For years Marvel Comics has had a big problem. While they have made a ton of money from their movie properties, they seem to have an issue with selling . . . comics.
Just over 20 years ago, Marvel shipped over 8 million of copies of X-Men #1 to retailers. Now the only comics that sell well for Marvel are their special events and major crossovers. The Avengers Vs X-Men crossover sold around 175K copies an issue in July. Standard top-tier titles haven’t fared anywhere near as well. The next best-selling title for the month of July was Uncanny X-men which sold 66k issues.
The Avengers movie grossed over 600 million dollars. In July the comic book sold 63k copies.
Marvel has tried to find a way to turn sales around for a while and just haven’t been able to accomplish it. They relaunched Ultimate Spider-Man about a year ago. Issue #12 sold 42k copies in July. They tried it with Fantastic Four as well with two different comic titles (Fantastic Four, and FF), both of which sold well under 40k copies.
Despite the poor sales, for years Marvel was the #1 selling comic book company . . . until this past year. DC took a huge gamble a year ago and rebooted the DC Universe with the what they called “The New 52”. Since they made the change DC has outsold Marvel consistently, but not by much.
At NYCC in 2011 I was hoping to hear something exciting from Marvel. I went to the X-Men panel hoping that they would revamp the line, and cut some titles. Instead they announced more titles. I think Marvel had something like 17 different X related titles getting released, which is just way too many [ed. Agreed!]. As a lapsed comic book reader that used to love the X-men I was looking to jump back in, but at $4 an issue and 17 different titles why would I bother.
The changes Marvel made last year just weren’t enough to help their bottom line. To combat this Marvel has announced Marvel Now! which at first glance looks like a relaunch of the Marvel Universe. They are canceling most of their top-tier X-Men and Avengers books and relaunching them with different costumes and creative teams. The list of titles that Marvel is canceling and replacing can be seen at the Marvel NOW! wiki page.
Unfortunately this isn’t what Marvel needs to do. Marvel needs to cancel EVERYTHING and start again. They need to give lapsed readers a clean slate to come on board with. To make things worse they are adding extra titles. So instead of making the Marvel Universe easier to follow they added even more complexity to the situation. The major plot point involving the Marvel Now! involves time travel . . . yeah, that’s going to go well. As a lapsed Marvel reader this isn’t what I want to see happen.
This whole Marvel Now! initiative feels like an event mini series that will have everything back to normal next year with another major event. Perhaps Marvel will eventually have the balls to do what needs to be done and reboot the universe with less titles.