If you’re concerned about the amount of double-shipping seen in February’s Marvel solicits, there’s an upside – it’s not necessarily going to be a regular thing, but Marvel titles are upping their frequency, according to Tom Brevoort via his Formspring:
In most cases, [2012 ongoing Marvel titles will release] more than 12 issues, though it’ll vary from title to title and creative team to creative team.
I’ve been surprised by the negativity I’ve been seeing online from Marvel fans about the double-ship method, I admit; I honestly would’ve expected a lot more “Twice as many issues of a book I like!” than complaints about cost or concern about the publisher cannibalizing its own audience (There are plenty of people with the former attitude, admittedly; I’m just surprised by the greater volume of the latter within the Marvel fanbase).
I’m also surprised that no-one seems to be concerned about what I would’ve thought would be the primary worry in the long-term: Writer burn-out. Not everyone can be Dan Slott or Brian Michael Bendis, pushing out multiple issues of the same book month after month, after all. Regular artists may be a thing of the past, but does increasing publishing frequency mean that we’re going to see back-up writers being introduced to some titles down the line?
(This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; Reading old Essential collections, I’m generally always pleasantly surprised by the fill-ins; I know it’s a different market now and all, but would anyone really complain that much if 18 issues a year of, say, Avengers Academy meant that four of them were written by Paul Tobin or Fred Van Lente or the like? A suggestion that Kiel makes over at CBR about changing attitudes at Marvel is that the renewed focus on the main franchises means a potential loss of avenues for up-and-coming writers or those who aren’t already “big names,” but this could be a way around that, similar to the 1970s’ approach to break in new talent.)
It occurred to me that this approach to publishing, essentially “We’ll do more than one issue a month, but on an irregular schedule depending on title and talent” stands in stark contrast to DC’s attitude with the New 52, which is very clearly “This book comes out in this week every month”; there, the reliability of the release schedule is king. That idea, I admit, feels more sensible to me in terms of retaining readership, especially for a new (or digital) audience that doesn’t go to the comic store on a weekly basis to see what’s out this Wednesday – The unpredictability of the new Marvel model may result in more than twelve issues of a series each month, but unless steps will be taken to publicize the shipping schedules of each series, it presumes that the audience will always be looking for the next issue on the off-chance that this is a two-issue month.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens long-term with this publishing model – Whether sales are impacted, and in what direction, and what it does to Marvel’s share of the Direct Market. It’s not relaunching their entire line, but this is a pretty big gamble in itself. We’ll see if it pays off.