Sunday, June 22, 2008

Commentary: Marvel vs DC

With all the bad press DC Comics has been getting these past few weeks I thought I would give my thoughts on the two biggest comicbook companies. The bad press started for DC with the announcement that Chuck Dixon posting on his message board that he no longer works for the company. When asked if he quit or was fired he stated that he did not quit, since their really is only two options when someone leaves a job it's obvious that Dixon was fired. Then to top it off Diamond came out with the May 2008 Sales Chart and Market Share Report (found here) showing Marvel having 47.56% of the unit shares and DC only having 29.95% of the unit shares for May. That is a pretty large discrepency between the two comic book companies and these are just a rough estimate since in other comicbook websites it is being reported that the discrepency might be even larger. And to top it of in the battle of the big events Secret Invasion #2 top the sales chart at the number one while Final Crisis #1 came second. Here is the list of the top 25 comics in May:

1) Secret Invasion #2– 200,344 (MARVEL)
2) Final Crisis #1 – 159,036 (DC)
3) New Avengers #41 – 119,898 (MARVEL)
4) Avengers/Invaders #1 – 118,767 (MARVEL)
5) Invincible Iron Man #1 - 116,251 (MARVEL)
6) Giant Size X-Men #1 – 115,860 (MARVEL)
7) Batman #676 – 115,345 (DC)
8) Mighty Avengers #13 – 106,397 (MARVEL)
9) Batman #677 – 105,547 (DC)
10) Mighty Avengers #14 – 104,630 (MARVEL)
11) Justice League of America #21 – 98,869 (DC)
12) Dark Towers: Long Road Home #3 – 96,229 (MARVEL)
13) Thor #9 – 95,648 (MARVEL)
14) Uncanny X-Men – 90,144 (MARVEL)
15) Buffy the Vampire Slayer #14 – 90,122 (DARK HORSE)
16) X-Force #4 – 88,041 (MARVEL)
17) X-Men: Legacy #211 – 87,650 (MARVEL)
18) Captain America #38 – 87,135 (MARVEL)
19) Justice Society of America #15 – 85,994 (DC)
20) Amazing Spider-Man #558 – 86,518 (MARVEL)
21) Amazing Spider-Man #559 – 81,487 (MARVEL)
22) X-Men: Legacy #212 – 81,297 (MARVEL)
23) Amazing Spider-Man – 81,274 (MARVEL)
24) All-Star Superman #11 – 77,254 (DC)
25) Green Lantern #31 – 72,337 (DC)

It is important to note that these total sale numbers does not reflect which comic sold well with customers but it shows how much retailers ordered for each issue. While Secret Invasion #2 from total sales from the first issue it is still suprising that Final Crisis #1 did not out sell Secret Invasion. If there was ever a time when Final Crisis would outsell Secret Invasion it should have been with its first issue. This just goes to show that retailers were not confident enough in Final Crisis to order more copies of the first issue which they have a right to be since DC really bauched the lead in to Final Crisis with the sorry excuse that is Countdown to Final Crisis. So its understandable why Secret Invasion crushed Final Crisis by a little over 40,000 comics.

The embarrasment for DC doesn't end there because DC only had 7 of there titles in the top 25, four of the titles are written by Grant Morrison. That is just pathetic especially when you compare it to Marvel having 17 of their titles on the top 25, more than double DC number. To make things worse if you look at the sales numbers for DC Trinity characters ongoing series only one (Batman) was able to crack the top 25 while Superman's Action Comic and Superman titles were 47 and 49 respectively on the sales chart and Wonder Women was 55.

We just know that the heads at Marvel are kust enjoying the success they are having in both comics and the movies while DC is struggling with just their comics. This really just show that outside of Batman DC really does not have much appeal with comic fans and it may be the case where it is only those DC fanboys that are reading their titles in an ongoing bases.

I may not be happy with a lot of the stuff Joe Q has done (One More Day) I have to give him credit because overall Joe Q has risen the interest in all his comics in general. It doesn't hurt that Marvel has had success with their movies Spider-man, X-men, Daredevil, Blade, Punisher, Ghost Rider, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and The Hulk. While some of these movies have been better than the others there is no doubt the Marvel has pique the interest of the public with there characters.

While over in DC Didio and company have been really struggeling with their sales after Infinite Crisis and the One Year Later storylines. It is not a quality issue because DC does have some real great stuff coming out with Batman, Green Lantern, Booster Gold, Teen Titans, and 52. The real issue is that Marvel is just much more reader friendly than DC and in the past 9 years Marvel has been much more in the main stream than DC.

Going back to the reader friendly stuff the truth is that Marvel make sure that the reader is able to pick up an issue of Amazing Spider-man or Iron Man with out have read it to much in the past. Also it helps that the first page on Marvel's comics has a recap page were it informs the reader what has happend to lead to the point of said comic. Another thing that helps new readers to comics or to a title is that Marvel, especially in their crossover and team books, they have a small text next to each character so that the reader does not have to fry there brain thinking who Luke Cage or Iron Fist are.

It also helps that Marvel has the Ultimate Universe that helps new readers become familiar with the characters. And while many say that the Ultimate Universe has out lived its pupose I think it still helps new readers trying to get into comics. I know that when my friends asked me to what I would recommend them reading to get familiar with Spider-man or the X-men or Iron Man I always gave them Ultimate Spider-man, Ultimate X-men (at least Millars run anyways), and Ultimates 1 and 2 for them to read.

With DC it is much harder for new readers to get into the titles because you would have had to be reading the characters for a while to understand what is going on in the title. Final Crisis #1 is a perfect example of this a title that was not new reader friendly title. While I was able to recognize most of the characters in the title I could not recognize who the hell was that detective at the beggining of the book who talked to The Question (Montoya). For new readers trying it might have been harder to recognize some of the characters. I know I had a couple of friends that decided to give this title a try since they haven't read a DC title in a while ask me who the hell is Tupin? I thought Question was a dude? Why are all the New Gods children? Why was Orion in a dumpster? and so for.

If I was an editor at DC I would have the books always have the first page of the comic be a recap page similar to Marvel instead of having to read three pages of internal monologue of the main character recaping what is happenning. I know that Didio has said he does not want to copy a Marvel thing but I really think that it is neccessary for a title like Action Comics were the reader had to wait almost a year for them to receive the last issue of the "Last Son" storyline. Last Son is only one example of the huge delay issues that DC has had in the past and that blame has to fall on Didio lap.

Also another thing that DC seems to face is that there is a lack of communication between the Editors and Writers. From an interview Morrison did before the start of Final Crisis he said that he already handed the script for the first issue of Final Crisis to Didio before Countdown even began. So really what was Didio and those behind Countdown doing and not building on what Morrison was going to do with Final Crisis. Countdown, which I am happy I did not read, is seen by many as a complete and utter failure which went off on its own that did not develop any of the characters and left all those involve no better than they were before Countdown started. And really can any title be a success when the reader had to through 52 issues of crap so that the payoff is Jimmy Olsen vs. Darkseid? Seriously, I know that a lot people I talked to that read Countdown were pissed of with how it turned out. And now it seems Morrison is just ignoring everything that happend in Countdown, which makes completely errelavent and a waste of $156.

Also if you keep calling your crossover a "Crises" than really loose appeal with readers since in many minds they are just saying "Oh great another end of a World event." But while over in Marvel , while not all the events are great, each event like Civil War, World War Hulk, Messiah Complex, and Secret Invasion have their own way to market them which appeals much greater with a casual reader unlike calling all your events as "Crises." Also each of these events have there own way to market them.

Now I am not about call for Didio's head mostly because I don't think the heads of DC would fire Didio before Final Crisis ends which isn't until late in the year barring any delays. What I would do if I was Didio and the rest of DC staff is to suggest using the Multiverse that has largely been unused since Infinite Crisis to tell stories similar to that of Marvel's Ultimate Universe. I know that DC wouldn't go for it but if they did make one of the 52 Earths into somthing similar to the Ultimate Universe than that will give new readers a way to familiarize themselves with the characters and then they could start reading the regular "Earth-1" characters. These stories would more or less act along the lines of the Year One, Two, etc stories DC published after Crisis of Infinite Earth. The only difference is that these titles would act in there own "Ultimate" universe free from any continuity.

And I know DC has there All-Star linebut that line has just been bogged down with delays that made it unsuccesful. So for this new "Ultimate" line I would have Batman, Superman, and Green Lantern be the three titles for the new line. Also DC should place Geoff Johns and Mark Waid as the architects of this new universe similar to how Marvel had Brian Bendis and Mark Millar as the architects to the Ultimate Universe. Also this new universe could also allow new takes on characters that have existed for over 70 years with a fresh start.

Now if Didio was fired from his post the most likely canidate for his job in my mind would be Mark Waid. Waid has an encyclopedia knowledge of the DC Universe and also has a good relationship with all the writers and artist as well as editors.

I know thaat this really seems like an anti-DC article but the truth is Marvel has just done as many as mistakes as DC but at least Marvel has also found a way to keep there readers and attract new ones while DC struggles keeping their reader and attracting new ones. And I say all this because there are a lot of good stuff being done by DC that should be more popular than they are.