Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Uh-oh. Is this what the average Marvel Comics week is going to look like from now on...?

I go through the Diamond shipping lists pretty thoroughly every Monday while assembling my 'Twas the Night Before Wednesday... feature for Blog@, and, once I'm done with that, I go back through and make my own little shopping list for that Wednesday (in part to make sure I have enough cash for everything I want to get that week, and in part because that's the kind of persnickety, anal retentive person I am).

When putting together that little shopping list, my general parameters are simply to keep it under $30, usually spent on books I'd rather read in single-issue chunks instead of later in trade. (If you're wondering, that's why my Weekly Haul features here on EDILW are almost always exclusively DC and Marvel super-comics; literary and/or non-super-comics stuff is what I usually try to get review copies of, or buy online to take advantage of discounts—sorry, local comics shop!—or borrow from a library).

This week I noticed that every single comic on my list was a DC comic. I don't think that happens very often. I went back to check the shipping list to see why there wasn't a single Marvel comic on it. Surely they were publishing something I wanted to read, right? They couldn't all be $3.99 books now, could they? (As I've noted here so many times I'm sure everyone's sick of hearing it, $2.99's as much as I'm willing to pay for 22-pages worth of DC or Marvel super-comic; which disqualifies a bunch of Marvel comics I might otherwise be interested in checking out).

If you don't want to follow the link over to Diamond's shipping list for this week, here's what the Marvel portion of it looks like:

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #598 2ND PTG SIQUEIRA VAR (PP #875) $2.99
CIVIL WAR HEROES FOR HIRE TP $13.99
CIVIL WAR PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL TP $14.99
DARK REIGN GOBLIN LEGACY DKR $3.99
DARK REIGN HAWKEYE #4 (OF 5) DKR $3.99
DARK REIGN HOOD #3 (OF 5) DKR $3.99
DARK REIGN LETHAL LEGION #2 (OF 3) DKR $3.99
DARK REIGN SINISTER SPIDER-MAN #1 (OF 4) 2ND PTG VAR $3.99
DARK REIGN SINISTER SPIDER-MAN #2 (OF 4) DKR $3.99
DARK REIGN YOUNG AVENGERS #3 (OF 5) DKR $3.99
DARK TOWER THE FALL OF GILEAD #3 (OF 6) $3.99
DARK X-MEN BEGINNING #2 (OF 3) DAX $3.99
ESSENTIAL PARKER SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN TP VOL 4 $19.99
FANTASTIC FOUR #569 $3.99
GHOST RIDER TP LAST STAND $16.99
INVINCIBLE IRON MAN PREM HC VOL 02 WORLDS MOST WANTED $19.99
KID COLT #1 $3.99
MARVEL ZOMBIES 4 #4 (OF 4) $3.99
MMW X-MEN TP VOL 02 $24.99
MMW X-MEN TP VOL 02 DM VAR ED 07 $24.99
NEW AVENGERS #54 2ND PTG TAN VAR (PP #875) $3.99
NEW AVENGERS #55 DKR $3.99
SCOURGE OF GODS PREM HC VOL 01 (MR) $24.99
SECRET WARRIORS #6 DKR $2.99
SON OF HULK #13 $2.99
SPIDER-GIRL TP VOL 11 MARKED FOR DEATH DIGEST $12.99
THOR #602 2ND PTG DJURDJEVIC VAR (PP #875) $3.99
THUNDERBOLTS #134 DKR $2.99
ULTIMATUM #5 (OF 5) $3.99
ULTIMATUM #5 (OF 5) FINCH GATEFOLD VAR $3.99
ULTIMATUM SPIDER-MAN REQUIEM #2 (OF 2) $3.99
WAR OF KINGS ASCENSION #4 (OF 4) $3.99
WEREWOLF BY NIGHT TP IN THE BLOOD (MR) $16.99
WOLVERINE NOIR #4 (OF 4) $3.99
WOLVERINE NOIR #4 (OF 4) CALERO VAR $3.99
X-MEN FOREVER #2 2ND PTG GRUMMETT VAR (PP #875) $3.99
X-MEN FOREVER #4 $3.99
X-MEN LEGACY #225 2ND PTG ACUNA VAR (PP #875) $2.99

That's 38 new releases, 28 of which are comics books, and the remainder of which are either hardcover or trade paperback collections of comics. Is that a lot for a single week? Well, for comparison's sake, DC Comics has 23 new releases this week, 19 of which are comic books, and thus four of which are trades. Dark Horse and Image, meanwhile, have five and eight releases, respectively.

Of Marvel's 28 new comics, only four are at the $2.99 price point—X-Men Legacy, Secret Warriors, Son of Hulk and Thunderbolts— which works out to a mere one-seventh of Marvel's books being released this week.

Additionally, there are eight comics that are explicitly branded with a "Dark Reign" or a "Dark" in the title.

In one week.

I don't normally bother counting, so I don't know if this is an unusual week or not, but I have noticed that, in general, Marvel seems to be pumping out a ton of product each week, especially compared to their nearest rival DC, and that some of those weeks a lot of that is due to "Dark Reign" miniseries and one-shots (In fact, look closely at that list and you'll see relatively few of those 28 comics are actual ongoing monthly series; so even if Marvel insists few of their ongoings are actually selling at the $3.99-for-22 pages price, almost all of their miniseries and one-shots now sell at that price point, and that's the majority of what they're selling these days).

It may also be worth noting that this Wednesday is the fifth of this particular month, so this is apparently what a "fifth week" shipping list looks like in 2009. In the past, when monthly comic books came out like clockwork on a regular schedule, fifth week's often necessitated some sort of special event or book from the Big Two to fill the gap, since nothing was scheduled to come out on the fifth week of a month. Obviously comics aren't published anything like that these days, and a fifth week can actually turn out to be a pretty giant week.

11 comments:

Eric Rupe said...

At least until it stops working for them. After all, they made up 50% of the market according to the last Diamond charts. It is working for them in the short term, at least. Who knows who this will effect longer term sales.

Scott said...

I haven't been following comics lately but it looks to me like there are also only about 8 titles shipping that are actual issues rather than Part X of an X-part miniseries. They have 10 TPs on the list, but many, many more that will be collected sooner or later as well.

Phillyradiogeek said...

Fifth weeks such as this are usually high with Marvel product and have been for a few months now. It is true, however, that Marvel usually outnumbers DC in weekly output regardless.

As someone else said, it seems to work for Marvel, but really, who buys all this stuff? Are that many people interested in Dark Reign: Lethal Legion? Bullseye and Venom II miniseries? Really?

Sea-of-Green said...

Marvel must have a really good business deal with their printer (or at least I HOPE so), because printing that much product for one week is VERY expensive.

Matt said...

For what it's worth, almost all of the Dark Reign books are actually going to be pretty good. That's as important as anything else if not MORE important in my mind. Sure the Brian Reed book will be sort of mediocre and the Bullseye one isn't for me (But a lot of people online have liked it quite a bit).

Hdefined said...

"For what it's worth, almost all of the Dark Reign books are actually going to be pretty good."

Are you from the future?

Matt said...

Well, no, but issue #1 of most of them were pretty good, even Tieri's Lethal Legion which is more or less him in his element. So I'm assuming the later issues will be good off of the fact they have the same creative teams.

But if helps for you to think I'm from the future, then sure, I'm a member of the LSH: Logical Conclusion Lad.

Siskoid said...

The number of related titles (Dark Reign, Avengers, X-Men, Wolverine) has swelled, and I'm reminded of the 90s Wasteland when Marvel was flooding the market with unnecessary (and often shoddy) product for the sake of raising share value (or some scheme I couldn't possibly understand with my lit background).

We're right back there with "you gotta buy dozens of titles to follow the single book you actually want to read" and "violent hero cash cows" of the 90s.

Man, that cycle didn't take long enough to come back...

Caleb said...

Who knows who this will effect longer term sales.

I honestly can't imagine it being positive, but then, I may be way outside the mainstream of Marvel customers.

It's also possible that Marvel will make enough money off of licensing that it doesn't matter if they're turning huge profits in publishing or not, but if that was the plan, they wouldn't need to publish so many books, so I imagine it's not.


For what it's worth, almost all of the Dark Reign books are actually going to be pretty good.

I would have at least given the first issues of The Hood and Young Avengers a shot based on my appreciation of the writers of those books, were they not $1 more than the other books by Jeff Parker and Paul Cornell I was reading.

Eric Rupe said...

I wouldn't be surprised if their $4 comics and excess publishing schedule were partial conceived as a way to lure more people to their Digital Comics Unlimited service.

Even if it is not, I would guess it would be a while before sales really start to decline since the only people that are really left are the die hard fans.

Matt said...

I realize this is a bit buried now and probably won't get seen, but the simple fact of the matter is that the rise to 3.99 comics means that Marvel can sell 3/4th as many comics and still make as much money. Anything more than that and it's a profit for them.

Granted, there are more long-term issues, but we live in a world where each quarterly profit number has to to try to beat the last.