Saturday, November 18, 2017
Home  >  Features  >  Get Your $#!% Together: A MightyVille Editorial

QUASAR!

 

B.J. Morgan's back at MightyVille with some insight towards a few things going on in the comic book industry that make it harder and harder for new and old characters alike to thrive. And he's got some advice for the publishers: Get your $#!% together!!

 

Some characters can’t seem to get their act together. They have series' almost habitually brought to market where they land with a thud and peter out. Or, at the very least, creators can’t seem to crack open their creative shell wide enough to make the characters appeal to a broader audience. Some characters vex their publishers just as much as they frustrate their fans when they flounder and fail after just a few issues.

I think all comic books fans realize that almost any character can be made interesting by the right combination of characterization, plot hook, supporting cast, or creative team. Well, except Quasar. He’s universally accepted as being awful. Nothing is going to help him. Yet fans are treated to new rounds of cancellations and frustrations every year when their favorite character fails to make a connection with a larger audience. 

There are many reasons why a character or concept fails to take off. Three chief reasons come to my mind...

 

Marvel and DC Characters

 

1) Tent-Pole Franchises Dominate...

We live in a comic buying world where even the best of attempts to get a character or concept off the ground can often get lost in the over-gluttonous haze of X-Men, Avengers, Justice League, Batman, and Superman titles. The margins of profit are tight for any given publisher. Marvel Comics and DC Comics have calculated their own death zones for titles they publish. When sales fall below a certain threshold, they know it is time to mothball the title. These companies want every title to succeed, but the economic reality of the marketplace is that not every title thrown against the wall is going to stick. The closer these companies tie their ancillary titles to their "cash cow" franchises, the more bankable these ideas may be in the marketplace. 

Fans know that few titles are given the creative and economic freedom to grow. There are too many comics competing for fewer bang-for-buck entertainment dollars. Too often characters outside of the orbit of those tent-pole franchises wilt and die on the vine prematurely. That’s an unfortunate confluence of factors including lack of promotion, reader blindness to non-franchise players, and the ever increasing price of buying funny books. 

The number of bankable franchises has dwindled down to just a few. At Marvel, you have Avengers, X-Men, and Spider-Man titles. A couple of concepts outside those stables work, namely Fantastic Four (though, if rumors are to be believed, it might be going away for less than stellar reasons). At DC, you have Justice League, Batman, Superman, and Green Lantern titles that consume the most publishing oxygen (though Green Lantern has seemingly lost some of the steam it once had). Whether at Marvel or DC, titles on the outside looking in are already at a considerable competitive disadvantage. 

 

Comic Prices since 1991 via ComiChron

 

2) Pricing Fans Out of Curiosity...

The price of comic books suck. That's the least controversial thing anyone has ever written about the medium. The norm from the Big Two is $3.99 per book, with a few event books and specials regularly hitting the $4.99 mark. I was reminded of the pain retail price can have on my wallet on two recent visits to Heroes Aren't Hard to Find in Chalotte, NC. Most stores do give nominal discounts, but most are small and just as many shops have their current stock of comics for full retail price. Walking out of Heroes on those two occasions was painful indeed. On both occasions, I netted six or seven books that easily topped $30 without breaking much of a sweat. 

Luckily, I don't have to feel that sticker shock too often because preorder my books online through DCBS. They offer a standard 35% discount while many books are higher than that. That has helped stave off the bleeding of the insane price increases of recent years. These price increases have forced many fans to tighten their purchasing belts. There is very little room for experimental purchasing on the part of the consumer. 

An Avengers fan is going to be less inclined to pick anything new if all seven of their Avengers titles are costing them $3.99 a pop, while two or three of those titles may be double shipping during any given month. That’s the plight of the modern comic book reader: choose your favorites or gamble on spending on something new that the company may or may support in the long term. This kind of fan service creates a certain level of anomie when trying something new out on the stands. A new Defenders title or Booster Gold book are viewed suspiciously by consumers who feel like they will get twelve issues at most out of their support whereas All-New Uncanny Avengers Assembled Legacy will succeed no matter what. 

Fans can be apathetic and blinded to characters and concepts outside of their usual orbit of interest. The high prices of comic books adds another barrier to their trying out new books. The bang-for-buck ratio of entertainment when it comes to individual issues is admittedly low. $3.99 buys the average reader a distraction of just a few minutes at best. That disposable income has many competitors for its attention. New comics tend to be low on the scale when given the many options fans have now to entertain themselves. 

 

SUPERMATH!

 

I love trying out new books. I am fortunate enough to be in a financial place where I can afford to check out new books. Not everyone is in that place. People will choose the complacency of reading their favorites over adventurism any month. It's not hard for fans to choose between their favorites and an unknown quantity if books are ridiculously expensive. 

 

1984's Detroit-Based JUSTICE LEAGUE of AMERICA!

 

3) You Just Haven't Earned It Yet Baby...

Fans are very passionate about their favorite characters. We all show our love for out characters in different ways. Between tattoos, cosplay, clothing, and memorabilia, fans have many unique ways to show our love for Character X, Y, or Z. The one way that we fans would all love to see is a character thriving in their own monthly title. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing our favorite character holding their own month to month on the stands. 

But let's admit this hard truth: not all characters are created equal. Not every character is as special as a Spider-Man or a Superman. Some characters just don't have the appeal of others. Some characters just aren't as interesting or compelling as others. This is hard for most devoted fans to admit. You may really, really like Enchantress. You may have an obsession with her bordering on the unhealthy side of the equation. However, she's probably not going to be able to hold down her own book for an extended period of time. She works wells as a supporting character, but she's probably never going to be a starter on the line-up of Team Marvel.

There are notable exceptions to this typecasting of also-rans. Hawkeye is a perfect and recent example of catching lightening in the bottle. It's a case of having the right creative team, character, concept, and media tie-in if there ever was one. But Hawkeye is the exception. My poor, poor Gambit, launched at the same time as Hawkeye, suffered yet another ignominious cancellation recently. Alas, not everyone is going to succeed. 

A vocal fan base or enthusiastic creator can ensure that a title can be brought to market. They can't ensure that they will bring in the new readers who will consequentially bring in the dollars that make survival possible. I would love to live in a world where Gambit, Doom Patrol, Enchantress, or Quasar could survive as monthly titles (okay, I'm lying about that last one). It's just not feasible in the current marketplace. We all want our favorites to succeed. 

Can we get 20,000+ other fans to agree with us and buy the title monthly?

 

Gambit vs. Cap

 

What do you think readers? is B.J. on the money here or way, way off? Let us know! 

 

More Editorials on MightyVille:

THE MIGHTYVILLE CHATCAST starring Joe and Sam, Episode 2: X-Huming Futures Past

THE MIGHTYVILLE CHATCAST starring Joe and Sam, Episode 1: Supermovie Round-Up

The Ultimate Universe Must Die - A MightyVille Editorial

 

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