Customers Matter

Presented for your education and enrichment: the story of Marvel Comics' implosion in two pictures.

First, a Twitter exchange in which a weeb comedian rushes to the defense of Moon Knight scribe Max Bemis.

Customers Matter

And now, a Marvel sales graph.

Marvel Comics sales February 2017

According to the chart, in February 2017 45% of Marvel's titles were selling at or below the 20,000 copy cancellation threshold. That was almost a year ago, and Marvel's situation has only gotten worse.
This is a game-changing drop; sales have fallen over a cliff. Overall, year on year, that’s almost 7% down on 2016 at the same time. July’s figure was 3% down. Things are getting worse, not better. 2017 looks like it may be an annus horribilus for the comic book direct market.
The customer is king. Marvel and their sycophants may find the necessity of writing to market annoying, but the market doesn't care.

Actually, it's becoming more and more apparent that the market does care and is doling out some richly deserved punishment to Marvel's wallet. It would take a total 180 degree attitude adjustment for Marvel to save themselves now, and based on their past behavior, you can kiss them goodbye.

If you want an example of what listening to your audience and working to please them looks like, check out my action/adventure/horror series The Soul Cycle.

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier
This series just gets better.


  1. Brian

    If Marvel goes under, what happens to the intellectual property? And who could buy it?

    1. It's a subsidiary of Disney, so Disney would retain all rights that weren't already sold before Disney acquired Marvel.

      Marvel going under is really just Disney deciding to pull the plug. I don't know if that will actually happen; I suspect Marvel will be operated at a loss to prop up the movies. If the movies start to tank, well, they might close up Marvel entirely. But they'll still have the rights.

      I am not a lawyer, but unless my understanding of copyright law is wholly flawed, that's how things should go.

    2. I'm fairly certain the rumor was that Disney was considering shuttering Marvel Comics and only keeping "classics" in print.

      When the movies begin to under-preform, and if the comics keep hemorrhaging money, I fully expect this to be the route taken.

  2. This is the result of idol culture putting creators on pedestals as some sort of modern prophet.

    It's no coincidence that Max Bemis has this attitude. Had you been paying attention to the indie music scene when he released his album Is A Real Boy over a decade ago you would have seen people fawning all over him and calling him a genius that can do no wrong. It only makes sense that he would take this attitude to the mainstream.

    If we want creators to no longer have their heads planted up their rear then we have to stop treating them as if they are gods.

    Boomer celebrity worship must finally end.

    1. It's no accident that Jim Steranko became the first comic book writer/artist superstar in the 60s.

    2. Only Steranko "gets" Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

  3. Thanks all. I think we need to have the whisperer return when some was celebrating an ovation. Remember you're but a man is a sobering reminder.
    I really don't get this attitude pf xontempt toearfs the public. In the past creators either gave what audience wanted or worked to specs.
    And they're works are celebrated


  4. This is not a popular sentiment but I think what is needed is professionalism oriented around maintaining the brand and IP. A fan who feels like they know Spider-Man probably should not be writing Spider-Man because he will SQUEEEEEE instead of telling decent stories each month. The continuity will go from a support to a choking mass. Likely we will have retreads of old stories with twists or constantly find out that everything we thought was true was a lie (the Clone Conspiracy).

    A cold hearted maximizer might be bad too. A corporate numbers guy who wants x titles with popular item in them will Cross-over/Special event/#1/foil-variant cover Spider-Man to death. I had a DVD of all the Fantastic Four up to about 2006 and I noticed that from 1987 -1998 you could not complete a story because EVERYTHING was continued in some other book. That is nuts. These are the guys who will create a Spider-man family, with SpiderBabby and a mini-series about Uncle Ben's ghost helping kids fight vampires. It's cross promotion hell.

    Finally you can't have geniuses who are out for themselves running books. You end up with subversion and stunts and weird shit that poisons Spider-Man. You might find out that Spider-man raped someone in Vietnam while on heroin and then he gets he hand cut off and a spider-hand grows back.

    lately we've had the bubbly yet incadescently angry political hacks and their bullshit where they use Spider-Man as a sock puppet or make a fool of him to promote Spider-GRRL and SPYDERR-QUEEN as his replacements.

    You need an editor/writer who understands Spider-Man but doesn't care that much who recognizes certain excesses and is mostly focused on 1. All ages content 2. having something new each month 3. having something in each issue that makes it worth buying, not people talking in a coffee shop 4. won't allow nutty madness to take over the book 5. saves people from other books for occasional teams ups or sets up a Marvel Team Up/Brave and the Bold/Marvel Two In One style book, rather than having them rent Spider-man's book as a b-plot side kick. 6. Think of Spider-Man as thing that exists in the long terms that should not have constant additive and subtractive major wood-working done on it. 7. consider making something like a house style and a comics code to keep low hanging lowest common denominator stuff out of the book. Yes the code was ridiculous but its constraints did a lot to force Marvel to be extremely creative and catchy when they could have been easy PG-13 drek. Marvel got around the prohibition of the word Zombie by calling them living dead and zuvembie. That was cool and became part of the marvel tone. When Marvel could say Zombie they did zombies and it was lame. Meh. More zombies.

    Anyway those are my thoughts. You need someone distant from Spider-man who thinks of it as bread and butter not to be messed with too much. People who want Spider-man 700 years back in time cutting off samurai heads and suffering from Amnesia should not be the focus of the Spider Man property. Just because you can doesn't mean you should. A story about someone with spider traits cutting off samurai heads and wondering where they came from with a few fractured memories of the future needs to be centered on a new character.

    1. Your sentiments might be more popular than you realize.

      Having been subjected to the Spider-Clone, or as Wizard called it, the Ugh, debacle immediately after first getting into Spider-Man, I'm inclined to fully support the program you've laid out here.

      Comic books need to be market-facing again. Before bringing on prospective writers for major titles, editors should ask what a scribe's game plan for the book is.

      If the answer is any of the following:

      "Let's do a year-long arc where we play [kitsch 70s gimmick] straight!"

      "[B List heroes] are hot now thanks to [quirky, surprise hit movie]. How about shoehorning them into our flagship standalone character's supporting cast and turning his book into a rehash of Claremont's X-Men run?"

      "To be honest, I've always found this character rather pedestrian. I intend to shake up the status quo by shifting the book's focus to explore [Z list female supporting character]'s abusive history with her stepfather and resulting inability to have stable relationships. She's also a stripper."

      "I've been too busy editing 'Non-binary Coprophages Destroy Science Fiction' to keep up on comics. But let's replace the iconic lead character with a genderfluid, queer, Inuit Restless Leg Syndrome suffering Socialist."


  5. Mr Bemis sounds like a very weak and brittle personality. He probably shouldn't interact with the public to better protect his own mental health.

    NoeL demonstrates that we clearly have a maleducation problem in public education and our universities if people come away with "Creator > Customer".

    The customer has a demand, and resources they wish to exchange to meet that demand. This is the beginning of the majority of economic transactions.

    Clearly a sound purge of our schools is in order.

    1. "Clearly a sound purge of our schools is in order."

      It's like you can read my mind!

    2. Max Bemis epitomizes the Emo movement and what the indie music scene looks like.

      It's no wonder that nothing great or truly unique has come out of it since the 90s.

    3. So you're saying that Max Bemis is the fecal impaction of the Indie Music scene?

    4. If you've never heard the song "Admit It!" by his band Say Anything, you are missing out.

      It's every single indie cliche and stereotype rolled into one overly long whinefest of a song.

    5. That is so ... not compelling, in so many ways.

    6. It's good for a laugh and a cringe. Not much else, though.

      Early '00s rock music has dated worse than anything I've ever heard in my life.