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#459988 - 03/01/01 03:13 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Jeff Zugale Offline
Member

Registered: 12/06/98
Posts: 1806
Loc: Los Angeles, CA, USA
I'm sorry about popping in with an aside that may not be relevant, but something struck me as odd:

Quote:
The pantheon of 3500 characters that Marvel owns has at least some potential to them or future investors... possibly.


And the way Marvel and other companies clutch their licensable character properties clearly shows they consider them to be valuable assets. However, is that a smart thing to think? Are these characters, even the most popular, truly valuable in the long term as cultural icons? 30 years from now, is Superman or Spiderman still going to be relevant?

To illustrate my thoughts, let's look at a few valuable fictional characters, cultural icons from the past, if you will.

The Lone Ranger: much like Superman in spirit (if not in superpower), he was a masked man (secret identity) who rode around the American West on his big white horse righting wrongs and defending the innocent. He was, for a while, a figure as compelling as Superman (IMO) -- and was even something of a contemporary with the Man of Steel. However, is the Lone Ranger still as valuable a property as he once was (bless Clayton Moore's heart regardless)? Do we see Lone Ranger movies? Comics? Merchandising? No. While he's a great character, he's no longer as relevant in our culture, and no longer strikes the same chord with people. Westerns ain't what they used to be, and Gower Gulch is more likely to contain Klingons than cowboys these days. Certainly there's not enough left of his prestige to sustain continuing stories centered on him, in whatever media.

Or how about Little Orphan Annie? Now, I know that there's still a strip 'toon, and there have been movies and musicals and all that... but is Annie still a massively valuable licensable property? She was one of the most popular characters in America for a while, maybe a decade... but can she still fire the imaginations and engage the attentions of people today? Not so much.

What about Sherlock Holmes? Yes, great big character, everyone knows who he is. There have been a number of movies (even one by Spielberg as I recall) and recent television stories produced in England -- where he is MOST DEFINITELY a cultural icon -- that are successful. However, even with the success of the "Young Sherlock Holmes" movie, did it spawn off three sequels, dozens of merchandising efforts, a major toy line, SatAm cartoon, comic books? No. Sherlock Holmes, as wonderful and engaging a character as he is, is not so culturally relevant here in America. Great dude, but not someone that's going to produce a sustainable widespread revenue stream in the new millenium.

Do we see continuing stories -- and I'm talking monthly comics etc. -- about Davy Crockett, or Paul Bunyan, or other distinctly American folk heroes, real or mythical

So is it really smart to consider these characters "valuable asset" for the future, when their relevance is going to decrease over time? Haven't some of them already exceeded their "design life"? Okay, Batman and Superman are wildly successful if you look at them in this light, having runs of popularity of 40 or 50 years -- they are the American "Sherlock Holmeses," perhaps. They are the quintessential superheroes, with all others really being variations on their themes, yes?

Of course there will always be an audience for them; I still love a good Sherlock Holmes episode, and I'm sure there are people out there who love Westerns too (Butch & Sundance come to mind). But as cultural relevance wanes, such "pantheons" of characters simply become less valuable. As superhero comics fade, which they eventually will -- just like Westerns and Greek morality plays, etc, -- they're not going to retain their value.

And out of those 3500 characters, how many could be turned into cultural icons? Good question. The answer may be: none.

Again, sorry for the aside, but I think it's part of the "value" of comics question.

------------------
Jeff Zugale
Pagan City Comics
www.pagancity.com
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Jeff Zugale www.jeffzugale.com/
My "Just A Bit Off..." webcomic

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#459989 - 03/01/01 03:43 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Chris Knowles Offline
Member

Registered: 01/23/99
Posts: 875
Loc: USA
Quote:
Originally posted by Rick Veitch:
Chris,
Just click the link over to ICv2 to get a clear explanation of how they came to their conclusions. The short version is they extrapolated from numbers they were certain of against the Diamond Top 100 to get their numbers. This is a time-honored method that no one has been doing regularly since that guy at Antarctic Press gave it up a few years ago. I'm happy we have people like Milton and Tom with the knowledge and connections to start providing this intelligence again. It is unfortunate that it must be done ad hoc by interested parties in the news media, but its the best we are going to get in the Diamond/Exclusives oligarchy.


No, you're wrong, Rick. The monthly Top 200 has been posted regularly on rec.arts.comics.misc by Michael Burns for at least a year now and no one has challenged his estimates. And his numbers are totally inconsistent with Griepp's numbers. And no less than Warren Ellis has complained that even Burns' numbers are low.

Compare for yourself- with apologies to Burns- here are his Feb #'s compare with Griepp's numbers- go to the site listed in Rick's article for the full list- and Griepp's numbers are at least a couple thousand lower across the board. I would guess that he didn't have complete information.

Rick, I'm not 100% sure, but I think you're source is wrong and I think your Splash headline is reckless and irresponsible, as well as potentially untrue.

estimated #
# Title Publisher sold (1000's)

1 Uncanny X-Men #391 Marvel 104.1 7,2%
2 X-Men #111 Marvel 101.3 1,7%
3 Ultimate X-Men #3 Marvel 88.7 13,4%
4 Ultimate Marvel:Spi.&Wolv. #1Marvel 96.9
5 BattleChasers #8 DC 88.6
6 Green Arrow #1 DC 86.4
7 Wolverine #161 Marvel 74.8 1,4%
8 JLA #51 DC 74.0 - 3,5%
9 Avengers #39 Marvel 66.7 - 0,2%
10 Ultimate Spider-Man #6 Marvel 58.4 -13,7%
11 Spawn #107 Image 62.7 1,5%
12 Rising Stars #14 Image 52.8 4,5%
13 Fantastic Four #40 Marvel 52.6 2,9%
14 Universe X #7 Marvel 49.7 0,6%
15 Amazing Spider-Man #28 Marvel 49.4 1,9%
16 Peter Parker, Spider-Man #28 Marvel 46.2 2,0%
17 Batman #588 DC 43.6 - 5,6%
18 Thor #34 Marvel 43.3 1,6%
19 Superman #167 DC 42.6 -15,8%
20 Tomb Raider #12 Image 42.5 - 1,6%
21 Aphrodite IX #3 Image 42.3
22 Detective Comics #755 DC 41.8 - 5,6%
23 Midnight Nation #5 Image 41.4 - 2,1%
24 X-men Forever #4 Marvel 41.4 - 2,4%
25 Iron Man #39 Marvel 41.3 0%
26 Captain America #40 Marvel 41.2 1,7%
27 Defenders #2 Marvel 41.1 - 7,0%
28 X-Force #113 Marvel 40.7 0%
29 BatGirl #13 DC 40.2 - 4,1%
30 Daredevil/Spider-Man #4 Marvel 39.5 0%
31 Action Comics #776 DC 39.1 7,0%
32 Mutant X #30 Marvel 39.1 1,3%
33 JSA #21 DC 39.1 3,4%
34 Nightwing #54 DC 38.3 - 6,8%
35 Hulk Smash #2 Marvel 38.3 - 2,3%
36 Cable #90 Marvel 38.0 3,3%
37 Thunderbolts #49 Marvel 37.9 1,9%
38 Adventures of Superman #589 DC 37.9 9,2%
39 No Honour #1 Image 37.7
40 Superman: Man Steel #111 DC 37.5 9,0%
41 Incredible Hulk #25 Marvel 37.5 5,0%
42 Generation X #74 Marvel 37.3 0%
43 Green Lantern #135 DC 36.7 3,6%
44 Monarchy #1 DC 36.3
45 Harley Quinn #5 DC 36.1 - 4,3%
46 Batman: Gotham Knights #13 DC 36.1 - 8,6%
47 Spider-Man: Lifeline #1 Marvel 35.6
48 X-Men: Blink #3 Marvel 35.2 0%
49 Batman Legends Dark Kn #140 DC 34.8 3,9%
50 Marvel Knights #10 Marvel 34.1 0,9%
51 Crimson #24 Image 34.0 2,4%
52 Spider-Man: Lifeline #2 Marvel 33.7 - 5,6%
53 X-Man #74 Marvel 33.3 - 1,0%
54 Spectre #2 DC 33.2 -13,8%
55 Gambit/Bishop: Sons Atom #3 Marvel 32.2 - 1,5%
56 Gambit/Bishop: Sons Atom #4 Marvel 31.9 - 2,4%
57 Top Ten #11 (Res) DC 31.6
58 Titans #26 DC 31.4 - 3,1%
59 Darkness #38 Image 30.2 0,7%
60 Flash #171 DC 29.9 0,7%
61 Excalibur: Sword of Power #3 Marvel 29.4 6,5%
62 X-Men: Hidden Years #17 Marvel 28.8 0,3%
63 Robin #87 DC 28.5 -15,2%
64 MindHunter #3 DHC 28.4 -19,5%
65 Young Justice #30 DC 27.4 2,6%
66 Wonder Woman #167 DC 27.2 11,5%
67 Spidergirl #31 Marvel 25.8 0,8%
68 Birds of Prey #28 DC 25.8 -16,8%
69 Batman: Hollywood Knights #1 DC 25.7
70 Captain Marvel #16 Marvel 25.3 0,8%
71 Deadpool #51 Marvel 25.1 - 1,2%
72 Promethea #13 DC 24.9 - 1,5%
73 Catwoman #90 DC 24.9 -20,9%
74 Hellspawn #7 Image 24.4 - 3,2%
75 Steampunk #7 (Res) DC 24.2 -22,2%
76 Star Wars #27 DHC 23.9 2,6%
77 Fantastic Four: Big Town #4 Marvel 23.6 0,9%
78 SuperBoy´s Legion #1 DC 23.4
79 Gen 13 #62 DC 23.3 - 1,7%
80 Starman #76 DC 23.2 0,9%
81 Superman: Pres. Luthor SecF#1DC 22.4
82 Supergirl #55 DC 22.4 1,8%
83 Mystic #9 CrossGen 22.3 9,9%
84 F4: World Great. Magazine #3 Marvel 21.9 - 9,5%
85 CrossGen Chronicles #2 CrossGen 21.3
86 Black Panther #29 Marvel 21.0 2,9%
87 The First #4 CrossGen 21.0 - 0,5%
88 Sam and Twitch #19 Image 20.6 0,5%
89 Legion Lost #12 DC 20.5 4,6%
90 WildCATS v.2 #20 DC 20.2 4,7%
91 Spawn The Dark Ages #24 Image 20.1 2,0%
92 Scion #9 CrossGen 19.8
93 Legends of DC Universe #39 DC 19.7
94 Silke #2 DHC 19.7 -34,7%
95 Hitman #60 DC 19.5 8,3%
96 Hellblazer #159 DC 19.4 2,6%
97 Buffy, Vampire Slayer #30 DHC 19.3
98 Butcher Knight #3 (Res) Image 19.3 - 5,4%
99 Superboy #85 DC 19.2 7,9%
100 Transmetropolitan #43 DC 19.2 5,2%


Some others down the charts:

101 Azrael #75 DC 17.3 7,5%
109 Martian Manhunter #29 DC 17.4 1,2%
110 Savage Dragon #84 Image 17.4 0,6%
112 Lucifer #11 DC 16.1 1,9%
118 Orion #11 DC 15.1 0,6%
121 Impulse #71 DC 14.8 2,1%
127 Hourman #25 DC 13.9 3,7%
129 Outlaw Nation #6 DC 13.8 - 2,8%
135 Swamp Thing #12 DC 12.8 1,6%
137 Dreaming #59 DC 12.8 3,




[This message has been edited by Chris Knowles (edited 03-01-2001).]

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#459990 - 03/01/01 03:53 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
NatGertler Offline
Member

Registered: 07/10/99
Posts: 4618
Just because some characters are of less value than once they were does not mean that all characters will lose all their value, or even that some characters will not gain value. Mickey Mouse may not have much in the way of new cartoons being produced, but if you don't think Mickey is valuable, take a careful walk around a toy store sometime. Little Orphan Annie may not be the hottest thing in the comic strips for decades, but that didn't stop it from being huge in the theaters in the '70's, from hitting the big screen in the '80's, or from doing powerful numbers as a telefilm in the 1990's. A character like Tarzan seems to regularly fade in and out of presence. The 1970s Lord Of The Rings obsession seems to have died down... but here come 3 expensive films! 70-year-old characters like Conan, even century-old characters like Hercules can go through upswings and downswings.
Sherlock Holmes keeps coming back, whether it's in very respectful adaptation (such as the Jeremy Brett series), active anachronism (1999's animated series Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century) or simply as blatant inspiration (1998's film Zero Effect.) Will there ever be a big hit again? I'd bet on it.
Are some of the Marvel characters at their peak value? Probably. Could some be reenergized? Probably.

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#459991 - 03/01/01 03:56 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Stephen R Bissette Offline
Member

Registered: 11/27/98
Posts: 939
Loc: wilmington, VT USA
Interesting thread.

Sales reports in ALL media are dubious by nature, with all reported figures -- boxoffice, CD and record sales, books, internet traffic -- being shaped and distorted by all manner of factors, some peculiar to their respective venues. I take it we're still looking at direct market (firm preorder numbers only) figures here; the vagaries of newsstand (with the necessary and probably damn-near-impossible-to-assess-in-a-reasonable-time-frame factor of returns) not withstanding, the picture is still a sobering one.

Also, such collective sales figures are rarely monitored (or their relative merits measured) by uninvolved parties sans their own agendas and axes to grind. I think it's fair to say Rick is offering a succinct summary of available information -- and that ongoing scrutiny of that information, its nature and gathering, assessment, and reporting is necessary, too.

[An aside: In the video trade, we're currently struggling with an increasing monopolization of distribution and attempted consolidations of studio and chain (i.e., Blockbuster, etc.) power (sound familiar? IT SHOULD). Thus, in the same week, video retailers can be told that Universal (currently in the position DC once was: the only major studio to attempt to force exclusivity of distribution on retailers, in the wake of WB becoming the sole dist. of their product -- a'la Marvel in the mid-'90s) has "made their numbers" with February product -- despite the fact they had to resolicit that product after failure to "make their numbers" in January in the face of independent retailers refusing to buy through the designated distributor, AND Blockbuster refusing to carry key February titles due to failure to complete negotiations for their new contract.

Clearly, someone is lying... but reliable "numbers" are not forthcoming. Universal is putting the best face on it they can, but no one trusts their claims at this juncture, given reliable information from other sources and the evidence of subsequent announcements and actions AFTER negotiations with Blockbuster were successfully completed a little over a week ago. With Universal and their exclusive rental product dist. Ingram the only sources for the real info, and neither trustworthy any longer as a source of such info, we'll probably never know... but reasonable speculation is already being bandied about.]

I have to wonder how reliable ANY publisher or Diamond reports are or will be as the comics market continues to shrink... though it's good to hear Fantagraphics is hanging in there; the fact they're still in the game sans licensing titles supports Kim's post above. Here's hoping the earthquake doesn't cause any meaningful damage to their operations!

[This message has been edited by Stephen R Bissette (edited 03-01-2001).]

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#459992 - 03/01/01 04:01 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
ATKokmen Offline
Member

Registered: 05/22/00
Posts: 1170
Loc: New York, NY
Quote:
Originally posted by Jeff Zugale:
the way Marvel and other companies clutch their licensable character properties clearly shows they consider them to be valuable assets. However, is that a smart thing to think? Are these characters, even the most popular, truly valuable in the long term as cultural icons?


Long term? Maybe not. But maybe so in the near-to-reasonably-forseeable future, which is the time frame of most concern to most properties' owners.

You're quite right that things change, that the culture evolves, that the things people like today aren't the necessarily the things people will like tomorrow. But the point is that Marvel's stable of characters is an asset; it's just that how that asset is valued may be subject to interpretation.
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"[T]hough goodness without knowledge is weak and feeble, yet knowledge without goodness is dangerous, and that both united form the noblest character, and lay the surest foundation of usefulness to mankind." --John Phillips

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#459993 - 03/01/01 04:01 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
gene phillips Offline
Member

Registered: 09/30/99
Posts: 5910
Loc: Houston, TX
Jeff: I think you're probably right in saying that isn't some indefinite "iconic value" possessed by all superheroes, and I would also doubt they can survive the downfall of the industry.

However,if I understood the gist of the "3500" statement, it was directed mostly at what was going on right now. Right now, with the success of the X-MEN movie, the many characters of Marvel are theoretically valuable for potential future marketing-- even the ones we don't think of as superstars. Certainly no one thought of Marvel's Blade character as a superstar, but he too turned a profit. (Someday I'd like to read some insider-scoop on why the property was adapted at all: I would've thought it an easy concept for Hollywood to rip off, as some people allege "Forever Knight" did from TOD's "Hannibal King.")

In the longer view of things, too, keep in mind that the same fate may overtake a lot of characters that fit the mold of the "highbrow," the "alternatives," or whatever. There are a lot of books on dusty shelves that, while they may be considered a lasting contribution to literature, are rarely if ever read outside academia. And a number of the figures that are apparently striving for canonical literary status may meet the same fate. In fifty years, assuming there remains some sort of audience for alternative comics, will it remember who David Boring was? Or will he be as tossed aside for some new character, even as young thrillseekers no longer thrill to "Hi Yo Silver?"

I just want to make that much clear: there's a high attrition rate in both "real literature" and "genre literature" as far as lasting fame and/or readership goes.

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#459994 - 03/01/01 04:12 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Stephen R Bissette Offline
Member

Registered: 11/27/98
Posts: 939
Loc: wilmington, VT USA
Okay, Chris and Rick --

How about some discussion about the REAL SOURCES of these numbers being bandied about? We're a long way from the old Capital/Diamond pie charts and comparison of same; is all info funneled through Diamond now, and if so, how reliable can it be?

Short of someone offering intensive scrutiny of individual royalty reports MONTHS later (hmm, is this where Warren Ellis comes in, arguing about the validity of some of those posted?) compared with reported sales or estimates figures of months past, how reliable are ANY of these sales charts and numbers -- and on what basis, Chris, do you argue for the validity of one existing system over another?

No slight intended, but saying one set of figures have been "posted regularly... for at least a year now and no one has challenged his estimates" doesn't verify their validity; what SOURCES are being drawn from to tally these sales figures? Is there any competent check of those figures possible in the current environment (save, as noted above, comparison months later of royalty reports and publishers' statements against previously reported estimates)? How could anyone challenge ANY published or posted estimates without reliable information from reliable sources to work with?

No attitude from this corner, I'm genuinely curious. Sans a competitive environment -- something other than a single distributor reporting sales figures -- are ANY timely estimates reliable any longer?

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#459995 - 03/01/01 04:59 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Chris Knowles Offline
Member

Registered: 01/23/99
Posts: 875
Loc: USA
Quote:
Originally posted by Stephen R Bissette:

Short of someone offering intensive scrutiny of individual royalty reports MONTHS later (hmm, is this where Warren Ellis comes in, arguing about the validity of some of those posted?) compared with reported sales or estimates figures of months past, how reliable are ANY of these sales charts and numbers -- and on what basis, Chris, do you argue for the validity of one existing system over another?

No slight intended, but saying one set of figures have been "posted regularly... for at least a year now and no one has challenged his estimates" doesn't verify their validity; what SOURCES are being drawn from to tally these sales figures? Is there any competent check of those figures possible in the current environment (save, as noted above, comparison months later of royalty reports and publishers' statements against previously reported estimates)? How could anyone challenge ANY published or posted estimates without reliable information from reliable sources to work with?


My question to you, Steve (and Rick), is how reliable can analysis of Diamond's numbers be from a former rival? I don't know any more than the next guy but when this former competitor's numbers are radically different from the numbers posted a month before from an independent observer that sends a red flag up with me. I'm not casting aspersions, since I have no idea whose numbers are accurate, but my personal judgement is based on the source.

I know a lot of folks have a beef with Diamond and the Direct market system as it stands, but if we barrage the remaining readership with negative propaganda about sales, who's to say that they won't just find another hobby? People's livelihoods are at stake here- you may hate Marvel or DC or Diamond but they pay people's wages and help them support their families, especially in these perilous economic times.


There's too many people who want to talk down the present system, but where are they going to go if they succeed? Where's the viable alternative to the Direct Market? Anybody who really cares about the Industry should do what Warren Ellis is doing- helping to bolster the Direct Market, not talk it down, especially when it's the only game in town at the moment. If my income was reliant on Comics I'd be pretty pissed at the kind of irresponsible headline we see on today's Splash. Does Rick think that consumer confidence doesn't apply to the Direct Market?

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#459996 - 03/01/01 05:56 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Tom Spurgeon Offline
Member

Registered: 12/24/98
Posts: 1095
Loc: WCW Special Forces
Wasn't he working for Diamond? Man, I've got to keep up.

If we're worried about consumer confidence, I'd like to remind people that those comics your mom threw away could be worth THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure either set of numbers says "Comics sales are poopy" if you view them within certain contexts.

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#459997 - 03/01/01 06:10 PM Re: Top comics drop below 100,000
Rick Veitch Administrator Offline
Member

Registered: 11/23/98
Posts: 3531
Loc: Vermont, USA
Chris,
The top selling Diamond preorder at 104,000 in February deserves the same headline as the top selling Diamond pre-order of 98,000 in March: "COMICS SALES TANK!" Doesn't matter who's doing the estimate.

You're blowing your own argument by trying to paint ICv2 as a nefarious ex-Diamond competitor. A quick read of the ICv2 site will show you that Milton and Tom are working closely with Diamond. They've had four terrificaly informative interviews with all Diamond's top people, except Geppi, since they went live (and Tom Flinn used to work for Diamond). If you really believe Milton is cooking his estimate to damage Diamond you are nuts.

If you wish to read a news site that provides "propaganda" for comics in the face of the economic reality, there are any number of them out there to choose from.

And the headline is accurate. If numbers don't improve for April, it'll be: "COMICS SALES TANK AGAIN!"

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