As someone who used to read a lot of Marvel, I have been dropping books left and right for a while now.
I tend to be on the side of writer in writer vs artist. I am more likely to follow a well written book with poor art than a beautiful book with poor story.
I have tried most of the new titles/small character books, and with most of those books I have given up after 2-3 issues because they all feel the same to me. They keep releasing those books in a similar quirky style (Squirrel Girl, Hellcat, Mockingbird, She Hulk (not the current one which I like, the one before), Wasp) and it just gets boring very quickly. New titles like Ms Marvel, All New Wolverine and Fool Killer have worked for me, but for each one of those there seems to be 3 others which flop.
"Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed."
-G. K. Chesterton
And here’s where sell-through becomes critical – in the ICv2 interview, David Gabriel talked about how Marvel views the recent $10 issue of “ASM” as a win, because it was triple dollars sold. Except that was sell-in. Sell-through, at least in my two stores worth of micro, was significantly down beause of the $10 cover price, and, much much worse, it caused multiple long-term ASM subscribers to drop the book entirely from their pull lists. Over the course of the next year that $10 issue is very likely to yield a 10% (or more!) lower dollars for the entire year. And they thought it was a “win”.
On missing the mark:
The same thing happened with “Doctor Strange”, when “Sorcerors Supreme” launched, the same thing happened when Marvel published two different “Squirrel Girl” issue #1’s in a single year, or when they expanded “Guardians of the Galaxy” into like six books or more a month – the new audience? The ones who have been freshly minted this decade? They don’t understand Marvel’s publishing plans.
On new readers:
They’re not looking for a LINE of comics… they’re looking for a comic. That new young woman who is buying “Squirrel Girl”? For the most part she’s not looking for five more female heroines to go along with it. That’s not to say that maybe she couldn’t be convinced to buy five more comics (she can!), but they have to be different flavors. They emphatically don’t want a line, like we did when we were kids.
In the micro, the kid who is buying “Totally Awesome Hulk” is most likely going to jump the heck off when that book crosses over into “Weapon X”, especially when you add an extra and above $5 special in there as part of the crossover – that kid doesn’t care that it is creatively valid, being driven by a writer’s story… what he cares about is he just wants to read “TAH”! Up and down the line Marvel is constantly pushing for customers to buy more and more, and that worked (for a while…. Even a good long while), but I think those days are now gone, and so they’ve made it harder to draw people into the line without a truly radical rethink of how they publish comics.
On long time readers:
It is hard to think each comic story “matters” when there’s such a wall of them coming at you every month, and nothing sticks around for more than 12 months anyway. It is critical to deal with both sides of that equation, though. You can’t just do half of it.
Here’s an example: Marvel’s really trying to make a big push for “Secret Empire”, their latest crossover event that will presumably lead into some kind of a “Heroes Return” for the “meat and potatoes” style. And the first issue (head-shakingly foolishly numbered as “#0”) came out today (as I write this). But it also came with three other tie-in comics in the same week. The message to the consumer is “Want to be on board? That will be $17 for week number one, please!” That’s not a pitch that will draw (m)any new readers in. Nor will it appear to the older audience… who mostly quit as the line went to $4 a throw across the board, with double or triple production to what they can (or want to) support.
So, end of the day: I don’t think “Legacy!” itself is an especially dynamic push that will draw lapsed readers back in, unless you’re making a large number of scheduling and pricing changes at the same time. Something that fundamentally changes the ordering dynamic and risk that $4 comics bring is what is needed if you expect the market to make more than cautious and incremental steps back to Marvel.