Blah Blah Blog – Reader Questions 3

A post from my old Marvel blog in which I answer more questions from the readers.

Reader Questions 3

September 4, 2009 | 1:00 AM | By Tom_Brevoort | In General

Sorry I missed a day on this, folks-not quite over my little illness, and had a lot of catching up to do. Nonetheless, here are some more answers for you!

>Any chance of reviving Kill Raven? Or the other non-super-hero titles such as Ka-Zar? >

Robert Kirkman and Rob Liefeld have been working on a KILLRAVEN project for quite a while, that you’ll hopefully see in 2010 at some point. Also, Killraven makes an appearance in this month’s upcoming issue of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAZY.

>What is your favorite new hero created since 2000 and why?

Posted by trombone on 2009-08-25 13:35:10>

It’s incredibly tough to answer this in some ways without seeming arrogant or self-serving, as the new characters I like best tend to be the ones I either had a hand in conceiving, or who have wound up appearing extensively in my books. But to give you an answer, I think probably the Young Avengers would be my pick-because not only did they all turn out to be interesting, engaging characters in their own right, but they absolutely overcame adversity and fan expectations to become so accepted. Virtually nobody expected anything good to come of a series titled YOUNG AVENGERS when we first announced it-it sounded so dopey, so derivative, so dumb. And yet, Allan and Jim zigged every time people thought they’d zag, while simultaneously investing their cast with such a wonderful sense of optimism and youth and adventure and fun, even when the team was pushed to the wall, that they captured a particular spirit that was missing elsewhere in the Marvel line. There have been a bunch of other great characters conceived over the last decade-folks like the Hood, and Gravity, and the Runaways-but the Young Avengers would have to be my pick.

>What goes in to the decision to cancel a book? (I have watched several books I read get canceled recently. Some cancellations, like Squadron Supreme, make sense when one looks at sales numbers available on the internet. Others, like War Machine and Agents of Atlas, make less sense because the sales numbers on the internet show them selling around 25,000 copies.) To ask this question another way, is there a sales threshold such that any book selling more than x number of copies is safe?

Posted by chocodile on 2009-08-25 13:44:49>

First off, and I say this time and time again, but people sometimes don’t like to believe me: the sales numbers that you see online are never right. Never, ever, ever, ever, never, never. For one thing, they’re estimates, and beyond that they’re estimates that only take into account the direct sales market of comic book specialty shops. So what you’re reacting to is a guess as to the incomplete picture; it’s a long way from scientific. All it can give you is a general barometer.

There are numerous factors that can keep a given title afloat when these estimates make it seem like a sure fatality: strength in another marketplace, or through subscriptions, or as collected editions. Or the characters or project in question may tap into a specific demographic or audience that we believe needs to be served in some way. But in the overall, a cancellation almost always comes down to sales.

But not all cancellations are made the same. In the case of WAR MACHINE and AGENTS OF ATLAS, we’re pulling back from immediate monthly publication in order to retool and relaunch those series in a specific way in the hopes of being able to attract a greater audience to those characters, much as we’ve done with SHE-HULK and RUNAWAYS and a number of other books successfully in the past. In the case of ATLAS, while the monthly is going away for the moment, it’s being replaced by the X-MEN vs AGENTS OF ATLAS project for a time (no idea how we think that might attract some people who’ve overlooked ATLAS), and the expectation is that we’ll be relaunching ATLAS as an ongoing shortly thereafter. And with WAR MACHINE, there are larger plans afoot for Jim Rhodes that make it make sense to conclude his ongoing series right this moment-I can’t get into just what those are right this moment for a number of reasons.

And no, there is no specific sales threshold that makes a book safe. After all, AVENGERS was cancelled when it was selling very well (to make way for NEW AVENGERS, which sold even better-thus the reason for the switch.)

>What was the last thing you read that you didn’t “get”. Not that you didn’t neccesarily think was bad or that you didn’t like, but that you really didn’t understand.

Posted by IanZL on 2009-08-25 14:16:22>

I’m a little bit unclear as to which definition of “didn’t get” you’re using here. If you’re talking about “didn’t understand” as in “unable to follow the story”, this is something that we’re constantly looking at and trying to get better with. We’ve recently instituted a weekly Reading Circle meeting where each week the staff reads and dissects a single recent issue, to make sure that somebody picking up any of our books at random get a fighting chance of understanding the stories and being able to relate to the characters. The most recent issue we discussed didn’t score such high marks, but I’d be telling tales out of school if I told you just what issue of what book it was-but I guess that’d be my answer if that’s the question you were asking. And the point of these meetings is for everybody to be able to go back to the work and look at it with fresh eyes. We get another chance the following month.

If by “didn’t get” you mean “didn’t appeal to me”, that could be any number of things. Just off the top of my head, I really wanted to like the recent HELLCAT limited series, but it didn’t click for me in some way. I found the art appealing, and on the surface the story seemed like the kind of thing I would enjoy. And yet, for some reason, I just couldn’t get into it. Plenty of other people really dug it, though, so I’m in the minority-and that’s fine. Another of my oft-quoted aphorisms is “not every comic book is for every reader”, and that applies to me as well. Marvel’s publishing plan shouldn’t be defined solely by things that I like-that’s too limiting. To give you another example, I’m not a big fan of X-FORCE. It’s a well-done series, I’m just not that enamored of the central concept of an X-Team as brutal wetworks killers. But it clearly is working for a lot of other people.

All right, more answers on Tuesday.

Tom B

2 thoughts on “Blah Blah Blog – Reader Questions 3

  1. Knowing sales numbers has never mattered to me. I like what I like, buy what I buy, and have a pretty good sense of what will be short lived. Almost fifty years of comics will do that. I also don’t understand people not buying and enjoying a title they (usually rightfully) believe based on how they feel it will sell andhow short lived it would be. Isn’t eleven issues of amazing better than never experiencing any?

    But I digress.

    I have always had one curiosity about sales though. Almost every other form of periodical or book is transparent about sales. Why isn’t it the same for comics? I was honest about not caring about the numbers, I just wonder why they are kept so secret.


  2. The idea ‘not every comic is for every reader’ is such a powerful one and really hit a chord with me at a time when I considered walking away from comics. Being able to recognise when a title isn’t for you is liberating and is often a way for a company to expand not just the number of customers, but the different markets. A necessity in any market place. Its hard to know when something will sink or swim, but as long as you keep genuinely trying new things, for everyone who says ‘this isn’t for me’ you should grab someone who connects with it more. Good product finds an audience, sometimes not quickly enough, but I enjoy that Marvel keep trying

    Liked by 1 person

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