can always be doing better, though, so we agree on that. Apologies again for only making it to first place last month though I do understand it doesn’t count because it wasn’t by enough or we published too much or something. (maybe someone could post the exact number of books we’re supposed to publish and what numbers they’re supposed to hit so we have that for guidance? I’ve never actually seen a list.)

    In the end, We’ll work to do better. Just like always.

    SW

  70. Heck, I could care less who is beating who as long as the comics keep being published. What I want to know in all this is why the heck, when Marvel comics are more expensive than the Distinguished Competition, have they STOPPED selling ads, while their D.C. still sells ad space? Shouldn’t they leverage their Disney connections to sell some ad space, thus lowering the cost of the comics to the reader without shortchanging profits? Or am I just living in a fairy land where Marvel cares about its reader’s pocketbooks?
    I know, personally, my Marvel Zombie status would come back in force if the price came back down to where I could actually afford the comics I want.

  71. Respectfully, Steve D., assuming you’re absolutely right about everything in your post – what point are you seeking to prove? Are we all looking for Wacker to reply “Yeah, Marvel’s profits are way down relative to DC’s”? (a) I don’t know how he’d possibly know whether that’s true, and (b) He’s a Marvel employee and wouldn’t say that publicly even if he did know it to be true.

    I’ve been hearing and reading people complain about Marvel’s (lack of) long-term business strategies for 30 years – yet they’re still hanging in there. This isn’t even the first time they’ve ramped up production to more than 12X per year on various titles – that was done a lot in the Jemas years.From a creative standpoint, it’s fair to question (as Brothers did originally) whether that’s going to lead to creative compromises in the name of meeting deadlines – but how do we get from there to expecting a Marvel editor to defend the company’s profitability and/or explain decisions made above his pay grade? I get that Wacker was the one who invoked sales, but how does that make it his job to explain all this other stuff?

    IOW how will we know when someone has “won” this argument?

  72. Wow.

    I’m a reader that enjoys good comics. That’s all. I don’t care if the comics come from Marvel, DC, Cartoon Books, Image, Dark Horse, etc. I don’t care what company outsells which other company in other categories.

    But I’ve got to say that Mr. Wacker is coming across as disingenuous as most politicians do during a debate. When people bring up rational, non-emotional points, it’s met with derision or off-putting humor.

    I have no interest in the sales charts beyond hoping that the books I enjoy do well enough to keep being published. But seeing this discussion has definitely left me with a negative impression of Mr. Wacker.

  73. Steve k makes a nice post (though I’m not the one who brought up sales if you back and check).

    As for who the real winner is…it’s all of you who got to argue with a lying editorial hack on the internet!

    And I apologize to D. Eric for meeeting all of this with humor instead of anger or being cowed. It is my curse to not take reflexive internet tut-tutting and arguing too seriously, I’m afraid. CRAP!

    Daredevil 10 and Moon Knight 11 are both going to press this week and are killer comics. Buy ‘em!

    SW

  74. This is a really interesting conversation, but I have to say it would be more “productive” (if something like that is possible in any conversation) to steer it back to Brian’s original point. As Steve Wacker pointed out, nobody outside of Marvel (arguably including Steve, who arguably isn’t privy to every business decision) knows anything at all about how the company operates or what their cash flow looks like. By taking that position, you’re 1) deciding without evidence that Marvel is in financial trouble and 2) coming up with a solution to that problem without evidence. This isn’t a dig at anyone, as all these comments are reasonable; I’m just saying that the line of reasoning goes nowhere and it has little to do with Brian’s point which is:

    at the retail level, Brian’s shop and *his particular customers* are buying less product. This part is real. Brian’s proffered reasons why are compellingly rational, and based on actual conversations with his customers. It’s worth working through that a bit.

    From my experience, I can say that increasing prices and frequency as a response to shrinking audience doesn’t work long-term. I watched this happen to a publishing partner once and it wasn’t pretty: a lot of nice financial returns for a little while before the eventual layoffs, acrimony, and end of business. It’s like bailing out a leaky boat: you stay afloat longer, but what you really have to do is fix that leak and get more readers.

  75. I’m not sure anyone can speak for the various companies business models and profits and all that. But I’m sure every comics fan has loads of anecdotal evidence that suggests many longtime readers are walking away from the hobby for various reasons. I collected comics for nearly 30 years and just walked away in 2010 after most Marvel books hit $4. That jolt made me re-evaluate what I was buying, and I began paring down titles until I decided to just make a clean cut. As Hibbs wrote in a really smart column a few months ago, it’s never a good idea for a company to force its customers to take a hard look at the cost/value ratio of something. Now, looking in on the hobby from the outside, it’s nice to be off the treadmill of events and crossovers and things. I still pick up the occasional self-contained trade, but I don’t miss that feeling of having to follow whole universes. I love comics as an art form. The comics industry, however…

  76. In the future, Marvel will sell $99 comics, released hourly, to an incredibly targeted market comprised of extremely rich people — like this guy:

    http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/29736400/detail.html

    The numbers guys will swear this is a good thing because ARPU (average revenue per user, Google it) will be more than $860K, up way more than 1600% from the days when people only bought five books a week.

    Comics are so decompressed these days that you have to check twice to make sure that there’s actually a new story when you buy a book. This week’s Fantastic Four and FF is the most recent example. I appreciate the conceit of using multiple perspectives to tell the same story, but it plays better in a MMORPG online role-playing game than a $4, er, $8 comic book purchase.

    In all seriousness, I think it would serve Mssrs. Wacker and Co. well to increase the frequency of face-to-face conversations with comic book retailers. Facebook research shows that exposure to people’s faces, over time, helps build familiarity and trust.

  77. @MBunge: I’ve just deleted the last two posts about OMD & ASM sales. Take it to CBR if you want to have that conversation, thanks.

    @Wacker: I have to say that I am finding this conversation with you to be utterly frustrating when you resort to passive-agressive statements like “As for who the real winner is…it’s all of you who got to argue with a lying editorial hack on the internet!”

    I’ve dunned statements directed at you that I believe are ad hominem, and I have to say that going forward I am going to delete these kind of Pass/Agg statements from you because they absolutely do nothing but lower the level of discourse.

    The factual reality is that the individual sales of individual non-event Marvel comics are at the lowest they’ve ever been, both in the micro level (my individual store), and on the macro level (the national sales charts), and there are no indications whatsoever that this trend isn’t going to continue (and, in fact, it’s an extension of a trend that’s been going on for some time now) — further, I can say with great assurance that Marvel’s publishing strategies in my micro level have directly cost me overall customers, increase my risk level dramatically in ordering Marvel comics, and have consistently led to nothing but fewer readers. Marvel comic titles are individually at the lowest level they’ve ever been at my store — and, as I said, that includes the period when I didn’t even rack them. These are inescapable facts in my micro market, not just some ax grinding on the internet, and facts that, by every metric we possess would certainly appear to also mirror in the larger marketplace.

    I understand that you are not the architect of these publishing programs, and again, I understand if you feel like this isn’t an appropriate venue for this conversation.

    But, at the end of the day, my actual livelihood is on the line. I’m not just some internet ax-grinder. I know the difference between Theory and Result, and I’m watching my Marvel audience shrink as a direct result (Customers are TELLING me) of Marvel’s line-wide movement to more-than-monthly shipping and $4 cover prices. This is incontrovertible.

    -B

  78. “I’ve just deleted the last two posts about OMD & ASM sales.”

    It’s your blog, but…

    1. You asked the question, then called my analysis “horseshit”.

    2. I’m genuinely amazed that a myth has congealed that OMD had absolutely nothing to do with Spider-sales. Not that it wasn’t the main or only factor, but that it was completely and utterly irrelevant. I know we nonsensical fanboys carry on, but really?

    Mike

  79. Stephen Wacker:

    “Daredevil 10 and Moon Knight 11 are both going to press this week and are killer comics.”

    I like DAREDEVIL a lot, but thanks to the crossover and increased-frequency nonsense, I’m done with #10.

    I was already annoyed to find out about the crossover with AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (a $3.99 title, Paolo Rivera nowhere to be seen), and “Omega Effect” is where I draw the line.

    As long as Marvel pulls this sort of crap, I hope at least nobody there is surprised when people jump ship.

  80. Mr. Wacker,

    I would love to call you Steven, but I don’t want to disrespect you, so I’m going the formal route.

    I have a two-part question for you that relates to my “scoreboard” paraphrase/shorthand/whatever and I think keeps your comments fully in context and relates to Brian’s original point…

    1) Does being the “#1 comics company” matter?
    2) If so, why?

    I understand why it relates to Brian and his store. This is his job and his livelihood.

    I understand why a sports team cares about being #1. In that industry, they have an objectively defined metric their customers respond to.

    But in regards to David Brothers’s original point – frequent artist changes to meet an aggressive publishing schedule creates inconsistent comics – and Brian’s point – his customers are telling him they’re no longer buying Marvel books due to the inconsistency and/or aggressive publishing schedule – does being the #1 comic company matter and, if so, why?

  81. This thread is a major bummer. As I’ve mentioned in a much-less contentious thread on this site, I’ve only been a committed weekly comics buyer for a few years, and I really, really don’t want to turn out like you guys.

    The key to that, I think, is not to stop buying comics (from Marvel or whomever) but to stop looking for intelligent conversations about them online.

    I know — or assume, giving benefit of the doubt — you all mean well and wish for comics to thrive, but something’s been curdled here. And it is, again, a major bummer.

    [Having said that, Abhay's barely-concealed, seething hostility in his most recent question to Simperin' was HILARIOUS and almost made this whole thing nearly worth it. I felt like I could see the safety pin in his nose.]

  82. I’ve got a question for Mr. Wacker, assuming he’s still out there after being censored. I know you’re just one editor and not entirely responsible for Marvel’s line wide policies or long-term goals or lack thereof. But comparing your Amazing Spider-man and Daredevil, is there a reason the former is $3.99 and the latter is $2.99? Both are 20 page books with top-flight creators. What gives?

  83. Brian, if it’s not too proprietary, can you give some indication of where DC sales were at your store, relative to their historical levels, pre-Flashpoint? We’re they also approaching historical lows?

    I’m assuming DC books are selling better now than they were then, at least the A-list stuff. Perhaps Marvel’s biggest problem is that AvX hasn’t started yet? If it really proves to be the sales juggernaut some are expecting, the landscape may look a lot different in six months, regardless of double-shipping and/or pricing that I agree is absurd.

  84. ‘I was already annoyed to find out about the crossover with AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (a $3.99 title, Paolo Rivera nowhere to be seen), and “Omega Effect” is where I draw the line.’

    Same here. I buy both Punisher and Daredevil but I’m not going to spend $6 on two thirds of a story. I don’t like Avenging Spiderman and even if I did I wouldn’t buy it at $4.

    As a result I’m going to drop Punisher and Daredevil. If it was one-off maybe I could live with it but Marvel do so many of these I’m fed trying to keep track of when to stop and start buying books to avoid crossovers

  85. Just curious, Brian (or whoever can speak to it)- you mention the more-than-monthly shipping and the $4 price point as reasons for readership decline. Was this downward trend observed ten years ago when Marvel began shipping twice monthly on almost all of their titles, which were $2.25 at the time? I believe it was during the Jemas era.

    I definitely see that the $4 price point has drove readers away – I am a direct example of that – I am just wondering if the more-than-monthly ship strategy is a problem *in and of itself* or if the problem with it is directly tied to the $4 price.

  86. For me it’s not just the price but the content that’s driving me away. I’m in the fortunate position that I could afford to buy every book Marvel produce but why would I when some of them provide about 5 mins worth of reading.

    I recently have been reading old ninities issues and it takes about 1/2 hour to read them. Modern books rarely take more than 10 mins.

    Given the choice of a movie or 2 comic books for the same price I know which I’d rather have.

    The last issue of the Punisher is a fine example. Barely half the pages had any text, fine if you like spending ages looking at art but I’ve always liked the marriage of text with pictures. If I want to look at art I’d buy a bl**** art book!

  87. “If it was one-off maybe I could live with it but Marvel do so many of these I’m fed trying to keep track of when to stop and start buying books to avoid crossovers”

    That’s another big factor in why I hardly buy any Marvel or DC stuff anymore — it’s just too much of a hassle to keep track of where the next part of the story will be published, or to tell my retailer when I don’t want one of those “Point One” filler issues by different creative teams they fudge in that have nothing to do with the given title they’re being published under.

    You’d think the great thing about publishing DAREDEVIL was that readers can get a new issue of DAREDEVIL every month and find the next chapter of the story that’s being told in DAREDEVIL by the people who write and draw DAREDEVIL.

    But apparently Marvel doesn’t have the confidence to try and make money that way anymore.

  88. SW: “maybe someone could post the exact number of books we’re supposed to publish and what numbers they’re supposed to hit so we have that for guidance? I’ve never actually seen a list.”

    The exact number of books Marvel should publish is 47¾. The exact number your editorial office should publish is 0.85π². The numbers they are supposed to hit are the irrartional and imaginary numbers. They’re a bad crowd. Sorry you were left off the CC list. A mailing list admin has been appropriately guillotined

    SW: “Daredevil 10 and Moon Knight 11 are both going to press this week and are killer comics. Buy ‘em!”

    I liked the first six issues of Daredevil by Waid, Martin, and Rivera. I’ll pick up the second Daredevil collection when it’s published in a year and half. Maybe. Enthusiasm wanes quickly.

  89. Steve Wacker wrote, “Apologies again for only making it to first place last month.”

    It’s comments like these that inform me of this guy as a human being.

  90. Sorry guys..too many questions to hit everything. I’m not really doing an interview here and I know most of you want more information than you have, but you don’t get to know Marvel’s internal numbers no matter how angry you are.

    So just casting about…

    Brian…I sincerely don’t think you’re an internet “ax-grinder”(…well actually, this site IS called “Savage Critics”, so don’t blame me if others think that!)

    It’s unfortunate that in your first response to me, You suggested flat-out that I couldn’t be expected to tell the truth about anything since I work for Marvel, so there’s not much room for me to maneuver. Sorry you feel the way you do.*

    In any case, I take what you mean. I think you’re insight is interesting and almost always read it. Sorry you feel this way. Believe it or not, my livelihood depends on Marvel doing well, also. It’s not just you.

    And in the end many retailers disagree with you as well, so the debates rage. While we are double shipping, it’s not nearly as dramatic as some online are painting with most books adding 2-3 issues per year at most.

    For those with creative concerns, it’s pretty easy to schedule with creators if you get in front of it. (though my perspective might be off given the many years of accelerated shipping).

    Chris Hero…I know you’re very concerned that I pointed out that Marvel was #1 sales and, no, it doesn’t mean a ton in the grand scheme of things (that was MY point. As I’ve said all along, it could change).

    We’re at an impasse because for whatever reason you won’t acknowledge that I was answering a specific comment suggesting the opposite was true. It’s #26 above if you ever want to take a look….though I’m not optimistic at this point.

    MarcOliver… sorry to lose you from the books. Inter-title crossovers have a looooong history at Marvel, so I’m surprised you were still here at all, to be honest. I’ve been working hard to build up me corner of the world and make it feel like a cohesive whole and these are a fun thing to do from time to time.

    Sales are up on those issues, So if you moving on is the price I have to pay for this cool little 3-part Waid/Rucka story, that’s too bad, but I’ll happily pay it. Might even do it again! Shhh….

    That’s the big stuff. Thanks, Brian.

    Free Jeff Lester!

    SW

    *You also added that I wouldn’t be expected to tell the truth here “of all sites” which I still don’t understand. (I know at least one contributor here has told me publicly to “F-Off” on Twitter, but I don’t know if that’s what you’re referrring too. That sort of impotent, tough guy stuff doesn’t bug me, so don’t worry about that. If it’s something ELSE you’re referring to, I’m at a loss for what it could be. )

  91. Thanks for the list, Ralf!

    Daredevil Vol. 2 comes out in June. Hang on until then.

    SW

  92. Steven,

    There’s no impasse here. You were concerned my using a slang word from the Jim Rome Show took your point out of context. I know you’re a hard working person and I respect that, so my question to you is…putting your answer in context, why does being #1 in sales matter in regards to the topic at hand? Yes, it was an answer to someone who misstated a fact, but why address that specific concern? People accidentally look at the microscopic picture versus the macroscopic picture all the time and I probably would have overlooked it, but you seemed very bothered by my “scoreboard” paraphrase.

    If you don’t want to answer that, cool. You’re certainly not doing an interview and I’m not trying to put the screws to you. I quite enjoy the Daredevil book your office produces so for my money, I’d rather your time be spent there.

    I was concerned you thought I was trying to score points with anyone because to me, I infer you feel as if I’m on the offensive against you. And since I had your attention, I thought I’d ask a real question, so to speak. ^_^

  93. Stephen,

    “Sales are up on those issues”

    Sure, they always are. That’s why crossovers are so popular among Marvel and DC editors, after all.

    Say, there’s this rumor making the rounds that you rang up each of the many, many readers coming aboard for those issues last Monday afternoon, to thank them personally and ask them to please stick around once the crossover is done, just this once.

    Is there any truth to that?

  94. SW, sorry buy I don’t buy Marvel’s ridiculous premiere hardcovers. You guys publish things the wrong way around. To get more of my money, publish softcovers first while the material is still halfway relevant. Upscale hardcovers should come later on for the super good stuff.

  95. Chris, sales was directly brought up in this talk and not only by Wacker. Actually, I believe it was brought up first by others. But, if you’re going to try to get a real answer out of him, you can’t be sloppy with your phrasing. #1 in sales? No. #1 in money share…#2 in sales often in the last few months, despite offering more individual products/SKUs than their most direct competitor.

    You screw up the phrasing, he’ll parrot what you (incorrectly) said and then point other complainers to what he was just repeating from one of his detractors. He’ll dodge what you’re asking several more frustrating comments as you try to clarify and get him to address the point you actually were attempting to make.

    Ultimately, you’ll still not get a satisfactory answer (or even the closet he could honestly provide). But your error prolongs it all and means you’ll spend a bit of time blaming yourself for that extra frustration.

  96. “It’s unfortunate that in your first response to me, You suggested flat-out that I couldn’t be expected to tell the truth about anything since I work for Marvel, so there’s not much room for me to maneuver. Sorry you feel the way you do.”

    I think these kinds of expectations are appropriate when speaking with a business professional. It’s not a judgement on you as a person, but merely an acceptance that regardless of your feelings there are certain things that you can’t say and still expect to keep your job. For example, I doubt you would say that Marvel pursuing the payment of $17,000 from Gary Friedrich is disgraceful and an embarrassment to the company in a serious tone. You could making joking references to how the Marvel ship is sinking or how Disney forces you to add mouse ears to all of your emotes 8:-(, but at a certain point honesty will come back to bite you. And personally, I wouldn’t want to see what happened to Dwayne McDuffie happen to you. If this sounds disingenuous or dismissing of your opinion, I apologize.

    “You also added that I wouldn’t be expected to tell the truth here “of all sites” which I still don’t understand.”

    I think it was just self deprecating humor, such as “why would you come to my restaurant when there’s a much better McDonalds across the street?” If I wrong maybe Mr. Hibbs can clarify since you’ve brought this up more than once.

  97. A few of you should start a club.

    Sw

  98. Did anyone ask to see internal numbers?
    Is anyone angry?

    I don’t think anyone cares about your internal numbers.
    I personally doubt there’s that much difference from the charts, because I’ve been hearing for years that the charts can’t be trusted, and they don’t tell the full picture, whilst never seeing any evidence that there is much more going on in other markets. As every ther business on the world on the share market likes to make a lot of noise about secondary/less known markets pulling in the money, Marvel have never done that, and it’s not like Bookscan charts shows a different picture than Diamond charts, after all.

    As for anger? I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed. Marvel should be doing better than they are. If sales were through the roof, Marvel’s current strategies would make sense, but they aren’t, so it doesn’t.

    “Inter-title crossovers have a looooong history at Marvel, so I’m surprised you were still here at all, to be honest.”

    I dropped the first title I ever collected, Thor, because of an inter-title crossover to wrap up the arc I had been hooked on (Blood And Thunder was the crossovers name).
    I stopped with comics as a whole for a while in my teens after Marvel drove me away with too many drek crossovers gerting in the way (Onslaught broke this camel’s back).
    I came back to comics a few years later, and into Marvel later after the bankruptcy, when creators ‘ran wild’, and crossovers didn’t happen. Great times. I left Marvel, not comics, around the time of Civil War – though actually due to homophobic remarks from Joe Q, not Civil War itself – and after getting back into Marvel a year or two later – once Joe finally “clarrified” his comments – have easily been able to avoid crossovers and the like.
    I’ll buy tie in issues if the story looks good – ASM’s American Son Dark Reign arc, iHerc’s Sacred Invasion Secret Invasion tie-in – but as a general rule avoid them.
    I got the Spidey/DD crossover two parter for instance, as it involved two books I read, but am not buying any of the Venom ‘point ‘ issues, as I’m not interested in the other characters. Did the same with Spider Island – although I dipped my toe in on most tie-ins first issueby the end I was only getting Spidey, Venom, and C&D, but only enjoyed Spidey and Venom (oh, and the Hobgoblin issue. Where have he and Nora been since then?)
    I’ll probably skip The Punisher issues of the DD crossover.
    I just wanted to let you know someone can have a looong history with Marvel, and have a very limited interest in crossovers.
    If anything, with crossovers now requiring six issues to set them up, so there can be a ‘Road To’ collection, or a books long building arc requiring other titles to wrap it up, they are more annoying, and common, than ever!

    “You also added that I wouldn’t be expected to tell the truth here “of all sites” which I still don’t understand.”

    Because Brian once led a class action suit against your bosses for not following the Diamond terms and conditions?
    Because he’s a prominent retailer who speaks out a lot about what he sees as bad business practices, so giving him too much could be detrimental?
    Because Abhay posts here, and you dodged his questions about Marvel’s bathrooms?
    Because Lester and MCMillions are here, and they love talking about this shit?
    Because John K posts here, and he’s deifying Kirby?
    Because all the Savage Critics are massive JMS fans and took offense at your rebuttals to his ‘Just sayin’ chart? (Ha! Could you imagine?)

  99. Marc, you’ve proven that you’re snottier than me.

    Congrats.

    SW

  100. “A few of you should start a club.”

    The “Marching on Merry Marvel Society”?

  101. Ben,

    I honestly had no idea all of the “Savage Critics” had some organized disdain of me. Especially about something I was ultimate correct about. Thanks for clarifying. (Would have been classier for one of them to speak up, but I’m a different breed….)

    As to your other stuff, it’s pretty much wrong across the board filled with a metric ton of obfuscation and error. I never claimed or do I think sales are “through the roof”. The whole industry is struggling right now, but right now at least we’re on top….which was in direct opposition the the post I was responding to. My apologies for correcting an untruth, I guess.

    I’m filled with much more self-doubt and internal questioning than many of you here seem to be, so I’m not as quick to believe oddball theories about things I don’t know much about (I was the same way before I worked in comics which the internet can attest to). And I’m certainly not one to pass judgment when I’m really at best guessing at truths, so really I have trouble wrapping my head around guys like you or some of the angrier “savage critics ” like Graeme and Jeff.

    Ultimately I guess that’s where the impasse lies. You are flat out sure about stuff I know not to be true and you’re really in no mood to even question what you believe when there’s a guy from Marvel who needs to be shown what’s what because Aquaman is selling well!

    I know you think you’re speaking truth to power or somesuch, so you have that. We’re different people, for sure. (Which will make you happy to hear!)

    Anyway, I’ll bow out. i had no idea so many people had such hard feelings against me here. Glad you spoke for them!

    Thanks again, Brian.

    SW

  102. Stephen,

    “Marc, you’ve proven that you’re snottier than me. Congrats.”

    Don’t feel bad. It’s hard to be snotty when you’re outsold by AQUAMAN.

  103. Mr. Wacker, I’m pretty sure virtually no one here or on 4th Letter had ANY hard feelings against you until you unnecessarily picked a fight with one of the more thoughtful comics bloggers out there about a low-key and well-reasoned post; then proceeded to dismiss and ignore the concerns of a prominent retailer, based on his ground-level experience of sales and reactions of his customers; all the while treating dedicated readers like no-nothing idiots while lobbing ad-hominem attacks suggesting that they are “angry” or irrationally biased against Marvel.

    I am truly fascinated as to why you entered this argument, unbidden in its first phase on 4th Letter!; why you persist in wasting time arguing with people whose opinions you clearly appear to find valueless or utterly ungrounded; and why you seem to perceive that virtually everyone else in this discussion is “angry.”

    I’m beyond seeking an answer to the issues that sparked this discussion and, like you, am merely trying to “wrap my head around” your continued involvement in this discussion.

  104. There’s a lot of things that have been said here, but the hardest thing for me to wrap my head around is that anyone thinks Aquaman is a good read.

  105. Sorry Steve, I think I’ve painted an incorrect picture of this site, by using my version of that thing called ‘humour’ (I think mine got set to a different frequency than everyone else!).
    These guys don’t hate you. I didn’t mean to imply they did, and the reason I like reading this site is that despite the name, though they are critics, I don’t think they are savage – they usually back up everything they say with reason, and in Brian’s case, numbers!
    Heck, Jeff and Graeme often talk you up on the podcasts. Jeff’s answer to the question “Who do you think is ‘doing it right’ in comics” was “Steve Wacker”!

    I don’t think I’m talking truth to power, or sticking it to the man, I was just telling you what I think. I’ve got the day off work, the girlfriend’s at work, I read the two comics I got yesterday (JL and ASM), it’s been pouring outside – good to see the rain we got all Summer has no intention of going away for Autumn – so a conversation here seemed more diverting than anything else.

    I have plenty of self-doubts too.
    It’s why I wanted to try and explain my thinking behind agreeing with those who are being critical of Marvel’s current moves.
    I didn’t want you to think I was just “a hater” or yet another “angry Internet fan”, and why I’m writing this now rather than giving up because you seem to think that’s what I am, and are totally uninterested in my reasoning behind the criticisms. It’s why I wanted to make clear that I do like Marvel books, especially yours.
    It’s also why I’m feeling bad that you wrote all these guys off, who love comics, because of something I said.

    I dunno, maybe I am just too quick to believe oddball theories, maybe I am in no mood to question my beliefs because Aquaman is selling well, but on the other hand, lots of news/commentary sites are saying these things about Marvel, and they’ve got charts and graphs and stories about Ike… And on the other side is people from Marvel, who deny there’s any probs – fair play, it’s where you work – but are using the same stories that have been used for years, regardless of whatever the issue raised is, despite those not seemingly lining up with what ever is going on.
    At this point, it seems to me I’d be making the wrong decision to just believe what you tell me, rather than people who are showing numbers and using solid reasoning.
    Yes, you’re at Marvel, and know all sorts of stuff that I don’t, but people at Marvel told us Marvel would never drop page counts, were dedicated to added value for higher priced books, and so on. It’s broken trust with me, I guess, so when you’re telling me you’re number one, and I’m seeing evidence otherwise, it makes me skeptical.

    Sorry I’ve given you a bad impression of a very good site, and I wish you didn’t think I’m just an angry dickhead with an axe to grind, so I hope I’ve cleared that up a little, and not just made it worse.

    All the best,
    Ben.

  106. Quick clarification:
    Where I say “You’re telling me you’re number one”, I should have added in “so there’s no problems whatsoever”, before saying I was skeptical.

  107. I’m impressesed: seeing the Savage Critic commenters bend over backwards to not accidentally offend one person. So many people, without an ongoing private plan, working so hard to one unspoken purpose.

  108. @Zory: Agreed. Ben Lipman, Chris Hero, etc. — please don’t bother explaining yourselves or apologizing. Many people in this thread have been accused of irrationality, anger, unfounded accusations, circular reasoning and faulty logic… yet the person most consistently guilty of same is the one receiving all of the apologies.

  109. Well, that’s fun, I haven’t had a triple digit comment thread in some time!

    If I knew how to no longer allow commenting, I’d do it now, but I don’t see the tool for that…

    As for “of all places”, I was referring very specifically (if not explicitly stated so) to the Class Action suit against Marvel — I don’t imagine that Marvel representatives will engage me directly on some specific topics, given the history; If I’m wrong about that assumption, then let me apologize for it.

    Anyway, that’s it, folks, shows over; you don’t have to go home, but ya’ can’t stay here…

    -B

  110. fyi, for locking comments

    http://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/is-there-a-way-to-lock-comments-for-a-post