Will WOLVERINE even help comics sales?

200905191305 Will WOLVERINE even help comics sales?Looking at the previous item, we’re sure that comics retailers are planning the day when the THOR movie’s opening will send civilians streaming into their stores looking for Thor comics…or not. Marvel puts surprisingly little emphasis on converting movie ticket sales to graphic novel sales, and when they do, it seems to backfire with some segments of the comics industry, as a recent column by Brian Hibbs details. The source of Hibbs’ ire this time out: Marvel’s decision to push back publication of WOLVERINE #72 — featuring the end of the Millar/Hitch storyline OLD MAN LOGAN — with issue #73, which has a more “jumping on” friendly story.

As I write this today, in 2009, “Wolverine” #73 has been on sale for less than 24 hours. In that time I received three in-store questions, four phone calls (“Do you have #72?!?”), and had at least one customer angrily put the issue back on the shelf, and told me to cancel his future orders for the title.

Can I tell you that this is no fun to deal with? That I really shouldn’t have to deal with answering questions of publication sequence, or to try and soothe confusion or angry feelings? That every minute I spend on something like this is a minute where I’m not being productive, selling more comics to more people, and feeling my own frustration level rising?


As Hibbs points out, this didn’t just happen by accident:

Someone at Marvel made a decision to publish “Old Man Logan” in “Wolverine.” A conscious and specific decision to do that, rather than make it its own mini-series. Generally speaking, I applaud decisions like that because I am of the belief that top-flight creators doing top-flight work is how monthly comics really should be working, and I’m just as happy having, say, “Batman: Year One” be in “Batman” #404-407 as to be its own mini-series. That creates a much larger potential audience for #408, at the end of the day.

But, then, someone maybe should have looked at the creative team on this one: Mark Millar and Steve McNiven – a creative team that is responsible for delaying the entire Marvel universe for two months thanks to the scheduling fiasco that was “Civil War.”


Or, to put it another way…Marvel has known for a long time that the Wolverine movie would be coming out on May 1st, 2009 but they still couldn’t get their scheduling to line up.

As has been pointed out many times, whereas DC has fewer movies in the pipeline, they usually have a stronger GN to support the movie — from THE ROAD TO PERDITION to WATCHMEN. Part of the problem is that Marvel’s characters sprawl over different eras and storylines…the movies are usually distillations of the most recognizable aspects of the characters, not something that ties in with a single book or product. Recommended reading lists on blogs and websites usually offer an array of 10 books to choose from, which could be daunting to the newcomer.

But none of this is anything new. Movie sales only drive graphic novel sales when there is a direct and compelling connection. Marvel seems to place varying value on tying in periodical sales to movies. Last year, they tried an Iron Man webcomic, and the new Iron Man book by Matt Fraction was a hit out of the gate. The roll-out for Wolverine wasn’t as tight.

At any rate, although the WOLVERINE renumbering pissed off a lot of folks and looks clumsy as hell, it seems to have worked: Marvel reports a sellout and a second variant printing, which is as close as you can get these days to success in the periodical format.

Comments

  1. Torsten Adair says:

    Whereas IDW hit a homerun with their Star Trek prologue. Featured on the BN.com GN homepage. Great sales that weekend (on BN), and a pretty cool story involving The Next Generation and what appears to be the end of the regular ST timeline.
    Marvel’s superhero backlist isn’t as strong as DC’s. Even with Watchmen DC was able to tie-in other adult titles with their “After Watchmen” library. What will Marvel market for Thor, besides the visionary volumes?

    Marvel also dropped the ball during Free Comic Book Day. The silver title of Wolverine contained a Marvel Adventures story showcasing Logan’s first mission for Canada’s Department H. Their Gold title was an Avengers team-up, which ties into Dark Reign. (DC made the same mistake, promoting Blackest Night instead of Johnny DC.)

  2. Charles Knight says:

    The big question for most people is not “where can I get a wolverine comic?” but “they still publish comics?” or even “can I get those from a bookstore?” – I’ve never had a single friend say “wow, where’s the nearest comic shop?”

    I know that a few graphic novels have had a boost from films – but floppies? I looked back at the release of films like Spider-man 1,2,3 etc and from a quick skim I can’t see any spike. Anyone got any hard data on this?

  3. Giggly Jeremiah Goo says:

    Marvel just has to choose three or four graphic novels to really push when the film comes out. I heard of people getting the Jenkins/Kubert ‘Origins’ (as that is the title of the movie), and being dissapointed to find no Weapon X adventures. The ‘general public’ that goes to see these movies doesn’t buy the pamphlets. That’s for people already on the boat.

    I don’t think DC is too different in terms of their films being a combination of several books (Dark Knight can be said to be made up of many, but DC chose to focus on Batman: Year One, Arkham Asuylum Dark Knight Returns the Loeb/Sale Batman books, Killing Joke, plus Lovers and Madmen and Azzarello’s ‘Joker’ thrown in for good measure.) Plus, they’ve managed to sell stuff like Warren Ellis and Grant Morrison through the Watchmen movie.

    Plus all the Marvel comics have no definitive graphic novels. Unlike DC events, their events always end with an open ending, and while this makes for an exciting event, its a poor novel.

  4. Giggly Jeremiah Goo says:

    By ‘definitive graphic novels’, I mean ones that define the company.

  5. Alan Coil says:

    A collection of previously printed comic books is not a graphic novel.

  6. Alan Coil says:

    DC did publish a kids book st the silver level.

    DC Kids Mega Sampler

  7. Marvel announces somewhere between 2 and 6 second printings EACH AND EVERY WEEK, Heidi. That’s not success — that’s not knowing how to set a proper print run…!

    -B

  8. Synsidar says:

    Here’s a journalistic perspective on kids’ lack of interest in comics.

    SRS

  9. The prequel Star Trek graphic novel would have been an even bigger success if Diamond and IDW had any in stock after the 1st week of release of it. It took us almost 3 weeks to get it restocked on our shelves after it’s first release. That’s 3 weeks of lost sales that we only got a percentage of back, when the the book came back into print.

    The Marvel Wolverine release for Free Comic Book Day was a big hit for our customers in our 4 stores and The Avengers book, was not really a “Dark Reign” more than it was an intro book to the world of the Avengers. If a person had not read any of the Dark Reign stuff they were perfectly fine with reading it.

    And DC dropping the ball with Blackest Night and not the Johnny DC book? I completely disagree with that. Retailers could order whatever amount they wanted of whatever book they wanted so if something failed it’s on the part of the retailers who didn’t order what they should have….of course we ordered a ton of Blackest Night, we also ordered a ton of of the DC Kids book as well as part of our school and libraries programs here in Indy.

    Now did Marvel drop the ball with the Wolverine ongoing series. Yeah, no question there about it. But I’ve had zero customers tell me they’re canceling Wolverine over that.

    But that’s just my view….

  10. maxwell's hammer says:

    i just think its depressing that Marvel can do a double goof: 1) screw up their scheduling, and 2) give Daniel Way another comic book to write, and still manage to be rewarded with a sold out run. I swear to Jebus that most comic book collecters are the zombiest of the zombies.

  11. Scott says:

    “The prequel Star Trek graphic novel would have been an even bigger success if Diamond and IDW had any in stock after the 1st week of release of it. It took us almost 3 weeks to get it restocked on our shelves after it’s first release. That’s 3 weeks of lost sales that we only got a percentage of back, when the the book came back into print.”

    I agree with Pete Kilmer. I heard this exact thing from a comic store two weeks ago. They’ve been trying to get the trade in of this but Diamond is so late that it’s not doing anyone any good. The movie will be gone by the time it comes out in comic stores again. I doubt Trek fans even know they still do Trek comics. I bought mine off Amazon, so that only hurts the comic store more cause I didn’t want to wait till doomsday for it.

    I had the same issue trying to get the Vol. 2 hardcover of the Lone Ranger series. It took FOREVER for the comic store to get it. That excuse was at Diamond’s feet since they were moving everything from their warehouses and couldn’t find anything for weeks. At least that’s what they told the comic dealer…

    Diamond SUCKS!

  12. Dennis V. says:

    Tried re-ordering the Star Trek TP the same Wednesday it came out, but there were none in stock at Diamond (that new warehouse snafu was the previous month’s problem). Finally received a re-order of it last week (IDW did go back to press w/ it and had it printed in Canada to speed up the process, but that still took about three or so weeks).

  13. In defense of “that new Wolverine,” it has an absolutely phenomenal short piece in it called “Mile in My Moccasins” by Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert that is really remarkable both in art and story. Check it out. It actually makes sense of Wolverine’s ability to be everywhere at once — but puts a darker answer to it. Can’t wait to read more. Plus ADAM KUBERT.

    Brad

  14. Of course, it would have been pretty easy for Marvel to have a strong GN to back up Wolverine: Origins. They could have actually based it on some source material, which was the strong formula that seemed to be working when they first started doing well in movies. They could have based it on a classic Wolvie story and republished that.

    I still say the right story for a Wolvie movie is the first Madripoor story, originally carried in the first 8 issues of Marvel Comics Presents, and which has also long been collected. Between that and some flashbacks to the Weapon X storyline, they could have had a strong movie that made some sense. Replace Razorfist with Deadpool and you’ve got a fight seem with a character that makes sense, too.

    And of course this timing issue on OLD MAN LOGAN is just silly. Agreed.

  15. maxwell's hammer says:

    Brad, Jason Aaron can write all the phenomenal stories he wants to, but if Daniel Way’s name is anywhere on a comic book, I ain’t buying it. I do not reward mediocrity by giving away my money.

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