By Terry Hoknes of www.HoknesComics.com
Marvel is on a winning streak with new titles lately. However isn't the goal of starting new series to bring in new readers and make them want to pick up issues month to month? In February, Marvel has 60 different continuing titles. I decided to do some detective work and just find out how easy it is to be a new reader and walk into a comic book shop and start reading a title that has been out for a while already. Now Marvel will tell the retailers its up to them to stock up properly. But are retailers to blame if books are missing on the shelves? Or is it Marvel's fault that they don't print enough that retailers can re-order books from Diamond that sell out (or at least make new printings)?
Here is an alphabetical listing of all current ongoing Marvel titles being published into February 2015 with that months newest issue listed. I have bolded any set of number of issues that Diamond has at least the previous 2 issues still available for re-order for retailers. 25 titles are bolded! This is less than ½ of the titles being marketed by Marvel.
So if I want to start reading Spider-Man 2099 starting with the upcoming issue #9, I am not able to pick up past issues to read unless my local comic shop does still have them all on the shelf. If I ask the retailer to order me the past issues he is able to get me issues #7 and #8 from Diamond. Well that's better than nothing – I guess? So now I have no chance to collect and/or read the series from the start. If Marvel would automatically reprint all sold issues that would at least help the readers but in this case there are no later printings available either. So is this a tactic to get me to buy the trade paperback with the early issues? Maybe so! From a readers point of view this might be fine. But if I like to collect comics and want to own original copies I am just plain out of luck. Now this is just one example out of the dozens of titles listed that are just not available.
As a retailer, I personally feel its not reasonable that I have to tie up funds on extra copies of every title for a "chance" of future customers. The #1 reason being that perhaps as a small comic business I simply cannot afford to take hundreds of extra chances per month on books that may or may not sell. If Diamond still had copies I could keep re-ordering and keep the title in stock when needed. This seems to be the model that works for graphic novels so why not with comics themselves ?
So what does Marvel actually print lots of extra of for a rainy day? It appears that Deadpool, Miracleman, Uncanny X-Men and Cyclops are some of the titles that Marvel is willing to let Diamond sit on in excess. Why just these titles?
And what is the deal with Ms Marvel? Diamond doesn't seem to be able to keep this title in stock. Issue #1 now has 7 printings. Surely this is the first Marvel comic ever in history to have that many printings. I love this title but can't stock it cause there are just no copies and even Marvel goes to many extra printings on "most" issues and those are not around either. Frustrated!!
The formula of printing a zillion copies of the latest #1 and having retailers go crazy on the debut and then issue by issue lowering our orders until titles are cancelled is a flawed system. How is it comics from the 1930's to 1980s could last for decades with steady readership? There is a major problem here and it needs to be addressed. It appears that its near impossible for any comic book to gain readership and hold it. That tells me therefore that a year from now potentially 50% of all titles on the shelves right now will be cancelled.
I would love to hear comments from other retailers and from comic readers !