Someone has criticized Marvel. How do we know this has happened? Because Marvel writer Nick Spencer is on Twitter responding to it.
Though Spencer doesn’t mention it specifically, he is most likely responding to an article that appeared in The Atlantic earlier in the day, written by Asher Elbein, titled “The Real Reasons for Marvel Comics’ Woes,” or to the general Twitter conversation that grew out of the article. Elbein’s article makes the case that Marvel is to blame for its own woes, but, as we know from hundreds of past responses from Marvel employees, Marvel is never, and has never been, to blame for anything.
In particular, Spencer took issue with criticism of Marvel’s constant cycle of #1 issue relaunches, which Elbein’s article posits has diminishing returns:
Marvel’s argument for this approach has typically been that new #1 issues both boost sales and pull in new readers. It’s true that a #1 issue tends to sell quite well on the direct market—but since retailers are ordering inflated amounts sight unseen, it’s an artificial bump at best, and sales drop sharply afterward. In fact, according to an exhaustive and entertaining analysis by the writer and game designer Colin Spacetwinks, this constant churn badly erodes the readership. G. Willow Wilson’s excellent Ms. Marvel, a series starring a young Muslim heroine from Jersey City, debuted at a circulation of roughly 50,000 before holding steady at 32,000; the relaunched version a year later began at around 79,000 before dropping sharply to a current circulation of around 20,000. “Marvel’s constant relaunching … has been harmful to direct market sales overall,” Spacetwinks writes, “as well as harmful to building new, long-term readers.” With every relaunch, it becomes easier to jump off a title.
It’s true, Marvel seems to relaunch titles more and more these days, and the sales of individual titles continue to decline. But Spencer sees relaunches not as a band-aid that fails to fix the underlying cause of low sales, but as a heroic effort on the part of Marvel to keep poor creators’ failing series alive:
Is there an option c? Literally any other choices other than books shedding so many readers within six issues they have to be canceled or books being rebooted on an annual basis? If there is, Spencer doesn’t bring it up. He presents only the two options.
Spencer took time to agree with a fan who agreed with him, showing great taste in people to agree with:
I straight-up don't understand the resistance to this approach. As a reader, I'd also rather the see stories I like survive.
— Drew Baumgartner (@d_baumgartner) May 24, 2017
And in a particularly ironic twist, he noted:
For all the screaming about this, I don’t think it’s going anywhere, bc even the most successful line launches see serious attrition.
— Nick Spencer (@nickspencer) May 24, 2017
Maybe it seems weird because people aren’t choosing canceled stories — they’re asking for a third option? But that couldn’t be it. There’s only two possible outcomes, as we’ve previously established.
Next, Spencer retweeted a tweet from Marvel executive Tom Brevoort, who is always game to explain that the reason for criticism is fans who don’t know what they’re talking about.
It's a pining for a past that wasn't really quite as rosy as people want to remember it being. Like longing for three-network TV.
— Tom Brevoort (@TomBrevoort) May 24, 2017
Completely unrelated, and we don’t even know why we’re bringing it up, the boorish behavior of Marvel staff toward readers on the internet was another reason cited by The Atlantic for Marvel’s woes. But back to the topic at hand:
Why is it the best available option? Is there any series of managerial decisions that led to this situation that one could examine if one were interested in learning from one’s mistakes? No, probably not. Best not to waste any more time thinking about it.
Not to say, again, that it works every time-if anything worked every time, they’d do it every time, I’m sure.
— Nick Spencer (@nickspencer) May 24, 2017
You can stick a burning hot poker up your a**, or you can put your d*** in a meat grinder. Those are the only two options you’ve got here, people, so take that red hot poker and say, “Thank you, Marvel. May I have another?”
Generously, Spencer doesn’t blame fans for speaking ill of Marvel. He does think they probably mean well while being wrong all the time:
If you think about it, relaunching books is pretty much charity. Marvel is keeping its creators off the streets!
To wrap things up, in one of his most impressive tricks yet, Spencer claimed that the reason Marvel can’t take risks with books is because of fans scrutinizing sales numbers:
I honestly do not think the people who rail on this stuff realize- that is exactly where this road leads.
— Nick Spencer (@nickspencer) May 25, 2017
In the end, Spencer just wants fans to take responsibility for keeping comics afloat:
I think we as a community really need to support & buy the books we like. And definitely preorder. This is the best thing we can do.
— LV_CurtAb7 (@curtab7) May 25, 2017
It’s true: whose job is it to make sure comics sell well, if not the fans? Hmm?