Are Marvel’s Comics Suffering From Premature Cancellation?

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Yesterday, Bleeding Cool ran the news that yet another young series from Marvel is getting the chop, this time the current run of Nova, featuring both iterations of the character, by Jeff Loveness and Ramon Pérez with Ian Herring.

Hot off the heels of the cancellation of Star-Lord, by Chip Zdarsky, Kris Anka and Matt Wilson, with today’s issue six, we see yet another fantastic series ended before it’s time – and I for one am not happy about it.

Cover by Kris Anka
Cover by Kris Anka

Firstly, let’s start with the fact that both these series are ending after just seven and six issues, respectfully. Neither were billed as limited series, and certainly the creative teams have pretty much overtly intimated it wasn’t sold as such to them either. We know that for some reason, Marvel views the term ‘limited series’ as an immediate death knell, and so will often bill a series as ongoing when it is intended as a limited series. Maybe there’s sales figures to that, though I would wonder if individual issue sales may be lower but collected editions potentially high – the desire to ‘wait for trade’ may be higher with a limited series.

But what is, frankly, a rather bum move on Marvel’s part is that they don’t seem to be telling creators that these are considered to be limited runs, and are setting them up for new ongoings. And if Marvel are intending them as ongoing themselves, but then using sales figures to decide to end early, this again is not beneficial to the creators or the readers.

Cover by Ramón Pérez
Cover by Ramón Pérez

How can this possibly allow a book time to find and build an audience? There are many readers who will pick up a first issue and drop it, sure, but there’s also many who’ll wait a couple of issues to see how it’s received before deciding to get involved themselves. Not to mention, many of those who drop off from issue one may in fact have liked what they read but decided to wait for trade, because with the numerous and constant events Marvel runs, and limited budgets readers have for their passion, they have to spend their weekly cash on the books that ‘matter’ to the overarching thread of the Marvel Universe event of the moment.

Series like Star-Lord and Nova which may not have any direct connection to the major events in Marvel then will not see the same sales figures as say Avengers or Amazing Spider-Man. Yet, I’d argue these titles were two of the best books Marvel were putting out creatively, and certainly better than the frankly formulaic Avengers or constant-shock-dropping of Amazing Spider-Man.

These series have not been allowed time to breathe. To allow new readers to find the series after the start. And they’re not helped by the fact that these books are often coming fast of an already rebooted/retooled version. Nova, for example, was a new issue one coming directly off the last Nova series with a different creative team and direction.

Cover by Kris Anka
Cover by Kris Anka

Many readers feel simply ‘what is the point?’. Why buy into a brand new series, which likely is coming straight off the back of the last ‘brand new series’, when in all likelihood it’s just going to be cancelled after six issues, no matter how good it is. The decision to the money-conscious consumer is instead going to be ‘wait for trade’ or ‘forget about it’, no matter who is involved or what characters are in play.

And this clearly has no bearing on the quality of the product. Both titles are absolutely gorgeous, with some of the most beautiful, well-thought and consistent artwork of any of Marvel’s other books. When they have events with other titles with constant fill-in artists, to have these series have a consistent creative vision throughout has been amazing. And a book like Nova should have been a perfect fit for Marvel’s seeming upcoming plan to have the legacy characters along with the original characters all in one place: this book literally stars original Richard Rider with more diverse legacy Sam Alexander.

Weirdly, the sales figures for the books are far from abysmal. Nova‘s second issue outsold Captain America: Sam Wilson. In the same month, Star-Lord outsold Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and Thunderbolts. Nova continued to outsell Captain America: Sam Wilson the following month, along with Uncanny Inhumans. So these titles were beating some of the books that Marvel had tying into their major events, including the big Summer event of Secret Empire.

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Who exactly do Marvel think they are helping here? Fans? What fan would buy a new series with knowing at the back of their mind that it’s likely just going to end abruptly in a few months? The creative team? How can they be expected to make a well-crafted story with beginning, middle and end, when they’re sold long-term story space only to be shortened on short notice (the Star-Lord team have managed it, but there have been many which have not)? Marvel themselves? Why would it? They could put out 50+ titles, but people will just start buying the same ten, the ones they know are safe.

Yes, Marvel is a business, and yes a sure way to help keep a book going is to add it to your pull list to guarantee sales. But people are not sheep, and not all will buy the same way, with most not likely to blindly buy without at least waiting for word of mouth and maybe critical reviews to give them an idea of what to expect and if this book will be worth them parting with their hard earned cash.

Sadly, with Marvel’s current business model, by that point the title’s over.

About Joe Glass

Joe Glass has been contributing to Bleeding Cool for about four years. He's been a roaming reporter at shows like SDCC and NYCC, and also has a keen LGBTQ focus, with his occasional LGBTQ focus articles, Tales from the Four Color Closet. He is also now Bleeding Cool's Senior Mutant Correspondent thanks to his obsession with Marvel's merry mutants.

Joe is also a comics creator, writer of LGBTQ superhero team series, The Pride, the first issue of which was one of the Top 25 ComiXology Submit Titles of 2014. He is also a co-writer on Stiffs, a horror comedy series set in South Wales about call centre workers who hunt the undead by night. One happens to be a monkey. Just because.

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