The decline of DC’s sales figures as reported by Diamond has been a recent topic of interest lately both here at Blog@Newsarama and many other places.
Here at Blog@Newsarama, our own Chris Mautner’s got a lot of interesting responses catalogued in his post: How do you solve a problem like DC. He’s got a number of notable excerpts and links available there.
Dave Carter at Yet Another Comic Blog is much less pessimistic than most of the examples quoted in the previous post, asking instead What does it matter?
What really should matter is profit. And that’s what’s missing from all the sales figures, because we have no idea how much it cost to produce any of these comics. Does Marvel make more profit from an issue of The Dark Tower than DC does from Justice League of America? We’ll never know.
Sure 52 was a huge seller for DC week after week, but how much did they have to pay Waid, Morrison, Johns, Rucka, Giffen and all the artists involved for each issue, not to mention all the editorial time necessary to push out a weekly series. (There are also opportunity costs involved; would DC’s relaunches of Superman, Flash, Wonder Woman et al. have floundered so badly if editorial’s attention hadn’t been distracted?)
Never mind the fact that the Diamond numbers are just one segment of the total comics market these days, and they present a very short term glimpse at that. I still maintain that one of the most successful comics of recent years must be Fables, given its strong trade sales in both the direct market and regular bookstores, and its seeming evergreen status.
He also has a point to make about who might really be in line to suffer:
When the big boys are playing market share games, they are likely to push out an enormous number of titles month after month, in the attempt to crowd each other off the shelves. This has two effects: One, Marvel or DC may keep a marginal selling title around a little longer just to keep shelf space (and I stress ‘may,’ as they are just as likely to cancel it and put something else in its place). Two, they potentially push titles from other publishers off the shelves, other publishers who do rely on profit (or at least breaking even) to survive.
The good news is that the trend–at least in dollar sales–is in growth. But in the direct market served by Diamond, most of the growth seems to be going to Marvel & DC, and there doesn’t seem to be much trickle-down. If everybody were playing the same game, “Let’s Make Profit,” then things might be different. But Marvel & DC aren’t playing for profit, they’re playing for visibility, operationalized as market share. It’s like a bunch of eight-year-olds playing tag on the same field that a bunch of junior high kids are playing tackle football.
So what do you think?