With yesterday's cancellation of Black Knight marking the first title to fail before even six issues in Marvel's All-New All-Different relaunch gimmick, everyone is wondering: which title will be canceled next? And while the answer in the case of DC, which is rebooting its entire line (again) this summer, is "all of them," that hasn't stopped Newsarama from predicting the top ten Marvel and DC books that are likely to be on the chopping block thanks to low sales numbers.
While looking at a ranked list of sales and identifying some of the lowest titles on that list is a fairly unremarkable feat, what strikes us about this list is Newsarama's insinuation that readers need to "help" these comics to save them from cancellation, a manifestation of the bizarre but widespread industry attitude that it's fans' responsibility to keep low-selling titles afloat rather than Marvel and DC's responsibility to properly build and market comics to create a sustainable business model.
Don't get us wrong: many of the books Newsarama names are good comics, some of them critically acclaimed books that we personally enjoy and would like to see continue, like Midnighter, for instance. But it's time to stop allowing the comic book industry to convince readers that we have a moral obligation to purchase their mass-produced consumer products. It's not the consumer's responsibility to support Marvel and DC like we're their parents and they're just trying to get on their feet after college and need a little help with the rent and bills. These are divisions of multi-national, multi-billion dollar corporations whose sole concern is making a profit. They are not deserving of charity. They are perfectly capable of properly promoting and selling these comics if they felt like putting the effort in.
If the comic book industry wanted to build a more robust business model where half of its comics weren't constantly in danger of cancellation, they could do that by reducing the reliance on gimmicks, reboots, and variant covers, and instead focusing on quality storytelling at affordable prices. Instead, the industry jacks up prices and uses guilt to convince its dwindling readership that it's their responsibility to spend more money if they don't want to see their favorite books by their favorite creative teams come to an end.
The cancellation threshold for Big Two comics seems to be 10,000 to 20,000 copies a month, according to the books Newsarama chose for its list. But that number is relative. Many indie and non-Big-Two corporate books are considered huge successes at those numbers. Furthermore, 20,000 readers represents 1/3 of what we're pretty sure is the complete regular readership of mainstream superhero comics, factoring out the top selling books that have their numbers boosted by constant gimmickry and variant incentives. If Marvel and DC, as they very well could given the popularity of their superhero properties in pop culture, worked to expand their readership beyond 60,000 by placing affordable comics with a satisfying story value in the hands of a mainstream audience, 1/3 or even 1/6 of the readership could represent a healthy chunk of profit. Outside of the insular current superhero comics market, in a mainstream audience, books like Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur might be amongst the top sellers, instead of the low ones.
Today, Bleeding Cool is focusing on telling you all about what DC has planned for their big relaunch, CBR features weekly interviews with Marvel's Editor in Chief that serve as glorified sales pitches, and ComicBook.com regularly publishers press releases disguised as "exclusive" news stories, all in the service of promoting comic books, because the corporate comics establishment has somehow convinced the media that this is their job. Newsarama wants you, the reader, to save these comics from cancellation, but we have a more revolutionary idea: let them fail. And after that, stop paying for variant covers, super-mega-crossover events, and gimmick relaunches, and let the entire mainstream industry fail. Support books by smaller companies and independent creators instead, and let fresh new ideas replace the same old shit in a shiny new package. Maybe then, we could build something better that doesn't constantly need to be "rescued."