The news that Victor Von Doom has been canceled before the release of the first issue is more than a little surprising, to be honest. When was the last time Marvel canceled a book pre-release at such short notice (The first issue was due to come out at the end of the month)? Has it ever happened before, for that matter? It’s another bad sign for the publisher, following a rash of cancellations a couple of weeks ago, which itself came immediately after a slew of layoffs, and it’s worth noting that VVD was being edited by one of the editors who was let go, Alejandro Arbona (As, for that matter, was Iron Man 2.0, one of the books canceled following the layoffs).
The news comes at an especially bad time, considering today also brought the news that DC had massively increased their market share to over 50% last month, and that’s with the New 52 line’s returnability meaning that initial orders are being under-reported in that chart. Suddenly, the cancellations and layoffs make – well, maybe not more sense, but they don’t happen in such a vacuum, I guess; there’s absolutely no way that Marvel can’t be smarting after this, and looking to rethink their publishing line into more profitable ways of using their talent base. But that said, I can’t help but wonder how poor orders for this must have been, for it to be canceled so late in the game; if #1 was supposed to come out this month, then chances are #2 and maybe even #3 are already drawn, and considering it’s a 4 issue series, I’m surprised that Marvel aren’t willing to put it out just to see some level of recouping money that’s already been spent.
(Alternatively, it’s possible that it was canceled for reasons that have nothing to do with sales; with Arbona gone, maybe whoever took over the editorial ownership of this book took one look and thought that it didn’t fit in with what they wanted to do, or else perhaps it signals a shift in the kinds of material Marvel’s looking to publish in general?)
It also strikes me that Nick Spencer’s Marvel exclusivity deal is beginning to look like a bad idea for all involved; Spencer went from a hit Image series – still running – as well as a cult hit DC series (THUNDER Agents, about to be relaunched this month with Spencer still writing, having apparently received an exception in his exclusive deal, surprisingly) and some buzzy other DC work (Jimmy Olsen and an anticipated Supergirl run) to having two canceled Marvel books and Ultimate Comics: X-Men, which… doesn’t seem that great, really? I don’t know if this is a case of Spencer not being given the right books in order to get fans excited, not fitting in with the Marvel mindset in the books he’s worked on, or just plain bad luck, but it really seems like an unfortunate shift in fortunes for a writer who was so buzzed about this time last year.
Maybe it’s just me, but with Marvel’s focus seemingly very on successful brands and franchises in the upcoming months – The (very enjoyable) relaunch of Uncanny X-Men and launch of Wolverine and The X-Men, the Fear Itself brand being extended with the epilogue point issues and The Fearless spin-off series, the Avengers: X-Sanction mini, the expansions of the Spider-Man and Captain America families with new books, and so on… – what the publisher needs more than anything from a PR standpoint is a quality book that stands apart from the big franchises, and sells well enough for the publisher to be able to point to and say, “Look! We do do other stuff, and we do it well!” Because, canceling a book with art by Becky Cloonan before anyone’s even had a chance to see it, two weeks after losing the guys responsible for the Strange Tales anthologies and more alternative books in your line-up really doesn’t send a great signal to anyone that diversity is that much of a priority right now.