Marvel’s Tom Brevoort on the diminishing returns of relaunches

201404151351 Marvels Tom Brevoort  on the diminishing returns of relaunches

Brief and to the point — over on his Formspring Tom Brevoort
was asked about Marvel’s continued hammer-blows of relaunches,

Do you think the frequent relaunches will eventually lose their sales-boosting effect?
marvelmaster616

Maybe. Many other things have over the years.


..and that’s where the creativity of comics comes in, I guess.

Rich has a briefer version of our continued sales charts that puts this in some perspective BTW.

Comments

  1. I appreciate the move to the re-launches and a more yearly form of publishing and numbering, but at least he’s honest.

  2. It’s a good point. Why bother sticking with a relaunch of a comic if you’re not 100% happy with it? There’ll be another one along next year with a new creative team.

  3. I think some people need to stop viewing comics as Pokemon. You do not, in actuality, need to catch ‘em all.

  4. My current criteria to buy current mainstream comics is: a) A creative team I like and B)That the title is self-contained (no crossovers, tie-ins, etc.) I have to say that I’m currently reading much more Marvel than DC (thoguh not a lot of either, really)

  5. And then what will Marvel do, if relaunches stop working the sales?

    Not even mainstays like Wolverine can be counted on anymore, as ongoing staples. Even their solo Avengers books are going downhill.

    Will this prompt Marvel to change their business model? Maybe even the format (because who buys monthly print comics anymore)? Maybe finally reach out to the non-40-year-olds out there, the kids and new generation of readers they could be appealing to? I wonder (but doubt they will. That would involve actually doing some real work).

  6. We grumble about variants, but apparently they sell. Then we grumble about big cross over events, but i guess those sell well too, otherwise the big 2 would stop producing them.
    Same with short story arcs, rotating creative teams and title reboots. The lesson I am taking from all this is: if you see a marketing ploy happen more than once, it’s because the last one was successful.

  7. Horatio weisfeld says:

    I see an easy way to fix for this .. but I don’t work at Marvel.

  8. And the reason why is that it’s probably not as easy as you think :)

  9. horatio weisfeld says:

    And the reason why is that it’s probably not as easy as you think :)

    >>

    Ha ! :)

  10. There was a point in time when you didn’t need a brand spanking new #1 every time you switched out the creative teams. And it worked just fine. A nice push with advertising promoting the creative team change, and sales did well. Why everyone things a relaunch is necessary today is beyond me. Just take a look at Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol (#19) , Alan Moore’s Saga of The Swamp Thing (#20), Frank Miller’s Daredevil (#168), John Byrne’s Fantastic Four (#232), etc. – Relaunches unnecessary.

  11. Torsten Adair says:

    @Nathan
    In the 1980s, the paradigm was:
    newsstand sales
    story over creative teams
    postal regulations and subscriptions

    If you start a new title, you need to file paperwork with the Postal Service for subscriptions.
    If you have a new title, newsstands and distributors are less likely to carry something “unproven” or with little demand.
    If the market is geared towards the casual reader, then creative teams don’t matter. It’s about what’s on the cover, not who drew the cover. Issue numbers don’t matter, since the reader is casual. As long as the reader can understand the story being told, previous issues really don’t matter.

    The names you mention above weren’t hot commodities when they started those series (although Byrne was well known).
    If those creators took over a series now, most likely Marvel would follow the 90s paradigm: creators are king. X-Force. Spider-Man. X-Men.

    The TwenTeens paradigm:
    Everything is archived online.
    It’s easier/cheaper for a reader to start with a #1 issue instead of #168.
    Everything is collected for the bookstore/library market.
    It’s easier to gain press and internet attention with a #1. (Would the “new now” Ms. Marvel have gotten the interest and sales if Marvel had continued the series from the Carol Danvers run of a few years ago?)

    I wonder if the six-issue paradigm still works… that it takes six issues for sales to stop sinking and to stabilize, and possibly gain traction (either with future issues, or trade collections)? What’s the evolution of TWD sales before the TV series?

  12. Dan Ahn says:

    No surprise that it’s a remarkably glib answer from Breevort. Wasn’t it just like three months ago when he was totally gung-ho about endless renumbering (in a CBR interview, I think)?

    Overall it seems that new #1s provide more exit-points than entry-points for readers.

    When all is said and ton, the reliable comic-shop-goer who has been collecting various Big Two properties for decades now is STILL far and away the main audience for comics. Maybe Marvel will eventually realize that they can only alienate these types so much (with everything from renumbering, to Ock-Spidey, etc) before they bail. And then who would they be left with? The Big Two in particular seems totally incapable of picking up new readers, no matter their overtures (new properties, digital initiatives, etc).

    I actually like a lot of Marvel books now and the renumbering doesn’t bother me. But it’s clearly not working. When I was a kid you didn’t even think about Amazing Spider-Man #380 (or whatever) being way into a run; you just bought it because it was there and you felt like reading Spider-Man. But Marvel has now trained readers to think that if they don’t get in on the ground floor, and if they’re not committed to spending like $50 more in comics over the next year, then they may as well not even bother trying any comic Marvel has on the shelf right now.

  13. Let me know if this one has been done yet: Start numbering a mini series with “-6″, then the next issue is “-5″, etc. Final issue is “#1″, and will be the best seller. Drives ‘em nuts.

  14. horatio weisfeld says:

    Start numbering a mini series with “-6″, then the next issue is “-5″…
    >>
    @Al:
    Dammit man: now you done gone and gave away the keys to the kingdom, Fort Knox & The Crown Jewels – for free!

  15. >> Let me know if this one has been done yet: Start numbering a mini series with “-6″, then the next issue is “-5″, etc. Final issue is “#1″, and will be the best seller.>>

    MARVEL: THE LOST GENERATION, numbered from #12 to #1. The final issue was not the bestselling, that’s for sure.

    kdb

  16. And the final issue ends with a big explosion where everyone dies.

  17. Torsten Adair says:

    http://www.comics.org/series/7866/

    The Invisibles (1999)

    Or if you’re feeling industrious, tell the story in reverse.
    Publish #6, the final issue, with the climax, preferably a death.
    Then publish the issues in reverse order, so that every issue adds something to the previous issues.

    The final issue is the first issue, and everyone is eager to find out what started the whole snowball rolling downhill.

    Try this with Watchmen. The murder mystery/conspiracy makes for the best plot.

    “There must be some way out of here,” said the joker to the thief.

  18. DC and Marvel have trained their current audience to only start buying a series when there’s a new #1. And so that’s why they do it. But those buyers are developing resistance to it (just like to antibiotics). To get bigger numbers, they need to either find a market that hasn’t developed that immunity to relaunches, and/or find a market that doesn’t depend on one to start reading.

  19. johnrobiethecat says:

    I don’t think I even remember a time when comics have been so dull. While the superhero movies seems to have taken over the cinematic imagination. It’s an odd paradox. Who cares who gets an Eisner or if Comixology hands over its monopoly on bad comics to Amazon, it’s an empty, inbred indsutry that charges too much for too little.

  20. What the Big 2 really need to do is actually invest money in advertising comics outside the usual outlets (CBR, Bleeding Cool etc). What is stopping them from putting an ad for comics before one of their movies? Or during Agents of SHIELD or even just a billboard? They need to be reaching people outside of the comics community.

  21. It might be too soon to tell.

    Wolverine and FF were both pretty bad both before and after these latest relaunches. Might be more due to that.

    Also, how heavily did Marvel push them? Were there as many variant/incentive covers as last time for example?

  22. @Trevor: I agree that comics need to be marketed outside the usual outlets. I think that it would help if each superhero movie would show some someone actually reading a comic book, or walking past a comic shop. Maybe Stan Lee could be seen reading one on an iPad.

    Big Bang Theory, the Simpsons, and Comic Book Men are the only real exposure the general public has to today’s world of comic reading. Most people don’t know that comic books still exist.

  23. “DC and Marvel have trained their current audience to only start buying a series when there’s a new #1… To get bigger numbers, they need to either find a market that hasn’t developed that immunity to relaunches, and/or find a market that doesn’t depend on one to start reading.”

    Couldn’t DC and Marvel just train their current audience and new ones to NOT do this, if they trained them TO do it? Just a thought.

  24. Torsten Adair says:

    There are only two comics right now that make me eagerly await the next issue:

    Sandman Overture (with those crazy cliffhangers at the end of each issue!)
    Astro City (Not the continuing stories, which are worthwhile, but the done-in-one issues which concentrate on one character or aspect.)

    The rest could wait for the trade.

    Digital comics, not the Direct Market, is driving this #1 new 52 now what initiative.
    It makes it easier for readers to get caught up. (Start with #1.)
    It makes it easier for a casual reader to try a series.

    Marvel is already publishing titles which do not tie into other series (Hawkeye, X-Men: Legacy). Many of the DC digital first comics are done-in-one (or one-half, like Adventures of Superman) titles.

    If there is an event, the event takes place between the regular series volumes, like Death of the Family, and can be read separate from the participating series.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see more mini-series announced (like Overture). Yes, more people are likely to wait for the trade, UNLESS it’s highly anticipated, but a 12-issue series could mitigate that (especially if the first volume of the trade is published immediately, to drive sales of the single issues).
    (Hmmm… what were the monthly sales figures for Watchmen in 1986?)

  25. Cerebro says:

    >> Let me know if this one has been done yet: Start numbering a mini series with “-6″, then the next issue is “-5″, etc. Final issue is “#1″, and will be the best seller.>>

    MARVEL: THE LOST GENERATION, numbered from #12 to #1. The final issue was not the bestselling, that’s for sure.
    ____________

    DC did it, too, with ZERO HOUR. The mini was numbered backwards from #5 to #0. I, honestly, can’t remember which direction the sales totals went.

  26. horatio weisfeld says:

    “MARVEL: THE LOST GENERATION, numbered from #12 to #1″
    “DC did it, too, with ZERO HOUR. The mini was numbered backwards ”
    >>
    Yes, but they have not tried subatomic numbers.

  27. >What the Big 2 really need to do is actually invest money in advertising comics outside the usual outlets (CBR, Bleeding Cool etc).

    When did that happen?

  28. Paul Houston says:

    When I first starting reading comics, it was the titles that were around the longest which attracted my attention (Action Comics, Fantastic Four, etc). Must be something good about them if they were that long lasting?

    How many series took a few issues to mature before they got good?
    I realize we are an attention deficit disorder kind of society here in the west, but feeding us new crap over and over doesn’t sound like a winnable marketing strategy long term.

  29. Silly But True says:

    The larger issue is not the relaunches, but the reason why companies must stoop to such gimmicks in the first place.

    It ain’t digital comic book sales.

    It’s the rampant piracy that exploded in this industry about 5 years or so ago; scans of comics or jail-broken freeware versions of original digital comics.

    And there’s an entire generation of consumer that sees nothing wrong with downloading a pirated copy. Especially if they feel it’s too highly priced (for them).

    Unfortunately, there’s no taking any page (ba-dump-bum) from the music industry.

    Where CD’s were $15.00 for multiple songs; their solution was a la carte sales at think-nothing-of-it prices to compete directly with piracy and they’ve succeeded.

    Comics, on the other hand, are already $3.99, and that’s considered too — ridiculously — high. And single page sales of $0.17 will not be satisfying, because there’s no comics’ analogue for individual song sales.
    Panel by panel? Page by page? That would just be shit.
    So, the industry’s stuck.

    –Silly but True

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  1. […] soon hit the point of diminishing returns with its cycle of title relaunches and renumberings (via The Beat). Bleeding Cool’s Rich Johnston avers that this may already be happening in his analysis of […]

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