Nevertheless, a private poll of around eighty retailers found that none have encountered an amazing response to the Marvel NOW books, a good chunk have seen existing customers interested in the books, but most have either encountered less than expected sales – or terrible sales on the books.
Bear in mind: There are only four Marvel NOW! branded titles out there right now – the new Uncanny Avengers and A+X and the relaunched/newly-branded Red She-Hulk and Wolverine and The X-Men – so there isn’t really a lot of information to actually go on just yet. I’d argue that, despite the hype, the “big” titles in terms of those readers are anticipating are due over the next couple of months as All-New X-Men and Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers hit stands; Uncanny Avengers feels like the only “big” launch of the line to date (which does raise the question, “Why launch a brand with one big book and three smaller titles, instead of more big ones up front?” of course).
Nonetheless, something that Rich points out in the article is worth paying attention to:
DC also had a more successful marketing campaign and got new and lapsed customers back into comic stores in their droves. DC relied on making comics returnable, even though, for the first few months, very few were returned. It gave the retailer confidence to try and find a ceiling for sales… one that they constantly underestimated. For Marvel, retailers were given an incentive to order staggering amounts of comics, but the marketing campaign didn’t convince enough people to walk into their store and pick up a couple of comics.
I’ve been thinking about the differences between the launch of the New 52 and the launch of Marvel NOW!, and the lack of both sustained media blitz a la New 52 – which was everywhere for the month of September, as the books were coming out, with previews not only in the comics media but also previews in mainstream magazines from Marie Claire to Complex – and retailer returnability seem to me to be massive absences in the Marvel plan. Far more than the comics themselves, I’d argue that DC’s ability to get the word out to the “real world” about the relaunch, and ability to essentially make ordering the books as close to risk-free as is possible/likely are what made the New 52 launch as successful as it actually was. Which isn’t to say that Marvel NOW! as a promotion won’t be successful for Marvel, because I think that it will – but I doubt that it’ll be as successful, at all.
(There’s also the fact that the New 52 was easier to promote to newcomers: “If it comes out in September, it’s all-new and you can start right here!” is a far simpler message than “If it comes out between October and March and has this logo on the cover, it’s all-new and you can start right here, but we might make references to this thing called Avengers vs. X-Men which just finished as well as some other comics, but you can always get those collections if you really want,” when it comes down to it.)
In addition to all of that, don’t forget that the two newly-launched books for the line that are actually out, Uncanny Avengers and A+X, have been hit with delays and changes by their second issues, something that can’t raise too much confidence when it comes to reliability of future shipping from retailers or customers. But that may be an entirely different complaint altogether.
Does all of this mean that Marvel NOW! is a failure? Not in the slightest: Uncanny Avengers had orders above 350,000 apparently, which is massively successful, and anything that’ll lift the average monthly orders of books like Iron Man, Captain America and Thor on a regular basis has to be seen as a good thing. But I can’t help but feel as if it’s not as much as a success as the House of Ideas might’ve been hoping for, either…