Brevoort and Alonso on what's up at Marvel

1322081002 Brevoort and Alonso on what's up at Marvel
Marvel is going through some odd times, of late. Cancellations, accelerations, and a complete focus on the bottom line seem to be the order of the day. Kiel Phegley’s great piece at CBR analyzes their recent moves and concludes:

In recent months, executives and creators alike have been very vocal, both in interviews and across social media, about their desire to have a line of books that offer a range of options and a healthy level of sales success. Marvel does also have a number of newer stories and initiatives on tap, as evidenced by the characters and series recently previewed in its “Point One” one-shot, the “Season One” line of original graphic novels and promises of big changes coming with its next mega-event. However, if the new titles on tap fail to find the sales traction the publisher’s mandates require, and if the double-shipping of its biggest franchises remains Marvel’s best bet for retaining market dominance against strengthened competition in DC Comics, readers and creators alike may find themselves looking at a very different Marvel Comics in 2012.


Marvel’s top guns in editorial have had a few things to say in recent days. At Axel in Charge, editor-in-chief Axel Alonso mostly danced around questions about who was coming back when, but did respond to a question about ALL-WINNERS SQUAD, the miniseries that was canceled in the middle of a storyline.

Alonso: If there’s anything I’ve learned in my time in comics, it’s “Never say never.” That said, we don’t have any plans for continuing “All-Winners Squad” at this time.


(That certainly applies to Tan Eng Huat’s art — above — from ANNIHILATORS: EARTHFALL (2011) #3 that features Groot and Rocket Raccoon teaming up.)

Alonso also responded to a call for more minority characters:

It’s not like we’ve stopped trying, either. Besides Miles Morales in the Ultimate Universe, we’ve introduced a wide variety of multicultural characters in the Marvel Universe: the super-powered bounty hunter team, the Zapata Brothers, from “Moon Knight” and “Deadpool Team-Up”; Reptil from “Avengers Academy”; Coldmoon and Dragonfire from “Point One”; Raizo Todo from “Fear Itself: Hulk”; and “Battle Scar’s” Sergeant Marcus Johnson, who is a character you’ll definitely want to keep your eye on — I mean, eyes. Also, Striker just came out of the closet in “Avengers Academy,” and Wiccan and Hulkling continue to play a huge role in “Young Avengers/Avengers: Children’s Crusade.” I feel like I’m just getting started.


He was also asked why so many top female characters are male spin-offs:

Creating any character with the intention of having them anchor an ongoing title is probably the fastest way for them not to catch on, Sv7nd. That said, a strong female character needn’t have roots in a male character, but any new character benefits from a high-profile launching pad. It’s not a surprise that some of our strongest female characters are our X-Women, none of whom are rooted in a male character, but all of whom reflect the paradigm — Jean Grey is, hands down, the character we get the most fan mail about, even though it’s been years since we last saw her, Storm is one of the most popular X-Men period. And I’m betting Kitty Pryde, who made a huge comeback in Joss Whedon’s “Astonishing X-Men” is going to have a great year in 2012.


Meanwhile over at his Formspring account, always candid Executive Editor Tom Brevoort was grappling a bit more directly with recent events, and even took a few swipes at DC, something that was absent during the heat of the relaunch:

Q: I’m curious why the economy isn’t a problem for DC. I want you to pay attention to the “black friday” reports. You guys at Marvel are going to have to get over yourselves & quit trying to pass the buck for why your comics aren’t selling. Just saying.

Brevoort: The economy has been a huge problem for DC, don’t fool yourself–their numbers for the first eight months of the year were disastrous, and in fact made them move their relaunch plans up by two months because they were bleeding money so badly. So they went all-in, did a big hail mary pass, and it’s paying off for them now, at least in the short term. And that’s great–good on them! But I suspect that now that we’re in month three of the relaunch, the bloom is going to start coming off of that rose, and the numbers on the obvious titles that were going to be tough sellers are going to start reflecting that. Beyond that, when you talk about “why our comics aren’t selling”, you’ve got a very incomplete picture. Our numbers were up in September and October, which means that we sold more and made more money. The fact that DC did extraordinarily well in those months meant that more people came into the stores, and that some of those people left with Marvel books in their bags as well as DC books. And I’ve got no complaint about that–they can beat us that way every single month if our numbers continue to increase, because the only number that truly counts is the number of copies that you sell. What you’re talking about is perception, and perception is often very subjective–you certainly don’t have a full enough picture of our financial situation to make any accurate determination about what’s going on, and the readership in general tends to sometimes connect dots that are unrelated (especially if they’re upset about something and are rooting for a particular outcome.)


Brevoort also had this exchange:

Q: quite a few canceled titles lately… ahem.

If you look back, this sort of thing tends to happen every now and again, with a certain amount of regularity.


Marvel’s situation remains rather chaotic right now for all the reasons Todd Allen mentioned and more. Word on the street is that all of the steps being taken of late are part of Isaac Perlmutter’s mandate that the line had to be profitable. Given the brutal nature of some of the changes (ALL-WINNERS SQUAD, and so on) that must have been some mandate.

Comments

  1. MBunge says:

    “The economy has been a huge problem for DC, don’t fool yourself–their numbers for the first eight months of the year were disastrous, and in fact made them move their relaunch plans up by two months because they were bleeding money so badly.”

    I know the comics biz is kind of a small town environment, but would Brevoort be that clued in on DC’s executive decision making?

    Mike

  2. Synsidar says:

    It would be nice to know what Alonso, et al. think is needed for a new title character to succeed. Name recognition can’t be everything.

    In the case of female characters, it’s possible that Marvel’s readership now is made up largely of guys who aren’t interested in buying comics with female leads. That’s just a demographics issue; I doubt that the readers of, say, Maxim would buy comics with female leads either.

    Taking characters from the X-titles and giving them their own series probably wouldn’t work because, as heroes, they’re too dependent on people who hate mutants as enemies. That was a problem with the “Age of Apocalypse” preview in POINT ONE. A group of superpowered humans on a mission to kill mutants is just the reverse of mutants setting out to kill humans. There’s nothing new about the concept.

    I got FANTASTIC FOUR #600 this week, and was impressed by Hickman’s techniques and Giandomenico’s artwork, but not by anything else. The FF, and Annihilus, in particular, are as boring as they ever were. Their simplicity limits what can be done with them by anyone.

    I’m sure that Jim Shooter would have some idea of what to do if he were ever in charge of Marvel again, but I don’t. If not OGNs, then –? The lack of direction reinforces, to me, the conviction that the characters in Marvel’s library are only ideas. They don’t generate their own stories, and attempts to brainstorm stories based on “What do I do with _____?” will always be problematic. If someone comes up with a new framework to work in — for example, combining psionic energy and magic would allow disintegrator guns which destroy clothing but not skin, bodies but not clothing, steel but not wood, etc. — that can result in new stories, but only of a certain type.

    SRS

  3. James Tichy says:

    That isn’t Tan Eng Huat’s art. Timothy Green II did the Rocket and Groot back up story.

  4. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I would like Marvel to know I would happily write an event comic based on their heroes encountering a bad guy whose combination of powers destroyed “clothing but not skin.”

  5. Shawn Kane says:

    For me as a Marvel reader that only gets three Marvel titles now (Captain America, Daredevil, Thunderbolts), and aside from not really enjoying what they’re doing in most of their titles to characters that I care a great deal about, I quit most of the line due to prices quite honestly. The main titles are mostly $3.99 and when I was relieved that things like Avengers Academy would stay at $2.99, they started double shipping it. They’ve done the same with DD. It seems like Marvel is trying to take every last dollar that I allow myself to spend on comics monthly. There is no problem with that but when something like Fear Itself crosses over into books like Avengers Academy (not Daredevil by the way) then I’m paying money for an event that I have no interest in. That’s not even counting the Point One issues. As a result, I’ve dropped the majority of their line. DC, by keeping the $2.99 price point, allows me to take a chance on a few of their titles. If I buy Blackhawks #1 I can read it and digest it for a month before I have to decide if I want #2. I don’t have to come back next week and decide if I want it.

  6. man, I don’t need a month to know that I don’t want to read Blackhawks again.

  7. “I would like Marvel to know I would happily write an event comic based on their heroes encountering a bad guy whose combination of powers destroyed “clothing but not skin.””

    The villains would be The Emperor and his Skinny Dippers from the Bare Dimension. (They are shooting at people with disrobetors and disarrays.)

  8. Shawn Kane says:

    Actually Blackhawks was a book that I did drop after I read the second issue.

  9. Joe Heffernan says:

    Well..if I understand the “top female characters that are male spin-offs” issue correctly – it’s really got to do with copyrights and I don’t think Marvel really cares (unless it sells really well) – just as long as they maintain that copyright. That’s why we’ve got Spider-Woman and Spider-Girl and She-Hulk, etc. I wouldn’t be surprised to someday see DareDevilina – the Girl without Fear! :)

  10. Snikt Snakt says:

    Do you know how you can tell when Brevoort is lying? His lips are moving…

    “Also, Striker just came out of the closet in “Avengers Academy,” .”

    Wha wha what?!? When did this occur? What issue #?

  11. Dusty says:

    I’m the Dusty that brought up the economy excuses to Tom Brevoort. He’s still in denial about DC, but at least he was polite and professional with his reply this time. He expected the bloom to come off the rose with issue #2, just like Marvel relaunch sales, but it didn’t happen. So now it’s issue 3? Then what, issue 4?

    I want everybody here at the Beat to pay attention to black friday reports and pay better attention to reporting economy issues so Marvel stops getting away with claiming that the economy is why the can’t sell comics, and not event overkill, crossovers, price gouging, death stunts, flooding the market with too much of the same characters, and hiring unqualified writers under the buddy system, while closing the doors to the vets. They didn’t lose over half their audience on their top monthly series in just a few years because of the economy.

    With an Avengers movie coming up, how does Bendis even still have a job on Avengers stuff after that kind of fall? Marvel needs some house cleaning done to bring in more qualified people to right the shipwreck.

  12. Saber Tooth Tiger Mike says:

    Dusty, Tom’s point was that he thinks that DC’s current success is temporary. He, and other people have pointed out that DC will not be able to keep the current sales numbers it is currently enjoying forever. Tom has pointed out a number of times that
    DC’s business model allows it to continue to publish low-selling titles for a little while, while Marvel’s business model doesn’t. Marvel would rather lose market share then than keep losing money on low-selling books.

    The economy matters in the sense that there’s a downward trend in sales numbers in the industry. What is considered well selling now would be considered low-selling fifteen to twenty years ago.

    The recession has only accelerated the downward trend in sales, or shrinking of the market. Currently, DC appears to have changed the trend, but right now is not six months from now nor is it six years from now. The industry is still shrinking.

    “I want everybody here at the Beat to pay attention to black friday reports”Black Friday is not indicative of the level of consumer activity for the whole year, just like someone can’t use Detroit to make generalizations about urban America.

    As for your complaints about unqualified writers, and the buddy system, that just seems like bitterness about you being personally rejected by the editors at Marvel. They close the door to the vets for the same reason every business in the developed world closes the door to the vets. Some vets can’t sell enough units to justify the higher compensation vets demand . Not every vet has a serious following like Art Adams or is a workhorse like Mark Bagley.

  13. Shawn Kane says:

    “Some vets can’t sell enough units to justify the higher compensation vets demand.”

    I was thinking about this the other day. Would the Suicide Squad sell less if it was John Ostrander writing instead of Adam Glass? I think there is still a place at the Big 2 for some of the great writers. I loved Roger Stern writing the Captain Universe/Juggernaut arc in Spider-Man.

  14. Dusty says:

    Saber Tooth Tiger Mike

    Do you have a mind of your own? Wow, I would be embarrassed to willingly try to suck up to comicbook people to try to get imaginary brownie points, but you sure don’t seem embarrassed. Oh, well, that’s how insecure people act…

    I think you need to stop making idiotic assessments of what my career is, stop trying to help Brevoort spin, and THINK! Now un along, as I’m sure you have an appointment to clip Tom Brevoort’s toenails.

  15. MBunge says:

    “Tom has pointed out a number of times that
    DC’s business model allows it to continue to publish low-selling titles for a little while, while Marvel’s business model doesn’t.”

    I don’t know when the last time was that Brevoort said that, but if it was recently then he was lying. For quite a while now, Marvel has been flooding the market with books that don’t sell for crap.

    Mike

  16. Saber Tooth Tiger Mike says:

    If you think Tom is lying about the nature of Marvel’s business plan, then go right, ahead if it pleases your inner-biases.
    Alpha Flight, X-23, and Ms. Marvel must have been crap because not enough people were reading them and so Marvel cancelled them and it seemed no one cared about female ongoing titles until they were cancelled.
    Oh, no, not X-23!

    Marvel is rectifying the problem of too many comics and is trimming its line , and the anti-Marvel crowd, have come out in full-force, inventing injustices but YET FAIL to see some of the new titles that DC released into the market is not superior to the “crap” Marvel has produced.
    They put DC on a pestadal, as if DC has reversed the decline of the industry or something.

    I think DC is stealing Marvel’s customers, which explains why

    “I think there is still a place at the Big 2 for some of the great writers. I loved Roger Stern writing the Captain Universe/Juggernaut arc in Spider-Man.” The current thinking is that Roger Stern is not going to appeal to anyone under the age of 30.

  17. Saber Tooth Tiger Mike says:

    I think DC is stealing Marvel’s customers, which explains why Marvel is adjusting the number of its titles. The market is clearly not growing and Marvel is cutting its losses, literally.

    That makes them evil, of course.

  18. MBunge says:

    “If you think Tom is lying about the nature of Marvel’s business plan, then go right, ahead if it pleases your inner-biases.”

    It’s not bias. Anyone who paid any attention to sales figures over the last 5 to 10 years could see that DC published a lot of low-selling titles, far more than Marvel did. But in the last few years, Marvel’s output of low-selling stuff has dramatically increased. Not only has the cancellation point for Marvel titles seemingly lowered but they’ve been publishing series and one-shots that no one in their right mind could think would ever sell well. An All-Winners Squad limited series? Really?

    I don’t know jack about Marvel’s business model, but I do know that they put out a lot more low-selling work then they used to.

    Mike

  19. MBunge says:

    And what is this “Tom” business?

    Mike

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