Just yesterday something historic happen in the world of Comics, DC announced that their Digital initiative will now launch its respective books at 3:00A.M. East Time, which means that starting next week you can purchase your favorite DC comics without any wait and without the need to go to a comic book shop
you can follow the story here
this is the biggest news regarding digital sales after the New launched the same day digital distribution program, its obvious that the landscape for comicbook sales is changing fast so that got me thinking of why is that the current state of comic state is so bad
And the biggest problems of all is precisely the LCSs models
no one really needs to be an expert on economy to just know that the base of any business is Demand and Supply, the problem with comics iis that this kind of flux are controlled by the same person, and it is not the final consumer, its the comic shop owners, which inevitably turns the comics side into a way of producing something that not necessarily will appeal to the regular buyer but will appeal to the LCSs who will purchase the comics
The digital distribution doesnt have this problem of course but since the main flux of gain comes from the comic book shops then its left aside.
We are years away from the digital market to be able to take over the physical market and some people have argue that this model that we are currently using is should had been implemented 10-15 years ago.
Which lead us to have a market that is build in producing comics whose main appeal its not Quality
I keep hearing this argument that "hey this comic sells well, it must be awesome" or some ppl just thinking that the comic is good, ergo the comic has good quality and if it just happens to have good sales, then that translates to the comic being a hit.
there is a logic behind the argument but its still wrong to think of it as an absolute.
Quality serves a very very little part of sales, and just cause someone likes a comic doesnt necessarily make it good, everyone has their own opinion of what Quality means and I will like to point the example of The ROOM
The Room for those who doesnt know its widely considerate as one of the worst movies ever made, it was created by Tommy Wiseau, a guy who no one really knows where is from, the movie in question is a kind dramatic movie about this guy name Johnny who is about to marry this girl name lisa, has a good life until he discover that Lisa is pretty much a slut which lead him to shout in that way, and something else but i dont want to spoil it, at least that was the point of the movie.
instead the movie was perceived as a comedy, in fact it is probably one of the funniest movies ever made, it has extremely poor dialog, terrible acting, terrible plot, scenes that repeat the same information over and over again, scenes that have absolutely no point, horrible direction, and yet it is really really funny to watch, in fact the movie is still played in some theaters at midnight and its always full.
In terms of comics i would like to point into the exact equal to The Room in Comic form
Justice League: Rise of Arsenal by JT Krul
this comic needs no introduction, its poorly written, is poorly paced, it tries to be very deep and emotional and it fails and it is also one of the funniest comics ever made, specially because of this:
an scene so poorly done that it immediately became a meme and a manner of laughter by the Comic community including other artists
My point with this is that objectively something being good or bad doesnt mean a thing, ppl can still like something that has bad quality and detest something that has good quality, its all a matter of perception, a book being good, doesnt mean that it will sell well and in fact a Bad book can still oversell several high quality and critically acclaimed books.
Ofcourse, the last point doesnt mean that high quality doesnt sell comics, it helps, its just not an important factor
a factor that does help its its type
When people in general think of Comics they think of Superheroes, Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Etc, whatever is the style of it this is call The Mainstream
its what ppl identify as comics, which leads to be more produced than other comics
of course this means that there are other "streams" per say, like Horror comics, Romantic comics, space comics, Biografical comics, pulp, noir, etc
but the bottom line is, the mainstream comics sells more than any, Horror comics are specifically designed for ppl who like and enjoy horror, those ppl fall into a much smaller group than those who follow mainstream ergo they will sell less
So for example we can have a comic like The Swamp Thing by Scott Snyder vs a comic like Batman: The Dark Knight by David Finch
I love Snyder's Swamp thing, its one of the best written and best drawn comics in the industry at this very moment, and comic critics agree, its a great comic
Dark Knight in the other hand was one of the most critically panned books last year
and yet Swamp thing can barely sustain sales of 35k, which is very good for a horror comic, when Batman Dark Knight easily made the into the top 10 best selling books every month, and even its trades are selling very well.
so how come Dark Knight sells so well despite it being so bad and Swamp Thing cant even get half of those sales despite being so good, obviously one of the main reasons is cause Dark Knight is a mainstream book, its a book design for those ppl who buy comics.
Its the same Argument of Hellblazer vs the newly announced Constantine series, Hellblazer fills an a niche that it itself created, its a small niche but its still its own, if Constantine is going to be more Mainstream than Hellblazer and chances are that it will be, then it will sell more just for that simple fact, and it wont have anything to do with its quality.
which leads me to the next and most important factor of influence on selling comic books:
BRANDS & GIMMICKS
This guy over here is name Rob Liefeld, and a while ago he told Scott Snyder, scribe of the Batman main book, which is the best selling DC title at the moment, that the only reason why Batman sold so well is cause "its batman" and it didnt matter whatever him and Capullo were doing, it was only selling cause its Batman.
this is an interesting case to analyze cause even though Liefeld is pretty much being an unprofessional douguebag, there is actually a certain truth to his words and its exactly what i want to point out with Brands
WHAT EXACTLY ARE BRANDS?
in terms of comics, brands can pretty much be taken as "known characters" of course, when a character is created, no matter how important or not he automatically becomes a brand, now ofcourse some Brands will be more important than others but the main angle of it all is The exposure that the character or concept gets.
Probably the easiest way to explain this is with the example of Batgirl
Most ppl consider Barbara Gordon the "Iconic" Batgirl, even though she wasnt the first one, The first Batgirl was Bette Kane, (probably someone will argue that she wasnt batgirl but Bat-Girl, thats stupid, Batman was BAT-MAN too) but Bette never got any real focus, Barbara got created for the Adam West show, a show that exposed her to a ton of attention, attention not only from ppl who read the comics but those who didnt read the comics, and that lead her to become Batgirl in the Comics eventually
you see, she was a Brand, part of a TV show and then she became a Brand part of a comic book, but its still the same thing.
then the show ended and batgirl retired in the comic world and then The Killing Joke happen, so she wasnt Batgirl anymore and eventually she became Oracle
but then around the 90s this new TV show appeared called Batman the Animated Series, and Barbara Gordon and Batgirl appeared on it, the focus of the show was the early days of Batman as he gains all his gallery of villains and of course Robin and Batgirl too, but the comic world was already beyond that, you dont see Scarecrow and penguin being reintroduced in the comic cause they were already introduced and it was highly unlikely that B:TAS was ever going to present the story for TKJ eliminating a popular character cause it was not necessary to do, and also cause the show was for kids.
but the most important part of all, there was no other option.
at least until 1999 and 2000 when in the world of comic a new Batgirl appeared in the body of Cass Cain, by this time the speculation market had already died out so the only focus that she could have was in the comic, she didnt appear on any TV show, and she made a quick appearance in a really bad videogame. she had her own title and then a new batgirl appeared in Stephanie Brown.
which leads to this, we dont have a single brand of Batgirl but several, we have Bette Kane, Cass Cain, Steph and ofcourse Barbara Gordon
and of all of this, is Barbara is the one that has the most exposure, and she has the most exposure mainly cause she was the first to gain the exposure.
where im going with this is that im not talking at all about the characters, or any stories, im not saying Barb is better or worst than any others but what ppl know the most its what makes the characters sell more or less.
The People buy what they are more familiar with because its Rare for the costumer specially in comics to take chances with things that they dont know if they are going to enjoy or not, specially when taking a chance implies spending 3-4$ in a single comic to even 20-25$ for a trade or even more.
Thats what Iconic means.
a character who is "Iconic" or more recognized, will sell more than a character who isnt in the same costume and only for the simple fact that is more recognizable, even if both characters serve exactly the same function.
WRITERS, ARTISTS AND CONCEPTS
ofcourse Brands can be more than just a single character, it can be Teams of characters, it can be a writer, it can be an Artist or just the way that something is presented as a concept, but all follow the same logic.
for Teams lets take for example the Justice League
I dont think i need to explain this very much, there has been several incarnations of the Justice League, variations over variations of the same conceptual idea, the Prime team of the DCU, and yet the most popular of all is the one that takes with the so called BIG 7, Superman, Batman, WW, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Flash and in most cases Martian Manhunter but in the newsest book we got Cyborg.
Again It doesnt mean that any other incarnation of the Justice League is Inferior in comparison but this one is just the better known, so we can see the same concept and name of Justice League tied to other characters, but its not going to have the same effect as this Justice League, cause they are separated entities
And finally writers and artist too can become Brands, but their influence is different
there is a fair division between the kinds of writers and artists
1- Newcomer: obviously new guys who come into comics, not good or bad and very rarely influence sales, in the case of artist is more influential cause you can tell if the art is good or not just by seeing it
2- B-listers: not to belittle them in any ways but it is just ppl who get the job done, they work hard and deliver results but wont attract much attention or any attention at all
3- Superstars: this are the Geoff Johns, the Morrisons, the Waid and Rucka, the Bendis and Brubaker,the Millar and Miller and Moore's, those guys that you might know or just heard about them and their whole name in the book will influence the sales. people are going to buy their work just cause they like the style and the way they write or draw.
there is no surprise that Justice League #1 was the best selling title of DC for some time when having a great artist a great writer and a great team, there is just very little risk on buying something like that, regardless of its quality.
And ofcourse like any other type of brand, ppl will not only go to buy them but they will also try to avoid them
case for example Rob Liefeld
isnt it nice when things go in circle XD
SELLING BRANDS, UPS AND DOWNS
There is nothing more difficult in the comic world than Creating a New Brand or making and old Brand sell.
Like i mentioned in another blog, The Legion of Superheroes was once the most successful brand of DC, it was its best seller and its main book, right now it can barely maintain sales 20,000 with exactly the same creative team that it had so long ago
and 8 years Green Lantern was not a strong franchise, selling low and with mixed reactions, just one more title of the bunch, not it has 4 different titles, a tv show and a kind of mediocre movie, but its still the second most important franchise in DC
the reason is simply how it is sell, how its constructed as a brand, as a franchise, even since Geoff Johns took over Green Lantern he revitalized the entire franchise, he expand it, make it more important and relevant
its this easy to do?
but thats the challenge that DC Marvel and others have to do, make something that stands out.
and lately on of the biggest examples of triump is The Walking Dead
A comics from Image, its own IP revolving around the concept of Zombies and after 9 years it got popularity and fame enough to make a TV show and a videogame, as well as being the top seller of trades every month and then last month the issue #104 manage to get into the top 10 books at direct market
something practically unpresedented in this age of comics, which i will talk more about in the next part
END OF PART 1
on the next installment we will explore some of the most common gimmicks that influence the sales of direct market
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