Dirk Deppey doesn’t write long form too, too often, which is everybody’s loss. He picks up his keyboard and runs with it in today’s Journalista though, explaining, among other things, why Jeff Parker sells better than Peter David but nobody seems to care.
One of the themes at which I’ve been hammering for the last couple of years is the bogus notion that “Direct Market = comic-book industry,” a myopic, self-absorbed viewpoint among superhero fans that sits at the heart of much modern thinking on the subject. As noted in the above link, the network of comic-book stores that constitutes the DM is overwhelmingly frequented by 25-35-year old men who’ve been reading superhero comics for a decade or more. But does this mean that companies like Marvel and DC can only cater to this crowd and this crowd alone to justify their continued publishing divisions? Posting in the comments section of Willingham’s essay, Marvel writer Peter David certainly seems to think so:
Here’s the interesting thing: Many fans have said much the same to me at conventions. And I routinely tell them that the types of stories they want to see, and the type of heroic clarity they desire, is routinely on display in the Marvel Adventures and the Marvel First Class books.
And fans will flinch back like Van Helsing from the cross and exclaim, “But those are… KID’S books.” And the titles routinely languish in the absolute basement of sales.
Make of that what you will.
Alas, this statement only makes sense if by “fans” you mean “comics-shop patrons.” Two figures illustrate the point: According to ICv2, Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man #45 sold just over 5000 copies to DM retailers in November… a low number to be sure. And yet, industry analyst Todd Allen notes the most recent circulation filings by Marvel Entertainment, which reveals that as of March 2008 the all-ages Spider-Man title had 31,479 subscriptions. If these numbers are similar to the current subscription base for the series, then the Jeff Parker-written series sells roughly six times the number of copies through the mail as those sold through what has come to be the seen as the traditional method of distribution, making its total circulation equal to the DM sales of David own X-Factor series.