Earlier this week DC and Marvel, the American serial comic book industry’s two largest players, released their solicitations for the comics they plan to publish in December of this year (DC’s are here and Marvel’s are here, if you missed ‘em).
These monthly solicitations, released about nine weeks in advance of the time the comics themselves actually show up in comic shops, always provide a pretty good snapshot of the companies, and thus the direct market built around them. A market you’ve probably heard sure seemed like it might be in trouble, if you’ve read any of the tons of commentary regarding sales data from this past August.
So I thought I’d pull out my fine-tooth comb and take it to the solicitations—since I went bald in my twenties, I haven’t had much use for my fine-tooth combs anyway—and see what data I could pull out.
As I did last month, I wanted to see which which franchises the Big Two were exploiting the most in terms of the numbers of books attached to each character/concept/IP. Additionally, this time I wanted to count up the number of books at the $3.99-for-22-story-pages price point, as it seems to be steadily increasing (most notably at DC, which eschewed that particular price point for so long) and, more out of curiosity than concern, what role other-media adaptations play in the two publishers’ lines.
As the big and still emerging news of the week—DC’s corporate rejiggering‚ indicates, these are two publishers that are still moving as they get comfortable with their new leadership structures, and a rather fluid market, so these numbers might change month to month, and not ultimately mean much of anything.
Still, as a purple puppet of a vampire taught me when I was a child, counting is fun! So let’s take a look, shall we?
First, let’s look at which franchises are being most-mined.
Batman, Batman, Inc, Batman: The Dark Knight, Batman Annual, Batman and Robin, Batman: Odyssey, Batman: Orphans, Batman: Streets of Gotham, Batman Confidential, Batman 80-Page Giant 2010, Detective Comics, Detective Comics Annual, All-New Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Superman/Batman
Batman spin-offs: 6
Red Robin, Birds of Prey, Batgirl, Azrael, Gotham City Sirens, Knight & Squire
X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, X-Men Legacy, X-Men: To Serve and Protect, X-Men Forever 2, Chaos War: X-Men, Heroic Age: X-Men, Uncanny X-Force, X-Factor, New Mutants, New Mutants Forever, Generation Hope
Avengers, Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Avengers Academy, New Avengers, Secret Avengers, Avengers Vs. Pet Avengers, I Am An Avenger, Ultimate Comics Avengers 3, Chaos War: Dead Avengers
Thor, Thor: The Mighty Avenger, Thor: First Thunder, Thor: For Asgard, Thor: Wolves of the North, Chaos War: Thor, Ultimate Comics Thor, Iron Man/Thor
Thor spin-offs: 3
Thunderstrike, Loki, The Warriors Three
Deadpool, Deadpool Corps, Deadpool Team-Up, Deadpool Pulp, Deadpool Max
Teen Titans, Teen Titans: Cold Case, Titans, Tiny Titans, Tiny Titans/Little Archie
Green Lantern: 5
Green Lantern, Green Lantern: Larfleeze Christmas Special, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors, Green Lantern/Plastic Man
Iron Man: 5
Invincible Iron Man, Iron Man Legacy, Iron Man: Rapture, Iron Man/Thor, What If? Iron Man: Demon In An Armor
Spider-Man, Amazing Spider-Man, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, What If? Spider-Man
Spider-Man spin-offs: 3
Spider-Girl, Carnage, Osborn
As you can see, Batman is still the most fertile franchise, having two more books than he did in the last round of solicitations. Which may seem…unwise, given what seems like bad news regarding sales of serial comics in the direct market and what DC’s been doing to their prices lately. That is, not only are there going to be more Batman books on sale in December than there were on sale in, say, August or September of 2010, some of them are going to be more expensive than those on sale in August or September.
Surprisingly, the X-Men are the next with 12 titles, even more than the better-selling Avengers franchise (And those two facts could be related; if you added three more new Avengers titles, would their sales dip to X-men levels) and ridiculously far ahead of DC’s premiere super-team (in terms of numbers of titles, it’s the Titans franchise; there are only three Justice League books in DC’s line-up for December).
Of course if you count all the Deadpool books as X-Men books, and all the Wolverine books as X-Men books, and all the Wolverine spin-off books—X-23 and Daken—as X-Men books, then the X-Men are still Marvel’s driving force in terms of title expansion. The only reason I didn’t count those as X-Men books above is because both Deadpool and Wolverine are currently popular enough to be their own franchises, carrying multiple titles and generating spin-offs.
The number of Thor books is still kind of mind-boggling. December will have two more Thor books than were offered in November. Even if Marvel’s strategy with all this Thor material seems kind of obvious—guarantee enough plunderable Thor comics to fill plenty of trade paperbacks to meet expected movie-driven demand—the rate of expansion is awful fast. It was only about five years ago that Thro couldn’t support a single title, and now he’s supporting 8-to-11?
Even once the movie passes, it seems likely Marvel will keep publishing more than one Thor book. If you look at where Iron Man stands right now, a few months after the second movie has come and gone, there will still be five Iron Man-branded comic books shipping in December, two of which are ongoing monthly series.
Where these numbers start to get worrisome is when you consider the price of the comics—they’re going up, not down, and quickly. So if you read 11 Thor books, it’s not like your going to be spending $11. Or $33. No, you’re looking at about $43. Just on Thor comics. In a single month. Oh, and that’s just ones with the name “Thor” in the title, or starring his supporting characters…if you want to follow the Awesome Asgardian’s Avengers appearances, too well…well, let’s just hope that’s the only superhero you want to follow every appearance of.
As for those prices, Marvel will have 45 books at the $3.99-for-32-pages price point (and keep in mind, the 32-pages typically means 22 pages of story, with ten pages of ads…mostly house ads these days, oddly enough). The will have 5 books at the $3.99-for-40-pages price point, and 25 books at the $2.99-for-32-pages price point.
DC will have eight books at the $3.99-for-32-pages point, 12 books at the $3.99-for-40-to-56 page price point, and 30 books at the $2.99-for-32-pages price point (Note that I’m not counting WildStorm and Vertigo in this particular category, only the DC-branded books).
If there are any patterns to be discerned in terms of how the companies decide whether to charge $2.99 or $3.99 for a 22-page long comic book, it seems that they favor the $2.99 price point for most books clearly aimed at younger audiences (Marvel’s Ozma of Oz and Avengers Vs. Pet Avengers being too exceptions to the rule).
At least for December, Marvel seems to charge $3.99 for Max-branded books, one-shots, most miniseries and their most popular books. DC seems to be planning to charge $3.99 for new books as they are introduced (Batman: The Dark Knight, Batman, Inc, etc), as well as one-shots and most miniseries (Green Lantern: Larfleeze Christmas Special, JLA/THe 99…Batman spin-off Knight & Squire looks like the only $2.99 miniseries they have listed for December). The majority of their ongoing monthlies remain $2.99, or $3.99-with-back-ups, but if the new Batman ongoings are any indication, perhaps all new ongoings will start at $3.99.
And in our final category for today, let’s look at what the two publishers publish when they’re not publishing their superheroes. For this, I am counting DC’s WildStorm and Vertigo imprints, as they generally don’t published licensed comics under the DC bullet branding.
Marvel will have a single comic book based on a video game, Halo: Fall of Reach—Boot Camp. DC/WildStorm will have eight (Assassin’s Creed, Kane and Lynch, Ratchet and Clank, End of Nations, Resident Evil, Gears of War, Telara Chronicles,World of Warcraft: Curse of the Worgen
Marvel will have two books based on prose works, Dark Tower: The Gunslinger—The Little Sisters of Eluria and Ozma of Oz. DC won’t have any.
Marvel will have a single comic based on a movie, Tron: Original Movie Adaptation. DC won’t have any.
Marvel will have two books based on TV shows, Super Hero Squad and The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. DC will have five (Cartoon Network Action Pack, All-New Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Looney Tunes, Scooby-Doo, Where are You?, X-Files/30 Days of Night).