The Avengers Made A FORTUNE, But What About The Comics?

The Avengers just had the biggest opening weekend of all time (a well-deserved achievement… it was AWESOME), and being weirdly into numbers and stats I started thinking about if this translated into sales for Avengers comics.  While Marvel’s film division has been enormously successful, the comics side has had a bit of a rough time lately.  The DC relaunch has cut into their market share, and a few months ago Marvel let go several editors and other employees to cut costs.  So will the epic dominance of The Avengers lead to comics sales and perhaps bolster the print side of the company?  Probably not.

A successful movie or TV adaptation usually leads to big book sales.  For example, The Hunger Games is in the midst of a fantastic box office run, and has made over $600 million worldwide.  In the USA, it’s still in the Top Ten even though it came out six weeks ago!!  And over at Amazon, it’s killing the Top Ten for book sales too.  Check this out:

  • #5) Mockingjay (Book 3)
  • #6) The Hunger Games (Book 1)
  • #7) Catching Fire (Book 2)
  • #8) The Hunger Games Trilogy Boxed Set

The movie was a huge hit because millions of people read the books, but the success of the movie has led to even more book sales.

Amazon’s Top 100 has all sorts of examples of this.  True Blood is a popular HBO show that comes back in June, and Charlaine Harris’ latest book in the series, Deadlocked, is at #12.  Game of Thrones is a hit TV show, and George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire boxed set of the first four books is at #13, while the latest book, A Dance with Dragons, is at #63.  Nicholas Sparks’ The Lucky One opened a few weeks back and has amassed $48 million at the box office, a far cry from The Hunger Games or The Avengers, but the book is at #83 and has been in the Top 100 chart for 42 days!!  Even Stephen Colbert’s new children’s book, I Am A Pole (And So Can You!), is sitting high on the charts at #19.

So books with a movie or TV connection seem to do pretty well.  This should bode well for Avengers comics, but they’re nowhere to be found in Amazon’s Top 100.

The Avengers made $207 million in domestic box office this weekend.  Google tells me that the average movie ticket price is about $7.89 right now, but since it was the weekend and the movie was in 3D we should bump that up to at least $10.  That means about 20 MILLION people saw The Avengers this weekend.  Surely some of them must be interested in reading more!!

There is one Avengers related book in the Top 100: Avengers: The Art of Marvel’s The Avengers by Jason Surrell has concept art and photos from the movie, and is currently at #91, but it’s not a comic book.  It looks like a very nice coffee table book, and it was published by Marvel, but it’s not comics.

With no comics in Amazon’s overall Top 100, I turned to the best sellers in comics and graphic novels Top 100.  There was one Avengers comic near the top of the charts, but it’s kind of spoilery.  That’s a pickle.  I’ll link to it here and you can go check it out if you’ve seen the movie.  Anyway, it’s at #4 on the comics Top 100, but at #167 overall.  This is, undoubtedly, a big jump for this comic, but it’s still well out of the overall Top 100. 

There are only six move Avengers related comics in the comics Top 100, and they’re mostly near the bottom of the chart:

  • #35) Avengers vs. X-Men – This isn’t even out until November. Overall rank: #918.
  • #57) The Avengers, Vol. 1: Marvel Masterworks – This is the original Lee/Kirby stuff from the 1960s. Overall rank: #1,437.
  • #83) The Ultimates: Ultimate Collection – This collects both of Millar and Hitch’s runs, and is probably the closest you can get to the movie, really. Overall rank: #2,303.
  • #86) Avengers: Kree/Skrull War – By Thomas, Buscema, and Adams… the Avengers fight aliens, so you can see the connection. Overall rank: #2,455.
  • #89) Civil War – Probably the biggest Avengers related story in the past decade, by Millar and McNiven. Overall rank: #2,504.
  • #95) The Avengers, Vol. 3 – Bendis’ latest Avengers collection, this isn’t out yet either. Overall rank: #2,742.

So nothing’s really burning up the charts.  Again, several of these books are probably doing better than usual, but they’re WAY down the list in terms of overall ranking.

Outside of Amazon, there’s a brand new series at Marvel by Bendis and Bagley that’s supposed to tie into the movie as closely as possible while maintaining continuity with the Marvel comic universe.  It’s got all of the same characters in similar costumes, and is clearly a gateway comic.  I mean, take a look:

Avengers Assembled premiered in March in 5th place on the Diamond charts with 100,883 copies sold.  This isn’t bad, but for a new Bendis booked tied to what was then a massively anticipated movie, that’s a bit of a disappointing number.  It then took a HUGE tumble, and the newly released April numbers have the second issue in 22nd place with only 53,024 copies sold.  Wow.  I didn’t see the April numbers until a second ago… they JUST went up.  That’s awful.

So what’s the deal?  Nicholas Sparks can make the Top 100 for SIX weeks with a crappy book that came out in 2008 just because of a middling Zac Efron movie.  It’s bizarre that The Avengers demolishing records hasn’t translated into comic sales.  There are a TON of Avengers books out there.  Bendis has been writing 2 or 3 Avengers series a year for like a decade now!! 

Perhaps that’s part of the problem.  With so much out there, maybe people don’t know where to start, or are intimidated by decades of confusing continuity.  Or maybe it’s the medium itself… some people who’ve never read comics find the format sort of difficult to wrap their brains around.  It also could be the perception that comics are juvenile and that it’s lame for grown ups to read them, but EVERYONE is reading The Hunger Games and that’s a teen novel.

Whatever the case, there seems to be a disconnect between film success and print success that’s extremely unusual, yet extremely common in comics.  I can remember interviews when the first Spider-Man movie came out and made a fortune where Marvel editors said there was next to no jump in comics sales.  The Dark Knight seemed to lead to a bit of a bump for titles like The Killing Joke and Batman: Year One, and I suppose Watchmen had a big sales surge when the movie came out, but generally speaking superhero movies don’t lead to big sales.  I don’t recall any Green Lantern, Thor, or Captain America books selling like gangbusters last summer.  Again, I’m sure there were some minor increases, but nothing huge.

I don’t understand this lack of connection, but it seems like something the industry should probably invest some time in.  Marvel’s got the biggest movie in the world right now, but it’s not affecting the print division that came up with all of these great characters and story ideas in the first place.  It’s flummoxing really.  If you’ve got any theories, please leave them in the comments… I find this disconnect oddly fascinating.

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