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December 20, 2017

Go, Read: Brian Hibbs' Open Letter To CB Cebulski And Marvel Comics


The retailer and advocate has written an open letter to Marvel Comics on the occasion of a change at the editor-in-chief slot about what is a quiet crisis in today's comic-book landscape: a big chunk of retail seems to be doing miserably right now, and one big reason is because of the vast underperformance of Marvel Comics.

Hibbs offers a bunch of concrete steps regarding variants and publishing frequency. I think I'd agree with all of them, or at least defer to Hibbs, although my suspicion is that Marvel works best when there's enough fat in their line to allow them to develop comics for the future -- something that's worked well for them since the late 1970s, and found a second function in the 2000s as a way to keep promising talent in-house. I also think that editorial fiat only goes so far: you need to find creators to make this kind of work, and then get that work out of them. This is always difficult, and Marvel's a tougher sell right now for established A-listers that might prefer the Kirkman/Millar model that allows the creator to keep media rights. Some of Marvel's recent work has a "The Room" quality to it, though, and I just can't figure out how that's happened when there are so few jobs in North American comics that can put you into a house.

Where Hibbs is absolutely right, I think, is that publishing bunches of mediocre comics at an inflated price point is death, and the anecdotal news from individual retailers seems to me as brutal as it's been at any time since the '90s. The publishing several comics in a "family" when one becomes semi-successful seems uniquely of this time, and uniquely counter-productive. It's jumping the gun, and Marvel used to be pretty good about seeing that kind of progression from electric single title to franchise play out at its own speed. That said, long-term is a luxury in that market when retailers hurt this much. It should be very interesting to take another look at this market and its moods if there isn't positive news of reform and new initiatives by April or so.

Updated: Marvel has begun its title cull.
posted 7:55 am PST | Permalink

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