It is another year of growth for Marvel, so there is that. But, I think it is clear at this point that Marvel, at least in the Bookstore market, isn’t really that significant of a player able to drive very many hits. Yes, they’re largely dominant in the Direct Market channels, and they rule periodical comics, but their backlist strategy does not seem to be paying off with any kind of solid results — in either market.
I remain frustrated by this because Marvel is clearly a stronger brand than DC, better known, more established, and, for many “civilians,” practically synonymous with “comics” itself. Further, Marvel does rule the periodicals, and strong periodical sales really should yield strong backlist sales — it is audience tested material!”
Brian Hibbs looks at the bookstore sales for comics and graphic novels in 2013. As ever, it’s a good reminder of what the true mainstream really is, but I remain stunned that Marvel — arguably one of the biggest brands in entertainment today — remains in seventh place in terms of bookstore sales for western publishers.
On the plus side, Hawkeye sold well for them — as did Deadpool vs. The Marvel Universe, fascinatingly; only 4,000 copies less than Hawkeye — but still. It’s mind-boggling to me that the publisher is apparently unable to break out of the comic stores, especially considering the quality of a lot of the work there right now. Is it just distribution woes, or something else, that’s behind that?
My guess is that Marvel doesn’t advertise the release of their paperbacks and hardcovers very well. One of the reasons I think DC holds back from releasing the collected editions of their books for so long is because they try to find a good release window for their collected books an advertise the hell out of them. One example I can think of is last year’s Batman: Death of the Family book, where the book came out on October 30th, which is perfect because the book can now be advertised as something to go along side the rest of the Halloween celebrations. And because of this, the book remains on the New York Times Bestseller list (even today) for 15 weeks and the tie in book has been on for 16 weeks. Granted, it could also be because it has the word Batman on the title, but it’s also difficult to remain on the list for such a long time if it weren’t for good advertising, I would think.
It seems to me Marvel has never been good in the advertising department. One of the things that struck me as weird was: why were sells down as a whole for the month of January in the periodical side of comic books when Marvel’s All New Marvel Now initiative had begun? I would imagine that these initiatives would boost sells as a whole because it brings attention back to ALL comic books and not just Marvel’s. Perhaps it was a lack of advertising? But I could be wrong since I really don’t know how the direct market works.