on comic subscriptions

Here’s an interesting piece from this week’s PWCW newsletter that’s worth looking at. As Heidi says, “Todd Allen digs into the BPA audited circulation figures for comics and figures out why Marvel publishes the Marvel Adventures line” when sales to direct-market comic shops are very low:

The comic with the most subscribers was Marvel Adventures Spider-Man with a whopping 27,395. You want to know why Marvel Adventures exists with low direct-market sales? There’s your answer—subscriptions. The second-highest subscriber count was Ultimate Spider-Man with 14,890.

Later in the piece:

I also find it interesting that the Marvel Adventures subscription numbers are quite so high. Does this mean parents with young children don’t feel comfortable taking the kids into a comic store, or just that the direct market isn’t convenient for them?

Well, yes. The reason those Archie digests are by the supermarket checkout lane, right next to Cosmo, is so parents can spend five bucks on something to keep the kids quiet on the ride home. It does not usually spark a lifetime obsession with the medium of sequential art — perhaps in the child, but definitely not in the parent.

The funny thing about the comics industry is that everyone in it loves comics. Which is great, but they don’t really know how to relate to people who don’t.

For a parent who has no interest in comics, given a choice between A) driving out to a comic book store, once a month, every month, [walking past the nerds and the Witchblade statues to the kids’ comics ghetto] to spend $3 on a Spider-Man book for your kid… and B) taking five minutes to pay $25 ($2 per book) for a Spider-Man book to arrive magically in your mailbox, once a month, every month, without having to do anything?

Also, for civilian readers, that’s just what you do. Kid wants Ranger Rick, you get ‘im a subscription. You don’t go to REI every week asking if the new issue is out and socializing with other outdoorsy people.

It’s what I did when I was a kid — in 1991, somebody gave me an issue of Disney Adventures bought from a checkout aisle, and I loved it so I talked my grandma into buying me a subscription. Somebody gave my brother and me some X-Men comics, so we started looking for the X whenever we went to the drugstore. Even after we discovered the (crappy) local comic shop, it was so rare that we would get to go — and so likely that the issue we wanted would be out of stock or too expensive (last month’s comic suddenly costs twice as much because it’s a “back issue”) — that it made more sense to just get a subscription. Heck, we paid up front for four years of X-Man.

It’s a different world and a different industry now, but new readers are still essential.

1 Response to “on comic subscriptions”



  1. 1 Bookmarks about Comics Trackback on November 10, 2008 at 6:00 am

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Leigh Walton talks comics and maybe other arts. (RSS)
He also works for the very excellent publisher Top Shelf Productions (which does not necessarily endorse the views and opinions, etc, herein).

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Header by me. Contains an interpolation of the final panel from All-Star Superman #1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Speaking of which.

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