Recently the question came up about what is more important to comic book sales, the characters in the comic or the creative team putting out the comic. There are so many comic titles on the shelves these days and many writers are working on multiple books as well.
Years ago, it wasn't that much of a question. Readers tended to follow the adventures of the characters they found interesting. It was easy since we didn't have loads of multiple titles based on the same characters and teams. Readers didn't have as many choices as they do today.
Publishers soon caught on to the idea that characters that were popular could carry spin off titles and fans would buy them. Writers and artists also emerged as an important factor in what made comic books fun and entertaining. As the comic market evolves, what is more important to comics, the characters or the creative team?== TEASER ==
Comic readers can be extremely frugal these days. There are seemingly more titles than ever but with the rising cost of comics, readers are finding themselves making harsh decisions when it comes to what is on their pull lists. If you're a fan of the X-Men, you're going to want to buy UNCANNY X-MEN, X-MEN, WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN, X-MEN LEGACY, ASTONISHING X-MEN and most likely UNCANNY X-FORCE. There are also other spin off titles such as NEW MUTANTS, X-FACTOR, GAMBIT and the upcoming ALL-NEW X-MEN. But for those on a budget, it might not be possible to buy all these titles. They may have to narrow it down and if the writing or artistic quality of one off shoot title isn't on the same level as others, readers will only buy the books that are worth their money.
One question to think about, why did 1991's X-MEN #1 sell as many copies as it did? The multiple covers helped but did it sell because it was a new X-Men title or because Chris Claremont and Jim Lee were working on it?
The same could be said for the Batman titles. There is no question that since the New 52 started, not all Batman titles have featured the same consistent quality. They all feature Batman but some of the stories are on a different level than others. There's also the fact that readers also have to make room in their comic book budget for the other titles and characters that are released.
Besides the multitude of franchise titles, we're also seeing several creators jumping ship to pursue creator-owned titles. Ed Brubaker recently announced he was not only leaving CAPTAIN AMERICA but also ending his WINTER SOLDIER run. Will fans of his work continue to read the adventures of Cap and Bucky or will they take their dollars and buy whatever project Brubaker works on. In an ideal world, readers can do both. Their beloved characters (Cap and Bucky) will continue to have kickass stories that they can buy and they'll also be able to purchase anything else Brubaker does.
Grant Morrison has also announced he's ending his run on ACTION COMICS and BATMAN INCORPORATED. With the high profile those titles have, we'll all be paying close attention to what the future holds for them. Whoever steps in will have to deal with high expectations. Will sales drop or stay the same on ACTION COMICS once grant leaves? Are people reading it more for Grant or because it's Superman?
If there are popular characters that will sell no matter who the creative team is, why don't publishers put their top creative teams on titles that don't sell? Marvel puts their "architects" on the top titles. If a book was selling poorly it would make more sense to put the really good writers and artists on them to boost sales while the popular characters will be able to sell themselves. It doesn't work that way.
Readers are more reluctant to try new comics and ideas. If a familiar and consistent creative team is involved, that helps consumers to take a chance. But with more titles being crammed onto the shelves and readers forced to make harsh decisions, the line between creative team and characters is becoming clearer. Not all comics are created equal.
As readers are becoming more conservative with our purchases, we expect high quality and can't simply buy follow all titles involving our favorite characters blindly. We need to let publishers know that we do have these expectations. The only way we can express this is with out wallets. The days of buying every single AVENGERS or X-MEN titles are over. If it turns out they are all high quality, that's a different story. What it comes down to is readers are more aware of who is behind the curtains and will not simply buy everything involving their favorite characters. To imply that we otherwise is an insult to our intelligence.