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Comic Culture: Is Comic Oversaturation Hurting the Industry?

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Hot off the heels of New York Comic Con 2013 and all the new books announced by Marvel specifically, there’s one thing I would like to address this week. It’s an idea I am going to coin as comic oversaturation and how it seems to be hurting the industry.

It is no secret that DC and Marvel both relaunched their brands, respectively, around the same time. DC was first with their New 52 campaign, while Marvel waited in the wings to see what worked for them, as well as what didn’t. They took their cues from DC and then moved on with their Marvel Now! re-branding. DC started completely over with a new continuity and timeline (with a few exceptions), while Marvel retained their continuity and merely shook things up with new creative teams, renumbering and adding some new titles. Whether or not that was always Marvel’s plan, I will leave up to speculation, but as I alluded to before, Marvel and DC have been taking cues from each other for a long time. So, it is of no surprise to me that they would both drastically alter their prospective landscapes simultaneously.

This constant battle between Marvel and DC seems to be coming to more of a head lately and their dual re-branding strategies is just one example of that fact. Sales, more so now than ever, are becoming the major factor in today’s marketplace. Every time the monthly and yearly numbers are released everyone looks at the market share and it always comes down to DC and Marvel at the top of the pile. With two huge corporations behind each company (Warner Brothers backing DC and Disney backing Marvel) money is always going to be a priority. And that is partially to blame for all the incentive covers, event books, tie-ins and other “gimmicks” you are seeing more and more of these days. These are all used to drive up sales. But honestly, those things aren’t what really bother me. It’s my next point that really gets under my skin.

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While DC and Marvel are constantly trying to outdo each other and gain market share the emphasis on good, quality books seems to be going by the wayside. Yes, it’s great that Marvel is going to be releasing a slew of new books in 2014, but are they going to be able to keep them all afloat, especially with a dozen Avengers books to keep track of? Are any of the current books going to be cancelled, or are we just going to keep throwing books on top of readers already bloated pull lists (and don’t even get me started on double-shipping)? Can we maybe, just maybe, get back to focusing on putting out exceptional books instead of flooding the market with X-Men and Batman books? With fringe books like Fearless Defenders and Captain Marvel (to name a few) struggling to keep their place on the shelves, I wonder if they would have more of a fighting chance if there were simply fewer books to chooses from. Look, I get it. Creators need work, and publishers need books, but there’s got to be a happy medium there. When and if we ever reach that proverbial equal footing is yet to be seen, but I sure hope we will someday.

I realize that I’m just one opinionated reader, and that I have no industry pull. However, I do vote with my dollars and I will always support good, quality books because, that’s what we need more of. DC and Marvel can continue to outdo each other all they want; I just wonder when and if others will get as tired of it as me.

Happy reading.

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