Comics Books: How Marvel is Killing the Industry One Gimmick at a Time

For the last few months, I’ve been in denial. In denial of the slow decline of comics. There, I said it: Comics are declining. Shawn had texted me a couple of times in the past saying as much once he left the hobby behind. I didn’t want to believe it, and in those cases agreed with his observations but not necessarily that the entire industry was in trouble. After all, DC Comics was still putting out quality books. Well folks, the industry is in trouble. DC Comics is still chugging along producing really great stuff (Batman, Batman: White Knight, Wonder Woman, Justice League, Dark Nights Metal), but Marvel Comics has stopped pulling its weight.

If you remember it was only last August that Marvel announced their “Legacy” initiative after Secret Empire concluded, which was essentially just a fancy term for going back to original numbering on their line of books and “bringing the fun back to comics”.

I gritted my teeth and said, “Ok, it feels like a reboot-ish thing but I’ll try a few titles out.”

I fell under the spell of the Lenticular covers, fully aware that it felt all too familiar. It felt like the same mistakes that were made back in ’96, when the industry essentially collapsed and Marvel declared bankruptcy. Gimmick covers, reboots, character deaths,..etc, it turned off both the casual reader and the collector. Cripes, I still remember standing in line just to pick up Superman #75 because it was the end of Superman. At that point we were not yet conditioned to the fact that a death isn’t a death in comics. A little while later after enduring the painfully crappy “Funeral for a Friend” crossover and the god-awful Four Supermen crossover, Superman was alive and well and the industry was, well, not.

So what happened this fall? Marvel puts out their fancy little covers and we all flock to buy them. Wrong. We actually didn’t all run out and buy them. I mean, I did because I’m an idiot but a majority of people realized that a cover doesn’t matter. It’s what’s between the covers that matters. And what was between those covers was of the same quality that existed before Legacy, and that quality wasn’t great in comparison to what DC was putting out. Sure, there were a few good storylines, but as a whole Marvel was in trouble.

One of their most talented writers, Brian Michael Bendis, decided to jump ship and joined the competition. He later revealed that Marvel tried to convince him to stay by offering him a Deadpool or Wolverine book. Typical Marvel. This brings me to my next point: riding the hype wave of a popular character until people stop caring. How many Deadpool books can they pump out? Again, sins of the past..Do you remember how many Wolverine books were around in the 90’s? How many cameos he had in other books? It was mind-boggling. Deadpool is being treated the same way. You can’t base an entire company off of one frickin’ character. I’ll be honest with you, DC is starting to fall into the same trap with Batman. Since Scott Snyder wrote the hell out of the “New 52” series and sold a ton of books, there has been a real focus on Bats in the DC Universe. Are the books good? Absolutely. Just yesterday, I told Shawn to give White Knight a try. However this doesn’t mean that every month there should be a new Bats series, and its starting to be that way. DC just released Brave and Bold: Batman & The Wonder Woman #1 as well as Batman: Sins of the Father #1. That’s two new titles in the same month. So while DC is putting out better quality, I do get worried that they will fall into the same traps that Marvel has.

One thing they haven’t done is raise their cover prices, which in the end is what most people care about. They even lowered the price on their Dark Nights Metal books once they saw that the sales were so great for the first two one-shots a dollar. Maybe it’s just me but that shows that they listen to and appreciate their audience. I read an interview with Marvel chief Joe Quesada where he takes the exact opposite approach and defends the $4-$5 cover prices essentially saying that the fans have enjoyed underpriced books for too long and Marvel charges what they think the creativity in their books is really worth. My guess is that he feels untouchable because Marvel Studios is an absolute juggernaut in the box office, and soundly kicks the bajeezus out of DC. Fun fact: Did you know that Black Panther has already surpassed Justice League in total domestic sales in its first week?! So while, Quesada might feel untouchable in that aspect of the business, he, unfortunately for him, only runs the comic side. The lesson that is being learned as we speak is that movie viewers do not turn into comic readers.

So how does Marvel try to remedy this problem? By rebooting. Over and over again. Y’know to give any new readers a “jumping on point”. So in May, coincidentally when Avengers: Infinity War is due to release, Marvel is going to, yup, reboot again! All that Legacy “bringing the fun back to comics” stuff? Gone! Long-term readers? Eh, go screw! I don’t understand the mentality of this decision. Do they really think that because a gazillion Avengers tickets will be sold that it will translate into a gazillion issues of Avengers #1 being sold? What happens when the second Avengers: Infinity War flick is released? Another reboot? This logic alienates current readers in order to possibly attract new ones, which obviously hasn’t worked.

They are calling this upcoming reboot their “Fresh Start” initiative. (Shakes head)

After many conversations with Shawn combined with the points I’ve made above, I believe that your buddies at 2 Guys has a solution to save the industry, or at the very least, save Marvel Comics.

-Drop cover prices to $2.99 to be even with DC. Your books currently suffer from low quality writing and art, so the excuse of us having to pay for their creative value holds no water.
-For the love of ****ing God stop rebooting.
-Hire some new talent, get some unknown pencillers, some unknown writers, colorists,..etc, who knows? You might discover the next Scott Snyder or David Finch.
-No more Lenticular covers, no more shiny covers, hell, I wouldn’t be sad to see variants go away in general.
-No more cheap gimmicks like mish-mashing ****ing characters like “Weapon H” or “Red Goblin”. Do we really need another Wolverine-like character? No. No, we don’t.

Well, that’s my two cents as far as the comic industry goes, agree? Disagree? Let me know. I think that one thing we can all agree on as comic fans is that our hobby needs to be protected from cash grabby schemes and we deserve better than what Marvel is selling us. DC? Well you’re doing fine, but watch those Bat books and the foil covers, we’ve got our eyes on you….

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