“Why should I buy this series, it’ll probably be canceled by issue six anyways!”
If you’ve been around other comic book fans, whether in person at a shop or convention or online through the various forums and social media platforms, no doubt at some point you’ve heard someone utter the above words or something similar about a comic book series. Easily 90% of the time it’s about a series that isn’t necessarily one of the big selling franchises at Marvel or DC, the rest of the time it’s a spinoff series from one of the bigger series with lesser known characters or a different premise from the first book.
It’s the kind of sentiment that once again reared its head near the end of 2017.
That was the moment that news broke that a swath of Marvel’s recent series were coming to unexpected, to the fans at least, ends. Those titles were Generation X, Hawkeye, Iceman, Jean Grey, The Unbelievable Gwenpool, Luke Cage and She-Hulk.
Outside of Gwenpool & Hawkeye, all of the books started at some point in 2017 and were eventually part of the fall Marvel Legacy initiative, some of them even gaining legacy renumbering in the process. All of the titles were some of the lowest sellers for a number of months.
Among the fans that were upset over losing books they love and read and books that featured diverse non-white male heterosexual leads, there were some other contingents of folks speaking up as well. Outside of the one camp that was cheering because they hate these “SWJ books” (this is another group I’ll be tackling soon enough in one of these columns), there was the group that claimed that there was no point ever buying books like this because they get canceled quickly.
This sentiment is stupid.
Why you say? Because it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that kills any books that aren’t already long-running or super popular books.
While there are many different factors that go into why books are ended, sometimes on the creative side and other times on the business/publisher side, simple economic factors are one of the key ones that fans can impact.
It’s no secret that when Marvel or DC puts these series not featuring their big selling heroes/teams, they are taking a chance and a risk. A chance to give the spotlight to characters or concepts that are not normally the big best selling titles. They’re giving us a chance to try something new and maybe elevate that new thing to the same levels that are already reserved for the likes of the Avengers, X-Men, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and others. Taking a risk in that the books might not end up selling, but if the characters catch on and fans enjoy it while it lasts then the risk is worth it in the end. Taking a risk/chance is the whole point of creative endeavors.
But if fans dismiss those titles right from the start, how can they ever reach those levels? By proclaiming a title dead before it even reaches stores is utterly stupid.
Fans tend to claim they want new things, but when those new things are presented not enough fans buy them to justify a company continuing to put the money into it.
When fans declare that a title will be dead by issue #6 or #12 or some other number and then choose not to pre-order or buy the title they are making their own prediction come true. Once that title comes out too low orders and sales eventually it will likely be canceled.
Gwenpool will wrap up having 25-issues for a character that started off as one just featured on a variant cover. Hawkeye and She-Hulk both also passed the 12 issue prediction these fans make about the longevity of the books.
It’s sad to see any series that is enjoyed go, but at the end of the day if people aren’t buying into it then the company has to make a choice.
To defend this position many of those fans will then claim it’s on the company to market better, to pull marketing from the bigger books to the smaller ones. While this could be true in some cases, that’s generally not how marketing works.
There are reasons there are tons of products that you see in the store are ones that you never see a commercial for. They are products that don’t bring in enough money to really justify spending the amounts of money that come with marketing costs.
Marvel or DC putting out marketing for their latest event works because they will easily recoup their money if the event sells like most do. Same for their big tier books.
A book that is already declared dead by the fans, who then don’t bother to buy it or pre-order it, is one that in the end could end up costing them big time if they see no profit from that book. In turn, if they bring in less money, companies are less likely to bother trying to put out these types of titles.
Why would Marvel put out another title like Black Panther and The Crew, another title that came to an abrupt end to in 2017 from low sales, if they spent tons on it and ended up losing tons of money on it? Luckily Marvel and DC are both in positions that they will continue to try these secondary/different types of titles, but fans have to do their part as well.
While this tends to be said about Marvel or DC titles, for the most part, the same factors go for the other publishers. In order to make the series that may not be their big ticket money makers, fans have to take a chance and pre-order & buy the titles.
Just as with many forms of entertainment that don’t have huge marketing budgets behind them, word of mouth is key to helping these books live. Tell your friends about the books, give them a copy, whatever it takes to spread the word. Write a blog or social media posts raving about the series. Get that word out there.
Another ridiculous argument that tends to appear is this idea that if a fan subscribes to a title that ends up ending with only 6 or 12 issues somehow it ruins the reading experience.
Again this is a stupid argument.
There are plenty of storylines that are only 6 or 12 or 5 or however many issues that are fantastic reads. A title isn’t only worth reading if it lasts for years and has issue numbers high up in the double or triple digits. Those titles can be good but sometimes the titles that have a confirmed ending are a lot more fun because it’s a complete story.
It’s a shame that these titles/characters won’t get the type of run for that lasts for years like other titles but that does not diminish the story that the creative team has told. It also doesn’t diminish the impact of Marvel allowing that type of story to be told, taking a chance to let the creators tell a story they wanted to put out there for the masses.
So before you prematurely declare a title dead, do your part and buy those titles if they are the ones that you want to see more of from a publisher.
Can there be more done by the publishers? There very likely could be, nothing is 100% the fault of any side involved in the comic book process. The pre-order/direct market surely needs an overhaul, but until that happens we as fans have to do what we can to support the titles that we love. We can’t just blame the publisher over and over if we’re not actually buying into the titles.
In the long run, when these titles die you might have no one to blame but yourself and your fellow fans.