It is common wisdom that Marvel Comics is nosediving in sales while DC is enjoying a current spike in sales. The most repeated and nauseating explanation is that Marvel is mired in off putting progressive politics and obsessed with removing and replacing classic heroes in the name of diversity (while a lot of heroes have been replaced recently, these changes are not likely to stick, they never do). Meanwhile, DC has learned its lesson and is retrenching in “classic” stories, which explains its recent spike in sales. I do not agree with this. There are numerous reasons why Marvel is declining. And numerous reasons why one should not expect DC to enjoy success for long.
I personally am displeased with the direction Marvel and DC have taken over the course of the past few years. Many of my reasons align very closely to those discussed by Comic Book Girl 19 (do check out her video “Controversy: I’m a part of the Marvel Comics Sales Slump.” Personally, I think her arguments are very cogent and well argued). (Another good article expounding a very good theory as to the problems plaguing Marvel comes from a Vox article titled “The Outrage Over Marvel’s Alleged Diversity Blaming, Explained” by Alex Abed-Santos) But I also have issues with Marvel and DC that are my own.
Personally, I think Marvel and DC’s problems lie with continuing fallout stemming from the comic book bubble bust twenty years ago. Neither Marvel, nor DC, have ever recovered. Ever since the market collapse, comics books have become a niche market struggling to survive. A dark age of comics, indeed.
Like CBG 19, I love the years and decades long narratives that comics provide. I agree with Faust of It’s Super Effective that comics are often best when there is a significant amount of soap opera mixed into a superhero science fantasy. CBG 19 is right when she points out that years worth of reading builds relationships with these characters. I like this long term relationship. And I miss it now that it is gone.
Again, like CBG 19 and numerous other fans, I bemoan the fact that so much narrative is devoted to annual or more frequent events that take valuable story telling time, especially when books get cancelled or relaunched every two years or less. There is no stability.
The constant reboots and relaunches are, honestly, money grabs rooted in neither Marvel or DC (or comic book retailers) learning their lesson from the burst comic book bubble of the 1990s. Yes, as CBG 19 points out, new number ones sale better than post number one issues. But does it really matter when issues two and three and beyond decline spectacularly? Even the best selling books?
Seriously, what is so wrong with just jumping in? I did with no problems. CBG 19 did. Thousands of comic book fans have.
And don’t get me started on the price. If I wanted to buy Marvel comics, I couldn’t afford many titles. I pity comic book journalists who have to buy every title. That has to be expensive.
Marvel has been singled out for a lot of abuse lately. But DC isn’t a ray of light. Many of the problems plaguing Marvel plague DC. Indeed, DC enjoyed Marvel’s unenviable position a few years ago.
DC Rebirth plays at being a return to “classic” stories. But I see it as just another reboot. Another cash grab. Some fans are buying in. And some aren’t.
I, honestly, don’t see a return to “classic” stories, whatever the hell that means.
But despite all the doom and gloom lately, there are rays of light. There are genuinely good books that have attracted a lot of fans, new and old.
In the end, the comic book industry have been dangling on the precipice for decades and they are still around. There is no reason to believe that either Marvel or DC will fall now even with all of their problems.