Destroying Comic Books: Hollywood Will Save Us

I know how you feel, too, Cap.
As rumored for some time -- as mentioned just the other day int his blog -- Steve Rogers is retaking the mantle of Captain America, just in time for the release of the Captain America movie.  Marvel, to their credit, have actually come right out and said that they realized there would be no better time to bring Steve back as Cap than when the movie was released.  They are making a publishing decision based upon a movie.

And I'm actually fine with that.  But it's not all they're doing.

The latest issue of Iron Man sold more than 41K copies.  This is actually 6K more than the final issue released before it was restarted the month that the movie came out.  In defense of that series, though, it had sales of around 40K earlier in its run, so it's not like this new run is blowing it out of the water.  In other words, the new version, which was started the month the movie came out, isn't really doing any better than the last hasn't picked up any new readers.

But, that first issue of Iron Man that came out the same month as the movie sold over 100K copies.  That's crazy.  It's crazy to think that it sold that many because it was a) a new #1 and b) had a movie out.  It's also crazy to think that it has dropped 60K in under 3 years -- and that's with a creative team that is, by all accounts, doing a hell of a job on the book (I don't read it; I can't get past the fact that Tony looks like Sawyer from Lost -- I know it's minor, but it bugs the hell out of me).

What does this tell us?

It tells us that making a publishing decision based on a movie is a good business move.  Heck, had Marvel NOT made this move, I would have been confused.  Yes, make your money where you can, Marvel.  I applaud you.  Go to town.

It also tells us that it's not a solution to the real problems the industry faces.  A new number one featuring the iconic version of the character may generate a ton of initial sales, but eventually those sales drop off to where they were before, which is a pretty good indication that this move did not create any new comic book readers (or at least not many).

But here's the thing about the Iron Man move: it didn't change the story.  Tony didn't boot his sidekick to the curb for this new first issue.  The creative decisions of the book were dictated by the story.  Were there connections to the movie?  Sure, but nothing as big as replacing the main character.

And that's why this Captain America announcement annoys me.  I'm fine with the money grab if that money grab actually led to something more, but it doesn't -- or at least it hasn't.  And so we're getting Steve Rogers back now, when perhaps we wouldn't have, for the sake of ramped up sales that won't last and won't do anything to help comics' real problem.

You know what?  If the new Captain America series features previews in the back of a diverse selection of Marvel titles, I might let this slide.  Because then at least we'd be seeing a concerted effort to win new readers, aside from the myopic view we keep getting.