I’ve got my opening weekend tickets….Do you?

As usual, February was a slow month for comic sales.  But it was also an unusually slow one.  Batman #28 was the best-selling book of the month, and the only one to crack sales of 100k issues.  That’s bad.  And speaking of bad, DC’s horrendous Forever Evil miniseries was the second biggest seller of the month.  Wolverine #1—at least the sixth “first issue” of a comic with “Wolverine” in the title in the last three months—was the bestselling Marvel title, selling a meager 88k units.  The last Wolverine relaunch sold over 100k, as I recall.

Perhaps Marvel’s “slap the #1s on every six months” strategy is starting to show some wear?  It certainly hasn’t boosted sales of #2 issues.  Other examples: Fantastic Four #1 was the seventh best-selling book, underneath two issues (not #1s) of Superior Spider-Man, and Punisher #1 barely sold more than 50k—and both of these were exceptionally mediocre, if you’ll pardon the oxymoron.  And despite a huge media push including a feature in USA Today, Ms. Marvel #1 barely made it into the top 25.  Other disappointing #1s: X-Force (which sold far less than the two (TWO!) X-Force #1s that came out in the prior year), New Warriors, She-Hulk, Loki: Agent of Asgard, Winter Soldier…And the Walking Dead’s issues #121 and 122 both placed in the top 10.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Walking Dead is a damn fine book and most of the aforementioned books felt like rushed imitations of Hawkeye or, in the case of Loki and Winter Soldier, plain old cash grabs.

But there is a silver lining: Night of the Living Deadpool sold a paltry 3,000 copies.  Yes, you read that right: In the entire country, there are still 3,000 people who want to read that shit.

Part of the problem, of course, is that comic books aren’t really collectible anymore.  That ended with the huge print runs of the late 1990s, followed by tons of reprints, variant covers, etc.  The issues themselves don’t feel “special” anymore.  And by not having continuous numbering, Marvel is losing the obsessive-compulsive crowd of collectors, like me, who just feel like we have to read every issue of a series.  There may not be a lot of us, but right now the industry needs every reader it can grasp.

It’s important to note that paper sales don’t include digital sales, which may be the only way that comic books have a future (at least in their current form).

But really, branding is a big problem.  Remember when everyone thought comic books were all pulpy trash (because mostly they were pulpy trash)?  It took a Stan Lee to be the flag waver, the cheerleader, the spokesperson for the entire industry. Who do we have doing that now?  On a small level, we have people with strong internet presences and followings, like Kelley Sue DeConnick, but they tend to speak for their own art, not for the industry.  Who speaks for the comics as an art form?  No one, really.  At least not a nationally recognized person or group.

And that’s inexcusable.  Just about every blockbuster movie nowadays is based on a comic book.  Why aren’t comic books IN THOSE MOVIES?  Show Captain America reading an issue of Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men.  Maybe at the end credits show the trade paperback that the movie was based on.  In press, suggest to movie fans where they can read more about the characters.  This isn’t rocket science, it’s basic cross marketing.

There’s my rant.  Now the news, and there’s lots of it:

AVENGERS CONFIDENTIAL: BLACK WIDOW AND PUNISHER.  No sooner do I advocate cross-promotion than I hear about a new DVD cartoon that shoehorns an Avengers reference into a feature about Black Widow and Punisher.

OTHER SALES NOTES.  As a side note, separate from my rant, I’m disappointed that more than 10,000 people didn’t buy The Bunker #1, a reprint of the digital comic, because it was terrific.  Other books you should be buying but aren’t: Mind MGT and Sex Criminals (both sold under 5k).
JUSTICE LEAGUE UNITED.  Soon DC will have as many JLA books as Marvel has Avengers books!  Another new one is arriving soon, helmed by Jeff Lemire and Mike McKone.  Lemire’s indie work (Sweet Tooth, e.g.) has always been strong but his commercial properties have been up and down.  He had a nice little run with Superboy for the “old 52” and his current Green Arrow is pretty good, but Justice League Dark never found its footing and Animal Man was ponderous.  Still, this series has potential and just the right mix of eclectic and established characters: Martian Manhunter, Hawkman, Supergirl and Green Arrow balanced by Adam Strange, Animal Man, and Stargirl. Plus: He promises lots of Canada references.  So maybe this will be the Alpha Flight of the DCU?
iZOMBIE.  The CW TV show based on the brilliant Mike Allred Vertigo comic will not be an adaptation of the comic—it will vary dramatically from the source material, according to Rob Thomas (who also created Veronica Mars).  It’ll be more of a police procedural show than the slice-of-(undead) life character study that was the comic.  I still have high hopes.
STARLIGHT.  Finally, some good Mark Millar comics!  Millar is one of those guys who can get away with writing pure crap (Hit Girl) based on some of the stuff he’s done that’s been either fantastic popcorn comics (Ultimates, Kick Ass) or really cool gimmicks (Superior), and about every fourth series or so he strikes gold.  Starlight looks like it just might be that.  It appears to be a mix of a tribute to the old Flash Gordon strips mixed with an old man as  a protagonist (think: “I’m too old for this shit” meets Bruce Springsteen’s Glory Days).  Oh, and art by Goran “Garth Ennis’ Punisher” Parlov doesn’t hurt a bit.
POWERS THE TV SERIES.  Looks like Brian Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming’s long running Icon comic about police officers who investigate homicides involving super powers will finally be made…For Sony Playstation.  The show will be the first original media programming on the platform, taking a cue from Amazon, Netflix, and others.  Not a good sign, frankly.  This will be a tough series to do right even for a seasoned pro, but for first timers?
INCREDIBLES 2.  It’s (finally) a go.  Incredibles was one of the best superhero movies of all time.  Seriously.  And Brad Bird will be creating the sequel as well. 

THUNDERBOLTS.  This comic hasn’t mattered in a long time.  I know lots of folks liked Jeff Parker’s run, but in my book the last time this series was good was in the Warren Ellis days.  But the latest “red” reboot, which featured Red Hulk leading a team that included Elektra, Deadpool and Punisher, was the worst.  The concept alone wasn’t true to the characters it featured (a team of loners and leaders, all subordinate to Thunderbolt Ross?) and the execution was worse than bad: It was boring.  But “author” Daniel Way has moved on, and the series will now be at the hands of Ben Acker and Ben Blacker, known mostly for TV and live theater.  I’m willing to give it a shot based on the title of the opening arc: “Punisher Vs. Thunderbolts.”  But please, don’t make it suck.  The new Punisher series butchers the character, the last thing we need are more bad Punisher comics.

PATTON OSWALD, AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D.  He’ll be playing Agent Eric Koenig, another guy who has appeared in the comics but nobody has ever heard of.  Including me.  I had to look him up.

DC’S STAR SPANGLED WAR STORIES.  A war comic is coming in July (for Independence Day, naturally).  It’ll be another comic that nobody reads by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti. who also co-write All-Star Western, hoping to bring their success with genres outside the regular superhero story to the war. The series will star “G.I. Zombie,” a character who fights for his country throughout war after war. He’ll be fighting domestic terror in what sounds like a modern day story. No art was released yet, but Scott Hampton will provide for the series.

FANTASTIC FOUR AND WOLVERINE SEQUELS ANNOUNCED FOR 2017 RELEASE.  This of course will follow the first Fantastic Four movie, coming in 2015, and X-Men: Apocalypse in 2016.  I guess Fox isn’t in any hurry to let Marvel Studios get these properties back and actually do a proper F4 movie.  Or a proper Wolverine movie.  I didn’t hate the prior films, but I can’t say I loved them, either.

TAKEN 3.  And finally, speaking of sequels, Liam Neeson will return to the Taken franchise again next January.  That has to be better than Non-Stop 2, right?

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