Marvel Comics Executive Tom Brevoort Denies Industry Is Dying, Instead Argues “What Is Likely Happening Is That The Market Is Changing”
In taking the counter stance to everything from concrete sales numbers to shop owners themselves, Marvel Comics Executive Editor and Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort says that the currently desloate landscape of the modern comic book industry is not a result of its “dying”, but rather the fact that “the market is changing”.
Brevoort, whose current list of assignments from the publisher include Captain America Vol. 11, Avengers Vol. 9, and their current crossover event G.O.D.S. Vol. 1, offered his diagnosis of the industry on November 20th via the 86th overall entry made to his personal Substack, Man With A Hat.
His desire to speak on the topic self-reportedly piqued by an unspecified “column written by one prominent retailer” (given the time of this post’s publication, it seems the catalyst in question was the November 7th piece “COMIC STORES 2023: ‘IT’S NEARLY 2024 AND I’M MORE THAN CONCERNED’, as penned by Coliseum of Comics proprietor Phil Boyle for both ICv2 and Bounding Into Comics), Brevoort began his response with the assertion, “forget about comic books, retailing of any sort is an extremely difficult vocation in 2023, following on the heels of a global pandemic and lockdown that disrupted regular buying patterns.”
“Everybody wants to move on and pretend that nothing happened, that everything is back to normal, but it isn’t—the time that will take is a lot longer, if it ever happens,” argued the long-time Marvel Comics staffer. “By this same note, I can recall similar conversations as this one taking place all the way back to my entry into the business in 1989. No doubt, they were going on before that, particularly in the 1970s and the 1950s, and so on and so on.”
“For whatever reason,” he then declared, “the comic book field has a stronger pull towards its own mortality than other areas. We somehow delight in predicting the demise of the very thing that we enjoy so much. Maybe that reveals a poor sense of self-worth or something, but also, in any endeavor, if you bet in favor of failure you’re going to be right sooner or later. Nothing lasts forever, entropy wins.”
Brevoort continued, “Still, those folks who were predicting the demise of the field ten or twenty or thirty years ago would no doubt be shocked to learn that it is still here. The diversity of material new and old that is readily available today is astounding, and shows no genuine sign of abating. What is likely happening is that the market is changing. And change is almost always scary.”
“But it doesn’t have to be the end, it just means that some things are going to be different now, and it falls to us to adjust to those changes,” he then wound down his thoughts. “People hoping that the comic book industry will somehow revert to being the way it was when they were kids are definitely in for disappointment, but I feel confident in saying that the medium will survive. It continues to grow in all sorts of interesting directions. But the days of a spinner rack in every Mom and Pop Candy Store are likely gone forever—mostly because that type of store no longer exists.”
Ultimately, Brevoort concluded, “This all comes back to a slogan that I’ve been threatening to put onto a T-Shirt for many years now, but have never actually bothered to do: COMICS: DYING SINCE 1935.“
Yet, despite Brevoort’s seeming optimism, as noted above it seems this sentiment is shared few and far between those in the industry.
For example, in his piece, the aforementioned Boyle decried, “Where did [the industry] go off the rails? It’s not such a conundrum to anyone with two active brain cells and a list of back issues they need to complete their runs.”
“Comics, first and foremost, have always been entertainment,” wrote the store owner. “Sure, collectible entertainment, which justifies the cost-to-entertainment ratio. But along the way, the immediate sale and false bolstering of numbers through variant covers, convoluted events, and incessant reboots left the considerations of the fans behind. Character swapping, gender-bending, and changing sexual orientation of beloved characters fell flat with the Wednesday Warriors who supported the industry for decades. The crowd of new readers the changes were meant to attract didn’t translate to a 1-for-1 swap, leaving a declining customer base.”
Likewise, in announcing its recent decision to shutter its doors, Geoffrey’s Comics – the now-former longest running comic shop in Los Angeles, CA – noted that, in regards to comic book sales, “For the first 40 years Diamond Comics was our single service supplier, as they lost the rights to distribute Marvel and DC comics, what had once become a streamlined process or doing one order and picking up from one location became multiple orders, with multiple ways of delivery, with multiple days of releases. The powerhouse that used to be ‘New Comics Wednesday’ has ceased to be, and with it, a lot of the spending habits of the customer base.”
In one of many other further examples, even Hack/Slash creator and current DC writer Tim Seeley has lamented the current state of the industry, asserting in a now-deleted post originally published to his personal Facebook page on September 7th that the reason American comics are seeing a declining presence in the retail space “is because comics as an industry was pillaged for IP and collectible graded crap with no investment in building new readership and now the chickens are coming home to roost”.
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