The use of a non-stop cycle of super-mega-crossover events has been a staple of Marvel's publishing strategy for more than a decade, used as a solution to stop the mid-series sales decline of ongoing series readership attrition and prop things up for a few more months until the books can be relaunched with new #1 issues. But to do when event fatigue sets in, and diminishing returns cause even super-mega-crossover event books to suffer from the same attrition as regular non-event comics?
That's the problem Marvel has been facing lately, as detailed as part of the infamous Marvel retailer summit debacle that has been a wellspring of salacious news stories this weekend, after Marvel allowed website ICv2 to attend a meeting between Marvel and retailers and report the contents of said meetings to the public. Amongst the topics covered have been Marvel's perception that readers don't want any more diversity, talk of creators going to Image, a defense of #1 issues and ten dollar comics, an admission that Marvel views limited series as a "death knell" for comics, the ironic publishing of a Fortune Magazine profile praising Marvel's diversity push on the same day Marvel claimed diversity had stopped selling books, a strategy of not releasing cheaper new trades because it would reduce sales of existing more expensive ones, determination to use rotating artists for super-mega-crossover events to avoid delays, placing the blame on last year's election for their sales slump, the comics internet responding to some of the reports of the summit, and a walking back of the original diversity comments. And we're still just talking about the first day of the summit!
And so, in ICv2's report on the summit, the subject of event fatigue came up.
"What do you want us to do?" Marvel Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing David Gabriel responded to retailers asking how Marvel will solve the event fatigue issue. "Look at Secret Empire, you've got four months. I can guarantee you in the last two months the sales are going to go down, because they do on every event, in every story, and everything we do."
It's a real conundrum. They could try focusing on producing quality comics, giving new books time to build readership based on positive experiences reading them, gradually building a reputation on the merit of the books' storytelling that draws in readers rather than cheap gimmicks. Nah, that would probably be very difficult, and would offer no instant gratification. There has to be a better way.
"We have to look at that and say, 'We need something to prop up those last two months, not just for us but for all of you,'" Gabriel told retailers, realizing that, in order to save the falling sales of an existing event, you just need to create a new event that the old event can tie into. " That's where the sales idea of Generations came from (it was more editorial). Then we're getting into the end of our year. You're going to have Secret Empire, which is going to be down. You're going to have Generations in the second month in September, which is going to be down because of the way things go. We sat back and said, 'Well, what's an easy thing to get out?'"
What could be an easier "thing to get out" than an event comic? Especially when you can have a rotating team of artists crank them out to avoid the inevitable delays?
Unfortunately, things can get very complicated, as you imagine, trying to figure out how to keep track of all this: "When we put the catalogs together, we go out of our minds with, 'Well, what's going to go on the front cover? What's going to go on the back cover? Which is the 'event' event? What's the big event, and which is the 'story' event (that we don't want to call, 'story,' because that sounds lame, and no one's going to want to buy something that's called, 'Here's a five‑issue story.'"
Genius. That's why Marvel is always one step ahead of its competition. Now, all Marvel needs is a third events to prop of the sales of the second event that was create to prop up the sales of the original event, and all this sales slump madness will finally go away.