[Originally posted to Superland in Nov. 2006]
If I ran Marvel
The following titles would continue to be published in their current
format, conditional on their sales figures remaining high:
Ultimate Fantastic Four
The following titles would be published in a "new, budget-conscious"
format – black and white and cheap, recycled paper. Cover price
would be dropped as low as it could go:
Heroes for Hire
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man
All other titles would cease paper publication and be available
online via the Marvel.com web site, readable only by paid
subscribers. A subscriber could download a set number of any issues
per month without having to subscribe to specific titles.
[Sept. 2007 Addenda]
The above was a snap-shot of Marvel Comics at the time I wrote it. I did not mean to suggest, for example, that Ms. Marvel was so good a title it deserved its top 10 spot, but that it was selling that well at the time. The important formula here makes the comic book titles irrelevant -- the 10 best-selling titles get the quality publishing treatment, the 20 next best-selling titles would get the low-budget format (pulp comics, as disposable as comic books were in the early days, though not quite that cheap), and the rest would live on online. These positions would stay the same for one year.
At the end of that year, comics in each tier might be shifted up or down, depending on if their sales increased or decreased. If a comic book shifted up, it would not only be guaranteed a one-year shot at the higher tier, but 12 back issues would be reprinted in the better format.
These methodology would give fans the biggest say ever in how their favorite titles are published, while allow less popular titles to remain in publication without operating at such a loss. By reducing 2nd tier expenses as much as possible, it should be possible to reduce prices back down to a dollar or lower, allowing much more impulse shopping by marginal comic book fans.
Lastly, and not touched on by the past essay, is the importance of getting the comic books into widespread distribution and mainstream advertising, especially the mid-tier comics that are more likely going to attract impulse shoppers. Using all these methods, I would restore Marvel Comics to popularity and profit without relying on movie revenues.