Spider-Man Sales Part 2

Amazing Spider-Man Marvel Now

I’m interrupting a section written in 2012 with an update about more recent Spider-Man comics. If sales were good during the Big Time era, they’ve been incredible after Amazing Spider-Man #700. This leads to two questions: Do the consistent sales of the title demonstrate that fans are happy with the direction of the title, and that the changes necessary to make that happen are retroactively justified? Or do the sales of Renew Your Vows mean that Marvel should undo One More Day, since it shows fans like it when Spider-Man’s married?

For several years, there were passionate discussions about the sales of the Spider-Man comics and what that meant. Around the time Dan Slott became the solo writer, the book started selling out with ten consecutive issues getting second printings. Sales would increase during the Spider Island summer event, and the year-plus Superior Spider-Man mega-arc. It concluded with a relaunch of Amazing Spider-Man that was the best-selling comic book in over a decade (although it would be topped by the Jason Aaron/ John Cassady Star Wars #1 a few months later.)

The Spider-Man crawlspace message board had an active discussion on sales up until June 2010. And then it got quiet. A big part of that is that it was no longer viable to use ambiguous sales numbers as an argument for why the books should be doing better. It was doing as well as can be reasonably expected.

Then the Renew Your Vows mini-series came out, and the first issue sold very well. So sale discussions popped up again, with fans of a married Peter Parker eager to discuss the implications.

Peter MJ Pollard

Some interesting things have happened to the industry. If ICV2 estimates are reasonably accurate, things are better at the bottom. In April 2015, the 100th best-selling comic sold over 30,000 copies. In April 2011, it was an estimated 17,740 copies. So it does appear overall sales are better. As a result, the trends in the industry that hurt the sales of the book during the Brand New Day era have reversed.

Estimates for Renew Your Vows #1 exceeded 200,000 copies. This was a highly promoted #1 and an event comic by any definition, so that’s a major part of why it did so well. Amazing Spider-Man was outselling other books with Secret Wars tie-ins (IE- Deadpool, Wolverines, Captain Marvel and Thor) which was part of the reason why its Secret Wars tie-in outsold related events in other titles. However, to put in context the sales of RNY, Old Man Logan #1, another highly promoted Secret Wars tie-in with A-list characters and a major creative team, is estimated to have sold about 114,000 copies. So there was something special about this Spider-Man book.

It doesn’t mean that the spider-marriage should be restored, since a popular standalone story isn’t proof that this will work in the long term. The overwhelming success of Dark Knight Returns didn’t lead to Batman becoming middle aged in all of the other titles. Part of the appeal of the story was seeing a world where nothing was sacred. Marvel icons could be killed off, and the villain could take over the world. Spider-Man could cross boundaries that the regular books wouldn’t touch. The series could jump forward several years. Since there was no sixth issue on the horizon, readers had no idea where the story was going, and what could or couldn’t happen to their favorite characters.

It’s not the basis for a title in a shared universe, given what happened to the rest of the Marvel heroes, and how a world taken over by a supervillain isn’t exactly the world outside your window.

It wouldn’t surprise me if there’s some kind of spinoff, given how well sales went. There are a few possibilities. It could be interesting to see a world where Spider-Man’s a family man, and the ruler has just been defeated. Structurally, it would still be difficult from Renew Your Vows as maintaining the status quo becomes more important. It could also be fun to see prequels set prior to Peter’s final battle with Venom, when he had just become a dad, and had to balance being Spider-Man with raising an infant.

Marvel’s biggest mistake with the story was not doing more tie-ins. Part of it could be that there was no one to insist on more. Fans of a married Spider-Man didn’t want to endorse any decisions that would involve admitting that the status quo was going to stick around.  While there might not be enough material for this to be a permanent part of the books, it certainly seems like something that could result in enough story material for several issues. I can understand one drawback if there are tie-ins to a Secret Wars tie-in, though there were plenty of Spider-Man Unmasked tie-ins during Civil War.

Writer Dan Slott did respond to the arguments that the sales were so impressive as to justify an immediate sequel. He noted that there was a Spider-Man comic that sold better…

I think the fans spoke 7 years ago.

And they want to see a monthly Spider-Man/Barack Obama team-up book.

He was asked about other titles that got spinoffs.

With SPIDER-GWEN, SPIDER-GIRL, and (yes) even AF #15…
…it wasn’t just a case of overwhelming demand,
it was a case of surprising & disproportionate overwhelming demand.
In each case, Marvel was not expecting these books to be major hits– let alone, blow-the-doors-off major hits.

In the case of RYV…
A Secret Wars tie-in…
A Secret Wars tie-in with Spider-Man…
A Secret Wars tie-in with the long missing marriage reinstated…
A Secret Wars tie-in with art by comic book master, Adam Kubert…
A Secret Wars tie-in written by the regular ASM writer and promising elements that would continue on into the regular book…

Marvel KNEW it was going to be a hit.
Marvel KNEW it was going to do ludicrously well.
So the expectations were set pretty damn high.

That’s a pretty big difference.

The X-Men ’92 mini-series is getting a spinoff, so some Spider-marriage fans argue that it’s ourageous for Marvel not to do the same with the better selling Renew Your Vows. There are still a few differences. The X-Men ’92 writers are happy to continue with that set-up, since that book is their big break. The artist on the new title is roughly on par with the artist of the mini. Meanwhile, Renew Your Vows had one of the least prolific writers in comics and an A-list artist who has a fairly limited output, too. So Marvel would need an entirely new creative team, who would get blamed if the new series flops. It could still be a worthwhile project, but I can see why they’re not rushing to greenlight/ announce it.

The sales analysis is often about trying to prove that Marvel, and especially Joe Quesada, made the wrong decision. So it’s worth considering times when fans and writers seem to have different priorities.

The Infinite Spider-Man is a series of mini-essays regarding Marvel’s options for the future of the best character in comics.

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About Thomas Mets

I’m a comic book fan, wannabe writer, politics buff and New Yorker. I don’t actually follow baseball. In the Estonian language, “Mets” simply means forest, or lousy sports team. Currently, I’m writing a few comic books about my grandparents’ experiences in Soviet Estonia for Grayhaven comics. You can email me at mistermets@gmail.com
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